Saturday, November 29, 2008

How to get those little black bugs out of flowers without washing

It's not a recipe, but I stumbled on this idea while tearing my hair out over the hordes of little critters in our elderflowers the other day. I've since used this method with roses as well.

4 reasons not to wash flowers that destined for culinary or medicinal use
1. It can damage the fragile petals

2. Flowers readily release their fragrant/flavoursome/active components into water, and you don't want to wash any of that valuable stuff away

3. If you're making something like wine, where you want plenty of wild yeasts, you don't want to wash yeasts off.

4. I'm not convinced that washing gets all the bugs out anyway. Sometimes I think it just makes them stick to the flowers soggily.

The bugs

I don't know if other people get these exact bugs in their flowers. They are very tiny and black and crawl fast. They are the only creatures I get in my flowers usually. I have no idea what they are, but I don't want too many of them in my cordial or wine or fritters!

Getting rid of them

You need two BIG pale plates or bowls. (Transparent bowls work well too.)

Put the flowers in a pile on one of the plates, and watch the mass exodus! The bugs all start speeding out from the pile of flowers towards the edges of the plate.

Now pick up the flowers, and put them on the other plate. Quickly rinse all the bugs off the first plate, and dry. (Sorry, bugs.)

Now more bugs will be running out to the edges of the second plate, so switch again and rinse and dry.

Keep doing this, switching between the plates. Gradually there will be fewer and fewer bugs coming out.

At a certain point it starts to feel like washing rice - like no matter how many times you do it, you will never quite be finished. But just gently turn or agitate the flowers a bit each time you put them down, and watch for curled petals where bugs might be hiding in a fold, and eventually no more will come out. Then you can remove any final die-hards with your fingers.

There you are - bug-free flowers.

And if you do end up missing just a few, you can always strain them out of the finished flower wine/syrup/cordial ... Or if it's flower fritters you are making, just think of them as a little protein bonus.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Solar-cooked underground vege curry

I was going to call it a root vege curry, but then I realised potatoes and onions are not officially roots, so I had to go a bit more general.

Cashew nuts
Your favourite curry powder or paste
Coconut cream

(Adjust quantities according to taste and how much room you have in your best thin, dark solar-cooking pot. To maximise heat with my solar cooking equipment, I would not fill my pot much more than half full ... but you are the best judge of your own solar cooker's capabilities.)

To make
Chop onions very thinly. Slices 1-2 cm long and 2-3 mm thick have worked best for me

Chop potatoes and kumara into small cubes.

Chop carrots up however you like them, but smallish.

Throw all veges into the pot, along with plenty of cashew nuts.

Add curry powder/paste and stir round to coat veges.

Mix coconut cream with water till it's a thinly syrupy sort of thickness.

Pour the diluted coconut cream over the veges until it nearly covers them but not quite.

Stir the whole mix some more until the curry is well integrated into the sauce.

Add salt to taste.

Seal it all up, put it in your cooker, and leave in the sun for a day.

Solar cooking info
The basics: how solar cookers work

Instructions and plans for making a host of different solar cookers