Archive for the ‘Veggies’ Category

Spring Delights

We’ve had a very weird winter this year – well, it is probably normal but the last 5 years or so have been drought years so this year feels cold and wet in comparison. As a result, it has taken what feels like ages to warm up and I am frankly over the cold and want to put my winter clothes away this weekend.

My garden has finally started to heat up and go crazy. It is lovely to see so much life after letting it go to waste over the winter. I don’t bother with winter veggies because I get ZERO sunlight during the winter in my garden – depressing? Yes. But this year, I finally planted FIVE broad bean (fava bean) seeds that an old (someone odd) lady gave me a couple of years back. I planted them just before I went on holiday to Hawaii and forgot about them. I came back to plants as tall as me and was amazed that I got a few pounds worth of beans with no effort at all! Finally, I have found something I can plant over the winter. Plus, broad beans are good for the soil and give nitrogen back into it.

I love picking them when they beans inside the pods are around a 5 cent Australian (or US dime) size and this year, my toddler helped me shell them too – it was very fun. Some people don’t peel the thick skin on the outside of each bean but I think it’s very tannic/astringent and rather detracts from the sweet, fresh beans so I always blanch it and refresh it in ice cold water and peel off the skin.

I made a spring risotto with the broad beans and added shredded chicken, carrots and asparagus and added the pre-blanched beans in at the end. It was divine. Although I didn’t grow a ton of beans, I learned just how easy they are to grow and that next winter, I’ll be planting a whole raised bed of them. Just be careful, too much overhead watering can cause rust which will spread and then eventually kill them.






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Honestly, I have no idea how many places in Hawaii serve up onion rings but every time I go home, I crave the ONION RING TOWER at the Yard House (chain restaurant found in nine states) on Lewers St. in Waikiki and I think that it’s the best I’ve ever had.  It comes with both regular Ranch and Chipotle Ranch dipping sauces and is piled high on this pole. The batter is very light, crisp and slightly sweet and I could probably eat the whole thing by myself but I have always shared it with someone.

If you order it, make sure you enjoy it with some of their over 100 draft beers!  Apparently they have the world’s largest selection of beers on tap!  The downside of the place is that it is very noisy and you can’t really book reservations. The weekends are very busy and the wait can be around an hour for a table.  Luckily, the restaurant is right where there are new shops to whittle the time away.

To finish, their Kona coffee ice cream sundae was as HUGE (as big as my face) and it was very, very tasty.  Hubby got the Lemon Souffle Cake and it was really disappointing so don’t waste your time on that (didn’t even taste like lemons).


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This weekend, the 2009 Oxford Symposium on Food & Cookery will be held at St. Catherine’s College in Oxford and I cannot be there.  Instead, many of my friends will be there and I will hear all about it when they return.  This year’s topic is on “Food & Language” and although I had an idea for an abstract, I was much too busy to do the research.  Besides, after reading this year’s paper topics, I don’t think I would’ve had anything near as intellectual to add.  I cannot believe that a whole year has gone by without me even reporting on what happened last year so although late, it’s better than nothing.

Because it was my second time at the symposium last year, I felt “at home” and less nervous about mingling with people and reading my paper (although I was put in the big lecture theatre which is always very intimidating).  The faces were familiar and surprisingly, people remembered me as well.  I was thrilled to hear that I’d be reading my paper with Elizabeth Andoh, the author of “Washoku: Recipes from the Japanese Home Kitchen” – winner of the 2006 James Beard Cookbook award and that our moderator this time was Fuschia Dunlop, Chinese Scholar and author of “Shark’s Fin and Sichuan Pepper” and “Revolutionary Chinese Cookbook” to name a few.  In 2006, I read my paper with Fuschia on the same panel so I was happy to be with someone I was familiar with so it kept my nerves down.

When the symposium schedule is put together every year, similar subjects are often lumped into one session and it was natural that both me and Elizabeth were paired together since we were talking about Japanese subjects.  Elizabeth read a paper on Modoki, vegetarian temple food that is artistically formed to resemble something completely different from what it is made of.  A very fascinating topic that was made better by Elizabeth showing great photos of such beautiful cuisine.  I thought that we worked well as a team and we bounced ideas off each other and presented the tasting of various forms of daikon together.  It was a great pleasure to be on the same panel as Elizabeth…I hope to visit her in Japan one day.

My paper was about daikon – the humble yet very important radish…but not about ordinary daikon but focused in particular about a radish that grew through asphalt in a small town in Japan and was made into a national celebrity and anthropomorphised into a symbol of hope.  The extraordinary twist to the story is that the radish was vandalized one night and caused a great uproar among the townspeople – so much so that the vandals returned the radish to its original growing place due to guilt.  This radish, although in a poorly state, was revived and has since gone on to produce four generations and will be sold as seeds.  I also went on to discuss the importance of daikon in Japanese cuisine.  It was by far no way near as intellectual as many others but my aim was to bring some lighthearted quirkiness with relevance to the topic.

What was exciting was that a film crew from BBC4 were there the whole weekend filming various people reading their topics for a new documentary on food writer/historian Alan Davidson – the founder of the symposium.  Right before we started our session, the camera guy came up to me and said how thrilled he was to hear my paper and that he was looking forward to it…that made me nervous.  Anyway, all went well and I was sent an email saying that they’d like to use footage of me in the documentary and then I signed my life away…but I still haven’t heard when this documentary will be airing…more on that when I hear about it. 

St.Katherine's College Grounds

St. Catherine's College Grounds

Us posing with my daikon dolls and books

Me and Elizabeth posing with my daikon dolls and books


Elizabeth, me, Fuschia (l to rt)

Fuschia, me and Elizabeth (l to rt)

If you are really interested in food from an academic angle, you should try to make your way to Oxford one year.  The symposium is attended by the “who’s who” in the industry with many there who have written numerous books.  My favourite regular is Claudia Roden, who is so sweet and her book on Jewish cuisines is one of my all-time favourites.  In 2006, Jeffrey Steingarten attended and so many people were dying to talk to him…I wasn’t one of them but he was keen to talk to my friend who didn’t even know who he was!  The symposium is a great place to network with like-minded people and not feel bad about making any elite comments about food…lol.  The food was great last year and it looks like it will be fabulous this year as well.  Looks like Raymond Blanc’s (who’s there every year) restaurant Le Manoir aux Quatre Saisons will be providing the last dinner and it’ll be called, “The Language of French Gastronomy:  From the Raw to the Cooked.”  I’m jealous.


Raymond Blanc in the middle as moderator

Raymond Blanc in the middle as moderator





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While I still work on composing many of the posts regarding my trip to Hawaii, I wanted to post a few photos of some beautiful winter veggies from our local Wayville Farmer’s Market. In my previous post on GIANT SPINACH, I must stress that Australia grows the biggest vegetables I’ve ever seen in my life with the top items being celery, cabbage and cauliflower. So whenever I need celery, I buy only half, a quarter of cabbage and half of a cauli.

This specimen here is not even that big. It would be considered an average-sized cabbage.

I think this cabbage is flirting with me…

If only I could show the actual size of those beetroot bunches – believe me, they are HUGE.

I know this isn’t a picture about veggies but I thought that it was so beautiful that I had to share it. A pelican at sunset in Victor Harbour with Wright Island in the background.

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A Bouquet of Spinach

$1.99 for this great big bunch of spinach!

In North America, what we call “spinach” is something that is about a foot long, dark leafy green with fairly tender stems which also comes in the “baby” form. Imagine my surprise when I was at my local greengrocer and saw this gigantic bunch that I first mistook for flowers, then I thought it was kale. Hmm…it wasn’t even refrigerated but instead stacked up in neat rows like big floral bouquets and it wasn’t until I read the price sticker that I realized that it was indeed SPINACH! English Spinach to be exact and it was a bargain $1.99. I had to buy it and see if it tasted different and truly wanted to test how creative I could be with this beast. Now I know for many of you, that kind of mature spinach is no big deal and you probably grew up with it but for me, it was a great novelty because it was as if the spinach was on steroids.

So I took it home and did cooked it in a slightly boring, yet yummy way – sauté it with olive oil, garlic, chili flakes, salt & pepper. But then, where do I store the half a ton of spinach I still had left? I knew that if I put it in my minuscule fridge that it would take it over completely and wilt it at the same time so I decided that my large crystal Royal Doulton water pitcher was the best place (like a vase) to store it. Amazingly enough, it stayed pretty fresh for about 3 days when I remembered that I still had it. I was simply too lazy to think of creative spinach recipes so I decided to make an Asian inspired soup which my husband didn’t really care for (which is surprising because he eats virtually anything).

I was making braised pork belly (Asian-style w/soy sauce & 5-spice) and decided to boil the belly first in water and then cook it in the marinade. After skimming the scum off the liquid, I used the lightly pork-flavored broth for the base of my spinach soup (I love pork broth and it is definitely not done enough – more on that another time). I then chopped the rest of the lot of spinach into bite sized strips and some slivers of daikon, crushed garlic clove, 1 cm piece of sliced ginger, salt, pepper, chili flakes, sesame oil, and a hint of soy sauce. I thought that the soup was very flavorful and nutritious and fairly comforting especially since it’s starting to get a bit cooler outside. My husband on the other hand, being English, did not find the soup comforting…in fact I think he said that it tasted a bit like liquid dirt. A Pinot Noir probably would have complimented the earthy tones of the soup! (just kidding).

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