Try baking a potato chocolate cake for that velvet smooth texture. I’m eating spoonfuls of it now as I type this and so exciting to bite into whole cherries soaked in raw honey and home-made wine generously added to this cake.
Take a good look at mashed potatoes. Notice how velvety they are? Of course, a typical mashed potato recipe calls for adding butter and cream for a a creamy texture, but on its own, it is more velvety which I translate as a drier form of creamy.
You can leave out the cherries for this cake to keep it simple but it is the cherry season now in Australia and apart from eating raw cherries, what I love to do, is preserve cherries in raw honey and alcohol. If you are averse to alcohol, you can preserve the cherries simply in raw honey. So when my preserved cherries are ready, I just toss some into this Potato Chocolate Cake for a really distinct flavour
Potato Chocolate Cake
250 gm coconut oil
170 gm sugar
270 gm organic potatoes (about 4 medium size potatoes), steamed and mashed
320 gm flour (2 1/2 cups)
85 gm raw cacao powder (2/3 cup)
160 ml kefir (2/3 cup)
15 preserved cherries (optional)
I steam my potatoes in a pressure cooker until they have become soft. If you boil your potatoes, much of the nutrition just gets leached into the water. Leave to cool. After 15 mins, mash the potatoes till smooth and leave aside.
Cream coconut oil and sugar with an electric mixer until light and fluffy. Beat in all four eggs, one at a time until fully combined. Beat in the mashed potatoes, one half at a time.
Remove bowl from electric mixer and then fold in with a spoon the flour, cocoa and kefir, one half at a time.
With all my recipes I use whole wheat flour (I grind the grains myself). Avoid white flour. Whole wheat is high on phytic acid. So I always let the mixture sit for five to eight hours to let the kefir break down the phytic acid so that the nutrients in the flour and cacao are more readily absorbed by the body
Spread mixture into prepared pan. Bake in a moderate oven for about 40 minutes. Leave for 10 minutes before turning onto a wire rack to cool
I have been trying to grown papaya for a year now. First I obtained seedlings from a nursery in Queensland, Australia. The variety was called Southern Red carica papaya. Unfortunately, at the start of autumn all three seedlings died. This time I tried from organic seeds and the papaya trees grew very well. To save time, I didn’t wait for it to get warmer. I planted the seeds in autumn right after I saw the Southern Red in trouble. Not a wise thing to do, but Kevin put plastic sheets over them to keep away the cold winds and frost.
Papaya loves the sun. The hotter the better and many people believe they can only be grown in a fully tropical climate. So you can imagine what a feat it was not only keep my small trees alive but to keep them growing. The trick was to plant them against a wall facing the sun.
In Australia, the sun is usually in the northern part of the sky and moves even farther north in winter. So the southern side does not get much sun, except in summer and that too in the mornings and afternoons. So we planted our papaya trees against the wall facing the Northern side which had full sun during winter and summer. The plastic sheets over these little trees created a greenhouse effect by keeping the heat in and cold winds out. So they actually kept growing during winter but slowly.
Then the trunk of the trees turned black. I fed them some organic fertilizer and mulch to strengthen them to withstand the cold. It worked! Incredibly the trunks changed colour from black to grey to clear. No trace of the black at all. It goes to show that with good food it is possible to reverse any ailment.
So it is with much joy, I am able to harvest papayas this summer despite the earlier setback. They are small fruits having formed during winter but still very sweet. We are well into summer now and the trees are bearing more fruit. So I’m looking forward to larger papayas.
I used all my small winter papayas up to make papaya purple top turnip juice. I picked them bit by bit over a few days as and when I needed them to juice on my slow juicer so that they would be fresh to drink.
As my purple top turnip harvest had come in around the same time, I mixed a little of that into the papaya purple top turnip juice.
One cup serving of turnips contains 8.1 grams of carbohydrates, or 3% of the recommended intake (RDA) for a 2,000-calorie diet.
Purple top turnips are composed primarily of carbohydrates, with 80 percent of calories coming from carbohydrates which also include 2.3 grams of dietary fiber, almost 10 percent of your RDA.
Papaya is very high in Vitamin C, with one serving containing about 144% of your RDA. It is also high in Vitamin A and has papain which can break down tough protein fibres, thus extremely beneficial to the digestive system.
Papaya Purple Top Turnip Juice
(makes 800 ml)
600 gm papaya
180 gm orange
purple top turnip 200gm
1 tbsp tumeric paste
Papaya leaves can be ground and drunk like tea and is highly sought after by cancer patients as it is said to be a natural remedy for cancer and also for dengue.
I do make tea from my papaya leaves which are organic of course as I never use pesticide. However, be warned the tea is very bitter, more bitter than bitter melon tea. I don’t drink it often and Kevin does not like the taste at all. You can add honey or add about 1/4 cup to the juice you are making if you want to consume it but find the taste too bitter.
Organic leaves can also be purchased in Australia from PawPawLeaf Australia. The owner told me that it is common for paw paw or papaya leaves to have dark spots on them but they are still edible. it is only cosmetic. Mine have these dark spots mainly during winter but they are fine in summer.
All the purple top turnips have been pulled out of the ground. What do we do when we have access vegetables? We ferment them. So this was a good time to make purple top turnip kimchi.
What fun we had collecting our harvest. Horses poked their curious noses over the fence for a nibble at the green turnip tops. We always give the greens to them fresh and that means within minutes of pulling those turnips out of the ground.
Normally I would just pick what I need for the day’s meals and leave the rest in the ground but summer was upon us and these turnips are a winter crop. So I had exhausted my flexible-harvest time frame and had to move into full clearing.
This is a shame as these green tops contain four times the percentage of daily value of calcium as its less bitter counterparts such as cabbage, for instance. One serving also provides 588% vitamin K which is needed for our bodies to use calcium effectively for the bones. Without Vitamin K, calcium can be directed to the wrong places such as arteries and organs causing problems that include hardening of arteries. So one serving of these greens provides enough Vitamin K for a whole week!
If we didn’t give these green turnip tops to the horses, most of them would end up in the compost bin as they have a bitter taste and not popular on the dinner table [don’t know why horses like them. Probably for the same reason I like bitter melon].
To create a myriad of flavours I have included beetroot and their leaves too in my ferment. Beet leaves and turnip leaves are high in oxalic acid which can bind important minerals such as calcium and make them inaccessible to our bodies. Fermentation breaks down this oxalic acid and releases these minerals so our bodies can easily metabolise them.
Purple Top Turnip Kimchi
It is not necessary to soak the vegetables in a brine as fermentation will occur without it, but you will have a mushy kimchi instead of kimchi with crunchy vegetables.
Salt holds back the activity of the yeast so that your vegetables stay crunchy. Some probiotics enthusiasts believe too much salt kills probiotics and you end up with just a “brine-cured” food and not a healthy lacto-fermented food.
Sandor Katz leading fermentation revivalist does not agree. He believes, the beneficial bacteria we’re after, Lactobacillus, is salt-tolerant and abundantly present even in salty krauts. He agrees salt-free ferments may be more biodiverse but the mushy texture compromises taste. So if adding salt produces a far superior flavour and texture with just as much beneficial bacteria, he argues in favour of using salt. His basic formula for salt is 3 tablespoons for 5 pounds of vegetables. The general rule in salting your ferments according to Sandor Katz: “More salt to slow microorganism action in summer heat; less salt in winter when microbial action slows”. I use special led-free crock pots imported into from Poland to ferment my purple top turnip kimchi.
Purple Top Turnip Kimchi Recipe
5 kg of both purple top turnip and beetroot
1.6 kg of the leaves of purple top turnip and beetroot
10 cloves whole
1 cup honey
4 spring onions
I fermented my vegetables in my 10 litre crock pot. I filled my crock pot with 5 litres of water and made a brine brine solution consisting of three tablespoons salt, based on Sandor Katz’s guidance on preparing brine. There are more complicated guidelines based on the type of vegetables you use, but this simple form works for me. Remember some vegetables such as cabbages will produce a lot of water. Keep this in mind when you add water. The idea is to keep the vegetables completely submerged to ensure good anaerobic fermentation takes place in this purple top turnip kimchi.
My crock pot comes with a water moat in which the lid sits. I poured water into this moat at the rim of the crock pot and placed the lid on top of the water.This creates an airlock and thus provides the perfect anaerobic environment. At the same time it allows the carbon dioxide released by the vegetables during the fermentation process to bubble out, thus preventing pressure build up. This same concept applies for brewing wine.
I did not use the stone weights that came with the crock pots to press and keep the vegetables under water because I did not have enough vegetables to fill the whole pot 10 litre pot. You can still use the weights if you do not add as much water as I did.
Stirring creates more oxygen for the wild yeasts and thus you want to keep stirring to a minimum. Your target is a sweet ferment and yeasts will tend to make it too sour. For example when you resort to an aerobic fermentation for grape juice which is where you allow oxygen into the juice it will fuel the yeasts more than it will the bacteria and you end up with vinegar instead of wine.
These crock pots are expensive and if you can’t afford one or don’t have access to one, simple use a food grade plastic container. However, avoid metal containers like cast-iron, copper, aluminum, and tin, all of which can react with the acids in fermented food and give it a strange flavor. These metals can also leach into the food.
I left my vegetables alone to ferment in a cool and dark place in my pantry for one month. Two weeks will be appropriate for most ferments but I wanted a stronger taste. It was exciting to hear the concoction bubbling the first few days. After sometime the bubbling will stop and the lacto fermentation will begin under anaerobic conditions.
After one month, my purple top turnip kimchi was ready. I took the vegetables out of the water and placed them in glass jars. Sieve them to remove most of the water. They will still release some water in the bottle resulting in them sitting in a watery liquid in the jars and that is all right as you want them to remain submerged under water. Place these jars in the fridge and eat as an accompaniment to rice dishes or place them in sandwiches.
The home garden provided all I needed for this pakora with mint sauce dish. Pumpkins saved from last summer’s harvest still line the shelves and gave us a good supply over winter.
My cabbage patch offered up these beautiful heads of cabbage. This time I had purple top turnips growing and some of these went into this dish of pakora with mint sauce. These turnips have the tang of a radish and if you are using them, I would leave out the ginger.
I have posted a recipe on Pakora in the past. If you compare these you will notice the other was caramelized in onion pro-biotic juice and the batter made with rice flour. This recipe is half rice flour and half chickpea flour, also known as besan flour. Just changing details like these and even using different vegetables can offer a different taste to the same dish. Kale, for example, turns crispy when cooked at high heat and adds to the crunch.
Another difference with this pakora with mint sauce recipe is the mint sauce. Mint is another item I have in abundance in my garden. So I just picked the leaves fresh from my garden for this one.
When you fry it is important to ensure the kind of oil you use is one that has a high smoke point. Check out this brilliant article on what is the best oil for frying.
We love fried food at our house and here are some tips on the best use of oil for frying:
1. use coconut oil or olive oil to fry. They have a high smoke point.
2. do not re-use the oil too many times. The times you use could vary depending on the quantity of oil and how much you are frying. If the batch you are frying is a lot, you could use the oil only once.
3. using a small, deep sauce pan for frying forces you to use oil in small amounts. I use one that is 6 1/2 inches wide and 3 inches deep. I can fit only 4 pakoras at a time.
You may have to fry small batches at a time but it is cost effective and healthy because you are not discarding large amounts of oil. One reason I have stayed away from buying deep fryers is because they use a large quantity of oil. Worse, you will be tempted to re-use it more times than you should because you don’t have the heart to waste the oil.
Lastly, when you put in a lot of items to fry you reduce the heat of the oil. This means whatever you are frying will absorb a lot of oil. You want the heat to be at maximum temperature as this will quickly cook the inside and the out at minimum oil absorption.
3 cups shredded pumpkin
3 cups shredded cabbage
2 cups shredded purple top turnip or radish
3 stalks curry leaves, finely minced
onion leaves or onions
1 heap tsp minced ginger
1 heap tbsp chilli powder (if you don’t like it too hot reduce to 1 tsp)
1 tsp garam masala
salt and tumeric
1 1/2 cups besan flour
1 1/2 cup rice flour
1 cup water (pour more or less to adjust the consistency of the batter. Should be thick enough to form into round balls. If batter is too thin it won’t bind to form a tight ball and will break up when you put the balls into the oil)
Mix all the minced and shredded vegetables in a bowl. Sprinkle the spices and salt over them, followed by the ginger and chilli powder. Mix well. Then add the flour. Pour the water gradually as you could need slightly more or less than one cup. Feel the consistency. It should not be watery. It should have just enough to bind the vegetables into a tight ball. Fry in high heat and remove once it is slightly brown. Serve with mint sauce
1/2 cup kefir (may use yoghurt as an alternative)
2/3 cup fresh mint
1 tbsp honey
1 tsp lemon juice
pepper and salt to taste
Mix all the ingredients together in a bowl and let it sit at room temperature for 30 minutes before you store it in the fridge.
Pairing dishes in order to serve up a great meal is an art.
Most households would prepare main meals and side dishes, but rarely do people pay attention to condiments these days. They should.
In the past condiments meant strictly pickle or other preserved food to boost the flavours in a meal. It can either make a bland meal flavoursome or make an adequate meal extravagant.
These days, condiments have taken on a new meaning to incorporate sauces and in some places like Europe, even cheese.
It is usually distinguished from side dishes by being a lot less in portion as it is not the main dish but complements both the main and side dishes.
Indian Banana Leaf Meal
If you are in India or South East Asia, you can expect to be served a bountiful banana leaf meal as in the picture above. Notice how the meal is made a lot more elaborate by little portions of condiments. Even the arrangement of the food on the banana leaf is orderly. First you have the main meals in a row. Behind that are the side dishes and then the row furthest away from you at the edge of the leave, are the condiments.
Any guesses which are the side dishes and which the condiments? Mixed vegetables in ground coconut, vegetable stir fried with grated coconut, pumpkin and red beans in grated coconut gravy, these are all clear-cut side dishes.
Now banana chips is also a side dish but notice the smaller portion of yam chips? So the yam chips will become a condiment as the banana chips take precedent in the meal.
Quite obvious condiments here would be lime and mango pickles, tamarind and ginger chutney. I would add to that, the yoghurt spiced with ginger. As for the pineapple and okra, the same arrangement applies with the banana and yam chips. Being the larger portion, the okra would be the side dish and the pineapple the condiment.
It is interesting to explore the condiments of different cultures and right here in Australia, I paid a visit to Jean Sadler to observe how she made Green Goddess Dressing, a very popular condiment in the 1960s.
Green Goddess Dressing Among Popular Condiments
Jean is what I would call a professional home chef. My personal opinion is that home chefs are more professional than celebrity chefs or chefs who own restaurants. The reason being the home chefs are not under pressure to cook for a multitude of people every day. So they have the time to be creative and explore their skills and craft to the fullest. Also home chefs tend to focus on healthy cooking as they are cooking for their own families whereas commercial cooking simply cannot compare.
The other highlight of my visit is to take a peek into Jean’s kitchen larder which is overflowing with jam made from various fruits, mostly grown in her home garden. One particularly delicious jam she gave me to take home was kumquat and tequila made from kumquats grown in her garden. This inspired me to get my own kumquat tree.
Jean is also an expert wine-maker who makes wine from grapes in her own little vineyard at the back of her house.
To kick-start her condiment she gave me and my mother-in-law Olwen a lovely history of Green Goddess dressing. She fondly recalls how you could readily buy it from the supermarket during that era as popular brands such Seven Seas (now bought over by Kraft Foods) were producing them.
The original Green Goddess dressing is the creation of chef Philip Roemer of the San Francisco’s Palace Hotel in 1923 to honor actor George Arliss, who stayed at the hotel while performing in William Archer’s hit play, “The Green Goddess”.
This hotel first opened in 1875 and was the largest hotel in the West for many years and one of the earliest to start the tradition of celebrity chefs. In 1903 the Palace hotel was devastated by an earthquake and fires but was restored and reopened in 1906 to a huge opening ceremony attended by the rich and famous.
Green Goddess dressing is still on Palace Hotel’s menu today with some changes from the original version, which is the addition of more herbs and the elimination of mayo and dairy. Another age-old item that has survived till today is crab salad and buttermilk biscuits that has been on its menu since 1909.
Another famous condiment, the thousand island sauce/dressing which everyone has heard of because it is still popular today is another condiment borne out of a hotel. It was created by George Boldt, proprietor of Waldorf Astoria Hotel in New York.
Green Goddess Dressing is so easy to make. Just watch the video below. This dressing is so versatile I use it as a dip, salad dressing and even as a pizza sauce topping.
Watching my tomatoes hanging in bunches on the vines is one of the my treasured moments on the farm. It appears I am not the only one who has a love affair with my tomatoes. Every year there is a Tomato Festival in Sydney that celebrates the wonderful tomato!
According to a Science Daily article organic tomato juice contains more phenolic components than juice from conventionally grown crops. If you are growing your own at home, keep away from chemical sprays and fertilizers and you will get a crop that will be more beneficial to your health.
Tomatoes are rich in lycopene
Tomatoes contain a powerful antioxidant called lycopene. Doctors are only just starting to discover how lycopene can help slow down or prevent cardiovascular disease, diabetes, cancer as well as degenerative conditions associated with aging.
Lycopene is not manufactured by the body and is obtained only from food of the carotenoid family which are of bright colours such as yellow, orange and red.
Tomatoes aid in healthy eyesight and bones
It is also rich in Vitamin A and K beneficial for good eyesight and bones.
Stuffed tomatoes need to be chunky
I have chosen Polish heirloom tomatoes to make stuffed tomatoes as they are chunky and have fewer seeds.
Except for the pumpkin that needs to be steamed this is a raw dish. You want to ensure your tomatoes are ripe but not too ripe with the skin still firm so that even when you don’t cook it, your stuffed tomatoes will be easy to cut with a knife and fork or just bite them like you would an apple. It should be firm enough that you won’t create a mess with watery juice all over your hands and plate as what little juice in the tomato will be absorbed by the stuffing.
(Makes 10 servings of tomatoes with each weighing 210 – 260 gms)
Polish heirloom or any chunky tomato with a hardy skin
1 cup barley grains
300 gm pumpkin, steamed
1 1/2 cup and 3 tbsp coconut cream
1 tsp paprika
3 tbsp basil leaves, finely chopped
1 slice of toasted bread
salt to taste
Soak the barley for at least 7 – 8 hours. You can soak it longer if you would like it sprouted but be sure to change the water after 7 hours as the barley could start to spoil if left too long in the same water
Steam the pumpkin until it is soft. Let it cool down. Then add coconut cream to the pumpkin as you are mashing it so the cream will be thoroughly mixed into the pumpkin.
Drain the barley in a sieve to discard the water in which it has been soaking. Add this now soft barley grains to the pumpkin and coconut cream mixture and stir well. Add basil leaves, paprika and salt.
.If you find the barley still hard you will need to soak it for longer, but ensure you use fresh water
I use rye bread because rye gets a little sticky when it comes in contact with water
Toast a slice of bread till slightly crisp and then let it soak in 3 tbsp of coconut cream while you are stuffing the tomatoes. I like to use rye bread because rye gets a little sticky when it comes in contact with water. Also because it is a little harder in texture.
Fill the tomatoes
Slice the top of the tomato off. Scoop out the centre with a teaspoon. This is another reason you want it red and ripe as it will be easier to scoop out the contents of the tomato
If you have chickens you can give them the scooped out content of the tomato. Mine love tomatoes. If you don’t then keep aside to put through your juicing machine next time you make juice.
Take the pumpkin barley mix and stuff into the now hollow tomatoes one by one.
Don’t worry if your tomatoes don’t stand upright. I’ll be surprised if they do. Your stuffing should be the consistency of thick paste so that they won’t run out even if your tomato is lying on its side.
Finally seal the top with the soaked bread. It is best to leave the tomatoes for an hour or two before serving as this will give them time to absorb the delicate flavour of the stuffing and for the walls of the stuff tomato to soften a little so that it is easier to cut or bite into. Your bread too would have hardened by then.