Flirting with Flavour


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What to do with a green papaya?

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Papayas are tricky. At least I find them to be so. You buy them and set them out to ripen and before you know it, it’s gone bad. OR, in your haste to avoid the former, you cut into it too early and all your sweet anticipation is dashed by a bitterness that just won’t go away. But perfectly ripe papaya is just so melt-in-your-mouth delicious that despite all of that, you know you’ll try again the next time you’re at the store.

So last time, my mom and I decided to hell with it, we’re getting a green papaya. You see, green papaya is simply unripe papaya, with one great advantage. You buy it unripe, you know that when you cut into it, it will be unripe. No surprises, which means you can actually plan on using it at a specific time without worrying if it will taste right or not. Of course, if you’re looking for a sweet, fruity treat, green papaya will not satisfy your craving. But if you’re ready for some adventurous food experimentation, then green papaya is your easy ticket to bliss. Especially if you have a food processor. If you don’t already, go out an buy one now. Seriously. Not only does it make it easy peasy to grate an entire papaya into green papaya salad, it is the means by which you will whip up heaven in a bowl. Oops, I meant hummus.

Thai Green Papaya Salad (Som Tum)

Ingredients

1 green (unripe) papaya
1 carrot
1 red bell pepper
1 cup roasted, unsalted peanuts

1/2 jalapeño pepper
3 T chopped cilantro
4 T lime juice
3 T soy sauce or tamari
1 T fish sauce (can simply use all soy sauce/tamari to make it vegetarian)
2 cloves crushed garlic
3 T coconut sugar (can also use palm sugar or regular sugar)

Method

1. Peel the papaya and remove the seeds.
2. Grate the papaya, carrot, and pepper. You will get about 4 cups of grated fruit/veggies all together. Set aside
3. Dice the jalapeño and macerate in a mortar and pestle to release the juices.
4. In a large bowl combine the papaya, carrot, red pepper, cilantro, & macerated jalapeño.
5. Add the lime juice, soy sauce, fish sauce, sugar, & garlic. Mix well, making sure to crush everything together so the sauces and fruits/veggies mix entirely.
6. Taste and adjust seasoning to your liking. Once you are happy with it, toss in the peanuts & serve. Enjoy!

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Photo Essay: North London Markets

So, Saturday, instead of studying for exams, I wandered through North and East London, visiting markets and gawking at street art along the way.

Notting Hill Farmers’ Market

notting hill gate farmers' market

notting hill farmers’ market

yes, i did buy some of that spectacular looking rhubarb

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walking through the market

this mushroom man has the most amazing mushrooms I have ever seen. and they taste great too!

this mushroom man has the most amazing mushrooms I have ever seen. and they taste great too!

Picking out a Chelsea Bun. S said it's the best she's had in London! (and for only £1!)

Picking out a Chelsea Bun. S said it’s the best she’s had in London! (and for only £1!)

Flourish Bakery

Flourish Bakery – doesn’t it all just look great? i wish they did more wheat-free breads

Walking from Bethnal Green Station to Broadway Market

stik. on mare st, cambridge heath.

stik. on mare st, cambridge heath.

more street (roof?) art on mare st, cambridge heath

more street (roof?) art on mare st, cambridge heath

by the Andrews Rd entrance to the Regent's Canal Towpath

by the Andrews Rd entrance to the Regent’s Canal Towpath

Regent’s Canal Towpath

the floating bookshop. regent's canal

the floating bookshop. regent’s canal

word on the water

word on the water

Broadway Market

didgeridoo

didgeridoo

Fiendish & Goode.

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fiendish & goode – their gluten free selection was outrageous. definitely going back for more.

violet cakes. i managed to snag a vegan spelt chocolate cupcake w/ violet frosting

violet cakes. i managed to snag a vegan spelt chocolate cupcake w/ violet frosting

Market in the Schoolyard (London Fields)

getting my smoothie fix at the schoolyard market

getting my smoothie fix at the schoolyard market

Netil Market

Cooking Cooks.

cooking cooks

cooking cooks

Breddo’s Taco Shack. 

street taco brunch - the rave from breddo's taco shack

street taco brunch – the rave from breddo’s taco shack


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Seven-Fruit Fruit Salad

My mom, Gil, and I are all gathered in the living of our doublewide trailer, home away from home, in Virginia.  I’m standing at the bar separating the kitchen from the dining room (if it can be called that – it’s really just a table and some chairs with a few feet separating it from the couch in the so-called living room), on the kitchen side, slicing banana into three bowls, already nearly overflowing with fruits.  It has probably taken me upwards of twenty minutes just to cut the fruit.   What can I say?  I have a meticulous eye for equal portions.  Plus, it’s just plain relaxing.  The rhythm of knife and thumb working in harmony pushes any stressful thoughts into the farthest reaches of my mind.  And when you finally put that first spoonful into your mouth and the sour of the kiwi mixes with the cool-fresh-picked taste of blueberries and the sugary sweet strawberries… throw in some peaches and banana, maybe some mango, what the hell, throw in any and every fruit you can dream up.  It’s heaven; in it’s simplest sense.  It tastes of sun and fresh starts.  It tastes of summer breezes and auspiciousness.

Sorry, was I saying something?  Oh right!  I was just putting the finishing touches on our fruit salads for consumption on a particularly summery March morning.  ‘How many fruits are there in it?’ asked Gil.  ‘Four.‘  ‘Then it’s not a fruit salad.  Gotta have five fruits to be a fruit salad.’  I protest that we can only use what we have and we only have blueberries, bananas, strawberries, and clementines.  So, sorry if that’s not five fruits.  I know it is a fruitless (sorry!) road to go down, as I’ve been hearing the same story since I was seven years old.  Suddenly I have a thought – well, do you not want yours then, Gil?  I’ll gladly take one for the team…

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As you might have guessed, he sucked it up and ate his [gasp!] four-fruit-salad.  I mean, who’s going to turn down a fruit salad?  Unless it’s one of those desperate fruit cups sadly resigned to a life in the refrigerator section of the local market or the airport café.  I will admit to having succumbed to these specimen in moments of weakness – aka waiting for a flight and not wanting to partake in any of the baked goods that would inevitably mean death by wheat for me.  And you know what?  They’re not that bad.  Still, I’ll take the fresh, real version any day.

Guess what, Gil!  Today, not only did I have five fruits for my fruit salad, I had seven.  That’s right, seven!!  Thank goodness for the coming of summer!  Oh, and, perhaps, globalisation for bringing me kiwis from Italy and nectarines from South Africa…

What follows is a recipe for one BIG bowl of fruit – aka a fruit salad.  You could share, but trust me you won’t want to.  If there are multiple yous that want to partake, just make twice as much and employ that meticulous eye to make sure none of your portion accidentally ends up in someone else’s bowl…

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7-Fruit Fruit Salad

Ingredients:
1 kiwi
1 nectarine
1 banana
A handful of blueberries
4 or 5 small strawberries
1/3 of a mango
1 small pear
¼ cup nonfat Greek yoghurt
Your favourite granola

Method:
Slice all fruit into a bowl (It’s okay to day dream a bit, but don’t cut yourself!).  Top with yoghurt (I usually use Greek or sheep) and some of your favourite granola.  Mine is Kazzie’s, but it’s not available outside of the Shenandoah Valley yet, so some great alternatives are Lizi’s Original and (if you’re in the mood for a particularly sweet treat) Belgian Chocolate granola.


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Apple and Pear Crumble (or an initiation into intuitive baking)

I have always wanted to be one of those people who could look at ingredients and intuitively combine them to create something wonderfully delicious, no recipe needed.  I have combined recipes before, taking and leaving different pieces of up to 7 or 8 different recipes, thus creating my own.  I’ve always been slightly intimidated to simply go forth without any reference point, though.

Last month, while in Israel, I received a special request to make apple pie.  I was there doing research and visiting my cousin J who moved to Tel Aviv to marry Y, an Israeli girl who has since become more like a big sister to me.  It seems that one of the things J missed most from the US was apple pie!  (Is there anything more quintessentially American?)

apple and pear crumble 1

apple and pear crumble

Now, I’m not a huge apple pie maker – there are usually blueberries or peaches, or both! (why not go wild?!) involved – and to find spelt flour in Tel Aviv at such late notice, while certainly possible, was a task made that much more challenging by the fact that it was Shabbat.  So, I improvised.  Despite Tel Aviv’s ardent refusal to jump on the religious bandwagon and shut down for Shabbat, the only grocery stores open are AMPM, so, of course, a trip there was necessitated.

J and I had a fabulous hummus dinner (more on that later), after which I scoured the meagre, though sufficient, selections of the nearby AMPM to see what I could do about this apple pie.  No Meghan-friendly flour, so…. How about a crumble?  No whole almonds – that’s okay, they had bags of chopped and crumbled almonds and walnuts.  No brown sugar?  Demerara will do – just adds a bit of an extra crunch.  The apples looked “meh”, but the pears looked pretty “all right”, so why not combine the two?  Plus, they’re getting cooked, so who really cares about a few surface-level blemishes.  What we care about is flavour!

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getting up close and personal with the crumble

Ingredients bought we headed home.  It was already quite late, but that’s never stopped me before.  I think J & Y were a bit surprised that I was baking at such a late hour (we actually fell asleep and didn’t even try it until the next morning!), but after being robbed by the AMPM’s monopoly on Shabbat grocery shopping, there was no way I was going to wait until the next day to be faced with the knowledge that I could have made this crumble for half, or even a third, of the price… [Note to self – don’t let Shabbat get the better of you, next time think ahead!]

The recipe below is the result of this late night endeavour as well as two subsequent trials and tweakings.  It’s still lacking a certain something, which if you figure out what it is, I’d love to hear it!  But, I am particularly proud of this recipe, because it has inaugurated me into the club of intuitive, recipe-less bakers. So, yay!

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the crumble topped with plain sheep yoghurt – delicious!

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3 hungry people can make a good dent pretty quickly!

Apple & Pear Crumble
Preheat oven to 180C

Filling:

4 medium-sized tart apples, chopped in large chunks
3 pears, chopped in large chunks
~ 1 inch of ginger, grated
juice from 1 orange
1 tsp cinnamon
½ tsp nutmeg (optional)
¼ tsp ground ginger (if you don’t have fresh ginger)
juice from 3-4 passion fruits (optional)
3-4 TBSP date syrup (depending on how sweet the fruit is)
juice from about half a lemon (depending on how sour the fruit is)

Method:

Combine above ingredients in a bowl, making sure the fruit is well coated with the spices and juices. Pour into pie pan or whatever vessel you’re using.

Topping:

~ 1 ½ cups rolled oats
¾ cup chopped nuts (any combination you like – I generally do almonds and walnuts)
½ tsp salt
1 tsp cinnamon
½ – ¾ cup brown sugar (depending on how sweet you want it)
5-6 TBSP (or glugs) melted butter or vegetable oil

Method:

Combine the dry ingredients in another bowl and then add the butter or oil and mix with your fingers until you have a sand-like consistency.  Crumble the mixture on top of the fruit mixture.

Bake for 30-40 minutes in an oven that has been preheated to 180C. It should be bubbling, the fruit should be tender (if stick a knife or fork into it), and the top should be brown. If the top browns before it is finished cooking, cover with foil. Alternatively, if the top is not crisp or brown enough for your liking, you can turn the oven heat up to 200C for 5 minutes to brown it.


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Spring has sprung at the farmers’ market

Living in Scotland, it is not uncommon to witness four distinct seasons in one day.  The past few weeks have exemplified these schizophrenic weather patterns (I say this with much love, of course).  One minute there’s not a cloud in the beautiful blue sky, the next the wind is whipping the trees into complacency and hail is pounding the pavement.  It has become a hazardous pastime to work at my desk with the windows open, enjoying the spring breeze.  Not that there has been much of a spring breeze recently, but when it’s there, it’s important to catch it!

Today, though, St Andrews seems to have put on its dancing shoes and come out to play.  The sun is shining, blue skies for miles – until those clouds roll in – and for what seems like the first time in months the gale forced winds have diminished to a true spring breeze.  I could almost smell summer.  Or was that the pungent smell of an Arbroath Smokie from the farmers’ market?  Or perhaps not the Smokie itself, but the kedgeree prepared as part of a cooking demo by the Fine Food and Dining Society, in which it was the star ingredient.

At home the return of the farmers’ market marks the beginning of summer, here the market runs all year round on the first Saturday of every month.  During the winter, though, it is the bare bones of the vibrant potpourri that it becomes in warmer weather.  There is something irresistibly magnetic and simultaneously rejuvenating about farmers’ markets.  Locals and visitors alike descend, weaving their way from stand to stand between the crowds, foregoing the supermarket for homegrown goodness.  It’s never overly congested, and either way I would never begrudge customers to the local artisans.

They really are artisans.  Whether it be in the way they cultivate their cabbage, tend their herds of buffalo, coax garden-fresh herbs out of the cold Scottish soil, or even crafts more traditionally associated with innovation – blackberry and rosemary vinegar, microbrews of beer, and, my personal favourite, chocolate.

I think this is where a confession is due – I always start my trip to the farmers’ market with an espresso-sized portion of The Cocoa Tree’s caliente hot chocolate.  Today was no exception.  If you have yet to try it, you don’t know what you’re missing.  If it were up to me I’d put you right on the bus to Pittenweem (and go with you, of course!), but if that trek is too far, you can always catch Sophie at her stall next month.

Spring was in the air today.  My flatmate and I could barely contain ourselves with all the new vendors flown in on the warm zephyrs.  Luckily our wallets constrained themselves.  Not before we had done much sampling and buying, though.  We came home with a veritable smorgasbord, which we then laid out for the perfect brunch on the perfect day.

I’ve piqued your interest, have I?  Are you wondering what goodies we were laden with upon our departure?  Well, we picked up a whole duck for Tuesday’s dinner and four Puddledub buffalo, venison, and cranberry burgers for a hearty mid-exam boost-me-up.  As any of my flatmates would tell you, it can be a wee bit difficult to get red meat past my lips (par exemple last Jan-April I was vegan-ish – I cheated with my favourite food, sushi – and have never felt better!).  These burgers are the exception.  When the wafts of moist meat reach my nostrils my mouth invariable starts to water.

My most prized possession leaving this month’s market, though, was the herb lady’s blackberry and rosemary vinegar.  Last summer my parents and I had become accustomed to eating our salads with a simple drizzle of blackberry and ginger balsamic, but try as I might, I have found nothing comparable in the UK.  Until now.  This vinegar is the perfect balance between sweet, from the blackberries, and tart acidity from the vinegar.  The rosemary is almost imperceptible, except for the depth of finish that it lends to the whole taste.  Needless to say it will be making multiple appearances over the next few weeks, drizzled over ice cream, fruit, bread, duck (hence the purchase of another meat I rarely eat), you name it.

It was also the guest of honour amidst our farmer’s-market-outfitted brunch.  To go with the vinegar my flatmate MC and I each picked up a loaf of fresh bread (mine was whole spelt as I’m allergic to wheat).  To go with the bread, some mostardo chutney and sun blushed tomatoes.  To go with the sun blushed tomatoes, fresh rosemary.  It’s a circle, you see.  If you let your tastebuds do with buying, which I often do, it’s never ending – one flavour simply begs to be paired with another and another and another … But that’s the best adventure of all!