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The Paleo Starter Kit, Part II: “The Paleo Scramble”, A Basic Technique For Real-World Cooking

This is Part II of a multi-part series on real-world paleo cooking, for those of us with jobs and kids and commitments. Part I, “The Functional Paleo Kitchen”, starts here, and my introduction to paleo, “Eat Like A Predator”, is here.

Most recipes are useless for anyone who is employed, except as a treat on special occasions—and ‘paleo’ recipes are no exception.

That’s because most recipes, between the shopping and the cooking, simply require too much of my time. And afterward I always end up with small portions of half-used herbs, fruits, vegetables, and juices slowly rotting in the refrigerator, plus a rack full of spices I’ve used once or twice. It’s the “hot dogs in packages of eight, buns in packages of six” problem, multiplied until it takes over my kitchen. Does this sound familiar?

Here’s my quick and dirty technique for cooking delicious paleo food in a hurry. First I’ll show you the basic version—and then I’ll show you how to adapt it to create many different meals, with only a few small changes to spices and vegetables.

Before You Start: A Reminder About Meat

Meat is the foundation of any paleo diet—specifically, grass-fed red meat. As meat will keep for up to a year in a good freezer (6 months for paper-wrapped, 1 year for vacuum-packed), none of us has any excuse for running out. We do, however, sometimes have this problem:

Defrostration (n.) – the feeling you get when you realize that you’re hungry…and all 90 pounds of that tasty grass-fed meat you bought are still in the freezer.

So whenever you cook meat, get in the habit of pulling more from the freezer. Active paleo eaters can easily wolf down a pound and a half of meat per day!

Quick and Dirty Recipe #1: The Basic Paleo Scramble

Variants on this dish provide a substantial proportion of my calories because it’s easy, fast, and delicious. (Note that you’re never wasting any time: you’re preparing each ingredient while the previous ingredients cook.)

Here’s how I make it!

  • Half a pound of fatty hamburger or diced stew meat. Diced leftovers of any meat work fine.
  • 3 eggs.
  • A potato or sweet potato. (Skip this if you’re zero-carb/VLC. Perfect Health Dieters can use white rice.)
  • Vegetables of your choice. I like Anaheim and bell peppers, but if you like broccoli and cucumbers, great! Frozen vegetables work OK too.
  • An onion. I recommend yellow onions, as they’re milder and sweeter.
  • Several cloves of fresh garlic.
  • Butter. Beef tallow is optional but recommended, especially if the meat is lean. Coconut oil is another good option, especially if you’re staying 100% dairy-free…but I think the basic version tastes best with butter.
  • ‘Creole seasoning’. Tony Chachere’s is a bit hotter and more straightforward: Zatarain’s is a bit sweeter and more complex.

Important! You should always have all these ingredients in your refrigerator: the veggies are the most perishable item, and they’ll keep for over a week in a sealed container. Everything else, including the onions, will last for several weeks or months.

Also important! This will be needlessly difficult if you don’t have the recommended kitchen tools from Part I.

Note that if you’re a re-enactment purist who refuses to use butter or salt, my recipes will not be of use to you. Personally, I don’t see any convincing arguments against: our kidneys are perfectly capable of excreting excess sodium (lack of potassium is the real issue), and it’s difficult to argue that animal fat is healthy but butter isn’t.

This recipe serves 1 very hungry person, or 2-3 less hungry people. Feel free to adjust quantities according to taste once you’ve got the technique down. And it tastes great as leftovers…just drip a little bit of water on top and microwave it!

  • Step 1: Put your 12″ skillet on a stove burner at medium heat. Let it preheat while you…
  • Step 2: Get out your vegetable cutting board. Peel a potato and slice it thinly: a few millimeters is about right. If it’s a huge potato, chop the slices into a couple smaller pieces: the pieces should be bite-size. Use enough potato slices to cover about half your skillet with a single layer. This will be a small potato, or part of a large potato.
  • Step 2.5: If your preferred vegetables include broccoli, other veggies that need a longer cooking time, or anything frozen, chop them now and add them on top of the potatoes.
  • Step 3: Melt some butter in the skillet, covering about half of it with a generous layer, and add the potato slices to the melted butter. (If the butter burns right away, the skillet is too hot.) Make sure the slices lay flat and aren’t stacked on top of each other, or they’ll take forever to cook. Cover the skillet.
  • Step 4: Dice the vegetables into omelet-size bits. I usually use about three slices of onion, plus most of an Anaheim or half a bell pepper. (Meanwhile, your potatoes are cooking. Sweet potatoes cook a bit faster than regular potatoes.)
  • Step 5: Flip the potato slices as best you can: don’t worry if you miss a few. Dump the diced veggies on top of the potatoes. Cover the skillet again. (Covering the skillet makes everything cook much faster.)
  • Step 6: Mince a few cloves of fresh garlic. Use more than you think you should: the eggs and meat absorb the flavor. The easiest way is to half-crush each clove with the flat side of your chef’s knife to loosen the husk, peel the clove, cut off the little hard part at the top, and mince all the cloves together in a pile.
  • Paleo Scramble In Progress

    I’ve just completed step 8.
    Note the snazzy purple potatoes!

    Step 7: Melt some butter on the unused half of the skillet. Add the minced garlic to the butter. If you’re stuck with low-fat hamburger or lean meat, use lots of butter here (or beef tallow, if you have it).
  • Step 7.5: If you need to dice up some meat, do it now. I recommend using one cutting board for veggies and one for meat. (You did buy the cutting board set from Part I, didn’t you?)
  • Step 8: Drop about half a pound of hamburger or diced meat on the butter and garlic. (If hamburger, chop it up evenly with the spatula.) Distribute the meat evenly on the empty skillet half. Cover the skillet.
  • Step 9: Once the meat has cooked about halfway to desired doneness, mix the meat, veggies, and potatoes together, and push them onto one half of the skillet.
  • Step 10: Melt some butter on the unused half of the skillet. Cover the bottom well, and crack 2-3 eggs on top of the butter. Puncture the yolks unless you like underdone yolks in your scramble.
  • Step 11: Shake some Zatarain’s or Tony Chachere’s over everything. Don’t be shy with it.
  • Step 12: Once the bottom layer of egg is partially cooked, flip it over/push it around and get the rest cooking. (Imagine you’re making scrambled eggs, or an omelet.)
  • Step 13: Once the eggs are about 3/4 done, scramble them together with everything else. Too early and they’ll make a mess: too late and they won’t mix well. Don’t cook the eggs too hard or everything will get all rubbery.
  • Step 14: When the eggs are done, it’s ready to eat. Drop it onto a plate and enjoy!

Cleanup: The Inevitable Aftermath

Another problem with most cooking is that cleanup and dealing with leftovers takes forever. But since you’ve already bought a bunch of storage containers as per Part I, all you have to do is put the half-used vegetables in one container, put the unused meat into another container, put any leftovers in a third, and shelve them in the refrigerator. Then you can wash off the skillet, cutting boards, and chef’s knife with your dish brush, and you’re done! (You can even leave the washing for later if you’re running late for work.)

Trust me: this seems like a big, involved recipe, but once you’ve done it a couple times you’ll jam it out in the time you’d spend waiting for a burrito.

Variations On The Basic Paleo Scramble

Toppings!

Drop some avocado chunks on top of the final product, melt some cheese in with everything (add it after you add the meat), top it with a blop of sour cream—or go crazy and do all three!

The “Chinese-ish”

Often I like a more Asian taste to my scrambles: I think this is my favorite of all the variations! To do this, you’ll need:

  • Fresh ginger root.
  • Gluten-free tamari. (Tamari = soy sauce.) ‘Health food’ stores will usually have this. Meanwhile, just use up your soy sauce if you aren’t celiac. (I’ve heard that ‘coconut aminos’ taste very similar if you’re trying to avoid all soy products.)
  • Hot pepper flakes. (White pepper is another option. So is Sriracha.)
  • Optional: sesame seeds, coconut oil. Technically you should use roasted sesame oil, but it’s a giant omega-6 bomb.
  • Optional: Snow peas, bamboo shoots, water chestnuts, bok choy, or other Asian vegetables.
  • Optional but highly recommended: Five Spice Powder. This is the secret ingredient! Many supermarkets don’t carry it: here’s a boatload for cheap. Go in with some friends and you’ll all have a multi-year supply. Or visit your local Asian supermarket.

Follow the directions above, except:

  • Substitute whatever Asian vegetables you like.
  • Use coconut oil instead of butter, if you have it.
  • Mince equal proportions of ginger root and garlic in steps 6-7 (it’s hard to add too much ginger) and add them to the butter together.
  • Shake a bunch of sesame seeds, some Five Spice Powder, and a few hot pepper flakes on top of the ginger, garlic, and butter in Step 7. I can’t give exact amounts because Five Spice Powder varies between brands—but go easy the first time.
  • Add a tablespoon or two of soy sauce in Step 11, instead of the Creole seasoning.
Other Root Vegetables

You can try carrots, turnips, beets, or cassava instead of potatoes. Carrots need a longer cooking time.

The “Leftover Steak”

Often if I have leftover cooked steak, roast, or any other meat, I won’t throw it in with the scramble: I’ll just cut it up and put it on top, cold. It tastes great that way!

The “Hot Chili”

And here’s a delicious chili taste. I like this one when I’m just doing meat, eggs, and veggies without the potatoes, or even just meat and veggies. (Magic spice ratio courtesy of The Well Done Chef.)

You will need:

  • 3 parts chili powder. I make my own from crumbled dried Ancho and Japones chilis, but store-bought works fine.
  • 2 parts paprika.
  • 1 part ground cumin.
  • Dash of oregano.
  • Salt.

Shake them over everything in Step 7. BOOM!

The “Thai Curry”

This is absolutely delicious and surprisingly easy! You will need:

  • Can of coconut milk. Note that the directions on the can say “shake well before opening”—but if you live in a cold climate, shaking will be hopeless because all the fat will be completely solid. You’ll have to open the can, transfer the contents into a jar (save those spaghetti sauce jars, kids!), microwave it for a few seconds, and stir it well.
  • Jar of Thai curry paste. I think red goes best with beef, yellow with chicken, and green with pork—but they’re all good. Sadly the ubiquitous “Thai Kitchen” brand, once very good, has gone far downhill in recent months, requiring several times the recommended amount to taste like anything at all. So here’s what you want: genuine Made In Thailand “Mae Ploy” brand curry paste. (If you’ve got access to an Asian supermarket, absolutely go there, as it’ll be cheaper and you won’t have to pay shipping. Coconut milk will be cheaper there, too.)
  • Basil. Fresh Thai basil from the Asian market tastes best, but dried is acceptable. A lot of Thai recipes call for cilantro too, but I think it tastes better without.
  • Optional: fish sauce. A little bit makes the curry taste pleasingly authentic, but go easy or your house will forever smell like anchovies.
  • This version works much better with meat chunks instead of hamburger, and is also great with chicken or pork. And I usually cook it without potatoes…just meat and veggies.

Follow the directions above, except:

  • Spoon in enough coconut milk to cover the potatoes in Step 5. If you didn’t use potatoes, just put the coconut milk in first.
  • Add curry paste to taste, and mix it in with the coconut milk. I can’t give an exact amount because each brand is different, but the directions on the tub will give you a starting point.
  • Mince and add the fresh basil, or add a few shakes of dried basil.
  • Cook everything uncovered so the water has a chance to boil off of the coconut milk.
  • Add a tiny squirt of fish sauce when you add the meat. Go easy until you find out how much you like: that stuff is strong!
  • Don’t add eggs! It’ll just make a mess. There’s plenty of fat in coconut milk.

Conclusion: Real-World Paleo Cooking

I’m sure you can see a pattern here. Instead of thinking of day-to-day “cooking” as a collection of individual recipes, think of “cooking” as a collection of spicy tastes that you can mix and match in a skillet, according to your mood and available vegetables.

  • Don’t want eggs, vegetables or starch? The “Thai curry” taste works great with nothing but meat chunks.
  • Want a spicy omelet? Omit the potatoes.
  • Not feeling the eggs? Use that ridiculously fatty meat you didn’t quite know how to cook.
  • Looking for more spice ideas? Try Penzey’s.
  • And make it all new again by changing your suite of vegetables.

Coming soon: Part III, MEAT.

Live in freedom, live in beauty.

JS


Do you have your own favorite spice and vegetable combinations I should add? Got any hints for Indian curry spicing, yogurt or cream-based sauces, or anything else? Please let me know by leaving a comment! I hope to continually improve this article with reader ideas.

This is Part II of a multi-part series on basic techniques for real-world paleo cooking. Part I, “The Functional Paleo Kitchen”, starts here, and my introduction to paleo, “Eat Like A Predator”, is here.

A final note: I don’t have a diet or recipe book to sell you. One of the joys of ‘going paleo’ is that it doesn’t require a series of books to explain it. But if you enjoy my writing here at gnolls.org, you’ll most likely enjoy my “Funny, provocative, entertaining, fun, insightful” novel The Gnoll Credo. Read the glowing reviews, read the first 20 pages, and buy it on Amazon for just $10.95. (Outside the USA? Click here.)

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55 comments

Permalink: The Paleo Starter Kit, Part II: “The Paleo Scramble”, A Basic Technique For Real-World Cooking
  • Hot in the Kitchen |

    [...] some good-quality curry paste and you can make some delicious meals very quickly (see the end of this article). Reply With Quote   + Reply to Thread « Previous Thread | [...]

  • eggs? | Mark's

    [...] J Stanton's Paleo Scramble — a quick, easy, nutritious meal. Reply With Quote   + Reply to Thread [...]

  • ” Got any hints for Indian curry spicing, yogurt or cream-based sauces, or anything else?”

    Muglai Raan – Spiced Lamb

    Take a large slab of lamb, mutton or goat – fatty is best :) Shoulder is a great cut, but leg will do.

    Squeeze lemon juice (from real lemons, not a bottle) over it and let it sit for about an hour.

    Make up a spice blend from the following powdered spices: chilli, cumin, turmeric and garam masala; basically even quantities of each.

    Chop a few whole chillis, a few cloves of minced garlic, some coriander and a good squirt of tomato puree – stir into yoghurt along with the spices.

    Quantities should be sufficient to cover the meat and spiciness “to taste”.

    Cover the meat both sides and leave overnight.

    Next day … slow cook on a low heat for as long as possible. All day, if you can.

    The meat should be so tender you can spoon it off … serve over boiled rice, with some vegetables or just wolf it down!

    Hasina Kebab

    Essentially the same process, but using golf ball sized chunks of lamb.

    This is a faster cooking method, but the quick lemon juice bath and overnight sit in yoghurt will tenderise the meat.

    To cook, put together on kebab skewers with thick slices of onion, green pepper, anything that will survive a BBQ … then BBQ them, or drop them into a tandoor :)

    Both recipes should work with beef, bison or any grass-ruminator really.

    Beef Stroganoff

    Left over beef of any variety – cut into strips. Or cook up some fresh beef (steak), let it rest and then cut into slices.

    Slice up some mushrooms (Chesnut mushrooms are my favourite) and shallow fry in butter, lard or fat rendered from your own meat cooking.

    Chuck in the meat and when it's all tender pour in some cream … reduce the heat and let it all go a nice brown colour. Pep it up with a shot of smoky whisky if you like – Laphroaig is best :)

    Stroganoff is often served with thick, flat pasta like Fettuccine stirred in, which you can do (as a “cheat”) … or stir in some leafy green vegetables like spinach.

    This is one that works perfectly with samphire (also called sea asparagus), but spinach, sea spinach or asparagus would do really well and will all cook in the time the cream is resting and colouring. You need a a good flavour punch of iron and salt to counter the cream with this one and those vegetables are sound. Brocolli would do well, too, even shredded savoy cabbage.

    You can see – my recipes are principles, rather than 2 cups of this, one teaspoon of that … I just go with guidelines and taste.

    Have fun …

  • Thanks, Paul!  

    Those sound delicious: I'll try them once I can track down some garam masala.  Have you had any luck freezing the yogurt-based sauces, or do they go all funky when you reheat them?

    Also, do you add any garlic, Worcestershire, mustard, or other spices to the stroganoff?

    JS

  • I've never frozen yoghurt – the sauces are easy enough to make up fresh. It may … but I don't think it would work. The spice mix can be pretty much whatever you like – the emphasis is upon colour, aromatics and depth hence the holy trinity of cumin, turmeric and coriander (which prefer as fresh and chopped although there is some in garam masala). You could easily just go with chilli powder, cumin, turmeric and coriander as powder. Another twist is to use fenugreek (also called methi) – fresh or dried leaves to add flavour, colour and aromatics instead of fresh coriander leaves.

    Again, that's the great thing about currying meat – the mix can be tuned to your preference, but adding equal quantities of each spice is a good start. Boost one, lower another and add yet another if you like.

    Over to the Stroganoff … dairy products mute spiciness, evidenced by drinking milk if you've eaten a really hot chilli. Garlic would likely end up as an odd sharp background twang without the flavour. I leave it out, although the meat itself would most likely have been long cooked in onions and garlic anyway, so will have that subtle flavour within it. Mustard seems to work better at retaining its flavour and bite when it is within dairy sauces and I would recommend a small dot of yellow English mustard, rather than Dijon or a grain mustard.

    Worcestershire Sauce is a flavour enhancer – this is great if you're using lean, bland meat or bland mushrooms, or trying desperately to pep up some non-meat lentil dish … but we're using good flavoursome meat and flavoursome mushrooms. Dulling those naturally good flavours with something that is largely anchovy is not necessary. Feel free to try it – it won't curdle the cream.

  • SJJ

    Great post! I have a couple of Paleo cookbooks and you are so right about the lots of random things leftover after attempting a recipe (oddly, this seems to happen to me regardless of how I eat – when I ate bread, I would usually throw away a half a loaf every time because I could never get through the whole thing before it molded!). Anyway, I think it’s silly for me to try to make things all the time from these recipe books because, well, I didn’t do that when I was cooking non-Paleo style to begin with! I think the recipe thing may be more relevant once I have kids and I have to get creative to get them to eat Paleo with me. But when it’s just me, this scramble thing makes perfect sense. I think that’s about all I’ll be doing from now on. I really enjoy cooking, but it’s just not feasible to do the recipe thing every night. :-)

  • SJJ:

    I'm glad it works for you!  There are quite a few options between all the variants.  Don't sleep on the Chinese-spiced version, which I probably eat more than any other…and if you're OK with white rice on occasion, it's a delicious change from root starches.  Put the rice in after the onions or it tends to burn.

    I may have to do the “meat and potatoes” post soon now that I've got the meat thermometer.

    JS

  • I should also add … Ostrich meat is AMAZING curried!The Hasina Kebab recipe with chunks of ostrich would be fantastic!

    I've found an “exotic meat” supplier about a mile from my house and just near one of my regular walking/sprint routes, so I can go and collect from them while out early evening. Is that hunting? Laugh

  • Paul:

    It's pretty close if you walk home with an entire shank thrown over your shoulder.

    JS

  • The Breakfast Myth,

    [...] My paleo scramble recipe tastes great re-heated. [...]

  • ST

    I just tried to make this and predictably since it was my first time cooking, it didn’t turn out too well.

    I tried following the recipe using the same vegetables (bell peppers and yellow onions), using this skillet (http://www.amazon.com/Calphalon-Nonstick-12-Inch-Covered-Omelette/dp/B002LSICYA/?tag=gnollsorg-20) you recommended. I ended up taking too long moving from step to step and everything ended up tasting overcooked. Next time I’ll cut everything before I begin. Can you tell me how long you’d spend cooking each item before adding something else?

    Also, how much butter should I use? I was using about 1/2 tbsp.

  • ST:

    First, a total of 1/2 tbsp butter (or coconut oil) is not nearly enough…that'll account for a lot of the overdone taste.  I use at least that much that just under the first layer of potatoes.  Then you'll need about that much again for the garlic and hamburger, and under the eggs.  “Non-stick” makes it easier to clean up, but food sitting on the bottom with no grease will still burn.

    As far as times, I'll have to time myself next time I cook it.  

    One thing you can try is to cook things separately.  Cook the potatoes completely (you can pick out a slice as they're cooking to test), and plate them.  Then cook the peppers and onions completely (same thing: test as they cook), and plate them.  Then do the hamburger and eggs, and once they're almost done, put the potatoes and veggies back in the skillet to heat them back up.  Use a stopwatch.  That should give you an idea of how long they need to take, and what they look like when they're done.  Once you've got the times down you can start doing them all at once like the recipe.

    The garlic is what takes me the longest: it's always a pain to peel and mince fresh garlic.  If I have the annoying kind with tiny cloves I'll do that first, because otherwise it'll take too long.  And if I'm using rice instead of potatoes I'll do all the veggies beforehand, because the rice doesn't need to cook, it just needs to heat up and soak up some oil.

     

    Note that you want the heat moderate: if the butter burns, it's too hot.  This isn't a stir-fry.

    Also note that if the skillet isn't covered, the peppers and onions will never cook while they're sitting on top of the potatoes…you'll have to butter the rest of the pan and fry them directly.

     

    Hope this helps!  Let me know how you make out.

    JS

  • ST

    Thanks for the reply.

    I just tried making this again today and it came out much better this time. I did what you suggested and made everything separately, then put it all together at the end. I left out the eggs this time though because I didn’t have any more.

    The potatoes predictably took the longest, but they probably took longer than they needed to. I diced a potato into cubes and tried to cook that with about 1 tbsp of butter and it ended up taking 45 minutes for them to brown. Now I see the wisdom of using thin slices.

    The vegetables and the beef didn’t take nearly as long and took about ~15 minutes together. The only problem I had with the beef was that it was a bit chewy. I used diced beef tips from my supermarket.

  • ST:

    Yes, you just discovered the reason I slice the potatoes thinly.  If you find yourself slicing a lot of vegetables, it can be worth investing in a mandoline.  Warning: buy the Kevlar gloves with it if you're accident-prone, or you will slice the end off of at least one finger.

    If the veggies and beef took 15 minutes to cook, I recommend turning the heat up.  It shouldn't take nearly that long.

    If the beef tips came out chewy, try slicing them much more thinly.  Think Chinese food.  Usually I either use hamburger as per the recipe, or cook an entire roast separately and then put some pieces of it on top after I'm done.

    JS

  • Is diversity necessa

    [...] in the twisted world of my psyche. I became convinced to start again after trying J. Stanton's Paleo Scramble and realizing that it was not only delicious, it was downright decadent. So my question is this. [...]

  • Robin

    This is a lot like my cheeseburger omelet recipe that I’ve been living off for the last week. Just starting to get bored with it so it’s good to have some variations to try.
    For the cheese burger omelet I brown some ground beef or pork in butter with onion then add half a can of tomato paste, a dash of Italian seasoning and lots of garlic. Then I put that on a plate and cook the eggs in the same pan. I use three eggs with a quarter cup of cream and some paprika. I whip them up then pour into the pan and put the lid on. When the eggs are about half cooked I put the meat on one half of the omelet and grate some cheese on the other half and put the lid back on. When the eggs are finished cooking and the cheese is melted fold the two sides together and put it on a plate. Soooo yummy :)

  • Robin:

    Skillet cooking is the bomb: no mess, minor cleanup.  I'll have to tell my mother that recipe, as she loves omelets.  Thanks for the contribution!

    JS

  • curry chicken recipe

    Thank you for creating this website so easy to find info. good stuff. Saving this one for later.

  • Newbie questions aft

    [...] like for now; once your tastes have shifted a bit, explore. Also, I really wish I had come across this recipe when I was starting out. I figured it out on my own after six months or so – but seriously, just [...]

  • Deb

    A friend linked to several of your posts for a bunch of us working on New Year’s Resolutions involving Paleo, so I’m enjoying some of these for the first time today.

    Seems to me that any of these could be adapted to a nice frittata: I’d start with the onions and other long-cooking veg, add in the meat, then the eggs, and once it starts to set up, put the whole big cast-iron pan right into the oven till it’s done while I get the kids ready for school, and breakfast! (and lunch, if I make a big enough one, which I usually do *grin*)

  • Deb:

    Frittatas are a great idea!  Feel free to share any recipes you like.

    I like skillet cooking in general, because it minimizes prep and cleanup — leaving only a cutting board, a knife, and a skillet to clean.

    I hope your Paleo New Year goes well.  Feel free to stick around!  I'm on a temporary hiatus right now, but the index is full of great articles for you to catch up on, and I'll be back on my regular updates soon.

    JS

  • My paleo scramble: Living In The Ice Age- Paleo, Just Paleo

    Paleo eating for fun, not for food blogs!

  • Heather C

    I have a similar sort of thing, I start off with onions, then I go cut up mushrooms or zuccini if I have them, then the meat, next is either the sauce/spices or sliced carrot and broccoli (I like these lightly done), finally any silverbeet or lighter greens go last so they don’t get slimy.
    Common sauces are a sprinkling of cayenne pepper on anything, possibly a stock cube dissolved and mixed through, curry paste (tandoori, green or red)or curry powder mixed with hot water, peanut butter and cayenne pepper(good with chicken, improved with coconut milk). This week I had pork with soy sauce and homemade jam (family and neibours have large orchards/berry patches) which was delicious.
    That makes the main dish, then I cook up a pot of roughly cut potatoes, sometimes with carrots and cabbage (cutting it fine annoys me) and a half dozen servings worth of cooked lentils which I keep in the fridge, so whenever I make or reheat food I just add some of both.
    I’ve just moved out of home for uni and am finding this pretty cheap, less than ~$40au per week so far (didn’t have to buy all my spices though.
    Also if you ever get the chance; cooking duck hearts in butter and adding balsamic vinegar, then reducing it to a sauce is incredibly good!

  • Paul:

    So long as you have some meat and some veggies, you can usually find some combination of spices that makes them work.

    Heather:

    Skillet cooking for the win!  It's all about having a 'library' of spices and sauce bases to mix and match with the meat and veggies you have available.

    I don't know how it is in Australia, but in America spices are much cheaper at the Mexican supermarket…or even in the Mexican aisle of the supermarket.  Instead of US$4-6 per jar, they come in a plastic envelope for US$1 or less.  They won't have every spice you need, but you'll be able to stock up on most of them for much less.

    In America, Grocery Outlet and dollar stores can also be a good source for spices.  Again, they won't have everything, but you can minimize the number of $4 jars you need.

    I've never tried to cook duck hearts…maybe I should try it!

    JS

  • Tracy

    All sound delicious! Bonus points for skillet meals – so easy and quick.

    Reminded me of a recipe I love and use a lot: Joe’s Special:
    http://italianfood.about.com/od/savoryeggdishes/r/Joes_Special.htm

    But to that, I add olives and either crushed tomatoes or tomato paste for some zing. I can (and often do) eat that for days! I think ground beef + veg + herbs/spices can take you anywhere.

  • Tracy:

    Oregano and nutmeg…I'll have to try that.  I bet sun-dried tomatoes would be excellent, too!

    JS

  • Mauricio

    Where’s part 3? :D

  • Mauricio:

    It's among the many articles I haven't written yet.  Meanwhile, here's my prime rib recipe to get you started!

    JS

  • [...] and leave you satiated for the rest of the day. The most convenient way to do this is to make a Paleo scramble, and throw everything in one skillet. Meat, veggies, potatoes, whatever. It’s awesome and [...]

  • Elin

    Thank you so much for this blog. Although I’ve been eating paleo for awhile, my husband is just now getting on board. It’s his responsibility to make dinner on Wednesdays but he’s been having a hard time of it (“Remind me again. Can you eat this?”). This is a perfect starting point, and the variations should give him some ideas for next week.

    I read him your “Eat Like A Predator” blog earlier today and, for the first time, paleo makes sense. Your blogs are easy to read and explain things well. The tongue-in-cheek comments are a plus. The one that got his attention: “…if you can put it in a truck and the truck starts, it’s not food.”

    Just FYI: I got your web site from a friend’s positive post about your book. I’ll eventually read it but am enjoying catching up on your blogs first.

  • Elin:

    I'm glad you find my articles useful!  There is a surplus of books explaining how to eat paleo, and they all say basically the same things.  We're not short of information — we're short of explanation, and we're short of motivation.  So if I've helped your husband understand paleo on a gut level, I've succeeded.

    Since you enjoy my articles, I'm sure you'll enjoy The Gnoll Credo…read it whenever you're moved to.  (And if you buy it direct from the publisher, you'll get a signed copy at no extra charge.)  May I ask where you heard about it?

    JS

  • KCElliott

    Great site!
    Well Done, J Stanton.
    Thanx!
    Here is what I do. More like an oven bake that a skillet scramble. Think beef roasts, fat ones like blades, thick too. Put anything you want in the bottom of the right size oven, roast on top. Cook it til you like it. Tomorrow, on top of re-heated left-overs, cover those with 3 fried eggs.
    VIOLA!
    KCElliott

  • KCElliott:

    I'm glad you find my work useful.  And I agree with you: as I said in Eat Like A Predator, “Few foods remain unimproved by the addition of a fried egg.”  Even leftovers!

    JS

  • … fried in butter, naturally. I endorse that.

  • [...] Article: The Paleo Starter Kit, Part II: “The Paleo Scramble”, A Basic Technique For Real-World Cooking [...]

  • [...] what to cook? Here’s a quick and simple starter meal: The Paleo Scramble. Moving on, you can get inspired by Melicious’ tasty list of paleo recipes, and the endlessly [...]

  • eddie watts

    woo just noticed more recipes here now, may have to return to pilfer some of them!

    meanwhile i will share my pork ribs recipe which was adapted from MDA admittedly. i use this for two racks of ribs.
    put oven on easy cook or slow cook (dunno what it might be called in USA or non-UK but i assume there is a version)
    put the two racks in for 2-3 hours in a baking tray covered with foil

    i make up the spice mix around now, it is quite a lot but i’m still playing with ratios at present:
    5g black pepper, 5g cinnamon, 10g garlic powder, 5g allspice, 3g salt, 5g cumin, 30g paprika(or smoked or a mix). i either add water or some pasata and water to this and stir it into a paste-like consistency.
    slather on aggressively!
    i put it on light under the ribs where there is less meat and most on top where there is plenty: probably a rough 20/80 ratio.

    then put ribs back in oven on gas mark 6 for 20-30 minutes or until spice rub mix is dry.
    we also normally have side salad of leaves, plum tomatoes, some cheese and hard boiled eggs too.

  • eddie:

    Can you translate terms like “gas mark 6″ into degrees?  Celsius is fine, but you'll get bonus points for including their equivalent in Fahrenheit.

    JS

  • Eric

    I never had much of a problem with leftover ingredients, especially not spices. The problem is when you try to to make random recipes from very different traditions that require special ingredients and they don’t come out very well because it’s your first attempt so you never try to make it again. Recipes are not magic, cooking is an art, with a lot of science, and you need to practice making a dish, or range of similar dishes from a certain tradition a number of times until you get it ‘right’ and many more until you really master it. Since you’re already on the internet you can find many recipe variations for the same dish that you can experiment with until you develop your own style which may have as much to do with availability of ingredients as it does with your personal taste.

    Another issue with ‘spices’ is that you’re actually talking about 2 very different things, herbs and spices. For most people using a prepared mixture of herbs and spices is going to be the easiest way to make a dish taste good but I think you’re better off simplifying your seasoning. I challenge you to follow this rule of thumb for any dish: use only one herb, one spice, usually some kind of pepper, and either garlic or onions, not both! This way you to get a lot more variety out of a very limited set of ingredients and you can really get to know what each spice and herb tastes like and appreciate the distinction between garlic and different kind of onions, shallots, etc… If you still think your food tastes too simple the problem is probably that you’re not using enough salt. Don’t over do it but you should really make it a point to recognize the difference between too little seasoning and tool little salt.

    Now there are many exceptions to that rule of thumb but I recommend sticking to it unless you really know what you’re doing, either on expert authority or as part of your own experimentation as you learn to appreciate how simple combinations of ingredients work together. People generally put too much emphasis on seasoning anyway, the most important part of good meal is to base it on real high quality food: meat, fish, vegetables, etc… and of course you need to have enough good fat, the more the better I think, up to a point. So many people love real traditional Italian food which is based on good fresh ingredients and usually a generous dose of olive oil and always enough salt and very little garlic if any. People then have a very hard time replicating these things at home because they’re afraid to use too much oil and salt and rely on a nasty combination of so-called “italian spices” and way too much garlic. Traditional Mexican cuisine is very simple also. Of course these tradition rely on a lot of carbs mainly because good, real food is expensive and most people in the world are poor. If you can afford the best meat, fish and veg in every meal then you could easily skip herbs all together as long as you use enough salt and a little pepper but of course herbs are nice, and they’re fun, and it’s awesome to rub fresh rosemary on your rack of lamb before you roast it!

  • Eric:

    I agree that simple food, made with fresh ingredients, is delicious…I believe pico de gallo and basil pesto both contain only one herb and one spice.  You also make a good point that traditional Italian cooking will have usually have a lot more salt (and olive oil, and butter) and a lot less “Italian spices” than people think.

    However, I find that oversimplification can drive away people new to cooking just as much as skimping on fat and salt…grocery store produce often isn't as flavorful as you'd like, and needs a bit of help from the spice rack, most sauces need more than one herb to taste right, and I challenge anyone to make a pot roast taste right without using both rosemary and thyme.  Simplify as much as you can, but no more.

    JS

  • [...] less to slow down on munching calorically-dense foods. That's it! Here's a great resource as well: The Paleo Starter Kit, Part II: “The Paleo Scramble”, A Basic Technique For Real-World C… Primal since September, 2011 LeanGains IF —– Conquer your own world and become the leader of [...]

  • I am so anxious to try some of these dishes! I have heard so many great things about this diet.

  • Rashida Frevert

    I am so anxious to try some of these dishes! I have heard so many great things about this diet.

  • Adara

    Hi J, you cook a lot the way I do. However, as I have gotten older I really don’t like how cooking everything together in one pan means some things are overcooked and some are undercooked, so I spend no more time cooking some separately, with tremendously better results and eating enjoyment. For instance, I will roast baby broccoli with olive oil and potatoes in bacon fat, separately in the oven at 450 degrees F while I prepare my other ingredients, then I can add them in or eat the separately, as my mood dictates. Sometimes is tastes and looks better separate. My favorite mix is leftover meat with broccoli, potatoes, caramelized onions and poblano with a touch of creamy white cheese in a scramble or like a frittata, which just means you don’t scramble and let it cook like a Spanish Tortilla.

    Speaking of Spanish Tortillas, Chorizo is also a great choice with potatoes, onions, olives and peppers, which works fine all cooked in one skillet. Are capers and peppercorns (ground pepper of any kind) permissible?

    For an Chinese/Japanese style omelet I make a flat thin egg pancake with eggs, garlic chives, fat (it used to be toasted sesame oil, now bacon fat), and tiny amounts of fish sauce and oyster sauce, salt and pepper. Then I will fill it with vegetables sautéed or stir-fried with added spices and sauces like Tamari. You can also use this as an alternative to those flour pancakes with Mu Shu Chicken or Pork, if you make it thin enough, which is easy to do.

    A Thai Potato Green Curry is out of this world! It can have chicken or Shrimp or even Mussels. It generally has carrots and a green or two, and of course, basil and coriander. Lemongrass makes everything better!

    I make my own spice blends and most importantly Honk Kong Chili Sauce…OMG deeply complex flavor profile of hot heaven. I use it even on Tacos sometimes. It is excellent in an omelet with a tiny bit of cheese and nothing else. It is that good.

    A fantastic filling soup is boiling chicken thighs and dicing them. Reduce the broth, add coconut milk, Hong Kong Chili Sauce, crushed ginger, lemongrass, a few dashes of 5-Spice, diced carrot and green bean or long bean (it used to be corn), and chopped coriander. The more the liquids are reduced, then thicker it will be. Amazing flavor!

    For the person talking about Stroganoff, use potatoes instead of noodles for this diet, unless you use rice noodles.

    Thank You J, you have helped to move towards health again. My health declined rapidly when I became Vegan, supposedly, for health. HA! It only improved slightly when I became Pescatarian, gluten-free. It gets confusing. Your plan makes sense to me in light of what I have gone through.

  • Adara

    Please excuse my typing mistakes above.

    Also, a potato, chorizo, green onion, egg scramble with guacamole on top is an awesome brunch!

    Have you ever made a Puffy Omelet? MMMMMMM now that is good. Instead of filling it you pour things over the top. I love Chicken and Mushrooms in a Cream Sauce, or a thick smooth Tomato Sauce with leftover Meat or Meatballs. Also, Buttery Seafood and Asparagus over it works well, especially Softshell Crab or Lobster. Anything you can think of works. I made it once for my brother who topped it with Chili, Cheese, Onions and Jalapenos. Too heavy for me.

    It is easy to make. Heat oven to 350 degrees F. Beat egg white stiff with 1/4 tsp cream of tartar for 4 egg whites. Beat egg yolks until light yellow and add 1 Tbls cream for each yolk and blend in. Fold yolks into whites and pour into a heated oven-proof skillet that has 1/2 Tbls butter sizzling in it, per egg. Let it cook on LOW on top of stove until the bottom is browned and the top has bubbles like a pancake. Place in oven and let cook 10 to 15 minutes or until when lightly touched your fingerprint does not remain. Remove from the oven and make a crease about 1/2″ deep across the center, then fold in half and slice out onto a warm plate. Top and eat.

  • Adara

    I keep thinking of more I meant to say.

    Another of my favorite ways to eat eggs is Shirred Eggs. Heavily butter a ramekin, size depends on if you are using 1, 2, or 3 eggs. This is for an individual serving. Break eggs into ramekin and add salt and pepper, a dot of butter and 1 tbls of heavy cream per egg. Bake at 350F for 15-20 minutes, depending on how done you want it. You may also wrap the inside of the ramekin with a piece of partially cooked, not crisp, bacon, before adding egg.

    Eggs with lightly dressed greens are the perfect breakfast, with a few berries too. YUM

  • Rashida:

    I apologize for missing your comment…please let us know what you think once you've tried some of these!

     

    Adara:

    Yes, capers and peppercorns are fine!  There are some autiommune protocols which restrict nightshades — and I believe peppercorns are technically from nightshades — but so are potatoes, tomatoes, and all peppers, sweet and hot.  I wouldn't worry about it unless you're trying to go nightshade-free.

    I'll have to try some of your recipes sometime, particularly the egg pancakes…you're essentially making a very thin omelet, right?

    I'm glad to hear that your health is finally improving, and I'm glad I'm able to help.  Thank you for sharing your recipes!

    And yes, a lot of people find their health improves somewhat on a restrictive diet, often because they were reacting poorly to one of the foods they were eating.  However, you have to eat something…and whatever you eat should be both nutrient-dense and evolutionarily concordant.  That's where Eat Like A Predator comes in.

    JS

  • Wyowanderer

    I’ll add two things:
    Garlic are simple to peel. I use a covered plastic container ( you already have it). Put the cloves (separated) into the container and shake the hell out of it. Instant peeled garlic.
    Coconut milk-I just fill a container large enough to hold the can with hot tap water and drop in the can, refilling the container when it gets cold.Five minutes later, the milk just flows out.
    Great post, thank you.

  • Wyowanderer:

    Maybe your garlic is less robust than mine: your strategy helps and I use it myself, but I still have to peel off the tough inner layer, which always seems to be stuck to the clove.  Even the grippy plastic tube doesn't give me 100% success.

    That's a good strategy with the coconut milk, though. It's easy to understand why it's more popular in hot climates!

    JS

  • Gene

    Well, I made this for the first time this morning (11:00am, I waited until I got hungry.) :-) Anyway, I took your advice and bought 85/15 grass fed beef at the store. (Since that should be ‘fatty’ enough.) However, that with the butter and a little coconut oil had everything swimming in fat. I’m guessing I used too much butter and oil to start the veggies and I ended up draining a lot of it off before adding the eggs. All that leads to my actual question. When dealing with ground beef, what ratio do you consider ‘fatty’ beef? Is it just personal preference?

  • Gene

    Oh, and I hit send before I remembered to say… 1) That’s a lot of breakfast. 2) It was delicious! 3) I ate the whole thing and didn’t feel bloated at all. Now to see when I get hungry again. Thank you for the site. I had been doing what I thought was ‘pretty good’ in that I didn’t eat refined sugars or grains except for the occasional fast food cheat. However your hidden trans fats post got me to looking at what I thought was ok in the fridge and cupboard and I ended up tossing almost 3/4 of it. Thanks again.

  • John

    I’m using bacon grease instead of butter. Should be good.

  • Gene – J will jump in, in due course, but in the meantime …

    Welcome to “paleo” and more importantly, “predator” eating. Breakfast IS the most important meal of the day, but when you “break your fast” and what you eat when you do it is so much more important.

    You might like to read Cordain's books. Considered the father of paleo, he's a much cooler guy than he comes across in his books, but there's always a take away. For me, it was around meal timing.

    I've dropped into something similar to the Renegade Diet, which is a money-orientated version of paleo. For free, here it goes: eat paleo for dinner. Fast for 16 hours after your last meal and then for about four hours eat simple foods: protein and fat. By early evening, you'd like your dinner, so eat: paleo. Repeat.

    In practical terms, for me, it comes down to eating my main meal in the evening. I don't “breakfast”, but I do eat something fishy for lunch around noon with an egg. Recall J's “mostly things you can spear” from 'Eat Like a Predator' … you don't have breakfast available, but you do have a fish, some berries, some eggs from the morning lay that you can eat readily while you hunt for the evening meal.

    Mimicing our ancestors' food timing works out so well for me …

    From another perspective, wake … leftover, if they're there, otherwise nothing. Noon, eat a fish, a chicken, an egg. Dinner, any time from 5 PM to 8 PM … eat whatever your want from the hunter/gatherer plate, tubers included. Eat well, gorge. Now fast overnight. Repeat.

    I hope that gives you something to play with …

    Paleo/Predator eating is NOT dull. You have that evening meal to do what the heck you like – paleo food, done the way YOU like to eat it. Everything else is opportunistic – leftovers, an egg you can grab, a fish you can spear, a small animal (like a chicken) you can choke and eat. In modern terms, these are easily translatable and don't have to be taken literally.

    I keep repeating fish …

    I don't eat land roaming animals much at all, in fact, I've let more bunnies go in the last 6 weeks than I've eaten meat. My “kitten” (Maine Coon genes, so huge and daft) catches, drags in alive and lets these little fellows run around the house until we get home … the rest of the time, I'm largely a fish eating predator (think: BEAR! Not in the gay sense, mind). I like meat, but I love fish … so, living on a large island (Britain) and close enough to the sea, I eat fish. Love it!

    I've gone on …

    But I just wanted to encourage you to jump on in, do YOUR thing and really get the benefit from J's 'Eat Like a Predator', showing you there are so many approaches that can be taken.

  • Gene:

    It's absolutely personal preference: the fat factor is a matter of taste.  If it's too greasy for you, use less!

    (You really only need enough to keep the potatoes and veggies from burning.  Also, you need to add a lot less fat when cooking with hamburger: if you're cooking with, say, chicken breasts (blech!) or even a lean cut of steak, you'll need more to balance that out.)

    Another trick you can do is to start out by frying the hamburger enough to get some fat out of it, remove the meat, cook the potatoes and veggies in the fat instead of butter, and replace the meat near the end.  This is a bit more complicated, but everyone's tastes are different.  

    The key is to make sure there's jsut enough fat so that you don't feel the need to douse it in mayonnaise or some other industrial product!

    “1) That's a lot of breakfast. 2) It was delicious! 3) I ate the whole thing and didn't feel bloated at all. Now to see when I get hungry again.”

    I bet it takes you a while!  You're consuming a meal that's nutritionally complete, high in slowly-digesting protein…and despite that, doesn't have as many calories as you probably think.  (Three large eggs only contain 225 calories, half a potato is much less, and there's not much in the vegetables, either…most of the calories come from the meat and butter.)

    Don't stress too much about reading Paleo books.  Some of them explain the science at great length, which I personally find intriguing — but everything you need to know is in Eat Like A Predator.  

    Meanwhile, as Paul said: welcome to Paleo, and eating like a predator.  It's been nearly three years since I wrote these articles, and I still eat this way.  Sometimes I still eat this specific dish!  (Often the Asian variant.)  Doing so has changed my life dramatically for the better, and I hope the same for you.

     

    John:

    I do that sometimes, too, for the flavor — but industrial bacon is very high in omega-6, so I don't do it too often.  If I had better access to pastured pigs I'd certainly do it more!

     

    Paul:

    I've been eating a lot of mussels lately, as they're in season.  I found a delicious Tom Yum soup base: Steam the mussels, shuck them into a bowl, add water, add the paste and some fresh basil, nuke it until it's hot, and I suddenly have no urge to go out and eat Thai food anymore.

    JS

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