Archives For In Season

Aromatic chickpea potage with spinach and salt cod

Aromatic chickpea potage with spinach and salt cod

For us lucky ducks living in Melbourne we have modern Spanish tapas restaurant Movida which is some of the best Spanish food outside of Spain. Actually, from my brief rendezvous with Spain, I find the food better here (am I allowed to say that out aloud? Maybe I just need to go back *wink*).

I received Movida’s cookbook a number of years ago, and today was the first time I’ve cooked from it, having recently gone back to the restaurant for the first time since it’s opening year. While I thoroughly enjoyed every morsel, the worst thing was being kicked out for the 8pm sitting. I hate that about Melbourne dining and usually avoid these places often finding that the food and ambience don’t match the hype. Not Movida!

But I digress, this isn’t a blog to blow smoke up their tush. No. What I’m most on about is rather than wait 3 weeks for a 6pm sitting on a Friday night, why not bring Movida to the home table? The recipes are accessible with few, mostly humble ingredients. The flavour is in the technique that maximises flavour and texture…something that has been perfected over many years and a passion to never, ever eat boring.

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Mexican Mushroom Soup with Crispy Tortilla strips

When autumn rocks around, I always feel like mushrooms. They’re in season and I like to think this is because I’m a highly tuned into the environment individual. It’s more likely that I have fond memories of gumboots and rainy days, soggy ground and buckets-in-hand picking mushrooms with mum. Back then I hated mushrooms.

Right now, Autumn is when dryness dominates and the Lung and Large Intestine are prone to weakening by dryness. Both these organs need moisture (known in TCM terms as Yin fluids) to function properly. We know from the Five Elements that nature provides foods with the right properties to tone and strengthen organs that are prone to ill-health during their season.

So it’s no surprise then, that the humble button mushroom and it’s larger counterpart, the Portobello, nourishes the fluids of the Lung, and by default, the Large Intestine.

Lung Yin deficiency can manifest as frequent colds and flu, dry cough or with small amounts of sticky phlegm, weak or hoarse voice, tiredness, exhausted from speaking, night sweats.

Even if you don’t suffer with Lung Yin deficiency, mushrooms are a good staple to protect and strengthen the Lungs and their immunity boosting function. We’re seeing quite a few snuffles in clinic so cold and flu season has definitely hit!

It’s worthy to note that button mushrooms have a gorgeous sweet nature which helps to strengthen the earth element organs Spleen and Stomach, while also eradicating dirty congealed fluids (damp) stuck in the body. This humble fungi is really a super food.

No one will hate mushrooms with this adaption from a Thomasina Miers recipe. Already pretty good, I’ve just made it better with the addition of Byron Bay Chilli Co. Jalepeno sauce, and a stroke of pure genius: oven baked tortilla strips.


~ Mexican Mushroom Soup with Crispy Tortilla Strips ~

2 onions, peeled and quartered
3 large ripe tomatoes
5 cloves garlic, unpeeled
large knob of butter (Vegan subst. with olive oil)
600g Portobello mushrooms, sliced
1/4 tsp ground star anise
2 – 3 tsp Byron Bay Chilli Co. Jalepeno sauce
a good handful of coriander leaves, roughly chopped
1 Litre good quality unsalted vegetable stock. I use Maggie Beer or make my own
150 ml creme fraiche (Vegan subst. with tofutti or omit)
4 small white corn tortillas (or 2 large)
grated pecorino to serve (Vegan subst. with almesan or omit)

Directions

  1. Turn oven on to 200C
  2. In a hot fry pan (or cast iron pot) dry roast the whole tomatoes, garlic with skin on and onion for about 15 minutes (10 minutes for onion and garlic) until skins are starting to blacken and tomatoes soften. Turn from time to time so they’re evenly cooked. Remove the skin from the garlic once done.
  3. In a separate and larger frying pan, melt the butter and when it is sizzling hot, add the mushrooms, seasoning well with salt and pepper. Fry for about 10 minutes over medium-high until they have lost most of their juices and beginning to brown. Reduce heat and add the jalepeno sauce.
  4. Once tomatoes etc are finished, add the coriander (reserving a small amount for garnish) 250 mls of stock to the pot and  whiz with a stick blender.
  5. Add the mushrooms to the tomatoes, along with the rest of the stock, star anise. Check for seasoning and adjust to taste. Bring to boil, then reduce heat and simmer for at least 10 minutes until flavours melded.
  6. Meanwhile, cut the tortillas into thin strips and place on a oven tray. Bake in oven for about 10 minutes until crisp and lightly browned.
  7. Serve soup with a good dollop of creme fraiche, coriander leaves and tortilla strips.

♥ Gluten Free…♥ Vegetarian…♥ Vegan…♥ Paleo…♥ Damp…
♥ Yin deficiency…♥ Spleen Qi deficiency

If you have heat signs from deficiency or excess, omit:
♥ Black pepper
♥ Chilli

 

 

Roasted eggplant with fried seasoned onion and garlicky lemon sauce

Roasted eggplant with fried seasoned onion and garlicky lemon sauce

When I began to write this post, I realised I have begun another eggplant featured post. I’m seeing a pattern here, that I’m just loving the aubergine right now. On checking, eggplants are in season (in Australia) – being from summer through to early Autumn.

As per my previous post, I’ve been overindulging far too much lately, and eating more animal-protein based dinner than I care to admit. This has negative ramifications on my body. Contrary to popular diet fads, I don’t thrive off protein-laden meals. I admit, I have met some people who do, and this just proves that we’re all different, and have different dietary needs. There are only very few dietary rules that apply to the masses, and these are more like guides rather than absolutes. You can find these in the About section of this blog.

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Pearl Barley and Vegetable Soup with Shiitake and Kombu stock

Pearl Barley and Vegetable Soup with Shiitake and Kombu stock

This morning I had Pearl Barley soup for breakfast. It’s not a first, in fact whenever I feel like my digestion is particularly sluggish – lately caused by many rich dinners out, with probably a few too many wines – I often will have soup for breakfast.

Soups are naturally easier to digest, and are a great way to get a bunch of healthy seasonal vegetables and herbs in one tasty shot. I’ve made this soup extra nutritious by adding immuno-protective shiitake mushrooms and kombu*. Plus they give the stock added flavour. I always keep them on hand for this reason.

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Broad beans with garlic and jamon

Broad beans with garlic and jamon

It’s not often we see these little nuggets pop up in healthy recipes. And when they do, well most of the time it’s pretty un-inspiring if you ask me, possibly a lay-over from sour-cream doused 80s style recipes which is my recollection, along with leathery, tough, tasteless. It was the one thing my mum probably didn’t nail (she is a pretty darn good cook otherwise). Then, I was introduced to double peeled broadies. See, mum missed this vital step in making broad beans go from “ugh” to “freakin’ amazing!”.

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Eat dinner like a pauper

October 22, 2013 — 6 Comments
Green bean, potato, fennel salad with smoked ocean trout and whipped tarragon feta

Green bean, potato, fennel salad with smoked ocean trout and whipped tarragon feta

So the Chinese have this saying – which I wrote in my last post – “eat breakfast like a king, lunch like a merchant, and dinner like a pauper.”

Why? Well it’s all in the aim to lose some excess pudge. And if you want to look at it all science-like, there’s a host of biological substances that are regulated by not overeating too late.

Practicing what I preach (which I assure you, I can fall off the wagon sometimes), I wanted something light – and tasty – for dinner. Can’t beat the crunch of fresh fennel and perfectly blanched beans in combination with the soft potatoes and textural smoked fish.

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Warm Carrot & Nori Salad

September 3, 2013 — 3 Comments
Warm Carrot & Nori Salad

Warm Carrot & Nori Salad

 

This salad was born out of a craving for carrots of late. Unable to get enough, I’m eating carrot in all forms lately, and especially loving the plank-cut style, cooked to al-dente. Coming into Spring, I am conscious to boost immunity – which is quite ironic because as I write this, I’m laid up in bed with some sort of bug. We can help ourselves in Spring by protecting the Lungs – the governor of immunity – and by regulating the Liver – the governor of Qi. Dark green, chlorophyll rich foods are the perfect tonic for both.

Source: Favim.com

Source: Favim.com

I wonder if you too have asked this question. It’s perfectly reasonable; when you think about it, cooking is a total bother. By the time we’ve had a full days work who has time to cook? And that’s not accounting for all the family commitments.

Sad to say it, but I think cooking has become a luxury. I write about food and I say that hand on heart that sometimes I just don’t have the time to cook.

I have an analogy that I say to myself (and others) constantly, it’s called ‘The Aeroplane Analogy’. If you’ve ever flown, you’ve heard the safety message. When they get to the bit about the oxygen mask, the message always says to fit your mask before helping others, children included. It’s common to perceive that looking after yourself first would be considered selfish, and selflessness as doing ultimate good. This is martyrdom in it’s negative form and it boils down to this; you’re no good to help and assist others if you’re not first fit and able yourself.  It’s not beneficial for your health, it’s not beneficial to your family, it’s not beneficial to society if you don’t look after YOU first. Then henceforth go on and do good.

That said, I really feel for people with children, partners, full time jobs and a list of commitments enough to keep you busy for the next 10 years. It’s hard enough for me to take the time to nurture oneself living this busy urban life.

Through my experience and deep desire to do everything, I have cultivated a few tricks to make the job of caring for the colloquial ‘me’ little easier. Don’t be fooled, this isn’t about 1980’s microwave cookery. Sticking with a healthful approach, here’s my top 10:

  1. Make stock to freeze in batches. Defrost when called upon in recipes and as broth base with a few fresh veg, herbs, poached chicken and noodles thrown in. Easy.
  2. Pre-prepare a couple of different varieties of aromatics that form the base of most mediterranean dishes to freeze and keep ready. My fave combinations are:
    Sofrito: garlic, onion, carrot, celery, parsley
    MIrepoix: carrot, celery, onion
    For Risotto: onion, garlic, celery
    For soup base: onion, garlic, carrot, celery, fennel
    Cook in olive oil, butter or a combination of the two, until soft. I always add a pinch of salt.
  3. Cook a variety of legumes and freeze in portions in their own cooking water to have on hand when needed. Cheaper and healthier then canned. Don’t know how to cook legumes? Visit here.
  4. Learn some basic sauces which can be used as dipping sauces and marinades or baking. They’re alarmingly easy way to make almost anything really tasty. Some examples:
    Chinese: garlic, ginger, spring onions, soy sauce, chinese rice wine (Shao Shing cooking wine), black vinegar (can substitute with balsamic) and sesame oil. Great for cooking eggplant and meats. Serve with rice.
    Thai: Rice wine vinegar, brown or palm sugar, garlic, ginger, chillies, fish sauce, soy sauce, coriander. Use to flavour rice and noodles
    Vietnamese: Lime juice, brown or palm sugar, water, fish sauce, coriander. Spring rolls anyone?
    Mexican: salsa of finely diced tomatoes, chipotle, coriander, white onion – anything from tacos to fish to spooning over steamed asparagus.
    Béchamel: Roux made with butter, flour and milk. Make the basic then vary it up by either adding mustard, herbs, cheese or use chicken stock instead of milk (veloute). Use in lasagne and especially good to bake vegetables with.
    I recently learned this Lebanese fave: 1 cup tahini + juice from 1-2 lemons. Mix with a dash of water then simmer until smooth consistency. Top Trevelly, then bake finishing with toasted pinenuts, or sautéed spinach with caremelised onion.
  5. Already got the oven on? Pop in some cubed root veg of any combination (whatever happens to be laying around). It’s amazing what you can do with some roast veg + a carb (ie. cous cous, rice, pasta, soba noodles) and a few flavourings (see point 4). I like to add a handful of nuts (quickly pan roast to kill off any surface bacteria and bring out a real nuttiness flavour) which really makes for a rounded vegetarian meal, however there’s nothing stopping you pan frying a nice cut of free range meat, slicing and mixing that in as protein content. Add some fresh herbs (see point 8 below).
  6. Cook your breakfast porridge the night before, ready to heat ‘n eat on weekday mornings when time is a factor.
  7. Stewed seasonal fruit ready to go. Kind of goes with point 6 above. Having a batch of stewed fruit ready to dollop on porridge saves a bunch of time. Or enjoy for dessert – just top with a crumble made from oats, butter, brown sugar and bake on 180C for 15 – 20 mins until crisp.
  8. Potted fresh herbs ready to use. It’s amazing what one can do with fresh herbs to add flavour and healthful content. I haven’t banged on too much about herbs in the past (don’t worry, something is brewing), which is a shame because these are nature’s vitamin pills and anti-everything’s all rolled into one.
  9. Have a small selection of nuts and seeds on hand. Sprinkled over the top of salads, noodles, porridge, bakes, roasts really impresses folks.
  10. Keep a supply of pita bread in the freezer. They can be great for wraps (hello falafels!), easy pizza bases or cut up and toasted in the oven for crisps. Use corn tortillas for a gluten free option.

I’d love to hear of any shorthand tips for the kitchen you have.

Look after yourself,
Becki xx

Broccoli Soup in the making

Broccoli Soup in the making

I just wanted to share the easiest and tastiest way I get some greens and seasonal veg into me during Autumn.

Yes, broccoli is in season and now’s the time to be hitting the green hard. Not just for the obvious greens-are-good-for-you-in-an-antioxidant-kind-of-way. Eating what’s in season is a vitamin pill not made in a factory by synthetic ingredients. And it’s tailor made for what the season calls. Lovely.

Chinese Medicine recognises a pungent quality to broccoli. This is especially good in Autumn – the time of the Lungs – where pungent qualities disperse Lung Qi (chee). That’s Traditional Chinese Med talk for boosting immunity. We’re seeing a lot of snuffles and “under the weather” in clinic this past week and so boosting that immunity is important if you can’t afford to get sick, or like me and just hate being slowed down by getting sick.

I also love to add walnuts. They’re incredible little tonics for our Kidneys, which is perfect to get them toned before winter, when they’re naturally more sensitive to the cold and can give us some grief with waning energy levels.

Here’s how I make Broccoli Soup:

1 x leek*, sliced into half moons
2 x stalks of celery*, finely sliced
3 x garlic* cloves, roughly chopped
1 x potato*, diced
2 x heads broccoli*, broken into florets and stalks diced
1/2 c. Walnuts*, lightly toasted
1/2 tsp apple cider vinegar
olive oil
water
salt and white pepper

*In season

  1. saute leek, celery and garlic with 1/2 tsp salt until soft and fragrant (about 15 mins)
  2. add in potato and broccoli stalks with another pinch of salt and saute with lid on for another 10 mins
  3. add in the florets reserving 1/3, cover with water, bring to the boil and simmer for 30 mins with lid on
  4. When veggies are soft, add walnuts and blend with a stick blender, check for seasoning and adjust, then add remaining florets of broccoli and cook for 5 mins until tender
  5. Finally, stir in the apple cider vinegar
  6. If you like, serve with crisp panchetta (organic) on top. Of course every soup warrants a side serving of crusty bread
Broccoli soup with walnuts and croutons

I’ve topped mine with sour dough croutons and toasted walnuts

Look after yourself,
Becki xx

Want to know why it looks like I salt so much? Visit here.

Shakshouka from Cumulus Inc. It’s baked eggs with roasted peppers and shanklish

Baking food is the way to go in Autumn months. If you think about it in Chinese Medicine terms, Autumn is when the direction of our body’s natural energy turns inwards – our intelligent biology knows it’s time to prepare for cooler months. That’s why it’s that little bit harder to get out of bed and naturally, we spend less time outdoors. And that’s ok! This is something we can’t control, and trying to force the opposite, well it will drain the energy faster than you can say “is it winter yet?”.

One way to get more bakin’ is breakfast time. I don’t know why it became the norm to socialise before 12pm on a weekend.  Somewhere along the lines it did, and that’s exactly what us Melbournians do en-masse come the Saturday. So Melbourne chefs had to get up earlier and get creative…not that this little foodie is complaining. Breakfast worship is my thing.

Trusty eggs benedict has been superseded by Turkish baked eggs, which I see on menus we are now using it’s “proper” name, Shakshouka. Essentially you have the same thing: Arabic spiced tomato base, crack in a couple of eggs, bake in clay pot, then serving with crusty bread and warning not to touch the pan.

Doctors orders this Autumn is to bake, braise and stir fry. Lots of fragrances stimulate the metal element – being our Lungs – and another little trick from 5,000 years ago to ward off the lurgy.

Look after yourself this Autumn,
Becki xx