Hey, most wonderful, fantastic Lyndal!” says Jo this morning.  OK, she didn’t really.  Actually, Jo doesn’t usually say ‘hey Lyndal’ or even ‘hello’ in her emails anymore, but that’s probably cos we email a lot!

I think I’m a bit low in iron at the moment, so your mission is to provide me with a meal that has stacks of iron, without having red meat, cos I’m off red meat at the mo”

Yeah, thanks for that – low in iron but no red meat.  Pfft!

I’ve got all the usual suspects, plus will buy anything you like (except ice-cream, but I don’t think that’s very iron boosting anyway!)

OK, here’s a tip – red meat is one of the richest sources of iron that we eat regularly (unless you particularly like offal – mmm mmm!  No thanks!!).  Other meats and fish contain iron, just not as much as red meat.

So I put my thinking cap on, and came up with the following ideas:

Idea 1 – Heavy-metal Salad (but not for Popeye!)

Grab some salad leaves (but not spinach), which brings me to:

Tip #2 – spinach is not good for iron – it contains oxalic acid, which blocks the absorption of iron and therefore will not help Popeye!  Don’t let me dissuade you from eating spinach – it’s great for fibre and vitamins, just not iron!)

Mix said leaves with a can of fish, some rinsed canned chickpeas

Tip #3 – chickpeas, lentils and beans all have iron too

Tomatoes and red capsicum

Tip #4 – iron is absorbed better if it is eaten with something with Vitamin C – hence the tomatoes and red capsicum.  You could also have a piece of fruit for dessert or a (very small) glass of juice.

Add the little ‘luxuries’ that I think make a salad (e.g. feta cheese, olives, sun-dried tomatoes or Parmesan cheese).  Top with some crushed nuts and dress with a dressing based on lemon juice (Jo – fresh, not bottled!  Bottled lemon juice isn’t actually juice and therefore doesn’t have so much Vitamin C).

Tip # 5 – Nuts also have iron in them, macadamias are good ones, but any will do 🙂

There you go – heavy-metal salad!

Another good recipe (and I really was busting to find an excuse to post this, as it’s one of my fave recipes) was given to me by a good friend and ex-chef Lisa.  It has some different ingredients to what’s in Jo’s cupboard, but it is so worth it!

Idea 2 – Lisa’s Dhal (this makes a MASSIVE batch – I usually get 2 dinners and 4 or 5 smaller lunches)

Soak 250g moong dhal (the little yellow almost round ones) for 1 hour (can substitute for 250g red lentils, but don’t soak them, just rinse).  Rinse an additional 250g red lentils and remove stones, twigs etc

Process together 4 cloves garlic, a tsp minced ginger (Lisa always uses fresh ginger, but I never have that), 5 green chillies, 1 small onion, diced, 1Tbsp curry paste, 1tsp ground turmeric and 2tsp ground cumin until it’s a paste.  Heat a slosh of olive oil in a big pot and cook paste for around 3 min until very fragrant.

Rinse moong dhal and add to paste.  Add 1L water and cook for 30 min (if you are using red lentils, add them all now and you may need more water).  Bring to a simmer on medium heat then reduce to low and cook for around 20 min, stirring occasionally to stop sticking.

Take off heat and stir in 2Tbsp lime juice and 2Tbsp fish sauce.

Serve on rice with fresh chopped coriander and diced tomatoes.

This one has lots of lentils and tomatoes for Vitamin C.  Not too bad (and oh so delicious!).  It’s quite a thick dhal though, not as soupy as some I have tried.

Finally, why not try a chicken dish.

Idea 3 – Stuffed chicken breast with ratatouille

Grab a chicken breast.  Make a pocket in it by slitting half way into the breast and fill this with some crushed macadamia, cashew or walnuts,  a small amount of finely diced onion, some thyme, a good amount of Parmesan, cracked pepper and a little splash of oil to keep it moist.

Bake, covered (to stop it from drying out), until chicken is cooked all the way through (if you have it, wrapping in some ham or prosciutto makes it just that little bit more special).

To make ratatouille, I chop zucchini, capsicum and mushies, into bite-sized chunks.  Saute some wedged onion in a small bit of butter (can use oil or marg, but butter gives it a nicer flavour) until they’re softened, then add 2 cloves crushed garlic.  Add zucch’s and cook until almost soft, then add mushies and capsicum. If you want to add more iron, add some chickpeas here too (although I wouldn’t normally).

Tip #6 – Mushrooms contain iron

When almost done, add some wedged tomatoes and cook until they soften and it forms almost like a sauce.  Add a heap of fresh basil and serve on some couscous with your chicken breast.  Mmmm!

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In my defence, my emails often start with a word followed by a comma, so you could interpret that as a salutation! And Lyndal, you know I’m rubbish at cooking red meat, that’s why I don’t cook it, so unless you want to make everyone’s life easier and let me eat at your house, you’re stuck making up meatless recipes for me!

So, Saturday night rolls around and I think to myself that I really must look at what Lyndal’s suggestions are. The heavy metal salad sounds good, so I trundle off to see my man Thomas Dux and buy some ingredients. Like salad leaves.

I think I'll name my firstborn T.Dux

Unfortunately, while there I spotted a delicious looking white Italian ciabatta. Which I proceeded to eat quite a bit of. So I really didn’t have room for the salt and pepper squid that I had intended to have with the salad (and I’m not even sure if that falls in to the category of fish, for Lyndal’s purposes).

I decided to have the salad on it’s own (bread and butter isn’t really a comprehensive dinner, unless it’s done with Nikla – post to come later). But it’s winter, and who wants salad for dinner in winter? So I roast chickpeas, fetta, walnuts, baby capsicums, semi-dried tomatoes and some rosemary so that they’re toasty and warm. Then I add in the lettuce. Word of advice – don’t mix lettuce with stuff straight out of the oven, it goes a bit slimy.

Doesn't look much like a heavy metal star, does it?

It looks awesome, and tastes pretty damn good, despite the slightly slimy lettuce, but I don’t think it’s fulfilling the Iron Brief. Which leads me to…Smoked Salmon Sushi (actually, I just wanted an excuse to blog about sushi). I thought I was being clever, because salmon would have lots of iron. Turns out not (at least not in the quantities I used). But, in an unexpected bonus, nori seaweed does (or so Mr. Google tells me).

I rush out and buy sushi rice, nori seaweed, rice vinegar, smoked salmon, cucumber, wasabi – basically everything that you need to make sushi. It would have been much easier to just buy some sushi.

Mmm, seaweedy goodness

As it turns out, there’s a very good reason why I buy microwaveable rice packets – I don’t know how to cook rice. After spending some time scraping burnt on rice off the bottom of the pan, I follow the directions and “sprinkle on rice vinegar” – you know how I love vague measurements like that! FYI, a sprinkle is less than what I put on. My rice was rather vinegary, but it was also the right amount of stickiness and the quantity (1/4c raw) was pretty spot on for one big-arse sushi roll.

Looks professional, doesn't it?

Until you see it all chopped up, of course.

My first attempt at sushi tastes good, but looks a little pathetic. And I kept inhaling wasabi fumes up my nasal passage – not a good look.

And try explaining to a 90yo why you chose to eat cold rice wrapped in seaweed! Doesn’t make sense when you say it out loud like that, does it?

So, to round out a weekend of Iron Boosting Attempts, I made Stuffed Chicken Breast for dinner on Sunday.  Instead of parmesan, I put in fetta (left over from the salad on Saturday), and I used walnuts as macadamias aren’t safe in my house (or is it that the size of my butt isn’t safe when there are macadamias around?). Wrapped ‘er in foil and baked for about 15 mins, then unwrapped the foil and put it under the grill so that the chicken didn’t look more anaemic than me.

Raw chicken, so attractive.

While the chicken is baking, I start the ratatouille. Seriously, is there anything better than the smell of onions frying in butter? Unless it’s pancakes. Frying. In butter.

That chicken really does look anaemic!

Verdict? The thyme, walnuts, onion and fetta are a perfect stuffing for chicken. The ratatouille is delicious with a few leaves of basil ripped up and stirred through just before serving, and the couscous is…well, it’s couscous, not much to say there really.

Have our iron boosting efforts been in vain? Well, I haven’t nearly fainted this weekend, so that’s always a bonus, and I put in some quality time on the treadmill without needing a nanna nap afterwards, so I’m thinking it sure hasn’t hurt, but I’ll let you know when I give blood in a few weeks time if my levels have risen above their usual pathetic levels.

If you want some iron-boosting meals made with meat, be sure to bug Lyndal to invite me to her place for dinner!

Jx

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