Homemade Grass Fed Beef Tortillas

Homemade tortillas, wrapped around some grass fed Mexican beef mince, with sour cream and crunchy iceberg lettuce.  A nourishing meal for the family or a casual meal for a crowd and the tortillas are great for a healthy lunch wrap if you have some remaining after everyone’s had their dinner fill!

In case you didn’t know – it’s pronounced  taw-tee-uh  –  there is no ‘L’ sound.  For Spanish words, a single ‘L’ is pronounced as an ‘L’, where as a double ‘L’ is pronounced as a ‘Y’. So now you know – even if you hadn’t asked!

I recently tried making these tortilla wraps and given their easiness and the thumbs up feedback from the family, I thought I’d share them with you.  I firstly made the mince from this previous recipe of mine – Mexican Beef Mince with Roast Sweet Potato, then let it simmer very slowly on the stovetop while I made the dough for the tortillas.

For the tortillas.

 

Ingredients

3 cups plain flour

1 teaspoons sea salt

1 teaspoon baking powder

1/3 cup olive oil

1 cup warm water

 

Method

Place the flour, sea salt and baking powder in a bowl.  Add the oil and water to the flour mix and stir until a dough begins to form.  Next, use your hands and work into a smooth dough – knead briefly.  Divide the dough into 16 pieces, roll each into a ball, flatten slightly and cover with a clean tea towel. Leave to stand for at least 15 minutes.

Dust your bench surface with flour, take a rolling pin (rub with flour) and roll out each ball to a circle a little bigger than a bread and butter plate. You can tease them out into a circle with your hands before rolling.

Take a large frypan on a medium heat and drizzle some olive oil in the pan.  Once the pan is hot, place the tortillas into the pan one at a time and cook until browned spots begin to form underneath. Flip and cook the other side. Cook until all 16 tortillas are completed.

As the tortillas are cooked, add them to a plate and cover them with a clean tea towel. This will help them to stay soft and pliable – especially for next day use.

Each time I’ve cooked these I’ve had one of our sons helping me – one of us has cooked while the other rolls them out. It’s a fun thing to do together.  The tortillas are super easy to cook – there is no stickage on the pan at all, so you can have a bit of fun turning them by flipping them in the pan!

Once all the tortillas are cooked – place them, along with the fillings, in the centre of the table for the family or kids to enjoy wrapping their own – the beef mince, chopped iceberg lettuce, sour cream and the warm tortillas. Of course you can add any other fillings you like. Avocado is quite a nice addition.

Build, eat, nourish, enjoy!

Kirrily x

I’m fascinated by the different comments that our customers make about our grass fed beef and the difference that they notice to some other beef consumed.  But what really interests me is how those aspects relate to the health of our beef and what we’re doing on the farm that might result in this experience for those enjoying it.

The first is that it tastes great.  We know it – that’s why we say “Grass fed beef… love the taste difference!

 

1. It Tastes Great!

The most common feedback we get is of the flavour of our grass fed beef.

The eye fillets we bought yesterday were amazing, great to actually eat beef full of flavour!”

Joe, Tamworth NSW

Like our customers, I also love the taste of our beef but what I especially LOVE, is the taste of the fat on the edge of a steak – it has an amazing sweetness to it.

“I’ve never enjoyed eating fat before but the fat on the beef was really tasty”.

Rebekah, Brisbane, Qld

Let’s look at why there is a taste difference and how that is also connected to the health attributes of beef.

Our animals feed not only just on grass, but on diverse pastures made up of perennial grasses, annual grasses and forbes – broadleaved plants, clovers, and all sorts of non-grass species.  Not only this, our animals also have access to different trees and shrubs to graze on (and they do!), where they source different plant compounds again to that of the pasture.

The primary compounds of animal feed are well known – energy, protein and nutrients (which are all very important for metabolism and growth). There is however a myriad of secondary compounds in grasses and plants that contribute to the health and wellbeing of animals, to their immunity. It is these secondary compounds of plants, ingested from pastures, that I believe gives our beef its great taste. This is supported by research that concludes,

“dietary diversity and phytochemical richness confer flavourful aroma-active

compounds to meat and dairy products” 1

 

In order for animals to access a variety of these plant compounds, they need a variety of pasture plants from which to choose when grazing. It is simply not possible to access these from a monoculture crop of oats, for example.

Hence, Derek and I choose to not only feed our animals on ‘grass’ (not grain), but we also choose diverse pastures, which inherently have a variety of these secondary compounds. These compounds provide an extra benefit, as well as imparting flavour to the meat – they are the medicine of the paddock.  Research shows that animals both inherently know, and learn from their mothers, that certain plants are a solution to particular health challenges (eg. parasites/worms), so given a wide variety of plants from which to graze – the animals are able to self-medicate. This improves our animals’ immunity and helps to avoid pesticidal band-aids to problems.

Research describes it:

‘The tissues of herbivores reflect the phytochemical richness of their diet. The richness of phytochemicals in the meat and milk products that humans consume can enhance human health. While cells of humans and herbivores need energy, protein, minerals, and vitamins, they also use secondary compounds to reduce inflammation, improve brain and vascular functions, inhibit growth of cancer, boost immune function, and provide protection as antioxidants and anthelmintics.’2

The benefits that the variety of plants provide to the animals, flows through to those eating the beef. As research states:

“There are many benefits that come from eating a variety of plants. Pasture finished animals also provide healthy meat. Their bodies have phytochemical complexity.” 3

It is these secondary compounds that lead me to the second characteristic we get feedback on – satiation.

 

2. I Feel Fuller after Eating Your Beef – A Small Amount Satisfies

This comment has only come from a few people, but I also suppose it’s something that one would have to be really ‘listening’ to their body to notice, so it makes sense that not as many may notice this.

Some of the secondary compounds that I mention above are responsible for satiety in the animals.  So, the compounds are in the pastures that create satiation in the animals. There is evidence that suggests that this flows through to satiation in humans that consume the meat from these animals.

Research says:

“The need to amend foods, and take nutrient supplements, could be eliminated by recreating phytochemical richness in meat and produce and by refashioning cultures that know how to combine foods into meals that nourish and satiate.4

 

The third thing our customers comment and love is not steeped in science at all, but has been noted by a number of people (including us!).

 

3. We Inherently Know the Difference!

A couple of our customers have commented that they can just tell if it is our beef. Interestingly it’s been children in a couple of cases! When served up some beef by Mum or Dad, they have commented “This isn’t Derek’s beef is it?” I don’t know the reason these children commented this, and we have had a similar experience ourselves.

Twice I have cooked a meal and Derek and I have commented that we didn’t really enjoy it. In one case, we were camping and had purchased some beef mince – I’m not sure of the origin or of how it was produced. We didn’t approach the meal thinking ‘this isn’t our beef, so it won’t be great’ as it wasn’t until the next morning that we realised – that wasn’t our beef!  Interestingly, on that occasion, it was a Spaghetti Bolognese meal; we noticed the difference, even among the herbs and spices of the bolognaise sauce. This tells me it’s more than taste, or maybe that the taste factor is important even among herbs and spices – I’m not sure…

A similar comment from a customer who normally doesn’t eat red meat as she finds it difficult to digest, but ours she was able to eat and enjoy.  I don’t understand the reason for this – is it the phytocomplexity of the meat, is it related to the energy of the beef? I don’t know…, but I do know that people enjoy it.  I also believe that if it makes you feel great, it must be good!

“The body benefits from combinations of food. When we (or animals) eat a variety of things we get synergies and it’s like two plus two equals eleven. Humans need phytochemically rich foods, in moderation – including pasture-finished meat.” 5

While we say ‘our’ beef in this blog – we’re not the only ones producing beef in this manner, there are also others conscious about how they grow food and raise animals – we are merely using feedback from our customers as examples.

 

We Are What We Eat Eats!

So we know that what the animals eat, affects our health. Not just whether cows eat grain or grass, but further still to whether they eat a monoculture of grass or whether they have access to diverse pastures and shrub grazing.

I’ve read this quote today. It sums it up and I love it! Not only are we what we eat, but

“We are what we eat eats!” 6

If you’d like to experience the taste difference and the health attributes of our grass fed beef and see if you can detect the inherent difference – we’d love to have you try it.  You can see our selection of Mixed Cut Hampers here.

In good health,

Kirrily x

I love to cook at home and I am often dissatisfied with the oils and fats that I have on hand to cook with.  There are some cooking oils or fats that I won’t ever buy and then there are others that I have in the house and like, but that I know deteriorate if I cook them at too high a heat (which is bad for my family’s health), so I feel a bit stuck for choice.

It’s got me thinking that it would be great for Derek and me to make grass fed tallow from the suet fat from our animals because I know it’s a good choice for health. At least I would then have it at hand for my cooking, and maybe you (our customers and followers) would be keen to have some too.

Now some of you may be asking what is tallow, what on earth is suet and why is it a great cooking choice?

What are Tallow & Suet?

Tallow is the finished product of rendered beef (or lamb) fat. It is a solid at room temperature and will keep for months when in a sealed container. Suet is the type of fat that tallow is made from – it comes from around the kidneys and loins of the animal, and can be quite hard and dry.  Rendering involves melting the fat down slowly and clarifying it – removing any impurities, such as bits of meat attached to the fat and also any moisture. Removing the moisture and impurities will ensure a longer shelf life of the tallow.

You may have heard of lard – this is the equivalent product to tallow, but is produced from a pig.

But why would I want to choose tallow to cook with?

Factors to consider when choosing an oil or fat to cook with

There are 4 things that come to my mind when I consider if a fat or oil is healthy or not and whether I should cook with it?

  • Is it Polyunsaturated?

I want to know if an oil is polyunsaturated, because if it is, I don’t want to choose it. Saturated fats like tallow and butter are protective of our bodies – they help us to minimise any stress in the body. Polyunsaturated oils however, can amplify the stress response and have been linked to cancer, heart disease, premature aging and more. I have written more detail of this elsewhere. (Scroll down to ‘Choose Saturated Fat’). Soy oil, cotton seed oil and sunflower oil are examples of polyunsaturated oils.  Increasingly, more people are waking up, doing their own research and making conscious decisions for their health by choosing saturated fats.

  • Omega-6:Omega-3 ratio

The Omega-6:Omega-3 ratio of a fat or oil is important to me because an undesirable ratio can be detrimental to health.  Sally Fallon (who’s cookbook and associated health writings I love to read) refers to research that has shown excess Omega-6 intake in the diet results in an increase in tendency to form blood clots, inflammation, high blood pressure, irritation of the digestive tract, depressed immunity, cancer and weight gain. My understanding is that it is the ratio of the two that is important more than the Omega-6’s being bad per se.

The challenge with average modern day diets is that they contain a high proportion of Omega-6’s both in many of the oils available for us to cook with and especially in processed foods.  I’m referring to many of the plant based oils like sunflower, canola, cottonseed, peanut and soybean oil -predominantly the polyunsaturated oils.  These are the cheapest of oils and thus the ones of choice in most processed foods.

Compounding the challenge to intake an appropriate balance of fats in today’s society is the influence of some modern farming practices on the health of the finished product.  Research shows that not allowing animals access to grass pastures, but rather grain feeding alters the Omega-6 to Omega-3 ratio of the animal products to an undesirable ratio. Specifically, 16:1 in grain fed tallow versus 1.4:1 in grass fed tallow, in this particular research.

Note that the ratio of Omega-6 fatty acids is not quite as simple as I indicate above. Linoleic acid and arachidonic acid are two Omega-6 fatty acids which are believed to increase inflammation not considered healthy when consumed in proportionately high levels.  There is however an Omega-6 fatty acid that is beneficial and actually anti-inflammatory. This is GLA or Gamma Linolenic Acid, but it is found in obscure oils such as evening primrose oil or black current seed oil, so not really relevant in this discussion.

  • Has it been processed?

I also like to consider if the fat or oil is in its naturally occurring state.  Trans fatty acids are reported to be especially harmful to health.  These fats come from hydrogenated vegetable oils via a chemical process, to form artificial trans fatty acids.  The hydrogenation means that what were liquid vegetable oils (like soy, canola, sunflower) become solid/semi-solid at room temperature. Margarine is one such example.  These are the fats that have had the worst press regarding their impacts on health. They have been linked to heart problems & cancer amongst other things, and you can easily search online to learn more about trans fatty acids.

  • Smoke point

Smoke point is the temperature at which, you guessed it, the fat or oil starts to smoke in the pan. This is the result of the fat or oil breaking down.  Vegetable oils will all oxidise naturally over time with exposure to oxygen and heat, sending them rancid and producing free radicals that cause destruction in the body.  This generally happens slowly – especially when stored correctly, but when these oils are heated (as in cooking) the oxidation reaction is sped up. When oils are cooked above their smoke point, free radicals are formed, so it’s important to use an oil or fat with a high smoke point when cooking at high temperatures.

So, What Should I Choose to Cook With?

Some of the readily available vegetable oils have relatively high smoke points (which is good), but I don’t want to choose these for other reasons that I have mentioned above like the balance of Omega fatty acids. There is also a higher chance of some of these being genetically modified (which I don’t want).

Olive oil is a healthy choice and one I have that at hand because we have olive trees on the farm, but this has quite a low smoke point, so is best only heated to a low temperature or enjoyed raw – on salads or breads.

I love to use coconut oil and butter in my cooking, but they do not have a high enough smoke point for high temperature cooking and they’re not always the right flavour in some Asian or Italian dishes.

In terms of the other most common oils and fats to choose from, it leaves me with animal fats – lard and tallow from chemical free, grass fed animals.  They have a desirable fat profile, are a saturated fats, can be heated to high temperatures (tallow actually has a higher smoking point than lard), keep well and taste great.

Yes, just like butter and coconut oil, tallow is a saturated fat and that’s actually a good thing! I have written about this before.

Would You Like Conscious Farmer Tallow?

As I indicated at the start – I’d love to have tallow on hand to cook with because I know how versatile and healthy it is and I’m currently investigating where we could have some made.  I’m also keen to hear from you, our customers and followers if this is something you would be interested in purchasing?

Our butcher Joe, tells me it makes the BEST ‘safely’ fried chips. (This is also why we love our butcher – he ‘gets’ what we’re doing – he owns the health aspect).  I also hear tallow is fantastic in pastry.  I’m looking forward to using it for a pie/quiche pastry. Apparently it leaves a beautiful crispy crust that is not too crumbly (which can happen with 100% butter).

We can make great choices like eating grass fed meats and organic vegetables, but if we then cook these in an undesirable fat or oil – then we’re undoing some of the benefits of our great food buying or growing choices.

If you have questions about other less common oils, one of the sources I trust the most for information about health is the Weston Price Institute. If you have questions about lesser known oils like grape seed oil, avocado etc, I suggest seeing these frequently asked questions about oils and fats on their website.

Please, let us know what you think about the Tallow. We could include it in our hampers, have it available at markets or send out separately.

Now, I’ll get researching….  Kirrily

p.s. If you’d like to have one of our beef hampers delivered to you – see the choices available here.

 

Reference

Fallon, S. 2001. Nourishing Traditions.  New Trends Publishing. Washington.

If you’ve ever tasted the difference of beef fed on diverse pastures, there’s an inherent knowing that it must be better for you, because it tastes so good.  But why is grass fed beef better for us than grain fed beef?

Many people already know that grass fed beef is better for them because of its healthy fat profile, but there are some other differences that you may not be aware of, like its ability to satiate, its superior mineral content and its role in preventing modern, western society diseases.  Let me start by explaining why the fat profile of grass fed beef is healthier.

Good Fats

There has been much recognition of the importance of fats in our diets in recent years. And they do form a very important part of our diet but it’s essential that we eat the right ones – or more importantly that we eat the right balance to help ensure great health, longevity and freedom from modern day diseases.

Essential fatty acids are named so as they are required in biological processes in our bodies, as opposed to fats that are for storing and providing energy.  Omega 3 and Omega 6 fatty acids are such fats, and it is the balance of these essential fatty acids that is important.

There is much evidence to suggest that the diet on which we evolved consisted of a ratio of omega-6 to omega-3 fatty acids of around 1:1. Modern day western diets however, have much higher relative levels of omega 6 fatty acids, which has been found to promote diseases like heart disease and cancer, as well as inflammatory and autoimmune diseases (1). Shockingly, most current western diets consist of ratios of around 16:1 and even higher!

Choosing grass fed beef over grain fed beef assures you a healthy balance of fats.  Grass fed beef has an omega-6 to omega-3 ratio of around 1.5 : 1 – a level consistent with wild game – because, like wild game, grass fed animals are eating what nature intended!  This is compared with grain fed animals – the meat of which has a ratio of up to 7:1 and even as high as 16:1(2) – much higher in its relative quantity of the less desirable omega-6 fatty acids.

High concentrations of Omega 6 in the diet have been linked to memory problems, confused behaviour and Alzheimer’s disease, as well as weight gain, allergies and depression.

Research shows that choosing grass fed beef helps put you in a position of preventing or fighting these diseases. Virtually all cattle in Australia are born into a grass fed environment.  Many of these however are then sent to feedlots as yearlings (at a certain weight and age), where they are fed and finished on grain.  Research shows that the fat profile of the animal changes very quickly, (to an undesirable level) once the animal’s feed is switched to grain. Grain fed beef then takes to the consumer the potential health problems associated with this higher omega-6 to omega-3 ratio – and in most cases to an unknowing consumer.  This is one of the reasons that we choose to eat and produce beef that is not only fed on pasture, but is also finished on pasture – completely 100% grass fed.

Grass fed beef is one of the best ways to source healthy omega 3 fats, along with other grass fed & free range meats, coconut oil, olive oil, butter from grass fed dairy cows and eggs from pasture fed chooks. Avoiding commonly used vegetable and cooking oils (which are high in omega 6’s), will also keep your omega-6 to Omega-3 ratio healthy – things like canola, sunflower, soybean and cottonseed oil.  We avoid these whenever possible (and it’s not so easy to do if you eat anything remotely processed – they are in so many things, including most sweet and savory biscuits and crackers and even sultanas – listed as vegetable oils!).  Many of these oils themselves are highly processed.

Stick with whole foods, stick with what nature intended.

Conjugated Linoleic Acid (CLA)

It is not only the greater proportion of the desirable omega-3 fats that makes grass fed beef a healthier option.  Conjugated linoleic acid (CLA) is another substance found predominantly in ruminants animals (cows and sheep) fed on grass pastures.  These CLA’s have great health attributes, such as aiding in the prevention of:

  • cancer
  • heart disease
  • osteoporosis
  • high blood pressure
  • inflammation

Bodybuilders also love it for reducing body fat and increasing lean body mass.

Secondary Compounds

Another reason why you may like to choose grass fed beef over grain fed is due to the secondary compounds or phytochemicals (naturally contained in plants) that grass fed animals access when grazing – things like tannins, flavanoids, aromatic oils and alkaloids. These are rarely talked about with relation to food.  We regularly hear about the primary compounds – protein, carbohydrates, energy, and mineral contents of food, but rarely do we hear about these secondary compounds.  This is possibly understandable, because there are thousands of different compounds – but don’t let this have you underestimate their importance!  The combination of a large variety of these different compounds contributes to overall wellbeing – in this case, of our cows.  It also however, has a positive knock on effect to your health – the ones consuming our grass fed beef!

These secondary compounds are like nature’s medicines.  They are the things responsible for why red wine is said to be good for your heart and why certain herbs can aid health.  Secondary plant compounds have many roles in your body including appetizing, digestive or therapeutic purposes.(3)

What cows need then, to access the necessary variety of these compounds, is a diverse pasture on which to feed.  The access to this diversity of plants means that the animals maintain good health and the need for chemically treating sickness is avoided. Animals that feed on a single species crop (like oats)  however, simply don’t have access to this plant diversity. You and I (as humans) have mostly lost the intuition for knowing what we need to eat to ensure good health or to mend illnesses.  Cows however, have not.  Giving them a diversity of plants on which to feed will provide them the choice required that they may ‘self medicate’ and ensure their own well being.

 

diverse pasture low res with words

This is great because it means that our cows are healthy and we can then avoid pesticides and undesirable chemicals that may otherwise be needed to treat health problems in our cows.

Secondary plant compounds are responsible for a huge range of positive impacts on cows (and then you). Here are some examples of the positive effects that plant secondary compounds can have. They can:

  • Be antibacterial or anti-parasitic in the digestive tract
  • Provide antioxidant protection
  • Inhibit cancer growth
  • Stimulate circulation
  • Prevent diarrhoea
  • Offer pain relief
  • Boost immunity
  • Provide satiety (feeling satisfied or full)
  • Influence feed intake
  • Improve fertility
  • Provide flavour and colour to foods

One cow will have different needs to the next (just like we have different nutritional needs to our friends), so a diverse pasture gives our cows the ability to select for what they need. A standard grain mix, rationed every day to animals, as with grain feeding does not account for individual animal requirements.

If you choose to consume our beef, fed on diverse pastures – it’s better for you. We choose chemical free, diverse pastures for our cows to graze on so that we can avoid the need for ‘chemical bandaids’ for our cows.  This means that you, our customers get the knock on effects of clean food and of the associated advantages of the plant secondary compounds when you consume our beef.

Mineral Content

Grass fed beef contains more vitamins, minerals and antioxidants than grain fed beef.  Research has shown grass fed beef has increased levels of beta-carotene, which is a precursor to vitamin A.  Higher levels of cancer fighting antioxidants (vitamin E, glutathione and superoxide dismutase) have also been attributed to grass fed beef.(4)

Grass fed beef has also been shown to have higher levels of zinc, iron and vitamin B12 (5), all of which form important functions in our bodies.

Organic and Grassfed

I fully support organic production of produce – and that’s how we choose to produce, free of pesticides, heavy metal residues and all the things that could otherwise accumulate in our food. You may like to know though, that just because some beef may be organically certified doesn’t mean it is grass fed. Organic meat can still be fed on grains – it’s just organic grains. This is great because you will avoid pesticides, but there will still be the issues associated with grain fed meats. Certified organic is also no guarantee of diversity in the pasture.

It Tastes Great!

It’s great to have healthy food to eat, but, we all also just also want to have something that we enjoy the taste of, and this is what grass fed beef does.

I especially love that thin layer of fat on the outside of a sirloin steak, or the divine taste of a scotch fillet (my favourite). You will also notice the taste come out in a slow cooked beef stew, when you use a collagen rich cut like chuck steak.

The French refer to ‘terroir’, a set of environmental factors that affects the qualities and character of produce – like climate, soils, aspect etc. This is often referred to in relation to wine, but is increasingly being used when referring to other produce.  In the case of grass fed beef – the feed that the animal consumes has a big influence on taste.  This is why we graze our cows on diverse pastures and we say ‘you’ll love the taste difference’.

Conscious Choices means Better Health 

Red meat has gotten some amount of bad press recently when related to human health.  It’s a shame that things are simplified to this ‘black or white degree’ and there is no differentiation between whole red meat versus processed preservative containing meats, or how the animal was raised (grass fed versus grain fed), the style of cooking or the cuts of meats.  More of you are realising that we need to be more conscious in our choice of foods and we need to learn how to be more proactive about our own health.  This, I know, will serve us well.

If you would like to enjoy the health benefits of our grass fed beef delivered directly to your home in Brisbane, on the Gold Coast, in Canberra, across Victoria and NSW – see our wonderful variety of hampers here.

If you would like to know more, please get in touch here.

Happy conscious eating!

Kirrily.