I know you’re probably sick of hearing about paleo recipes on what is essentially a diarised account of gluttony. But how do you think I manage to eat all those delicious goodies without turning into a 250 pound food blogger? Besides, I like to balance the good with the bad, the dark with the light, and the way I manage to stay the slimmest I’ve been in forever, is to stick to a liberal version of the paleo diet. This means taking my cues from the paleo rules of no grains, no potatoes, no dairy, no pulses, no sugar and essentially no processed foods. However, I do still have skimmed milk in my morning coffee, I eat toast for breakfast a few times a week, I eat green beans and sometimes lentils and I even make pizza on Friday nights. I also eat crisps and cake and chocolate but these things are only in small doses, and usually on weekends – – you know the whole 80-20 split.
Consquently I’m always on the look out for paleo-suitable meal ideas, as I eat paleo for every lunch and most dinners and breakfasts. I have discovered that there’s no use trying to eat paleo versions of the old favourites like spaghetti made with courgette or pizza made with chestnut flour. Most of the time it doesn’t work and when there are so many other delicious, inherently paleo dishes around, why bother faking it? A good example is Malaysian laksa, a curry-based soup made with coconut milk and loads of vegetables. This is a great meal that contains no dairy, no grains, no sugars and it can be tailored to vegetarians too.
My sister recommended I try Jamie Oliver’s 15 minute squash laksa, but when I looked over the recipe, my experience with Asian cooking told me it might need some flavour boosts. So I had a look at Ottolenghi’s laksa, as he regularly submits vegetarian recipes for The Guardian. Somewhere between the two, I managed to create my own recipe that can be made using mostly found ingredients, and a few specialist ones. The secret is in the spice paste. Ottolenghi says this is the key for good flavour and that you should saute it over a low heat for at least 20 minutes so I think as long as you do that, the recipe will survive one or two missed ingredients. I know it’s much easier to open a jar, but I was extremely satisfied that I managed to create such an authentic flavour all by myself.
Ingredients (serves 2):
For the paste
1 tsp tumeric powder
1 tsp curry powder
1 red onion, roughly chopped
2 garlic cloves, roughly chopped
1 inch piece of ginger, roughly chopped
1 tsp lemongrass (from a jar is probably easiest)
1 tbsp sambal oelek (or chilli paste, or any other chilli-based ingredient)
Handful of corriander stems and roots, chopped
Zest of one lime or 2 kaffir lime leaves (shredded)
2 tsp brown sugar (optional)
1 tsp salt
1 tbsp oil
For the soup
1 tbsp fish sauce
Juice of 1 lime
1 can coconut milk
Mixed chopped vegetables including butternut squash, snow peas or green beans, red pepper, broccoli, carrot, baby spinach leaves, asparagus, bean sprouts
Either a carton, or cube/pod of chicken (or vegetable) stock and about 2 cups of water
Optional: chicken, prawns or tofu for protein.
Put all the ingredients up to and including the oil into a mini processor, or as I did, a jug (and a stick blender). Wizz till it forms a paste.
Saute the paste in some oil in a sauce pan for 5-10 minutes on low heat.
Add any meat and brown it off in the paste.
Pour in stock and any large pieces of vegetable like squash. Simmer on low for half an hour.
Add coconut milk and the rest of the vegetables and simmer for another ten minutes.
Finish off by seasoning with some fish sauce and lime juice.