This week I leafed through a few of my vegetarian recipe books looking for inspiration for something interesting to make for a special someone. Neither of us tolerate dairy well, so dairy-free was a must. But really, I was searching for a menu that was flavoursome, fragrant and delicious.
In Traditional Chinese Medicine the heart is represented by the fire element. The temperature of the fire element is hot – warming and spicy – it builds our Yang energy (our internal fire), think of chilli, onions, garlic, ginger and the myriad of spices we have at our finger tips in the modern kitchen. Interestingly, the corresponding emotion is joy. Have you ever felt grumpy when eating a perfectly spiced dish?
What first caught my eye was a recipe for dessert: tropical fruit sushi. This sounds weird but looks divine, and was the perfect mix of sweet rice, coconut, spice and the last of summer’s mangoes.
Continuing with the tropical Asian inspired theme, I chose a vegetarian Penang curry for the main course and tweaked the recipe to suit my preferences, maximising produce from my very own balcony herb garden.
Okay, so these weren’t cooked and eaten on Valentine’s Day, but I thought you might like to take advantage of these ideas for a romantic meal (even if it’s just for you – I’m all for spoiling oneself!)
Here are the recipes:
Eggplant and tofu Penang curry
- 2 large red chillies (seeded and sliced)
- 2 lemongrass stalks (white part chopped into 1 cm pieces)
- 2 tablespoons fresh ginger (chopped)
- 3 garlic cloves
- 4 kaffir lime leaves
- 1 tablespoon cumin seeds
- 1 tablespoon coriander seeds
- sea salt to taste
- 2 400g cans coconut milk
- 2 cups snow peas (trimmed)
- 2 cups eggplant (cubed, salted, washed and dried)
- 200g tofu (sliced and fried)
- 1 tablespoon soy sauce
- 1 teaspoon maple syrup
- 2 tablespoons basil, sliced
- Blend chillies, lemongrass, ginger, garlic, kaffir lime leaves, cumin seeds, coriander seeds and salt in a food processor until herbs resemble a thick paste. Add a little of the coconut milk to help this process.
- Add the paste to a saucepan and fry a little until fragrant. Add coconut milk, eggplant and tofu, simmer.
- When eggplant is almost cooked add snow peas.
- Season with soy sauce and maple syrup, stir well. Cook just until snow peas are tender.
- Serve with steamed rice and top with basil.
Tropical fruit sushi
- 1/2 cup sushi rice
- 150mL coconut milk
- 1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
- 6 tablespoons caster sugar*
- 1 mango
- 4cm fresh ginger (grated finely)
- Boil rice with just enough water to cover it and allow to simmer for 3 minutes. Drain.
- Then line a steamer with muslin, add rice and steam for 12-15 minutes, or until tender.
- Transfer the rice to a small saucepan and mix with coconut milk, nutmeg and 2 tablespoons of sugar. Bring to boil, then reduce heat and simmer, stirring frequently, for 6 minutes and rice mixture is thick and creamy. Cool.
- Line a baking dish (18 x 25 cm)with cling wrap leaving enough at the edges to wrap over the top.
- When rice is cool spread into the baking tray at about 2 cm thick. Smooth the top. Fold cling wrap over the top. Refrigerate.
- Slice mango thinly and cut into small rectangles (2 x 4 cm). You’ll need 16 pieces.
- In a small saucepan combine remaining 4 tablespoons of caster sugar with 1/2 cup water to make sugar syrup*. Stir over a low heat until combined, then bring to the boil for 2 minutes until syrupy. Remove from heat and add mango and ginger. Cool.
- Slice rice into 4 x 2 cm slices. Top each slice with a piece of mango. Drizzle with ginger syrup on the serving plate.
*The sugar syrup can be made with stevia instead – here is a recipe although you’ll only need 1/2 cup so reduce the recipe to an eighth.
Another idea for a love inspired sweet are these red bean heart biscuits.
And if you are not feeling the love, maybe Traditional Chinese Medicine can help you find your happy heart again.
For further information on Chinese Medicine contact Dr Sarah George (Acupuncture). Sarah is a practitioner of acupuncture (AHPRA registered), massage therapy and natural health at her Broadbeach clinic and is the Chinese Medicine Senior Lecturer at the Endeavour College of Natural Health Gold Coast campus.