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


Osso Bucco

June 22, 2012 § 2 Comments

Here is a simple recipe for a hearty stew, perfect for winter evenings. The carrots we have been getting lately, have been so sweet which I think is important to make this stew work. So try and use organic ones if you can.


4 pieces of osso bucco (try and get smaller pieces if you can)
1 ½ tsp paprika
1 ½ tsp garam masala
1 tsp coriander seeds ground
¾ tsp cinnamon
½ tsp cumin
½ tsp sea salt
Juice and lime of 1 lemon
3 Tbsp oil

Stir spices, lemon and oil into a smooth paste and coat over the meat. Allow to sit for half an hour before searing on both sides in a hot oiled pan.

For the Stew

1 large onion
4 cloves garlic
1 sprig fresh rosemary
2 bay leaves
a few good sprigs fresh thyme
4 carrots sliced
4 – 5 celery sticks
1 ½ cups chicken stock
¼ cup apple cider vinegar
1 can tomato or one cup tomato puree
1 cup water
salt and pepper to taste

Pre heat oven to 190 °C/374 ºF. Saute onions and garlic until soft and translucent. Turn down the heat and add the thyme, rosemary, carrots and celery. Pop on the lid and allow to sweat for 5 – 10 minutes stirring every now and again as needed. Add all other ingredients minus the meat and bring to the boil. Add the meat and bring to the boil again. Transfer to an oven proof pot with a lid and place in preheated oven for 1 hour. Alternatively you can continue cooking on the stove top for an hour.

Serve with brown rice and enjoy.

Salone Chop

January 5, 2011 § 2 Comments

Mokabi, local vegetable related to eggplants but very bitter unless you salt it, boil it and then rinse it in cold water.

Carried away by travelling stories as I am, I seem to have ignored the fact that this blog is meant to be mostly recipes and stories about food. So here I have put together a post on Salone cuisine as I have experienced it so far. I wouldn’t be able to say that it is completely traditional but it’s been an interesting exploration in itself.

The Krio word for food is simply ‘chop’. Most locals will agree that unless you have had rice with your chop you have not eaten. The second most common ingredient after rice would have to be cassava, of which both the white root and green leaf are used.

Cassava leaf

I have seen so many chickens killed, plucked and cooked here in Sierra Leone. Here is Teeboy our neighbour.

Theresa our neighbour and friend cooking dried cassava

Theresa has been cooking for us 3 times a week. Usually spiced cassava leaf with dried fish and rice, or beans and cassava root all made with lashings of palm oil. As long as there’s not too much dried fish, I think I have started to like this standard local fare especially since my attempts to cook here on our small coal pot have left me often disheartened. My first three dishes – black-eyed peas that tasted like mothballs, watery pumpkin soup and soggy pumpkin fritters – well, I don’t really want to talk about it. Thankfully we have overcome the dilemma of melting plastic bags on the coal to get it lighted, like the locals do, by buying some kero to assist our attempts. Even though not as resourceful, at least it is not as toxic. But since then I have had some small successes, including fried spicy pumpkin, black-eyed bean stew and some rather nice cardamom pancakes with fried bananas wrapped inside. I tried to stop my mind from wandering to thoughts of buckwheat pancakes with home-made honey labna and stewed seasonal fruit with a hint of star anise, to no avail. It dawned on me that my taste buds have been too long spoilt with the luxuries of a well-stocked wholesome organic pantry and I’m reaching the point of no return. Even my shame for cringing at a perfectly nutritious meal in a country where the very basics of food cost a person almost their entire wage, are doing little to satisfy these damned taste buds.

Chillies come wrapped in leaves and garden eggs (eggplants)

However, I also have a confession to make, a favourite local chop of mine is far from wholesome and I have no idea about whether it is organic. It is a Shawama, which is BBQ beef cooked with chilli maggi powder on fulla bread with mayonnaise and I usually have it with a can of soft drink. Now for those of you who know me, wheat and beef are two things that rarely end up on my plate and prior to coming here I don’t think I had had a soft drink since I was in my teens and wouldn’t have enjoyed it if I had. I don’t know what is happening to me but perhaps my taste buds are getting a little less fussy after all. Although I think it is more a case of finding comfort in things that are familiar, I am an Australian after all.

Fresh coconut

I didn’t want to leave you with an unsavory taste, so here is a very photogenic coconut eaten fresh from the tree.

I promise recipes very soon.

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