If you are a fan of fermented and/or chilli-hot food and you haven’t tried kimchi, then you must! And if you don’t like it at first, you must try it in little bursts again and again and again. You may not be sold on its strong flavour straight away – but when you do decide you like it, prepare for the inevitable addiction.
Kimchi evolved from salted vegetables, or shimchae, in Korea some time before 700CE. Cabbage and chilli were added to the fermented mix much later – around 1800CE, with the introduction of hot chilli peppers to Korea via Japan – and there are even recorded recipes involving pheasant and fish [1,2]. Nowadays, it’s the quintessential Korean side dish.
I have to admit to falling for this spicy ferment in 2011, the year before the ‘kimchi craze’ apparently overtook Perth, and the year I turned…three years younger . Fresh-faced. Newly fascinated with rujak [aka "rojak"]. Easy prey. Before then, I wasn’t overly fussed about it; now I cannot open a jar of kimchi without salivation and a generous tasting.
I am gradually experiencing and learning more about the health benefits of lacto-fermentation (ie. preservation by lactic acid, as produced via lactobacilli, which inhibits the growth of putrefying bacteria). Kimchi is a naturally (wild) fermented product that is full of probiotics, vitamins and antimicrobial activity, promoting good digestion and gut health, immunity and even an ability to lower cholesterol [4,5].
Knowing that the best foods are often the product of serendipity rather than design, and being aware of the myth around yoghurt’s discovery, I have to wonder as to whether this fermented food was ‘created’ or ‘discovered’ . I mean, who would think of leaving a bowl of chopped-up, brined vegies lying around to see if they escaped spoilage at room temperature?
I can just imagine the conversation around that first fermentation:
She says, ‘I thought you said you cleaned up last night.’
‘But the spicy cabbage is still out on the table.’
‘Such a waste of food. I hate wasting food.’
‘And it’s my favourite, too.’
He turns his head sideways. ‘It was a cold night last night. I reckon it might be alright.’
‘No.’ Violent shake of the head. ‘Absolutely not. It’s bubbling on top – by itself!’
‘I’ll give it a go,’ says he, balancing red-speckled greens onto a stick and into his mouth. ‘Mmm..tangy. And still crunchy. It’s actually pretty good. You should try it.’
She folds her arms and gives him a look of utter disgust.
His eyes light. ‘Better yet, let’s bury it underground; let it go really sour! What do you think?’
She rolls her eyes and walks off, unaware that she has witnessed the beginnings of a great dish…
Aside from the addictive flavour, another of the factors contributing to the ubiquity of kimchi has to be that it is ridiculously easy to make. My recipe uses napa (Chinese) cabbage and draws on the expertise of others who know better than me: Sandor Katz, Sally Fallon, Emily Ho, Ben Morris and David Lebovitz [4,7,8,9,10]. Incidentally, the thing I love about Ben’s bok choy recipe is that it features a calculator that updates the required amount of each paste ingredient based on your bok choy count .
Recipe #146: Easy cabbage kimchi. This is a raw recipe. You will need a large saucepan, a small bowl, a very big bowl, a large colander and a very clean 2.5-3L jar (or 4-5 x 600mL jars). And I would invest in some rubber gloves, because this mixture can sting your skin.
Note that this recipe takes about 30 minutes of prep time in total (once the brine is cooled and ready to use), but you’ll need to wait at least 2 days before it is ready to eat.
You will need:
► 6 Tbsp of salt
► 12 cups of water
► 1 large (~2kg) napa cabbage
► 5 good-sized cloves of garlic, grated with a microplane
► 1 heaped tsp of ginger, grated with a microplane
► 4 Tbsp of hot chilli flakes [while this is a conservative amount of chilli, I recommend halving the amount if you can't handle hot spice]
► 1/8 tsp of cayenne pepper
► 3 Tbsp of dulse flakes [you could equally use kelp powder or fish sauce]
► 6 spring onions (scallions), cut into 2 cm lengths
Begin by making the brine. Place the salt and water together in a large saucepan over a heat source, stirring occasionally. Remove the saucepan from the heat when the salt crystals are dissolved. Put the saucepan to one side and allow the brine to cool.
Once the brine has reached room temperature, cut the cabbage into rough pieces (cut out and compost its woody stem) and place into the very big bowl. Pour the brine over the cabbage. The brine probably won’t cover the cabbage – yet. Place a plate and a weight on top of your cabbage to weigh it down (I used a full teapot) and, once all the cabbage is covered in brine, leave it to soak for at least two hours. I leave mine overnight.
Drain the cabbage and place it back into your very big bowl with the spring onions. In a small bowl, combine the garlic, ginger, chilli, cayenne and dulse into a dry paste.
Add the spice paste to the cabbage and spring onions. Mix well with gloved hands, ensuring each piece of cabbage has come into contact with the paste.
When the cabbage looks evenly coated, transfer the mixture into the jar(s), pressing down lightly as you go.
Leave the kimchi on your kitchen bench (or at the bottom of your pantry if the weather is warm) until it begins to ferment, then refrigerate and start using your kimchi.
The kimchi should take 1-3 days to start fermenting. There is an easy way to tell that fermentation has started: bubbles rise to the top of the kimchi when you open the jar, or when you prod it with a chopstick. If you’re not sure, taste it. You’re looking for a tangy, fishy, spicy flavour with plenty of umami. And you should notice that your cabbage has retained a delightful crunch.
I have made two batches of kimchi using this recipe, and it just keeps getting better.
Some notes and tips from my learnings:
- If you can’t find napa cabbage, you can substitute with bok choy or another cabbage variety in its place – or you can use other vegetables, like daikon radish or carrot, as well as/instead.
- Traditional kimchi recipes call for the use of gochugaru, a coarse Korean chilli powder . I am sure that this would impart a smokier, more authentic flavour. I elected to use what I had in my pantry because it was there.
- That said, there really is no such thing as ‘traditional’ kimchi. Some kimchi-ers swear by ingredients that others would not dare to use.
- Use an unprocessed sea/rock salt and filtered/spring water to make the brine. White table/cooking salt usually incorporates an anticaking (free-flowing) agent and this may inhibit fermentation, as can the chlorine in unfiltered water .
- When you know the flavours you are after, play with the amounts of each ingredient – but remember that too much garlic will make your kimchi bitter, and too much ginger will make your kimchi sticky .
- Many traditional recipes feature sugar. While it can increase the speed of fermentation, it really isn’t necessary.
- The finished product lasts for at least three weeks, and potentially for months, if kept in the refrigerator once signs of fermentation are present [8,10].
This simple recipe adds a bucketload of zingy goodness to any meal. My favourite way to enjoy this side dish is with poached eggs. Or with salads, rice, pastas. Or straight from the jar. Actually, yes, straight from the jar is my absolute favourite way to eat it.
- McPherson, J. (2006) “Kimchi: A Short History” on ZenKimchi. Available online from: http://zenkimchi.com/top-posts/kimchi-1-short-history/ [last accessed: 16 June 2014].
- Korea Tourism Organisation (undated) “History of Kimchi” on Visit Korea. Available online from: http://english.visitkorea.or.kr/enu/FO/FO_EN_6_1_2_1.jsp [last accessed: 16 June 2014].
- News Ltd (2011) “Kimchi the hottest foodie trend for 2012″ on perthnow Lifestyle. Available online from: http://www.perthnow.com.au/lifestyle/kimchi-the-hottest-foodie-trend-for-2012/story-e6frg3pu-1226217500980 [last accessed: 8 June 2014].
- Fallon, S. & Enig, M. (2001) Nourishing Traditions, NewTrends Publishing, Washington DC.
- Lee, H., Yoon, H., Ji, Y., Kim, H., Park, H., Lee, J., Shin, H. & Holzapfel, W. (2011) “Functional properties of Lactobacillus strains isolated from kimchi” in International Journal of Food Microbiology. Available online from: http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0168160510006938 [last accessed: 8 June 2014].
- Jalna Dairy Foods (2014) “Origins of yoghurt” on Jalna. Available online from: http://www.jalna.com.au/truly-natural/origins-of-yoghurt.html [last accessed: 16 June 2014].
- Katz, S. E. (2001) Wild Fermentation, Microcosm, Kansas.
- Ho, E. (2013) “How To Make Easy Kimchi At Home” on Apartment Therapy – The Kitchn. Available online from: http://www.thekitchn.com/how-to-make-cabbage-kimchi-cooking-lessons-from-the-kitchn-189390 [last accessed: 8 June 2014].
- Morris, B. (2013) “Bok Choy Kimchi” on The Urban Farmer. Available online from: http://blog.bentheurbanfarmer.com/2013/04/bok-choy-kimchi.html [last accessed: 8 June 2014].
- Lebovitz, D. (2008) “Kimchi Recipe” on David Lebovitz. Available online from: http://www.davidlebovitz.com/2008/02/a-kimchi-recipe/ [last accessed: 8 June 2014].
- Ho, E. (2013) “From The Spice Cupboard: Gochugaru” on Apartment Therapy – The Kitchn. Available online from: http://www.thekitchn.com/from-the-spice-cupboard-gochug-142194 [last accessed: 8 June 2014].
Meet my mustard.
Many moons ago, I set myself a simple mission: to make my own hot, seeded and excellent-flavoured mustard. Why? I wanted to see if I could make something better than the offerings from my local stores, and I wanted to do achieve this using only wholefood ingredients.
The event that sparked this mission was my failed search for a ‘natural’ hot English mustard. I was annoyed to find that the most common brands incorporate nondescript vegetable oils, soy lecithin, spices and/or spice extracts, all of which send my GM and MSG radars into a spin.
I did manage to source a smooth variety of ‘strong’ yellow mustard that used wholefood ingredients, however its heat was disappointing and I had to wonder as to whether this has something to do with the way it was treated after manufacture, as high temperature destroys the spicy heat of mustard’s volatile compounds.
In my reading about mustard-making, I have discovered that mustard is really very simple to make and the main determinant of a mustard’s hotness is the heat (mainly of the liquids used) in preparation. This works in an inversely proportional relationship, ie. the colder the water, the hotter the mustard. Success seemed too easy after I found these little facts so, armed with the Instructables instructions, I gave myself two sub-missions: (1) to grow enough seeds to make my own mustard; and (2) to make my mustard raw.
Along the way, I also discovered that you need a LOT of seeds and even more patience when it comes to the harvesting. I harvested 12-15 plants with mature seed pods from different parts of my garden, dried them in a paper bag for two weeks, then spent hours de-podding and collecting the seeds with the help of various others on the way. And then, after more time spent winnowing away the pod membranes that refused to part with the seeds, I measured out the fruits of my labour. Six tablespoons’ worth of seeds. Somewhat demoralising.
With this, my plans for a totally homegrown mustard were dashed – but I did have just enough to make up the ‘seeded’ component of my mustard.
Recipe #144: Hannah’s Strong & Very Yummy Mustard [which is also a basically raw recipe - except for the coconut flower nectar]. These are exactly the ingredients and quantities that I used. Please feel free to substitute for your own tastes and pantry.
You will need:
► 6 Tbsp of oriental (purple osaka) mustard seeds, soaked for 3 days in the fridge
► 1/2 cup of yellow mustard powder
► 3 Tbsp of apple cider vinegar
► 1/4 tsp of ground turmeric
► 1 tsp of finely ground Himalayan salt
► 1/2 cup of very cold water [I cooled mine with iceblocks, but didn't used the ice itself]
► 1 heaped tsp of coconut flower nectar
Method: Pulse all ingredients together in a blender, food processor or Thermomix until you have the consistency you want. This took me only a few seconds because I wanted to see the seeds in my mustard.
Easy peasy, right? Now comes the really hard part: leave your mustard alone in the fridge for 2-3 days. If you can hold off for this long, your mixture will thicken and lose the bitterness that is present in the fresh mustard and you will be happier with the result, which is very awesome with the combination of orange-infused labneh* and olive & onion sourdough ciabatta (both homemade, of course! And that includes the olives – homecured according to Claire’s award-winning recipe).
On tasting, the flavour and heat of my mustard is great, however I do have one complaint: the bite dissipates within a few moments. It packs a wasabi punch that is sock-knocking then suddenly not.
This brings me to my next mission: to give more length to my mustard. I want a more lingering heat to my hot mustard, and this calls for more research and experimentation.
I am very happy with this first attempt, even though I only managed a single jar (plus a tiny sample pot) from my harvest – and that came with a lot of help from store-bought yellow mustard powder. I constantly marvel at the number of ingredients and combined efforts (from human hands and mother nature) that contribute to even the simplest of recipes, and this appreciation increases with every ‘from scratch’ recipe I attempt.
Even though my ingredients are locally grown/produced in the main, I realise that the mustard, apples, turmeric, Himalayan salt and coconuts on which my recipe relies are not native to the Perth metro area. This extends my supply chain for the base ingredients to at least three continents. I have so many people (across cultures and generations!) to thank for my humble jar of mustard.
Please let me know if you make your own mustard at home; I would love to learn from any tips and variations you can share.
* Recipe #145: Homemade Labneh [aka "labna"]. Use some muslin, cheesecloth or a nutmilk bag as the cloth for the straining, over a bowl or jug.
You will need:
► 1kg of Greek-style yoghurt
► 1 tsp of finely ground salt (to taste)
Method: Mix the yoghurt with the salt. Place the yoghurt in cloth and tie so that it can hang into a bowl/jug – or use a strainer lined with cloth, over a bowl/jug, aided with a heavy weight (like a plate or mortar). Hang at least overnight, and for 2-3 days if you can.
You can leave the labneh plain and use it as you would a soft goat’s cheese. Alternatively, you can store it with a herb/essential oil-infused olive oil, or roll teaspooned balls of it in your favourite flavours. My absolute favourite way to prepare/present labneh: fresh sprigs of marjoram with teaspoons of labneh in tangerine-infused olive oil (3-4 drops of tangerine essential oil in olive oil). This does not last in my house.
I used to be a make-and-stick-to-a-schedule kind of gal and I let my work define my life. Then I had my little girl.
Sure, my 5-year old led me to my boundaries at times, but I listened to those people who said, ‘You have to make your children fit with your lifestyle!’ and I resisted change. I resisted even though such advice holds limited value when your brand of application leaves you sleepless and juggling four different ‘jobs’, all without feeling any closer to your family and friends.
When my now 2-year old came along, this way of life stopped working for me. My acceptance of the change was gradual and painful; I was essentially a Yes person, then I learned that I could say No to stuff. And then I re-learned how to say Yes to other, meaningful stuff too. This taught me how to be discerning and open at the same time, and it’s a lesson the universe continues to teach me.
With these two voting words, we hold incredible power, whether we apply them thoughfully or not. With their use, we can control what we do with our dollars and time, create demand for goods and services at a micro and macro level, and shape our little people’s minds and values. It really is that simple. How we live comes down to where we place each yes and no.
So nearly 16% into the year and late into this post, and because I left new year’s resolutions by the wayside years ago, I introduce my theme for 2014: Enough.
I lived 2013 as my year of Be.Love.Do. It was full of happenings and challenges that helped me to direct my energies into family, food and garden. Being present, loving and action-oriented remains important to me, so I still strive to embed 2013’s theme into my daily life.
So what of 2014? I am swaying towards anti-consumerism, more community sharing of knowledge and skills, and more DIY everything. I am frustrated by the brand new, bigger, better, faster, louder, throw-away-anything-that-isn’t-perfect attitude of moredom that I notice exploding in a slow motion Matrix moment around me. I don’t understand a lot of things about the way the Western world does (or doesn’t) work, including its emphasis on economic/quantitative growth above qualitative factors.
Renowned scientist and environmental spokesperson Vandana Shiva shared some of her thoughts on growth in a 2012 Dumbo Feather interview that gave me a moment of crystal clarity when I read :
…this whole ‘making growth the objective,’ which is nothing but the destruction of society and nature, has to end. To reclaim sanity, you begin with what is available to you.
This reinforces my recurring questions (among others) of:
- Why do we have this narrow focus on growth?
- Why don’t we take notes from other cultures and place greater value on happiness, elders and sufficiency than monetary gain, power and greed?
- Why don’t we apply more learnings from artisan traditions that emphasise quality and specialty of product above expansion?
And yet. All this said, I am pragmatic enough to realise that a free market helps me to source the quality of life that I feel my family needs. The world’s current state of resource exploitation and trade enables me to afford a decent computer, service a reliable and comfortable car, write at night, and source wholefoods at a reasonable price.
When it comes to nutrition, I try to make continually better choices – part of my own kaizen – involving decisions surrounding local vs overseas or interstate suppliers, organic vs chemical-laden, fair trade vs unknown labour sources. This is a personal, iterative process and constant learning journey.
On another note, Shiva is credited in the same Dumbo Feather interview as saying :
The solution to climate problems of instability and predictability, as well as the food crisis, is ecological agriculture. Feed the soil with organic matter, it’ll allow you to go through a drought. It’ll also reduce emissions. It’ll give you more food.
I just love her! The passion that Shiva exudes is an inspiration in itself, and her work on sustainability takes us back to basic rights and needs, by way of seed saving, biodiversity and soil health, generosity and compassion.
I was also impressed by the ABC Radio National’s recent interview with Dr Murieann Irish, in a podcast which stressed the importance of rest for the brain and memory . As a society, we seem to value busyness [3,4] to the exception of downtime and daydreaming, yet the latter is a crucial contributor to creativity, social aptitude, decision-making and mental health. When is our amount of activity enough? Why do so many of us feel the need to keep up with other people’s levels of stress and exhaustion?
Enough is an ideal that matches well with my emerging philosophy of living whole and wabu-sabi (or perfectly imperfect). It’s why I aim to make every food item I regularly use from scratch at least once, and it’s why I value the material things in my life more if they have past lives. It’s why I love the garden beds my husband made for me from repurposed materials; they have so far given us a rustic aesthetic as well as tomatoes, greens and herbs.
For me, Enough is also about making the most of what we have, modest living and easy pleasures. Simple things like enjoying my garden and the natural environment around me. Like understanding the art that goes into making artisan foods. Like focusing on giving my children and husband a loving and secure home. Like loving myself sufficiently to get the right amount of sleep.
When it comes to blog posts, I’m going to wait for the right combination of time and inspiration to hit, because that synergy means that I can give you more useful words.
And, when it comes to making a plan, I am taking a leaf out of my own project management workbook and looking at what each scheduled item really means for the big picture. Chances are, unless it relates to my passions, my family or my friends, it’s movable or removable.
[So it seems that, with my definition of Enough, comes a list of commitments and desires akin to resolutions. Maybe old habits die harder than I thought.]
On that note, I hope you enjoy your 2014! May it bring you just Enough.
- Pittman, P. (2012) “Vandana Shiva is Mother Earth” on Dumbo Feather. Available online via http://www.dumbofeather.com/conversation/vandana-shiva-is-mother-earth/ [last accessed: 15 February 2014].
- ABC Radio National (2013) “The mind at rest” podcast on ABC Radio National’s ‘All in the Mind’ program. Available online via http://www.abc.net.au/radionational/programs/allinthemind/the-mind-at-rest/5141356 [last accessed: 16 February 2014].
- Wilson, L. (2013) “When Did It Become Cool To Be Busy?” on MindBodyGreen. Available online via http://www.mindbodygreen.com/0-9740/when-did-it-become-cool-to-be-busy.html [last accessed: 16 February 2014].
- Kreider, T. (2012) “The Busy Trap” on The New York Times. Available online via http://opinionator.blogs.nytimes.com/2012/06/30/the-busy-trap/?_php=true&_type=blogs&ref=opinion&_r=0 [last accessed: 16 February 2014].
Depending on the plant, it’s not that hard to eat the whole thing. But it does look impressive when the plant is nearly as tall as your five year-old.
When I started composting my food scraps, I began to realise just how wasteful we can be when it comes to food preparation. Incredibly, an estimated 40% of food is wasted in Australian kitchens each day . Now that I am growing some of my own herbs, fruits and vegetables, I see the effort and love that goes into them and I don’t want to waste a morsel.
Having faced disappointment at the hand of preserved daikon, I chose to plant daikon radish seeds in my herb garden because I wanted to experience the reported amazingness of this root vegetable.
The daikon radish is renowned for its overall health benefits in Chinese medicine. A short burst of googling shows this bitter root to be very healthful, containing appreciable levels of vitamin C, sulforaphane and flavonoids [2,3]. A morning scan of recent news tells me that the daikon radish, which can grow to more than 30cm (a foot) in length, may also be instrumental in preventing excess nutrients from entering our water supply .
My first-picked radish was smallish but fresh and mild in its bitterness; the second was tastier and about the size of a carrot. As time goes on, the radish root gets bigger and less sweet, and the plant begins to flower. It was the flower buds that led me to the daikon’s heritage, as part of the Brassicaceae family (along with broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, kale).
We have been eating through our radishes one by one, in their entirety. The young leaves are tasty in salads, older leaves are great in stirfries and soups, the root is tasty roasted or eaten raw in salads, the yet-to-grow pods (fruit) are apparently delicious in a stirfry, and every part of the plant can be juiced.
In the course of my foodly journey, I have discovered that the oft-discarded foliage of domesticated vegetables can be edible and highly nutritious. For example,
- you can eat or juice celery tops raw, or use them as an base ingredient in vegetable stock;
- beetroot leaves are lovely in salads;
- the leaves from regular radishes can be added to smoothies and juices; and
- carrot greens can be eaten in salads, pestos and soups.
(Aside: if you are thinking “aren’t carrot and celery tops toxic?”, I encourage you to start your own research by reading the articles linked under  &  below, bearing in mind that once-upon-a-time it was common knowledge that tomatoes would kill you .)
I should share another side benefit of growing your own daikon radishes: if you’re a beginner gardener like me, you might be pleased to learn that this is a plant which pretty much grows itself.
I did not realise on first planting just how addictive this plant-tend-eat-compost thing would be for me; I spend part of every day talking or singing to my sproutlings if I am not watering, mulching or feeding the little cuties. My tomatoes and mustard greens are looking excellent, by the way. And, with a new radish crop ascending, I am hoping to be able to hold myself back from their crispy deliciousness for long enough to grow just one to its limb-sized potential.
- Skelton, R. (Ed) (2013) “Do Australians waste $8 billion worth of edible food each year?” on ABC News: Fact Check. Available online via http://www.abc.net.au/news/2013-10-08/food-waste-value-australia/4993930 [last accessed: 30 October 2013].
- Rudrappa, U. (2013) “Radish nutrition facts” on http://www.nutrition-and-you.com. Available online via http://www.nutrition-and-you.com/radish.html [last accessed: 2 November 2013].
- Manchali, S., Murthy, K. N . C. & Patil, B. S. (2012) “Crucial facts about health benefits of popular cruciferous vegetables” in the Journal of Functional Foods Volume 4, Issue 1, January 2012, Pages 94–106, via ScienceDirect. Available online via http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S1756464611000843 [last accessed: 3 November 2013].
- Leschin-Hoar, C. (2013) “Can Radishes Be The Secret Weapon In Protecting Our Water from Big Farming’s Runoff?” on Take Part. Available online via http://www.takepart.com/article/2013/10/29/can-radishes-protect-our-water-0 [last accessed: 30 October 2013].
- Ly, L. (2013) “Are Carrot Tops Toxic? (The Short Answer: No)” on Garden Betty: Diary of a Dirty Girl. Available online via http://www.gardenbetty.com/2013/07/are-carrot-tops-toxic-the-short-answer-no/ [last accessed: 3 November 2013].
- Philpott, J. (2013) “On celery, seduction, science and salad” on Jane Philpott’s Food, Nutrition and Cookery Blog. Available online via http://drjanephilpott.wordpress.com/2013/07/13/on-celery-seduction-science-and-salad/ [last accessed: 5 November 2013].
- Smith, K. A. (2013) “Why the Tomato Was Feared in Europe for More Than 200 Years” on Smithsonian.com. Available online via http://blogs.smithsonianmag.com/food/2013/06/why-the-tomato-was-feared-in-europe-for-more-than-200-years/ [last accessed: 5 November 2013].
Addendum of 6 November 2013: Spelling errors have been corrected! So sorry if they caused your brain any pain. It’s what happens when you mix a tired Hannah with midnight blogging…
I can’t remember when or how it happened; it just did. One meal I didn’t pick up my camera to take a photo before eating. Then before I knew it, a day, a week, a month, three months had passed, with no food photos. And that coincided – or is that culminated? – with no blog posts for a while.
Sometimes assembling a blog post can seem an Andean effort when you are caught up in the flurry of other stuff that is life. Then you remember that wellness is not only about what you put into and onto your body. Sometimes you just need to remember to breathe and know what to let go.
My quest for balance and mindfulness sees me spending less time online and more time with my husband, being mum, reading, writing and singing to my mustard seedlings, as I slowly learn what it is to work smarter. It’s not any less hard but it is incredibly enriching.
On the work front, I am proud to be involved with The Forever Project, with which I co-presented two workshops involving the dynamic Chris Ferreira and illustrious Steve Wood as part of this year’s Kings Park Festival.
In the lead-up to Saturday’s food theatre, I was asked to use samphire in my dishes – and this led to an unexpected journey of discovery. I had to figure out what on earth samphire was, how to find and harvest it, and how to eat it.
Now I have stir-fried this native herb with vegies, blanched it with hot broth, steamed it with broccoli, nibbled on it neat, and enjoyed it raw in a salad. I find its mild saltiness quite delicious, and am very excited to now have my own plant to nurture, with thanks to a certain nursery owner.
*** Important note: if you’re planning to forage for samphire along the Swan River, you will need a permit (and I assume you would now get this from the Department of Parks and Wildlife, as it is subsuming the Swan River Trust…). ***
Rich in folate and vitamin C , samphire may just be the latest superfood . It has a salty, fennel-like flavour and certain varieties appear to be related to fennel . As a pickle, samphire has been used to combat scurvy on long sea voyages .
This is an opportunistic salad, as those who came along on Saturday will know. I used what was seasonal and available while attempting to balance saltiness, sweetness, tartness, texture, colour, smell, and more. I encourage you to change the recipe to match your supplies/taste rather than spend a lot of money on specific ingredients.
Recipe #143: Samphire salad. Serves 4 as a side. The only utensils you need for this recipe are a knife, chopping block, serving bowl and glass jar.
You will need – for the salad:
► 3 x 10-15cm sprigs of raw samphire, finely chopped [remove and compost any woody segments before you chop]
► 1/3 of a small red onion, finely sliced
► a handful of young asparagus spears, sliced into 2-3cm lengths
► 1 punnet of cherry tomatoes, each tomato sliced in half
► 1 overflowing handful of salad greens, roughly chopped [I used wild rocket]
► a handful of goji berries
► [optional] fennel flowers, cut from 4-5 umbels [yes, 'umbel' is the formal name for the 'umbrella' to which the flowers are attached]
► a handful of walnuts, roughly chopped
You will need – for the dressing:
► 1 clove of garlic, smashed
► 3 fine slices of fresh ginger
► ~40mL of your favourite vinegar [I used a mix of apple cider and coconut balsamic vinegars]
► ~60mL of good olive oil
Start by making the dressing. Place all ingredients into a jar. Seal the jar tightly and shake vigorously. Set the dressing to one side. Shake and strain just before adding it to the salad.
To make the salad, combine all salad ingredients, except for the walnuts and fennel flowers. Toss the salad with just enough dressing to make the rocket leaves glossy. Sprinkle the walnuts and fennel flowers (if you have them) over the top of the salad. Serve and enjoy.
I did not add salt to my salad because of the natural salt content of the samphire, however you may want to season to taste.
Stay well until next time (and it really is lovely to see you here again!),
 Think Natural (undated) “Medicinal plants: Samphire” on http://www.thinknatural.com/. Available online via http://www.thinknatural.com/articles.php?id=10202; accessed on 26 September 2013.
 Meldrum, J. (2013) “Samphire: The Next Superfood?” on Weekend Notes. Available online via http://www.weekendnotes.com/samphire-the-next-superfood/; accessed on 26 September 2013.
 Plants for a Future (2012) “Crithmum maritimum – L.” on http://www.pfaf.org/. Available online via http://www.pfaf.org/user/Plant.aspx?LatinName=Crithmum+maritimum; accessed on 1 October 2013.
 The University of Western Australian (2012) “Adaptations 4: Surviving Extremes (fact sheet)” on http://spice.wa.edu.au/. Available online via http://spice.wa.edu.au/wp-content/uploads/2012/11/Surviving-extremes.pdf; accessed on 1 October 2013.
While I ordinarily enjoy the witticisms and observations sandwiched between the pages of The Flavor Thesaurus (my excellent Mothers Day present), I respectfully disagree with author Niki Segnit’s comments regarding chocolate and beetroot :
In chocolate beet cake, the cocoa almost entirely overwhelms the beet flavor, leaving nothing but a hint of its earthiness, which make the cake taste like a cheap chocolate cake that’s been dropped in a flowerbed.
You may have already heard of or fallen in love with red velvet cake – a chocolate cake that is coloured red, either by red food colouring, beetroot or the reaction of vinegar and buttermilk with light cocoa .
When my friend Tiina shared her raw chocolate beetroot cake with me a few weeks ago, my tastebuds were tickled and my brain buzzed with new possibilities.
Enter today’s recipe, which is uncooked and features both beetroot and cacao in generous proportions. The main points of distinction between this and your usual chocolate beetroot cake recipes are that the cacao, beetroot and other ingredients are raw, no flour/eggs/refined sugar are featured, and there is no baking involved.
I am really happy with the end result, with its complementary variations in flavour and texture. The base is biscuity, the cake is moist, and the topping is light and creamy. The only thing I would do differently for next time is to pass the mousse through a fine chinois (fine mesh strainer) to make it even smoother and fluffier.
Recipe #142: Raw red velvet cake. Or you may prefer to know this cake by its full title: Hannah’s Version of Tiina’s Delicious Chocolate Beetroot Cake. You will need a food processor or Thermomix [TM] to make this recipe.
You will need – for the biscuit base:
► 140g raw cashews, ground into meal
► 140g shredded coconut
► 50g dates (I use medjool)
► 50g raw honey (I favour jarrah, but any will do – or you could substitute agave syrup, yacon syrup, coconut nectar or more dates)
► 50g goji berries
► 40g cacao powder
- for the cake filling:
► 2 medium-sized beetroots, cut into quarters
► 140g almonds, ground into meal
► 45g almond flour (made from dehydrated pulp leftover from making nut milk. You could substitute for this by doubling the amount of almond meal)
► 140g macadamia nuts, ground into meal
► 35g cacao powder
► 1 decent pinch of Himalayan salt
- for the mousse topping:
► 140g dates (use whole dates, don’t worry if you are slightly over or under 140g)
► 35g cacao powder
► 1/2 small avocado
► 6 tbsp of olive oil
► 1/4 tsp of ground cinnamon
► 1/2 tsp of vanilla powder
► [optional] a swirl of agave syrup (for extra sweetness, if needed. You could also use more dates)
Start by making the base. Place all the biscuit base ingredients into your food processor and process until the fine crumbs of mixture stick together like dough when pressed [TM: less than 30s on speed 8]. Press the mixture into a lined cake tin (I used a 20cm round springform tin) and place into the freezer while you make the cake filling.
To make the cake filling, process all ingredients until the mixture looks like semi-cooked cake dough [TM: speed 6-7 for up to 1 minute, scraping down the sides of the bowl as you go]. You may need to add a little water to help the mixture to process effectively.
Remove the cake tin from the freezer and spread the fresh cake filling evenly over the top of the biscuit base, pressing it slightly at the sides to ensure there are no air bubbles. You will need to work fairly quickly, as the mixture will darken (oxidise) from red to brown on contact with the air. When you have an even surface, place the cake into the freezer for a few minutes while you make the topping.
For the mousse topping, process all ingredients together until the mousse is completely smooth. This may take a few minutes [TM: speed 7-8 for a few seconds at a time then scrape down the sides of the bowl. Repeat these steps as often as needed]. Add more olive oil – or macadamia oil is also fabulous – if your end result is not creamy enough, a little water (a trickle at a time) if your mix is too thick to process, or agave syrup if you need more sweetness.
The mousse topping is a variation on the avocado mousse from my chocolate uncooking class, incorporating much less avocado than I have previously advocated. By using only part of an avocado, you lose the avocado flavour while retaining the creamy consistency.
Spread or pipe the mouse over the top of the cake and it’s ready to enjoy – in a modest slice with a dollop of cashew nut cream [= 2 cups of presoaked raw cashews blended with lemon juice + 4 dates + a pinch of salt] and your favourite chill out track playing in the background.
Thank you to Tiina for the inspiration!
 Segnit, N. (2010) The Flavor Thesaurus, Bloomsbury, New York.
 Beard, J. cited in Wikipedia (2013) “Red velvet cake” in Wikipedia. Available online via http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Red_velvet_cake [last acessed: 15/06/2013].
The title is long and a work in progress, but the balls themselves are raw and scrumptious – and everyone knows just how loved up you feel after a solid dose of good chocolate.
I have tasted a number of variations on the goji-cacao ball theme in the past and none quite hit the spot like these, which I whipped up quickly when I needed a healthy snack for a girls’ night. I hope you like them too.
Recipe #141: Honey Nougat Goji Cashew Cacao Ball Delights. You will need a food processor, Thermomix or similar to create this recipe. Makes around 20.
You will need:
► seeds from ½ of a vanilla pod [or ½ tsp of vanilla paste/powder]
► ½ tsp ground cinnamon
► 20g cacao powder
► 200g cashews
► 120g shredded coconut [or use desiccated if you can't find the shredded version]
► 50g goji berries
► 50g pitted dates
► 50g jarrah honey [you can use any type of raw honey you have to hand, however jarrah honey has the distinctive taste I was after, plus it is also purported to exhibit greater antimicrobial and antifungal qualities than other honeys]
► extra cacao powder, to serve
Start by processing the vanilla, cinnamon, cacao powder, cashew and coconut until the mixture reaches the consistency of a fine breadcrumb [TM: this takes about 10 seconds on speed 8]. Add in the goji berries, dates and honey, then process until the mixture clumps together when you press it in your hand [TM: process for about 10 seconds on speed 8, followed by a manual mix with a spatula to ensure nothing is stuck to the bottom, then process on speed 10 for up to 30 seconds, or until the TM grinding sounds laboured].
Roll your mixture into balls of any size you like. Mine were moulded from rounded teaspoonfuls of the mix:
Refrigerate on a bed of cacao powder in a container for at least two hours (or freeze for one hour). When you are sure that your balls are quite firm, shake them around in the container for an even coating of the powder. Store in the fridge until ready to serve.
Eat. Enjoy. Yum.
PS. On a personal note, I got married on 30 April (International Jazz Day)! Another reason, besides the chocolate, to feel lovey dovey :)