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bunya nuts Bunya nuts are in season, and it is easy to see why aboriginal people arranged festivals around bunya season.  We stopped on the way to Brisbane to visit our son and pick up a native bee hive (more on that later) and picked up half a dozen cones that had dropped from a tree.  A feasting quantity.

Bunyas aren’t a taste sensation but they’re nice – a fairly mild, slightly sweet, chestnut or waxy potato flavour.  They dry out if they are roasted once they are shelled, and they don’t absorb sauces or marinades very well – in curries and dishes like that, the bunyas are a bit of a filler. They make a good “potato salad”, and they work really well in pesto, and I’m experimenting with grinding them the way aboriginal people used to and making cakes or patties.  But so far, my favourite use of them is just boiled and served with a dipping sauce.

I took these to a party last night.  I actually took a couple of dipping sauces. The mayo and harissa one was very good, and lemon butter with parsley is nice,  but this was the one that won the day.

The Recipe:

The Bunyas:

The method here is exactly the same as preparing them for pesto, or really anything else.  The big green cones fall apart as they ripen.  It’s fairly easy to peel off the corm to release the nuts inside, that look like this:

You can roast them at this stage, but I think they are better boiled or pressure cooked.  Boiling takes an hour or so, but pressure cooking is much faster.  I pressure cooked these for 20 minutes then cooled them, then cut them in halves and scooped out the nut.

There is a knack to doing this without cutting your fingers off.  Use a big heavy knife – the kind you’d use for a pumpkin.  Hold the nut with one hand, sitting it on its fat end, and get the blade of the knife dug in across the pointy end.  Shift your holding hand to the top of the knife and cut down.  Once you have the knack, it’s easy and fast.

The Dipping Sauce:

The basis for the sauce is home made whole egg mayonnaise.

Two Minute Mayonnaise

making mayonnaise with a stick blenderThe super easy, super fast, super reliable way to make mayonnaise is with a stick blender. No dribbling the oil in, no splitting, no whisking.

There are two bits of chemistry that make it work.

  1. You put all the ingredients in the blender jug and they separate.  The oil floats on top of everything else.
  2. You put the stick blender in the bottom and start it, and it creates a little vortex, dragging the oil down at the perfect rate to emulsify it.

Works every time.

It’s so easy, I like to make small amounts of fresh mayonnaise when I need it, rather than a big batch to keep in the fridge. It uses raw egg, so it’s good to make with eggs from chooks you know are well fed and healthy.

whole egg mayonnaise

Put in the blender jug:

  • 1 whole egg
  • juice of ¼ lemon
  • good pinch of salt
  • 100 ml of light olive oil (or other mild flavoured oil – not virgin olive oil – it makes bitter mayo).

Put the stick blender in and let it settle for a minute to separate into layers. Then, with the blender fully submerged, hit the button. Once it has started to emulsify, you can move the blender around. Don’t think you can make less by skimping on the oil – it won’t thicken. If it is thin, pour another swig of oil on top, and with the blender fully submerged, hit the button again.

Once the mayo is emulsified, add:

  • 6 fresh kaffir lime leaves, roughly chopped
  • big marble of peeled ginger, roughly chopped

Blend until they are blended in.  Taste for enough salt.  Scrape into a dipping bowl, and, if you can, leave in the fridge for an hour or so for the flavours to blend in.

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crystallised ginger

I meant to post this months ago, as a companion to the Pickled Ginger recipe from early Spring.  Where did the time go?

It’s not too late though – ginger is still well in season and whether you grow your own or buy it, you should be able to get the nice, very fresh juicy ginger that you need for this.   Both crystallised sugared and pickled ginger only meet the WK criteria for healthy because they are eaten in such tiny quantities.  If you have a real sweet tooth, crystallised ginger is a good one because the spiciness of the ginger means you aren’t so tempted to overindulge.  I’m not much of a sweet tooth, but this ginger, especially covered in dark chocolate, is to die for.  And because it is so decadently gorgeous, it would make good last minute Christmas presents.

The Recipe

You need really fresh, really juicy ginger.  Try scraping the skin with your thumbnail, and if it doesn’t scrape off easily, the ginger is too old. The recipe works for any quantity.

You also need to be able to pick toffee stages.  The cold water test is the easy way to do it, and this is a good description.  Read it first, because you won’t have time during.  You will be aiming for the hard crack stage but before the sugar starts to caramelise.

Peel ginger and chop into small cubes, 1.2 cm or so.  Very fresh ginger peels really easily just using the side of a spoon to scrape the thin skin off.

Cover with water and cook 35 mins or so till the ginger is translucent and you can spear it with a fork.  Top up the water as needed.  You are aiming to have  just a little bit of water left at the end, about a tablespoon full for every cup of ginger.

Drain and weigh the cooked ginger (keeping the water), and add an equal amount of white sugar.  Add the hot ginger water back in.  You should have enough to just dissolve the sugar.

Cook, stirring frequently, until the liquid is almost all gone.  You are aiming for the sugar to reach the hard crack toffee stage.  If you put a little spoonful of the liquid into a bowl of cold water, it will instantly set brittle.  It will take about 20 minutes, and it turns quite quickly from wet and sticky to dry and crystallised. Take it off the heat as soon as it does or the sugar will start to darken.

Tip onto a tray, spread it out and cool, breaking up with a fork as it cools so as not to form clumps.

It’s addictive as a lolly, on its own or in dark chocolate.  But it is also great in biscuits or cakes.

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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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pickled gingerMy glut crop this week is ginger.  It’s roots and perennials planting days this week, and I think it’s time to divide up and transplant the ginger. It still hasn’t sprouted but it is warming up very fast this year.

I don’t have a real harvest season for ginger.  I just dig some up when I need some.  It’s really good to have it in the garden because it means when I want it, it’s fresh and juicy and hasn’t been hanging around for weeks. Every few years, this time of year, I dig up the whole of an older plant, divide up the rhizomes, and replant in a nice fertile new spot with a good bucket of compost.  Ginger dies right back over winter and resprouts when it gets warm and wet enough in spring.  Just before it sprouts is a good time for dividing up.

Ginger is a tropical plant and it needs tropical rainforest-like conditions – warm, moist, well drained, filtered sun, lots of compost.  I plant it on the southern side of my fenced beds where it gets shade from the tall growing plants that use the fence (like beans and cucumbers and tromboncino and tomatoes),  the overspray from any sprinkler-ing and the benefit of chook-made fertility.  I try to remember to give it an extra bucket of water every so often. It will cope with dry but it doesn’t grow new rhizomes, and the older ones get tough and fibrous.

The digging up and dividing is a good opportunity for harvesting a decent amount and making pickled ginger, an essential condiment for all sorts of east Asian dishes.

The Recipe

You need very fresh young ginger to pickle. Peel the ginger and slice as thin as you can.  Very fresh ginger is easy to peel, just using the side of a spoon to scrape the thin skin off.  It’s fairly easy to cut very thin too since it’s firm and crisp.

For each 150 grams of ginger, add 2 good teaspoons of salt.  Massage through and let the ginger sit for half an hour.

Meanwhile, sterilise some jars by boiling for  for 20 minutes or pressure cooking for 10, and make a hot pickling liquid by dissolving ¹/3 cup sugar in ½ cup rice wine vinegar.  Pack the salted ginger into the hot sterilized jars and pour the hot sugared vinegar over.  Put the lids on and let it cool.  The lids should pop in. It will last for months like this in the fridge. It will develop a beautiful pale rosy bloom, not the pink of bought ginger that is artificially coloured but a softer peach colour.

Wonderful added to rice paper rolls or stir fries or noodle dishes or sushi or dipping sauces.

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kasundi

The glut crop this week was tomatoes.  This time of year we eat a lot of fresh tomatoes, practically every meal, and use fresh tomatoes for cooking.  That usually gets through most of them with some to give away fresh to friends, family, visitors.  I bottle some as passata, and sun dry some when the weather is hot and dry, and oven dry some late in the season when I have the wood stove going so it doesn’t cost fuel.  But fresh is so much better than even home preserved, and I am lucky enough to live in a climate where I can get at least some cherry tomatoes for at least  nine months of the year, from late September right through to late June. And in mid to late winter it’s citrus season, so there are fresh lemons and limes and tangelos that fill a bit of that sweet-tart spot.  Preserves have to really pay their way in my kitchen!

But the wet weather at the moment is causing my tomatoes to split, so I have to use them straight away.  Kasundi is a good way to make bottling tomatoes good enough for gifts and treats, worth the $5 or $6 a jar they would be worth if you paid yourself for the time it takes.  It’s a rich, spicy but not too hot, tomato sauce, great with eggs or baked beans (or eggs and baked beans!), or with dhall or dosa or on bean burgers or kangaroo burgers or a sandwich with cheese.  And all the other major ingredients are in season now too.

The Recipe:

Put some jars and their lids on to sterilize by boiling for 20 minutes or pressure cooking for 10.  The recipe will make 4 medium jars like these, or around 1.7 kg.

Use a food processor, or a mortar and pestle, to blend to a paste:

  • 120 gm ( a cup) of peeled and roughly chopped ginger
  • 30 gm (¼ cup) of peeled and roughly chopped turmeric (or 2 big teaspoons of powder)
  • 1 whole corm of garlic (8-10 cloves) peeled
  • chilies – depending on how hot your chilies are and how hot your taste is.  I like spicy kasundi, so I used about 25 Brishops Crown chilis
  • 3 big teaspoons smoked paprika
  • enough vinegar to make a paste

In a big pot, put a little olive oil and add:

  • 5 big teaspoons brown mustard seeds
  • 3 big teaspoons cumin seeds
  • 3 big teaspoons coriander seeds
  • 1 big teaspoon nigella seeds (Or substitute cracked black pepper)

Cook until the seeds start to pop, then add the ginger-garlic-chili paste.  Cook, stirring, for a few minutes, then add:

  • 1 cup vinegar
  • 1 cup olive oil
  • 4 cloves
  • 1½ kg tomatoes (or substitute mangoes and/or tamarillos for up to ½kg of tomatoes). I used my yellow tomatoes (which is why it is more yellow than most Kasundi you will see) with 4 tamarillos and a couple of ripe mangoes.
  • ½ cup (packed) brown sugar
  • 4 teaspoons salt

Simmer, stirring occasionally, for around an hour, until it is thick and sauce-like. A good tip is to put a metal soup ladle or enamel cup in the pot so it is sterilized too.  Then you can use it to ladle the kasundi into jars.

Pour into hot sterilized jars and seal.  Check that the lids pop in before storing. It will last on the pantry shelf for a long time, longer than you’ll ever hold off from eating it.

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ginger, galangal and turmeric

Aren’t they pretty?  I was picking for an Indonesian style curry – ginger, galangal, turmeric, lemon grass, chili, Vietnamese mint (and I added  – Kaffir lime leaves and garlic as well) and I couldn’t resist the photo.  Add this spice base to an oily sauce and you have a wonderful curry sauce for fish or meat or poultry or vegetables.  Traditionally coconut milk is used for the creaminess, but that’s a bit out of my climate range and I avoid cans except for special occasions. I use the also traditional candlenuts or the less traditional macadamia nuts or cashews, or yoghurt, or just an extra splash of a nice flavoured oil  in place of coconut milk to give the sauce its creaminess.

In my subtropical climate, all these grow easily. The ginger and turmeric die right back over winter, so much so that I have to mark where they are or I lose them.  They re-sprout as soon as the weather gets warm and wet enough.  I had to try out a few varieties of ginger to find one that worked, but now it is well established and comes back every year.  They just like warmth and water. The Bishops Crown chilis are a medium hot chili growing on a short-lived perennial bush about 1.5 metres tall.  They are fruit fly prone, but so prolific the fruit flies can have most of them, and the chooks just get an extra protein source.  The lemon grass is a perennial clumping grass. I have to split the clumps every year or two or it outgrows itself.  The Vietnamese mint is a very hardy perennial running herb.  It runs, but not too far, so it doesn’t become a pest. It needs a severe pruning back every year too, or it outgrows itself.  The kaffir lime is a small citrus tree, suited to pot growing if you don’t have a lot of room.

The whole set is very nicely suited to a small garden in the subtropics, and perennial herbs and spices like this mean you can magic dinner out of  a fridge that is pretty well empty.

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muthia andf pakora

We are flooded in and the chooks, who hate wet weather, are very miserable. But we are safe, have plenty of food and firewood and, with the new power system, even plenty of electricity.  So I’ve had a lovely day playing in the kitchen rather than the garden, and we had our neighbours (who are also flooded in, same side of the creek to us) over for a long late Sunday lunch.

I spent a couple of hours making corn vadai and azuki vadai and eggplant and beetroot  pakora and zucchini muthia, and I really needn’t have bothered cos there were two clear favourites on the platter, and they were the quickest and easiest ones – the muthia and the pakoras.

This is the third of my “Food to Share” series, a South Indian platter inspired by the ginger and turmeric and chilies going nuts in the midsummer garden.  This one has:

  • Corn Vadai – little patties made with corn, lentils and spices
  • Azuki Vadai – made with ground soaked brown snake bean seeds and spices
  • Eggpant pakora – just thin eggplant slices dipped in pakora batter and fried
  • Beetroot pakora – grated beet mixed with pakora batter and fried
  • Zucchini muthia – steamed zucchini and besan (bean flour) patties
  • Coriander mint dipping sauce
  • Hot Mango and Tomato Chutney
  • Green Mango Pickles in Oil
  • Fresh cherry tomatoes and sliced cucumber

All made from things that are so in season they are in glut in my garden.

Zucchini Muthia Recipe:

Grate two overfull cups of zucchini and put in a colander over the sink.  Let it drain for a few minutes, pressing and squeezing to get excess liquid out.

In a bowl, mix

  • 2 cups of drained grated zucchini
  • ½ cup besan (bean flour)
  • 2 dessertspoons plain wholemeal flour
  • 1 scant teaspoon of cumin seed
  • 1 teaspoon grated fresh turmeric (or substitute ½ teaspoon dried)
  • 2 medium to mild chilis, finely chopped (more or less depending on how hot you like it)
  • a handful of herbs, finely chopped.  Coriander, fennel, or Thai basil all work in different ways.
  • pinch salt
  • juice of half a lemon
  • 2 dessertspoons oil

Use your hands to mix, squeezing the mixture together.

Use wet hands to shape into 14 little patties. They should be a bit sticky but able to be made into patties. If they are too sticky, add some more besan.

Steam the patties for around 20 minutes, till they a skewer comes out clean. You can make them ahead up to this point, and they will keep in the fridge for several days.

To finish:

In a little oil in a frypan, pop ½ teaspoon of mustard seeds.  Add a little finely diced chili, if you like spiciness (or not) and a couple of dessertspoons of sesame seeds.

Add the steamed muthia and fry for a few minutes till they start to colour. The sesame seeds will stick to them.

Serve hot with chutney or pickles or dipping sauce.

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This Tuesday Night Vego Challenge recipe uses egg noodles, which are exactly the same as pasta. I’m a relatively recent convert to home-made pasta and noodles.  For years I used to think home-made pasta 1. required a pasta machine, and 2. was just a carrier for the sauce anyway.  In fact I was wrong on both counts. I still don’t use a pasta machine, though I possibly would if I were cooking for a larger number of people.  For a couple of serves, hand rolling pasta is fast, easy, and minimises the clean up.  And I’ve discovered that fresh pasta and noodles are so good they are the stars of the recipe.  But the clincher for me is that when I make my own pasta and noodles, I can use my own, real eggs with all their vitamins, minerals, omega 3, protein, and happy lives.

The Recipe:

Makes two big serves.

There are three parts to this: the noodles, the spice mix, and the vegetables.  Like many Asian dishes if comes together really fast at the end, so you need to have all three parts prepared before you start cooking.

Start with the noodles.

1. The Egg Noodle Dough:

In a food processor, blend for just a minute till it comes together into a dough:

  • ½ cup plain flour.  I use the same high gluten baker’s flour that I use for my sourdough. Once you get the knack of it, you can start adding wholemeal flour or buckwheat flour if you like.
  • an egg,
  • a spoonful of oil. You can buy roasted sesame oil in little bottles, so strong flavoured that you only use a few drops.  Or you can buy mild sesame oil in larger bottles. It’s still relatively expensive, but it has a nutty flavour that works really well in Asian recipes.  Peanut oil is cheaper and also works well. Or macadamia oil.
  • a good pinch of salt.

Flour the benchtop and knead in enough flour to make a dough ball. Let it rest for a few minutes, covered with a wet bowl or cup, while you make the spice mix, then roll it out and cut into noodles.

You will find that if you flour the benchtop and keep flipping it, you can roll the dough out very fine without it sticking.  The finer the better. If you have time and you want to go all gourmet, at this stage,  fold it into a little block, then roll it out again.  You get a denser, more al dente noodle.  But I usually skip this step.  One roll out is plenty.

Flour the top then fold the dough in half lengthways, flour again then fold lengthways again, and once more.  You will have a log of dough 8 layers thick.  Using a sharp knife, cut into noodles. You will find that if you have floured between the layers well enough, the noodles will separate nicely.

Put a  pot of water on to boil and let the noodles dry a little while you chop vegetables.

The Spice Paste:

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

  • Big thumb sized knob of fresh ginger and/or galangal
  • Thumb sized knob of fresh turmeric (or ½ – 1 teaspoon turmeric powder)
  • 3 cloves of garlic
  • white part of a lemon grass stem
  • 1 kaffir lime leaf

The Vegetables

You need about 4 cups full of julienned vegetables.  I used green beans, red onion, carrots, tromboncino, yellow squash, baby capsicum, and leaf amaranth.  But you could substitute whatever vegies are in season at your place. I’ve made this with snow peas, silver beet, carrots, and broccoli in late winter.

Cooking and Assembling:

Put a wok or a large fry pan over a high flame and get it quite hot.  Add a dash of oil (sesame, macadamia or peanut for preference), then the spice mix. Stir for just a minute, then add all the vegetables at once.

Cook over a high heat, stirring, for a few minutes, then add

  • a cup of water
  • 2 dessertspoons of soy sauce
  • 2 dessertspoons of brown sugar

Continue cooking over a high heat until the vegetables are crisp-tender.

Meanwhile: The pot of water for the noodles should be boiling by now.  Add the noodles and cook for just a few minutes until they rise to the top.  Be careful not to overcook them – fresh noodles take 2 minutes or less.

Drain the noodles.  As soon as the vegetables are crisp-tender, turn the heat off.  Add the noodles, along with a couple of tablespoons of  finely chopped herbs  – coriander, lime basil, Thai basil, and Vietnamese mint all work well.  Toss through and serve.

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I have a simple, fast, comfort food dhal recipe in my Breakfast Cereal Challenge series from last year – Breakfast Dhal. But I actually managed to harvest some pigeon peas despite the parrots best tries to get through them all,  and that was worth a super dhal recipe.  Specially since I have some new season spuds, and coating them in curry sauce is one of the few ways potatoes can be improved.

And my turmeric and ginger are both just starting to sprout again. They could really do with some water. It has been such a dry spring here.  The ginger needs to be nursed along, watered and fed and protected from competition, but turmeric is really hardy and prolific in my sub-tropical climate – it just comes back every year and I just dig up what I need. We eat it quite a lot and there is never a shortage.  Turmeric is a really good source of anti-inflammatory anti-oxidants, with some good solid science now linking it to a whole host of health benefits. Pigeon peas are high protein, high fibre, low GI. So this recipe scores really well on all three of the Witches Kitchen versions of “good”.

And it makes it into the  Tuesday Night Vego Challenge rules of fast, healthy, in season, from scratch, with only some minor cheats: you need to remember to put the peas in water to soak for the day, and if you want naan bread wtih it, to make dough in the morning to prove for the day.

The Recipe

This makes two large bowls with leftovers for lunch the next day. (It’s one of those things that’s even better the next day).

There are two parts to this, and to do it in half an hour, you need to get both parts cooking at once.

Part One: The Pigeon Peas

How long they take to cook depends on how fresh they are.  Fully matured and dried pigeon peas, presoaked, take about half an hour of simmering or 10 minutes at pressure in a pressure cooker.  Three quarters of a cup of dried peas will make about 1½ cups of cooked peas. Add a good pinch of salt to the cooking water.

If you don’t have pigeon peas, the recipe works with mung dhal (split mung beans) instead, but pigeon peas will not break down the same way that mung beans will, even if you cook them for a long time.   If you use pigeon peas, you need to blend to get the consistency. If you use mung beans, you don’t.

When the peas are soft, drain them and return to the pot.

  • Add half a cup each of finely chopped celery and carrot, 
  • a cup of chopped tomatoes
  • two cups of water.

Simmer for 10 minutes, or bring back to pressure and pressure cook for five, then blend, adding water until it is the consistency you like.  A stick blender is perfect for this.

Return to the heat and simmer, stirring frequently. After it is blended, it will stick to the bottom of the pot really easily.

Meanwhile – Part Two – the Spice Base:

  • In a heavy pan, heat a little olive oil (or, traditionally, ghee) and sauté a chopped onion until it just starts to go translucent.
  • Then add one teaspoon each of fresh coriander seeds and cumin seeds. (If you don’t have fresh coriander seeds, better to use powder – old seeds are too tough).
  • Cook gently for a minute or two until the seeds start to pop, then add two teaspoons each of finely grated ginger, garlic, and turmeric. (You can subsitute a teaspoon of  turmeric powder if you can’t get fresh, but  turmeric powder is to fresh like ginger powder is to fresh.)
  • Add a little chili to taste. I added one medium-mild pickled chili chopped fine.
  • Then add a cup of diced potato.  You might need to add a little more oil.  Stir so it is covered in the spices and sauté, stirring a bit, for around 5 minutes until the potato is softened and the onion is going crisp and verging on overcooked.

Assembling:

Tip the potato and spice mix into the pea mix and stir in.  Cook for just a minute or two – you don’t really want to cook them together,  just mix.  Taste and add salt to taste, and a squeeze of lemon juice.  Add a good handful of chopped coriander and serve, topped with yoghurt if you like, and accompanied with naan bread.
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