Wednesday, 25 January 2012

zucchini tea. cool as can be.

What do you do when life hands you too many zucchinis?

Why, make zucchini tea, of course. (Or zucchini-ade, if you like.)

Zucchiniade, or iced zucchini tea... light and refreshing.

If you think about it, making tea out of zucchini isn't really such a crazy idea. After all, I love winter melon tea. Zucchini and winter melon have somewhat similar taste profiles, so... why not?

Why not, indeed.

My zucchini tea was inspired by one of my favourite drinks, winter melon tea.

My instincts were correct: While not exactly identical to the Yeo's winter melon tea I grew up drinking, it was quite similar. The gentle hint of zucchini. The sweet fragrance of caramelised sugar. Two simple elements that come together to create a cool, light, and refreshing beverage... the sort of stuff you really appreciate having in the fridge on a warm, sultry day.

(P.S. It's now officially the Year of the Dragon! Happy Chinese New Year, everyone!)

cool zucchini tea / zucchini-ade

400 - 500g zucchini (approx. 1 pound)
3 tablespoons raw sugar
1500ml water (6 cups)

Cut zucchini into small pieces. If the zucchini you have is not organically grown, peel before chopping.
Heat up the sugar in a pot or saucepan over a medium flame. When it melts and turns brown, add in the zucchini pieces and all the water.
Bring to boil, then simmer, partially covered, for 20 minutes or until the zucchini is very soft and tender - the time will vary depending on the size of the pieces. Strain through a sieve.
(If you like, extract more of that zucchini goodness by mashing the pieces against the side of the pot with a wooden spoon, and press the juices out through the sieve as well. Otherwise, you can use the zucchini pieces as compost, or even freeze and use in smoothies.)
If you prefer a sweeter drink, add more sugar to taste.
Chill in the fridge for a few hours and serve cold. If you can't wait, pop in some ice cubes and serve immediately.

Get your tea on with zucchini.

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Wednesday, 18 January 2012

lemon-pepper soy-ginger lamb heart stir-fry

Stir-fried lamb's heart (plus capsicum and spring onions) with lemon, pepper, ginger and soy.

As an omnivore who often enjoys vegan and vegetarian meals, but still loves the taste of meat too much to give it up, I like using the parts of animal that are often neglected and could otherwise go to waste. The following story and accompanying images contains content that may be off-putting to those who are not comfortable with offal.

However, if you are interested in trying it out, I am of the opinion that heart is a good starting point. The taste is quite gentle, and the texture is conventional enough - some may even prefer it to meat. I've had chicken heart before, which I found to be quite delicious. This is my first experience with lamb heart, and I feel equally positive about it. Lamb heart, when raw, has a fairly rich, fleshy scent. When cooked, it has a pleasantly mild taste of lamb and a tender texture. Other than a stir-fry like this, I can also see myself throwing it into a pho or a curry laksa!

And for those of you who already embrace offal - enjoy!

A lamb heart story:

Girl goes to Victoria Market with parents, uncle and aunt.
Girl meets lamb hearts (only 80 cents each!), is intrigued at first sight.
Girl points out the lamb hearts to mum, who regards them with unconcealed disgust.
Girl points out the lamb hearts to dad, who is as curious as girl and encourages her to buy a couple.
Girl purchases lamb hearts.
Girl gets home and decides to stir-fry one lamb heart for dinner.
Girl's mum helps by preparing the lamb heart - trimming off the fat and tubes; cutting the glistening dark meat into thin slices.
Girl marinates lamb heart in lemon, ginger, soy sauce and black pepper, then stir-fries it in a wok with capsicum and spring onion.
Girl serves up lamb heart stir-fry for dinner, enjoys it with dad as the rest of the table keeps their distance.

Ah, lamb hearts. Certainly a far cry from the cutesy valentiney love hearts we see...

The cross section of the lamb heart. Sorry, it's not really getting more attractive is it?

Lamb heart, all sliced up and swaddled in marinade. Hey, it's not looking too bad now...

lemon-pepper soy-ginger lamb heart stir-fry

1 lamb's heart
1 teaspoon lemon juice
1 tablespoon soy sauce
2cm / 1 inch ginger, cut into thin strips
1/4 teaspoon freshly cracked black pepper
1 small capsicum (bell pepper), cut into strips
2 stalks spring onion (scallions), chopped into sections
oil, for frying

First, prepare the lamb heart. Cut off any vessels, valves, tubes and the like. Trim away excess fat (that would be the white bits on the outside). Basically, you want get it down to that meaty-looking maroon part of the lamb heart, which you then slice into strips.

Create a marinade by mixing together lemon juice, soy sauce, ginger and black pepper in a bowl. Toss the lamb heart in and mix well, then cover and keep in the fridge for an hour.

Heat up some oil (half a tablespoon should do) in a wok or pan over a medium high heat, then stir-fry the lamb heart until the pieces start to change colour. This could take less than a minute, depending on their thickness. Lamb heart gets tougher when it's overcooked, so try not to dilly-dally.

Add in the capsicum and spring onion and stir-fry for another 20 seconds. Taste and add more seasonings if desired. Transfer to a plate and serve immediately with steamed rice.

The result: a not-that-scary and rather scrumptious offal dish: lemon-pepper soy-ginger lamb heart stir-fry.

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Wednesday, 11 January 2012

st andrews community market

Last Saturday, we made a trip up to St Andrews Community Market.

Out in the countryside, surrounded by eucalyptus trees, we browse, and shop.

What did we find there?

Organically grown produce...

That's some good-looking garlic, right there.

Herb and fruit plants...

I persuaded my aunt to get this stevia plant. Yay! I hope it thrives in her beautiful garden.

Handmade Turkish bowls...

So bright, so colourful.

Savoury food...

There's a bit of a hippie vibe going on in St Andrews Market, to be sure.

Sweet treats...

Little baked goods, catering to a variety of dietary restrictions.

Happy buskers...

He's having fun with it!

Second-hand goods, vintage knick-knacks, and other trash 'n' treasures...

I had fun browsing the various trinkets at this stall.

What a great way to spend a couple of hours on a Saturday!

And now, my haul.

A bag of 'pistachio date wonders' - a milky, crumbly, sugary shortbread-style biscuit encasing the hidden prize of a pitted date within.

Pistachio date wonders.

Stuff that could come in handy for the kitchen, and for food photography. A vintage Grosvenor silver thingamajig, tarnished yet beguiling. An Alfred Meakin plate, gracefully worn out with age. Plus, modern cupcake-style ramekins by Maxwell & Williams, with the stickers still intact.

Vintage cutlery, vintage plate, and not-so-vintage ramekins...

And, of course, I couldn't leave without some gourmet edible goodies. A big punnet of ruby-red raspberries, ripe and bursting with juice. A tub of raw messmate honey, strained at beehive temperature, sweet and sticky with the natural goodness of pollen, propolis and enzymes. A bottle of extra virgin olive oil, tingling with the infused flavours of wild lime and blood orange.

Yum, yum and yum.

Organic raspberries, raw honey, and a citrussy olive oil.

If you're interested...

St Andrews Community Market is open every Saturday (except for fire danger days) from 8am to 2pm.

Location: St Andrews town is located in the foothills of the Yarra Ranges north east of Melbourne. The market is located at the corner of Kangaroo Ground/St. Andrews and Heidelberg/Kinglake Roads.

Entry price: None - free admission.


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Thursday, 5 January 2012

chilli kaffir tamarind tofu

Happy new year, everyone! I hope 2012 has been treating you kindly thus far.

I feel quite vaguely optimistic about this new year. Okay, so I've had to work mostly through the Christmas and New Year, with no signs of things easing up for another few weeks. Incessant overtime does not suit my indolent nature. And Simon has just gone off on a nearly-7-week holiday without me. Sad!

But these are first world problems, really. Particularly when, lately, I've come to realise that I'm actually quite content, most of the time. I don't have everything that I want... and yet I have so much.

So often, bliss can be found in simple things.

Like colleagues whose company you relish, even though you sometimes yearn for a career change.

Like having money in the bank, even when you don't earn much.

Like having a roof over your head.

Like being with people who feel like home.

Like a warm meal when you're hungry.

Like the sharp bouquet of kaffir lime leaves, and the biting heat of little chillies...

Like thick, sticky, sour tamarind concentrate...

Like sharing this spicy-tangy chilli kaffir tamarind tofu dish with Simon on New Year's Eve.

I like it. He likes it. I like that he likes it.

It may not have the prettiest appearance, but the flavour hits you, and it hits you good. Can you handle it?

chilli kaffir tamarind tofu.

I couldn't resist reaching for the fish sauce with this one. However, you can easily make it vegetarian and vegan-friendly by substituting with soy sauce plus an extra pinch of sugar. Either way, the flavours will be big, bold, bodacious. Enjoy.

chilli, kaffir lime leaf, & tamarind tofu

2 small spicy red chillies
4 separated/single or 2 twin/double kaffir lime leaves
1 teaspoon tamarind concentrate
1 tablespoon fish sauce or soy sauce
1/2 teaspoon raw sugar or crushed palm sugar
250g firm or semi-firm tofu, cut into cubes
1 tablespoon oil, or just enough for frying

Slice chilli into thin rings.
Slice kaffir lime leaves into thin strips, discarding the tough middle stem.
Mix tamarind concentrate, fish sauce and sugar in a bowl. Throw in most of the chillies and kaffir lime leaves, setting aside a pinch of each for garnishing later, if you like. Mix well to form a marinade. If you're not into super sour flavours, taste as you add in the tamarind concentrate to reach your preferred balance.
Time for the tofu to join the party. Cut the tofu into 2.5cm/1" cubes and tumble them merrily through the marinade. Leave it for 15 minutes.
Heat up some oil in a frying pan over medium high heat to cook the tofu cubes. To really sear them, add the tofu cubes while reserving most of the marinade intact in the mixing bowl. Stand back - the tofu might sizzle and spit. Once they develop a nice dark crust on their bottoms, pour in the marinade and let everything cook over medium heat, stirring and turning occasionally, until the sauce is reduced and clings lazily to the tofu.
Garnish with any leftover fresh chilli and kaffir lime leaves, and serve immediately. Pair it with rice and salad for a full meal.

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