RECIPE: Low-FODMAP Moorish Paella

A pot of low-FODMAP Moorish Paella

One (delicious) pot.*

One of the saddest goodbyes I had to make as I embarked on the low-FODMAP journey was to one of my dearest old friends, spaghetti with red sauce. Spaghetti and meatballs was my all-time favorite meal as a kids, and I never really outgrew it. Sure, I discovered the joys of Marcella Hazan’s simple, sweet marinara, and got myself tangled up  in various  elaborate bolognese and ragù recipes, but that core love of pasta, tomatoes and ground meat never really changed—for better or worse.

In fact, spaghetti was one of the reasons it took me so long to come around to the low-FODMAP diet. I knew I always felt sick the day after eating it, but I always thought it had something to do with the acidity of the tomatoes. I never suspected that it could be the onions and garlic flavouring the tomato sauce—and the very pasta I poured it over—that was the source of the problem.

But not only did I just love eating spaghetti bolognese because it tasted so delicious, but it was also such a convenient meal as well. I could cook up a big ragù on Sunday night and eat it through the week, or freeze it; I could even, on a lazy evening, just pick up a good bottle of meat sauce from a local gourmet grocer that would do the trick almost as well.

So, in starting out on this new diet, I was hungry for meals that could bring back some of that one-pot convenience, while hitting all the starchy, tomato-y, meaty flavor notes I was craving. A friend sent me a link to a recipe that Food52 community blogger NWB called Moorish Paella, and I knew I was in love. As is, the recipe contains some FODMAP warning signs, but I knew I could create a “recipe translation” that I could happily eat, digest and, importantly, not feel like I was compromising on by enjoying. And it’s the ultimate one-pot meal!

Make sure you use low-FODMAP chicken stock to cook the rice. And while the original recipe contains a healthy portion of onions and garlic; you can use the “fry” method to impart flavor to the cooking oil, add garlic-infused oil or just drop them completely. It’ll be delicious either way!

Low-FODMAP Moorish Paella

Parsley optional.

Low-FODMAP Moorish Paella

Ingredients

4-6 chicken thighs (I prefer to use bone-in, skin-on, but when I can’t find them I go boneless/skinless and it works out just fine)
2 links of merguez sausage (or other spicy sausage)
1 tsp ground caraway seed
1/2 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp paprika
1 tsp smoked paprika
1 tablespoon harissa (may contain a small amount of garlic; if you malabsorb, replace with a hot sauce that doesn’t cause problems)
2 cups Arborio (risotto) rice
3/4 can tomato paste OR 1 cup low-FODMAP tomato sauce
3 cups Delicious Low-FODMAP Chicken Stock
OPTIONAL: 1 small onion, quartered
OPTIONAL: 2 garlic cloves, halved OR 1 tbsp garlic-infused oil
1/2 cup red or white wine (I use a splash of port, myself—wine vinegar will do in a pinch)

Instructions

1. If you can, toss the chicken thighs in a plastic bag early in the day or the night before with a tbsp or so of kosher salt (don’t worry if you forget/skip this step).

2. Slice the sausage into disks (or diagonal chunks and stick them in the bottom of your saucepan (I use a 26L Creuset) while cold. Turn the heat on low and let them slowly render out their fat and brown in their juices. Brown both sides, then remove them with a slotted spoon to a drain on some paper towels resting on a plate. While they’re browning, combine and mix the spices together with a teaspoon of kosher salt.

3. Turn the heat up to medium. While the pan heats up, pat chicken dry on both sides (important step!). Then, in batches if need be, brown chicken on both sides in the rendered sausage fat, about 5 minutes a side. When they’ve got some colour on both sides, stick ’em on some more paper towels to dry.

4. If using onions and garlic, add to pan (splash in some olive oil if it’s dry—it probably won’t be) and let them fry away for a couple of minutes. Once they start to get golden brown on all sides, remove them with a slotted spoon and toss ’em out. (If not using onions and garlic, or using oil, skip this step.)

5. Deglaze the pan with the wine and scrape all the good fond-y bits off the bottom. Spoon a good portion of the spice mixture into the pan. Before it completely dries out, add the harissa or hot sauce and re-introduce the sausage, then give it a good stir. Add the tomato paste or sauce and another big spoonful of the spice. Let it all simmer down for about 5 minutes, but if it seems to be drying out too fast, proceed to the next step immediately.

6. Add the rice and mix it in with the sauce and sausage bits, then distribute it evenly across the bottom of the ban. Stick the chicken parts on top (again, evenly). Pour in the stock. Stir in the rest of the spice mixture. Cover.

7. Bring the pot to a boil (this should happen quickly) and then immediately reduce to lowest heat. Let cook away, lid still on—remember the BBQ rule, if you’re lookin’, you ain’t cookin’!—for about 20 minutes, then check on it. If the rice seems tender and most of the liquid is gone, you’re golden. If not, cover again and wait a few more minutes. (It can theoretically take up to 30, but mine is usually done on the earlier side.)

8. Serve with a squeeze of lemon, and enjoy!

And as always, drop me a line in the comments below if you have any questions, or if you made the recipe and have something—good or bad—to say about it!

* Check out the super-cool “Nonna Spoon” from bottledBrooklyn, a wedding present (and not a paid endorsement—I really love it!)

 

A Day in the Low-FODMAP Life

A tasty dinner side salad

Salads are fun. Seriously.

One of the most challenging things about changing the way you eat, particularly when you’re eliminating broad categories of food, is visualizing just how it’s going to work on a day-to-day basis. I know that was one of the most difficult parts of adopting the FODMAP-free lifestyle myself, and it took me a while to get my head around the fact that I wouldn’t be able to rely on some of my oldest, most relied-upon eating habits.

If you’ve ever tried to eat gluten-free, you know what I’m talking about: life without bread is hard! I used to feel like Jerry Seinfeld, who once said, “The whole concept of lunch is based around tuna.” For me, it was sandwiches. Imagining lunch without sandwiches, or breakfast without toast, or dinner without pasta… it seemed impossible at first.

But gradually, it got easier. It was all about picking up new habits and getting used to planning things a little more in advance. Now there’s a barely a day when I don’t wake up with a hot breakfast of oatmeal already waiting for me in my rice cooker and a plan for at least lunch, if not lunch and dinner.

I thought I’d share a typical day in my Low-FODMAP Life to help newcomers to the diet understand how possible it can be with just a little forethought and effort.

Steel-Cut Oats in the Rice Cooker

Oats are your friends.

Breakfast

You’ve got tons of options when it comes to breakfast. Personally, I’ve left toast in the dust and become addicted to oatmeal. (Most oatmeal is processed with wheat, so there’s a bit of gluten to be found, but in such small amounts it probably won’t affect people on the low-FODMAP plan. Still, there are plenty of gluten-free options available). Typically, I put 2/3 of a cup of steel-cut oats in my rice maker before I go to bed, along with the appropriate amount of water, some brown sugar, cinnamon and a pinch of salt. I put it on “porridge” setting at set the timer, and wake up to a hot, delicious breakfast. I’ll sometimes add some raisins right before serving, or slice up some bananas and put them in the pot before setting the timer so they get all nice and baked-tasting. When I’m out of steel-cut, I’ll just cook up a small pot of regular rolled oats in the morning. Eggs are also your friends in the morning—hard-boiled, scrambled, or fried. Try frying up some strips of corn tortilla and adding beaten eggs to the pan to make migas, a Tex-Mex treat (just avoid the milk and onions if you use that recipe!).

Lunch

Lunch without the sandwich or wrap option can be challenging, particular if you’re eating on the go. What I typically do is make a grain salad and add whatever veggies and proteins I desire. I’ll cook up some quinoa with spices, like a bit of curry powder, let it cool and then mix in greens and shredded carrots. Topped with smoked chicken or canned tuna, and some crumbled feta cheese, it makes for a surprisingly filling mid-day meal. Alternately, I might fry up a couple of eggs and have them on top of the salad, or make an omelette and have sliced vegetables (cucumbers, bell peppers) on the side.

Dinner

Sadly, you’ll have to say goodbye to pasta and pizza (I’m ashamed to admit that those were two of my staples, and let’s not get started on hamburger), but I still haven’t run out of new, delicious combinations. I’ll often set my rice cooker to make brown rice, sometimes adding a splash of coconut oil, and then roast, pan-fry or grill up a protein of my choice—sausage, chicken, pork chops to name just a few. Then we’ll make a nice salad on the side, or steam some green beans. If I want to mix things I’ll up, I’ll make potatoes, roasted or mashed (without milk of course) or sometimes go for a larger portion of protein and forgo the carbs completely. I’ve also become addicted to one-pot meals that incorporate proteins and rice, like arroz con pollo or paella variations, many of which can be de-FODMAP-ified. And we’ve just discovered the many uses of polenta. (All of these I’ll be discussing more in depth in the future—recipes to come!)

Dessert

Going FODMAP-free doesn’t mean you have to skip the sweets. I might have some sliced strawberries, treats like flourless chocolate cake (recipe coming soon!) or a dairy-free sorbet.

I’d love to hear about your daily routine. Drop me a line or leave a note in the comments below!