You fire, me cave hearth today! Paleo food – the hot trend for eating like Stone Age folk. The thought behind it is that our genes haven’t adapted to the way our diets have changed since the Stone Age. That’s why only foods which were around at that time are good for us to eat. Since frying meat is a big part of the Paleo diet, a trusty pan is one of the key ingredients. Our Ambiente blog interview with Paleo expert and cookery writer Nico Richter lets us see how he lives without bread, sugar or milk.
So are we supposed to survive just on mountains of meat, nuts and wild strawberries? Not exactly. A Paleo diet is based on Stone Age eating; it avoids cereals, pulses, processed foods and, above all, refined sugar. The diet does contain plenty of meat, fish and seafood, as well as eggs, fruit, vegetables, mushrooms, herbs and nuts. Anything you might have found, gathered or killed a few million years ago.
Paleo provides guidelines, but it doesn’t mean you have to wield a club and live in a cave lit by torchlight. Not to put too fine a point on it, a Paleo diet is a way of choosing the right food for human beings to digest. Advocates of this approach claim it eliminates diseases of the developed world such as diabetes, high blood pressure and hay fever. Following the diet almost always means losing weight. After all, this is low-carb eating. Berlin has two purely Paleo restaurants, called ‘Sauvage’, to whet your appetite for this cave-dwellers’ regime. There have been recipe books on the market for some time, of course. One of the most recent publications that caught our eye was the “Paleo Cookbook” by Australian writer Irena Macri (AT publishing house). This “Paleo Queen” pioneer of caveman-style cooking has been writing an internationally successful blog entitled Eat Drink Paleo since 2102. … If this has whetted your appetite, but you don’t fancy cooking yourself, you can try one of the Sauvage restaurants in Berlin. Stone Age delicacies sizzle on the pan here – the only exclusively Paleo restaurants in Germany.
“You certainly need a good knife for Paleo cooking” says Nico Richter. Originally an industrial engineer, Richter has turned his Paleo hobby into a job. In his blog, he tackles all the issues surrounding healthy Stone Age eating, and his Paleo cookery books are bestsellers. For three hours every day, he works at the cooker on new recipes. “A good frying pan is a great asset, whether it’s cast iron or ceramic. A multifunctional food processor with a sharp blade is also a must, for nuts or dried fruits.” Manufacturers like Rösle, Albert Turk and Le Creuset are seeing their cast-iron pans become more popular – and not just because they’re practically indestructible. They do need more care and attention than stainless steel or enamelled pans, but the tasty way they cook Paleo foods (they also do well with rustic fare) justifies their popularity. Food fried on a high heat gets crisp on the outside and stays juicy inside; vegetables keep their valuable vitamins and nutrients. Cast-iron, clay and ceramic roasting dishes are recommended for healthy roasting and braising, including the famous ‘Römertopf’ clay cooking pot.
Nico Richter doesn’t plan to preach Paleo, but he does hope others will be inspired and follow his lead. Even beginners can follow his recipes, which use unadulterated ingredients.
Mr. Richter, what won you over to this diet?
“A friend told me about it at just the right time. I’d just got the results of a blood test and they weren’t particularly positive. I tried the diet for 30 days as recommended, and the results spoke for themselves. My blood test results improved, I slept better, my skin was better, I lost weight and felt full of energy. It was a clear sign I should stick with it.”
What can Paleo eating achieve?
“Switching to a consistent Paleo diet for 30 days lays the foundations for your own personally optimised long-term diet. But Paleo won’t work if you don’t take responsibility for the quality and origin of the produce you eat or if you fail to make your health a priority. You need to be strong-willed.”
You’ve said that Paleo isn’t a diet, it’s a lifestyle. What do you mean by that?
“In practical terms, Paleo means four things: eating natural, unprocessed foods; adopting a more active and natural lifestyle; giving yourself time to sleep and relax; and reducing stress, taking time to enjoy nature with friends and family.”
What is your philosophy?
“Eat real food.”
Nico Richter shared a simple recipe to start us off, and we’d also recommend it. This deliciously aromatic dish is especially warming on chilly days.
Sweet potato bake with egg
Preparation time: 20 minutes
1 large sweet potato
1 tablespoon of coconut oil
1 pinch cayenne pepper
Method: You will need a frying pan and a grater or food processor.
Preheat the oven to 180 degrees Celsius.Peel the sweet potato and grate it into thin strips using a grater or food processor.Heat the coconut oil in an ovenproof pan and fry the grated sweet potato lightly for 3–4 minutes, stirring regularly. Add salt, pepper and cayenne pepper to taste.Crack the eggs and pour carefully over the sweet potato. Bake it all in the same pan, in the middle of the oven, for 6–8 minutes or until the eggs have reached the desired consistency. Take out of the oven and serve hot. Guten Appetit!
- Lightly cook 2 handfuls of spinach along with the sweet potato strips.
- Slice an avocado and add it to the pan before it all goes into the oven.
- Fry bacon or mince in the pan before you fry the sweet potato strips.
Top tip: The thinner the sweet potato is grated, the less time you’ll need to cook it.