Naomi Devlin - Food for a Happy Gut

2nd January 2018
Naomi Devlin - Food for a Happy Gut

A happy gut is calm and balanced, with a host of happy microbes feeding on the bits of our food that we can’t digest and supporting us back by making vitamins, essential fats and supporting immune function. Our microbes thrive on lots of plant foods that contain both soluble and insoluble fibre, things like onions, cabbage, beans, root vegetables, seeds and nuts, but they also love the connective tissues in meat that are broken down by a long slow simmer into velvety bone broths and sticky bone-in meat dishes. Those connective tissues also stimulate digestive juices and soothe the lining of your gut that can be irritated by stress hormones, alcohol and medications, so it makes sense for everyone to include broths and slow cooked meats in their diet. Your gut prefers a small portion of meat and a big portion of vegetables, so everything in this box is designed to provide just enough high quality protein to satisfy your hunger, without upsetting the balance of your gut microbiome.

Start by making yourself some delicious organic bone broth that you can transform into soup, risotto and sauces, make one pot of beef broth and another of chicken broth, using both giblets and carcass. Roast off the bones, giblets and carcass in a 180ºC oven until golden and then put into a large saucepan (chicken and beef separately), only just cover with boiling water, add a splash of vinegar or wine, a few peppercorns, a bay leaf or some parsley stalks and a piece of celery if you like. Bring to the boil and simmer, covered, for at least 6 hours (more is better), checking that the liquid still covers the bones. You can do this for a few hours in the evening and then again the next day without needing to refrigerate in-between. Strain off the liquid when it is done and freeze in portions or ice cube trays for easy dosing. A cup of broth makes a mineral rich and soothing nightcap with a pinch of sea salt.

Try your organic venison osso bucco made the traditional way with a rich tomato sauce, but serve it with a mixed root mash - I like celeriac, parsnip and salsify - and some rainbow chard wilted with olive oil and lots of gut friendly garlic.

Organic chicken livers are packed with vitamins and minerals that help restore the integrity of your gut lining, making them a deliciously quick and nourishing supper. I like to serve them with chickpea polenta made from gram flour (can be made days in advance and reheated), caramelised red onions and chestnut mushrooms.

All a good organic lamb shank needs is some rosemary and garlic and a long slow simmer, until the meat is falling off the bone. Include these in a vegetable casserole, simmer in tomato ragu or shred the cooked shanks and add to a stir fry. They also work beautifully when slow roasted (about 140ºC for a couple of hours) - cover in foil until tender and then blast them uncovered for 15 minutes to crisp up the fat.

This is no ordinary organic minute steak! Cuts from older animals have so much flavour, making for satisfying meals. I like to eat my steak scattered over a big sharing plate of hummus - maybe roast beet, carrot or broad bean, sometimes a creamy flageolet bean version too. I’ll also roast off some seasonal veg - roots or cherry tomatoes and sliced onions - and scatter this over the hummus too. Just flash the whole steak in a hot pan - tallow is the perfect thing to cook it in, and sprinkle with salt while it rests for another couple of minutes before slicing. Fresh flat leaf parsley lifts the whole thing. Eat with crusty bread and a big leafy salad.