6 week challenge
After reading a book called ‘Deep Nutrition’ I realised in order to consume the best protein out there, it needs to either be organ meat or meat off the bone. Most of these cuts are wasted as customers want the convenience of cooking boneless muscle without the nuisance of cooking the carcass for long durations, picking out bones or perhaps western cultured people just don’t know how to cook these cuts of meats? As a society have we lost touch with our ancient traditions unlike some asian cultures that use every part of the animal possible, Where beef oesophagus, chicken feet, pig brain and sheep lung are a prized ingredient to eat. Some people are squeamish to organ meat and are unwilling to try it out given the incredible health benefits that you will struggle get from a supplement or vitamin and these cuts are so high in muscle building properties, joint health support, vitamin A, B1, B2, B6, B12, vitamin C, Magnesium and also rich in the essential nutrients folate, iron and choline. I was and still am slightly squeamish about trying these foods and its been an experiment of bravery as well as culinary experimentation, I’ve done my own research to find out how traditionally the best way to cook these cuts of meat are in order to help support my own bodies health and utilise more of the whole animal, creating less waste.
Here’s how I went;
Week 1: SLOW COOKED CHICKEN NECKS IN A LEMON/THYME BROTH
This meal was made in my slow cooker for around 12 hours, I added a lemon and thyme bone broth concentrate, along with white shredded cabbage, celery and white onion, I then paired it with my usual base salad of coconut oil fried kale, roasted mushrooms, broccoli and white baby new potatoes. I liked this meal a lot, I found it very time consuming removing all of the small bones, but once done, this really is a nourishing meal prep with a lot of flavour.
Its funny as when I was doing some research into cooking chicken necks, almost 95% of the articles were based on how to feed chicken necks safely to your dog. I thought surely someone cooks these up somehow that tastes good, otherwise why would butchers and supermarkets sell them?! Pinterest had some great tips and tricks, so I highly recommend this page if you ever want fresh ideas for recipes, a great source.
Per 150g serving my portion size contained around 23g protein, 11g fat, 10% total iron
Week 2: BEEF MEATBALLS IN A BONE MARROW TOMATO SALSA
This recipe was my standard meatball recipe with the beef bone marrow bones cooked into the sauce. The flavours were rich as bone marrow is so beautifully fatty. I think meatballs are quite literally my favourite meal so enhancing them with the marrow did nothing but make this recipe better.
Bone marrow contains several health-promoting compounds, including collagen, glycine, and glucosamine, these compounds have been linked to decreased inflammation, better skin health, and improved joint function due to there high collagen content.
Per 100g bone marrow will contain roughly 7g of protein and 84g of fat, 25% of its contents is iron. Whilst this food is super fatty, its health benefits as mentioned above are incredible and you needn’t eat a lot to reap the benefits, here I ate around 10-20g per serve.
Week 3: OXTAIL STEW
This meal is by far my favourite into this 6 week experiment, never had a tried oxtail before and I can happily say its the most flavoursome, tender and slightly sweet meat. Beautiful.
I made this in my slow cooker, with bone broth concentrate, red wine, organic tinned tomatoes, mixed herbs, fresh thyme and oregano, leek, white onion, garlic, celery, duck fat roasted potatoes along with my base salad of broccoli, mushrooms and kale.
Real gravies and sauces made from bones simmered for long periods of time have the most delicious meaty jelly – sounds gross but packed full of flavour and collagen, this stuff is so good for your overall gut health, hair, skin, nails and joint health. I will definitely be making this stew again, I eat all my meals cold, I don’t re heat any of them, this for me was eaten over the course of one of Sydney hottest weeks, it would definitely work as a great winter warmer if you like lighter meals in the summer, I however will eat anything at anytime of the year.
With each 150g serving oxtail provides roughly 61g of protein, 28g fat, equating to 42% of its contents in iron.
Week 4: CURRIED CHICKEN LIVER
I’ll be honest this was probably my most dreaded meal prep of the entire challenge as my mind takes over to the worst possible thought process of how this meal prep will taste, what the texture will be like and overall, exactly what and where this organ has come from. Silly really when you break it down and think about it logically, muscle comes from the animals carcass as do the organs, in reality what is the difference? They serve different functions when the animal is living and when consumed they serve very, VERY different nutritional purposes. People tend to think of protein as just that, PROTEIN, well theres a lot more to it than that. Organ meats as I’ve mentioned are the MOST NUTRIENT DENCE foods in the world – FACT. What you get from organ meat will be more nutritionally authentic to anything you consume as a vitamin or supplement.
Chicken liver contains per 150g, roughly 28g Protein, 8g of fat, Vitamin A – 15.3g, 23 in vitamin C and 20 in Magnesium, equating to 84% of its content to be iron.
I found a recipe from Pete Evans In his cook book ‘going paleo’ using many strong spices and flavours, I figured this would be the right path to venture down when cooking liver for the first time given its reputation for having a ‘metallic’ taste.
Served with organic lentils, Kent pumpkin an a mixed veggie salad I found this meal prep to be very strong in flavour meaning I hardly tasted the liver, the texture is very soft so it breaks down very well with each bite. I think I will likely make this again with as a one off dinner a pose to a full weeks meal prep, this kind of meat is definitely best served warm and fresh.
Week 5: PIG TROTTERS
6 little pig trotters made it into my meal prep this week and what an effort it was trying to cook them up. Honestly, I felt way out of my depth with these wee little hooves, never in my life have I cooked any form of feet! The only time I’d ever bought pigs trotters was for my dog as a Christmas gift!
Speaking with a friend from china who cooks this regually as a staple side dish at home, she helped me grasp some understanding of how best cook up the feet for maximum flavour.
Adding pulled pork shoulder to pack this meal out I started by roasting the trotters in coconut oil and fresh herbs for around 4 hours. The skin was crisp and beautifully roasted but there was no way I could cut what little meat there was on them off. Chatting to my mum via FaceTime, she suggested I place them in a slow cooker to soften, thinking to myself, thats a ridiculous amount of time to cook something that has such little meat and flesh, we’re looking at almost 14 hours of cooking time here?!
I followed mums suggestion and placed all 6 feet in with the pork shoulder and left them in the pot to slowly cook through until the morning, I figured to myself if anything they’ll give the pork shoulder a great tasting stock/broth. When I came down in the morning, all the joints, bone, skin and cartilage had completely come away and cooked through along with the pork shoulder meat. I wasn’t expecting this, so out came my tongs where (like the chicken necks) I carefully picked out every single bone I could find, large and small, until I was left with this incredibly smelling container of pulled pork feet and shoulder.
I served this meal prep with shredded white cabbage, celery, my staple base vegetable salad and oven roasted granny smith apples.
The overall result – I was blown away! The crunchy, yet soft texture was so sweet and delicious I couldn’t believe how good it was. After refrigerating, I literally couldn’t scoop the meat out of the container to add to my salad, I would have to cut the meat out due to the high gelatine content, it was like cutting and carving out little cubes of meaty jelly. Sounds gross but oh my goodness it tasted incredible.
It now baffles me how much as a society, we waste such quality produce. Butchers sell these cuts cheap as most people will buy these cuts for there dogs, great for the dogs but why aren’t we eating this? I’m starting to see that some of our beloved pets are eating a better diet than we are.
100g serving provides roughly, 25g protein, 15.7g of fat, low in iron but high in nutrients, pig trotters are loaded with collagen – containing a number of amino acids in every three glycine, Pork has the highest percentage of any other meat.
Week 6: BEEF HEART – Happy valentines
This week was ALWAYS going to be heart what with it being valentines day this Friday.
The biggest shock for me this week when heading into the butchers was the sheer size of a beef cows heart. Probably about the size of my head. Weighing in at 1.6kgs and costing $13, turns out it pays to save when you eat the cuts no one else wants to eat.
The butchers kindly cut, trim and clean the heart, apparently they have to do this before selling to you, which is good to know as I’m not sure how well I would have handled all the anatomy to cut through in preparation for cooking.
I did a lot of research on how best to cook up beef heart and the same recipe methods came up each time, which was to skillet pan fry/sear the meat. As heart is a muscle, its best cooked like a steak – medium rare and bloody. The meat should be marinated before hand and left for around 2 hours to absorb the salt and spices.
Cooking beef heart was an easy task that anyone could do and the taste – I honestly couldn’t say theres any difference between heart and a cut of steak. Its juicy, tender, flavoursome and tastes to me, just like a quality piece of sirloin.
Given the nutrient density and the price I would definitely have beef heart again. I lacked a marinade with this meal prep so when I eat it again I will most definitely add some kind of sauce to complement the red meat.
Heart is rich in folate, iron, zinc and selenium along with the beautiful B’s – B2, B6 and B12. Its high in protein, with around 48g per 150g and 8g of Fat equating to 60% of its content to be iron, this meat is a great source of nourishment to your meal.
Coming from a childhood where I absolute hated eating most foods, mealtimes were such a anxious task everyday at home and especially in social situations, I truly would rather go without then eat something that looked/smelled odd or different. I realise now my mum had the patience of a saint persisting with my fussy eating and cooking up whatever she could in the hope that I would eat at least a few bites.
All grown up and I’m proud of the fact that I’m now eating the healthiest I have in my entire life and I’m doing what I can to constantly learn and educate myself on the highest quality foods for my body. Most people will know I love cooking and baking, so this 6 week challenge has certainly stretched me to a new point of self development where I’ve been so far out of my comfort zone I’ve had no choice but to ask questions, experiment, try new things and research.
Top 5 biggest take aways from this challenge;
- Save your money – Off cuts and organ meats are usually pretty cheap purely because the general population don’t buy them, unless you’ve culturally been brought up eating it, it’s likely these parts are sent off to pet food companies and worse, wasted and thrown out. Most meat is sold by weight and as mentioned any organ meat or off cut such as the bones will be relatively cheap.
- Support your local butcher – There’s likely a small chance you will find these cuts in your local supermarket when it comes to the real nitty gritty stuff. Liver and chicken necks can be found in most large chain supermarkets, however I do recommend sourcing your local butcher and chatting with them about the protein you’d like to buy, butchers are like primal chefs, they know what cuts work for certain dishes and they are genuinely happy to help you out in any way they can.
- Im fully aware we are not dogs, nor did we evolve from them, However, I do believe our pets eat better than we do sometimes, I know of people that will feed there dogs a 100% grass fed carnivore diet, for some their pets are paleo, even I am guilty, years ago when I lived in the uk my hamster was paleo, she ate only fruit, vegetables, worms, crickets and water, I was very adamant that she ate the best food, yet we seem to neglect this ethical priority for ourselves. The worlds most nourishing foods are literally within our reach, they contain so many healthy beneficial properties and yet we do not consume them, why? I’d like to be the influence to people to try new foods and explore, you don’t have to eat these cuts everyday but it is healthy to expose yourself to new experiences every now and then.
- 100% RESPECT – It genuinely concerns me how unconscious and oblivious we are to any form of animal produce being a product on the shelf that we mindlessly toss into our shopping basket, take home, cook up and consume. How many people ask themselves. – where has my produce come from? Are the animals treated the way I would like them to be treated? Do they have space and the environment to live a humane lifespan? Think about what your values are, personally I don’t buy the RSPCA certified produce because the animals are fed an artificial diet of corn/soy or as they label it 100% vegetarian feed. Knowing what I know from research – cows and sheep eat grass and if they have eaten a grass fed diet it will be labeled that way, along with pasture raised pigs and chickens – these animals are omnivores, they will eat both plants and animals, did you know chickens will eat mice and birds? No animal is designed to eat corn, in their natural environment these would not be found, animals would have access to eat berries, leaves, worms, other insects and small mammals. Corn has very little nutritional value, meaning if the animal isn’t getting any nutrients, by consuming the meat, what nutrients are you gaining? Do you research and Be knowledgeable.
- For me I think the most transformative thing is being mindful of what I’m eating and having a great deal of appreciation for what I’m consuming – this was once a living animal. I really do feel as a westernised society we don’t look at food the way our ancestors used to eat, when hunting, foraging, preparing, cooking and eating, food was a true ritual. I look at food so differently now, from even last year, we live in such abundance and we are so fortunate to have the foods we do at our convenient reach, I’ve heard many times that “food can be our medicine or the slowest form of poison” this is so powerful and relates to every living thing. I’m certainly fuelled to continue educating myself on the effects of foods on our bodies, where our food comes from, sustainability and hopefully influencing others to make better choices in what and how they eat.