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ful medames

OK, so I know somebody is going to protest about the inauthenticity of this.  And the photo doesn’t help.  Ful Medames is an Egyptian dish made with ful, which are fava beans or broad beans.  I make a version with fresh broad beans often in late winter or spring when they are in season and it is much more photogenic. But the strong  lemon/garlic/pepper kind of flavours of ful medames work with practically any kind of beans.  I’ve made this often with dried purple king beans or rattlesnake beans, which yields a much nicer looking light pinky-brown bean dip.  But this one is a real fusion – a middle Eastern dish using American black turtle beans.

I harvested the last of the turtle beans this week.  They were pretty dry on the bush, but we had the wood stove going and it was real bean eating weather so rather than dry them all the way for storage, I cooked them straight away in my favourite bean dish of all. The flavours are amazing – a whole bowl of beans for dinner and you scrape the bottom of the bean bowl.  On this occasion with sourdough flatbread with poppy seeds and crushed linseeds to scoop with.

The Recipe:

  • First soak and cook a cup of dried beans (or if you start with semi-dried beans like I did, a cup and a half).  Bean Basics has the basic method for this.  Soak them overnight or for a few hours, then pressure cook for 15 minutes or boil for about 45 minutes or cook them in a slow cooker for 5 or 6 hours.  Reduce to half beans half water consistency.  For this recipe, you want beans that are very soft.
  • Fry a chopped onion gently in olive oil till soft.
  • Crush or chop a whole corm of garlic (yes, lots!).  Add to the onions.
  • Crush or grind a whole dessertspoon of black pepper (yes, lots!) and add that too.
  • Add salt to taste.  Start with a scant half a teaspoon, but you will probably end up adding more.
  • Add the beans.  Simmer gently, stirring often, for about half an hour. The beans should break up but if you need to you can help them a bit with an eggbeater or a stick blender.  You can make it into a smooth puree if you like – I like it better with some whole or mashed beans in it.
  • Add a third of a cup of lemon juice.  Taste and adjust the salt and lemon juice – you will probably add more of both.

Serve in bowls with pita bread or flatbread to dip.

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The broad beans are bearing.  Not so many of them this year and they will run out a lot earlier than last year.  I’ve made Ful Medames a few times now, and Broad bean felafels, and we’ve had them for breakfast and as side dishes.  But this  Tuesday Night Vego Challenge features broad beans as the main attraction.

Beans in general are super healthy and have a number of characteristics that are likely to make you feel good.  They’re full of low GI carbohydates, good quality protein, soluble and non-soluble fibre, and a good range of vitamins and minerals especially B vitamins, folate and iron – which all play a role in keeping your energy levels high.  They also have a range of phytonutrients like lignans and flavonoids and sterols that play a role in warding off osteoporosis,  heart disease and the kind of cell damage that leads to cancer.  But the specialty of broad beans is that they’re a good source of  l- dopa, a precursor to dopamine. Too little dopamine  is a characteristic of  Parkinsons, and of depression and anxiety, and there’s lots of research around about broad beans for Parkinson’s and some about broad beans for depression and anxiety.

But good for you and virtuously good are only two of the three Witches Kitchen goods, and I used to think broad beans failed on number three until I discovered the north African and Middle Eastern way of cooking them with lemon, olive oil and garlic. The lemon in particular just lifts them to another dimension.  This recipe uses preserved lemon and its sweet sour salty mix is a perfect match.

The Recipe:

Makes dinner for two.

  • Saute an onion with half a teaspoon of cumin seeds and a clove of chopped garlic (or more if you are not being frugal waiting for the garlic to be ready to harvest), till the onion is translucent and the cumin seeds start to pop.
  •  Add half a cup of water and a cup of shelled broad beans and pressure cook 5 minutes, or simmer for 15.  (You might need to add a bit more water if you are simmering.)
  • Add
    • 2 dessertspoons of preserved lemon finely chopped,
    • half a cup (packed) of finely chopped flat leaf parsley, mint and coriander,
    •  juice of quarter of a lemon.
  • Cook for another 2 minutes till the liquid is pretty well all gone.
  • Turn off and add a stalk of celery, chopped, a handful of chopped rocket, and 75 grams of feta in small dice.
  • It’s best served with warm pita bread, but also good rolled up in a lettuce leaf like San Choi Bau or with couscous.

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If you are new to kangaroo meat, this is not a bad recipe to start out with.  The preserved lemon is the interesting flavour in it, and kangaroo is a great meat for a tagine because it is so lean and dense.

And I also believe kangaroo is the most ethical choice for Australians. Kangaroos are truly free-range, sustainably harvested from the wild, and our gun laws and our lack of a “hunting for fun” culture both help to keep kangaroo shooting a respectful predator-prey relationship.

I’m calling this a tagine, even though it is cooked more like a stew in a pot or pressure cooker on the stove top.  It gets its tagine-iness from the richness created by holding in the moisture, and the Moroccan flavours.  And I love “kangaroo” and “tagine” in the same sentence – the idea of adding it to the melting pot of multiculturalism that gives us the fantastic modern cuisines.  It’s a permaculture idea, to value diversity and to see the “edge” where two cultures/ideas/ecosystems meet as the richest part.

This recipe is fast and easy to prepare, but it does need time to marinate, and time to cook.

The Recipe

Start in the morning, or the night before.

Using a mortar and pestle or a food processor, blend together:

  • 4 cloves of garlic,
  • 2 thumbs of ginger,
  • 2 teaspoons of cumin,
  • 2 tablespoons of chopped parsley,
  • 2 tablespoons of chopped coriander,
  • with enough olive oil to make a runny paste.

Pour it over 3 or 4 chopped onions (depending on size) and 750 grams of diced kangaroo meat in a bowl, cover, and put it in the fridge to marinate overnight or for the day.

At the same time, put  1 cup of white beans in water to soak overnight or for the day.

An hour or more before dinner time:

In a heavy pot with a tight fitting lid, or a pressure cooker, sear the kangaroo.  You will need to do this in batches – probably three – so it browns.  Rinse the marinate bowl with water and add it to the pot.  How much water depends a bit on how tight a lid your pot has – between 2 and 3 cups, depending on how much steam will escape.  You can top it up during cooking if in doubt.  Drain the white beans and add them.  Put the lid on and simmer for an hour or pressure cook for half an hour. Avoid stirring too much – you don’t want bean puree.

Rinse two quarters of preserved lemon, scrape off and discard the flesh and julienne the rind very fine.  Add to the pot and simmer another 15 minutes.  Watch the moisture level – leave the lid off if it is too runny and needs reducing, or add water if it is getting too thick even with the lid on.

At the very end, stir in 2 tablespoons of chopped fresh mint.

The recipe serves four (generously) for a dinner party, served with yoghurt and mint, couscous, and a pumpkin and green beans side dish.

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basket of citrus

Sunlight in my basket.

Limes, lemons, mandarins, oranges.  So many of them that I am making salted limes for adding to summer soda water and salted lemons for that little salty sour-sweet note that lifts so many dishes out of the ordinary.  I’m making lime syrup for cordial, but not being a real sweet tooth, mostly for Asian style dipping sauce for things like rice paper rolls.   I’m making Indian style Lime Pickle for curries (and for cheese and crackers), and mostly for giving away.  I’m putting lemon and lime skins in cleaning vinegar to make lemon oil vinegar for cleaning – it’s my one-and-only cleaning product for floors and stove and shelves.  I’m making lime and ginger marmalade – I can’t believe I’ve never posted that recipe.

But mostly, we are just using them fresh and glorying in the abundance while it lasts.  This time of year tomatoes are scant.  The ones you will be getting in the supermarket will likely be artificially ripened, tasteless, coming from a long way away, and very expensive.  I still get a few cherry tomatoes hanging on in my frost free garden but mostly that cooking niche that needs a bit of sweet acidity is filled by citrus.  So whereas in summer my pasta sauces are mostly tomato based – things like pasta puttanesca –  this time of year they are lemon based – things like lemon caper parsley pasta sauce, or Lemon Feta Tortellini.  Whereas in summer I add tomatoes to beans, in winter I add lemon.  In summer, soups nearly always have tomatoes in them, in winter a squeeze of lemon juice.  Summer salads have tomatoes and feta, winter salads have leafy greens and a lemon dressing.

It’s very neat the way tomatoes and lemons tag-team it.

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washing machine beans

We bought a second hand washing machine a little while ago, just by chance from a couple who had retired to Lennox Head leaving a family home with a great big garden to move into a beach house with a tiny garden. They were doing spectacular things in a tiny space and we talked gardens over tea for so long we nearly forgot why we came.  As we were leaving we were offered a packet of bean seeds, a variety that had been passed down to this great grandfather from his grandfather, passed down through at least six generations and who knows before that.

They are really long, flat beans with a dark reddish brown seed, so sweet that two-year-old Teo comes out to “help” me pick.  He’s not tall enough to reach them but he knows he will be able to raid them straight out of the basket (and that’s called “helping” in Grandma’s garden). They are stringless and delicious lightly steamed too, and they’ve survived the run of 40°C  days this last week (104°F for friends in USA).  My new favourite beans.  Washing machine beans.

My established garden all survived the heat wave – tomatoes and cucumbers, beans and snake beans, pumpkins and squash, zucchini and tromboncino, eggplants and capsicums, basil and spring onions, leeks and Molokhia, rocket and carrots, and all the perennial and semi-perennials.  But anything I had planted in the last few weeks that hadn’t had time to get roots down deep and wide enough suffered despite all my Frizzle Weather strategies. I had planted out some well advanced beetroot seedlings a couple of weeks ago and none of them made it through.

And I have something –  I think a blue tongued lizard – eating seedlings in the shadehouse as they come up.  The lizard is prime suspect because whatever it is is strong enough to break through the netting I have over the seedling boxes.  Today is cool and drizzly, perfect gardening weather.  This week is predicted to be showers.  I have gaps in the garden and nothing in the shadehouse to fill them.  This is cruel!

I’ve planted some Nantes carrot seed directly this morning, which might well be folly – we only need another day of heat wave next week or the week after and they’re gone.  But I’m betting now on the start of Autumn-ish weather.  I’m also planting out into the misty rain another round of beans, and just a couple each of all the curcubits – squash and zucchini and cucumbers and tromboncinos.  And some spring onions and beets and the first of the season’s parsnips.  And in the shadehouse some more basil and lemon basil, Paris Island Cos and red mignionette lettuces, leeks and mizuna.

And some strong wire over the seedling boxes.

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kangaroo stir fry

I post a lot of vegetarian recipes here but we’re not vegetarian.  Sometimes we go for ages eating vegetarian, but more because that’s what I feel like cooking and eating and I have all the ingredients I need without going shopping, than for any philosophical reason.  If you’ve ever seriously tried to feed yourself out of a garden, you will know that animals – big ones and very little ones – their manure, their grazing and scratching behaviours, their seed dispersal, their pollination, their predation – are part of the system. Turning it into a plants-only system requires some serious and unsustainable artificial inputs and interventions.

You can of course decide not to eat the animals, but you can’t really make them decide not to eat each other.  There’s a really stunning video doing the rounds at the moment about the cascade of environmental effects of reintroducing wolves to Yellowstone National Park. To me it says, predators are a good and important part of a biological system – wolves, eagles and sharks are good and necessary.

So I don’t have an ethical problem with eating meat.  I do have an ethical problem – a big one – with intensive farming methods that treat animals as if they are commodities, non-living cogs in an industrial process.  Killing an animal is a shock. For most of us these days its a rare experience to kill anything bigger than a mouse and even mouse killing methods are designed to distance us from the reality of that little furry body. But if you cruise the permaculture and small farming blogs, you will find that people who do it discover that raising and killing an animal for meat can be done in an honourable way.  Without cruelty and with respect.  You can’t say that about the bacon or the chicken nuggets in the supermarket.

We’re lucky in Australia that most of our beef and lamb is still free range grass fed.  We haven’t yet got into the CAFOs that dominate meat production in USA. I think for most consumers CAFOs are only tolerated because it is possible to pretend they don’t exist. All our kangaroo meat though comes from free range animals grass fed animals, not treated with antibiotics or hormones or fed GM or anything else.  There are some macropod species that are threatened, but the ones that are hunted are overpopulated. “These commercially harvested species are abundant over a broad area of Queensland and Australia. None of these species is listed as threatened under Queensland or Commonwealth legislation. They are listed as least concern wildlife under the Nature Conservation (Wildlife) Regulation 2006.” 1.

I think it’s about as close as we can get in our culture to respectful predation.

The Recipe

Makes two big serves.  If you serve it over rice, it can easily go round four.

This comes together really fast once you start cooking, so you are best to get everything assembled and chopped and, if you are serving it over rice or noodles, get it on to cook before you start.

  • Thinly slice 300 grams of kangaroo fillet steak.  Mix a couple of tablespoons of rice flour or corn flour (corn starch) with a good teaspoon of Chinese Five Spice and toss the meat in it to coat.
  • Slice an onion in half top to bottom, then slice it lengthways into fine half moons.
  • Grate a big thumb sized piece of ginger, and mix with three or four cloves of crushed garlic and a stem of lemon grass, white part only, finely sliced.
  • Julienne about 5 cups worth of vegetables.  I used carrots, green beans, leek, capsicum, and pak choi but you could substitute whatever vegetables are in season – snow peas, asparagus, celery, broccoli, kale all work well.
  • Finely chop a couple of tablespoons worth of fresh herbs –  Thai basil, Vietnamese mint, or coriander all work well.
  • In a cup,  mix quarter of a cup of stock with a splash of soy sauce or tamari and a splash of rice wine or white wine to bring it up to half a cup of liquid.

When it is all ready to go, put a dash of oil in a wok and get it very hot, then quickly sear the meat in two batches.  Remove the meat and add another dash of oil and get the wok hot again.  Add the onion, stir until it starts to become translucent, add the ginger, garlic and lemon grass, stir and sear, then the vegetables.  Keep them moving for a few minutes, then add the meat back in, then the liquid.  Bring it back up to boiling and cook until the vegetables are just crisp tender.  Turn the heat off, add in the herbs, stir them through and serve.  Chili lovers may like some finely diced chili as a condiment.

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My glut crop at the moment is lemons. It’s not quite the glut it was last year.  Last year at this time, this was what the bush lemon tree looked like, and we have four lemon trees of different varieties.

lemon tree

But at the end of the season last year, we pruned the tree fairly heavily – it was getting too tall and thorny to harvest effectively – and fed it with manure and mulch.  So this year we only have three trees bearing too many lemons.

These little lemon cheesecake tarts are a great party food – easy and cheap to make in bulk this time of year when lemons are in season, and they travel and keep well.   They cook so fast, you can make them in batches which means you don’t need industrial quantities of baking gear – just a couple of muffin trays and a couple of biscuit trays.  They are wonderful warm in a bowl with a little cream, but just as good cold eaten straight from the hand, which makes them perfect for parties and no washing up. I brought these out at the end of a Halloween celebration (southern hemisphere Halloween, early May) and they were a big hit.

The Recipe:

The Pastry

Turn the oven on to heat up.  You want a medium hot oven.

I use my Braun food processor to blend:

  • 4 cups of wholemeal plain flour
  • ½ cup brown sugar
  • 250 grams (1 cup, or two sticks) butter

till it resembles breadcrumbs.  It takes literally seconds in the food processor.  If your food processor won’t do it, you can rub the butter in with your fingertips the old fashioned way.  Don’t overprocess it – little flakes of butter are fine.  The key to making good pastry is not overworking it.

Then add cool water, little bit by little, till the dough holds together in a ball.  It will take about a third of a cup. Again, don’t overwork it.

Roll the pastry out on a floured benchtop till it is ½cm or so thick, then cut rounds with a small bowl.

Lightly grease muffin tins with butter and line them with the pastry.  It will flute a little since the pastry is flat and the muffin tins cups, but that gives a nice shape to the finished tarts.  Prick the bottom of each with a fork, just lightly.  The holes should close up as the cases bake, and it helps stop them rising.

Bake the pastry cases for around 10 minutes till they are firm.  Try to catch them just before they start colouring.  I don’t bother with beans or rice or anything to bake blind.  The pricking helps them not to rise, but if they do, it doesn’t matter. You should be able to tip the cases out and line them up on biscuit trays for filling.

The Filling:

While the cases are baking, you can make the filling. Using the trusty food processor again, blend together:

  • 1½ cups of lemon juice
  • 3 teaspoons of finely grated lemon zest
  • 1½ cups of raw sugar (not brown sugar this time, or it makes the filling a caramel colour).
  • 1½ teaspoons vanilla essence
  • 6 eggs
  • 250 grams (1 cup) Danish feta, or some other smooth, creamy, salty white cheese like goat’s cheese. (Australian feta doesn’t give you the same smooth texture.)

Baking:

Fill the pastry cases immediately before you put them back into the oven to bake.   If you fill too early, they soak in and the pastry is soggy. You will probably need to do it in a couple of batches, so halve the filling so you can fill the first and second batch of cases evenly. A jug makes filling easy, and you need a cloth to catch drips.  Don’t overfill – they do rise a little and if they overflow or drip, the filling sticks and burns.

Bake in a medium hot oven for 15 minutes or so, till the pastry is just starting to brown and the filling is nearly set.  Take them out of the oven and dust with icing sugar, using a sifter or sieve to get a nice fine even dusting.  Put back into the oven for a final five minutes.

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The  Tuesday Night Vego Challenge this week had to feature snake beans. Now I have them coming on, the poor old Blue Lakes and Purple Kings have dropped right out of favour, left to mature for seed for storing. Snake beans are more tropical than most bean varieties, adapted to the tropical summer monsoon belt.  They like hot wet weather. It has been a cooler than normal year this year, and the earlier rounds grew but slowly and didn’t set very many flowers or fruit. But we have hit the hot wet weather this month, and this is the first round now that is really bearing well.

They’re a beautiful plant – tall climbing and lush with lovely lilac flowers. They need a trellis or fence at least a couple of metres tall to climb, and when they bear well, they really bear well. I am picking about 250 grams a day from a fence-trellis just a couple of metres long. I like the brown seeded variety – it seems to bear better for me. Some years though, brown seeded snake bean seed seems to be just about unavailable, so it must be tricky for others to grow. Black seeds are much more readily available.

They’re fantastically good for you – one of the richest sources of folate and Vitamin A, even amongst beans which are all pretty good sources.  Lots of Vitamin C and good amounts of a range of minerals.

This recipe has chili in it, but it’s actually not very hot. I order “medium” in Indian restaurants, and this is mild for my taste. My partner orders “hot”, and he added a sprinkle of finely diced chili over the top. Non-spice-likers may want to reduce the chili right down, but the sweetness mellows out the spiciness nicely.

The Recipe:

Makes two large serves.  Leftovers are good for lunches.

This is good served over rice or noodles.  I served it over soba noodles, which take just minutes to cook. If you are serving over brown rice, get that on first because the rest of the dish is really fast.

The Vegetables:

Prepare the vegetables first, because once you start cooking, it goes fast.

You really just need young, crisp snake beans – 250 grams of them, trimmed and cut into 3 cm lengths.  The rest of the vegies are optional. I used a small onion, sliced lengthways (top to bottom) in thin slices, and a carrot julienned just for a bit of colour. You could also use capsicum or oyster mushrooms. But not much of them. The snake beans are the star.

The Spice Paste:

Use a mortar and pestle, or the spice grinder on a food processor, to grind to a paste:

  • 1 chili
  • Thumb sized knob of fresh ginger
  • Thumb sized knob of fresh turmeric (or ½ – 1 teaspoon turmeric powder)
  • 3 cloves of garlic
  • white part of a lemon grass stem

Cooking

Heat a wok or large fry pan up and add two dessertspoons of macadamia or peanut oil.
Add the spice paste, get it sizzling, and almost straight away add half a cup of cashews. Stir to coat and get them sizzling, then almost straight away add the vegetables.
Cook over a high heat, stirring, for a few minutes till the cashews get a bit of colour and the onion softens, then add
  • a cup of water
  • 2 dessertspoons of soy sauce
  • 2 dessertspoons of brown sugar
Cook for around 10 minutes until most of the liquid has reduced. Taste and adjust the soy – you may like it a little saltier.
To finish, add
  • 2 teaspoons of sesame oil
  • ¼ cup finely chopped herbs  – we did a taste test and decided our most favourite was Vietnamese mint, followed by Thai basil, followed by coriander.
Stir the herbs in then almost straight away take it off the heat and serve, over a bed of rice or noodles. Spice lovers may like to sprinkle with extra chili.
Are you Tuesday Night Vego Challengers? Feel free to add links in the Comments.
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I picked the first broad beans of the season this morning, and I cannot remember why I ever thought broad beans boring.  There was a time though, when I grew them just because they were so healthy and treated them as a filler.   Maybe I’ve just become a better cook? But we fought over the last piece of this sourdough toast with broad beans and herby labne this morning.

Broad beans are a super food.  They share all the good stuff in legumes in general –  low GI and good source of protein, fibre, several vitamins, potassium and iron. Their special claim to fame though is that they contain lots of l- dopa, a precursor to dopamine. There’s lots of research around about broad beans for Parkinson’s and some about broad beans for depression and anxiety, but at the least, they make you feel good.

(The Breakfast Cereal Challenge is my 2011 challenge – a year’s worth of breakfast recipes based on in-season ingredients, that are quick and easy enough to be a real option for weekdays, and that are preferable, in nutrition, ethics, and taste,  to the overpackaged, overpriced, mostly empty packets of junk food marketed as “cereal” .The Muesli Bar Challenge was my 2010 Challenge.)

The Recipe:

Makes enough for three slices of toast (which is why we fought over the third!)

It’s fastest in a pressure cooker, but a pot with a tight lid is fine.

Saute a small onion, diced, in a good swig of olive oil (don’t be stingy with the oil – there’s no fat anywhere else in the recipe.)

When the onion is starting to brown, add

  • two cloves of garlic, crushed,
  • half a cup of shelled broad beans,
  • half a cup of water,
  • a grinding of black pepper
  • and a good pinch of salt

Bring to pressure and pressure cook for just 4 minutes, or put the lid on and simmer for 10 minutes watching it at the end.

Squeeze in the juice of ¼ lemon and simmer for another couple of minutes to reduce till there is barely any liquid left. Taste and adjust salt and lemon juice to taste.

While the broad beans are cooking, blend together

  • ¼ cup labne, quark or fromage frais (or any kind of low fat yoghurt cheese)
  • a few leaves of chives
  • scant teaspoon fresh thyme
  • scant teaspoon lemon rind
  • pinch of salt

Spread the herby cream cheese spread on toast (I used my homemade megagrain sourdough) and then the broad beans on top.

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