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Wednesday, 21 March 2012

Bitterness That Rocks My Palate


While I am quite a sweet tooth person, I find it strange enough to myself that my favourite vegetable is completely the opposite taste - bitter gourd.
I am probably one of the very few persons who has bitter gourd as a favourite vegetable ever since I started eating it as a kid. This is no joke, I absolutely love bitter gourd and all things slightly bitter (real dark chocolate being second on the list).
Now that I think about it, it probably makes sense that my body naturally calls for some bitterness to counteract all the sweet I put into it.

Everytime I would go back to Mauritius for holidays, I would request bitter gourd curry from Mum for my first dinner. One of Mum's specialities is a somewhat dry curry with potatoes. We would have this over rice with a nice refreshing watercress soup.

I imagine that bitter gourd is not a popular vegetable and certainly not with kids. My mum must have been really happy for not having to convince me into eating this nutritious vegetable. I recall I was quite the one who would point out that we haven't had bitter gourd in a while!

Why should you eat bitter gourd?
Despite its unpopular taste, bitter gourd has many nutritional benefits. It is an excellent source of vitamins B1, B2, and B3, C, magnesium, folic acid, zinc, phosphorus, manganese, and has high dietary fiber. It is rich in iron, contains twice the beta-carotene of broccoli, twice the calcium of spinach, and twice the potassium of a banana.

Bitter gourd is also very good for diabetic patients since it has an insulin-like compound that can act as an insulin replacement.

How to eat it?
People prepare bitter gourds in many different ways from making it into chips to juicing.
Here are some nice information and consumption tips that I found about bitter gourd.

For my part, I prefer it best as chips and curry (Mum's style). I still need to try it as juice.

Mum's Bitter Gourd Curry (slightly adapted to my way)
Ingredients (serves 5 - 6)

4 bitter gourds
1/2 cauliflower head (cut into florets)
3 medium potatoes (cut into about 2-inch cubes)
1 tablespoon ginger (minced or finely grated)
1/2 tablespoon curry powder
1 tablespoon turmeric powder
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin (optional)
1/2 teaspoon garam masala (mix ground spices - pepper, cloves, cardamon, cinnamon, nutmeg) (optional)
1/2 teaspoon fenugreek seeds
2 fresh green chillies (optional or to taste)
1/2 can coconut milk
Vegetable oil (for cooking)
Salt to taste
Water as needed for cooking

Fresh tomato and coriander for garnish

  • Prepare bitter gourds by scraping the bumpy skin off with a vegetable peeler. Cut in half lengthwise and remove the seeds. Then cut again in half lengthwise and across. Thoroughly, wash in a salt solution (1 tablespoon salt in a big bowl of water). Drain.
  • Heat 1 tablespoon oil in a non-stick pan. Add bitter gourd pieces. Stir fry for about 8 - 10 minutes until half cooked and slightly tender. Remove set aside.
    Heat another tablespoon oil in the same pan. Add in potatoes. Cook covered until potatoes are halfway till done. Add in cauliflower and cook for another few minutes until both potatoes and cauliflower are nearly cooked. Remove set aside.
  • Mix curry powder, turmeric, cumic and garam masala with a little water to make a paste.
  • Heat 1 tablespoon oil, add fenugreek seeds. Roast for about 10 seconds.
  • Then add in ginger and the curry paste. Roast for 5 - 7 minutes, adjusting water slightly so as not to let it burn but not too much so that it doesn't roast.
  • Add in all the pre-cooked vegetables and chillies. Add coconut milk and a litte water (if required). Simmer for a few minutes until vegetables are cooked through.
  • Add salt to taste.
  • Reduce liquid to a somewhat dry consistency.
  • Garnish with fresh chopped tomatoes and coriander.

Enjoy with chapatis or rice.


Saturday, 10 March 2012

Some New Jewellery Designs: Ethereal Plant Beings Pendants

It's been a while since I talked a bit about what I've been up to with my handmade jewellery making. I try to fit in some jewellery making into my schedule, as I find it very relaxing and I haven't stopped enjoying it ever since I started. I've recently explored more with air-dry clay and stamped style jewellery. These are some new pieces I've made, Ethereal Plant Beings Pendants:

ethereal plant being pendant

ethereal plant being pendant

These imprints are actually drawings, made by Boyfriendlovlie, that I've nicked used.
Here are his original drawings:

Observing the Observer, Kevin Mangaroo

Observing the Observer, Kevin Mangaroo

Observing the Observer, Kevin Mangaroo

Observing the Observer, Kevin Mangaroo

These are entitled 'Observing the Observer' © 2012 Kevin Mangaroo.
They are also available as t-shirts...
Boyfriendlovlie has been drawing all his life, from monsters to cute characters, environment and landscapes, comic book and concept art. With illustration and graphic arts as his specialization, he has worked in various fields. He particularly enjoyed his last job as a Concept Artist at Realtimeworlds UK which was a game production studio.

A few samples of his work here:

kevin mangaroo portfolio

kevin mangaroo portfolio

kevin mangaroo portfolio

kevin mangaroo portfolio

See more of his other works.
If you would like to say hello to him, don't be shy, or if you have any need for illustrations / drawings / some digital paintings, just email him. He'd be delighted. :)

For my part, I've sent these drawings to be made into stamps that I then applied on the clay. The indentation are then enhanced with acrylic paint, after which I coat the pendant with a layer of eco-friendly resin to protect the paint and increase durability.
I really like how they've turned out.

Here's another one I've made inspired from nature. 'I Heart Trees Pendant'. This one is my own drawing made into a stamp.

I heart trees pendant, bujouxlovlie

i heart trees, bijouxlovlie

How do you like them?

Pendants are available in my Etsy store. They all come in a handmade linen bag and kraft paper pillow box, ready for gifting.

bijouxlovlie packaging

Thursday, 8 March 2012

Purple my Taste Buds!

One of my favourite childhood food was undoubtedly boiled tapioca, yam or sweet potato, just plain smeared with butter. I was particularly fond of tapioca mashed in a little milk as well, apart from the butter. Vivid images of Mum making these for us after school came to my mind when I saw an array of yams and other root vegetables at the Asian market last weekend. I can still recall the aroma of melted butter on those hot root vegetables!

While sweet potato is a staple in my kitchen, I had never seen the purple ones in my local store. Yams and the rest would have been a staple too if I didn't have to make the trip to the Asian market to buy them. So, I got some of those purple sweet potatoes. Infact I had never had them before!

purple sweet potatoes

When I came back home, I checked the internet to see what people usually make with these. Just as I anticipated, these little purple babies go in anything from cakes to soups, even cheesecakes and flans! Now I had too many choices. Most of these recipes would need to be veganised; that wasn't a problem though.

Well, I end up making them exactly the way I liked root veggies as a child - plain smeared with vegan margarine.

purple sweet potatoes

I thought they would taste like the regular (orange) sweet potatoes but these ones were like a cross between tapioca and sweet potato. Very nice indeed. Colour and taste - gorgeous!
These for me make a good breakfast, although I wouldn't mind having them for or as part of any meal.

Sometimes the best meals are the simplest ones! Next time though I will definitely try make a cake or muffins or a pie or a cheesecake or a ...

purple sweet potatoes

Saturday, 3 March 2012

My Way of the Salad

Beetroot, Green Mango and Arame Salad

What's your concept of a perfect salad?
Most of my work lunches are my own packed salads which I make the night before. I prepare and pack the dressing separate. While I make salads at least 4 - 5 times a week, I don't actually blog about them that much.

If you eat salads that regularly, you start to try and find ways to make them more interesting and creative.
I have been improving my salad making skills over the years of being vegan and while I now have just gotten into the habit of it, I realise that I have intuitively adopted a kind of concept for making my salads more appetising and satisfying as a meal in itself. This is something I need to share, I thought!

So, here's my take on salad creation.

First, I pick a base, i.e. the bland part:
This is usually a bed of green leaves - spinach, rocket, watercress, lettuce or a mixture of these..., or I sometimes go for brown rice, couscous, quinoa...

Then, something sour:
Green olives, capers, pickles, citrus fruits like sour oranges, grapefruit, even sour grapes (if you've bought some grapes that are too sour to eat, toss them in a salad!)

After that, something sweet:
Beetroot, sweet cherry tomatoes, sweet potatoes (boiled or roasted), sweet fruits (strawberries, pineapple, apples...), dried fruits

Last, something oomphy (my favourite part)! Something that takes the taste to another level:
For this one I mostly like to use something spicy like spicy peppers, chillies, jalapenos or I go for things like seaweed, exotic flavours like fresh coconut pieces, lemongrass, ginger, fresh herbs like mint, basil, parsley, coriander, preserves or pickles like sundried tomatoes, pickled mushrooms...

I sometimes add in some sprouted pulses like mung sprouts or alfafa if I happen to have them and for natural fat (as I don't like adding oil in my salads) I toss in some avocadoes. I don't add seeds because I'm allergic to them but they are a great addition and, by all means, I really recommend them in salads.

Now for the dressing, I usually identify the most overpowering component of my salad and counteract it with the dressing. So, if my salad is on the spicy side with chillies etc, I will make a somewhat sweet and sour dressing. If my salad is mostly on the sour or bland side, I will add a bit of spiciness or sweetness in the dressing. You get the point...

Texture: you may want to play with the textures in the salad; most ingredients will probably be crunchy but I like to add in a few mushy textures as well like roasted sweet potatoes, aubergines, boiled beans...

salad ingredients

So, for this particular salad, I happened to have some green mangoes that I picked up at the Asian market. I really love green mangoes eaten as lightly pickled in a bit of vinegar, sugar and salt. As a kid, I would eat green mangoes, wink with every bite, until I could no longer handle the sourness!

Beetroot, Green Mango and Arame Salad
The ingredients:

Base: spinach leaves, and a mix of a few other leaves
Sour: green mangoes
Sweet: beetroot (raw grated)
Oomph: arame sea vegetable (rehydrated in hot water. Soak for 10 minutes.)
Dressing: shoyu soy sauce, cranberry sauce, balsamic vinegar, maple syrup, salt (to taste if required), cracked chillies (optional)

In this case, the green mango is the most overpowering taste in the salad but it is already balanced with sweetness of the beetroot. So, I made a sweet and sour dressing just to blend into the salad.

Beetroot, Green Mango and Arame Salad

The next day when I had this at work, I added some dried goji berries for a bit more flavour.
I hope you enjoyed this and please tell me what's your favourite salads and dressings because ... I think salad creations are endless!

Beetroot, Green Mango and Arame Salad

While writing about this, I remembered something interesting that I found a while back on the Ayurvedic Concept of the Six Tastes in which all the important nutrients that we need for life, such as fats, proteins, carbohydrates, minerals, vitamins, etc. are contained in a meal that consist of all six tastes - sweet, sour, salty, bitter, pungent, and astringent.
I do not actually follow the ayurvedic concept but it seems I have been applying this concept quite instinctively in meal preparation and cooking...

If you don't already do so, follow me on Facebook or Twitter. I've also recently created a group on Facebook - Help me Veganise. Come and join the discussions, share tips, advices, experiences with fellow vegans and those interested in veganism.

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