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.

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 ghee

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Ghee is a form of clarified butter that has been used traditionally in Indian and Middle Eastern cultures for thousands of years.

It’s made by heating butter to separate the water, salts and milk solids from the golden butter fat. What you’re left with is an easily digestible fat that is highly nutritious with a subtle nutty aroma and flavour.

That’s how ghee has much lower levels of diary proteins (such as casein) and sugars (lactose) than butter.

It has a variety of benefits, including a solid nutrient profile and really high smoke point, so it’s safe to cook at high temperatures without damaging the fat.

Below are some of the health benefits of ghee.

It has a high smoke point
Ghee is a healthy cooking fat due to its incredibly high smoke point (250°C / 480°F), which is higher than many other cooking fats or oils.

This means that it’s an excellent fat to use when cooking as it’s a natural and stable fat, meaning that its chemical structure will not be altered or damaged (becoming toxic) when it’s heated to higher temperatures.

Ghee is a suitable alternative for individuals with dairy allergies
Since ghee is formed by removing milk solids from butter, it contains only trace amounts of the milk proteins (such as casein) and sugars (lactose), making it suitable for most people with dairy allergies.

If you do have a sensitivity to diary it is suggested that you try a small amount over several days to assess your individual tolerance.

Ghee has an excellent nutritional profile
Ghee has a nutritional profile similar to butter, without the diary proteins and sugars.

Although high in total fat content, it does contain good amounts of healthy monounsaturated omega-3 fatty acids, along with good amounts of the fat-soluble vitamins A, D, E and K. These nutrients are essential for a variety of body functions, including proper hormone production and optimal brain, cardiovascular and immune system function.

Ghee is also a very good source of butyrate and conjugated linoleic acid (CLA), both of which have been associated with a number of health benefits, including reduced overall inflammation and cardiovascular disease risk, improved digestion, increased energy and even fat loss.

Due to its fat content, ghee also assists in the body’s absorption of fat-soluble vitamins and minerals from other foods.

In summary
Ghee could be a great addition to your nutritional plan as an alternative to butter or other cooking oils and fats. It has a solid nutrient profile, a great buttery taste and can be used in cooking at higher temperatures.

Characteristics of traditional diets

Delicious  portion of  fresh salmon fillet  with aromatic herbs,

From the Weston A. Price foundation.

Characteristics of traditional diets

  1. The diets of healthy, non-industrialized peoples contain no refined or denatured foods or ingredients, such as refined sugar or high fructose corn syrup; white flour; canned foods; pasteurized, homogenized, skim or lowfat milk; refined or hydrogenated vegetable oils; protein powders; synthetic vitamins; or toxic additives and artificial colorings;
  2. All traditional cultures consume some sort of animal food, such as fish and shellfish; land and water fowl; land and sea mammals; eggs; milk and milk products; reptiles; and insects. The whole animal is consumed; muscle meat, organs, bones and fat, with the organ meats and fats preferred;
  3. The diets of healthy, non-industrialized peoples contain at least four times the minerals and water-soluble vitamins, and TEN times the fat-soluble vitamins found in animal fats (vitamin A, vitamin D and Activator X, now thought to be vitamin K2) as the average American diet;
  4. All traditional cultures cooked some of their food but all consumed a portion of their animal foods raw;
  5. Primitive and traditional diets have a high content of food enzymes and beneficial bacteria from lactofermented vegetables, fruits, beverages, dairy products, meats and condiments;
  6. Seeds, grains and nuts are soaked, sprouted, fermented or naturally leavened to neutralize naturally occurring anti-nutrients such as enzyme inhibitors, tannins and phytic acid;
  7. Total fat content of traditional diets varies from 30 percent to 80 percent of calories but only about 4 percent of calories come from polyunsaturated oils naturally occurring in grains, legumes, nuts, fish, animal fats and vegetables. The balance of fat calories is in the form of saturated and monounsaturated fatty acids;
  8. Traditional diets contain nearly equal amounts of omega-6 and omega-3 essential fatty acids;
  9. All traditional diets contain some salt;
  10. All traditional cultures make use of animal bones, usually in the form of gelatin-rich bone broths;
  11. Traditional cultures make provisions for the health of future generations by providing special nutrient-rich animal foods for parents-to-be, pregnant women and growing children; by proper spacing of children; and by teaching the principles of right diet to the young.