Welcome to Meatless Mondays Australia!
Australia has been in drought for many years now so it is heartening to see that most of the country has been blessed with good rainfall recently. While we need above average rainfall over a sustained period to be truly out of the woods, it is a rare treat to watch rain falling outside our windows, revitalising the land and our gardens. We are reminded that water is the source of all life, and that without water nothing can survive. We would have no nature, no beauty, no food.
This week we are inspired by the acclaimed Australian chef and newly appointed Victorian of the Year, Stephanie Alexander, who not only shares with us a winter warming meat-free curry recipe, but also motivates us to think about making the most of the rain and growing our own herbs and vegetables. So, regardless how much space you have, we offer you some tips for getting started on your very own veggie patch. For your health and wellbeing we reveal the healing secrets of turmeric, and we give you some turmeric face mask ideas to leave your skin healthy and glowing.
Another way to get healthy, glowing skin is to eat more fruits and vegetables – preferably home grown – and reduce your meat consumption. Simply by going without meat one day a week you can do something that is good for you while also being good for the planet.
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Food of the Week
Turmeric is one of nature’s most powerful healers. Curcumin, the active ingredient in turmeric, is a powerful antioxidant that has numerous therapeutic benefits. The medicinal properties of turmeric have been recognised for millennia in both Indian and Chinese systems of medicine, and in recent years, modern science continues to reveal the curative powers of this fabulous spice.
- High levels of iron and manganese
- Vitamin B6
- Dietary fibre
Turmeric has been shown to:
- Contain potent anti-inflammatory, antiseptic and anti-bacterial properties
- Boost immune function
- Reduce the risk of breast, lung and colon cancers
- Prevent and stop the spread of prostate cancer when combined with cauliflower
- Offer cardiovascular protection and lower cholesterol
- Stabilise blood sugar levels
- Detoxify the liver
- Aid digestion, stimulate the metabolism of fat and promote healthy weight loss
Turmeric is a highly versatile spice with a wonderful warm peppery flavour that can be used in curries and soups, sprinkled on steamed vegetables such as cauliflower and green beans, or try it on sautéed apples. Look for organically grown turmeric and store it in a tightly sealed glass container in a cool, dark and dry place.
And don’t forget to look for the locally grown product so you don’t add to your carbon footprint. If your greengrocer or supermarket doesn’t stock locally grown produce, please encourage them to do so.
Recipe of the Week
Stephanie Alexander’s Eggplant and Coconut Curry
Cook, restaurateur, food writer and champion of the quality and diversity of Australian food, Stephanie Alexander shares her mouthwatering eggplant and coconut curry recipe that is perfect for a cold, winter night. This is what she has to say about it:
“A vital ingredient in this dish is tamarind, the seed pod of a large tree used extensively in Indian cookery. Its aromatic sweet-sour flavour is unique and worth discovering. This curry can also be made with the slender Japanese eggplants. It can cook for much longer than the hour given here – the eggplant just becomes more and more unctuous, although it will eventually lose its shape.”
4 x 200 g eggplants
1 2/3 cups desiccated coconut
1 tablespoon hot Indian curry paste
1/3 cup vegetable oil
1 teaspoon mustard seeds
2 teaspoons freshly chopped ginger
2 teaspoons chopped garlic
10-12 curry leaves
3 large onions, chopped
1 teaspoon ground turmeric
3 cups cold water
1/2 cup Tamarind Water*
juice of 2 limes or lemons
1/2 cup firmly packed coriander leaves
Cut each eggplant lengthwise into 6 wedges, then sprinkle lightly with salt and leave for at least 30 minutes. Briefly rinse, then drain, dry and set aside.
Dry-roast coconut in a heavy-based frying pan until golden, stirring constantly. Mix with curry paste and set aside.
Heat oil in an enamelled cast-iron casserole large enough to take all ingredients, then sauté mustard seeds over a moderate heat for a few seconds until they pop. Add ginger, garlic and curry leaves and sauté for 2-3 minutes, then add onion, turmeric and coconut curry paste. Cook for 6-8 minutes, stirring from time to time, until onion has softened. Stir in cold water, tamarind water and eggplant, then add 1 teaspoon salt.
Cook for at least 1 hour until eggplant is tender and sauce has reduced, placing pot on a simmer mat from time to time so coconut does not stick. Sprinkle with lime juice and coriander leaves before serving with steamed rice and a side dish of cucumber or tomato in yoghurt, or as one of a series of spicy dishes at a fancy party.
*Tamarind Water: To make about 1/2 cup tamarind water, soak 40 g tamarind pulp in 1/2 cup hot water for at least 30 minutes, then rub the pulp very well with your fingers to extract as much flavour as possible from each pulpy seed. Press pulp and liquid through a coarse strainer. The somewhat unappetising-looking dark liquid is then measured and the desired quantity is added to the recipe.
Turmeric Face Masks
Using a face mask is beneficial for cleansing, smoothing and improving the appearance of your skin. Turmeric is an inexpensive beauty aid for cleansing and revitalising the skin, and adding this exotic yellow spice to a face mask is very effective for treating acne and removing blemishes, as well as for giving your skin an attractive glow. Apply a turmeric face mask once a month and enjoy the healing and beautifying effects.
Rose, Cream and Turmeric Face Mask (for all skin types)
1 tablespoon heavy cream
1/4 teaspoon turmeric powder
1/2 teaspoon rose water (you can substitute this with lavender water)
Mix the cream, turmeric and rose (or lavender) water until you have a smooth consistency.
Wash your face thoroughly with soap and water. Make sure you remove all residues of makeup so the turmeric face mask can penetrate your skin properly.
Spread the paste with your fingertips gently and evenly on your face and neck; keep the eye area clear.
Now lie down, put on some of your favourite music, light some candles, relax and leave the mask on for 30-45 minutes.
Wash the mask off with warm water and end with a splash of cold water. Pat your skin dry with a clean towel. Finally, apply a moisturiser to seal your skin and leave it glowing.
Yoghurt, Turmeric and Sandalwood Face Mask (for acne prone skin)
2 tablespoons yoghurt
1/4 teaspoon turmeric powder
1/2 teaspoon sandalwood powder
Same instructions as above, except you leave this mask on for 15-20 minutes.
Used regularly, over time this mask will help reduce blemishes and acne break outs.
Grow Your Own Veggies
As well as being a legendary Australian chef, Stephanie Alexander has set up the Kitchen Garden Foundation to teach children about growing, harvesting, preparing and sharing fresh, seasonal produce. A recent Research Report by The University of Melbourne and Deakin University evaluating the program found that kids just love growing their own veggies.
So why should the kids have all the fun? We can all benefit from having a backyard veggie patch and we have a few tips to help you set up your own. Get the kids involved – if you have them – and experience the pleasures of growing and eating your own food.
Find a spot in your garden that gets at least six hours sunshine a day and is sheltered from harsh winds that can dry out the soil. Consider how much space you have and decide whether you will plant in the ground (it must be in an area with good drainage), in raised beds, or containers that can fit almost anywhere, even on a windowsill or balcony.
Work your soil with organic fertilisers, such as your own compost or organic manure, to improve soil structure and add nutrients to the soil. If you are planting in containers, buy a good quality organic potting mix.
Decide what you will grow and what veggies and herbs are best for your local conditions and the season. Herbs can be grown year round; veggies like tomatoes, zucchini, cucumber, beans and lettuce are best grown in summer; root vegetables, carrots, cabbage, garlic grow well in the cooler months.
Mulch well and water regularly either in the early morning or in the evening to prevent water evaporation. Use collected ‘waste’ water from your house, such as the water you use to rinse vegetables and the warm-up shower water. If you need more than this, make sure you adhere to any water restrictions that may be in place in your local area.
You will also need to do a little research to find out about crop rotation and companion planting to ensure you don’t deplete your soil and to keep pests and diseases at bay. ABC Gardening Australia has lots of useful information as well as a planting guide for each month of the year, for every region of Australia.
Growing your own vegetables and herbs is easy and very rewarding and you can ensure you get a variety of delicious and healthy produce all year round. Knowing your veggies are free from nasty chemicals and synthetic fertilisers gives you peace of mind that they will be good for you and good for the planet.
Happy gardening, happy harvesting, and most of all, happy and healthy eating!