Soup nor mai

20141117 soupnormai1

Have you ever had the experience of going to a much-loved restaurant only to find that your favourite dish is no longer on the menu? I have. Let me relate the story. It was a dark and stormy night…

Actually, it was a warm November evening at our Thai restaurant*–the ‘secret’ suburban Thai place that everyone knows about, but about which no one speaks. The menus had been reprinted, with very little change to the layout. Every dish was there, ostensibly, but when I ordered my soup nor mai, I was informed that it was no longer on the menu. Later in the evening, I asked the owner about the omission. She told me that it was difficult to make for everyone’s tastes and feedback had been mixed. Feedback, shmeedback. I love it.

What is soup nor mai? It’s an Esarn (south-eastern) Thai bamboo shoot salad. As for rujak, it is something of an acquired taste and, when you have acquired it, you won’t be able to get enough of it.

 
Naturally this meant that I had to make the recipe for myself. Fortunately, it wasn’t the first time I’d prepared soup nor mai, so I knew where to go for help: Amporn Oleski. I used her excellent recipe as a base, and you can find that right here: http://amporn-oleski.blogspot.com.au/2010/12/thai-spicy-bamboo-shoot-in-bai-yanang.html.

Recipe #148: Soup nor mai [aka "spicy bamboo shoot salad"]. You will find all of the ingredients you need for this recipe at your local Asian grocer. You will need a spice grinder, mortar and pestle and/or Thermomix to make this recipe. Serves 8+ as a side.

You will need:
► 400g bamboo shoots, boiled until soft then sliced/shredded into fine strips [some stores sell bamboo shoots pre-cooked and vacuum-packed--in which case, I would give them a good wash before using]
► 4 shallots, finely sliced
► 4 spring (green) onions
► 1 big handful of coriander (cilantro), finely chopped
► 2 heaped Tbsp toasted rice powder [I toasted about 300g of brown rice, which I cooled and ground into a coarse powder. You don't need all of this for the recipe--but preparing this volume will mean you have some premade for your next batch]
► 1 + 1/2 Tbsp chilli powder [for best results: buy dried chillis, toast them until they start to turn deep red (but not black), then grind them into a coarse powder with your mortar and pestle]
► 6 Tbsp fish sauce
► 6 Tbsp lime juice [I juiced two large limes for this recipe]
► toasted sesame seeds, for garnish

Start by preparing your raw ingredients; this takes quite a chunk of time if you don’t have them lined up.

Combine the bamboo shoots with the shallots, spring onions, coriander, toasted rice powder and chilli. Combine the dry ingredients until the bamboo shoots are well coated; ensure the other ingredients are not clumping together too much.

20141117 nakedsoupnormai

Mix in half of the fish sauce and lime juice. Taste. Add more of each, 1 Tbsp at a time, until you reach enough saltiness/astringency to make your tastebuds pop.

Sprinkle over some toasted sesame seeds and eat. Tastes best when eaten within 24 hours, but it’s still pretty delicious on days two and three.

20141117 soupnormai2

Notes:

  • Pandas eat bamboo raw, but we can’t. Bamboo is poisonous to humans. Cook it first, or buy it cooked and wash it well in water and a little apple cider vinegar before using.
  • Don’t buy the canned sliced/shredded bamboo shoots as a cheaty option. It’s a bit like using pitted olives as a shortcut; they don’t have the same flavour.
  • I tried to make this vegan, I really did, but I couldn’t substitute for the fish sauce. Ordinarily I would say that using some kelp or dulse flakes would do (a la my kimchi). In this case, they don’t. The flavour is utterly and disappointingly different (to me, anyway).
  • Different brands of fish sauce can vary in flavour and saltiness, some limes are more astringent than others, coriander can be tasty or tasteless depending on how old it is and where it is grown, etc. Be mindful of product/produce variations when (carefully) adding your ingredients and don’t be afraid to taste as you go.
  • I couldn’t get my hands on Lao cilantro, otherwise known as culantro, from Amporn’s recipe. Can anyone tell me where I can get this from in Perth?
  • If you’re going to all the effort of preparing your ingredients from scratch, I say it makes sense to prepare too much–that way you have plenty of self-prepped chilli powder and toasted rice powder for future batches.

I hope that you enjoy this dish as much as I do!

H :)

*I still love the restaurant, by the way, for its sharp and authentic flavours. It’s called Thai Esarn, you’ll find it in Bayswater, and Libertine Eats wrote up a fabulous review back in 2011: http://libertineeats.com/2011/01/thai-esarn-bayswater/.

my specialist shallot peeler :)

my specialist shallot peeler :)

18 November 2014 at 11:23pm Leave a comment

Uncooked is alive!

Welcome to World Food Day! This day has been established to raise awareness of world hunger–and to do something about it.

There are so many ways that we can contribute to efforts around World Food Day, including:

  • participation in formal events around Eat Local Feed Global;
  • pledging money to a hunger-busting cause (such as The Hunger Project);
  • volunteering time tending to a food garden;
  • spending time being mindful and appreciative of where our food comes from; and
  • ensuring that we are less wasteful in our own households.

I am proud to be timing the release of Uncooked with such a worthwhile date and cause.
Uncooked_cover

Uncooked is now live on Amazon and Kobo, with availability on other good ebook etailers coming soon.

Featuring more than 60 of the most popular raw food recipes from my uncooking classes to date, I have priced it to cost around the same as an average cup of Perth coffee, so it’s very affordable.

*** To celebrate the release of Uncooked, I am giving it away to five lucky readers! *** All you need to do is comment on this blog post with your top kitchen waste-saving tip–or, if you don’t have one of those, just tell me why you want my ebook. Do this by 5pm WST on 30 October 2014 to be in the running. This competition is open to commenters worldwide.

As for the winner of my Griffiths Coffee giveaway from my nasturtium caper post: it’s Mar (commenter #7), as selected by the random number generation at Random.org. Congratulations, Mar! I will be in touch to organise delivery of your coffee.

Thanks so much for reading and have a wonderful rest-of-week,

H :)


Addendum (3 November 2014): Congratulations to Mar, Jodie and Dianne, whose excellent waste saving and recycling comments have garnered each of them a copy of Uncooked!

16 October 2014 at 5:23pm 6 comments

How to make your own capers, and would you like some coffee?

20140930 nasturtiumwaterdrops

It has been a while. Thanks for sticking with me; I hope you have been very well. I have good reasons for staying away — which make for poor excuses, I know — including work, family, writing stories, compiling my next ebook…

As excited as I am about Uncooked, that’s not what this post is about. And it’s not about coffee, although there is a coffee-related giveaway later on in the post. Today I am writing to tell you to eat more weeds – and by weeds I mean nasturtiums.

In my ‘Eat your flowers’ post of 18 September 2012, I mentioned some of the health benefits of the humble nasturtium (which include its use as an antifungal, antiseptic and expectorant) and gave you a recipe for a blooming good smoothie [1]. With its application as a natural antibiotic for respiratory illnesses and tummy upsets [2], I have to wonder as to why do not take better advantage of this plant that floods many Perth suburbs by the end of each Winter.

The recipe to follow uses the seeds of this versatile plant, and you will find these in convenient clusters of three. When you are preparing to make your capers, be sure to pick the unopened flower buds and very young, green seeds that are still attached to the plant, as these will pickle faster and give a sweeter result; the older seeds are fine to use but can take up to 8 months to soften.

20140930 nasturtiumseeds

Recipe #147: Nasturtium Capers. This is a recipe of ratios, depending on how many seeds you harvest. You will need a saucepan to make the brine, and a bowl you can cover for the brining process.

For every 1 cup of nasturtium seeds and buds, you will need:
► 1 x 400-600mL jar, cleaned and sterilised
► 1/4 cup of Himalayan or sea salt
► 2 cups of water
► 2 bay leaves
► apple cider vinegar (enough to cover the nasturtiums in the jar)
► olive oil, to seal the vinegar

Begin by making the brine. Place the salt and water together in a 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, pour it over the nasturtium seeds and buds. Let the brined seeds/buds sit for two days, and drain.

Place the brined seeds and buds into jars with 1-2 bay leaves per small jar. Pour over enough apple cider to just cover the seeds and buds, then top up with olive oil to create a seal. Put your capers somewhere cool and dark to rest.

20140930 nasturtiumcapers1

Taste-test your nasturtium capers at 2 months, then at 2-weekly intervals, until they are pickled to your liking. While the end result will taste remarkably like the capers you already know, the nasturtium capers have a slightly firmer texture and a peppery aftertaste.

20140930 nasturtiumcapers2

I seem to remember reading somewhere that the dried capers could be used as a coffee substitute. The truth is that I probably wouldn’t go to the trouble of preparing capers for coffee except as a novelty; I love the taste, smell and ritual of real coffee too much.

A short time ago, a representative from Griffiths Coffee kindly gifted me with some Just Fair coffee to give away to one lucky reader. Just Fair is available at a wide array of independent stores around Australia and, as well as being delicious, it prides itself on being certified Fairtrade and organic.

20140930 JustFair

To win a 250g tin of ground organic espresso coffee, all you need to do is leave a comment to this post, listing where you are from and detailing your favourite coffee-inspired recipe or ritual. The competition closes at 5pm WST on 15 October 2014. I will announce the winner on this blog (chosen via random number selection) on 16 October – when I will also announce another giveaway.

Note that, while interstate or overseas readers are very welcome to comment, this is a local giveaway to readers from Perth, WA due to postage cost.

Speaking of coffee, on 16 October (that’s World Food Day to you!), my Uncooked ebook will be released for around the cost of a Perth coffee – and you can pre-order your very own copy from Amazon. I’m thrilled to be able to present this to you, as it represents over 60 of my most popular class recipes from the past five years in the one place, many of which do not appear in this blog.

As a final note, we will be making the blooming good smoothie, among other seasonal recipes, at my Spring Bling uncooking class on 12 October — and there is still a place for you. Let me know if you want to take it :)

Good luck with all your capers, and I hope to see you on 12 October,

H :)


References:

  1. Khan, T. (2010) ‘Nasturtium Seeds & Flowers’ on GardenGuides.com. Available online via http://www.gardenguides.com/130502-nasturtium-seeds-flowers.html [last accessed: 30 September 2014].
  2. Shipard, I. (2008) ‘Nasturtium – Natural Antibiotic’ on Herbs are Special. Available online via http://www.herbsarespecial.com.au/isabells_blog/nasturtium-natural-antibiotic.html [last accessed: 30 September 2014].

30 September 2014 at 11:55pm 8 comments

Yummy homemade kimchi

mmm kimchi

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 [3]. 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’ [6]. 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.’
     He: ‘Yeah…’
     ‘But the spicy cabbage is still out on the table.’
     ‘Oh.’
     ‘Such a waste of food. I hate wasting food.’
     ‘And it’s my favourite, too.’
     ‘I know!’
     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 [9].

napa cabbage

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.

before the mix

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.

all mixed up

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.

mmm kimchi

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 [11]. 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 [8].
  • 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 [8].
  • 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.

H :)


References:

  1. 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].
  2. 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].
  3. 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].
  4. Fallon, S. & Enig, M. (2001) Nourishing Traditions, NewTrends Publishing, Washington DC.
  5. 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].
  6. 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].
  7. Katz, S. E. (2001) Wild Fermentation, Microcosm, Kansas.
  8. 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].
  9. 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].
  10. 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].
  11. 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].

17 June 2014 at 10:47am 1 comment

Hot diggety!

Meet my mustard.

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.

mustard seeds

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).

very yum

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.

H :)

* 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.

3 May 2014 at 12:00pm 2 comments

Enough

gardenworking

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 [1]:

…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 [1]:

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 [2]. 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.

H :)


References:
  1. 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].
  2. 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].
  3. 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].
  4. 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].

zucchiniflowers

17 February 2014 at 12:34am 9 comments

How to eat a whole plant.

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.

x & radish

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 [1]. 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 [4].

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).

daikon flower

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.

eggs & daikon salad

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 [5] & [6] below, bearing in mind that once-upon-a-time it was common knowledge that tomatoes would kill you [7].)

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.

H :)


References:
  1. 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].
  2. 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].
  3. 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].
  4. 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].
  5. 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].
  6. 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].
  7. 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…

6 November 2013 at 12:10am 4 comments

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