Tag Archives: cucumber

A little seasonal foraging

On air on Bay Fm 99.9, Byron Bay community radio, on January 9 2012


We have had so much rain and heat lately that everything is growing like mad.  My veggie patch is terribly neglected and yet stuff is turning by itself , lovely self seeded volunteers for the salad bowl.  Miss January even has a little lichen growing around her neck, in a little glass container.  We don’t have a recipe for that yet, but we had a big chat on the show about foraging, picking and eating things that are growing around us.  After the recent mushroom poisoning, we also stress that you should be very careful and make sure what you put in your mouth is safe.  Or at least as safe as the industrially produced ingredients in your average supermarket!




•    Apricot
•    Asparagus
•    Avocado
•    Banana
•    Blackberry
•    Blueberry
•    Capsicum

•    Celery
•    Cherry
•    Cucumber
•    Currants
•    Eggplant
•    Honeydew Melons
•    Lettuce
•    Lychee
•    Mango
•    Mangosteen
•    Okra
•    Onion
•    Peach
•    Peas
•    Pineapple
•    Plums
•    Radish
•    Rambutan
•    Raspberry
•    Rockmelon
•    Squash
•    Strawberry
•    Tamarillo
•    Tomato
•    Watermelon
•    Zucchini
•    Zucchini Flower


Forage and friends with Alison Drover “Miss January” from Fork in the Field www.forkinthefield.com

I love January time to read books from Christmas day that blur and impromptu dinners with friends with left overs from Christmas.

Start the need year foraging around your community and see what you can source growing naturally. Take time with friends to share your food skills whether they are bread making, jam making or fish smoking. Share your harvest and respect the planet and plants you pick.



•    cucumbers
•    olive oil – Australian of course
•    goat or sheep’s yogurt
•    garlic
•    dill
•    Mint
•    lemon juice
•    salt
•    borage flowers

A Greek dish so simple yet such a star especially in summer.  Surrounded by toasted pita bread it is an economical way of accompanying pre dinner drinks or as a side for lamb bbqs or to accompany a warm potato salads it is equally as delicious.
Peel a cucumber, cut it in half and remove the seeds. Take a grater and grate the cucumber (keep a bowl underneath it to collect the water) I drink this high in silica cucumbers are great for skin.
Leave it in a colander with a little salt until it has given up some of its juice. Take a handful of the cucumber with gloves and squeeze the water from the it. Continue to do this a few times in order to remove as much water as possible.
Pat the cucumber dry with kitchen towels then fold into a little olive oil and 250g strained yogurt. Season with a crushed clove of garlic and a little dill or chopped mint leaves and a squeeze of lemon juice.



This tree is rare in the wild, usually found in NE QLD and NE NSW. It is cultivated in certain areas of northern NSW and far north QLD. The fruit is about the size of a blood plum with a double flat seed. It is tangy and delicious but extremely sour. Davidson plums can be used in place of blood plum in any recipe but as with most of the bush fruits, the flavour is very intense. If compared to a standard plum you would use only 1 Davidson to 3 other plums.

This means they should be mixed with other fruit so that they do not overpower the dish. Half and half may be a good ratio. They will not lose their colour or break down and become mushy. Davidson plum is very well suited to sauce making, both sweet and savoury.



Davidson plums make great jam.

I have been up early collecting Davidson plums. You have to pick them when they are ripe so in my case it was dropping everything and picking and gathering. The low hanging ones can be shook off and the higher ones will need a stick. They are delicious!



Wash the Davidson plums. Place them in a saucepan and then boil them up with equal parts sugar and add a cup of sugar. The plums are low in sugar so it is important to add pectin to the jam and add more sugar than usual. Jam making is very much about feeling your way around.

Tip for making jam, which is low in pectin. Take muslin like cheesecloth about the size of a handkerchief. Fill it with pips from 2-3 lemons and all the pith, which are the white insides of the lemon. You can remove this by scraping it out with a spoon.

The pith contains the pectin, which is required to set the jam. Tie a knot around the contents and then
add a  piece of string about 30 cm long around the knot and then hang it over the saucepan so it sits in the saucepan and boils with the fruit.

Continue to boil with the bag. The pectin inside the bag is released and helps the jam to set. Take a wooden spoon and squeeze the bag against the saucepan to squeeze out more pectin. Turn the heat up and boil rapidly until the jam reaches setting point – a sugar thermometer will be helpful here (start checking when it reaches 104C). but to confirm this, put a teaspoonful of the jam on to a cold saucer and put in the fridge for a minute or so. If it crinkles when you run a finger through it, and your finger leaves a clear line in the preserve, it’s ready. If not, check it every five minutes or so.
6. Allow to sit for 15 minutes then spoon into clean jars and seal immediately.

Enjoy on toast, on cereal or over a cake or just on a spoon
x  Alison Drover




There is plenty of information available on the net about foraging, even though nothing beats a wise local for safe and tasty roadside snacking.  Check out this video to get inspired – it looks like Brissie is a little piece of paradise for foragers.

http://permaculture.com.au/online/campus-blogs/urban-food-foraging-%E2%80%93-coming-to-a-city-near-you – this is  a great article about foraging, with lots of links to more info and tools, and guidelines for ethical – or simply polite – foraging.  In our area, make sure you think about food plants’ potential for becoming invasive weeds in bushland.

http://www.thegourmetforager.com/2010/11/diary-of-an-amateur-mushroom-forager/ – this blog is mostly about foraging in restaurants, but it describes 2 very thorough sessions of mushroom searching

http://www.abc.net.au/radionational/programs/lifematters/not-just-a-weed21-the-rise-of-foraging/3783248 – I think someone at the ABC listens to belly – this is a podcast of a program they did  – about 2 weeks after us – on foraging.   But we did talk about it because it is growing greatly in popularity, from chefs to us curious, or just poor, or environmentally aware home cooks.  And it gives you an excuse for being slack at weeding!



First – good news about garlic. About 10 year ago our garlic industry was almost crushed by cheap Chinese imports. 90% of garlic in Australia came from China. According to the SMH, consumers have gone back to Australian garlic. Producers say the local product is not bleached with clorine or fumigated and is juicier. You may remember a series of letters in the Echo a few years ago, about how hard it was to find flavourful garlic in shops. Now luckily there is plenty of properly stinky local stuff in our shops and markets at most times of year. Around Australia, many individual consumers and restaurants are getting their garlic by post from the internet. It means more small producers can survive. One producer, Patrice Newell, estimates garlic production has quadrupled in Australia in the last 5 years, and we grow more than 300 varieties. But you’ve got to feel a bit sorry for Australia Post employees. Only a few weeks ago a Sydney mail centre was evacuated because a packet of extra strong curry powder caused an outbreak of sore throats, coughing and wheezing and fears of a chemical attack. I wonder what other food travels through the mail these days.

January is the time many of us try to start a new diet. The Dietitians of Australia association has found that about 60% of young women tried to lose weight last year, and one quarter of those dieters used what the dietitians consider ineffective fad diets. More than 50 nutrition experts took part in an online survey, which asked them to list their three worst diets. Most thought the lemon juice detox diet, based on drinking lots of lemon juice with cayenne pepper, was the worst, followed by the blood-type diet, and the acid and alkaline diet. DAA spokesman Trent Watson said in a statement.”Women often think they are failures when they can’t sustain such strict and unrealistic diets, The truth is, it is the diets that are failing young women.” Dr Watson said people should ditch the fad diets and focus on regular exercise and healthy eating. His diet advice is simple : eat breakfast every day, limit take-away meals to once a week, choose water as a drink and exercise most days.

If you have small kids you may have the opposite problem, how to get them to eat up. An interesting study has just come out that may help, although it seems based on a very small group of people, but maybe you could experiment on your own kids. Researchers at London Metropolitan University showed 23 preteen children and 46 adults full-size photos of 48 different combinations of food on plates. They found that there are definite differences between adults and kids when it comes to plate appeal. The kids in the study liked more colourful food, more elements on the plate, and the main item towards them on the plate rather than in the centre. Food plates with seven different items and six different colours are particularly appealing to children, while adults tend to prefer only three items and three colours. Kids also like food that makes a picture or a pattern on the plate.

If you are thinking of publishing your own recipes you may want to keep this story in mind. A Chilean newspaper has been ordered to compensate 13 readers who suffered burns while trying out a published recipe for churros, a popular Spanish and Latin American snack of fried sugared dough. People who followed the recipe published by La Tercera newspaper were splattered with hot oil as the frying batter exploded. Most of the victims suffered burns to the arms or face. Chile’s supreme court has found that injury was almost unavoidable for anyone who tried to follow the recipe as printed. The court ordered La Tercera to pay more than $160,000 in damages to the 13 victims.




Oka, Gorilla Villa

Dirtgirl, Chicken Jam

Skipping Girl Vinegar, You Can

Iluka, Eyes Closed

Cumbia Cosmonauts, Our journey to the moon


Love and chocolate coated weeds, Sister T    (mmm, if only cocoa would go feral…)


on air 27 December 2010 – wrapping up a delicious decade

The final belly of the year, and a favourite final guest, the very charming Belinda Jeffery.  Belinda has made time for belly over the years even though she is a multi media foodie dynamo, several years presenter on Better Homes and Gardens, award winning cookbook writer, regular columnist for ABC Delicious magazine, regular on another radio station – she’s even famous in the Netherlands!  We almost thought Belinda would be flooded in today, as one of the wettest Christmases we can remember keeps the Northern NSW frog population very happy.  But she made it and we had a lovely chat about the most delicious people and food developments of the year just ending.  And the decade, as we just managed to work out.  Belinda loves some of the changes she has seen since moving here, the booming farmers markets, the emphasis on local,organic and sustainable food, the school veggie patches and cooking programs.  We both remembered the dreaded Swiss roll as the only thing we had learned in our own school home ec classes.

Belinda’s latest book is The Country Cookbook: Seasonal Jottings and Recipes (Lantern, 2010), and she is aware that she has been very indiscreet, talking so glowingly about the Northern NSW area.  The secret is well and truly out now.  It is a beautiful book, full of photos of local wildlife and plants, stories and Belinda’s trademark carefully explained recipes.   Madam Zaza, occasional Belly assistant, who was dragged in to help out on this public holiday Monday, said it is the first time she actually feels like trying out something in a cookbook.  Congratulations to Bayfm subscriber and regular listener Bridget, who was a very very happy winner of a copy.

For the rest of us, Belinda also brought in a recipe that she particularly recommends for this time of year, when many of our homes are full of visitors.  Easy to make and easy to multiply.


This scrumptious chicken dish is perfect for times when you’ve been out and
about much of the day and the thought of getting home and cooking something
from scratch is less than inspiring. The marinade only takes a few minutes
to make and basically you just plonk the chicken into it the night before
you need it, make sure it’s well coated (and covered, or your fridge will
smell rather exotic!) and leave it be until you’re ready to cook it.

I nearly always serve this with a bowl of jasmine rice and something
cucumber-y, as their cool freshness is a lovely balance for the spicy
chicken. The cucumber ribbons look really pretty but if time isn’t on my
side I’m just as likely to seed and slice the cucumbers then mix them with a
little plain yogurt, fresh mint and salt, and serve this instead.

2x 270ml cans coconut cream
3 heaped tablespoons of your favourite curry paste
3 tablespoons finely chopped fresh ginger
Inner hearts of 3 stalks of lemongrass, finely chopped
1/3 cup finely chopped coriander
8 chicken chops (or 8 skin-on chicken thighs)

800g Lebanese cucumbers, washed and dried
2 tablespoons light olive oil
2 tablespoons very finely shredded ginger
1 large clove garlic, finely chopped
1 tablespoon rice (or white wine) vinegar
1 teaspoon caster sugar
2 small red chillies, finely chopped
3 teaspoons sesame oil
Up to 1 tablespoon lime juice
Sea salt, to taste
Garnish: a few lacy coriander leaves (and, if you are lucky enough to have
them, coriander flowers too)

# I use Patak’s terrific Tikka Masala curry paste for this

In a large bowl thoroughly mix together the coconut cream, curry paste,
ginger, lemongrass and coriander.

Line a container that will fit the chicken chops with a large sturdy plastic
bag. Sit the chicken pieces in the bag and scoop the marinade over the top.
Tie a knot in the top of the bag, then squish it about in your hands so that
the chicken is thoroughly coated in the marinade. (Make sure you use a good
strong bag for this or, as I’ve found to my cost, as you squish the chicken
about, if the bag is too thin it can tear making rather a horrible mess!)
Put the bag back into the container and cover it tightly with a lid. Now
just pop the lot into the fridge for at least 3-4 hours, or better still,
overnight. If you remember, from time to time give the chicken pieces
another squish so every part of them is well coated.

When you’re ready to cook the chicken, preheat your oven to 190C. Line a
shallow oven tray with baking paper and sit the chicken pieces on it,
skin-side up. Squeeze any leftover marinade in the bag over the chicken.
Slip the tray into the oven and cook the chicken for about 40 minutes, until
it is deep golden-brown on top.

While the chicken is cooking, make the cucumber ribbons. To do this, run a
vegetable peeler, repeatedly down the length of a cucumber to form long
narrow ribbons; stopping when you get to the seeds. Rotate the cucumber and
do the same again. Repeat this with the remaining cucumbers. Put the ribbons
into a large bowl, cover them with cling film and chill them. (I discard the
seedy cores and the first ribbons on each side as they are all skin and a
bit chewy.)

When the chicken is nearly done, put all the remaining ingredients, except
the lime juice and salt, into a small saucepan and mix them together. Sit
the pan over medium heat and bring the mixture to the boil. As soon as it
boils, remove it from the heat and stir in a little of the lime juice. Taste
it and add salt and more lime juice, if necessary. Pour this over the
cucumbers and thoroughly mix it in.

When the chicken is ready, sit one or two pieces on each plate and scoop a
little cucumber salad alongside. Finish off with a sprinkling of coriander
leaves. This is delicious with a bowl of jasmine rice. Serves 4 hearty
eaters or 6 lighter ones.

We also had the first ever Belly Awards – yes not the Oscars, the Bellys!

Queasy for the naughty ones, happy for the nice ones – feel free to contribute yours, just email belly@belly.net.au


Queasy    Bellys

– worst food porn – Eat, pray, love the movie, with Julia Roberts- extreme Hollywood version of food porn – overdone visuals, soft music, slowed motion, only eaten by beautiful people. And size 8 women struggling into skinny jeans are not very believable saying admittedly admirable things about not letting a few extra kilos get in the way of a wonderful eating experience – super clean super pretty food porn – not sexy.  A sister T award, yes I know lots of people loved the food in this, I just like my food porn a bit less Disney.

– mobile phone behaviour – cafe and restaurant patrons on the phone while ordering a meal or paying – a sister B award on behalf of exasperated restaurant staff and patrons – some local cafes have signage that you will not be served while on the phone – good on them.

– most dubious restaurant practice – ringing up 10% extra on my credit card bill when I left the tip line blank on the card receipt, and left a cash tip – in Byron Bay!  I carefully fill in every line in most places, will do so here too in future.

Happy Bellys

The Belinda Jeffery Blessed are the Cheesemakers Happy Belly award goes to all 3 wonderful local cheesemakers, all sprung up in the last 5-6 years, all inventive and delicious, each very different : Bangalow Cheese, Nimbin Valley goat cheeses, and Moo Ball’s Tweed Valley Whey.  From market and local shops.

From Sister T :

– best new leaf – broad bean tops – seasonally at the markets or grow your own
– most cooked from new cookbook – Vefa’s Kitchen, a big beautiful blue and white bible of Greek cooking, lots of unusual recipes that work
– strange but good flavour combination – eggplant and chocolate
– best thinking food lover’s publication – Griffith Review – quarterly essays and stories published by Griffith University –  # 27 is called “Food Chain” – lots of info on sustainability and ethical eating, agriculture and the food industry, and fiction

From sister B :

– best new addiction and dentist’s friend – chocolate covered peanut brittle

From listeners
Nicky : best episode of a tv food show – Heston Blumenthal’s recreation of Willie Wonka’s chocolate factory, with lickable wallpaper;
and best food movie – the German movie Soul Kitchen
Isabelle : best new member of the pumpkin family : little green squashes sold as Mexican squash (a pointier version of the little yellow ones, with much better flavour) – from markets

If any winners want to get in touch with the bellysisters, they can have a signed copy of Sister T’s belly as a prize, otherwise just the glory.  Please comment if you agree/disagree with the awards, or have suggestions.

Speaking of markets – remember farmers markets are on rain or shine, in case of really major flooding local radio will broadcast cancellation advice.  This week Bangalow Farmers Market is on Friday not Saturday.  Byron, New Brighton, Mullumbimby as normal, others check with contact numbers on belly market page.

And we finished the show and the year with some useful advice on food and music combining, and the legal definitions of murder, manslaughter and bad cooking (really) by bad cook evangelist Dr Siggi Fried.  Follow at your own peril.

And I did not have time for a very 2010 Happy New Year message(oh, ok, I forgot to take this in to the studio).  If you are so with it that you not only send all your greetings by sms, but you don’t even bother writing your own, this is the place for you – http://sms4smile.com/category/new-year-sms/

A couple of examples :

My wishes for you in year 2011
Great start for Jan,
Love for Feb,
Peace for march,
No worries for April
Fun for May,
Joy for June to Nov,
Happiness for Dec,
Have a lucky and wonderful 2011.

Oh my Dear, Forget ur Fear,
Let all ur Dreams be Clear,
Never put Tear, Please Hear,
I want to tell one thing in ur Ear
Wishing u a very “Happy NEW YEAR“!

And my personal fave :
There have been many time in 2010
when I may disturbed you
troubled u
irritated u
bugged u
today I just wanna tell you
I plan to continue it in 2011.

You have been warned.  Happy New Year,

Sister T


Two tracks brought in by Belinda Jeffery :

Renee Fleming, Hallelujah, from the release Dark Hope

Melody Gardot, , Baby I’m a Fool, from My one and only Thrill

Babylon Circus,  Ici [‘here’], from La Belle Etoile

Cygnet Repu – We Sing Kumbaya – From the release entitled Home -A collection of songs from QLD Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Artists.  A solo indigenous artist from Torres Strait – Mabuiag Island

Faux Pas – Chasing Waterfalls -From the release entitled Noiseworks
A solo electronic act from Melbourne, VIC

belly 22 march 2010 – mullet, gotu kola, cucumbers

TOPICS : the mighty mullet, smokin’, eating your rampant pumpkin vine, healthy traditions – Sri Lanka (gotu kola), dr Siggi’s bad chef recipes – souffle’, Sister Rasela’s Morsels – odd uses for cucumbers

GUESTS/INTERVIEWS : Paul Van Reik, Sri Lankan born wonderful cook and food writer, and youthful father of many children
Dr Siggi Fried, bad cook freedom fighter
Sister Rasela – nutritionist and bellysister



This week sr T is loving pineapples, sea mullet (extra fab to July as it goes North to spawn) and taming the pumpkin vines by shallow frying the flowers and marble size baby pumpkins (in a light flour and water batter).

The mighty Mullet

bake, pickle, smoke, bbq, make fish pastes and pate’, goes with tomatoes, oranges, fennel, mushrooms, onion, garlic, eggplant, all kinds of herbs, substitute for mackerel in Spanish and English recipes (much cheaper)


First, smoke yer mullet

1 wok, a metal cake rack, maybe foil, mullet fillets, skin on

Smoke mix :

1/2 cup each brown sugar, rice and tea leaves (I just used tea that was getting a bit old), a few leaves/sprigs of woody herbs, maybe a few fennel seeds, lemon myrtle – experiment

To smoke you need a wok, either an old one, or lined with foil, if you haven’t got a wok lid the foil has to be long enough to cover the fish.

Put the smoke mix in the wok, heaped in the middle.  Then the metal rack, high enough to not touch the mix, the fish skin down on the rack.  Cover with lid or crimp foil over so it seals the top but doesn’t touch the fish.

Cook on high until it starts to smoke, then 10 to 20 minutes on medium heat depending on size/your preference.  If the mix goes out and you need to cook the fish a bit more, finish in a dry frypan, skin down.

Then you can use the mullet in many ways (lovely for pate’)

or make a herby garlicky green sauce – I whizzed olive oil, lemon juice, salt , pepper, garlic, parsley, mint, chives and fennel tops in a food processor

Made sourdough toast, thinly sliced tomatoes on top, then flaked mullet, then drizzled bright green sauce….mmm

And pretty too.



* is there a dish in your tradition that is supposed to be extra good for you?  Please share it with the bellysisters, either on air or on the website.

In the Sri Lankan tradition, it is said that gotu kola keeps you youthful, and is good for your blood and rheumatism.


1 cup cooked rice (see below)

2 -3 tamped down cups of gotu kola leaves (1 bunch)

Boil rice in a lot of water until grains whole but mushy – a thick starchy soup/porridge consistency.

Pound leaves in a mortar, sieve out solids and  keep juice or puree
with a little water in a blender and sieve out solids.  Makes 2-4 tbs of bright green juice, add to cooked rice with a pinch of salt. It will have a minty/sharp/peppery flavour.  Add jaggery to taste (or honey/plain sugar).

Have a bowl each morning, you can re-cook any leftover dry rice until it is mushy to make this.

The following recipe is from Paul’s website,  where you will find many more delicious Sri Lankan recipes


This is a standard preparation you can make with any leafy green  – spinach, silver beet, kankun, amaranth, chrysanthemum, radish and turnip leaves, chickweed and so on.  If you can get them, there are two Sri Lankan greens in particular that do well with this treatment – gotukola, also called pennywort,  and often available in the growing season from good South East Asian suppliers; mukunawena, a quite specific Sri Lankan herb which you may find at Sri Lankan grocers.

1 bunch leafy green vegetables
1 tsp black mustard seed
1 tsp turmeric
pinch of salt
1 tbsp grated coconut (fresh is best, frozen is also fine, desiccated is a no-no)
1 tbsp Maldive fish ground fine (you can substitute dried prawns)
vegetable oil


Wash the leaves and shred them fine.

Heat the oil in a wok or frying pan big enough to hold all the shredded leaves.

Put in the mustard seeds and fry till your hear them pop. Immediately add the leafy vegetables and stir rapidly. You want to try and coat all the leaves with oil and seed.

Add the turmeric, salt and Maldive fish, stirring all the time to prevent the leaves burning, like in a Chinese stir fry.

When the leaves have darkened and gone limp,  add the coconut and mix it through for a minute or two at the most. You just want it to take on the colour of the turmeric and be thoroughly integrated with the leaves.

Taste, and adjust the seasoning. If you like, squeeze some lime juice over it. Take it off the stove. You don’t usually serve mallungs hot, so let it cool down a bit before eating.

(C) 2007 Paul van Reyk



Look up any good cookbook for a souffle’ recipe.  Prepare as suggested but don’t worry about using precise amounts as all souffles will collapse in the end.   However, ther is a trick that Leyton Hewitt, the famous tennis player, uses to create perfect souffles (almost) every time…when the souffle is cooking, stare at it intensely and shout : ” Come On” at least 3 times.

(C) Dr Siggi Fried


So much said about the poor cucumber (great for cleaning metal according to Sr Rasela – not sure if this is a compliment)

“A cucumber should be well sliced, and dressed with pepper and vinegar, and then thrown out, as good for nothing.”
Samuel Johnson (1709-1784) English writer

“Raw cucumber makes the churchyards prosperous” – English Proverb

“He had been eight years upon a project for extracting sunbeams out of cucumbers, which were to be put into vials hermetically sealed, and let out to warm the air in raw, inclement summer.” Jonathan Swift  (Irish writer)
“Cucumbers  are like virgins, they do not keep long” –  Dutch Proverb


good mullet info :


wok smoking :


http://www.buthkuddeh.com.au/ – Paul Van Reyk

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Centella_asiatica – lots of good gotu kola info and pictures

www.kopping.com – dr Siggi