Brisbane Local Food

Growing local

I'm dedicated to cooking. For me it has always been a life saver. The evening meal is my special time. 
Everyday it comes around and every day, for me, what-to-cook is an adventure.
So I get to explore different ingredients and different cuisines; pursue passions; indulge in foodish dilettantism...and eat.
I prefer to cook for others...but if I'm doing meal-for-one, I can sneak in the foods that others  may be distrustful of. 
Like offal. 
Cooking got me feeding 2 kids and rests as the baseline of achievement for those days that I'm ill. I may spend the good part of a day recumbent, but for me , being able to get up and cook an evening meal is an obsession.It is a register of worthwhile things done in a day that may have little else to show for it.
So everyday, come tea time, my habit is to experiment...
Consequently I'm grounded in a few culinary traditions.Over the years my core passion has been Middle Eastern foods but of late I deflected to an interest in Turkish tucker which is different again.
More recently I'm in East Asia, in Malaysia and Korea, with taste beds  half way to Latin America.
That may seem a strange mix but consider the core anthropological fact that so many vegetables, so popular in Asia, emanate from Central and Latin America. Preparing  them is both different and similar, each side of the Pacific Ocean.
But in this mix -- after decades of cooking meals -- I'm alighting on a 'style' -- a cuisine -- that has a certain dietary logic that, at least, suits me.
Its constituent parts are:

  • Meze : small side dishes which I'm familiar with via so many Arab menus.And while I've put in the hard yards, making and growing Mediterranean style side salads, my passion today, meze-wise, is the way the Latinos create salsas. While 'salsa' means 'sauce' it doesn't have to be wet and runny, nor does it always include tomatoes or chillies.Salsas, like meze, can be made of many things...and I mean many things you may not realize can be served together in the same bowl.Similarly, the Malay tradition of sambals is a Occidental version of  the salsa. In Korea the side dish habit is referred to as Banchan. Indeed, in all these traditions your local menu is formatted by these small side dishes.They maketh the meal.
  • Starch: Since embracing the family curse -- Diabetes II -- I've been following a low carbohydrate diet. It works and my blood sugars are stable.But recently I've been fascinated by what's being referred to as safe starches. These are the non-grain starches/bulk foods like spuds, sweet potatoes, yams, taro, plantains...and rice(although that's a grain). I keenly grow 'em if I can and I cook 'em. Despite the carb quotient. I explore their nutrient qualities, food traditions and attributes. En route I've become a sweet potato junkie and embraced an addiction to sweet potato noodles (called dangmyeon, Korean: 당면). 
  • Yogurt and pickles: While I used to make sauerkraut I now limit my lactobaccilus indulgences to home made yogurt and the Melbourne Celto-greek in me wants to have yogurt at every meal. I've gone beyond Tzatziki (greek yogurt and cucumber, a Greek national obsession) and are now in free form Cacik mode. Cacik is 'yogurt and...'[insert vegetable here]. Wonderfully creative it is too -- region by region. Also from the Turks -- the Ottomans -- I leant to respect pickles. By that I mean   pickles per se, that aren't necessarily fermented. Indeed, pickles like this are really a salad as they are cut with vinegar in mind. A similar pickle tradition exists in Korea (say no more than kimchi) and Japan -- all very meze, very banchan , salsa-like. While the taste may be a fav, the underlying logic is that you eat an acid with your meal. Indeed research shows that acids consumed via yogurts, pickles our sourdough fermented breads impact on the metabolism of the carbohydrates eaten at the same meal.
Perhaps you are wondering, what all this has to do with gardening.As it turns out: a lot. The KITCHEN GARDEN lends itself to growing a range of different herbs and veges that can be employed as meze, table starch, or pickles. In all this: fresh is best and seasonal variety rules.
If you move away from 'salad' thinking or the melange of separated vegetables mono-culturally prepared as accompaniments to whatever,  you are stepping into a sort of trans-global mix of ingredients and food traditions that can be fed by your garden habit by dint of the adage: 'a little bit of this and that.'
And since I've recently planted some yam bean/Jicama I gotta say that Jicama salsa is a quintessential convergence of what this approach can generate: starch + vegetables + acid. 
That's the clincher you see: small dishes. Eclectic blend of what the garden delivers: served up as pickles, sambals, salsa....with a starch passion sponsored -- maybe  by what's gown out back.

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Comment by Lissa on March 24, 2015 at 13:53

I'll bring some pads to both GV's then. Sounds like we have some takers.

Comment by Dave Riley on March 24, 2015 at 9:58
  • FYI: came upon another Cacik last night:yogurt and grated radishes. 
  • For the radish enthusiast, give Vietnamese pickles a go: Do Chua. Love the stuff. I make it with root veg of choice. Beetroot goes well too but the carrot is essential.
  • Turnip  is also great. Turnips are a core root veg in Middle Eastern pickles: Kabees.
  • But imagine pickled Jicama.
Comment by Dave Riley on March 24, 2015 at 9:41

As I said below Lissa, after researching, growing Nopales  IS LEGAL in Qld. It is the one sub species not declared(Dept of Ag): Prickly pear (Opuntia spp. other than O. ...

This may explain why my daughter walked away with a PP from a succulent specialty stall at the Cab Mkts.I suspect now she has Nopales.

I'm interested in a paddle too...

Comment by Lissa on March 24, 2015 at 6:13

I'll bring some along to the GV Dianne :)

Couldn't give these away with free money in time past. It's good that we have a group interested now. I really like them - I fry strips up with bacon and eggs and add them as a green to any general cooking.

Comment by Dianne Caswell on March 24, 2015 at 5:52

Lissa I would be interested in a Pad of the Nopales if poss, Thanks...

Comment by Lissa on March 24, 2015 at 5:26

BTW there is no need to peel the pads. I just cut them into strips and eat the lot.

I can bring some to your GV if you like?

Comment by Lissa on March 24, 2015 at 5:24

Keeping plants under control is up to the gardener don't you think? I grow my Nopales in a large pot and don't let it loose in the general garden. You're the first person to ask about the legalities of growing it. Would be interesting to know the answer to that one.

The young pads are completely thornless - the older ones eventually develop some thorns. It's not the wild noxious stuff you find growing around the place but I understand it is all edible.

Comment by Lissa on March 24, 2015 at 5:11

Hi Siska - can you check your Inbox, top right on the screen, please and respond to the message.

Comment by Dave Riley on March 24, 2015 at 1:05

So is Nopales safe and legal to grow? Two weeks ago I came upon feral prickly pear on Bribie along Red Beach and the plant is infested the inlet to Shultz Canal at Nudgee Beach.

I took some of the Bribie plant home with me and ummed and ahed about planting it. Did some backgrounding then put it in the bin.I was confused as my daughter bought a small potted PP for her succulent collection...so I thought....OK perhaps?

But the thought of a local infestation isn't something I'm keen on. 

If it's kosher and not prone to risk.... I'd like to get some...my succulents have been hedged by weeds and I'm rebooting the option. 

The most significant, and famous, prickly pear Opuntia stricta was introduced into pastoral districts in the 1840s. By 1925, prickly pear had invaded more than 24 million ha in Queensland and New South Wales.It's now a Class 1 pest. 

Reasonable enough.

  1. The Nopales is, I gather,Opuntia ficus-indica and that is among the PP species that have naturalised in Australia.
  2. But on further checking:O. ficus-indica is not declared. Great. (see Link).

Looks like I can get a more Latino garden. I planted some Caigua seeds yesterday -- the meanest looking seeds I've ever seen. I've also got some Aztec Spinach/Huauzontle coming up and the  Mouse melon/cucamelon  have finally taken on my second or third attempt. I've known heaps of Latinos but we've never talked vegetables and the whole space is huge -- Central and South America -- with many climates, so zeroing in on any one rare veg -- and its culinary uses-- is not easy. 

While on up and coming plants(and succulents) -- I have 2 pots of Samphire which i'm fretting on, and I've just sowed some more seeds to see if I can get them to take this time.I water them with a salt solution: 1 teaspoon to a pint. 

But there's also another, semi succulent, green I'm trying:

Saltwort UT
Salsola komarovii
syn. Okahi, Okahijiki, Land Seaweed
Saltwort is a traditional Japanese culinary herb with long, succulent leaves with an appealing, crunchy texture. It is native to the salt marshes of Japan, but well adapted to less saline soils. It is a quick growing annual to 20 - 45 cm high. It germinates best at 21 - 26°C soil temperature. In temperate areas sow spring to mid summer. In subtropical areas sow March - September. Add tender young leaves to salads and sushi, or steam longer stems as a green. It is rich in vitamins and minerals, including Vitamin A, calcium, and potassium. Days to harvest: 40 - 55.

I guess my point -- my mission -- is to experiment and grow what suits my eating perspectives in consultation with my soil..

Comment by Andrew Cumberland on March 23, 2015 at 20:48

LOL.  I thought I ate quite exotically until I read this blog Dave. Now I feel a bit like a Meat and three vege man.  

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