POORIS WITH POTATOES

In India, pooris are often eaten for breakfast along with a potato preparation. What’s not to love about a poori that is beautifully puffed and deliciously light even though it has been fried in oil? My mother reminisces the time when she prepared the dough wanting to make rotis for lunch and had gone shopping. I must have been just about 10 years and I don’t remember it but I used that dough to make pooris for everyone instead of rotis! Such is the love for pooris in India, however these days it has become a very occasional treat.

For all my Indian breads I use atta that one can buy in the Indian store – it is not the same as wholemeal flour but personally feel atta is milled fine.

Frying pooris

INGREDIENTS FOR POORIS

400g atta

¾ to 1 cup warm water (40 degrees Celsius)

Pinch of salt

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HOW I CONVERTED MY BACK LAWN TO AN EDIBLE GARDEN

I am probably going to upset some people by saying that lawns are the biggest waste of resources – money and space mainly. I wonder why we are so obsessed with having a lawn when we can use that space to grow fruits, vegetables, herbs or even cut flowers and be a little bit self-sustainable. I have always been interested in gardening right from a very young age – but didn’t have the confidence to drastically convert the back lawn to an edible garden.

During lockdown, it felt really nice harvesting some spring onions, salad greens, feijoas and mandarins from our garden. My project took seed when I wanted to take it up a notch and challenge myself to growing more. The next step was reading about permaculture, urban farming and following some pro gardeners like Charles Dowding (No dig beds) and Mark Valencia (Self Sufficient Me).

Below are the steps I followed.

Cover the area with cardboard

Measure the area you have and monitor how much sunshine your designated patch gets. Note whether it is morning or afternoon sun. Most vegetables require between 6 -8 hours sunshine. The area I wanted to convert was about 80 square metres. My garden has a micro climate of its own because of the type of vegetation I have grown over the years – it is warm, sheltered to a certain extent from wind and frost.

 Draw up plans on a piece of paper and colour in the details to see how it is going to look. Make a rough estimate of costs and budget. I wanted a mix of “no dig beds” and planter boxes. I did a drawing as this helped to conceptualize – great tool for evolution of that rough idea. Initially, my husband was going to build the planter boxes but then I found good quality ones I was happy with https://www.steelmates.co.nz/ They do come as a flat pack and requires about half an hour to assemble.

Consider how you are going to irrigate your beds. I love hand watering because it is a great time to reflect on life in general and also monitor the health of your plants. (You can think about collecting rain water in barrels). You can be vigilant to notice pests and diseases before they kill your precious plants.

I set up a compost bin so I get a regular supply of good quality compost for the beds. Compost takes three months! Last year I set up a worm farm and the worm tea /castings are a good source of organic nutrients for your plants.

No dig beds

I ended up with six planter boxes about 1.75metres by 1 metre (approximately) and then 4 large and 4 small no dig beds. I decided to prepare the entire area as if I was going to do a “no dig bed”.

Raised planter boxes

If you want to be successful with an edible garden, it means you have to be committed to caring for the soil and the general environment. You improve the soil health by putting compost and such organic materials that will help build a rich medium for plants to grow. Good soil must be free draining and also retain enough moisture and water without becoming boggy. Free draining soil also has vital microbes and fungi that help the growing medium thrive. Getting good quality soil is the biggest expense/ investment. Like the name suggests with a no dig bed, there is no digging or tilling of the soil. First you get rid of the lawn by covering it in cardboard. You can pick up cardboard at a paper recycle station or ask at your local electronics, furniture store. Remove all staples, sticky tape and labels. Mow your lawn and then cover the entire area with thick layers of cardboard.

Wet the cardboard.

I used the compost, bark mulch from Zoodoo. They “harvest” the hoof poo from the zoo and convert to this rich compost and tub mix.

After placing my planter boxes in position, I used wood chip for paths. To fill the planter boxes efficiently, I used tree trimmings (from my garden and old leaves) as base material along with wet newspapers / cardboard. Then I filled with some coarse base (sold as forest floor at Zoodoo) and topped with bark mulch, compost and tub mix. I used the same formula minus the tree trimmings for the no dig beds.

Finally used pea / barley straw as mulch. Water well and let them settle for a couple of days before planting.

I wanted to break in the beds and so planted winter growing brassicas (broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower, kohlrabi, kale) for a late spring harvest and also some herbs and salad greens.

In terms of time, I estimate it took me about 150 hours in total. I did have some help from my family. I used just under 11,000 litres (11 cubic metres) of compost / soil / bark mulch combined which was about half the total spend on this project. I also used a cubic metre of wood chip for the pathways. I can say it is more or less complete and I spent about $4,000 to convert 80 square metres into an edible garden. I will keep you updated on good performers and what didn’t work so well.

I also wanted to mention that there were no sponsors – just recommended what I used because I was satisfied with the product.

CREAM OF MUSHROOM SOUP

I know this is very retro – I loved mushroom soup in the ‘90s and now too. It is a lovely soup for a cold night or served with crusty bread, makes a great starter for your dinner party.

The flavour for this soup is enhanced by mushroom powder. I make mushroom powder by blitzing dried shitake mushrooms in a small spice blender. The mushroom powder is not limited to this soup – I use it to inject flavour into pies and pasta sauces.

Cream of mushroom soup

INGREDIENTS

60g butter

100g onion, finely chopped

3 garlic, finely chopped

800g white button mushrooms, any black bits brushed off

1 heaped tablespoon mushroom powder

750ml good quality vegetable stock

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PIZZA DOUGH FROM SCRATCH & PIZZA BIANCA

Pizza needs no introduction. From humble beginnings as peasant food in 17th century Naples, it is now one of the most popular and well known foods today. Store bought vegetarian pizzas are meh, so I love making my own pizzas from scratch and injecting tons of flavour at the same time not making the crust soggy.

I love this pizza dough recipe because you can freeze it or refrigerate overnight. You do need a stand mixer otherwise you need to manually knead the dough for over ten minutes. Normally I find kneading therapeutic so don’t use stand mixer for doughs that require shorter knead times! For the dough, best to use bread flour or 00 flour or any flour with a higher gluten content.

It is best to weigh out the water to be precise. Approximately one and a half cups of water makes up to the 350 grams of water needed for the dough.

In Italy, pizza bianca means “white pizza”, which is a pizza drizzled with olive oil and salt and of course no tomato sauce. Sometimes topped with Mozzarella or Parmesan Cheese. We love to top our white Pizza’s with wafer thin slices of potato and herbs.

Pizza bianca

INGREDIENTS FOR THE PIZZA DOUGH

548g high grade flour

1 tablespoon sugar

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PASTA WITH CAVALO NERO & CHICK PEA SAUCE

Cavalo nero has several other names. Lacinato kale in Italian, or black cabbage, Tuscan kale, Italian kale or dinosaur kale. Whatever the name, it is rich in iron, Vitamin K, A and C and like its other cousins, has more calcium than milk.

Cavalo nero

The sauce is fairly simple and quick to make, using only a few ingredients. I used parsley pesto but basil pesto should work. Also the cavalo nero is cooked well for 20 or so minutes, as recommended by Italian chefs. You can use casarecce or strozzapretti shaped pasta.

Pasta with cavalo nero and chick pea sauce

INGREDIENTS

60g butter

3-4 cloves of garlic, finely chopped

½ to 1 teaspoon chilli flakes

1 tablespoon parsley pesto

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TEN RULES OF PERFECT PASTA COOKING

My daughter always reminisces about the instance, where after tasting the pasta she cooked, I pointed out that the water was not boiling fiercely. She was about 10 years old then and cooked spaghetti puttanesca for lunch all by herself.

It’s easy to overcook pasta – even though cooking time for pasta is stipulated on the box. Do you count the time from when the water starts to boil again after pasta is dropped into the water?

I don’t know if you know this, but all pasta is not the same – it is not just the shape that is different. There is a difference in the extrusion process when pasta is manufactured and the indentations on the pasta are bearers of sauce, flavour and taste. I find the made in Italy brands are generally better tasting. Whether you choose regular, wholemeal, gluten free or lentil pasta, here are my rules for cooking the best boxed pasta.

Penne pasta

Choose a large, light pot like a stock pot.

Season your pasta water with salt.

Never add oil to the pasta water – it is simply a waste of good oil.

Add your pasta when water is bubbling fiercely.

Serve pasta al dente – while it still has a bite.

Drain your pasta before it gets to the al dente stage – it continues to cook a little after you drain.

Have your colander ready to go in the sink. I also find a spider sieve useful if you want to add pasta straight into the sauce.

Save a cup of pasta water to thin your sauce – the starch in the water helps bind your sauce to the pasta.

Do not let your pasta sit in the colander for any length of time – have your sauce ready so you can drop hot pasta into hot sauce.

Never ever rinse cooked pasta.

TOFU KATSU CURRY

Japanese curry is served in three forms – curry rice (simply referred to as curry), curry udon (noodles) and curry bread. You guessed it, curry was introduced from India by the British and is extremely popular in Japanese cuisine.

Katsu is simply a cutlet, crumbed and deep fried and put in a curry sauce. Mine is a vegan version and I shallow fried the tofu. I know, I wax lyrical about tofu because it is so versatile and a great bearer of flavours. So do try this curry as it is very different to Indian curries.

I served mine with medium grain rice which is naturally sticky. After cooking, I mixed through cut spring onions and poured a few drops of sesame oil on each serve.

Tofu Katsu Curry

INGREDIENTS

5 tablespoons vegetable oil, divided

5 cloves of garlic, peeled and crushed

100g onion, chopped

2 teaspoon dark brown sugar

200g carrots, peeled and chopped

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MUSTARD BROCCOLI on CAULI MUSTARD

There is no typo here!! If you love mustard flavour as much as my family does, this is the ultimate taste explosion. Broccoli belongs to the mustard family (Brassica or Cruciferae) and so does cauliflower – initially thought it would not be balanced but let me reassure you that this was an instant hit and it’ll become your favourite way to serve. I used mustard oil – very distinct aroma of mustard and you can get in any Indian store. This recipe uses mustard oil, wholegrain mustard and hot English mustard plus broccoli and cauliflower.

I served this as a vegetarian first course / starter. Please do try as you will not be disappointed.

Mustard broccoli with cauli mustard

INGREDIENTS FOR MUSTARD BROCCOLI

1 head of broccoli, halved

100g Greek style natural yoghurt

2 tablespoons wholegrain mustard

½ teaspoon chilli powder

1 teaspoon curry powder

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VEGAN CURRY LAKSA

Malaysian cuisine is a melting pot of  traditions from its Malay, Chinese, Indian, Indonesian and ethnic Bornean citizens, with heavy to light influences from Thai, Portuguese, Dutch, Arabian cuisines and British cuisines, to name a few. The condiments and spices used in cooking varies and this results in strong regional nuances.

There are two types of laksa: curry laksa and asam laksa. Curry laksa is a coconut milk curry soup with noodles, while asam laksa is a sour, most often tamarind-based, soup with noodles. I have tried to keep this vegan, (took inspiration from Yotam Ottolenghi’s Plenty More) and so did not use any of the traditional seasonings like shrimp paste. Here is my take on the classic.

Curry laksa

INGREDIENTS

FOR THE PASTE

2 tablespoons sambal oelek

100g shallots, peeled and chopped

8 cloves garlic, peeled and chopped

30g ginger, peeled and sliced

1 tablespoon ground lemon grass (frozen)

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POHA & BEAN SUNDAL – a different kind of salad

In India, poha (rice flakes) is a staple breakfast in many households because it is quick to prepare. Just soak poha in water for fifteen minutes and it is ready. Poha is unique because rice is flaked in the husk and handmade following traditional methods. Poha is the name of the dish as well as the name for rice flakes in Hindi.

My Amma (mum) likes to make sure there is enough protein in each meal and this is one of her recipes where she uses poha the same way you would use rice in rice salad. It is a lovely, gluten free and vegan lunch dish.

INGREDIENTS

100g black eyed beans, soaked overnight

150g poha

50g onions, finely diced

100g carrots, peeled and grated fine

75g coconut, shredded (I use frozen)

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