Friday, 30 May 2014

Green Papaw Pickles

Last weekend I attended a free workshop at Yandina Community Gardens on cooking with tropical fruit and vegetables. This was one of my favourite dishes, easy to prepare and so full of asian flavours. We have been having it with our fish and salad, and as a side dish to our steak this week. 

When I arrived at the workshop I was impressed by the colour and texture of the display of goodies. On the left is a mixture of birds eye chillies, garlic and ginger in apple cider. The Philippino's use it as a condiment like we use tomato sauce. In the centre are dried drumstick tree leaves (well worth a Google), and on the right are the colourful papaw pickles.


1 green papaw
1 medium carrot
1/2 green capsicum
1/2 red capsicum
5 cloves of garlic
2 thumb size ginger
2 hot chillies
2 tbsp turmeric powder
3 cups apple cider vinegar
2 cups raw sugar
3 tbsp salt

Peel green papaw and remove seeds, shred with a grater. Do the same with the carrot and thinly slice the red and green capsicum. Julienne the ginger and slice the garlic and eschallots. Place all these ingredients into a large pyrex dish.

Boil the cider vinegar, raw sugar, salt and turmeric until sugar is dissolved and it smells aromatic.

Pour over the vegetables, stir and pack into jars. Rinse jars in boiling water to sterlise and ensure they hot when the hot pickle mixture is added.

Now, how simple is that? This recipe made five jam-size jars of pickles. We also got to take home some Cassava, starfruit and drumstick tree leaves from the workshop. It was a fantastic morning and if you ever see anything like this going on in your neighbourhood give it a go!

What exotic things have you made lately?

Bake Play Smile

Thursday, 29 May 2014

Focus on Fermentation Week: Kefir

Funny how the last few fermented foods I have written about are all foreign sounding words beginning with K. Kefir (pronounced ke-feer) is another lacto-fermented product that provides numerous health benefits. I was a little dubious about this one as people had told me it doesn't taste great. I still decided to make it and was pleasantly surprised to find that it tastes similar to yoghurt, and with fruit blended through it (as in the image above) it is actually really refreshing. As with Kombucha tea, the health benefits are astounding and are summarised and explained really well on Imperfectly Natural

Here are just a few of them:

1.     Diabetes - because of naturally occurring sugars within kefir, it is a good tool for regulating blood sugar for those who struggle with diabetes.
2.   Kefir boosts the immune system to effectively fight external germs and potential diseases.
3.   Treats digestive disorders such as constipation, diarrhoea, and substantially decreases bloating, wind, discomfort in the abdominal area, and thrush.
4.   Kefir apparently assists with colon cancer, ulcers, respiratory conditions, eczema, psoriasis, acne and diseases bourne from gut dysbiosis (a destructive imbalance of microbial flora which is linked to e.g. inflammatory bowel syndrome and chronic fatigue syndrome).
6.   Kefir is teeming with vitamins and minerals that are easily absorbed by the body such as vitamins B and K, folic acid, phosphorous, calcium and magnesium.
7.   Kefir provides energy by assisting with digestion.
8.   Kefir improves the functioning of the liver, gallbladder, circulation and heart activity. it increases metabolism, oxygen supply to the cells and blood circulation to the brain. 
Phew, I am going to have the healthiest gut in the country at this rate!

As with Kombucha, Kefir also needs a special ingredient to get the culture started. The kefir 'grains' are what you need and they are not really grains, just a special culture that in many European families, is handed down through the generations. I found my grains on Ebay - $3 for one teaspoon including delivery and could I not give it a go? This is the plastic bag I received (above).

The white grains stuck to the plastic so I scraped them off the best I could...with a plastic spoon, apparently metal is not good for the kefir.

This is what I ended up with in my glass, a little messy but probably about a teaspoon of grains.

Cover the jar with a cloth or paper towel and secure with a rubber band. Leave the jar on the kitchen bench and the kefir will ferment at room temperature. During winter you can place the kefir on the top of the fridge to ferment quicker. 

Check the kefir every 6-12 hours or so. Once the milk has thickened, the kefir has formed, usually 24-48 hours.  It is a good idea to let the first batch ferment for three days, then I have found subsequent batches are ready every 24 hours.

Another sign that you have kefir is if it tastes tangy and sour like natural greek yoghurt. You then strain the milk and the remaining grains are placed back into the jar and topped with fresh milk…a continual process.
If you want a stronger fermented kefir (with more probiotics) then wait until the floating curds separate with the whey (which stays on the bottom), then mix the two together and drink. 

The interesting thing with kefir is if you place the grains in a larger vessel with more milk, then the grains will multiply, producing a larger quantity of kefir. I am happy with one coffee jar full per day, which is enough for a work-day fruit smoothie and to add to my dishes for dinner. Last night I used it in place of yoghurt in a chicken curry, stirring through last minute. There are some amazing recipes for using kefir if you do a Google search.

So, there you have it...the last post in this current fermentation series, and another gut-busting sensation. Have you ever heard of kefir or do you already make it yourself?

Wednesday, 28 May 2014

Focus on Fermentation Week: Kombucha

Kombucha is a naturally carbonated, fermented tea. It is made from a starter culture called a Scoby ( is one alien looking culture) and has many health benefits including the following:

1. It boosts the Immune System - because it is fermented it encourages the growth of beneficial bacteria in the stomach and is also rich in antioxidants, which help to strengthen immunity.

2. It is a Natural Detoxifier - The good bacteria that Kombucha promotes aids in detoxifying your gut, and it also supports liver function.

3. It is Rich in Vitamins and Enzymes - Kombucha is rich in Vitamin B which provide support for the body's metabolic functions including overall energy, utilization of carbohydrates, heart health, and healthy hair skin and nails. The digestive enzymes that Kombucha provides breaks down the food we eat into smaller compounds so the nutrients can be more easily absorbed into the bloodstream.

4. Increased Energy and Metabolism - The Vitamin B increases energy and the beneficial bacteria in the Kombucha help your body work better and take the burden off it's functioning.

5. PMS Relief - the Vitamin B vitamins break down and flush out excess estrogen from the body.

6. Relief from Arthritis and Joint Pain - As Arthritis is an immune disorder, Kombucha's probiotic bacteria assists in strengthening immunity.

So, when I read all of this on the leaflet that came with my mail-order Scoby, I knew that this was a fermented product that I just had to try...despite the initially daunting process, which, I am pleased to say was so much easier than I first thought. And the Kombucha tastes beautiful!! The above image shows how my Scoby was packed...taped up in plastic and posted in an envelope.

This image shows the 'starter tea' surrounding the Scoby - it had to have something to live on during transit.

Now, I did warn you...pretty gross looking right? A bit like a deflated chicken fillet.

My Scoby came with instructions to make my first batch by boiling 1.5 litres of water and adding three teabags (organic black tea works best) and 3/4 cup of sugar. Mix until dissolved and remove the tea bags after ten minutes. Then let the tea cool.

Once it is cooled, pour the tea into a glass jar (Scoby does not like plastic) with the starter tea (the liquid the Scoby came in) . I used this one with a tap so that I can easily taste test during fermentation without disturbing the Scoby. You place the Scoby  on top of the tea, seal with a cloth and cover with a tea towel. Then you leave it to ferment.

This shot was taken on day 3.

This was taken on Day 10. If you want a sweeter tea you ferment for a short time, but if you like it bitter then you can brew it for a couple of weeks. Ten days was perfect in this weather. It is slightly carbonated and still sweet. You can just see in the above image that the Scoby has spread out across the full width of the glass jar...and the dark spot is actually....

...A baby Scoby, one that can be given to someone to start their Kombucha. You just peel it off it's 'mother'.

Look how beautiful and clear the tea is. You can just see the bubbles on the edges. My boys said it tasted like beer, but the fermented taste is very mild. You can combine your tea with other liquids such as water or fruit juice for different flavours. Just keep it in the fridge and it will last for several months...if your family don't drink it all first like mine :)

Now, how is that for one weird science experiment? Now that I have more 'starter tea' I am making a full batch of five litres, so in ten days time I can experiment with some new flavours and juices. And all for the cost of $10 for my Scoby, a few teabags and filtered water...a very economical and healthy beverage.

Have you ever made Kombucha before or tasted it?

Tuesday, 27 May 2014

Focus on Fermentation Week: Kimchi

Image Source

Before attending the fermentation workshop I had never heard of Kimchi, let alone tasted it. It is of Korean origin and is used as a side dish, and a base for many recipes. I have since spotted it at my local Asian Grocer, but after tasting a homemade version of it at the workshop, I am keen to make my own...eventually. I did not have a photograph of the finished product we made, but the above image looks just the same.

This is what you will need:

1 x wombok cabbage
1-2 onions, leeks or scallions
1-2 carrots, chopped
3-4 red hot chillies, finely chopped or you can use Korean Chilli powder (1 tablespoon)
Fresh grated ginger
2 tablespoons sour whey
Sea salt

Start by washing the wombok cabbage, and then cut it coarsely.

I would say each piece was roughly 3cm by 3cm as a guide.

Place the cabbage into a metal mixing bowl and then pound it with a rolling pin (end) until it gets a bit slack.

Add large chunks of onion, layers separated.

Add the salt (about a teaspoon) to approx half a litre of water in a small bucket.

Add the sour whey (can be from yoghurt) and chilli spices. Then add the chopped carrots and grated ginger.

Add the cabbage and onion to the liquid.

Then press down with your fists until the liquid covers the top of the cabbage. Place a plate on top with a weight on it to keep the vegetables submerged.

Keep on a bench for five days, and then pack the contents into jars in the fridge.

As you can image, the kimchi is quite spicy, but not overly so. I liked it as a side dish with our lunch, but I did prefer the Sauerkraut.

So, have you ever tried or made Korean Kimchi? I am tempted to buy some from the Asian grocer just to see what an authentic one tastes like.

Monday, 26 May 2014

Simple Living Sunday 28

This post is a little late as our internet was down all day yesterday so it's time for a little catch up. As you can see from this week's basket, we finally got a couple of eggs from our two girls. Yay!! The star fruit in the basket were given to me, but they add a little colour to an otherwise green basket. An indian lime pickle, and lime chutney are on the to-do list this week.

On Saturday I visited the amazing community gardens in Yandina. They adopt all of the Permaculture principles and I had a fascinating wander around which I will post about another time.

I was thrilled to discover that they sell plants....really cheap. I bought a Pepino, Strawberry, Herb Robert, Gotu Kola, Comfrey, Nasturtium (red), two arrowroot tubers, and the large plant is a Cassava. These cost me a grand total of $15!! I will be back.

The main reason I went to the gardens was to attend a free workshop on cooking and preparing tropical food. It was a fantastic workshop, I tasted many unusual dishes, brought home some goodies, and met some wonderful people...all for free!! The above image is of banana-leaf wrapped Cassava desert. More on that later :)

This cabbage is just starting to look like one now.

Amazing how much this little eggplant has grown in a week.

The corn is starting to take shape.

The caterpillars love the cauliflowers and kale in the water tank garden so I have now sprayed with bio-organic Dipel.

Nothing  has managed to find the kale in the gum tree garden though. They are thriving!

This is where I am planning my food forest. The fruit trees are going in and then I will work on the understory planting. A big job but very exciting!

I have found if I place some cardboard (half an egg carton in this case) under the pumpkins, then they thrive away from the damp grass.

There are still many bees hovering around doing their job. Yay!

The Tigerella tomatoes are starting to fruit.

I received an amazing batch of seeds from Fair Dinkum Seeds, a great local business which I will be featuring later in the week...together with a description of the unusual and exotic seeds they gave me.

So, I happily spent the afternoon potting up some seeds to put in my lovely new hothouse. These can thrive during winter, and I will plant out when the risk of frost is over. There are other seeds which I will be planting direct over the coming weeks.

Finally I couldn't resist a photo of breakfast. Look at the colour in those scrambled eggs! Absolutely beautiful.

I hope you had a wonderful weekend. I would love to hear what you have been up to :)

Friday, 23 May 2014

Focus on Fermentation Week: Fermented Fruit Paste

This week I have been sharing recipes from the recent Sour Dough and Fermentation Workshop I attended. This fruit paste is my favourite of the day. The flavour is a little like a tangy, sweet chutney, with a subtle hint of alcohol...provided by the fermentation process, not added to the recipe. Before I share Elisabeth Fekonia's recipe though, I thought I would share some information from the workbook she provided to us, about the benefit of fermented foods for our children.

"Today's children are all too often lacking in a healthy population of gut flora. As adults we carry inside us 1.5-2kg of bacteria, yeasts and fungi. We need them for appropriate digestion and absorption of our food. A mother who was not breast fed herself and who has had several courses of antibiotics, been on the pill and is accustomed to eating fast food before conceiving her child, will inevitably not be able to pass on healthy gut flora to her new-born baby. The child then has a much greater chance of developing autistic disorders, ADDH/ADD, schizophrenia, bi-polar, obsessive compulsive disorders, depression and other psychiatric disorders and allergies...this generation is suffering more than ever before in history with compromised immune systems that need to do battle with the toxic age we live in."

Well....after reading that, I am certainly motivated to keep introducing these fermented foods into my children's diets, and there are many others promoting this age old diet.

Food for thought....

Fermented Fruit Paste

I prepared half of Elisabeth's original recipe which made enough paste to fill a large coffee jar.


375g pitted dates, cut in half
125g pitted prunes cut in half
100g combination of nuts and seeds, crushed or chopped
50g firm fruit such as apple, pineapple, rockmelon
A bit of grated ginger
Whey (from yoghurt, kefired milk or cheese making)

My selection of nuts and seeds before chopping.

Add 250ml water to a bowl, then add enough salt to taste a slight saltiness (about two pinches). Add a few tablespoons of whey. If you don't have any in the fridge, you can create whey easily by straining a small tub of natural yoghurt. The yellow liquid leftover is the whey.

Place your fruit mixture into the liquid and place a plate on top to push the fruit below the liquid. Then place a jar of liquid on top. I then placed my bowl under a net fly cover and left it on the bench for five days.

Not exactly aesthetically pleasing, but you can see the fruit has absorbed the liquid. You then just place it in a jar and it will keep in the fridge for months. What a wonderful way to utilise dried fruits, whilst providing a healthy paste for your stomach. Others at the course said they roll this mixture into balls, and coat with crushed nuts as a snack for lunch boxes or work. I will be trying that one out too :)

Have you ever tied anything like this before? I certainly hadn't. The mind boggles with possibilities and I am only just scratching the surface of this fermentation topic. Can you guess what recipe I will post tomorrow?

Bake Play Smile

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