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Food, general thoughts, food…

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Chilli Pork with Basil and Coconut cream

I finally got around to using some of those little chillies that randomly grew in my patch. They are still happily growing and producing bundles of hot little morsels of pain ready to use in the kitchen. Last year they were quite mild, this year they seem to have come into their own and give quite a punishing kick if you happen to stick a raw one on your tongue to test the heat. I, of course, know this by experience. They also sting like nothing else when you get them in your eyes, also by experience (I can’t be trusted in the kitchen). Who knew that washing my hands with soap and a scrubbing brush twice would have no appreciable effect on the eye watering properties of chilli?

They do add a real pizazz to a meal though so I think I will try to keep them in my cooking and definitely try to keep them out of my eyes.

Chilli Pork with Basil and Coconut cream
Serves 4

2 Tbls oil
1 onion, chopped
1 Tbls finely chopped chilli
1 red capsicum sliced
500g pork tenderloin, cut into strips
1 cup shredded basil
2 Tbls fish sauce
1 Tbls finely chopped lemongrass
1 cup coconut cream

Heat oil in wok. Add onion, capsicum and chilli, stir fry for 3 mins.
Add pork and cook for further 4 mins. Add basil, fish sauce
And lemongrass and cook for 1 min. Stir in coconut cream.
Heat through and serve with rice.


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Pork Belly Chinese

I do eat things other than pork but looking at the blog lately, you would be wondering. This was actually a dish that I made some weeks ago; I have just been incredibly unmotivated to do the actual work necessary to post it (how lazy can I be?)

Anyway, pork belly slices were on special when I went into the store, coincidentally I now have a freezer full of them.

Pork Belly Chinese

8x Pork belly slices – about 2 per person
2 to 3 tsps Chinese five spice
1 to 2 tsps depending on taste Chilli flakes
2 cloves Garlic
3 Tbls Soy sauce
3 Tbls Honey

Place the pork belly in the baking tray and season with the five spice and chilli flakes.
Add the garlic, soy and honey and make sure the meat is well coated in the mixture.
Cover with tin foil and leave to marinade for as long as you can.
Cook in a preheated oven at 160C for 1-1½ hours. Turn occasionally if you want.
Turn the oven up to 210°C
Remove the tin foil and drizzle with another tablespoon of honey if you want them extra sticky.
Return to the oven for another 20-30 minutes.

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Coconut Chicken

This was another pre-prepared and frozen dinner that satisfied the ‘quick and easy to bung in the oven’ requirements of holiday eating. This was a bit of a ‘taste of the tropics’ that we had with rice and broccoli.

There was a lot of liquid in this dish but that could be largely due to the fact that I used a 400 ml can of coconut cream instead of the recommended 340 ml. It would be just as nice with a little less liquid, maybe even nicer. There was a further suggestion to remove the chicken from the marinade and discard the marinade, then bake or grill the chicken until cooked. I haven’t tried this method as I hate to waste the spicy coconut sauce.

Coconut Chicken

6 chicken thighs
340 ml can coconut cream
1 teaspoon turmeric powder
1/2 teaspoon chilli powder
1 tablespoon ground ginger

Combine coconut cream, turmeric, chilli powder and ginger in a large shallow dish.
Place chicken thighs in marinade and refrigerate overnight.
Pour chicken and marinade into a baking dish.
Bake at 180C for 40 mins or until cooked through.
Serve with rice or vegetables.


The testing of the mystery chillies

I finally got around to using some of my chillies. I decided to make a chicken dish with a Thai bent on it, it obviously would require chillies, I actually chose it because I was just dying to know what the mystery chillies were like. I went out in the garden, armed with a small pair of scissors and a small bowl and began snipping. I brought in about 10 chillies in all for the first taste test.

I first checked the refrigerator for the necessaries, and yes, there was an abundance of milk and yoghurt type products, just in case it went badly. I won’t lie, I was nervous and I nibbled the end of a chilli, just a teeny bite, just to break the skin. And…..

A huge anticlimax.

A strong capsicum flavour but no heat, nothing, zip, zero, nada. I steeled myself and took a larger bite and again I was surprised to taste capsicum but no signature burn. I threw all caution to the wind and bit of a yet larger chunk, in desperation I included some seeds in this bite, searching for that heat, the burn, the pain of fresh chilli, and I found it! There is heat, not so much in the flesh but very definitely in the seeds of these tiny chillies. I was simultaneously both ecstatic and in some pain as my bottom lip and the end of my tongue reacted to the capsaicin contained in those tiny seeds.

It was a moment of both idiocy and triumph that meant that I could successfully use my tiny mystery chillies to create those dishes in which heat is called for. So I promptly got cooking.


Chicken in Coconut Milk

1kg chicken drumsticks
1 onion, chopped
2 cups coconut milk
4 dried kaffir leaves (mine were frozen)
2cm cube fresh ginger, peeled and chopped
1 red chilli, seeded and chopped (I used about 3, they are tiny and not so hot)
2 tablespoons lemon juice
2 tablespoons fish sauce
2 teaspoons brown sugar (I used a piece of palm sugar because I had it)

Remove skin form chicken pieces and discard. Place chicken pieces into a large saucepan.
Add all remaining ingredients and bring to the boil.
Lower heat and simmer uncovered for 30-35 minutes or until chicken is cooked.
Remove kaffir leaves and discard.
Serve with steamed long-grain rice.


This was so good, I had some leftovers that went into the refrigerator, rice and all. This was really good even 2 days later so I imagine that it would freeze pretty well if required.


Garden News

In garden news: MY FIRST RED CHILLI!!!
Sorry about that, but I was excited to finally see one of my random, self-sewn chillies ripen this past week. Maybe one of the more chilli knowledgeable people out there can identify them for me, I am leaning toward tabasco but I am far from sure. I plan to find just the right recipe for this little guy, it will be a bit hit and miss though without knowing how hot he’ll be.
There are more capsicums ripening and I have at least one or two a week to bring into the kitchen which is fabulous.

I’ve given the worm farm a bit of a birthday this weekend past. It has 3 tiers and each of them was full of dirt and worms. The top one where I am supposed to add their food was full also so I felt it was time for a clear out of a bottom tray and a swap over so there was more room for scraps.

I took off the top tray and proceeded to dig out the second tray, careful to remove as many worms from the discarded dirt as possible, I don’t want them all escaping to the vegie patch, I need them in house to eat my scraps. The discarded dirt went straight out on to the broccoli and silver beet currently in the vegie patch, so they had a birthday too.

I swapped the trays around putting the nearly empty one on top and gave them a fresh covering of newspaper and a job well done. Birthdays all around for worms and vegies and I felt I had accomplished something. Too good!

Onto sad news, the basil has finally given up for the season. The cooler days and constant showers have made it turn up its little roots and begin to blacken into dead branches. The worms will give it the send of it deserves now that they have the room. I have plenty of basil leaves in the freezer though, to get us through the winter months, hopefully it retains that taste of summer. Fingers crossed.

I am not having to water at the moment, temperatures have dropped to about 17C during the day here now and there are enough rainy days to keep the ground damp. I potter about and remove weeds and chat to my plants in between rain showers, just so that they know I haven’t forgotten them. It is cool and crisp outside and pleasant to be there in amongst my plants but there really isn’t too much that needs doing out there right now.

It is amazing how much more notice I take of the seasons and the changes they bring when I am out in the garden.

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Chilli, not chilly

Here are 5 more rescue chillies from my vegetable garden. I didn’t plant chillies for the simple reason that we don’t eat that many. If all of these survive then I am guessing I will have to find ways to incorporate more chilli into our lifestyle. There are still many in the garden but these are the ones that got disturbed when I pulled out the tomatoes over the weekend. I have 2 that transplanted with a pot of chives earlier in the year that are in full fruit and flower mode so these little guys have some catching up to do.

Next to the chillies is a pot of mint that was grown with stems of mint from the supermarket, why constantly buy when you can propagate?

I love this time of year, the ground is damp and fragrant with rain and the garden is flourishing. The air is heavy with the idea of a thunderstorm. Everything is washed clean again after the dusty long summer. Plants (and weeds) jump up out of the ground as if possessed with the need to grow quickly before the cold comes, or worse, before the summer returns. Give me any excuse at the moment and I am out tending to my vegetable garden, I find the cooler weather much more pleasant to be out in and the sun doesn’t burn like it does in summer.

I am definitely a winter person
(I will add a disclaimer here, winter temperatures in my area get down to about 2 degrees Celsius on a cold night, I am an Australian winter person!).

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My mystery chillis

I have only been living here now for 4 months so I still have the odd surprise plant popping up in my previously terribly neglected garden. When we first looked at this house the owner waved her hand airily at a dry and barren side wall with the comment ‘that is my herb garden’. She might better have described it as her attempt to recreate the moon’s surface on earth. There was a dead chilli plant of one sort or another and a twisted runt of a rosemary plant that looked on the verge of death from lack of moisture. The week I moved in I began on my mission to make this small neglected area into a productive garden.

The soil was water repellent, the kind of water repellent that soil wetter alone is not going to fix so I got the soil wetter, a hose and a trowel and dug that soil over and wet it and dug it over and wet it and dug it over and wet it until it finally gave in and submitted to accepting water and becoming soil instead of dust. I moved the miserable rosemary to a large pot, tossed out the dead chilli and began to plan my next move.

Since my little garden has been established I have had the pleasure of seeing all manner of little seedlings pop their way up and begin to grow in amongst my plants. Mostly little chilli plants that I have yet to identify. The picture shows 2 of them that I potted up along with my chives. They are doing very well and are getting bigger by the day, they have flowered and are producing little fruit. I am so looking forward to seeing what my little mystery fruits develop into once they ripen up.

This is truly one of the greatest pleasures of gardening in my opinion, little mystery plants; it’s like unexpectedly winning a prise for something you didn’t know you were entered in. Then there is the long drawn out waiting period to see if your new addition will amount to anything useful.

Gardeners are not boring people, we are just about finding joy in places that a lot of people don’t bother to look and we are able to define a long term project as exciting as opposed to having to be bowled over by an instant adrenaline rush to get the same satisfaction.

Happy gardening!