Sunday, 31 January 2016

nectarine-apricot granita

A bright and sunny nectarine-apricot granita.

It is probably obvious by now that I thoroughly enjoy stone fruit season at my local farmers market. Top-grade fruit is affordable, second-grade fruit is cheap and still delicious, and every now and then, a stall might offer a "jam box" of blemished or extremely overripe fruits for almost next to nothing.

Simon and I took advantage of one of the "jam box" specials recently. Heavy with peaches, nectarines, plums and apricots, the $2 price tag beckoned to us. I had no intention of making jam, but I knew I would somehow figure out something to do with the fruits.

I extricated the flesh of most of the plums and froze them for future smoothie creations. I assessed the peaches and decided that they were still fit for standard consumption. So I was left with apricots and nectarines, some of which we ate, but several were so incredibly soft and sweet that I felt they were better off blended up and broken into a granita. Thus, here we are, with a nectarine-apricot granita.

This nectarine-apricot granita goes beautifully with a dollop of cream or yoghurt.

nectarine-apricot granita

300g / 2/3lb overripe apricots
150g / 1/3lb overripe nectarines (I used white nectarines, but yellow nectarines are also great!)
1/2 cup water
1 lemon (or about 2 tablespoons lemon juice and 2 teaspoons lemon zest)
1 tablespoon honey (Optional, especially if the stone fruits are fall-apart sweet. Omit for a vegan recipe.)

Remove the stones from the apricots and nectarines. You can remove the peel, too, but I didn't bother. (As you can see, my granita has lovely flecks of red from the nectarine skin!)
Blend the apricot and nectarine flesh with the water, along with the juice and zest from the lemon.
Add honey to taste, if you feel that it is necessary. If using honey, dilute it in a small amount of water before stirring it in.
Pour the mixture into shallow containers, cover, and place in the freezer. Fill up the containers to only about halfway, as you'll need the extra space when creating the ice crystals of granita.
Check back in about 2 hours - the mixture should be showing signs of setting at this time. Break the mixture into ice crystals with a fork, and place it back into the freezer.
Repeat the breaking of the ice crystals about once every hour after this. Do this until all the liquid is converted to ice crystals.

You can serve the granita on its own, but I suggest pairing it with cream or yoghurt. Deliciousness!

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Sunday, 17 January 2016

sweet mung bean dessert soup

Mung bean dessert soup with sweet potatoes.

I have recently started working at a restaurant - hurrah for free food! - but this also means that it reduces the likelihood that I spend time and effort on preparing my own meals. I do still love cooking, however, so I try to make the most of it when I have some spare time.

Simon is fairly ambivalent about Asian-style dessert soups - but I grew up with them and they are my comfort food. So when I had a day off, recently, I made a nice batch of mung bean soup with sweet potatoes and a gentle hint of ginger to satisfy my cravings. This soup is wonderfully simple, and it can be enjoyed hot or cold. I like it any time of the day - for breakfast, as a snack in between meals, or as a dessert. As far as sweet things go, this one is reasonably wholesome, so give it a go and let me know what you think!

mung bean dessert soup (with sweet potatoes and a touch of ginger)
(serves 4)

1 cup dried mung beans (also referred to as "green beans" in Chinese)
225g / 1/2 pound sweet potato, peeled and cut into bite-sized pieces
3cm / 1 inch ginger, peeled and roughly sliced
60g / 1/4 cup light palm sugar / brown sugar / raw sugar / Chinese yellow rock sugar

Soak the mung beans for about 2 hours.
Drain off the water, rinse the beans well, and place them in a saucepan with 4 cups of water, along with sweet potato chunks and ginger slices.
Bring the water to boil, and then reduce the heat to low. Let the mixture simmer, partially covered, for about 15 minutes.
Stir in sugar, and continue to cook the dessert soup for another 10 minutes or until the sugar completely dissolves and the texture of the beans and sweet potatoes are to your liking. Discard the ginger.
Serve your green bean soup warm, or allow it to cool down before covering it, chilling it in the fridge, and having it cold - it's delicious either way!

Note:
This dessert soup continues to thicken after cooking, and becomes almost porridge-like. If anything, this makes it more delightful!
Also, it should keep well in the fridge for 3 days or so.

Asian-style green bean dessert soup with sweet potatoes and a hint of ginger.

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Wednesday, 6 January 2016

happy 2016 + my gardening and cookbook resolutions...

Hello, kangaroo!

As 2016 gives me a gentle nudge, I reflect upon the past year.

2015 was, for me, a year for finding my feet. After the glorious whirlwind travels of 2014, I had to adapt to a new environment in 2015, one that in some ways felt even more foreign than some of the countries I visited outside of Australia. For so many years, I was an inner-city lass who was used to having a tram stop a stone's throw away from my apartment. Now I find myself residing close to the forest - or, as those of us in Australia say, bushland - saying hello to kangaroos and kookaburras.

Hello, kookaburra!

So what lies in store for me in 2016?

I am wary of making New Year's resolutions that don't end up going anywhere, but I have come up with at least a couple that are relevant to this food blog, which are achievable enough that there really is no excuse to not complete them. Feel free to give me a kick or two if it gets close to the end of the year and you still haven't seen any updates on how I'm going with these goals!

This year, I hope to do more gardening, with the aim of growing wholesome, edible things that I can enjoy in my meals. Right now, we have mint, chives, and tomatoes, and I hope to diversify further. Still early days, but I am super excited about the tomatoes at the moment. We bought some tomato plants from the shops, but we also have a few random ones in the garden - shown in this picture - that have just started growing from seeds in buried compost.

So looking forward to picking these tomatoes in the future.

A few years ago, I asked Simon for some cookbooks as birthday presents. Sheepishly, I have to admit that I am yet to try any recipes from these cookbooks. So my plan is to try at least two recipes from each cookbook this year, and blog about them!

Planning to travel the world through the pages of these vibrant cookbooks!

Too easy, right?

What are your plans for 2016? Please feel free to share in the comments section!

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