Recipes: Try these two modern twists on the Paleo diet

Frances' strawberry sorbet

Frances' strawberry sorbet - Credit: Archant

Frances Bissell draws on some 1960s inspiration for her delicious cured salmon and tomato salad, which is followed by a refreshing strawberry sorbet.

Frances' cured salmon and tomato salad

Frances' cured salmon and tomato salad - Credit: Archant

Various nutrition experts claim to have re-invented the diet eaten by our Paleolithic hunter-gatherer ancestors, based around nuts, berries, fruit, seaweed, fibre and protein. Dairy products and carbohydrates are not part of the ‘paleo’ way of eating, as these came later in man’s development, with the planting of grains and the domestication of animals.

‘Paleo’ aficionados are not as avant-garde as they perhaps thought. In the early 1960s, a gentle Provençal poet, Joseph Delteil, wrote La Cuisine Paleolithique. Natural, instinctual cooking, ancestral cooking, based on the seasons, he refers to it as la cuisine de Dieu. Snails, rabbits, omelettes, plenty of garlic, olive oil, meat at the weekend, fresh herbs, soup, tomatoes; this gentle version of paleolithic eating is surely a close relation of the Mediterranean diet.

Delteil and his wife cooked dinner for the writer Henry Miller and his wife, and gave them, for hors d’oeuvres, raw radishes and butter, tomatoes, beetroot, green beans, cucumber, then cured ham, foie gras and sanquette, a very old southern French dish of coagulated chicken blood, highly seasoned, which sets like a flat cake, and is eaten in wedges. No, I don’t much like it either. The main course was chicken with saffron rice, served with foraged wild mushrooms, and the meal finished with cheese, then raspberries and cream. So some cooked food, but plenty of raw food.

Dishes such as Carpaccio of beef and steak tartar demand the freshest ingredients of impeccable provenance and preferably served on the day you bought the beef. As well as sashimi, swordfish or tuna carpaccio, tuna tartar, mackerel or salmon, beetroot-cured or prepared in the style of gravad lax, or ceviche of squid or plaice are some of the raw fish dishes I like to prepare.

Cold smoked or cured products such as smoked salmon, prosciutto and jamon serrano are also raw food, having undergone no heat treatment. And for the same reason, it is worth remembering that extra virgin olive oil and butter are both ‘raw’ products, unlike margarine.

Raw food has its natural place at the beginning of the meal, and it is particularly good as a complement to one-pot cooking, providing a perfect balance of textures and nutritional elements. Apart from using them in salads, raw vegetables and fruits can be juiced, for a powerhouse of vitamins, and as the season progresses, wonderful gazpacho-style soups can be made. Strawberry gazpacho is a delight, as is a pale green one made with melons and almonds. Try orange and carrot, scented with a hint of orange flower water, and garnished with a nasturtium flower.

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At the other end of a meal, fresh fruit is always welcome. And as a change from fruit salad, try sorbets, granitas and jellies based on unusual pairings; carrots, juiced, together with orange work well as a refreshing dessert, as does the cucumber, mint and melon combination, but a classic strawberry sorbet is always welcome.

Cured salmon and tomato salad

(Serves 4)

150 g centre cut of salmon fillet

Sea salt

Freshly ground black pepper

2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

5 large tomatoes

Fresh basil

1 celery stalk, trimmed and finely chopped

¼ cucumber, peeled, seeded and chopped

Decoration: borage flowers, herbs

Cut 16 small postage stamp square pieces of salmon for garnish, and chop the rest. Season the squares of fish and brush with olive oil. Cut a cap from the tomatoes and hollow them out, spooning the contents into a sieve set over a bowl to collect the liquid. Lightly season the inside of four of the tomatoes and stand them upside down in the sieve. Chop the remaining tomato into small chunks. Mix these with the chopped cucumber, celery and salmon and season to taste, adding a little olive oil. Fill the tomatoes with this mixture, arrange on serving plates with the salmon squares, herbs and borage. Whisk olive oil with some of the strained tomato liquid and spoon on the plates. Try not to refrigerate these longer than a couple of hours, and bring out to room temperature 15 minutes before serving.

Cook’s note: mackerel, tuna, swordfish and other oily fish can be prepared in the same way.

Strawberry sorbet

(Serves 4 to 6)

500 g strawberries, rinsed and hulled

Thinly pared zest of half a lemon and half an orange

200 g caster sugar

15 g glucose syrup (optional, for extra smoothness)

Gently heat the strawberries with the citrus zest and the sugar until they collapse, about 3-4 minutes only, not enough to cook them, just to release their juice. Remove the zest and sieve the purée. Stir in the glucose, if using it. Cool the strawberry purée then freeze in an ice cream maker or in a container in the freezer. An ice cream maker will turn the mixture and make it smooth. You will need to stir the mixture by hand or in a food processor during the freezing process for a really smooth ice cream if you freeze the mixture in a container.