Little things: to market, to market

On Sunday Dave and I went to the local Vietnamese fresh food market ‘Little Saigon’ to have lunch and stock up on fish, fruit and veggies for the week. It’s one of my all time favourite domestic things we do. Obviously I love Vietnam so I get a kick out of seeing and tasting all the things I’ve encountered on my holidays but I love the energy and the honesty of this place. I don’t know if that sounds stupid but there are no fancy signs, there are no pristine shelves or 2 for 1 deals. There are plates of fruit cut up for tasting and people just use their fingers and help themselves. There are people shouting out their prices loud and fast in Vietnamese. The herbs are 99 cents a bunch and there are live mud crabs lined up in rows in plastic tubs. The food stalls on the sidelines sell crispy fried calamari, dumplings, rice paper rolls and all kinds of other tasty things.

We go there for the experience and the fruit tasting as much as the cheap prices and fresh produce. I get more excited than a normal person should about grocery shopping but I just think it’s the best part of living where we do. 20130429-220507.jpg20130429-220537.jpg20130429-220546.jpg20130429-220555.jpg20130429-220604.jpg20130429-220619.jpg

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A salad with a bad reputation

I’m going to share one of my favourite quick & easy recipes. The Fancy Rice Salad. Is there any other kind you ask? The answer is yes. Now I’m not going to name names, recipes or small country towns but where I come from, when someone brings a rice salad to a BBQ it usually consists of white rice, tinned corn, diced red capsicum and little else (flavour, my dear friend – that means you).

In fact among the people I know, rice salad has such a bad reputation that when I say I’m bringing a rice salad there is an audible pause which is my cue to say oh don’t worry, it’s a fancy rice salad, you’ll love it!. And they usually do. More often than not they cannot actually mask the look of relief when they can see I was telling the truth. It is fancy, phew! And hey, some people like the white rice/corn situation, and that’s fine, but I prefer my rice salad with a little more oomph.

This recipe was given to me by Eleni, fellow lover of food and a kitchen whizz. It’s quick, it’s easy, you can make it a few days ahead and people will want seconds.

Salad ingredients

1 cup of cooked brown rice (I like mine al dente)

1 green capsicum, finely diced

1 red capsicum, finely diced

1 large handful of chopped coriander (or parsley if you prefer)

½ cup of smashed roasted cashews (I use salted, you can use unsalted if you like)

¼ sunflower seeds and pepitas (also known as pumpkin seeds)

1/3 cup currants

4 finely sliced spring onions (also known as scallions)

Dressing ingredients

3 tbsp of olive oil

5 tbsp of Japanese soy sauce (I use the Kikkoman brand)

1 crushed garlic clove

½ lemon juice

The recipe I got never actually said what half exactly, ½ a cup? ½ a lemon? Who knows? I start with about 2 tablespoons of lemon juice and keep adding to taste. The dressing will taste quite strong and soy-saucy on its own but once it is mixed into the salad it will mellow and the garlic and oil will balance it out.

Method

Combine dressing ingredients, whisk well and set aside

Combine salad ingredients well. Add dressing and mix well again. Be thorough but gentle, you don’t want to squish all the rice.

And that’s it folks. You can eat it on the day, or it will be delicious the next day*. You can top it with diced avocado, tinned tuna or cooked chicken. It’s also great with lamb. It’s just great, ok? Trust me.

This rice salad is bringing fancy back.

* just a little note to remind you to take care when storing your rice salad. It seems innocent but cooked rice is considered a high-risk food and must be stored correctly. See here for more information.

How does my garden grow

Things have been getting rather dirty around here lately, literally. Dave and I have been tending to a small veggie and herb garden and getting some dirt under our fingernails. Since I’ve only successfully grown succulents before, and let’s face it, they pretty much do all the work for you, vegetables and herbs seemed like a good challenge to tackle with my partner in grime. We planted some cucumber seedlings, rosemary and oregano struck from cuttings, basil seeds, and three kinds of tomato seedlings (cherry tomatoes and two Italian varieties that produce big old fashioned fruit and aren’t usually available in Australia – thanks Nick!).

The basil seeds were knocked over by the dogs and only two sprouted but seem to be thriving despite a late night snail attack. The rosemary is doing well. The oregano, not so well (aka dead). The cherry tomatoes have had a tough time being moved from under the car port, to the blazing sun and then to the sanctuary of ‘next to the shed’. They have plenty of fruit and we have had one delicious harvest so far but the leaves are drying up here and there which is a bit alarming. The cucumbers were not doing much at all, or so we thought. The runt of the four seedlings never really took off and the few little cucumbers that came after the flowers on the other plants shrivelled in the heat and fell off. During one of our evening inspections I think I scared the neighbours with a “oh my god!” when I found a fully grown cucumber in amongst the vines that had either grown entirely overnight or had been hiding behind one of the tomato tresses and disguising itself as a bamboo stake every time it heard us open the back door.

We were pretty much ‘winging it’ with our first veggie patch and it is really nice to watch the plants grow and be rewarded with vegetables and fresh herbs but I think next time we plant I will do a bit of research first as it’s frustrating when things aren’t going well but we don’t know how to fix them.

As for our one cucumber it’s ripe for the picking but I want to leave it for as long as possible as a testament to our efforts and living proof my thumb has turned from black to green (a very pale shade of green).

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