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Vegetable Feast

Christmas greetings!

Much eating, drinking, and partying after,  I hope your digestion is still sound and well.

It feels right to do a vegetable dish today.

This recipe is adapted from Jamie Oliver’ s cook book.  It requires a little bit of patience but it is well worth it, as it captures the beautiful flavors of fresh vegetable and would surely make you feel spoiled eating it.

Ingredients

1.  One large egg-plant (aubergine)

2.  Two zucchini (courgettes)

3.  One red capsicum (pepper)

4.  One bunch of asparagus

5.  A few  fresh basil leaves

6.  Two cloves of garlic, minced

7.  Olive oil  3 to 4 tablespoons

8 .  Red wine vinegar 2 tablespoons

9.   Salt and pepper

Method

1.  Slice eggplant and zucchini lengthways into long strips ( about 1/2 cm thick)

2.  Remove the wood end of asparagus and cut them in half

3.  Heat up a flat bottom pan (preferably a cast iron one) to high heat without any oil

4.  Put the whole capsicum into the pan and leave to slowly grill

5.  At the same time arrange some vegetable slices to cover the rest of the pan

6.  Dry grill the vegetable slowly adjusting the heat, turning them occasionally until charred and soft

7.  Remove the cooked vegetable to a plate and add another batch of  uncooked vegetable to the pan, while leaving the whole capsicum continue to cook

8. When all the vegetables are cooked , the capsicum should be thoroughly cooked by now with charred skin separating from the flesh

9.  Remove carefully the black skin on the capsicum as much as possible and open it up to scrape away the seeds. Tear the capsicum up into strips and add them to the other vegetables

10.  Dress the vegetables with olive oil, red wine vinegar, a pinch of salt and pepper. Toss it gently together

11.  Fold in basil leaves and garlic

Serve with a piece of grilled fish, you might think you are in heaven…

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I love fried rice. It is a dish that could change according to the appetite, the mood, the occasion, the season…and yet it is so easy to make!

But there is one dilemma.  The main component of traditional fried rice  is rice. The carbohydrate to protein ratio tends to be very high ( too much carbohydrate, too little protein).  For a lot of us in a sedentary working environment, or trying to lose some weight, excessive starch /rice provides unnecessary calories that could not be burnt off. Traditional fried rice also uses white jasmine type rice which has a very high glycemic index (too much sugar released into the blood stream too quickly causing insulin surge and potential diabetes).

So I made some modifications to this well-loved dish.

Remember when making fried rice,  all ingredients should have as little moisture as possible to avoid the dish turning out soggy. Long grain rice is usually better than the shorter grains as they have less moisture when cooked.

Ingredients ( for 1 person)

1.  Black rice, cooked, 100g to 150g (cooked weight): Sunrice black rice is available at Coles supermarket. Alternatively red rice or basmati rice can be used to lower the glycemic index. Rice is cooked and placed in an open container in the fridge the night before to  reduce moisture

2. Fresh whole prawns  0.5 kg ( frozen prawn meat is OK ) which makes about 250g prawn meat after shells and veins removed

3.  Garlic 1 clove, minced

4.  Organic butter

5.  Soy sauce

6. Fish sauce optional

7. Shallots, chopped

Method:

1. Pat dry prawns and season with sea salt

2. Heat a wok with some oil (coconut oil the best, when using olive oil make sure the wok is not too hot), add prawns to wok and stir till they turn pink and curled up. Sprinkle minced garlic and add a knob of butter to the prawns. Stir some more till you could smell the garlic then quickly transfer prawns to a bowl.

Note: prawns cook very quickly so take care  not to overcook them

3. Pour some more oil in the same wok (with the residual prawn flavor), add cooked rice (which has been in the fridge over night) and stir well till the rice is soft

4. Season the rice with some soy sauce to taste, and a few drops of fish sauce (optional)

5. Add the cooked prawns back to the wok and mix well with the rice. Sprinkle shallots in.

6. Serve with a plate of steamed vegetable to complete the meal

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A young patient of mine had cried all the way through the whole full hour consultation, because I removed dairy products from her diet (due to allergy issues).

“Why are you upset?” I asked.

“Because I won’t be able to have ice cream. It is not fair that I can’t have ice cream!”

And then every five to ten minutes also she moaned about her great “loss” in tears: “Oh, I can’t have ice cream!”

Mum and I were slightly shocked by the incredible pain caused by removing this important item from her diet.

That afternoon, after much doctoring, it was my turn to be a mother. My son and I went to the supermarket to shop for his upcoming 18 birthday party. We had the following conversation a few days before.

Son: “I will shop for my party food with Dad.”

Me: “I can do that with you.”

Son (hesitated): “Er… I want Dad to come as well.”

Me : “Why?”

I know too well why. I am the food police at home. I censor processed and junk food ruthlessly. “Child abuse”, as my son would call it, jokingly (or not?). My behavior is absolutely unacceptable when it comes to choosing party food.  My husband, on the other hand, is usually much more sympathetic and flexible. He reminds me to put things into prospective.  It is his 18th birthday after all. We have to look after his emotional need as well as his physical health, you know…

After some serious self talk and psychological preparation, I went on our shopping trip.

We went from aisle to aisle.  The young man was having a ball picking up his dreamt “food”. I frantically struggled to keep my mouth shut as I saw items piling up in the trolley: E202, E331, acid 330, colourings, preservatives, flavour enhancers, glazing agents, sugar, modified corn starch, MSG, stabilizers, hydrogenated oil, anticaking agent and more….  Apparently we called these “food” nowadays.  And I was watching myself walking to the check out to pay for them.  The bill mounted to more than 100 dollars. What a sacrificial act of unkindness.  But I did not say a word (with big effort). I was proud of myself.

How have we come to this, I wonder.  It seems food is no longer food.   Fresh meat intake is fiercely reduced, because they might cause cancer, we are told. Salt intake is the less the better as it causes hypertension, we are told. Animal fats? well, avoid them like a plague, because they block up  arteries, we are told.  And at the same time as a society, we have gradually given up our natural instinct and surrendered our power to “faked foods”, consciously or subconsciously. To the extent that we almost could not survive without them. To the extent that our social existence is threatened if we walk away from them.

If only we could stop and think for a moment , and being connected to our body, we would remember that our body works best with what mother nature has to offer us as food.  Because after all, our body is a synergistic part of nature. It is profoundly simple.

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