Friday, 1 June 2012

Ingredient of the Month 9: Dragon Fruit

Can I have an ingredient of the month just because it's so beautiful? -Yes I can when it's as nutritious as dragon fruit! It is a wonderful dessert just halved and scooped from the skin either at room temperature or frozen (somehow it manages to taste almost creamy), or can be added to fruit salads.
Dragon fruit, also called pithaya, actually comes from a cactus not a tree. It is found in Asia and South America, being native to countries like China, Mexico, Argentina and Peru. The cactus flowers are white and bloom only at night, so the dragon fruit cactus is sometimes called "Moonflower" or Queen of the Night"
There are two kinds of fruit; one with bright pink skin and white centre, and one which has a pink centre too. The white-fleshed one is the one we normally see in the UK. In my experience, you have to buy the really ripe ones to get a flavour, and even then it is very delicate, but personally I find this refreshing and not a drawback at all. As well as being lovely to look at, dragon fruit are great nutritionally, too. Here's some information I found out recently:

  • They are high in antioxidants, including vitamin C. (Good for your immune system.)
  • They contain vitamins B1, B2 and B3 (which can lower harmful chloresterol, help metabolise carbs and nourish the skin).
  • Their seeds are high in polyunsaturated fatty acids (good fats).
  • Eating dragon fruit can help your body detox from heavy metals, and it is said they can relieve a cough and even asthma.
  • They contain carotene, which promotes eye health.
  • There is even some protein in dragon fruit.
  • They are even rich in the minerals calcium and phosphorus, so good for teeth, bones and tissue in general.
  • Being low in calories and high in fibre makes dragon fruit very useful as a healthy dessert or snack.
... Anyone else got any ideas on what to do with dragon fruit? Is it good in savoury dishes too? I'd love to hear from you.

Wednesday, 30 May 2012

Rhubarb Pudding Cake- vegan

Yummy with lashings of custard...
What to do with all the rhubarb from our allotment? We're tired of crumble, so my husband suggested putting it into a cake. I served it for tea: hot with soya custard. The cake mix is a bit sweeter than usual to counteract the acidity of the rhubarb. For a picture of a more complicated version of this with almonds, see here; that recipe, which I used originally is from Cintia Stammers' wonderful " The Book of Egg- Free Cakes".

200g plain wholemeal flour
200g self-raising flour
4 tsps baking powder
250g sugar
400ml soya milk
150ml coconut oil
750g chopped fresh rhubarb

  • Put all the dry ingredients into a large mixing bowl and the wet ingredients in a separate container.
  • Gradually add the wet to the dry, beating well for about a minute.
  • Oil and flour a tin 32 x 24 x 5.5 cm and cover the bottom with a layer of rhubarb pieces.
  • Add the cake batter.
  • Top with the rest of the rhubarb.
  • Bake at 180C for about half an hour, until done all the way through. (The bottom of the cake will be a little wet even when cooked because of the fruit.)
  • Make some custard with soya milk meanwhile, and serve the cake together with the custard. Yum! -A quick and easy dessert...

Sunday, 27 May 2012

My Herb Garden

Here are some pictures of the herbs we have in the garden. Not a huge variety, and nothing unusual or exotic, but enough to lend their flavours to different dishes. I've also added some suggestions for how to use them:

The thyme is delicate and aromatic, and great in veggie "Sausage" or "mince" fillings. Flat-leaved parsley seems to be more hardy than the curly sort which is more common in England- ours is on its third year. It tastes great added to a mixture of salad leaves. Dried sage seems to go well with soya and pulses; the deep purple flowers in summer will attract bees to your garden. Herb lavender not only has beautiful spikes of purplish-blue flowers, but its leaves are also as fragrant as the flowers themselves. Both leaves and flowers can be added to salads, Herbes de Provence or herbal teas. Add some sprigs of rosemary to your roast potatoes to give fragrance and flavour. They say that Rosemary oil aids memory and was once carried into exams by students! We keep the mints contained in pots because of their tendency to spread everywhere. They are great infused as teas or even chilled with lemon juice and sugar for a refreshing Summer drink. Some fresh mint is also great added to potato salad. 
...So what's your favourite herb? And what would you recommend I should grow next?


Flat- leaved parsley


Herb Lavender (lavandula officianalis)



Round- leaved mint