January’s Primal Food of the Month

When colds and flu are in the air and January does its thing, what is one thing we can do to give ourselves the best chance at staying healthy?

My answer to this at the moment is…

BROTH (AKA stock, stew, casserole, gravy)

This has come up so often in conversations and consultations recently that I thought it’s time to put broth in the spotlight.

Broth is mainly identified by its ability to turn into a jelly-like structure when cold. It has lots of good healing proteins that are soothing to our digestion and provide building blocks for the intestinal lining, our joints, skin and other connective tissue. There’s a reason jelly has always been used in hospital food and chicken soup has been a traditional approach to colds.

The link with immunity is that much of our immune system depends on how good our digestion is – being able to absorb vitamins, minerals, amino acids and fatty acids from our food is, of course, important to every aspect of our health. But the digestive tract also has its own immune system and plays a huge role in helping us fight off invaders.

So, if you’re looking for something extra to help you get through winter, broth could be the answer.

For many years I tuned out at the mention of broth or stock. Too hard. Too much cooking. Hours in the kitchen with bones and things. Even now, as a nutritionist, I am a reluctant cook.

But it doesn’t have to be beyond reach for people like me. There are two options, depending on whether you’re up for sieving:

  1. Stock: Use leftover chicken carcass or other meat bones OR buy chicken or other meat on the bone. Put in a pan with water, salt and pepper, boil up, simmer for 2.5 to 3 hours. Sieve to get stock without bones – this is the part I dislike, it’s hot but it’s over in seconds. Salvage meat to put back in if you used bones with meat on. Let it cool before putting it in the fridge. Most people like to skim the fat off. Serve heated through in mugs or use as the liquid in vegetable soups.
  2. Stew: Buy meat not on a bone, such as stewing beef, brown it in the bottom of a pan in olive oil or ghee, add some veg (frozen green beans are good), salt and pepper, water, herbs (such as mixed herbs) or spices (such as smoked paprika), boil up, simmer for 2.5 to 3 hours. Serve as soup or stew (we like to add a spoonful of sour cream at the table).

There are lots of good recipes around, with ideas for things to add to the simmering bones and, of course, fantastic stews and casseroles. But it doesn’t have to be fancy.