Brisbane Local Food

Growing local

I've always viewed my garden as a Kitchen Garden where what I grow is determined by what I eat. That perspective has waxed and waned over the years as periods of experimentation set in, only later to pass.

Ironically, my most recent menu advance was not located outback, but grew indoors instead.

When I started sprouting mung beans near the wash sink a whole new menu option opened up to me. Suddenly so many botanical pieces fitted together.

I wasn't interested in sprout salads  at all. Instead, I embraced a soup concoction which not only partnered the sprouts, but almost any other plant I could harvest any time of the year in the Kitchen Garden.

The thing about the mung bean sprouts in the soup is that it gives bulk -- noodle or pasta-like bulk -- to a broth that will happily marry so many different vegetables or herbs.

So every day -- in every way -- I eat one very satisfying meal of soup, the contents of which I forage outback.

Loaded with vegetables. Filling. Extremely tasty (if one, like me, were very anchovy prone).

'Tis a vehicle for so much delicious goodness that I have to wonder what on earth have I been doing in the garden the last so many years.

I'm not skilled enough to offer a Masterclass in Soupology -- but I do note that so much of what I had been experimenting with -- both in the kitchen and outdoors -- seems to converge on this particular happenstance.

The options in general practice are salads and stir fries --and I'm sure they too have their  aficionados.Given my kitchen habits, there is very little -- except fluid -- that separates a soup from a stew. Indeed when you get to Gumbo you have a foot dipped in each bowl's camp.

But your salad or stir fry adherent  knows what I mean. I may not be of that faith but I recognize the shared medley.

The common ground are the greens.

We so often anguish over this or that vegetable --which we try to grow under pressure of season and climate -- that we can miss the marriage of whatever comes to hand for the salad bowl, wok or soup pot.

And you know what? It is these greens that do not suit our industrial food delivery system. They perish so soon after harvest. They transport poorly. They wilt. Become bitter if not consumed quickly.

Many are exotic and unknown to the market place.

The veges we are told to celebrate are the ones that survive the retail mustering. Nutrition or taste aren't necessarily the primary marker.

I reckon 'greens' get a poor rap when kale, silver beet  or (English) spinach are flagged as special must eat foods. I don't like them and I pity any child whose mother pushes them down their throats. Fortunately the greens planet is so BIG. It's cuisine potential is complex and based on so many foraged marriages in myriad regions throughout the world.

It is the leaves of these vegetables -- annuals, perennials, bushes and trees -- that so suit kitchen gardening. You can grow these better -- and with more variety -- than any horticulturalist sentenced to securing a market share.

Many of these plants are also cut-and-come-again harvests.

ADDENDUM:February 20th.

I've given the concoction a generic name : UMAMI (うま味) SOUP.

Once the business of the stock is settled, well then you can throw in what greenery you've got to hand and see what happens.

Voila!

Even last night's leftovers (if you choose)....

Pasta. Noodles. Coconut milk. Legumes. Rice.
Pieces of meat, fish or shellfish.
Eggs boiled or eggs poached. Tofu. Okra....

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Comment by Dave Riley on February 21, 2019 at 23:45

Since members of my family are into the FODMAP diet -- you will note that the stock recipe I've shared is devoid of onions or garlic.

All you need is a taste for anchovies!

Onions will go well with anchovies -- especially  if they are caramelized. Garlic too. But not essential for flavouring zing.

Over the last few days I've had a chance to tag the green leaf options and point out that as well as what I've mentioned, others include (as per my own harvest):

  • sweet potato leaves
  • kankong
  • curry leaves
  • piper lilot
  • lemon grass
  • okra
  • Molokhia -- Egyptian spinach
  • Warrigal greens

..and this is where the onions come in: as green leaves. Spring onion greens, leek tops and chives(all FODMAP friendly) will suit the dish.

Also of use may be (not my choice though):

  • Malabar spinach
  • Sissoo spinach
  • English spinach
  • Shiso
  • parsley

I think pigeon peas -- cooked dried ones or green ones -- settle in well.Other beans -- like black beans -- can be added of course but they are a bit of a taste & texture contrast.

For me plenty of chili and fresh ground black pepper finishes off the dish ready for eating.

Also on optional top: fresh coriander or torn basil leaves. Grated cabbage. Vietnamese mint. Scoops of kimchi.

You could add crushed peanuts (Buddhist monk style) -- but I've not tried that.

One spice I'm keen on experimenting  with in this soup is nigella sativa  (aka: black cumin ) freshly ground on top.

Other addition options are coconut cream, congee rice, plain boiled rice, any noodles or pasta..and maybe diced (& pre-cooked) pumpkin or sweet potato.

Slightly cooked: sliced radishes (one of the few semi-crisp ingredients, along with the sprouts.

Comment by Dave Riley on February 20, 2019 at 14:07

As an aside:

I find keeping up a supply of stocks for soups always difficult*. But if you don't want to rely on meats swimming in hot water -- or you don't like anchovies (eGad!) -- you can experiment with Miso.

I used to have a copy of a bible in this regard, The Book of Miso: Savory, High-Protein Seasoning by William Shurtleff & Akiko Aoyagi , which is very comprehensive. I was never a miso aficionado anyway...

I'm not up to date with local supply lines but Miso (without dashi) is a vegetarian  stock option. However, Miso based recipes tend toward  light and clear soups rather than the gluggy concoction I prefer.

But the taste will be in the zone with the addiction of seaweed.

* In our house we feed the pet dogs chicken wings which I steam up before I share them with the canines. For humans steamed chicken wings are delicious(with dipping sauce) and dogs love them. I've had no issues with the bones as steaming hardens them only slightly from raw...and raw can also spread salmonella to the dogs. Not only does the chicken keep longer refrigerated when steamed but there is always stock to be had from the cooking.

Comment by Dave Riley on February 18, 2019 at 18:50

Kelp tastes like the sea, Crista. Seaweeds are algae that masquerade as soaked leaf vegetables. 

It's like the nori wrap on a sushi but thicker and chewier and with a stronger green veg flavour.Nori is also raosted before use as a wrap. Kelps texture in fluid is a little slimy. You don't have to eat it as I do in a soup, but it is a key ingredient in kimchi.

And the kelps are the main sea vegetable used to make broths.

I like the kelp buds because they are not so thick or anyway leathery. When having the soup I cannot easily tell the kelp from the other greens.

I've used kombu -- 'kelp sheets' -- but I've always cut them up with a pair of scissors before adding them to the broth.

Thereafter, it's all glug glug.

Kelp packs a huge nutritional punch. Good over view here-- of the Australian harvested kelps. If you have ever swum or dived among kelp it's a wondrous forest experience. 'Tis a pity that SEQ is so poorly serviced by seaweeds.

It's all that sand, you see. No purchase.Mainly seagrass.

The local kelp is an assured quality product whereas imports may have been harvested in polluted waters.When you see kelp wafting in the surges seemingly at all depths in the Southern Ocean, there's nothing seemingly so pristine.

But I got sick eating raw imported Korean kelp at one Christmas dinner. So always cook it, I say.

As a 'green' kelp is probably packs more nutrition than many terrestrial  harvests.NPR calls it the 'kale of the sea'.

But as one moringa producer argues, moringa beats kelp!

Comment by Christa on February 18, 2019 at 17:52

What does kelp taste like, Dave?  

Comment by Dave Riley on February 18, 2019 at 15:21

FYI: Asian soups share a lot in common in way of stock basics. Here's a over view.

My current preference is Myeolchi Yuksu (Dried Anchovy & Kelp Stock).

This is simply  boiled  anchovies with kelp.

You can use any type of kelp I reckon and either dried anchovies or anchovies in oil.

So easy to make from so little. I think quantities are to preference.

I'm not overly precious about the preparation but here's a DIY recipe.

I currently soak the dried anchovies in water for a day before adding them to the stock.They chop up fine and after around 10 minutes of boiling with the kelp in water I consume all of it as a soup -- with extra soup du jour stuff.

Mediterranean whole dried anchovies are hard to come by so you are left with bottled or tinned fillets in oil which are available from delicatessens or supermarkets.

The large jars(left) are very economical if you can find them.

The dried are definitely tastier with a greater depth of flavour -- and much less salt.

These, fortunately, can be purchased from Asian groceries from their frozen food cabinets for around $10.(above right)...the same place you'd be able to get your kelp supplies.

If you are into southern Indian or Sri lankan food I think dried anchovies are a good substitute for Maldive Fish (which is cured tuna) -- or even dried Bonito flakes (as in Japanese dashi) for that matter.

That's the culinary fishy logic you see. That Umami flavour.

Further east -- in Malaysia and Indonesia shrimps take over as in dried or fermented form as in the very pungent  Belacan (shrimp paste).

To make your anchovies go further, keep a large bottle on Fish sauce on hand. Worchester sauce (which has anchovies in it) is a distant option. That is used in  parts of the Caribbean.

As an aside, anchovies or slurps of fish sauce is now a very fashionable addition to a bolognaise...

Comment by Andrew Cumberland on February 17, 2019 at 22:31

My yard is producing a lot of cherry toms, eggs and mung bean sprouts (inside) at the moment.  The toms are making some lovely traditional Italian sauces which I really do intend to share.  Maybe unsurprisingly, the cookbook recipes are more simple than my own... but better.  I'm also eating lots of Asian omelets stuff with sprouts and salads.  Mung beans are crazy cheap and you can steam the sprouts briefly to have safe but crispy addition.  As a side note, I say lemon grass stems for $3 each at Coles today! 

Comment by Dave Riley on February 17, 2019 at 9:20

The associated compulsion is when you focus on a range of traditional greens, you miss the huge array of tropical and sub tropical species that are so easy to grow in our patch.

The complication may be that many -- for example: chaya, taro and cassava greens -- need to be cooked before they are eaten, while others aren't  crunchy enough that they suit the salad bowl.

Furthermore cooked greens can often look like muck.

From, my outback at the moment I can harvest on a daily basis: Chaya, moringa, katuk, prickly pear, Longevity Spinach, Okinawan spinach, Brazilian spinach, spring onions, okra, sweet potatao leaves, piper lolot, various squash and gourd leaves, green beans... Others when they come on or are in season. That's not listing the favoured herbs.

Into the pot as impulse dictates. 5 per day in one go.

Comment by Christa on February 17, 2019 at 6:35

So true, it is possible many foods have been modified to suit presentation at the supermarket and for conveyor belts on the way to supermarkets.  The best food is in our backyard gardens where we can grow and graze, and eat live food, unprocessed and fresh.

Comment by Elaine de Saxe on February 17, 2019 at 4:41

Good thoughts, makes a lot of sense. The difficulty for me is that eating hot meals in hot weather is almost impossible.

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