spring, partings and asparagus

June 1, 2015 § 2 Comments

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The sun was shining with so much intensity when I left Toulouse. I am not sure if I was imaging it or not, but the tomatoes growing on our balcony seemed to be gaining an inch a day. Everything, including me was pushing up and reaching for the summer. On my last night, we sat there together, my feet in his lap, eating asparagus with French cheese and wine, looked out over the balcony to the canal. Nostalgia deep in my heart. I missed him before I even left.

Fried asparagus

Take a bunch of fresh asparagus and cut off the woody ends.  Place 1 teaspoon of butter and 1 1/2 teaspoons oil in a large saucepan set on medium high heat. Once the oil is hot, add just enough asparagus to comfortably cover the bottom of the pan and gently sauté tossing every now and again so that all the sides become lightly browned. If you want you can place a lid on top of the pan to steam them a little as well. After 2 – 3 minutes add 2 cloves freshly  crushed garlic and salt and pepper to taste. Continue cooking until the asparagus are just beginning to soften but still are bright green with a light crunch. Transfer to a plate and drizzle with a touch of balsamic vinegar. Repeat the process until all your asparagus are gone. Serve with some crusty bread and enjoy.

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snake beans

July 15, 2013 § 2 Comments

chilli coconut snake beans

The Tropical Garden Spectacular  was on a few weeks ago. At the botanical gardens under trees with impossibly huge canopies I watched some local food cooking demonstrations. Lined up on straw bales with the green grass at our feet, some glimpse of paradise on the warm breeze, the chef Selvam Kandasamy from Saffrron, taught a small group of us how to make snake beans, sautéed in spices with coconut and curry leaves. And this my dear friends is a dish to be celebrated.

Snake beans are the lanky tropical equivalent of the green bean and you would be forgiven for thinking them somewhat tough and woody with little flavour. This recipe however  does them justice. It is full of flavour, crunchy, slightly sweet, bright green and turmeric yellow. The coconut and chili melts on your tongue. The intermittent curry leaves are bright in your mouth. The beans are cooked hot in a wok for just the very right amount of time making them softly crunchy and fluorescent.

I have made this recipe many times since then and each time I have continued to love it.  It is similar to the original made by Selvam Kandsamy except I have used coconut oil instead of peanut oil.

Spicy Snake Beans with Coconut and Curry Leaves

Serves: 4 – 5 as a main or 6 – 8 as a side dish.

Note: If you are in distant and cooler parts wanting to use something more locally appropriate I am sure green beans would also make a good substitute.

3 Tbsp pure coconut oil
2 flat tsp brown mustard seeds
2 flat tsp turmeric
1/2 tsp salt
1 red onion finely diced
1 whole fresh red chillis (you can also use 1 tsp dried chilli flakes instead)
1 Tbsp Split yellow lentils (optional)
4 cups chopped snake beans
1/2 cup shredded coconut
A good handful fresh curry leaves
Extra salt to taste

chopped snake beans and white bowl

Prepare all your ingredients before hand. Once you start cooking it all happens fast.

In a wok heat the oil on a medium to high flame until hot. Add the mustard seeds, turmeric, onion, and salt. Stir until the onions turn just translucent, then add the chilli and lentils. Continue stirring and add the beans and coconut stirring until the beans are just cooked through but still have a crunch and are bright green. Add the curry leaves and remove from heat.

It is lovely served as a side to fish or on its own with brown rice.

I hope you like it as much as I do.

ingredients for snake bean stir fry

Jamie’s baked fish

April 19, 2013 § 1 Comment

Tomatoes

I am currently elbow deep in a pot of pho broth which I will share with you all very soon. But before I do I wanted to draw your attention to Jamie Oliver’s delicioius baked fish recipe that I was making a lot of before I left Melbourne. I love it! And am despertate to squeeze it in here before tomatoes and basil are completely out of season for all you southern people. Strange as it may seem, April is the time Territorians plant their Solanaceaes. Its the time when the air changes texture. The moisture relents. The blessed dry is around the corner.

So here it is. Jamie Olivers incredible baked fish. Perfect for summer evening dinner parties. Lick your plate good. In his recipe Jamie suggests using Sole, but I used Trout. Any whole flat fish will work.

On another note, I also started baking just the vegies and herbs, prepared as he suggests below but without the fish. This made for a delicious pasta sauce.

Serves 4

Ingredients for Jaimie Oliver’s Baked Fish

4 whole lemon soles, from sustainable sources, ask your fishmonger
2 handfuls red and yellow cherry tomatoes, halved
4 cloves garlic, peeled and finely sliced
1 handful fresh oregano or basil, leaves picked
1 bunch spring onions, trimmed and finely sliced
1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
sea salt
freshly ground black pepper
zest of halved 2 lemons
extra virgin olive oil
1 handful black olives, destoned and chopped
1 handful fresh flat-leaf parsley, finely chopped

Method

“This is really simple. First of all give your fish a wash, then with a sharp knife score across each fish down to the bone at 2.5cm/1 inch intervals on both sides. This allows flavour to penetrate the fish and lets the fish’s juices come out.

Preheat the oven to 200ºC/400ºF/gas 6. Get yourself a bowl and add the tomatoes, garlic, oregano or basil, spring onions, balsamic vinegar, a pinch of salt and pepper and the zest and juice of 1 lemon to it. Loosen with a couple of good tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil and mix well, then spread over the bottom of a large roasting tray. Use one that will fit all 4 fish quite snugly (or you can use two smaller trays). Place the fish on top – top to tail.

Now add the olives, parsley, juice and zest of the second lemon to the bowl that the tomatoes were in. Loosen with a little olive oil and then divide this mixture between the fish, placing an equal amount on the centre of each. Cook in the preheated oven for 12 to 15 minutes, depending on the size of the fish. To check whether they’re done, take the tip of a knife and push it into the thickest part of the fish. When done, the flesh will easily pull away from the bone.

Once cooked, remove the fish from the oven and allow them to rest for 3 or 4 minutes while you get your guests round the table, serve them some wine and dress your salad. Then you can come back to the fish. Divide them up at the table on to 4 plates, making sure that everyone gets some tomatoes and juice spooned over the top of the fish. ”

Enjoy!

The above recipe was taken word for word from here.

summer bounty

The two photos in this post were taken last year around this time. Here is what I posted on then.

spiced roast eggplant and zucchini salad

January 13, 2013 § 1 Comment

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It is hot! Stinking hot! The kind of heat with thick hairdryer winds. The kind of heat you feel like you are swimming in rather than walking in. The air is viscous, your arms almost float in it.

I never feel like eating much in this weather other than ice cubes, salads and smoothies. Not all at once of course but spaced between episodes of gasping on the couch with a wet towel on my head and the fan on high no less than two feet from my face.

Eggplant

The recipe below for an eggplant and zucchini salad spiced with paprika, cumin and mint, is both light and rich. The dried figs, walnuts and fetta add a lovely texture to the softness of the roasted vegies.

Spiced roast eggplant and zucchini salad

2 – 3 large eggplants
1 large or 2 small zucchinis
Salt
1/3 cup olive oil
2 Tbsp apple cider vinegar
1 Tbsp honey
1 tsp paprika
1/2 tsp cumin
4 cloves garlic chopped
Zest and juice of 1 lemon
Juice of half an orange
1/2 Tbs tamari or soy sauce
1 cup fresh mint leaves roughly chopped
1/2 cup dried figs roughly chopped
3/4 cup toasted walnuts roughly chopped
1 cup roughly chopped crumbled fetta

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Preparation

Preheat oven to 200°C /400°F

Cut the eggplant and zucchini into 1-inch cubes and put in a large bowl. Sprinkle lightly with salt and set aside for about 15 minutes or until juices start to come out of the eggplant. Rinse in cold water, drain and pat dry.

In the meantime, combine olive oil, vinegar, honey, paprika, cumin, lemon zest, half the lemon juice and chopped garlic. Stir into the salted and washed eggplant and zucchini.

Spread the mixture onto a large baking paper lined baking dish and roast in the preheated oven for 45 minutes, or until very tender and browned. You will need to check on them and give them a toss halfway through the cooking. Remove from the oven and allow to cool slightly.

Place roasted veggies in bowl and add tamari, orange juice and the last half of the lemon juice. Toss. Stir in the mint, figs, walnuts and feta and enjoy.

Serves 4

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there’s time

October 24, 2012 § 7 Comments

Hello…

Well, I made it. I am on the other side of something quite big, something that has kept me rather distracted from myself and all the other things I have wanted to do for the past two years. I have finished my masters! And there is a very peaceful knowledge that time is now on my side. It belongs to me again. This is nice. Well very nice actually. Overwhelmingly fantastic!

So here I am with some space, to do something for myself, slowly and how ever I want to. Thats a lovely feeling.

The garden is caught between winter and summer and remains positively neglected and wild. But, this is not so bad, because I know that it doesn’t have to be that way.

Its wonderful to know I can now spend more time taming broad beans, if thats what I want to do. But perhaps more importantly, more time nourishing my wicked taste for very fine delicious things.

Thanks to a very delicious breakfast eaten here and to Jamie Oliver for the idea for this recipe.

Smashed Broad Beans and Peas

2 cups fresh podded broad beans
1 cup fresh podded peas
a decent handful of fresh mint
a decent couple of splashes of olive oil
juice of one lemon
about 1/4 of a garlic clove crushed
Salt and pepper to taste

Cook the peas and beans in boiling water for no more than two minutes, drain and rinse in cold water immediately. Pull the outer skin of each podded broad bean – and puree all ingredients together.

Its that easy

Serve on toast with a poached egg and a smattering of finely grated pecorino.

Rob’s chickpea pumpkin and date salad

October 14, 2011 § 8 Comments

As summer is on its way and the days get warmer, lighter fresh meals are entering the kitchen. Yet those vegies we typically associate with summer are not quite here. I love the winter flavours with a summer feel that this salad, served for dinner tonight by my friend Rob, embodies. Memories of winter somehow all the more pleasurable because they can be enjoyed from the warmth of spring.

Rob is not your typical looking cook, red-haired, you will often find him saw on grain woodworking some design at the back of the house in a cloud of fine dust that settles in his beard and hair, or gazing into space with one of his many instruments saddled in his lap. But Rob keeps surprising me with his kitchen skills and kindly agreed when I asked him to post his recipe… admitting he got it from somewhere else but long enough ago to have forgotten where and changed along the way. You can find his music here where he plays with the lovely Jess Ribeiro and the Bone Collectors. And here is his salad, Chickpea, Pumpkin and Date.

How to Make Chickpea Pumpkin and Date Salad

Roughly Chop about 1/2 a pumpkin and sprinkle it with 1 tsp ground cumin and 1 tsp ground coriander, drizzle with olive oil and bake in an oven at 180 degrees Celsius for about 1/2 to 3/4 of an hour.

In the meantime take 2 cups dried chickpeas and cook in boiling water until soft (if your feeling lazy, or you want to, you can just use 2 cans chickpeas)

Combine in a large bowl with the pumpkin, a cup of roughly chopped dried dates, a handful of chives finely chopped, 2 bunches coriander roughly chopped, juice and rind of one lemon and a good dashing of olive oil. Add salt and pepper to taste and voilà!

roast vegies and baby beetroots

September 19, 2011 § 4 Comments

I pulled these little beets from the garden today. So sweet!

A friend recently told me about roasting them stalks and all with a dash of vinegar and salt.

Without enough to make a meal of them, here is what I did. Popped them in a tray with pumpkin, sweet potato, carrots, cherry tomatoes, garlic, fresh thyme and rosemary. Sprinkled them with salt, a generous helping of olive oil and a dash of balsamic vinegar. And into the oven at 200°C/390°F they went.

1 hour and 25 minutes later, our old gas oven taking longer than most, out they come.

I stirred together a handful of chopped coriander, some mint, 2 tablespoons yoghurt, a dash of olive oil, salt and pepper to taste and served it with the vegies.

It made for a fine lunch on a warm windy day.

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