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rice paper rolls

There’s actually only a small window of the year when rice paper rolls are the perfect thing.  Avocados need to be in season, and coriander.  You need macadamias and limes for the dipping sauce.  Pickled radishes and turnips and ginger are wonderful in them.  And it needs to be warm enough for that cool, clean, crispness to be just what you feel like.

Rod and I made these ones to take to a trivia night fundraiser at the local high school.  We spent a lovely afternoon chopping and chatting, dipping and rolling.  They’re the perfect social food.  Normally for home I prepare all the fillings and let people assemble their own. Lay all the fillings out on the table along with a pan of very warm water. Each person dips the rice paper in the water for a minute to soften,  chooses fillings, rolls it up tucking the sides in as  they go, dips and eats.  Have competitions and friendly banter about who is the neatest roller, and who chooses the unlikeliest filling combination, and whose fillings all fall out into the dipping sauce.

The fillings for these ones included julienned snow peas, carrots and spring onions,  mizuna, avocado, vermicelli, bean sprouts, lots of coriander and mint, and pickled ginger, daikon and turnip.   The dipping sauce was:

  • roasted macadamias crushed with a mortar and pestle,
  • equal quantities of lime juice, fish sauce, and sugar
  • a touch of garlic and chili
  • a bit of water to mellow it out

All just shaken together in a jar and served in little bowls for people to dip.

making rice paper rolls

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avocado lime and coriander dip

My glut crop at the moment is coriander.  In a few weeks time it will all go to seed.  Babies planted now will hardly leaf up before running to seed.  So now’s the time to make the most of it.  If you click “coriander” in the list in the right margin, you’ll find that I seem to have quite a few recipes with it.  It’s one of those flavours you either love or hat.  In one of those serendipities so common with food, avocado, limes and coriander are all in season together.

The dip is really simple – just avocado blended with lots of coriander leaf (more than you would think) and lime juice and salt to taste (not too much of either).

The chips though are a really good invention.  They don’t have much oil in them, and you can use monounsaturated olive oil and avoid the horrible transfats in bought chips.

Baked Sourdough Corn Chips

Mix equal amounts of sourdough starter with dry polenta.

Let it sit for half an hour or more for the polenta to fully soak.  Then add:

  • A good pinch of salt
  • A handful of grated parmesan
  • A few spoonfuls of olive oil
  • Enough bakers’ flour to make a soft dough (it won’t need much).

Knead briefly, then cover with a clean cloth and let it sit for a few hours for the sourdough to develop.

Flour the benchtop and a rolling pin and roll the dough out very thin.  Place on an oiled biscuit tray and trim to fit, then score into triangles.

Bake for about 20 minutes in a medium hot oven till the chips are just golden.  Watch carefully at the end because they burn fast.

They will keep for a while in an airtight jar.

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Sadly this isn’t one of my better examples of photography! I’ve been waiting all year to post this recipe.  Chili con Kanga is good on its own, but this time of year there is a little window of time when avocados, limes and coriander are all in season together, and the salsa with it makes it sensational.

I always make a great big pot of this when I make it, and we have it for dinners and lunches several times.  It will serve six or eight people for dinner easily, or you can freeze it or keep it in the fridge for several meals.  Or, you can halve the recipe.

Less red meat and more vegetables is a good idea, for health, environment, and hip pocket reasons.  And less factory farmed meat and more wild harvested, free range, organic meat is a good idea for the same reasons.  This combines both.

The Recipe:

Cook 400 grams dry beans till they are soft.  I soak them first and use a pressure cooker so they cook quickly.  The post about Bean Basics has my basic bean cooking method.  I don’t think it matters what kind.  They all add a different character to the dish, but they all seem to be good in their own way.

Brown 1 kg kangaroo mince in a little olive oil in a heavy pan.

In a big pot, saute together:

  • 4 onions (chopped)
  • 6 garlic (chopped)
  • 6 chilis (more or less, depending on how hot the chilis are and how hot you like it)
  • 3 teaspoons cumin seeds
  • 2 teaspoons smoky paprika
  • 1 capsicum (chopped)
  • 6 carrots (chopped)

Add the browned kangaroo mince and the beans, along with:

  • 1 heaped tablespoon chopped fresh oregano (or a good teaspoon of dried)
  • 5 fresh bay leaves
  • 1 kilogram chopped tomatoes  (or a big jar of passata)
  • 2 big tablespoons tomato paste (leave out if you use passata)
  • 1 dessertspoon treacle (or brown sugar)
  • 2 cups of water
  • a good grinding of black pepper, and salt to taste

Simmer for half an hour or so until it reaches the right consistency.

Avocado, Lime and Coriander Salsa

Mash together:

  • An avocado
  • Juice of a lime
  • a big handful of coriander leaves, chopped fine
  • salt to taste

Serve the chili in bowls topped with a good dollop of avocado salsa, and, if you like, some warm tortillas to mop up with.

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The possums have finished off all my avocados,  but I live in an avocado growing region and we’re smack bang in the middle of the season so there’s always a few ripening on my kitchen bench.  They marry so well with limes, and this is the last of the limes for the year.  I also have heaps of coriander in the garden. In another few weeks all the leafy greens will realise spring is on the way and will want to go to seed, so this is the time to take advantage of luxurient foliage.

Avos have lots of calories but they’re such good calories – full of vitamins A, B, C, E and K, omega-3, monounsaturated fats, potassium, magnesium, antioxidant phytonutrients, and importantly, an amino acid called glutathione that slows down aging. I make a face mask out of them this time of year, but really, they’re much more effective from the inside!

The Recipe:

Very simply, mash together an avocado with plenty of lime juice, lots of finely chopped coriander, and a pinch of salt. (You’ll be surprised how much coriander you can add and it still keeps tasting better and better).

It’s good scooped up with pita chips, or, my favourite, wrapped in a warm home-made tortilla.

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

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Not so much a recipe as a reminder.  I have at long last moved on from Tangelo Breakfast Compote as my favourite breakfast.  There’s still a few tangelos, but the avocados are so beautifully in season now, and there’s also still plenty of limes.  Avocado on home-made heavy bread, toasted, with salt, pepper and a squeeze of lime juice.  Mmmm.

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There is a little bit of science to this.

Besides zinc and Vitamin E, which are both good for your skin anyway, macadamias have really high levels of palmitoleic acid, which is is the key ingredient in many anti-ageing products and what used to make hunting sperm whales so lucrative.  Olive leaf extract has an antioxidant called oleuropein which is the latest magic product in the kind of cosmetics that sell for hundreds of dollars for a tiny tub.  Avocados have had a longer pedigree in skin care cosmetics. Avocado oil is renowned for being able to penetrate skin and carry moisturising as well as a range of vitamins and minerals down to deeper layers.  And of course aloe vera has long been used in cosmetics.

It has an extra ingredient though, that I think is the one that actually works.  You look so gloriously green gloopy with it on, that you can’t do anything but potter around the house, sit in the sun with a good book, chat and drink tea (or champagne) with friends similarly glooped up.

And with all the ingredients now in season here, it costs almost nothing even if they aren’t home-grown.

The Recipe:

For a single face mask, use a mortar and pestle to mash together:

  • 5 or 6 roughly chopped olive leaves
  • 2 or 3 fresh cracked macadamia nuts
  • one-eighth of a ripe avocado
  • a thumb-sized piece of aloe vera gel

Slather it on and leave for an hour or so, then rinse off with warm water.

After that, you won’t need any convincing, but just so you can feel both
good and good:

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