Beef liver: the original superfood

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Beef liver has a long history as a traditionally valued food. Often eaten by traditional cultures as soon as practicable, even in preference over the muscle meat. In fact, some traditional cultures only consumed the organ meats, with the leaner muscle meats being often discarded or given to away to wolves / early dogs.

More recently, especially in Western cultures, organ meats like beef liver have fallen out of the regular rotation in favour of the leaner, more palatable muscle meats.

Most local butchers will stock beef liver, but you will probably need to ask as they keep most of the organ meats away from the public eye in cool rooms / freezers due to the limited sales. By comparison, the selection of muscle cuts from all animals is often more readily available for viewing and purchase. Organ meats like beef liver are actually very cheap when compared to the more popular cuts of muscle meat and pack a real bang for your buck when you consider the nutrient density. 

In fact, it’s one of the most nutritious foods on the planet.

Nutrition

A dense source of protein, vitamins and minerals critical to human performance packed into a single food source. Just a quick look at some of the key nutrients in 100 grams of beef liver paints a powerful picture:

  • Protein: 27 grams
  • Vitamin A: 26,091 IU | 522% DV
  • Vitamin B2: 3.4 mg | 201% DV
  • Vitamin B3: 17.5 mg | 87% DV
  • Vitamin B6: 1 mg | 51% DV
  • Vitamin B9 (folate): 260 mcg | 65% DV
  • Vitamin B12: 83.1 mcg | 1386% DV
  • Choline: 418 mg
  • Copper: 14.6 mg | 730% DV
  • Iron: 6.2 mg | 34% DV
  • Selenium: 32.8 mcg | 47%
  • Zinc: 5.2 mg | 35% DV

How to get more liver into the diet

Here are just a few ways to get more of this nutrient dense superfood into the diet:

  • Pan fried. Liver goes well when fried with onions;
  • Bolognese sauces. Liver and other organ meats can be chopped or minced and then mixed with regular ground beef and added to pasta or vegetable dishes;
  • Burger patties. As with Bolognese sauces, chop or mince organ meats and mix it with ground beef to make highly nutritious burgers.
  • Liverloaf. This is basically a meatloaf that is prepared with a mix of both beef and liver mince.

Homemade Sourdough Bread

The year 2020 has been fairly eventful. Bushfires. The untimely death of Kobe and Gianna Bryant. The coronavirus global pandemic and the societal lockdowns that followed. I have noticed that a lot of people on social media have been making their own sourdough breads whilst in isolation.

This is a skill that I have been wanting to learn for a while.

Here is the recipe that I used to make my very own sourdough bread. No kneading required. First, I made my own sourdough starter, which took 5-7 days mature. This recipe only requires the starter to be mixed with water and flour, then letting the mixture rise naturally overnight to finally bake in the morning.

What is sourdough bread?

Simply put, it’s a bread made without the use of a commercial yeast, but with a sourdough starter or culture instead. The starter is what makes the bread rise. Generally, breads made with a sourdough starter have more flavour than yeasted bread.

Equipment required

  • 4-6 quart cast iron dutch oven with lid (or bread baker)
  • some mixing bowls
  • measuring cup
  • digital kitchen scale

How to make sourdough bread (quick version)

  1. Mix the flours (520 grams) and salt (2-3 teaspoons) together.
  2. Mix sourdough starter and water together (90 grams starter with 385 grams water).
  3. Combine all in a medium bowl, until flour is fully incorporated.
  4. Let rest 15 minutes. Stretch the dough, inside the bowl. Repeat 15 minutes later.
  5. Cover and leave to rest on the kitchen counter for 9-12 hours (at room temperature).
  6. In the morning, stretch, fold and shape. Place in a parchment-lined bowl, let rise for 1 hour in the refrigerator and preheat the oven.
  7. Score.
  8. Bake 35-40 minutes.

How to schedule sourdough bread?

  1. 12 noon: Feed the sourdough starter. 4-8 hours before you plan to mix up the dough, feed your starter (alternatively, you can use the unfed starter straight from the fridge at 8 pm).
  2. 8 pm: Mix. Mix flours and salt, and mix starter and water, and mix all into a ball. After 15 mins, stretch the dough, using the “stretch and fold” technique. Cover for 15 more minutes and repeat the stretch and fold.
  3. Proof. Cover with plastic wrap or a wet towel, to proof (rise) overnight, or 9-12 hours at room temperature on the kitchen counter.
  4. 7-8 am. Shape. Check your dough and when it has almost doubled in size, stretch, fold, and shape. Place in a parchment-lined bowl, dusted with flour.
  5. Final Rise and Preheat Oven. Place the shaped dough in the fridge for 1 hour while you preheat the oven (heating up your dutch oven or bread baker too, for 50-60 minutes at 250C) 
  6. 9 am: Place and score. Pull your heated dutch oven out of the oven. Lift your shaped dough, either flipping or lifting out by the parchment, carefully place into the hot dutch oven. 
  7. Score the bread using a sharp knife (lightly oiled) or bread lame, cutting a single slash slit into the dough, about an inch (2 cm) deep.
  8. Bake with the lid on for 20 minutes. Remove lid, lower heat to 200C and bake 15-20 more minutes, until very deeply golden. You will want it darker than you might think. Let it cool on a rack before cutting. If you like a softer crust bake covered 25 minutes, uncovered 10-15 minutes.
  9. 10 am: Bon appetite!

Making your own sourdough starter

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During the lockdown period I decided to teach myself how to make real sourdough bread from scratch. The step in this process is to make your own sourdough starter, or culture.

I will post a second part to this article detailing my attempt at preparing and baking an actual loaf of sourdough bread.

What is a sourdough starter?
Also known as a sourdough culture, a starter is a mixture of flour and water which acts as a leavening agent. Wild yeast is present in all flour and a starter is a way to activate the yeast in order to bake with it. The sourness comes from the living bacteria growing alongside the yeast in the starter.

As the starter matures the wild yeast and bacteria develop making it stronger and more complex in flavour.

Only a small amount of sourdough starter is needed to make a loaf of bread. Wild yeast works more slowly than commercial yeast so recipes made with a sourdough starter will typically take longer to make.

Making a sourdough starter is a simple process of combining flour and water, which is then subsequently ‘fed’ or refreshed with more flour and water over a period to encourage the yeast to ferment and the bacteria to develop.

Sourdough starter timeline
The process of making a sourdough starter can be lengthy (about 5 or 6 days), it is not complicated. This is the process that I have used with success.

If the process below is followed, you should be well on the way to creating you very own sourdough starter:

Day 0
125 g flour + 125 g water, stand for 48 hours.

  1. Place the flour and water in a mixing bowl and stir until well combined.
  2. Transfer the mixture to a glass jar, seal and set aside in a warm draught-free place for about 48 hours.

Variations
Rye or wholemeal flour can be substituted for plain flour for variety.

Day 2
1st feeding: 125 g starter + 125 g flour + 125 g water, stand for 24 hours.

  1. Remove and discard all but 125 g of the sourdough starter from the jar.
  2. Add 125 g plain flour and 125 g water to the jar and stir well to combine.
  3. Seal the jar and set aside in a warm, draught-free place for 24 hours.

After the first feeding and rise, the starter should have risen slightly (up to 50%). Random bubbles should become visible on the surface as well as through the side of the jar indicating the wild yeast is active and starting the multiply.

Day 3
2nd feeding: 125 g starter + 125 g flour + 125 g water, stand for 24 hours.

  1. Remove and discard all but 125 g of the sourdough starter from the jar.
  2. Add 125 g plain flour and 125 g water to the jar and stir well to combine.
  3. Seal the jar and set aside in a warm, draught-free place for 24 hours.

After the second feeding and rise there will be more visible bubbles but they will be smaller and more uniform.

Day 4
3rd feeding: 125 g starter + 125 g flour + 125 g water, stand until doubled in size (8-24 hours).

  1. Remove and discard all but 125 g of the sourdough starter from the jar.
  2. Add 125 g plain flour and 125 g water to the jar and stir well to combine
  3. Seal the jar and set aside in a warm, draught-free place until doubled in size (8-24 hours, depending on the strength of your starter).

After the third feeding and rise, the starter will become more vigorous and may rise by up to 100% in less than 24 hours. Bubbles will be very evident on the surface as well as through the side of the jar.

It may have quite a sour or tangy aroma.

Day 5
If the starter has not doubled in size, continue the process above and feed every 12 hours until it has doubled in 8 hours or less.

From here, the sourdough starter is considered ‘active’ and is ready for use.

Keeping your sourdough starter
Once you have an active starter it can be kept at room temperature or stored in the fridge.

If you you’re not planning to use the starter often, it is best to store it in the fridge where it will require less maintenance. To do this, just feed as instructed previously, seal the jar and then stand at room temperature for 2-3 hours (to help reinvigorate the yeast) before placing in the fridge to store.

A starter stored in the fridge will only require feeding once a week to maintain it.

Alternatively, if you plan to use the starter regularly, the starter can be stored at room temperature and will require to be fed daily at approximately the same time.

Why you should be eating summer squash

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Why it’s a superfood?

  • High in vitamin A and antioxidants (beta-carotene, lutein and zeaxanthin);
  • Good source of vitamins B6, C, K, folate, thiamine, magnesium, manganese, potassium and copper.

Healthy evidence
An article posted in the journal Public Health Nutrition reported that squash extracts reduced symptoms of a common condition affecting older men, benign prostatic hypertrophy. The high content of lutein may also help against dementia associated ageing, as suggested by a 2010 review article in the journal Clinics in Geriatric Medicine.

Making the most of Summer Squash
Most of the nutrients in summer squash hold up well to cooking. Unfortunately, those that do not are the nutrients present in the largest amounts. The high water content and delicate flesh argue for rapid cooking with little or no liquid, such as roasting or sauteing.