Comfort in the redwoods

A big week last week with celebrations for our newly minted 13-year-old – he had no idea about his present which we have purchased for his school in Melbourne as the kids bring their own device (BYOD). It certainly was a huge surprise to him – when asked what he got for his birthday he mentions it last in his list of gifts as it is something just for a special day! I love that about my kids they really are not that focused on consumer items and appreciate what they receive, thank goodness after living in this area where consumerism is everywhere and everyone has to have the latest tech gadget. Our house has one TV but everyone has a computer, mmmm maybe we have been sucked in too, so much for my anti-consumerist rant!! One of his fave things now are YuGiOh cards and has spent most of his birthday money on them – at least it is something that is creative and has a math component to it, so win win!


After all the fun celebrations of the week, we took it easy and went camping with our school for one night under the redwoods. This was my first time visiting Portola Redwoods State Park and it was just beautiful. We were in two group sites called the Circle and the Point and it was surrounded by massive trees and right by the creek.


My daughter took me on a walk through the obstacle course to get to the creek and we found one of the heroes of the redwood forest the banana slug doing his morning duty.


Looking up high so many tall trees and the energy in amongst the green in the morning was so relaxing. I felt a bit stiff in my body as my mattress had sunk to the ground and it was freezing so in the middle of the night I got up and blew up my mattress and found myself in the same situation come the morning, blah!


We had a couple of friends take us on the 1-mile return hike to the Old Tree, it was a very special hike leading to a very old redwood that 23 kids circled around on the docent-led hike the day before.


Massive fallen trees provided many spaces to jump up and walk upon – these are 10-year-olds hopping upon this giant log.


The sun was peeking through the trees in the morning and we really enjoyed the energy of these tall trees.


Finally, we made it to the tree and my son is trying to climb it, I gave it a huge hug and said farewell to the redwoods. This is something I will really miss when we go back to Australia but there are other old trees that I can enjoy in the forests around Australia.


This sign has the info on the age of the old tree at over 1,200 years old protected and living in a State Park. As ambassadors of the environment, our job is to take care of our earth so we can all enjoy the air that we breathe thanks to the trees.

This week before my CSA delivery came the fridge was empty and as my daughter is out on science camp it was a prime time to get into some beets! I made an amazing coconut milk (from coconut milk powder) beet latte for lunch and for dinner I found the Beet Balls recipe in my Samurai Salads book – I think I will have to look at it for more inspiration for autumn dinners. The beet balls were made with lentils and are the perfect addition for a wrap or crumbled into a salad.

52 week project – Sri Lankan Cookbook – Coconut Roti

As last weeks recipe was a bit of a fail I figured something easy would be a good choice this week. So I made Coconut Roti and Egg Curry. I was going to add a coconut sambal to the plate though the time did not allow it. The fun thing with make Rotis is that it is a kitchen job where the kids can get involved and help out with the moulding and flattening, just like play dough!

Delicious Egg Curry and Coconut Roti

Coconut Roti 

(Makes about 24)

2 cups all purpose flour

1 cup desiccated coconut
1 onion sliced

1 sprig of curry leaves sliced
Salt to taste (about ½ tspn)

Water (about 1 cup)
Canola oil for frying
1. Slice onion and curry leaves.
2. In a large bowl mix onion, curry leaves, flour, desiccated coconut, salt and water. 
3. Mix all the ingredients together to make a dough that can be formed into balls.
4. On a floured surface place balls and flatten. 
5. Heat up a heavy based skillet and fry in oil until brown on both sides. 
6. Drain oil on a paper towel and serve the Roti with your favourite curry or sambal.
Egg Curry simmering away
Egg Curry
3 eggs
2 tbsp coconut oil (melted)
2 tsp black mustard seeds
sprig of curry leaves 
1 red onion – thinly sliced
1 small knob of ginger – finely grated
4 cloves garlic – crushed
1 tsp roasted cumin

1 tsp roasted coriander

1tsp turmeric

2 tsp tomato paste

1 cup coconut milk
salt to taste

1. Boil eggs until they are hard boiled (10 minutes) then put in cold water and peel. Set aside. 
2. In a heavy based skillet over medium heat – add the coconut oil and the mustard seeds. As soon as the seeds pop, add the curry leaves and onions and saute until translucent. Then add the ginger and garlic. 
3. Stir and then add the spices and tomato paste. Continue to fry for about 2 minutes and pour in the coconut milk. 
4. Turn down the heat to simmer and add the eggs – Simmer the curry until the sauces thickens. 
5. Season to taste and enjoy with the Roti or your favourite rice. 

52 week project – Sri Lankan Cookbook – Vegetable Biriyani

This week I made a vegetable biriyani which is a favourite meal of mine. It has varied over the years especially when we bought it from families who sold it as a special dish packaged in alfoil and frozen, to be eaten as a family treat. This recipe is from a cookbook called Great Vegetarian Dishes by Kurma Dasa who is one of the Hare Krishna movement’s most celebrated chefs. I love a lot of the recipes in this book but this Biriyani recipe takes me back to Melbourne when I first made it when I was a student and had to ration my funds. Going to the Indian grocer and buying spices was a bit out of my budget at the time – but I must have made quite a bit of Indian food after buying all the spices! This is an excellent meal for student living as you can eat it for days! It is also a perfect dish for guests as it does go a long way and can serve up to 6 people. We just ate it for dinner as is as there are nuts and beans for the protein with the rice and vegetables. The recipe calls for eggplant which is just divine but I cannot find any this time of year. I substituted zucchini which made their way from Mexico so if I looked harder maybe the eggplant was there too??

Biriyani served with fresh coriander

Vegetable Biriyani

 2 cups basmati rice
4 cups water
3 teaspoons salt
2.5 teaspoons turmeric
4 tablespoons ghee or oil
1/4 teaspoon cardamom seeds
1 1/2 teaspoons black mustard seeds
2 teaspoons poppy seeds
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1 teaspoon garam masala
1 teaspoon ground coriander
2 zucchini
4 mushrooms
2 cups tomatoes
1 teaspoon sugar\
1 cup cooked lima beans\
2/3 cup slivered raw almonds
2/3 cup broken or halved cashews
2/3 cup raisins
Fresh coriander

1. Wash, drain and dry the rice.

2. Boil the water, 1 1/2 teaspoons salt and 1 1/2 teaspoons turmeric in a 4 litre saucepan over moderate heat.

3. Heat half the ghee or oil in a skillet over moderately-low heat. Saute the cardamom seeds and the rice in the hot ghee for 2 minutes or until the grains turn whitish. Add the boiling water. Stir, raise the heat, and bring the water to a full boil. Immediately reduce the heat to low, cover with a tight-fitting lid, and gently simmer without stirring, for 15-20 minutes. Remove from the heat, allowing the grains to become firm.

4. Heat the remaining ghee or oil in a smaller skillet over moderately high heat. Saute the mustard seeds in the hot ghee and when they crackle, add the poppy seeds, the cayenne pepper, garam masala, coriander, zucchini and mushroom pieces, and half the butter. Stir fry the vegetables for about 3 minutes.

5. Add the tomato, remaining salt and sugar. Simmer the vegetables until just tender. Add the lima beans and remove from the heat.

6. Spoon half the rice into a large buttered 9×12″ casserole dish and spread evenly. Spread the vegetable mixture on top.

7. Heat the remaining butter in a small pan over moderate heat. Saute the nuts in the hot butter until they turn pale golden brown. Add the raisins and stir-fry until they swell and the nuts are golden brown.

8. Combine this mixture with the remaining rice and spread on top of the vegetable layer. Place a lid or alfoil on the casserole dish and bake in a preheated moderate over (180ºC/355ºF) for 30 minutes. Serve hot with fresh coriander.

Vege Biriyani straight from the oven

52 week project – Sri Lankan Cookbook – Mock-Stringhopper Pilau

Yes this Sunday was a lovely relaxing day and well needed I must add as the dreaded lurgy going around come to visit me in the form of a cold 😦 Anyway one must keep going and chill as much as possible in between projects. This week I wanted to recreate a Rice Noodle Dish my mum made which was always served with a meat curry and I can taste it now – not so keen on the meat side of things though!

Well I couldn’t get a hold of her to get her recipe, so I called on the help of another Sri Lankan I see everyday – my daughters teacher Ms S. She called it a stringhopper pilau – I found a recipe in Charmaine Solomon’s book of Asian Food – this is an encyclopaedia of cooking Asian dishes, such a great book that I should be referring to more often!

Well here it is with a couple of modifications as I was missing ingredients and had to cheat a bit on the curry by using a Jalfrezi simmer sauce which was delicious with sauteed seitan.

Mock-Stringhopper Pilau

Little quarters of egg on top add another element of flavour

227g/8oz rice noodles (I used Annie Chun’s Maifun Brown Rice noodles)
sesame oil

60g/2 oz butter
2 tablespoons oil
1 brown onion, finely sliced
curry leaves
1/2 teaspoon saffron strands
1 teaspoon ground turmeric
1 1/2 teaspoons ground cardamom
1 1/2 teaspoons salt or to taste
1 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
1 egg, hard-boiled peeled and quartered (should be 4)
90g/3 oz raw cashews fried until golden
1 carrot, grated
1 cup cooked and drained peas
1/2 cup sultanas, soaked in water

1. Boil rice vermicelli noodles for 2-4 mins till tender and save for later put some sesame oil to keep them from sticking together.

2. In a large skillet heat butter and oil Fry the sliced onions and curry leaves, until onion is deep golden. I cooked these on low so they didn’t get too dark.

3. Add peas, grated carrot, fried cashews and soaked sultanas to the onion mix.

3. Toast saffron strands in a dry pan for lese than a minute, turn onto a saucer when cool and crisp, crush with the back of a spoon and dissolve in a tablespoon of hot water. Add saffron, turmeric, cardamom, salt and pepper to the onions and stir well. Add rice noodles and toss together with tongs until the noodles are evenly coloured yellow. Taste and check seasoning.

4. Serve straight out of the cast iron pan with egg quarters on top. Serve hot with a curry (which follows).

Stringhopper Pilau with the Seitan Jalfrezi

Seitan Jalfrezi

1 packet Seitan strips
Olive Oil

1 bottle Seeds of Change Jalfrezi Simmer Sauce

1. Dredge Seitan in Flour and Paprika till evenly coated.

2. Saute seitan till golden brown.

3. Add to Jalfrezi sauce on low simmer till hot.

Easy Sunday Dinner!

The book of Asian Food

52 week project – Sri Lankan cookbook – Yellow Rice and Curry

This week has been busy with sewing for a show I am doing in a couple of weeks – so there has been plenty of me and my sewing machine time in between everything else. I scored an amazing array of fabric at the last FabMo distribution which I will make into aprons, placemats and tote bags.

This week I am going to try a Sri Lankan Seitan with cinnamon, ginger and coconut.
(It should be chicken but as I am vegetarian – no animals for me!)

A one bowl meal – divine

Sri Lankan Seitan Curry with Yellow Rice 

3 cloves garlic, crished
1 tbs grated young ginger
50ml lime juice
4 fresh long green chillies

3 tbs olive oil

450g seitan strips
1 tablespoon paprika or more to taste
1/2 cup flour 

1 large white onion, thinly sliced
1 tsp ground turmeric
3 green cardamom pods, crushed
4 cloves (or 1 teaspoon ground cloves)
2 cinnamon quills
1tsp curry powder

270ml thick coconut cream
Corainder leaves, to serve

1. Pound garlic, ginger and lime juice and 2 of the chillies in a mortar and pestle or blend in a small food processor, until a paste forms.

2. Dredge seitan strips into flour and paprika. Saute dredged seitan in 1 tbs olive oil – set aside for later.

3. Heat oil in a heavy-based saucepan at low temperature. Add onion, turmeric, cardamom, cloves and cinnamon quills and cook for 8-10 minutes or until onion is transparent. Add garlic/ginger/chilli paste and 150ml coconut milk and combine well. Reduce heat to low, cover and simmer for 5 minutes.

Seitan sauteed after being dredged with flour and paprika – yum!

4. Add coconut cream, sautéed seitan and remaining 2 chillies whole and simmer until seitan is warm – around 5 minutes. Season, scatter with coriander leaves and serve.

Seitan curry finished with fresh coriander

Again I served this with a yellow rice – this time trying the recipe with mushroom stock… Still the flavour is not the same as my Mum’s using a chicken stock cube though it was somewhat flavoursome. I have had suggestions to cook the rice in a homemade vege stock that has spices and onion as the base with fennel fronds and pea skins with a bit of stock concentrate added for extra flavour. Let’s see how that goes next time I try the yellow rice?

Stil the seitan curry with the paprika was even better the next day as all currys get tastier with age – I would say that this was not my mums chicken curry flavour though having to omit certain ingredients I will have to deal with it having my signature vegetarian twist.