Happy Birthday Mark Twain

Today marks the 176th birthday of Mark Twain. Here’s some of my favourite quotes.

Mr Twain:

Buy land, they’re not making it anymore”.

Anger is an acid that can do more harm to the vessel in which it is stored than to anything on which it is poured”.

Education consists mainly of what we have unlearned”.

Habit is habit and not to be flung out of the window by any man, but coaxed downstairs a step at a time”.

Kindness is the language which the deaf can hear and the blind can see”.

“When we remember we are all mad, the mysteries disappear and life stands explained”.

“I have found out there ain’t no surer way to find out whether you like people or hate them than to travel with them”.

“It is better to keep your mouth closed and let people think you are a fool than to open it and remove all doubt”.

Forgiveness is the fragrance that the violet sheds on the heel that has crushed it”.

“To eat is human, to digest, divine.”

“We are all alike, on the inside”.

Wakey Wakey, Let's Get Flakey!

I must say I enjoy the stimulation of a magical mystery tour of the refrigerator, freezer, the garden and the pantry to spontaneously decide on what to cook for dinner. My hungry 14-year old son Nitai and my modestly hungry 87-year old father would also be the recipients of whatever it was I was going to prepare, if only I knew myself.

A quick perusal of the cupboard led to me decide to use the last remaining dozen small potatoes, since they were starting to show signs of imminent sprouting. A quick glance at the 3 sheets of frozen butter-puff pastry in the freezer, and it was decided. I’ll bake some flakey stuffed vegie pastries.

I diced and boiled the potatoes with water and a little salt, picked and chopped some Red Chard spinach from my garden, threw that into the pot when the potatoes were almost done along with some peas, then drained the lot in a colander.

Next I heated a pan with a little olive oil, sprinkled in some asafetida, cracked peppercorns, added the potato, pea and chard mixture, threw in a generous handful of freshly picked parsley, a bit more salt, a grating of nutmeg (wonderful with spinach!) some marinated feta, a big squeeze of lemon juice, some animal-rennet-free bitey pecorino cheese, and the filling for the pastries was done.

rice salad:

Time to decide on a salad : some leftover steamed Thai rice from yesterday, along with a whole lot of fresh garden herbs – mint, coriander, parsley, marjoram, Vietnamese mint, some sliced salad greens, thin slivers of red cabbage, my first three baby snow peas of the season (sliced raw) a peeled and diced tomato, and a dressing of homemade mayonnaise, tahini, lemon, a splash of Chinese sesame oil, and a sploosh of olive oil.

they're ready to fold and bake:

I unwrapped the puff pastry, and when it was just thawed enough to cut, I divided each of the 3 sheets into 4 squares. I had divided the filling into 12, and each of these little cups of filling was neatly placed in the centre of each square of pastry.

folded and ready:

When the pastry was just thawed enough, I folded the squares in half diagonally and with the addition of nice decoratively-sealed edges, I popped the pastries on baking-paper-lined pizza trays and slid them into a pre-heated 180 C oven.

hot and ready to serve:

Golden brown and baked, I allowed them to cool, then it was time to serve, along with the salad and an accompaniment of homemade tomato chutney (my son chose ketchup).

so flaky:

Call them what you will – vegetable turnovers, boureki, samosa, empanadas, pasties – whatever the name, they tasted as good as they looked.

Chilies in a Jiffy

I have a whole host of germinating seeds at the moment. The little pots below are called jiffy coco pots because they are made of coconut fibre. I purchased them compressed, then I soaked them in warm water for 10 minutes. After they expanded, I planted Tabasco chili seeds in them.

chilies in a jiffy:

When the seedlings become mature little plants, I will place the whole tiny pot into soil, the outer layer will dissolve and the plant will snuggle into its new home with the minimum of fuss. This replaces the need for transplanting, and root shock.

Running the Gauntlet

I have successfully taken cuttings of strawberry plants in my garden. I transplanted them into pots and also into various places in the garden, and wherever they were replanted they have all grown successfully.

From one shop-bought seedling I now have a dozen strawberry plants in various locations, some of which are fruiting right now. The challenge is to pick the berries before the birds and lizards devour them.

red gauntlet strawberry plant:

This is one of my very healthy red gauntlet strawberry plants. That’s chocolate mint and marjoram in the background. The recent deluge of Sydney rain with hot interludes have done wonders in the garden. I haven’t seen strawberry plants stand quite so erect like this before. A handsome and generous fellow, methinks.

Slow Food: Chickpeas Extraordinaire

Tonight I cooked chickpeas with a homemade fresh tomato glaze. They tasted as superb as they looked. The secret is five hours long slow cooking with hardly any attention.

more chickpeqas close up:

The ingredients: large chickpeas that were soaked yesterday then drained and boiled in fresh water today until very soft, and then partially drained; boiled further with fresh rainbow chard from the garden and homemade tomato puree cooked very long and slow with shredded fresh turmeric and shredded fresh ginger.

After a couple hours more on the lowest heat I added a tempering of olive oil plus black mustard seeds, cumin seeds, a tiny shard of cassia and asafetida. When the spices were golden and aromatic I quickly sprinkled in little cayenne pepper, and a tiny sprinkle of ras-el-hanout (middle-eastern 20-spice mix). I cooked it some more, unattended.

Finally, I added some chopped fresh parsley from the garden, a teaspoon raw sugar, a good squirt of fresh lemon juice, a blob of butter, and a couple teaspoons Himalayan salt. All served with super hot, fluffy plain Thai rice.

Verdict: My son Nitai, who does not like chickpeas, ate with relish. The perfect balance of hot, sour, sweet, salty and spicy. Heaven!!


today brekky mmm:

Today’s brekky: Bircher muesli (oats soaked overnight with lemon juice and grated apple) topped with vanilla yogurt, home-poached apricots, fresh bananas, puffed amaranth, fresh mango, walnuts, pistachios, cashews, dried melon, and candied sultanas.

Unhinged – The Search for Fariri Hing and Samo Rice

I have been searching for pure asafetida for some time now, without the addition of rice flour or wheat flour. More specifically, I was looking for asafetida that can be used on the grain-fasting day of ekadasi. I was told to search for fariri hing. I went to google: no I didn’t want a ferrari hinge, I wanted fariri hing! No luck there.

found - fariri hing:

Well, one thing led to another and finally I found a distributor for the stuff in the Sydney suburb of Blacktown and purchased a few jars – some for me and some for my friends. Buckwheat flour is the ‘carrier’ for the pure hing (asafetida) – and this stuff is strong! The closest I have ever come to the real hing aroma. You only need a pinch.

up close fariri:

While I was at the warehouse – Hari Australia – the proprietor named Devraj (adorned with vaisnava tilak) explained to me that fariri referred to fasting in Gujarati culture – specifically on the holy grain-free days of ekadasi. It seems the more common word is ‘farali‘ – faral means fast – and I guess it all boils down to different dialects and regional languages. In a nutshell, if you do an internet search, you won’t find fariri, but you will find farali. Are you still keeping up?


Anyway, while there I also found another product that I hadn’t been able to track down. The item in question was samo – a Gujarati favourite on ekadasi fasting days that approximates the use and mouthfeel of rice without breaking the fast. Also known as samo seeds, samo rice, moraiyo, varyache tandul, and bhagar in various Indian regional languages, it can be used for rice-like dishes, khichari, creamy milk puddings and anything that normally would use rice.

moraiyo up close:

That’s it above, close up and larger than life-size – a bit smaller than sago – in fact pretty much the same size as millet. There’s loads of recipes on the internet, but I thought I’d ask my readers if anyone has a favourite samo recipe. Anyone?