Don't be put off by the title, because contrary to previous belief, fat does not make you fat. I was one of those poor suckers who bought into the low fat hype and tried to follow a low fat diet for a long time, buying a ton of packages with low fat claims, only to get, yes, fatter. Our bodies need fat, our brains need fat, and although exact percentages are still up for debate, it's more than what those government food pyramids had allotted. But the main problem is not figuring out percentages, the key issue is that we need healthy fats, and that's where there is still a lot of very frustrating confusion.
A Quick History of Fat
In her book "The Big Fat Surprise", Nina Teicholz outlines how in the mid 20th century basically all of North America switched from animal fats, which scientists blamed for causing heart disease, to partially hydrogenated vegetable oils, which we then found out produced cancer causing trans fats, to now embracing fully hydrogenated vegetables oils, which could actually be worse than trans fats since they create toxic oxidation products, and have shown to gum up and damage fast food restaurant equipment - the studies are still out on what the toxic oxidation products do to our bodies, but I'm not holding my breathe on that one. Besides the larger health hazards, processed vegetable oils, while super handy to keep in our cupboards for a really long time, are the fat equivalents to white sugar and white flour, meaning they've been stripped of protein, fibre, vitamins (like vitamin E), minerals, not to mention fat! Yes this process also strips oil of it's essential fatty acids and we are left with, empty calories. And the last thing we need in our current food ecosystem is yet another source of empty calories!
So What Are Good Sources of Fat?
Cold-pressed nut and seed oils, like flax seed, are fantastically flavourful, healthy options for salads or smoothies but can oxidize at high temperatures so not suited for cooking. Certain plant-based oils, like Olive oil, can be used for cooking at low temperatures, and coconut oil is the best plant-based choice for cooking at high temperatures. Ghee is becoming extremely popular for high heat cooking - just do a quick Google search for recipes on how to make your own ghee from organic butter. But what is really making a fascinating comeback is good old lard (pig fat) and tallow (cow or sheep fat). It's natural, not processed, it can last for about a year and it's great for even high heat cooking. What? You don't have any tallow sitting around your house you say? Your great grandmother threw it out circa 1950? No problem, just make a BIG, FAT, CURRY! Here's 3 tips to make it super delicious and health building:
Tip One: Get Some Happy Cows
I love beef, but, I definitely recommend going for quality vs quantity. At home, we eat mostly vegetarian meals all week to budget for weekend treats of high quality, organic, grass-fed beef. And guess what, the fat usually comes free! The great thing about the world still catching on to this tallow trend, is that butchers are basically throwing beef fat away. We went to a super fancy butcher in Toronto and they sold us extra chucks of beef fat for fifty cents and we only used about ten cents worth. You definitely want organic and grass fed since pesticide residues have been found in non organic beef fat and grain-fed cows have significantly lower quantities of healthy omega-3 fatty acids and CLA, which is a type of naturally occurring trans-fatty acids that improves brain function, helps with weight loss, and reduces your risk of cancer.
Tip Two: Don't Rush the Onions
Add beef fat to your pan (we used a cast iron pot) and let it melt slightly before adding your onions and whole spices (cumin & fennel). Allow that gorgeous beef fat to slowly caramelize the onions for maximum flavour.
You've got your organic, grass-fed beef, your natural fats caramelizing onions, now why skimp on the spices? Get the organic spices you need right here and full recipe below. Enjoy!
My Big Fat Curry (serves 4)
2 lbs organic grass-fed beef*, cubed + extra fat for cooking
2 large white onions, finely sliced
1 teaspoon fennel seeds
1 teaspoon cumin seeds
1 thumb of fresh ginger, grated
4 cloves of garlic, minced
2 red chillies & 2 green chillies, finely chopped
1 teaspoon each of ground turmeric, ground coriander and garam masala
1/4 teaspoon each of ground cinnamon, ground cardamom and ground cayenne pepper (add more cayenne if you want more heat!)
2 tomatoes, finely chopped
- heat a saute pan on medium and add a few pieces of beef fat, frying for a few minutes to melt slightly, then add the onion, fennel and cumin seeds and cook until onions have browned
- add the ginger, garlic and chillies and fry for a few minutes, then add all the ground spices and cook for a few more minutes to release flavours
- stir in the cubed beef and chopped tomato, fry for 5 minutes and then turn down the heat and let the meat simmer on low for about 35-40 minutes
- serve over basmati rice and top with freshly squeezed lime
*we used a chuck roast, which is usually on the cheaper end, and tastes fantastic