Saturday, September 26, 2015

Garlic mung bean soup - comfort for a cold

Just writing this here before I forget.  Made it this morning with all the things I thought would be good for healing a cold.  Recipe by intuition.  Very tasty.  

Mung beans
Garlic - add lots of garlic, then add a couple cloves more
green chili pepper (finely chopped)
turmeric - not too much or it overpowers the dish

  • rinse the mung beans and leave them to soak while you get the rest ready
  • Dry fry the cumin until fragrant.  Crush the spice and put to one side
  • Chop the garlic fine and fry on medium low with the ghee.
  • Add the green chili, cumin and tumeric (NOT the salt) to the garlic, stir for a few moments.
  • Drain the beans, add them to the garlic and spice.  Add water to cover beans.  Bring to boil and simmer until beans are mushy.  Don't add too much water at first.  It's nicer if the soup isn't too watery.  But keep an eye on it and add water as needed.
  • Now you can add the salt.  Adding the salt earlier makes it longer for the beans to cook.  Salt to taste.

Wednesday, August 5, 2015

An excellent sweet 'mango' chutney - sans mangos

No photos today, just a quick recipe before I forget how to make this amazing condiment.

A couple of weeks ago, a branch from an apple tree broke because the apples on it were too heavy.  Unfortunately, the apples weren't ripe yet.  Then I remembered about this Victorian recipe I read for mango chutney, only it didn't have a single mango in it.  Instead, it had unripe apples.  Perfect!

Based loosely on recipe 392 of Mrs Beeton's Book of Household Management, I had to make a few changes.  I have a tender place in my heart for anyone who applies garlic by the quarter pound, I must admit that some of the other ingredient quantities were a bit unusual to the modern taste.  So changes were made to method and quantities but without Mrs B's little book, I wouldn't have thought to make such a scrummy chutney.

Here's a little note that Mrs Beeton gives regarding her version of the recipe:

This recipe was given by a native to an English Lady, who had long been a resident in India, and who, since her return to her native country, has become quite celebrated amongst her friends for the excellence of this Eastern relish.

Sweet "Mango" Chutney

All ingredients are approximate

3 large onions
drizzle olive oil
2 Tbs mustard seed
1 Tbs powdered ginger
4 dry chilies lightly crushed (seeds included)
a large handful of garlic
At least 6 unripe apples, peeled, cored and cut into chunks less than 1 inch cubed.
1 cup raisins
2 cups apple cider vinegar or equivalent
1 to 2 cups of sugar
boiling water
2 Tbs salt

  • Chop the onions into about 1/2 inch chunks, in a large heavy bottom pot, fry onions on medium-low with olive oil until transparent
  • add mustard seed, ginger, chili and garlic to the onions, stir well, cook about one min
  • add apples, raisons and vinegar to the onion mix, bring to boil and then turn off heat
  • Mix 1 cup of sugar with 1 cup of boiling water to make a syrup.  Mix until sugar is dissolved
  • Add syrup and salt to the apples.  Mix well and bring back to a boil.  Taste and add more sugar as necessary.  Boil on high for about 5 to 15 min or until enough liquid has evaporated.  Mixture will thicken as it cools.
  • Place into washed (and if you like, sterilized) jars, seal with lid as per normal.  Because of the spices, salt and sugar, I didn't heat process these jars.  Mrs B never did, she just tightly wrapped the mouth of the jars with sheep bladders.  But as sheep bladders are hard to come by these days, so it's up to you to know how to safely can your food.  If you have any doubt, keep it in the fridge.

Affordable: Apples would have gone to waste as they fell off the tree far too early to ripen on their own.  Onions are from the garden.  That leaves the spices, raisins and sugar - so... totally guessing, let's pretend it's about $2 for this.  It made 6 and a half 8 oz jars full, which makes it 30 cents per jar.  This tastes almost identical to an English apple chutney I bought from the store once upon a time, which cost $8 for the same size.  That's a savings of $7.70 cents.  NICE!

To make it Vegan Friendly, you need to replace the sugar with a vegan friendly sweetener, and to be careful not to harm any worms that are probably living in your apples, thus causing them to fall before they were fully ripe.  

Wednesday, May 6, 2015


Since last fall, things here have been... how to put it?  Things have been life changing.

There has been a lot of adjusting, hope, and frustration.  Worry, despair and small comforts.  Like a warm, sunny day in the middle of winter, a lot of little things bring joy.  The arrangement of beautiful  seedlings sprouting through the soil, the calmness that daily toiling brings.  These things inspire.

But still... it's been a challenge and I find I've needed a lot of time to myself in order to recover.  Emotionally and physically, I feel used up.  Like a field that's been asked too long to grow crops, I need time to be fallow.  To let weeds grow and not feel the pressures of producing in the world.  A fallow state of being is restorative.  The more I live, the more I feel that our culture has lost the acceptance of fallow state - both for land and for people.  Acknowledging and fully accepting that people need fallow time, makes the restoration smoother.  But forcing back on track before the recovery is complete, leads to future fragility.

So that's what I've been doing lately.  The drama of people and events has been much calmer since the winter solstice, so I've had time to be fallow.  I concentrate on daily toil - wake up, feed chickens, compliment sheep, tend the garden, prepare simple but beautiful foods.  Focus on small joys, like a burning red sunset or the way the light and shadows play against the surface of the water as it is stirred by the wind.

I've also fallen out of step with the world of people - even more so than I was before.  I don't know if this is will end well, as humans are social creatures and we need people for emotional and physical support.  But it is as it is, and it will change with time as I emerge from my fallow state.

Already, I don't go to the movies and I haven't eaten out in almost 15 years (except at select places where I know the cooks can accommodate my diet).  Since New Years, we don't have cable TV and I'm hardly ever on the internet these days.  I'm much more interested in spending my time doing things than dreaming of doing things.  My sensitivity to ink and paper has lessened, and with it my use of the library has grown with great vigor.  When I do read, it's usually books rather than webpages.  I've even taken to eating meals at the dining table - when I can find space between the pile of books on cooking and the pile of books about growing food for cooking.

What this fails to cultivate is the skill to talk to others.  No smartphone, no apps, no movies, no tv shows, no restaurants, no multiplayer video games - no one's interested in my latest adventure with pulling new life out of a sheep's lambhole, or my latest squash breeding plans, or exciting new recipe conversion where I took a traditional Italian chickpea pasta stew and made it in a pressure cooker in under 20 min instead of the usual 4 hours.

What's there to talk about with people?  I don't understand half of what they say, and I suspect they feel the same about me.  I don't share a common frame of reference with most people.  Sometimes that makes me glad.  The world is worrying me - or more to the point, the values of the people in our culture scares the pants off me.  I don't know where I fit.

But all that's bla... boring.  Uninspiring.

If you have read this far, what you are really interested in is if I'll be keeping my blogs going.

The answer is that I don't know.

Often I think that the internet is overfilled.  Like crops overgrown with weeds and cannot get enough light or nutrients to produce a harvest.  Sometimes weeds can restore a field, other times they are damaging, choking out the plants that nourish us.  Only the few plants on the edge of the field, where they have space to spread and soak up sunlight - only those plants do any good.  What good could I possibly add to this overcrowded internet?

Then again, I also enjoy sharing things that inspire and enlighten me.  The internet is always willing to soak up my contribution.  Like tossing a penny in the fountain - everyone does it, and one penny more or less makes no difference.  Yet, we still reach into our pocket for a coin to cast into the water.

Sunday, January 4, 2015

New Years Day, No-Soy Miso Club

The inaugural meeting of The Victoria New Years Day Miso Club didn't go exactly as expected, but it was a great deal of fun.

Two types of Soy Free Miso were made:

One gallon batch of One Year Chickpea Mugi Miso

  • 1 kilo dry chickpeas cooked with kombu
  • 500g Mugi (barley) koji cultured with spores from GEM cultures
  • 200g Salt
  • 1 Tbs South River Chickpea Miso
Stored in a cool place, my garage, protected from temperature extremes.  To be opened Jan 1st 2016.

Mashing chickpeas

About 1.5 ltrs, 2 month Lentil Mugi Miso
Stored in my pantry at room temperature.  To be opened last week of February.

For both misos, I used the instructions in The Art of Fermentation by Katz.

I'm a bit nervous about these, not just because it's my first time making a year long miso.  But because the koji grew on the barley with surprisingly enthusiasm.  Instead of stopping when the barley was white, I let it grow olive in colour, which means the koji mold was getting ready to produce spores.  Some people seem to think it should be great when used, others seem to believe it will impart an unpleasant flavour to the miso.  We shall see.

The other thing I did differently was to line the miso vat with a huge, food safe plastic bag.  Now I strongly dislike using plastic with my food, but this time I decided to try it because I was curious to learn if it actually makes the miso better.  We put the miso in the plastic lined vat as per usual, then press it down well to remove any extra air, then tie the bag tightly before weighing it down.  Like they do in this video.

The other reason I did this is because I don't know if there is any lead in the glaze of the crock I'm using, and I didn't feel comfortable having the food touch it for a whole year.

On re-watching the video, I realized I also made my miso a wetter than they did.  Hmm,  I'll make dryer miso next time.

Affordable (a very rough estimate):

Chickpea Mugi Miso
$7 for the chickpeas
$3 for the barley koji
$1 for salt, kombu, &c.
Total $11 for one gallon

Lentil Mugi Miso
$1.25 for the lentils 
$1 for the barley koji
$0.75 for the salt, &c.
Total: $4 for about one quarter gallon

Of course, it doesn't need to be this expensive, there are more affordable sources of beans and barley.  Mine was this much because I bought many of my ingredients locally, or when imported, from small, family run grocery stores.  

Traditional and Transitional, these two go hand in hand.  Both rely on locally sourced materials and skills you can practice in your own home.

As for allergies, these recipes are flexible.  You can use any bean you like, almost any grain you like, and there is even miso made without beans, and miso made without rice.  Most of the recipes are in The Book of Miso.

Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Getting ready for Miso Club

The first rule of Miso Club, we talk about Miso
The second rule of Miso Club, we love making miso

Tomorrow will be the inaugural meeting of Miso Club.  I've invited a very good friend over for what I hope will be the start of a long and happy ritual, New Years Day Miso Club.  The idea is that since red miso takes about one year to make, or longer, then we would get together every New Years day and make miso, then when finished, dig out the miso we made the year before and enjoy it.

Also, winter is the best time to make red miso.  Sweet miso like I've made before can be any time of year, but red miso, that's made in winter.

To prepare for miso making, I've been making koji barley.  This is barley grain that has been blessed with koji mold.  Yes, mold.  Mold is awesome.  What it does is it transforms the starches in the grain into sugars which can then be fermented into miso paste.

It takes three days to make the koji barley.

Day one, soak and steam the barley, then incubate it at about 90F for about 24 hours.

barley getting ready to steam

steamed barley is like a giant rubbery lump
and must be separated out before adding koji spores

wrapping up the barley to keep it warm while the mold grows

What I learned is that after 12 hours, the koji grain begins to produce it's own heat and the challenge quickly changes from keeping it warm to keeping it cool enough without getting too cold.  Thankfully koji is a loving teacher and can survive well outside the 'ideal' range.

Day two of koji growing, mixing the grain up every couple of hours, separating any clumps that form, then spreading the grain to abut 1 inch thick (the instructions said two inches, but this was far too hot) then wrapping it up again.

day two, spreading the barley out into an even layer

I should have stopped at the end of day two when the grains were mostly white with mold and a few yellow patches.  But I kept going because the instructions said to.  The morning to day three, all the grains were yellow and starting to spore - which is okay apparently, but not as sweet smelling as day two.  Next time, I'l stop when the grain says to, not when the instructions tell me.

Now I lay the grain out in a thin layer to dry and cool a bit before storing in the fridge.

The barley I'm working with is pot barley, the koji spores came from GEM cultures in the US.  I have tos ay, the koji spores worked like a charm,  I followed the recipe included with the spores.

The next step in preparing for tomorrows miso making is to soak the beans we will cook up tomorrow. Instead of soy beans, we will use chickpeas, sweet delicious chickpeas.  I toyed with the idea of making a lentil miso with local red lentils, but after this week's kitchen failure, I decided to use a bean I know and trust.

Some books about making your own miso at home
The Book of Miso by Shurtleff and Aoyagi
Wild Fermentation by Katz
The Art of Fermentation by Katz
The Miso Book by Belleme

2 gallons of miso will cost me
$14 for the chickpeas
$6 for the barley and koji spores
$2 for the salt
unknown for the electric bill, let's guess $3

Total of about $25 for two gallons of artisan made red chickpea barley miso.  This is totally awesome since the same miso sells for $36 for roughly 1/8th of a gallon in the stores (if I did my math right, that's $576 if I were to buy 2 gallons in the shop).

Next year it is my great hope to grow some if not all of the ingredients for New Year Miso Club, or at the very least, source as many ingredients locally as possible.  Maybe even some local sea salt.

Transitional and Traditional - funny how these two go hand in hand - miso can be made from locally sourced materials, excepting possibly the koji spores.  The Art of Fermentation by Katz has instructions on how to capture your own wild koji and to create koji starter when you already have koji growing.

Soy-Sub:  I'm making a soy free version of red miso.  Any bean can be substituted for some or all of the soy in miso making.  By making miso at home you can have complete control of every single ingredient