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Posts Tagged ‘recipes’

Last year I started this blog to trace the progress of a moso grove over its growing season. There was a lot of uncertainty, due to El Niño and a droughty start to the shooting season.

This year, it’s simpler. The ground is saturated, fat shoots are thrusting up wildly. The grove is yellowing and sheddding leaves for “bamboo autumn”, which is spring for all else, but the effect is much less pronounced this year. The upside is that a heavier canopy will give more protection from the winds which, if exceeding fifty an hour, can damage the tall new poles until they branch. The downside is the lack of heat. It’s a cool october.

Right now, I’m protecting the luscious shoots from wallabies, horses, bandicoots, brush turkeys, possums etc.

And an obligatory harvest from under the power lines means I’ve been flat out processing and freezing shoots for human consumption.

The low light and abundance of moisture has made for a delicious harvest.

Just served with my fave South Oz oil,  black pepper and pink Murray River salt flakes…

I entreat the gods to make me all mouth and tummy.

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Often you need meal ideas for guests of the vegetarian persuasion. Not so bad, if you remember you’re feeding humans, not koalas or aphids. Certain all-veg concoctions – like a cheese-flecked pasta e fagioli glistening with olive oil – can satisfy even the most determined carnivores. In my valley, the combination of brown rice, bamboo shoots and mushrooms works as well for the meat-eaters as for those few vegetarians we haven’t shot yet…and whom we may even be required to entertain!

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Before any mushroom talk, a recoup of moso shoot prep:

Last spring I processed a lot of shoots for freezing. Just what’s cleared from beneath the power lines is more than a year’s supply. In future years I’ll need a more sophisticated production line than this:

Above are the steps necessary before freezing. Don’t forget to blanch/precook the sliced shoots in lots of water – which I flavour with salt, brown sugar and vinegar – and to chuck out the water. When that’s done, bag ’em and freeze ’em.

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I’ve mentioned that moso shoots freeze well after the right prep. Another interesting quality is their ability to stay crisp after long cooking. These freezer-stored shoots cooked with brown rice and turmeric were crunchily tender before being added to the pressure cooker along with the raw brown rice. At the end of cooking, they hadn’t changed much, either in consistency or flavour. Handy.

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A too-easy vegetarian meal that will be accepted by all:

Pressure cook brown rice by absorption method, including plenty of frozen bamboo shoots. Seasoning should include turmeric, and I like to add Aussie mustard oil for its buttery quality.

For meaty mushroom sauce, cook lots of garlic in lots of butter then add heaps of raw sliced mushroom. When that’s fried down, a dusting of flour is cooked in for a bit, then a small amount of vegetable stock is added. Simmer till saucy. All sorts of other good things can be added: parsley, coriander seed, chili go well with mushrooms.

Trust me, vegetarian or not, they’ll lick the glaze off the plates.

Nonetheless, I’m sticking with the master…

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A few months back I harvested many bags of fresh spring shoots. Go here and here for preparation of the shoots for freezing or immediate consumption. Remember that blanching and leaching of the fresh shoots is essential, regardless of how plump and tempting they look.

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Because I live well away from shops and conveniences, dried beans, lentils, peas and the like are a big part of my diet. They are neither a health food nor a punishment food, they are just a food. Over time, I’ve learned to avoid the gas and digestive difficulties that come with these dried seeds.

Firstly, whether or not the beans, pulse etc are soaked, I discard the water from the first few minutes of boiling. Most of the problem chemicals go, most of the flavour stays.

Secondly, no salt, sugar or acid is added till the seeds are tender, as these things tend to harden the proteins or whatever, making them less palatable and digestible. A little charcoal in the cooking water has the reverse effect and is probably desirable.

Lastly, certain spices and herbs make lentils and beans more easy to assimilate. Cumin is a frequent addition, as are turmeric, fennel, carraway and the odd cinnamon quill.

The other day I realised the cupboard was bare, except for some split peas and brown rice.

So, after cooking the split peas as described above, thickened with brown rice, I added bamboo shoots from the freezer. What struck me was how perfectly they had come through the freezing process. Tenderly crunchy and asparagusly delicious. (Shut up WordPress spell corrector!)

It’s hardly a summer thing, but dressed with cheese and olive oil, or Maldon Salt and sesame oil, it goes down. Oh yeah, it goes down.

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Core of my heart, my country!

Her pitless blue sky,

When, sick at heart, around us

We see the cattle die –

But then the grey clouds gather,

And we can bless again

The drumming of an army,

The steady, soaking rain.


I know Dorothea McKellar’s old recitation piece is hokey. It’s also sublime. And she understood how Oz works. Nothing. Something. Too much. Nothing again. And so on.

rainy

A huge dump of rain has brought on a third, if minor, shooting. I’ve never had this kind of staggered spring before. Moso handles it: for all I know the mid-north coast is its favourite growing region and it can handle anything here. I’m not sure I can handle it.

There remains the chance of possum damage as the new culms rise near branches which will support the weight of those animals. (I’ve no idea why possums don’t attack the shoots at ground level, where they often brawl over sex and food scraps).

Big winds in the vulnerable week when the culms are high, heavy with new sap, and still tender could cause damage. That happened last year, costing me up to 20% of the gains of a good season.

Nonetheless, the grove will extend this year, with more adult or nearly adult culms. It’s a win. Te deum laudamus.

shriunk1

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Time for a moso hotpot. This one is based on beef mince and sichuan flavourings. Sichuan pepper, chili, soy, ginger, garlic and a few other things. This is when your frozen bamboo shoots, added toward the end of cooking, really work well. While keeping their crunch and nuttiness, they absorb and balance those sharpish Asian flavours. Good chewin’, as the locals say.

sichuanmince

Here I need to register a possible health-positive concerning bamboo shoots. For those concerned with “regularity”, moso shoots are the most gentle yet potent unblockers I’ve ever eaten. It’s not really a concern for me, but those who have a problem in this regard should consider this extra benefit of edible ‘boo.

ragged

The grove is now extremely yellow and ragged. This is the peak of Bamboo Autumn, to which I’ve referred elsewhere. Every spare scrap of energy and moisture goes to the root and new shoots in spring. It’s not uncommon to be alerted by neighbours that your bamboo appears to be dying. It’s not dying. Look down…it’s shooting!

And in honour of Bamboo Autumn, and actual autumn in Europe…

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Not enough rain, not enough new shoots or growth on the ones that emerged in the last weeks.

Let’s talk about the harvesting and selection of shoots for eating. Here you see a bag of plump, rounded shoots from a fairly moist and shaded area under power-lines.

bag

It’s important to select shoots that are still rounded. Once they get a bit taller and their sides straighten, it’s too late. Also, select shoots that are just emerged, not ones that have been dawdling because of drought. Lastly, prefer shaded areas: like asparagus or leeks, bamboo shoots like a bit of blanching.

My method for taking shoots is simple, if a little wasteful. I push horizontally with the sole of my boot, heel-against-base, which usually snaps them at the right level. Very quick.

If you’ve peeled a lot of my favourite veggie, artichokes, you’ll be ready to handle bamboo shoots. There’s no definite way, just remember to cut in a bit from the purple beading at the base, which tends to be a bit hard and chalky; and cut from the top anything leafy or hairy. The result should be a pretty substantial white lump shaped thus:

peeled

Done right, shoots are a great food from every standpoint. Because they can come from undisturbed forest in great quantities with little or no watering or fertilising, their crop and “green” value should be clear. Contrary to what some may think, moso shoots can also be a delicacy. Just remember that they need to be made ready for eating: they must not be eaten raw, and the initial cooking water must not be consumed. More on the final prep later.

Two things are certain in life. When you have your own farm, you will ending whining about the weather. And when you have you have your own blog, you will end up doing gratuitous YouTube links.

A famous aria from Saint-Saen’s Samson and Delilah has been sung by the best mezzos, most notably the sublime Marilyn Horne. Yet no rendition can match that of a certain English lady.

The video is creaky, she sings in English, and, if it’s the first time you’ve seen Dame Janet, you’ll wonder how someone who looks like a Pommie headmistress, or Margaret Thatcher’s brunette cousin, can inject the necessary passion and drama into the legendary piece.

When she’s finished, you too may gape at this joining of vocal and dramatic craft that remains, for me, unrivalled. Delilah/Baker becomes Eternal Woman.

Das Ewigweibliche

Zieht uns hinan.

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unpeeled

peeledandunpeeled

mess

Rain means bamboo shoots, and a compulsory harvest of shoots from under the power-lines. A species that can grow from zero to eighty feet in a matter of weeks needs monitoring in this regard. I don’t like harvesting shoots, because every shoot means more moso in my expanding grove. Yet there’s an up-side. Fresh moso shoots handled correctly aren’t just edible: they are a vegetable delicacy like artichoke or asparagus, worthy of being eaten with a specially prepared Hollandaise sauce.

cooked

It’s odd that the apostle of Hollandaise, Julia Child, is being portrayed cinematically by renowned food-cop, Meryl Streep, who in the past objected to Julia’s promotion of such dangerous things as a sauce composed mainly of egg yolk and butter. La Streep also railed against Julia’s indifference to organics, and the threat to children posed by, y’know, chemicals and stuff.

Now if I were a cinema celeb, I’d let my kids eat any old apples, but keep them away from great directors like Woody Allen and Roman Polanski. So please, let’s discard any hippy pieties that may be associated with fresh, wild-grown moso shoots… and give them a good drenching in butter, mayonnaise or Hollandaise. Good recipes here:

jul

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MOSO IN THE POT

Here I’ve simply added cooked, frozen moso-shoot slices to a pot of  pork belly stewed long with black sugar, soy, garlic, sesame oil, star-aniseed. It’s like the old classic khow yok, but without the dried mustard green.

potre

Of course, I’ll carefully skim all liquid grease and cut away all the solid fat from the meat. NOT.

stew

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Anyone into camellias? Here’s the view from my kitchen window:

camelliare

If I washed the window I think I’d lose that veiled glow around the flowers.  Yep. I’m too much the romantic and esthete to wash windows.

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