all about dragon fruit, iced green tea and being grateful

March 21, 2013 § 1 Comment

dragon fruit

There have been days when I have watched the clouds and the sea, breathed in the hot air, walked through the night when its pouring rain, listened to the jungle foul in our back yard, rode home at dusk in an electric sky, eaten green paw paw salad, bought armfuls of local mandarins, rambutans and dragon fruit at Rapid Creek market and loved this place. And then there have been days when I have questioned every reason I’m here and what it is I am trying to pursue. I have missed my southern friends, a good cup of coffee, cute little cafes with beautifully dressed waitresses, newspaper headlines that resemble some mild form of intelligence and a local radio station that I enjoy listening to. Luckily these moments can usually be fixed with a jar of pickles and an hour or so spent in the hammock watching the evening sky. Or eating oatcakes and admiring the little green tree frog that croaks outside our kitchen window and even sometimes comes in for a visit. And if this doesn’t work, a few stern words to myself about how great it is to be a little lost and not know what lies ahead because that way anything is possible.

dragon fruit and lime

But today is not a pickle and hammock day. Today is a green tree frog, cloud watching, rain walking day and I am grateful. I am grateful to my friends and family who have rung me up to ask me how things are going up here and told me not to worry, I’ll get a job soon. I am grateful to that person who is going to employ me sometime soon. And I am grateful to my new friends, one of whom wrote me a welcome card when we arrived, made me iced green tea and taught me the only way to eat dragon fruit – which is with lime. Or I guess lemon would probably work too.

I had only tried dragon fruit once or twice before and never really liked it or given it much thought. Perhaps this was because I lived in the south and it was far away from its tropical context. But more importantly, I think it was because it was lacking in preparation. Lime turns this fruit from somewhat dull and strange in taste to subtle and delicious, just like that. I hate to think of all the people who may have given up on it like I did, simply because they had never tried it this way. So, if you ever come across one of these striking fruits, that grows on a cactus, is about the size of a fist and has pink skin with protruding green wing like tips, I dare you, no I beg you, to take one home and cut it open. Their flesh is either a deep and intense red or white but always speckled with tiny black seeds that crunch ever so slightly in your mouth. Once you have finished admiring the way its red flesh has stained your knife, or the starkness of the pink skin against white, divide it into quarters or eighths, squeeze half a lime (or lemon?) all over it, and eat it up. It just so happens to have become one of my near favourite things. Even though it took some persuasion and more than one attempt.

red dragon fruit cut open

And finally, inspired by my friend Nia, I really recommend iced green tea, especially when it’s infused with ginger, fresh mint and, yes, you guessed it – lime, which conveniently grows on a tree in our back yard. This is so refreshing poured in a glass with ice and sipped slowly at the kitchen table. Or with your feet up on a couch. Or in a hammock watching the sky!

Here is the recipe.

Iced green tea with ginger, mint and lime

4 cups boiling water
½ cup cold water
4 heaped teaspoons loose leaf jasmine tea
1 heaped tablespoon of honey (or to taste)
4 – 6 thin slices of ginger
Juice of 1 large or 2 small limes
A handful of fresh mint

Bring 4 cups of water to the boil. Turn off the heat. Add 1/2 a cup of cold water. Then add the tea and steep for 2 minutes. Strain into a largish vessel. Add the ginger and honey and stir in. Leave covered on the bench to cool. Once the liquid has reached room temperature add the lime, mint ice and serve.

Hint # 1– Its a good idea to make double and reserve what you don’t drink straight away in the fridge for later. In this case its best to hold off on adding the lime, mint and ice until just before you drink it. It remains nice and fresh that way.

Hint # 2 – By adding 1/2 a cup of cold water you prevent the tea from being scolded and thus turning bitter. Interestingly however, green tea is very high in antioxidants, which are enhanced if you use boiling water to infuse your tea. Therefore if you choose health over taste, don’t bother adding the cold water before adding the tea.

limes on tree

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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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hello 2013

January 4, 2013 § 2 Comments

beans close up

I was camping at the Grampians for new years, watching birds and stars, climbing mountains and drinking lots and lots of tea. It was such a peaceful way to start 2013, and I feel like this year is going to be great! It is just a feeling, which is perhaps more important than any materialisation of the thought, but that’s ok too.

This festive time of year always makes me think of my mum and her bean salad. It often ends up on the table on special occasions and Christmas and new years are no exception.

As easy and very simple dishes often are, this has always been one of my favourites.  This year however, I have started making it with some fresh apricots chopped up and thrown in too. There is something lovely about the tartness of the vinegar with the sweet freshness of the apricots and the greenness of the beans and basil. Below, I have put mum’s recipe but feel free to add some apricots if you would like.

beans w feet

Mum’s Green Bean Salad

2 huge handfuls of green beans
A splash of olive oil
A few splashes of balsamic vinegar
A good sprinkle of sea salt
A very good handful of roughly chopped basil

Top and tail beans, cut in half and steam until fluorescent green and crispy.  Take off the heat and rinse in cold water to stop the cooking. Whilst the beans are still warm add the olive oil, vinegar and salt and mix in. Once the beans are cool add the basil.

This salad can be served straight away or left to marinate for a couple of hours and served at room temperature.

Beans

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.

Oma’s cabbage

May 18, 2012 § 6 Comments

I grew up with this recipe but never learnt to like it until recently.  Passed down from my flemish heritage its great on premature winter days like this one. Served by my Oma and mother the traditional way with sausages and potatoes makes a warming dinner. A more recent discovery of mine is having the leftovers on toast with a poached egg and chutney.

Recipe for Red Cabbage with Apples

1/4 cup water
1/2 red cabbage sliced
1 Tbsp brown sugar (optional)
Salt to taste
A handful of pitted prunes
2 apples sliced and cored
A good few splashes of apple cider vinegar (about 1/6 cup)

Place the water, cabbage, sugar and salt in heavy-based (and if you have it oven proof) saucepan. Cook very gently using a simmer mat for about 1 hour. Add the prunes, apple and vinegar. Either place in a pre-heated oven or continue on the stove top until the apples are soft but not completely mush.

Stay warm

strawberries and basil

March 7, 2012 § 6 Comments

This recipe is really very special, so much so that I was almost tempted not to share it. I used to make it when I worked at Friendly Beaches Lodge – indeed I even served it to the Prime Minister of Australia, but thats another story.

Recipe for strawberries and grapes with macerated basil sauce (serves around 6)

500g fresh strawberries
300 – 500g green grapes
3 tsp raw sugar
I cup fresh basil leaves loosely packed
1/4 cup fresh mint leaves loosely packed
juice of 1/2 a lemon
1/4 cup raw sugar

Cut strawberries into quarters and grapes into halves. Place in a bowl and sprinkle 3 teaspoons sugar over the top (for an extra tangy end result drizzle 2 Tbsp balsamic vinegar over the fruit as well). Cover with a plate and leave to marinate for a couple of hours.

In the meantime combine the basil, mint and additional sugar in a mortar and pestle. Grind and pumice into a paste. Alternatively, use a food processor or coffee grinder.

Add the lemon juice to make a moist smooth mixture. Allow to sit until sugar dissolves.

Divide the marinated fruit into serving bowls and top with basil mixture.

Serve with pouring cream and be glad I shared it. xx

harissa

February 26, 2012 § 5 Comments

Im a little tired of late, and pulling my thoughts into words seems to get stuck somewhere far back in my brain, unable to reach the nerve endings of my fingers to type anything audable  or useful. So I am keeping this simple… just the recipe and a few photos. I know it has been a bit of a trend of late – perhaps some quite moments when life slows down will solve this problem and my thoughts will be inspired to carry themselves to my limbs. Until then, here is a recipe for Harissa. I was dreaming of this all winter, waiting for capsicums to come into season, it is a delicious spicy sauce great on curries, fried tofu, burgers, lamb cutlets….


Recipe for Harissa

2 red capsicums
2 tsp cumin seeds roasted
2 tsp coriander seeds roasted
5 small bullet chillies de seeded and finely chopped
3 cloves garlic crushed
1 tsp salt
100 ml oil

Roast the red capsicum in a hot oven until black. Place in a bowl with a plate on top in the fridge until it cools. Once cool, peel off the skin, remove seeds and finely dice.

In a hot saucepan toast the cumin and coriander seeds until fragrant. Roughly crush the seeds in a mortar and pestle before adding roasted capsicum, chillies, garlic and salt. Grind and pumice until smooth. Stir in the oil.

This will keep under a thin layer of oil in the fridge for up to a week.

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