All posts by Shoba

Kumquat Chia Seed Cake

Kumquat is more popular in China and Taiwan than where I live now in Australia. Hailing from Malaysia, I am not entirely unfamiliar with it because Malaysians see kumquat everywhere during Chinese New Year. Think of the kumquat tree as a Chinese Christmas tree.

 

Kumquat Chia Seed Cake At Stonehouse Farm
Kumquat Tree At Stonehouse Farm Amamoor

That is not always the case as mandarin oranges are also popular during Chinese New Year, but I think kumquat takes the prize when the Chinese really want to show-off during this auspicious festival. The very name gives away it’s much coveted festive role taken from Cantonese gām-gwāt 金橘, meaning golden orange.

 

So while my kumquat tree at Stonehouse Farm keeps producing extensively, I realize I need to get more acquainted with it to come up with healthy and delicious meals such as this kumquat chia seed cake.

 

I found the standard kumquat jam that is ever popular here in Australia the most popular way to consume it in Australia. The tartness of kumquat makes it challenging for most people on how to be more creative with it, especially with a fruit which has a rind that is sweeter than the flesh.

 

 

 

 

 

 

I candied a lot of my kumquat. There are ample recipes online on how to candy but personally I think the French do it best.

Making candied kumquat

Once you have candied kumquat and stored in a jar, you can use it multiple ways. Turning them into candied kumquat is also a great way to preserve them excess kumquat from our tree. In this post I show how I turned a traditional lemon cake recipe into a kumquat chia seed cake. I have used milk kefir, but you may use buttermilk or yoghurt. I encourage you to use kefir though because milk kefir will ferment the flour in the same manner sourdough starter does.

Kefir is made by putting kefir grains into milk and fermenting it. As I make all my cakes by grinding organic wheat grains and using freshly ground flour in my baking, I make sure they are always fermented either with sourdough starter or kefir so that all the nutrition in the grains are more easily absorbed by the body. If you would like to purchase kefir grains or sourdough starter, send me an email at shoba.sadler@gmail.com.

Kumquat Chia Seed Cake

Ingredients

 

155 gm milk kefir

100 gm coconut oil

1 1/2 cups flour

1 1/2 tsp baking powder

1/3 cup honey

2 eggs

2 tbsp chia seeds

3 tbsp kumquat syrup (this is the excess liquid left behind after you glaze your kumquat. Don’t throw this away. Save it in a bottle, separate from the bottle with the candied kumquat)

 

Method

Mix kefir with flour and leave aside. Beat coconut oil and honey and eggs one by one and then add the mixture of flour and kefir. Leave for at least four hours so the kefir will ferment the flour. Just before baking add 3 tbsp of the kumquat syrup and chia seeds and baking powder. Bake in the oven at 180 degrees for 45 minutes.

When finished baking, pour ¼ cup of kumquat syrup on top of the cake while it’s still warm and then decorate with the candied kumquat. If you are concerned about sugar intake, leave out the syrup and decorate only with the kumquat. The juice from the wet candied kumquat will penetrate the cake, although not as saturated as when you pour the syrup.

 

TIP: Regardless of the recipe you follow to make candied kumquat you will be left with an excess of kumquat syrup (the sugary water in which the kumquats have been heated). Don’t throw this away. Save the syrup and use it in multiple ways such as in this recipe. You can also use the syrup to make salad dressing

 

NOTE: Check out more photos at our Instagram 

Candied kumquats used in a kumquat aloe vera water kefir juice

Kumquat Kefir Ice cream

 

 

 

 

Vanilla Essence Is Over-rated

Vanilla essence is over-rated
Vanilla beans

 

It’s been several years since I diversified from using vanilla essence in my baking. In fact, it is so few and far between that I have not missed it in my pantry. Vanilla essence is over-rated.

This may come as a shock to many bakers who can’t do without vanilla essence. It is the number one flavoring for cakes, ice cream, chocolates and even found in barbecue sauce and creamy dip. Rumour has it that one of the ingredients in Coca Cola’s top secret recipe, is vanilla.

Vanilla essence is over-rated
Most of the commercial vanilla ice cream does not contain real vanilla

 

Using vanilla in sweetmeats became popular after Hugh Moran an apothecary to Queen Elizabeth 1 introduced it to her in the early 17th century. The Queen became obsessed with it. Later the French began using it in their ice cream.

The U.S. is one of the most ice cream-craving-nation today with 96% of Americans admitting they love to eat ice cream. A 2014 National Geographic article claims that vanilla flavored ice cream beat chocolate as the number one favourite ice cream flavor in the U.S. However, a survey done among Americans by YouGov in 2018 lists vanilla in second place, after chocolate.

So how did I stray so far from this iconic rule of thumb of using vanilla essence for sweetmeats?

Vanilla is expensive

Vanilla is the second most expensive spice after saffron. Organic and pure vanilla essence could set you back about USD13.17 for just 2 fl oz.

The cheaper brands are not worth buying. They taste synthetic and are sugary sweet instead of the creamy rich toffee taste of real vanilla.

The reason real vanilla is so expensive is the painstaking effort to obtain them. The vanilla bloom only stays open for 24 hours. Many vanilla farmers don’t want to take the risk of relying only on the bees to pollinate within this short window of an opportunity. So they hand pollinate each flower. 

vanilla flowers bloom only 24 hours
vanilla flowers

If the pollination is successful a 6-to-10-inch pod will develop. The seeds inside these pods are then soaked in alcohol to obtain the vanilla extract.

Many companies prefer not to wait and instead add a sweetener like corn syrup to stabilize the extract.  I don’t consider these brands “pure” or “natural” vanilla although they are allowed to market them as such because the U.S. FDA considers “pure” as meaning the extract is made entirely from vanilla beans and not any other source. Still, it is better than the synthetic version, if you cannot afford the real stuff.

The total worldwide production of vanilla extract is about 2000 metric tons which is only a very small fraction of the huge demand for it . Therefore the bulk of the supply on the market is synthetic vanilla, using a compound called vanillin which can be manufactured from petrochemical, or by-products from the wood pulp and paper industry or even from secretion from the anal glands of beavers 

So unless you want to pay the high price for authentic vanilla, you would have to settle for the synthetic vanilla which is invariably the only kind used in many of the commercial ice creams and sweetmeats on the market.

 

A flavor should bring out the strong features of the sweetmeat 

I find vanilla essence too compatible to sugar. In my cooking, I’m looking for contrasts not compatibility. Vanilla essence simply makes sugary treats more sweet.  

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Take vanilla ice cream. Here vanilla plays a different role. Usually, it is the subtle ingredient that enhances the feature ingredient, but in vanilla ice cream, it is the feature. As the feature, consider how all it does is enhance the sugar in the ice cream. It does not stand out like chocolate or mint or blueberry. In fact, its subtlety is precisely why it makes for an ideal flavoring.

 

My favorite alternative to vanilla essence

I have been using home-made orange liqueur to flavor my sweetmeats. It is so easy to make. Simply take 5 large oranges or 8 small ones and use a vegetable peeler to thinly slice the peels off the oranges. When doing this be mindful to peel only the outer layer so that the white pith does not come off with the peel. Then soak orange peels in 1 litre of vodka for a week. After one week dissolve about 600g of sugar in half a litre of boiling water. Add the sugary water to the vodka and orange peels. Let it sit for a further week. Then discard the peels and bottle the liqueur.

In order to extract the flavor of the orange, a high alcohol base is needed and hence the choice of vodka. However, I made my orange liqueur using my own home-made wine as the base for extraction instead of vodka.

Bottled home-made wine after fermenting for a year

I made my wine with nothing but fermented grape juice from grapes I bought from a vineyard in the Barossa Valley in South Australia. I collaborated with the owner of this vineyard to run a workshop called Making Wine The Natural Way.

As my wine had not been treated with sulphur or been heated, it is rich in probiotics. So when I used this as a base instead of vodka, I allowed the sugary water to cool down first before I poured it into the wine. In this way, I would not kill the good bacteria in my wine.

 

Only a slight adjustment and you have two different flavors

If I wanted a spicy orange liqueur, I would add cinnamon sticks and cardamom at the same time I add the orange peels. Keep the spices in the jar when you add the sugary water. After the second week of steeping, remove the peels and spices. Now you have a second alternative flavor to vanilla essence.

 

I used mandarins from my tree to make my liqueur

 

How I use my orange liqueur

Almost all cakes and patisseries will be fine with substituting orange liqueur for vanilla. You need to be a bit more careful with ice cream. Vanilla essence goes well with chocolate ice cream but orange liqueur might not.

When I make chocolate ice cream, I don’t use any substitute for vanilla. I just make it with chocolate, milk and a sweetener like sugar, honey, rice or maple syrup. If you are using honey, rice or maple syrup, these will flavor it as they each provide their own unique flavor. You will note the taste of honey is variable too depending on the flowers from which the bees have collected the pollen used to make that particular type of honey.

 

Orange liqueur is more versatile than vanilla essence

Orange liqueur can be used in salads instead of sugar or honey. It is much better in barbecue sauce than vanilla essence, especially when it is of the spicy version. If you would like to have some vanilla essence in your pantry rather than not at all, make it yourself at home so you can be assured it is authentic.

 

 

HFJ-0072r:.Madame Mallory (Helen Mirren) and Hassan Kadam (Manish Dayal) in DreamWorks Pictures’ charming new film “The Hundred-Foot Journey”..Photo: François Duhamel.©DreamWorks II Distribution Co., LLC. All Rights Reserved..

 

Why change a 200-year old trait?

I believe Hassan played by actor Manish Dayal in the movie The Hundred-Foot Journey explains this well in his banter with Madam Mallory played by Helen Mirren.

Madam Mallory: What is this flavor that is fighting against the chicken?

Hassan: I added some spices for flavour to the sauce and coriander for garnish and freshness.

Madame Mallory: But why change a recipe that is 200 years old?

Hassan: Because, Madam, maybe 200 years is long enough.

 

Bundy Special mangoes best tasting

Have We Forgotten The Taste Of Real Mangoes?

Ever wondered why the “yellow” mangoes on display at the supermarket have no aroma?Supermarket mangoes have been so processed that they have lost their true identity. Buy them long enough and it is easy to forget what real mangoes taste like. I did. I used to pick mangoes from the tree as a child and when I grew up, I bought mangoes from supermarkets and forgot what it was like to hold and smell a mango, freshly picked from the tree…that is until I acquired my own Bundy Special mangoes best tasting orchard.

Bundy Special mangoes
Our Bundy Special mangoes

Standing in the midst of a few hundred trees, their branches laden with Bundy Special mangoes best tasting, I basked in the aroma of the ripe, freshly picked mangoes in my basket.

One more Bundy Special mango for the basket
Real mangoes have blemishes. When a mango is too perfect that is when you start worrying

Jade, a young lady from China who lived with us during harvest season,  helped me pick mangoes off our tree and one day while picking together, she said to me, “Your mangoes are bad for me.”

Startled, I responded, “Why do you say that, Jade?”

Bundy Special mangoes best tasting
Jade likes to bury her face in the mango while eating

“Once I go back I will never be able to eat mangoes again because I have tasted the best and everything else will not match up,” she continued.

I laughed. Our mango picking routine involved taking breaks by eating plump, fleshy mangoes. These sort of breaks are unheard of at a typical commercial farm.

Fortunately for us, we can appreciate the precious gift that each and every mango is to us and while we do sell them, they are not treated as commodities but an important source of sustenance and a privilege to eat, when it is chemical-free and fresh.

Bundy Special Mangoes Best Tasting
Bundy Special Mangoes Best Tasting

I still recall juice pouring down our wrists and arms as Jade and I devoured our mangoes. Then we looked at each other and laughed because we had yellow pulp all over our cheeks and nose. Jade had this habit of burying her face in a ripe mango and slurping.

It is a feat to get to the mangoes because they are on top of the mountain. However, the breath-taking sight at the top makes it well worth the steep climb.

Once you’ve drunk in the view, turn around and you will see majestic mango trees amongst the forest backdrop.

It’s quite a sight to behold. Why? Because you won’t be looking at a monoculture crop [rows and rows of the same cultivar in one spot] but a crop that is grown amongst the natural forest. To the untrained eye, our farm might look wild and unkempt but therein lies its rich biomass which contributes towards a rich soil, leading to the most nutritious and delicious mangoes you will ever taste.

The Bundy Special mangoes best tasting, form a purple tinge as it ripens, and when the sun hits, they get a pink blush, which is so attractive.

Bundy Special mangoes best tasting
At the market

While selling mangoes at the market, a lady visited our mango stall and asked for a taste. We had slices laid out on a plate to sample.

“I am a mango farmer and I have ten thousand trees,” she told us. “We export our mangoes and the Japanese always pay top dollar for the mangoes with the pink blush.”

I asked if she sprays her mangoes and she said, “Of course. You have to spray if you want them to be commercially viable.”

Commercially viable! We’ve heard so much advice on how to make our mangoes commercially viable and we’re glad we rejected all of them, especially the need to spray chemicals. Now that we’ve had experience with our own mangoes, let me bust a few myths:

Myth 1 –  It’s impossible to get a good harvest of mangoes if you don’t spray your trees.

There are chemicals to induce flower production, chemicals to deter pests and the chemical applications don’t end when the mangoes are picked. After picking they are subjected to a chemical wash to prevent sap burn and even submerged in hot water to kill fruit fly larvae and prevent anthracnose disease [blackening of the skin of the mango]. All these destroy the quality of the mango, not to mention dangerous to eat because it has been exposed to chemicals.

While our mangoes were still green on the tree we did our housekeeping such as picking up all the mangoes that had fallen pre-maturely and protecting trees with fruit fly baits instead of spraying with chemicals. If the trees are healthy they are less susceptible to disease.

They stay healthy the same way we humans stay healthy – by eating right. Their nutrition comes from the rich, red soil on our property and what we feed the soil.

At harvest time, we had thousands of great mangoes – so good that retail shops were ordering from us. So this myth that you have to spray is just a short-cut to circumvent hard work.

“Be prepared to lose 60% of your crop,” a manager of a farm that sprays chemicals warned me. “This is why organic produce costs more – more work involved and they need to recover their losses.”

Isn’t that part of nature, though? To share with the wildlife and they, in turn, propagate, pollinate, distribute and enrich the soil with their waste and distribute good bacteria with their saliva. When did we lose our sense of living in harmony with nature? I believe it’s when we made “profit” our number one goal and forgot our responsibility of being good stewards of the environment.

Genuine farmers care for their livestock, the land and care about the health of people consuming their produce. But most of the people who grow the food you eat are not farmers. They are large corporations that do not have an intimate connection with the land and the fruit it produces

Myth 2 – Organic produce enrich organic farmers

Retail shops want our mangoes at dirt cheap prices and at one time it looked like it simply was not worth the effort picking the mangoes to sell. However, if we sold them at the market ourselves, then it was worth it.

However, even at the market, the genuine farmers get a raw deal. Our spot was right at the back and the busy/popular section of the market was filled with distributors instead of farmers. These distributors simply buy the produce/fruit from Brisbane and bring them over to the markets to sell. These fruits and vegetables are not fresh. And they have been treated with all sorts of chemicals to keep them artificially fresh.

It is sad that consumers don’t know how to tell the difference or don’t care to know. Just because they buy from the market does not mean every stallholder is the farmer who grew that produce.

I would advise consumers to buy directly from organic farmers to ensure their bodies are receiving the highest quality food and farmers can concentrate on looking after their crops instead of competing with distributors at market stalls or forced to sell to retail shops at dirt cheap prices.

Myth 3 – Fruit and vegetables at every farmer’s market is fresh

It is fresh only if you buy the fruits and vegetables from the farmer who grew them. We picked our mangoes every few days which meant when we showed up at the markets they were as fresh as can be. We did the same for the shops. This also means that we allow the fruits to ripen on the tree. This results in much tastier fruits with a sweet aroma.

No crop matures at the same time, but commercial farms do not appreciate or take pride in growing/farming and do not care about the health of the consumers. They will harvest within a short period and gas their fruits

“All our mangoes have to be off the trees by harvest time. It simply isn’t cost effective for us to keep bringing workers back to the farm for harvest,” said a chemical-spraying farmer.

Myth 4 – You need to wash your mangoes in a chemical wash after picking to prevent sap burn.

A white sap gushes out when you break the stem of the mango. This sap can burn the skin of the mango and leave an ugly mark. So commercial farmers pick the mangoes with the stem attached and then wash them with chemicals before breaking the stem. This chemical leaves a wax on the mangoes and prevents the sap from sticking onto the skin of the mango and burning it.

We got around this by simply washing the mangoes in water mixed with organic detergent. Then we broke the stems and propped them up in an egg-shell like container, bottom down – only this container has the bottom cut out so that the mango can “bleed” it’s sap out. In this way we didn’t have to use chemical wash.

Personally, I prefer to skip even this procedure as the sap doesn’t bother me. Neither does the discolouration. Sap burn is not the only reason the mango gets discoloured. When a mango ripens at room temperature, it is normal for black spots to appear. It is just the normal process of ripening. Often these blemished fruits are the sweetest and tastiest.

Too much emphasis is placed on the appearance of fruits and not on the quality. Fortunately, those who bought from us understand that “real” fruits come in different sizes and do not have this uniform look. Neither do they look perfect but they taste perfect with their wholesome goodness intact and not destroyed by unnecessary processing.

In the name of uniformity of appearance hundreds of thousands of perfectly good fruit are discarded and not allowed to reach the supermarket aisles simply because they are smaller or larger or have some blemishes. So much wastage!

 

Myth 5 – Commercial mangoes have to be submerged in hot water to kill fruit fly larvae and prevent anthracnose disease [blackening of the skin]

 

Make your own mango chilli sauce

All these destroy the quality of the mango and when mangoes are treated to a hot water bath, to me, they are no longer raw but cooked mangoes. In the last decade, irradiation has replaced the hot water bath. Irradiation is subjecting the fruit to radiation. Not only is it dangerous to eat, but it changes the DNA of the fruit and kills the nutrition. This is also done to increase the shelf life of the fruit as it kills all pathogen, but it also kills the good bacteria and we’re basically eating “dead” food when we consume it.

I turned some of these mangoes into condiments like mango chilli sauce, mango ice cream and mango smoothies topped with home-made granola. It is so much more rewarding and healthy to make your own sauces. Join our upcoming “Condiments” workshop to learn more about making essential sauces that will go complement many different meals.

Subscribe now to stay informed on workshops!

 

 

Sandpaper Figs Green Curry

I have been inspired by Aussie Bush Tucker lately since I have so many growing wild on my property. One such delight is Sandpaper Figs. They are smaller than normal figs and most people find them bland to eat on its own. When it’s very ripe it does have a mildly sweet flavour. So I used these in my Sandpaper Figs Green Curry.

I buy my fish directly from fisherman Ivan of Unreel Seafood. In this way, I can be assured my food is always fresh. For my Sandpaper Figs Green Curry, I used Rosey Job Fish. Another name for it is King Snapper.

I have several frangipani trees covered with pink flowers and so I decided to present my dish decorated with frangipani. This Sandpaper Figs Green Curry dish is easy to make. Did you know that frangipani flowers are edible?

 

Sandpaper Figs Green Curry
I preserve green chillies by blending them with garlic and vinegar and store in the fridge

 

 

Sandpaper Fig Green Curry
Rosey Job Fish From Unreel Seafood

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sandpaper Figs Green Curry
Sandpaper Figs Green Curry served with spinach and brinjal stirfry and lemon pickle

Sandpaper Figs Green Curry

Ingredients

1/2 cup coriander

1 small zucchini

1/2 cup green chillies blended with garlic and vinegar

1-inch piece galangal ginger 

1 400 ml can of  coconut milk

1/2 cup sandpaper figs 

1 cup pumpkin chopped into cubes

3 tablespoon fish sauce

Method

Blend together coriander, zucchini and blended green chillies. If you don’t keep preserved blended chillies like me in the fridge, just blend together three green chillies with three cloves garlic and two tablespoon vinegar.

A local chilli farmer gave me a lot of chilli peppers which were slightly blemished and not good for the commercial market. There is absolutely nothing wrong with them nutritionally. Only aesthetically they don’t fit commercial requirements.  As I could not use all of them fast enough,  I blended them with garlic and vinegar to preserve them. I use them as chilli sauce such as when I eat fries and I also use them in dishes such as this Green Curry Sandpaper Figs.

Sandpaper Figs In A Bowl
Sandpaper Figs In A Bowl

You can turn this dish into a vegetarian dish by leaving out the fish and using more sandpaper figs. Use one cup figs instead of half cup. As the fish sauce is salty, no need to use salt. The figs are delicious as they soak up the curry and taste like mushrooms in this curry except that they have a sweeter disposition.

This Green Curry Sandpaper Figs was served on brown rice, accompanied by a simple spinach brinjal stirfry. I also added a touch of lemon pickle on the side. To make lemon pickle, I preserve whole organic lemons in salt and when they are ready after several weeks, I use them in various ways. When I want to use them as a pickle I blend a piece of preserved lemon with red onion and chillies. 

An alternative to the spinach brinjal stirfry is spinach, kale and tempeh stirfry. We had this on the second day when we had finished eating all of the spinach brinjal stir-fry but still had some of the curry left. So I made this spinach, kale and tempeh stirfry fresh and ate it with the left-over curry on the second day.

Vegetarian sandpaper green curry figs with more figs and no fish served up with kale tempeh stirfry and a little lemon pickle on the side. The pickle looks pink because of the red onions I used.

 

                                        

Incidentally, on the same day I made this Green Curry Sandpaper Figs we found our friend this green frog in out outdoor toilet bowl.

 

We had “rescued” him out of there several times but he still finds his way back in there. We even close the lid and he still gets in.

 

So in keeping with our green theme, I will post this video if only to put a smile on your face. At the end of the video you will see the brinjal plant which supplied the brinjals for the stirfry.

 

 

 

 

Homegrown Water Chestnuts

I have mainly eaten water chestnuts in Chinese stir-fry. Most people in Australia don’t even know what water chestnuts are, although they would have eaten it at a Chinese restaurant. Next time you order a mixed vegetable dish at a Chinese restaurant, look for water chestnuts amongst the chunky cauliflower and floral-cut carrots and layers of snow peas. They are round, white and crunchy, easily mistaken for a nut. A water chestnut is actually an acquatic vegetable, a type of marshy grass which has an edible root. I prefer homegrown water chestnuts as they are tastier than the canned ones. The health benefits of water chestnuts include anti-oxidants similar to those found in chocolate, green tea and red wine.

 

homegrown water chestnuts and Lina
Corms are ready to be transplanted to the bathtub once they have green shoots like this that look like grass. That’s my dog Lina in the photo. This was the last harvest time I shared with her as she went to be with Jesus shortly after. I miss you baby girl!
homegrown water chestnuts in bathtub
After ten days

 

 

 

 

 

T

 

 

 

 

 

 

Today the more adventurous foodies are using water chestnuts in Western dishes too. For example, dressing up the mundane pumpkin soup with water chestnuts gives a nice bite to it. If you’re making a vegetable wrap, throw water chestnuts into the filling. A famous Thai dessert, Tab Tim Grob uses water chestnuts as its main feature.

bathtub filled to the brim with homegrown water chestnuts
kangaroo relaxing in front of my bathtub where I was growing water chestnuts. By now the tub is filled to the brim with water chestnuts

 

The water chestnuts eaten at restaurants are usually out of a can. While the canned version is still crunchy, it is missing the sweet, nutty and tart flavour only found in fresh or homegrown water chestnuts. I used an old bathtub to grow mine. I started with just six corms I purchased online from a nursery selling organic and heirloom plants.

 

kangaroo in front of bathtub of homegrown water chestnuts
When I went to top up the water in the bathtub the kangaroo left. I was sorry to see him leave

 

It took about ten months from planting to harvest. Once you wash the mud off the chestnuts you can see their purplish-brown colour. Water chestnuts don’t last long once harvested.

A large crop of homegrown water chestnuts will have to be stored properly for long-term use. Some of the homegrown water chestnuts I harvested were peeled and then frozen in zip lock bags. But I prefer the second method I used with the rest of the chestnuts, which is fermenting them whole, complete with skin, in salt water. I just use them as and when I need them. They are tastier than the frozen chestnuts.

 

 

Leaves of home-grown water chestnuts turn brown
When the leaves turn brown they are ready to harvest

 

A large crop of homegrown water chestnuts will have to be stored properly for long-term use. Some of the homegrown water chestnuts I harvested were peeled and then frozen in zip lock bags. But I prefer the second method I used with the rest of the chestnuts, which is fermenting them whole, complete with skin, in salt water. I just use them as and when I need them. They are tastier than the frozen chestnuts.

 

picking through the roots to find homegrown water chestnuts
The chestnuts are formed at the end of the roots. So I had to break up the soil and dig through the roots to pick out the chestnuts.

 

The highlight of last year’s crop must surely be stumbling upon a kangaroo relaxing in front of my bathtub, now covered from end to end with the long, grassy tops of the water chestnuts. The kangaroo didn’t disturb the plant. He was just lying down in front of the bathtub. He wasn’t perturbed by me walking up to him either until I got a bit too close. Watch the video below to see him.

 

Jackfruit Mackerel Curry

Jackfruit is popular in Malaysia. The fruit grows close to the trunk of the tree. A mature jackfruit tree can produce between 100 – 200 fruits in a year. The seeds inside are bountiful too. Cut it open and you will find many seeds covered with yellow or orange pulp. The riper the pulp, the sweeter it is.

Having grown up in, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, I recall that most people in the city consumed the pulp while the flesh was discarded. You also cannot find Jackfruit Mackerel Curry on the menu of most restaurants whether in Malaysia or Australia.  In the villages, however, they do still cook the jackfruit flesh – something my own great-grandmother used to do.

Chef Shelly with me and another participant at the Jackfruit Mackerel Curry Workshop
Chef Shelly with me and another participant at the Jackfruit Mackerel Curry Workshop

So I was excited to participate in this workshop to cook Jackfruit Mackerel Curry, at Fresh Asian Cuisine restaurant in Noosaville, Queensland. Chef Shelly, who has owned and cooked at no less than 30 restaurants, conducted the workshop. Although the jackfruit flesh came out of a can, I found it pleasing, that Fresh Asian Cuisine restaurant at Noosaville have Jackfruit Mackerel Curry on their menu as the restaurant takes pride in serving up authentic Asian dishes.

“I’d love to see fresh jackfruit again,” said Chef Shelly Phanich who is originally from Thailand, “But it is tedious to peel and take out the pulp. You need to oil your knife so that the latex juice doesn’t stick to it.” I laughed as she reminded me of the days when I encountered the same problem, cutting jackfruit in Malaysia.

Today, it is interesting to find jackfruit flesh popular among vegans. In vegan burgers, for example, the jackfruit flesh is used to make burger patties. The texture of the jackfruit flesh is said to taste like shredded pork and so they are very popular.

Decorate with carrot florets when serving
Decorate with carrot florets when serving

While lemongrass is popular with Thai dishes, it was interesting that Shelly added bay, curry and kafir lime leaves too. The flavours simply exploded with these additional herbs. The sweet potato was another unique touch that gave it a sweet, spicy flavour without the need for sugar.

 

Shelly did not add salt to this dish either because the fish sauce she used is salty enough. Way to go, Shelly! Many of us forget that things like tomato, barbecue or chilli sauce that are usual condiments to fried potato chips already have salt in them and yet they season their fries with additional salt, going overboard on their salt intake.

Another interesting feature is that Shelly used a mortar and pestle to grind the onions, lemongrass, fresh tumeric and galangal ginger instead of using the blender as most of us do. She believes grinding and blending are two different things.

 

“You can control the texture with a mortar and pestle,” she said as she sharpened her chef’s knife on the stone surface of her mortar. “And you can use it to sharpen your knife too.”

Garlic fish sauce condiment
Garlic fish sauce condiment

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I laughed, remembering another snippet from my childhood, watching my grandmother sharpen knife on the mortar the way Shelly was doing.

Many lovely cooking tips were shared at the workshop such as how to cut carrots to look like florets and slices with shapely patterns. Shelly also pounded the coriander roots to make the curry paste instead of discarding them the way most people do.

 Feasting on Jackfruit Mackerel Curry with rice and garlic chilli fish sauce condiment

Feasting on Jackfruit Mackerel Curry with rice and garlic chilli fish sauce condiment

 

Jackfruit Mackerel Curry

Ingredients

Jackfruit flesh

mackerel fish

2 tbsp fresh tumeric

2 tbsp galangal ginger

6 tbsp fish sauce

chilli powder

Onion

Sweet potato

1 can coconut milk

Roots of the coriander

3 stalks Lemongrass (bruised)

Bay leaves

Curry leaves

Kafir lime leaves

 

 

Method

Pound tumeric and ginger. Then add onion and slowly pound. Finally, add the coriander root and keep pounding. Most people throw the roots away but don’t. you can use this. Leave ground mixture in the mortar and pestle. Add oil and coconut milk and cook for awhile then add the pounded ingredients and stir-fry. Keep adding water if it gets too dry.

Add fish and jackfruit and sweet potato. Stir. Add bay, curry and kafir lime leaves.

 

Additional Tips:

  1. Pound red capsicum with the tumeric, ginger and onion if you want a brighter red colour.
  2. To make garlic chilli fish sauce condiment, chop three cloves garlic, some chilli, fish sauce and onions and place all together in some fish sauce to serve.