Those of you following me won’t be surprised that I chose Paleo as the theme. It was a hard challenge, but a bunch of people were brave enough to go for it.
Firstly, there’s something I want to say to all the competitors, whether your entries were accepted into the competition or not, and whether you were placed or not. Thank you all so much for rising so wonderfully to my challenge, which I realise was very hard, and a steep learning curve for you all. The standard of entries was excellent, which made my job all the harder (in a very good way).
If this was simply a real food challenge, the order of winners might have been a little different, but I was also looking for something a bit extra, that I’m calling “the spirit of Paleo”.
I found it very difficult to narrow it down to 5, and to pick the order. The way I finally managed to make my choices was to offer feedback on some of my favourites about what was good and what could have been even better. Then I could see my way more clearly.
If you’re following the challenge, you already know who won, but I want to make some comments about the process, and share some of that feedback.
The Top Three
The top three were so close, I changed the order of them several times over. They all included foods from both the animal and plant kingdoms (so were both Hunter and Gatherer), had a good balance of protein, fats and carbs, and were infused with “the spirit of Paleo”.
1st place - @meesterboom – Caveman Chicken
This is a recipe that would be easy to make, and is cheerful and tasty looking. The “spirit of Paleo” is evident in the spiralised noodles, made from low carb vegetables. I especially loved that I learnt something new - using broccoli stalk for noodles. I’ve made noodles and fries from all kinds of low carb veges, but never thought of broccoli noodles. I also approve of the generous use of healthy saturated fats (butter).
The one thing I might have done different for this dish (and all the other chicken dishes) would have been to use thigh meat instead of breast, as breast is quite lean. Or maybe I would just have used breast with the skin still on.
This comment applies to all of the chicken dishes, and I’m not criticising anyone, as I don’t know what kind of chicken was used. It’s just info for anybody reading. When I cook chicken, I always choose free range, preferably organic. This is for animal welfare reasons, but I also believe that meat is best for us if the animals are properly looked after.
2nd place - @woman-on the-wing – Sea, Sand & Salmon
A beautiful, imaginatively presented dish. Again the “spirit of Paleo” is demonstrated with a willingness to step out of her usual patterns and make some substitutions. The almond pastry decorations were a very appealing touch to lift the dish even higher.
The only thing I would have done differently would have been to make my own almond milk from raw almonds and water. But that is being very purist, and most Paleo cooks would be happy to use unsweetened, packaged almond milk.
3rd place - @steved – Chicken skewers with dipping sauce & paleo couscous
Another beautifully presented dish. Oddly for a Paleo cook, I don’t like cauliflower myself, and only cook it for other people. But even I might be tempted by the beetroot and cauli couscous!
Again, I would have liked to see a higher fat chicken cut used, or the skin left on. I would probably have used butter or ghee, or maybe duck fat, instead of olive oil, for cooking the chicken. There is nothing wrong with extra virgin olive oil, which is an excellent Paleo food. But my preference is to only use it raw, which makes the most of its wonderful nutrients, and to use the more stable animal fats, or coconut oil, for cooking. But again, this is a minor tweak that might have made the recipe even better, not a criticism.
The Next Three
Next were another three recipes which were also close. They were all quite different so I liked different things about each, and I would have liked to reward you all. I could only choose two, but the third one is listed here as an honourable mention.
4th place - @shady – Chicken salad with pomegranate
This one is verging on LCHF (low carb, high fat). So it would be very appealing to some Paleo people, while others might like a few more veges with it. It isn’t as visually appealing as some of the others. I might have been inclined to sprinkle some of the peppers over the top, along with the pomegranate, to make it “pop” a bit more. But again, this is a minor tweak, not a problem.
5th place - @haphazard-hstead – Winter weed salad
I was really looking for recipes that combined Hunting and Gathering, which this recipe doesn’t. But the reality is that, although animal foods were highly valued, there would have been times when foraging was the only option.
This is not just any salad - it’s so infused with the spirit of Paleo that it took my breath away. Everything “Gathered” fresh from the environment, utilising what was there. I loved that the weeds were all chopped up and combined to meld the flavours, and that the dressing was completely homemade.
If it had been served alongside a dish containing animal foods, it would have been even more perfect!
Honourable mention - @caminito – Creamy lamb and vege soup
Soup made from meat and vegetables is a classic traditional dish, and this one sounds very nourishing. I liked the homemade coconut milk added for extra flavour, balance and nutrients.
For me, its presentation could have been improved a bit. For people who don’t know how good such a soup can taste, it wouldn’t look very tempting. Presentation is not my strength, so this is just one idea, but I would have shown it with less of the liquid, so people could see the succulent meat and veges, and not just the broth.
My Wild Pick
The remaining entries were all fine, tasty looking, real food recipes that I would be happy to be served. For me, they didn’t have quite as much of the Paleo spirit that I was looking for, but are still to be highly commended. My wild pick:
This is a delicious looking, well presented dish. If I went to your house for dinner, I’d be thrilled to be served it.
My only concern is that it has perhaps a tiny bit too much honey, making it a little too high carb for a main course, for some Paleo tastes. I would have used a little less honey, and maybe extra butter.
Again, I want to thank you all for the effort and thought you’ve put into this competition, and commend you on the fine recipes presented.