Drinks such as coconut water and green juices have dominated the wellness conversation in the UAE for the past couple of years, but 2017 looks set to be about a very different health-promoting beverage: Bone broth.
For some, the name may be off-putting, but it’s apt. This liquid is exactly what it says on the tin – the stock made from simmering animal bones for many hours, often up to 48 hours, in order to extract the nutrients contained within.
The idea of drinking meaty broth from a coffee cup has taken off in the US and Europe in recent years, with proponents claiming it improves gut health and immunity, makes hair and skin look better and even helps the drinker sleep better. This weekend it arrives in the UAE in a big way, with two producers launching packaged bone broth for those who don’t want to spend two days searching for bones and boiling them up.
Paul Frangie has been selling a deep, rich bone broth from his industrial-chic café, Hapi, since it opened in Alserkal Avenue late last year, and launches bone broth at Ripe Market in Zabeel Park on January 6. The menu in his café, his first dining venture, is small, featuring light meat dishes, egg breakfasts, cold-brew coffee and homemade ice cream, alongside chicken, beef and lamb bone broths. (All-around well-being is the focus here: the café also has an indoor parkour course from its sister company Parkour DXB, and adds yoga classes to its repertoire later this month.)
‘It’s just something I really wanted to share,’ says Paul, known for his web-video series This Dude Knows Food. ‘Bone broth is nutritious, satisfying, tastes delicious and it feeds your soul,’ he adds, pointing out that it’s not only considered healthy for people, but also for the planet. ‘In Western diets, we tend to only eat the lean meat of animals. Apart from not wasting food, there’s a lot more nutrients that you get from eating the whole animal, like making bone broth.’
We’ve all heard the term ‘whole foods’ to describe cereals and vegetables, but it’s not used as much when referring to animals. That needs to change, says Christopher Clark, a nutrition science writer based in Dubai.
‘Our ancestors ate “nose to tail”, meaning nothing went to waste. As such, they benefited from very balanced nutrition.
‘Today, we favour the muscle meats of animals, while typically discarding the organs and bones. This is a problem, for example, because muscle meats have proportionally high amounts of an amino acid called methionine. Organs and bones, on the other hand, are lower in methionine but higher in another amino acid – glycine. When we incorporate bones into our diets via bone broth, we get a more balanced mix of amino acids, with which the body can more efficiently and effectively build protein molecules.’
Bone broth has a laundry list of benefits, according to Christopher. ‘Glycine plays an important role in digestive health and in proper central nervous system functioning. Accordingly, bone broth can soothe and repair the gut while inhibiting excitatory neurotransmitters, thereby promoting calmness, reduced stress, and improved memory. He also totes bone broth’s gut-health-improving qualities for people with autoimmune conditions, which may stem from digestive problems.
While the sippable stock is simple to make, it is time-consuming, and depends on finding quality bones. Paul uses organic chicken and beef bones, which he roasts to add a deep flavour, before simmering very, very gently (just a few bubbles popping on the surface of the broth) with aromatic ingredients.
‘Some people choose to do lighter broths, I don’t find it tastes as satisfying, but that’s me. We serve ours with a freshly baked sourdough bun, if you want something more filling, and some grass-fed butter.’
Video: Paul Frangie making bone broth
Also launching bone broth at Ripe Market and shop this weekend are Dean Henry and George Ball of The Clean Living Company. Both former semi-professional sportsmen, the British entrepreneurs worked in the financial sector before deciding to bring bone broth to the UAE.
‘After both suffering from injuries that prevented us from continuing to play football, we wanted to look further into what drives the human body,’ says George. ‘From a personal perspective, I always consider how I can perform that one per cent better in my day-to-day routine. By starting The Clean Living Company – and developing a highly nutritional product such as bone broth – our aim was to educate consumers on how to lead a healthier lifestyle.’
Dean, who first tried bone broth in the UK over two years ago on the advice of a naturopath, says it provides an instant energy boost and better digestion. The company sells a 21-day broth package (Dh870; 500ml portions are Dh55), which Dean says brings about weight loss, improved complexion, hair and sleep quality. ‘I have noticed a significant decrease in my joint pain, as the broth has acted as a natural anti-inflammatory.’
The Clean Living Company’s bone broth is much lighter in colour and flavour than Hapi’s, as the bones are not roasted prior to being simmered with herbs and vegetables. That’s so that you can sip it throughout the day, says the man behind the recipe, chef Liam Breen, of The Maine Oyster Bar and Grill in Dubai Marina. ‘We are going for a much lighter flavour and colour whilst maintaining all the proper nutrients of a broth that has been roasted. It’s easier to drink throughout the entire day.’
The recipe also includes apple cider vinegar, which helps in extracting the collagen, amino acids, vitamins and enzymes from the bones, which are from organic cattle from Australia. ‘We use mainly the shins, spines and neck of the cattle, and no there is no meat left on the bones when we use them.’
Using high-quality bones is essential, says Christopher, who warns that using the bones of animals reared in intensive farming could even be dangerous.
‘Grass-fed, free-range cows, are far healthier than their grain-fed, factory-farmed counterparts,’ he says. ‘The latter also consume “filler foods,” some of which could be contaminated with lead. Lead toxicity is a potential issue because lead tends to accumulate within the bones. For healthy animals, however, this won’t be a problem. It really comes down to knowing where your food comes from and choosing the cleanest, most natural products available.’
Want to make bone broth yourself?
Finding organic meat bones is going to be your biggest challenge. Head to Organic Foods & Café, says Christopher Clark. ‘Bones are often discarded because there isn’t a very high demand for them. Tell your butcher you want them.’ He says that after the bone hunt, it’s a simple and straightforward process. ‘I usually roast the bones in the oven for about 45 minutes before transferring them to a stockpot or slow cooker full of water. Add 1 teaspoon of apple cider vinegar per litre of water. You can also add a bay leaf or two for flavour. After that, just let the bones simmer gently – the longer the better. Twelve to 24 hours is ideal. Broths that cook for only a couple of hours will be flavourful, but will lack the nutrient density of a long-cooked broth.’