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Muscle Up In The Kitchen

with Chef Craig Rodger

This week I’m going to put my personal trainer hat on – personal kitchen trainer, that is. We’ve heard of gym bunnies making “gains” in training right? Well this week I’d like to apply that attitude towards the kitchen. The training principle is pretty simple isn’t it – put your body in a taxing position in a safe and controlled manner in order to encourage your body to respond by adapting and getting fitter. We can take the same principle and apply it to the kitchen too.

How many of us can honestly say we experiment in the kitchen through the week? By experimenting I don’t mean adding some dried herbs to the bolognese this time. As a chef, I experiment a lot with food – I experiment with cooking processes and I try and analyse the results. My cooking in general is a mash-up of the cross-wiring of my training, experimentation and the eating I’ve done throughout my career. I know all of us can’t (or don’t want) to spend so much time cooking or making it into a career and that’s why the ‘training’ analogy fits so well here…

I don’t want to be an athlete (even if it were possible) but I do want to keep my modest strength so I do some squats, press-ups and kettlebell work once a week – twice if I have the energy. Sometimes I don’t enjoy it and every single time it’s hard, but I feel I’ve progressed and I have gained something from it.

Let’s try and make some “gains” in the kitchen. There are two aspects to this; one is improving our kitchen knowledge by working with produce and techniques we are unsure of and the other is trying foods we may not like – or feel like we didn’t like in the past – let’s re-visit those foods too.

Here are 5 challenges to attempt before the end of the year. They go from easy to difficult – are you up to the test?

Sauerkraut

This is as easy as making a coleslaw, the exciting part happens on it’s own as the vegetables ferment and pickle the slaw.

  • Mix together 1 finely sliced cabbage, 1 sliced onion and 1 grated carrot. Add to this 1 tbsp + 1tsp of salt, 1 crushed clove of garlic, ½ tsp chilli powder.
  • Mix it all together well with a spoon or tongs and keep gut healthtossing it about until liquid begins to form.
  • Place the sauerkraut into mason jars and press it down until the vegetables are slightly submerged in the liquid.
  • Pour on some olive oil until there is a solid layer of oil above the brine, this keeps oxygen out of the fermentation which is good for the bacteria you want to grow here.
  • Leave it somewhere that’s dark and cool.
  • For the first day or two check to ensure the vegetables are submerged and if need be press them down under the brine (the liquid). Keep checking like this daily until the vegetables are happily submerged.
  • Leave to ferment for at least a week up to about 3 or 4, the longer it goes the sourer it becomes up to a certain point (around 4 or 5 weeks) where it’s too acidic for further fermentation (I think).
  • Once you’re happy with the length of time it’s had you can pour off some of the olive oil if you don’t like it and jar the ‘kraut up ready to store in the fridge, it has a good shelf of 2 – 4 weeks.

Mayonnaise and Dressings

Shop bought mayo is made with the cheapest oils they can find, it’s pro-inflammatory, expensive and barely easier than whipping some up yourself. The effect of consuming excessive omega 6 fatty acids (found in the oils used in shop bought mayo) is not to be taken lightly – inflammation is not something you want to bring about in your body unnecessarily. Also, chronic inflammation has a role in many of the diseases we all hear about – so eating more olive and coconut oils and less sunflower or canola is a great way to swing the balance in your favour. Have a go at making our Crispy Chicken Skin Caeser Salad strawberry ice creamDressing, it’s pretty easy if you follow the steps.

Strawberries and Cream Ice Cream

This recipe is in our new book, What The Fat? Sports Performance.

It takes a bit of trial and error to cook the strawberries to the correct point to get a beautifully smooth ice cream. But even the “less than perfect” attempts are delicious.

Pâté

Livers are notoriously healthy, but few people like to eat them. Pâté is the answer to this riddle! Check out the Chicken (or Duck) Liver Pâté recipe in the first book. I’m planning on making a video recipe guide for this soon. There are aspects of making pâté that you learn the more you make it, so it is easy to pick up but with practice. Your pâté will be better each time you make it.

Soupmuscle up in kitchen

Soup’s easy?! Of course it is, but do you make it with a chicken stock that has cooked for 6 – 8 hours or how about a beef stock that has cooked for 12 hours? Making your own stock is a real turn-off for a lot of people as it seems time-consuming, messy and weird – that’s exactly why it’s one of my challenges. There is nothing that makes you more emotionally invested in your food than making stocks as the base. They are the easiest thing in the world to make but the key is to make them regularly. If you get some bones from the butcher or the supermarket and make a stock once a week in your biggest pot, you will upgrade the flavour and the overall nutritional value of your food enormously. Getting into the habit of making them regularly is the secret.

Try our Creamy Cauliflower Soup recipe from the book, which uses a stock base.

Slow Cooked Coconut Beef Cheeks & Pumpkin Puree

This is a challenge again as I imagine it will put people outside their comfort zone. Cooking tough meats in a liquid for hours until the meat is soft and tender is a skill. Making the sauce fresh and vibrant after muscle up in kitchenall that time cooking is another skill that really shows how to season and adjust flavours in order to get the desired effect. This dish has lots of healthy fats from the beef and coconut, but also has lots of aromatic freshness that helps to cut through the richness.

Cutting through richness and lightening the overall flavour of your food is an important skill to get down when you introduce more fat in your cooking. It is easy to do and usually involves – as is the case here too – adding some vibrant flavours, raw items and sometimes some acidity to balance the flavour. Chefs spend a lot of time teaching junior chefs how to season properly – it usually involves manipulating sweet (sugar) and sour (vinegar, lemon/citrus) – so it is natural to take the same approach when cooking LCHF. Thankfully we balance our food with fresh vegetables, lemons and herbs or vinegars as opposed to tipping sugar in as is commonly done traditionally (there was a surprising amount of sugar in the rosemary foams we used to make for our Lamb main course in a previous life). This recipe is featured in the book and it is always a people-pleaser.

I hope you take up the challenge of a weekly ‘workout’ in the kitchen. Gaining skills and learning new things is at times really satisfying and at other times quite demoralising, but stepping outside of your usual range of meals once a week is a really good way of broadening your eating and ultimately improving your health.

There will be the odd stuff-up, but as my old Head Chef liked to say, “the chef that never made a mistake never made anything!”

Join the discussion 4 Comments

  • Avatar Andy says:

    Does the kraut have lids on while fermenting?

  • Avatar Edna says:

    Have heard so much about Sauerkraut but have never eaten it l may have a go at making it,

    • What The Fat? What The Fat? says:

      Hi Edna, if anyone wants to know what sauerkraut is like before making it, the tinned Edgell’s product in supermarkets is affordable and good, as is the Krakus imported sauerkraut (larger jar, so more expensive).
      The Mamma Mia sauerkraut is rubbish as it has been pasteurised, which misses the point (and kills the flavour), and it also contains sugar and additives.
      I find it goes brilliantly with lamb, and can also be eaten with any steamed or roasted vegetable.

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