Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Onion-flower tempura

This has been a big hit in our family. The helping below looks sparser than I would have liked. Stealthy fingers got to the plate before I managed to take a photo ...

- 1 cup standard grade flour
- 1 cup water
- 1 egg
- Salt to taste (anything from a pinch to a teaspoonful)
- Cooking oil (I like olive oil, but whatever you normally use)
- A handful, a bowlful, or a basketful of onion weed flowers - as much as you feel like

To prepare the onion weed flowers
Unless you are really worried, don't bother to wash them.

Cut the flowers off their stalks 1 - 2 centimetres below where the flowers join the stalk. This holds the clusters together, and gives you enough stalk to grip when you dip them in the batter.

To make the batter
Chill the water till it's icy cold. You can put it in the freezer for a bit, or add ice cubes to bring the temperature down more quickly. It has to be really, really cold.

Whisk the egg in a bowl.

Add the icy water and whisk some more.

Add the flour and salt, and mix gently and briefly with a spoon. You want to just barely mix it in - and don't worry too much about lumps.

Use the batter immediately.

To cook
Put about half a centimetre of oil in a frying pan, and heat to medium high.

Once the oil is very hot, dip each flower into batter then drop it into the oil.

When a battered flower is lightly browned on one side, turn it. They won't take very long.

Remove each battered flower as soon as it's lightly brown on both sides, and place on a paper-towel-lined plate.

To serve

Eat unadorned or with a dipping sauce. Soy sauce, or something based on it is nice.

Trouble shooting

If the tempura comes out at all soggy, try hotter oil or even colder batter, or both.

A bit about onion weed
Local wild plants gallery

Friday, October 17, 2008

Kawakawa Honey Ice-cream

This is a custard ice-cream infused with kawakawa leaves. It's delicious, but you don't want to have too much of it at one time. Kawakawa is not just an amazing culinary herb, but a potent medicinal that makes your mouth tingly. (Although if you leave the ice-cream a couple of days after making it, some of the mouth-tingling properties disappear.)

I make custard using a high-heat method, but if you have a different way you prefer, you can easily adapt this recipe to that.

6-8 kawakawa leaves (choose the bug-eaten ones - the bugs know best!)
2 cups milk
¼ cup sugar
4-8 large egg yolks. (4 will work if you’re trying to be stingy with eggs, but more eggs will make the ice cream creamier. Your choice.)
½ tsp vanilla essence
¼ cup honey

A saucepan
A wide flat saucepan or frying pan
A wooden spoon
A whisk
A sieve

To make

Put the milk in a saucepan.

Finely chop the kawakawa leaves and add them in.

Bring the milk almost to the boil (so there are little bubbles round the edges) then take off the heat. Stir, cover and leave 10-15 minutes to infuse.

While the infusion is going on, put the egg yolks into your wide flat pan, and add the castor sugar.

Stir gently with a wooden spoon, till the sugar grains are evenly distributed through the egg yolk.

After its 10-15 mins is up, reheat the kawakawa/milk infusion to scalding temperature.

Take it off the element. But leave the element on, and make sure it's turned to medium-high.

Add the milk/kawakawa infusion very slowly to the sugar/egg mix in the wide pan, stirring all the time.

Once it's all added, put the wide pan onto the hot element and start stirring madly with the wooden spoon. Scrape the spoon across every part of the bottom of the pan regularly, to make sure the egg doesn’t cook hard.

Very soon you'll notice the texture of the mix change. It will look thicker, less foamy, and the bubbles will be bigger.

Do a quick test to see if it’s ready. Run your finger across the custard sticking to the back of the wooden spoon. If your finger leaves a line, the custard is ready.

As soon as it’s ready, whip it off the heat, snatch up your whisk, and whisk away as fast as you can to bring the temperature down. Keep whisking for a couple of minutes or so, then relax.

Add the honey and vanilla and stir in.

Strain the whole mix through a sieve into the container you want to freeze it in. This will get rid of both the kawakawa leaves and any little lumps in the custard. (If you do all this really fast, there should hardly be any though.)

To freeze without an ice-cream maker
Put the bowl in the freezer and leave for an hour or so.
When the edges are freezing, push the frozen bits down into the unfrozen bits and stir briefly and gently.
Repeat approximately every hour for about four hours. (Actually, as time goes on you may need to stir it a little more frequently than every hour, as the freezing picks up speed ... it depends on the temperature in your freezer.)

About Kawakawa
Local wild plants gallery