In search of flavour

This week the weather was kind and we were able to rest easier. We even managed to find time to get off the property and attend some events in Hobart for a change. Although, we couldn’t escape the overall theme of food.

On Saturday we attended a  launch for Yotam Ottolenghi‘s new cookbook. We have been inspired by Yotam’s celebration of vegetables and modern take on middle eastern cuisine for a while. Self-depricatingly he joked that his recipes usually take 1 day to shop for the ingredients, 1 day to prepare the meal and 1 day to wash up. So it was ironic that his new book is titled: SIMPLE.

I was also lucky to make it back in to Hobart on Monday to attend a public lecture on the Science of Taste presented by Danish biophysicist Ole Mouritsen.

His work is heavily influenced by Japanese cuisine and that fifth taste (on top of salty, sweet, sour and bitter) that has been understood for almost 100 years but only recently widely accepted: UMAMI.

He explained that certain food types have the requisite chemical make-up to trigger this taste sensation (think meats, scallops, shiitake mushrooms) and surprisingly one vegetable makes this list: the Tomato. So we were glad to scrounge enough punnets for this week’s boxes as they begin to ripen.

We were intrigued by both presentations and a common theme of packing flavour into meals through layers of textures (mouthfeel) and scientifically explained or intrinsically understood taste combinations.

However, as producers, we are concerned not with how best to present the food and prepare the meal after picking, but how best to imbue flavour into the raw ingredients when they are still in the ground or on the bush. For those insights we might have to wait until Chef and author Dan Barber graces these shores….

Tom Kha (Gai)

This Thai soup works just as well without the gai (chicken) and the kha (galangal) can also be substituted, though it’s becoming increasing available at good grocers (and we hope in veg boxes of the future!). We used a load of Cygnet Mushroom Farm’s mixed exotic mushrooms which worked a treat……Serves 4 as a starter, 2 as a main.

Ingredients

  • 400mL coconut milk
  • 400mL chicken or veg stock
  • 300g chicken, sliced finely
  • 200g mushrooms, cut into bite sized pieces
  • a large knob of fresh galangal (or ginger), peeled and finely sliced into rounds
  • 2 stalks lemongrass, cut into inch long pieces
  • 2 shallots or half a red onion, finely sliced
  • 4 spring onions, chopped
  • juice of 4 limes or 2 lemons
  • 3 tbs fish sauce
  • 1 tsp chilli flakes or 1 fresh chilli, finely sliced
  • 3 kaffir lime leaves, or zest of a lime or half a lemon
  • handful of coriander
Method 

Step 1: Bring the coconut milk and stock to the boil in a wok.

Step 2: Add the other ingredients, except the lime/lemon juice, fish sauce and coriander.

Step 3: Cook at a high heat until the chicken and mushrooms are done – about 5 minutes depending on thickness of slices.

Step 4: Add the fish sauce, coriander and lemon/ lime juice and taste for balance before serving. Adjust acidity/ saltiness with more juice/ sauce as required.