flavour punch

Eggplant & Yellow Tomato Curry

So much of what has arrived on our plates of late has been homegrown in friends’ gardens. I know I tend to bang on about this, but it’s such an incredibly precious thing to me. If you gave me your new puppy that you just picked up, it would be on a par with how I feel about being handed brown paper bags full of hand nurtured cucumbers and tomatoes. We’re talking serious appreciation. This week eggplants arrived across the trestle at the Farmer’s Market – from the side that we are supposed to give to, there’s been a lot of receiving going on this Summer. We all get to play shops and everyone’s happy. These eggplants were the lovely long type, perfect to cut through into chunks and know they would still melt down beautifully when cooked. Add the yellow tomatoes that were on the stall behind us at this week’s market and it had to be curry.

This is such a simple recipe, but man, it packs a flavour punch. As long as the produce is great to begin with. Broken record cliches of recipe writing I know, but it makes every difference. This curry had both Damien and I sitting in silence for a minute before we started eating, nothing planned or ritualistic, we were just stopped by the gratitude of beautiful people sharing incredible food.

I’m on a plane at the moment heading to Singapore to meet my brother for an awards dinner our restaurant has been nominated for. That’s a very cool thing. And I can’t wait to hang out with my big brother for a while. The reason I mention this though is because often when we have something delicious that we’ve cooked at home and it’s had that magical something about it, I’ll say “oh, I should do this at Eat Me”. The thing is without these eggplants and these tomatoes and this purple basil, it wouldn’t be a pinch on what landed on our table this week. That’s not to say we don’t get amazing produce in Thailand, we do. But there is something above and beyond about homegrown veggies. I guess that’s why so many restaurants are creating their own produce gardens. I guess that’s why I bang on about it so much. Right, might be time to turn the rooftop at Eat Me into a garden instead of a bar. Garden bar? Serving green smoothies instead of cocktails? And just picked eggplant and yellow tomato curry. Could be a thing.

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Eggplant & Yellow Tomato Curry

serves 4

 

4-5 small organic eggplant, cut into 2 cm rounds

2 tbsp organic coconut oil

1 tsp organic turmeric, freshly grated

4 cloves

1 tsp cumin seeds

1 tsp coriander seeds

6 black peppercorns

2.5cm piece organic ginger, freshly grated

1/2 tsp paprika

handful of organic purple basil leaves, or fresh coriander

3 organic yellow tomatoes, and some baby toms too, roughly chopped

1 tsp Himalayan salt

juice of 1 organic lemon

 

Dry roast the cumin, coriander seeds, cloves and peppercorns in a pan until they start dancing. Remove and grind using a mortar and pestle or spice grinder.

Heat the coconut oil in a medium size saucepan and add the eggplant, tomatoes, ginger, turmeric and spices. Bring to the boil and then simmer, covered, until tender. This is somewhere round 15 minutes. You might need to add a bit of water to stop it sticking. When everything is cooked, remove from heat, season to taste and add the lemon juice and fresh purple basil. I added a few extra fresh tiny toms too

We ate ours with cucumber coconut raita and blackbean chapati while the sun went down. It was declared a good day.

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raw gratitude

Raw Plum & Raisin Choc Tops

The most amazing generosity happens at this time of year in the Valley. Orchards and veggie patches kindly offer their wares in brown paper bags, handed over with the care and reverence homegrown produce deserves, accompanied by a simple ‘thought you’d like these’ or ‘our peach tree’s having a good year’. Sometimes it’s just a smile as the package gets put down and conversation continues on easily because both parties are fully aware of the exchange – equal parts kindness and gratitude. I can’t tell you how much I love this unspoken, old school, country practise.

In the last fortnight we have had gifts of homegrown cucumbers, tomatoes, eggplant and asian greens (thanks Pete and Beck), just picked figs (thanks Ilona), peaches and plums from gnarly old trees that know exactly what flavour is (thanks Janelle and Paul) and the most beautiful little bean flowers (thanks Jenny). Any gardener knows the preciousness of bearing witness to food being created in amongst leaves and tendrils, which is probably the reason that any gardener also completely understands the joy in sharing it. It’s far from just a bag of peaches that gets placed in your hands.

So, this is the state of mind I was in when I received a handpicked bounty of lovely dark plums the other day and the shrine of plum appreciation began its construction. That’s my romantic take on ‘these-raw-plum-and-raisin-choctops-take-a-while-to-make’. Not as long as the tree took to create them though. The deal’s still well in our favour here.

 

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Raw Plum & Raisin Choc Tops

makes 4 – 6 

 

1 cup organic raw cashews, soaked for 3 hours

1 fresh organic drinking coconut

1 tablespoon organic coconut oil

1 tablespoon organic raw maca powder

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1/4 teaspoon ground cloves

2 tablespoons organic coconut nectar

1 vanilla bean, stripped

8-10 organic dark red plums

1/2 cup organic raisins

batch of raw chocolate, for dipping

paddlepops sticks or similar for ‘handles’

bee pollen ‘sprinkles’

 

Start this ice cream the day before by dehydrating the plums until semi dried to really intensify the flavour. You can soak the cashews the day before too if that helps the flow of things. 

To make the ice cream, crack open the young coconut and scoop out the flesh being carefully not to bring any husky bits with you. Put into a food processor or Vitamix, along with the coconut oil, maca, 1 tbsp coconut nectar and vanilla seeds. Blitz until really smooth. Drink the coconut water while you wait.

Once the mixture is thick and creamy, stir in the raisins and put aside in a jug ready to pour into the moulds or cups that you have chosen to set the ice creams in.

To make the raw plum ripple, simply blitz the semi dry plums, cinnamon, cloves and remaining coconut nectar in the processor until smooth.

Have your sticks and ice cream moulds ready. I used vine cuttings because I didn’t have paddlepop sticks and I think I’ll do this every time now because they looked pretty cute. Just make sure if you head into nature for your sticks that they haven’t been sprayed.

To assemble the ice creams, fill about 1/6 of the mould with the raisin/coconut ice cream mix, then add a dollop of plum jam, and continue layering like this until the mould is full. Push your ice cream stick into the mix and stir it around no more than twice before positioning it in the middle of the mould. Repeat with all moulds until full and place into the freezer to set.

When the ice cream is really solid, you’re ready to dip into the raw chocolate. Remove the ice creams from the moulds by setting the moulds into hot water for a few seconds and then slide the ice creams out by gently pulling on the sticks. Set the ice creams on a piece of baking paper back into the freezer to harden again while you make the raw chocolate.

While the chocolate is still runny, dip each ice cream into it to coat and sprinkle bee pollen over the chocolate as you turn the ice cream round in your fingers. Place back into the freezer to harden once the chocolate has lost its shine and you know it has set.

You will probably need to take these out of the freezer for 5 minutes before you want to eat them as they are solid ice cream. But so creamy. And good for you. Done and done.

grape giving

Schiacciata

Shopping in supermarkets made me forget how precious food is for a while there. Growing our own food again was the best reminder. Planting something, caring for it, saving it from earwigs and rogue free range chickens, and finally harvesting it, put me firmly back into the loop of appreciating just what plants do for us. It seems a deal that’s pretty much skewed in our favour too; a little water, some horse poo and a place in the sun is exchanged for breakfast, lunch and dinner.

Which brings me to the fact we’ve been eating grapes for three meals a day of late. This is the first year our vines have said ok, fair’s fair, you’ve loved us from our infancy across the last 5 years, and now here’s enough food to see you through Summer. It’s a beautiful thing. I feel like I’m in an advert for local tourism when I walk away from the row of vines with handfuls of grapes wrapped in the makeshift bucket of my t-shirt. The dialogue of thanks between me and the vine while I’m picking, is not something I can imagine getting away with in the fruit and veg section of a supermarket.

So, fresh grape juice and grapes in smoothies and bowls of fresh grapes make for easy breakfast options, then lunchtime salads of grapes and cashew cheese, walnuts and greens are a winner, but dinner can get a bit trickier. Enter schiacciata. Never has ‘squashed’ bread been so good.

We used a sneak of sourdough from our mix of baking for the Farmer’s Market for the base, but you can easily use any favourite pizza dough recipe, or even make things a bit gnarlier with some wholegrain additions. The thickness of the base can be anywhere from a focaccia size to a flat bread but because I cooked this in our sandwich grill and couldn’t get anything too thick in there, I went with more of a traditional pizza base thickness.

As a quick side note, a couple of very clever friends put the hemp food cover you can see over the dough, in my hands this week and I have to share the joy of no more plastic cling film. Hemp, beeswax, tree resin and organic cotton. Washable and reusable. How cool is that? Check out Abeego if you want more info. Ok, community service announcement over!

 

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Schiacciata

 

1 generous bunch organic red seedless grapes

fresh organic rosemary

Himalayan salt

Extra virgin olive oil, to drizzle

Organic pizza dough

Extra flour for rolling

 

 

After you have made your base and let it go through its rising time, roll it out into 2 pizza bases on a floured board.

Place onto the grill, or onto a pizza stone if you are planning on cooking it in the oven, and press the grapes into the dough, along with the fresh rosemary sprigs.

Cook to your liking and serve seasoned with salt and pepper and drizzled with olive oil.

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