Monday, May 31, 2010

Meet The Meat Makers - Farmer Dan!

After a debacle with my seafood merchant (essentially, I asked him what his vacuum packs were made of since they made some of my fish smell toxic, and he decided that since I wasn't happy, he'd rather not sell fish to me! Um, what?), I've happily taken my business elsewhere, although now I'm supporting a larger business instead of my preferred family-owned company. My first delivery will arrive tomorrow, but I'm not expecting anything more than what I'd get were I to use Coles Online... If anyone in Melbourne knows of a market-direct delivery service for wild-caught seafood, let me know!

Organic Direct has been very good to me, providing me with beef, lamb and chicken with their once-per-month deliver service. However, it was hard to know how much I would need to order, and would end up running low, and have to supplement from the local, pricey butcher... Cut to the end - it just wasn't convenient.

I had been keen to make a direct-to-farm connection for quite a while, but since I prefer to use the Internet, and farmers aren't always great at maintaining an online presence, I struggled to find a farm that inspired me. However, a couple of weeks ago, I stumbled across Gippsland Lean Beef, now run through The Farmers Market by Farmer Dan. As he espouses via his site, he believes in farms that maintain very high standards of sustainability, nurturing and nourishment. His animals are humanely raised and treated, given access to range freely in uncontaminated pastures, allowed to feed on grasses and are not supplemented by grains at any point, free of hormones, antibiotics and pesticides. And the added bonus - this "beyond organic" approach is not only the healthiest and most environmentally-friendly option around, but he even manages to offer his customers affordable prices thanks to his choice not to purchase organic certification! His site also draws on supplementary supply from other like-minded beef and lamb farmers that meet his strict criteria, so it's great to know I'm supporting a community directly with my purchases.

Farmer Dan (above, left) & I had an email back & forth before I made my first order (which you can view in its enormity in my previous post), and here is his answer to my big question:

GGP: So what's the difference between your product & what's certified as 'organic' in the Australian market today?

The difference between us and organic is quite simple. We grow our cattle and lamb naturally in a free range environment without the use of hormones, antibiotics or rumen manipulators.

1. Our prices are much cheaper.

2. We do not use grains to finish our cattle – We finish them on pasture. The rumen of cattle is not designed for grain but for pasture. Grain is an unnatural method of fattening cattle. We grow our cattle using natural methods. If you use grain you must use a rumen manipulator.

3. Certain parts of the organic standard allow for exemptions which we don’t agree should be allowed.

4. You purchase cattle from someone else that have had chemical on them and keep them on your farm for a period of time and they are classified as organic – this is not right.

5. You can use Gibberelic acid to spray on your pasture to make it grow quicker and then feed it to your cattle and you are still organic - this is wrong.

6. The organic standard does not go far enough in the way animals are treated throughout the production process.

7. Have a look at the organic standard and you might be surprised.

Of course, we would easily make the standard. What stops us is the cost. We have to pay very large fees to register and then they want a gross percentage of our turnover. I object to this. This is the reason organic products are very expensive. There are a group of people setting a standard that they perceive to be right and they want a gross percentage of my turnover. To them it is a business proposition. They make money to keep themselves in a job. For us it is a passion. We love what we do knowing that we are providing a food source that has been humanely produced without the use of chemicals or hormones. I don’t think they understand how hard the work is to produce a quality animal. All these big businesses are the same, they want easy money while someone else is doing all the hard work. We are happy to supply excellent quality meat at a reasonable price. I would rather take a lower price and make our produce more widely available than to exclusive to a few. We are not the only farmers out there that think this way. All we want to do is remain sustainable and maintain our lifestyle not to make a million dollars.

I was planning a trip to Farmer Dan's farm to check out his workings for myself but, as luck would have it, another blogger has done the job for me! The writer of Cows In Clover chose Dan for her first farm to check out in her search of happy and healthy meat (also her pen-name), and has constructed a detailed review of the workings of the farm. Perfect! And, judging by the Farmers Market site, Dan is using his connections with like-minded local farmers to expand his delivery service's offerings. Cows In Clover suggests that offal will soon be readily available - Dan already threw in a lamb kidney in my delivery, so I'm looking forward to using that in an up-coming culinary experiment... Hopefully I'll have a chance tomorrow to play around with a couple of ideas I've been theorising, regarding two certain old favourites that still make me drool when I'm at a party... Hint hint!


I'm running awfully low on subject ideas, given that's it's all meat meat meat for me again. I'm loving the return to digestive comfort, tasty meals, minimal preparation, and fat loss! My energy levels are back to normal, probably due to the conclusion of the school play more than diet, although now I'm battling the 'too-much-free-time' boredom demon that has me sneaking up to the Nola container far too often! I'm resisting its charms for now though, spurred on by the numbers on the scale.

I spent some time this week looking into new lamb & beef suppliers, after my concerns regarding the nature of the 'organic' label placed on my current supply of red meat had me worried that my animals were raised on organic grain. My butcher couldn't tell me exactly which farm my meat was from, as they buy from a range of farms, some of which were grain feeding their animals. Organic Direct remains a reliably grass-fed option, but their once-a-month delivery restriction often left me in a pickle. My research led me to a local farm, The Farmers Market. I chatted with the owner, Farmer Dan, via email, to enquire why he has not had his farm certified as organic, though his methods would easily qualify for certification. His answers were fascinating, and I will share the interview with him in my next post. But in the meantime, here is a choice extract from the website:

The Farmers Market is a subsidiary of Farmer Dan, an all natural, branded beef and lamb company based in Gippsland Victoria. Suppliers to The Farmers Market raise cattle and sheep using natural production methods, on natural feeds without added growth hormones or antibiotics in a free range environment. The company was started in 2005 by Farmer Dan and is dedicated to supporting family farms.

You can also read an independent review on Cows In Clover.

Given the lack of the organic label, Danny can sell his meat at a much more affordable price, but my preference to buy in bulk to minimise traffic meant that I bought an 1/8th beef pack and a full lamb pack, judging the amount via the price, assuming comparability to my usual orders from Organic Direct. Wrong!

The beef and lamb were boxed separately, and I left them both resting on my dining table as I gathered up my wicked packing skills, bound to be necessary were I to get all that meat into my freezer compartment of my fridge (a space barely the size of the small of the two boxes!)

I opened up the lamb box, and laid out the pieces on the kitchen bench. The pile in the photo below is four layers high at its thickest, and do note the massive legs and what I assume to be racks at the back...

I somehow, miraculously, managed to fit all the lamb into the freezer, but I knew that there wouldn't be the slightest chance of fitting the beef in as well. So I took out one leg roast and one rack, as well as the sausages that I wouldn't be able to eat thanks to their rice flour content (I had asked for them to be replaced with mince, but Farmer Dan forgot).

I then tackled the beef container:

All but one package of round steak fitted into the other area of the freezer, so I was only left to deal with the excess of lamb. The solution was simple - be an awesome sister and give it to my little brother. He was very happy to accept the gift, especially given his Uni student status, although it means that Dad has now lost both of his meat recipients! Dad loves giving us meat, as its one connection to the farm that he can offer his kids, but it's not as though he raises the animals himself. And given that mystery, I'm not comfortable as I don't know whether the animals were dipped in pesticides (quite likely) or fed grain (less likely).

Thus far, I've been LOVING the lamb forequarter chops from Farmer Dan, and I'm very picky about my lamb chops! The beau has also tried the round steak, which smelled as amazing as it apparently tasted. I'll be sure to give more detailed reviews as I make my way through my immense supply!

Farmer Dan is also expanding his offerings to draw on other Gippsland farmers that follow his ideals, so soon I'll be able to get wonderful free-range chicken, pork, and maybe even dairy for the beau! It's too much to hope for raw dairy though, since that's still near-impossible to get a hold of on a regular, convenient basis. Fingers crossed...

And now the usual run-down of my eats this past week - hover over the image to read the description:

And now forward I march into another working week - it's report writing and exam marking time! Yay! Have a good one!

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Recipe: Creamy Coconut Beef Curry

A mild but hearty beef curry, featuring coconut cream for that creamy texture. Quite the saucy dish, this one!

Creamy Coconut Beef Curry


500g diced beef
2T coconut oil (or more)
1 red or brown onion, diced
3T curry powder
A few garlic cloves, crushed
1T crushed ginger
1T chopped coriander
1T cumin
1T paprika
1t cinnamon
1 can coconut cream


1. Heat oil in a large frying pan.

2. Add onion and sauté for two minutes.

3. Add all spices and herbs, and stir gently for three minutes.

4. Add beef, stirring and browning evenly.

5. Add can of coconut cream, then fill the empty can with water and pour it into the pan.

6. Stir well, and bring the lot to the boil.

7. Reduce heat and maintain a gentle simmer for 60 to 90 minutes.

Enjoy alone or on various primal veggie combinations - I tried broccoli rice for the first time when I made this, and it was delicious! I was trying to use up all the veg in my fridge when I made this, and found that EVERYTHING goes well with curry - even cheese!

Monday, May 24, 2010

Recipe: Chicken with Coconut Curry Coating

A mini-recipe here, but so incredible that I have to put the specifics of what I did online for posterity - this is one I'll be returning to to every time I'm willing to dabble in carb country.

Chicken with Coconut Curry Coating


4 Pastured chicken drumsticks
1 Pastured egg
2T coconut oil
25g Almond flour
25g Shredded or dessicated coconut
1T curry powder (or curry paste)
1t cumin
1t paprika
1t chopped coriander
& any other herbs you enjoy


1. Preheat oven to moderate (your usual chicken-roasting temperature), and line a baking tray with greaseproof paper or aluminium foil.

2. Combine egg and coconut oil (melted) in a small, shallow bowl.

3. In another bowl, combine almond flour, coconut, spices and herbs.

4. The fun part - dip one drumstick in the egg and oil mixture, using fingers to coat it completely, remove and allow excess liquid to drip back into the bowl, and then roll it in flour mixture until completely covered.

5. Place drumstick onto lined tray, then repeat step 4 until all drumsticks are done.

6. Pop the lot in the oven, and bake for around 45 minutes, until coating is crunchy and meat is cooked through.

I'm looking forward to trying this coconutty and curried-up version of my coating on other pieces of chicken and white fish!

How To Survive Production Week, Primal-Style

So, with the biggest week of the year behind me, having just finished the run of my play, I can reflect on the success of my avoiding-stress-munchies-with-voluminous-veggies plan. Indeed, packing myself with various veg sautéed in copious amounts of coconut oil and butter certainly kept my from indulging in too many calories, but towards the pointy end of the week has resulted in a bit of tummy ache and blood glucose instability. I'll be happily going back to meat-only as of tomorrow, although my freezer is crying out for another seafood delivery, as well as warranting a trip to the local organic butcher for lamb and ground beef. I might be looking into trialling another local, grass-fed meat farmer in the next few days though, to save a bit of money and to be sure that organic = grass-fed.

Enjoy the following screed of food porn - hover over the images to see the details of when and what.

Wednesday's dinner - lamb chops, bacon, and sauteed fennel
Thursday's mega pre-Opening breakfast - t-bone steak and buttery fried eggs
Thursday's pre-Opening dinner - sauteed cabbage and asparagus, topped with bacon
Friday's breakfast - lamb forequarter chops and bacon! The perfect nerve calmer!
Friday's snack - kale chips!
Friday's dinner - sauteed cabbage and zucchini, topped with heaps of bacon!
Saturday's breakfast - lamb forequarter chops and bacon
Saturday's dinner - Chicken drumsticks with coconut-curry coating, with sauteed veggies
Sunday's dinner - coconut beef curry, with broccoli rice, sauteed cabbage, zucchini and spinach, and a diced capsicum, carrot and cheddar salad
Monday's breakfast - lamb chops
Monday's dinner - scrambled eggs and bacon
And if think you spotted a couple of new dishes in there, you're correct! Sure, they're not that far from my usual theme, but I played with coconut cream and beef for the first time, after the success of my chicken curry, and I also vamped up my typical almond flour coating to pack a flavour punch! Two new meals that are perfect for the coming winter. The days are getting colder and colder - time to buy some toe socks to wear under my Vibrams, methinks!

Tuesday, May 18, 2010


Ah... Dress Rehearsal was today, and the kids did a very good job, so tomorrow's Opening Night shouldn't be too hard on the ol' nerves.

Knowing that I usually turn to comfort food in times of high stress, and wanting to feel the satiety I've been missing since the DepTran incident, I decided to add the occasional batch of low-carb veggies back into my repertoire to help avoid the temptation of eating more and more calorie-dense meats & eggs. I did have one rather debilitating macadamia & cashew binge around hour 70 of the past working "week", but other than that I've been eating delicious meals along the typical pattern of a smaller morning meal of meat & eggs, and a larger dinner of the same with some veggies if desired. As I explained to one of my gobsmacked cast members, I only eat cabbage and zucchini when my moods tell me I could use a sugar fix :P My energy levels have not wavered at all over the past, well, months really, and my digestion hasn't been as troubled with the addition of veggies as it has been in the past, though the nuts sure had an impact.

So here are the past ten days worth of eats, in chronological order, ending with tonight's perfect cold winter night meal - Coconut Chicken Curry! If you're not sure what you're looking at, just hover your cursor over the image and all will become clear...

Roast chicken and sautéed cabbage
Roast chicken and eggs fried in copious amounts of butter
Mixed seafood (mussels, calimari, fish, prawns, etc) sautéed in butter
Raw salmon, splashed with lemon juice
Roasted chicken drumsticks and boiled broccolini with butter
Tuscan sausages from Jonathan's, eaten at work
Grilled salmon fillet, bacon, and boiled broccolini
Jonathan's chipollatas and eggs fried in butter
Jonathan's chipollatas and grilled salmon fillet
Grilled lamb forequarter chop and fried egg, with butter
Lamb forequarter chop, grilled a little longer than intended
Fried eggs and grilled bacon
Rack of lamb! Yum!
Bacon & egg smash!
Pork spare ribs and broccoli
Lamb chops and fried eggs with butter
Raw salmon sashimi, chopped and tossed with lemon juice
Raw salmon sashimi, with sautéed fennel
Coconut chicken curry on sautéed cabbage and zucchini
With the run of show performances dominating my life for the next few days, I'll be sticking to my little morning meals - possibly protein shakes to maximise my sleep - and my larger dinners, which will usually be prepared by my primal-convert Mum! She's coming up to stay while she takes a break from her own stressful job, and will be running food up to me as there will not be time for me to get home in between teaching hours and the beginning of show preparations. So much hair to finger-wave, so little time to chow down! I look forward to photographing and sharing her efforts with you all soon.

Roll on Sunday...

Saturday, May 8, 2010

Conquering Cortisol

I have been incorporating some 24hr+ fasts into my week, to see if I can get the scales and bulges shifting in a more pleasing, and frankly deserved, direction. What with all the stress of opening night being just 10 days away, the last thing my strained nervous system needed was the struggle to fit into certain clothing items, and the scale showing yet another increase. I have only been eating primal foods, and I have been ensuring my weekly caloric intake average has not exceeded my activity levels. Yet, the increases continued. At first I blamed the basic cortisol issue of stressful times, and then I considered the role of sleep in the equation.

Then something interesting happened.

I became aware that on days where I tried fasting from dinner to dinner, I wouldn't experience keto-breath at all (this isn't noticeable by others, at least in my case, but is instead just a taste in my mouth). Intrigued, I tested myself with a keto-strip, and for the first time since going low-carb, there wasn't the slightest trace of ketones detected. In the past, fasting has still left me in ketosis, wasting the excess, even during caloric deficit.

On days where I ate breakfast, I would experience keto-breath around lunchtime, and it would persist until dinner time. The keto-sticks proved that I was wasting excess ketones, and in the morning, the scales would be showing a downward trend. This would occur even if I was consuming the same amount of, or even more, calories between the two meals as I was in the one on fasting days.

Conclusion? That with the cortisol-inducing stressors I'm currently up against, my body can't take another one - namely, intermittent fasting.

So until the play is over, it's breakfast and dinner every day for me, and whilst I'll still make sure not to exceed my average activity level (as determined by my time wearing the GoWear Fit) in caloric intake, I won't be pushing myself to create big caloric deficits. I also won't be getting on the scale until the show is well and truly over.

So here's a look at the meals of this week - I've been having fun with seafood of late, discovering that pretty much every seafood is delicious when sautéed in coconut oil or ghee! I'm trying to back off on my sodium intake at the moment, getting most of it from the smoked salmon that has been a frequent participant in my meal preparation, and a bit of salted organic butter.

Smoked salmon & egg smash!

Lamb chops, mmm!

Smoked salmon & egg smash - part deux!

Roasted chicken drumsticks, coated in coconut oil and herbs.

The killer breakfast - a lamb chop with a hefty side of bacon.

A new culinary feast for me - octopus tentacles! Decided to keep it simple - take a tentacle, chuck it in a hot frying pan with heated coconut oil, and sauté until cooked through. Surprisingly delicious all on its own!

And again, since it's utterly delicious!

Back to an old favourite - salmon sashimi.

Lamb chop and smoked salmon & egg smash, together at last!

Oh, what, more salmon sashimi? Heck yeah!

Chicken drumsticks, coated and roasted in coconut oil, to juicy perfection!

They went so well together, a reprise was demanded - lamb chop, and smoked salmon and egg smash!

Peeled prawns, sautéed in ghee and garlic. Mmmm!

And finally, tonight's dinner: scotch fillet beef steak, with prawns and sliced fennel sautéed in garlic and ghee.