Sunday, April 25, 2010

ANZAC biscuit-free zone

For the last few days we’ve been working our way through these ridiculously small but highly perfumed fruit. Home grown and picked by one of the guys at the market, last week I got a kilo of these under-sized feijoas for less than the price of a coffee. Each time I enter the kitchen, it’s like coming home. Literally. My olfactory senses tell me I’m back in New Zealand. The small, taste and texture is pure nostalgia.

This week I also made my first green curry paste from scratch, ridiculous considering how many other curries I make from first principles. I based it on this recipe throwing in more liberal quantities of most ingredients (including lots more green chillies) and omitting the coriander root, being the only herb I was out of. At first I was very disappointed. Yes the flavours had a vibrancy to them but the concoction didn't knock my socks off. Then I remembered the paste is only half of the flavour balance. After frying off the fresh paste and then simmering with coconut milk, I got out the fish sauce, palm sugar and split open a lime. A Thai curry is an alchemical process. The paste may be the base metal but it's the final three ingredients that create the magic.

Staring at me accusingly in the kitchen is also a bag of lemons, gifted from a visitor from over the border. I’ve been hanging out to make more lemonade, a perfect antidote to the unseasonably balmy weather of late.

No ANZAC biscuits for me, to commemorate the day instead I’ve a round up of old posts from my Grandfather’s WWI diary at my other blog, there’s also a post on what he ate at the front, in hospital and at Christmas while waiting to be shipped off from camp in my archives.

Enjoy the long weekend, take a leaf out of Princess Prissy Paws book and take it easy!

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Wednesday, April 21, 2010

waving not drowning and a few green chillies

April has been a bit of a daze, crammed full of visitors and a trip across the Tasman. In that time the only new taste experience to cross my palate has been some excellent smoked mackerel courtesy of a Wellington supermarket, conveniently located across the road from the doctor’s surgery that my parents seem to spend so much time visiting.

I’m ready for something new and exciting on my plate but first there’s work to catch up on, domestics to attend to and other mundane but necessary things to complete, like doing GST and other tax related chores.

I have fresh green and red chillies I’m looking for ways to preserve. The green in particular are enticing me this year – the flavour is rounded yet there is still a punch in the heat. Ideas anyone?

And what to plant for winter? I just have a few square metres of space. Will dig in some organic manure on the weekend and get a few bales of pea straw in readiness. I’m thinking parsley, lettuce (cos and rocket?), spring onions…what do you reckon?

Thanks for dropping by, am looking forward to returning to the kitchen soon.

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Thursday, April 08, 2010

from the garden: a simple chickpea and silverbeet curry recipe

Home late, craving good honest vegetables. I’d had the foresight to soak some chickpeas overnight and cook them before leaving for work. Why does such a simple act make me feel disproportionately virtuous? Really it’s no effort at all and the legumes cooked in 40 minutes, easy.

This easy combo hit the spot, with a nice rounded, spiciness thanks to the homegrown chilli.

Simple chickpea and silverbeet curry recipe

(quantities are flexible, just make sure there is enough liquid)
Vegetable oil
1 large onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, crushed
1 fresh green chilli, finely sliced
a small knob fresh ginger, finely chopped
2 tsp cumin seeds, roasted and ground
2 tsp coriander seeds, roasted and ground
2 cups cooked chickpeas
a big bunch of silverbeet (aka Swiss chard), washed, spines removed and roughly chopped
4 big tomatoes, chopped (or 1 can crushed tomatoes)*
1 cup vegetable stock
salt, to taste

Sauté onion in ample vegetable oil (I used coconut) over low heat til translucent. Add the spices and stir for a couple of minutes. Toss in the chickpeas. Add silverbeet a handful at a time til wilted. Throw in the tomatoes and stock. Bring to a simmer, stirring every now and then. Cook for about 30 minutes.

Serve with your favourite rice.

* I've made a similar version substituting tomatoes with tamarind water.

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Tuesday, April 06, 2010

in season: get it while it's good

I figure in Australia being a vast land and all that, almost anything is in season somewhere in the country at any time of year. Hass avocados, for instance, are grown all year round according to the industry’s marketing information. But Melbourne prices tell a different story when it comes to quality and availability.

I’ve put together a guide from organic stalls and farmers markets for what looks good, in Melbourne this April. Feel free to add to it.

Apples are at their peak; worth spending a bit more to explore the dozens of different organically grown varieties that taste like apples did in your childhood.
Pears are slowly ripening.
Mandarins are heading the new citrus season, watch out for local oranges and grapefruits coming soon.
Limes have been a cheaper buy than lemons in the past month. If local trees are anything to go buy it will still be another month or so til lemons make a come back.
Persimmons, just in for their short and sweet season.
Quinces are starting to trickle in.
Still some figs about but not for much longer.
Grapes are on the way out but still a good buy.
Chillies are still abundant in my garden.

The new season Tasmanian walnuts have arrived and taste great.
Chestnuts are starting to make an appearance.
Keep an eye out for local hazelnuts.

Pumpkins are still abundant and cheap.
Root vegetables are coming into their own – carrots, beetroot, sweet potato are a good buy.
Hopefully later in the month we’ll see some interesting mushrooms.
Say goodbye to tomatoes, eggplants, zucchini and cucumbers as their season ends and prices rise.

Update It's the second to last week of April and am overjoyed to report that feijoas are now in season too. I got a kilo of (admittedly small sized) feijoas for $3 from the market. The bonus was they were grown locally and without sprays. Larger ones were $7.50 (from the most expensive conventional stall at the entire market) and $9.50 (organic).

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