Gypsy and the Botanist

Month: September, 2014

Herbs from my mama’s garden.

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Living in an apartment, I’m forever missing having my own patch of earth.  I have potted plants everywhere inside and outside, but it’s just not the same.  I love being able to dig up some soil, and watch plants grow.  It’s never the same in a pot.  My mum lives up the coast, and lives for her garden.  I’m lucky enough that she plants things for me, and this was today’s haul (and believe me, this was a light picking of her amazing produce).  Parsley, rosemary, thyme, dill, spinach, lettuce, and butternut squash.

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Mountain flower picking.

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The blue mountains are one of my favourite places.  The crisp air, the smokey fires, the birds… and most of all, the amazing greenery.  It’s just so good for the soul.  And it also sings to the Eastern European corner of my heart.  With spring here, it’s a spectacular time, everything in full bloom, and the air deliciously sweet from their perfume.  I visited my dad today, and picked these beautiful buds from his garden, and from his neighbour Paul’s garden.  Daffodils, jonquils, iris, cherry blossoms, camellias, and most excitingly, daphne.  I was like a kid in a candy store.  I’ve never encountered daphne in a garden, so this is pretty special for me.  Such a creamy and slightly spicy perfume.

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Chocolate peanut butter brownies.

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One of my favourite sweet combinations has always been chocolate and peanut butter: rich chocolate, spiked with salty peanuts. I’m not going to lie, I think nutella AND peanut butter is pretty amazing, straight from the source: the respective jars. But for something more respectable, I present to you, the chocolate peanut butter brownie. These are dense, rich, sweet, salty, and crunchy. Eaten straight, or even better, served warm with some vanilla bean ice cream.

 

Ingredients

300g good quality dark chocolate

80g unsalted butter

A few tablespoons of peanut butter

300g caster sugar

1/4 tsp salt

4 eggs

100g sour cream

60g plain flour

2 tsp baking powder

100g good quality dark chocolate, roughly chopped

300g salted peanuts, roughly chopped

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Preheat the oven to 180C. Grease and line a rectangular cake tin.

Melt the 300g chocolate, peanut butter, butter and sugar in a pan, for approximately 10 minutes until combined. Allow to cool.

Beat the cooled chocolate mixture on a slow speed. Add the eggs, one by one, until combined. Add the flour, baking powder and salt, until combined. Add the sour cream, the salted peanuts, and remaining chocolate.

Spoon this mixture into a cake tin, and bake for approximately 40-60 minutes, or until set. Allow to cool, then remove from the tin, and cut into squares. Dust with sifted cocoa, and top with extra chopped salted peanuts.

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Thai green curry.

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I love curry. The spicier, the hotter, the happier and more satisfied I am. I had always bought ready made curry pastes. But being the purist I am (if you will), I have always wanted to try making my own paste. It’s daunting. The list of ingredients, seemingly endless, and some unknown. But I can tell you, it’s so worth it. And far simpler than the daunting list of ingredients alludes to.

I used beef in this recipe, but you can use whichever meat (or just veg), you prefer. I wasn’t anticipating to post this recipe up, so the result is quite literally, adding everything that was in season for my midweek dinner, which makes for a quite un-photogenic dish. But the flavour… huge. And the aroma, so good.

 

Ingredients

500g meat of your choice

400ml coconut milk

1tbsp fish sauce

500ml stock of your choice

6 kaffir lime leaves, finely sliced

2 fresh limes, juice

1 brown onion, peeled and roughly chopped

1 red capsicum, roughly chopped

2 carrots, peeled and roughly chopped

1 handful of beans

Any other vegetables of your choice (I used broccoli, spinach, bamboo shoots, and mushrooms)

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Green curry paste

1/2 tbsp cumin seeds, dry roasted

1/2 tbsp coriander seeds, dry roasted

1/2 tbsp whole black peppercorns

A pinch or two of sea salt

4 garlic cloves, minced

A handful of fresh coriander

1 stem of lemongrass

4 stems of green shallots, chopped

1 small piece of ginger, peeled and chopped

1 small piece of galangal, peeled and chopped

1 lime, zest and juice

2 green chillies, chopped finely

1tbsp dried shrimp paste

 

For the curry paste, add the cumin and coriander seeds, and peppercorns, into a mortar and pestle, and pound until finely ground. Add the sea salt, garlic, coriander. Once this is combined, add the lemongrass, ginger and galangal. Then add the chillies, shallots, lime zest and juice. Once this paste has formed, add the shrimp paste.

In a large pan or wok, brown the onion for a few minutes. Add the fish sauce and curry paste, and fry for another few minutes until brown. Add the coconut milk, and simmer for approximately 5 minutes, stirring well.

Add the meat with the stock, the kaffir lime leaves and lime juice, and bring to the boil, simmering gently for another 20 minutes. Add your veggies, and simmer some more until the meat is tender.  Serve with jasmine rice.

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