Wednesday, 30 January 2013

Burn relief for a crazy person (right from the fridge/pantry! )

If you're in the kitchen a lot, no doubt, you've burned yourself a lot of times. I know I have. And I never seem to learn. It always seems to be the stupidest actions that burn the most - like when you pull a tray out of the oven, set it on the stovetop, take your glove off, then completely forget it's hot, and pick it up to move it. There goes the cookies, you say. There goes some of my skin, you say... Oh dear. Or am I alone here?

Anyway, as I was hurriedly leaving my day job on Wednesday, I stopped to wash up my plate from lunch. (The gourmet that I am - lunch was three processed vege hot dogs, on a plate. No sauce, no bun. And I ate them with a spoon, because there were no forks in the drawer. The things you do - they're a source of protein, vitamins and minerals!! - I am not ashamed). 

In my office kitchen, on the left, there is one tap with the option of ice-cold/fiercely boiling, straight from the tap, and two, and on the right, a conventional hot/cold water tap. My little routine is that I put my plate in the sink, turn the boiling hot water onto it, while I check the temperature of the tap on the right with my hand, to cool, so I can then rinse, pick up, and dry the plate.

It all went well until I stuck my hand right under the boiling water tap, not the cool water tap. And being tired, my reflexes took longer than I would have liked to rip my hand out from right up under there. Gosh, that hurt.
My new mortal enemy. You have foiled me for the last time, plumbing-beast.

 When I got home, the pain was pretty darn intense. Now, I know everyone swears by Aloe Vera, but truth be told, it has never worked for me. And being my difficult self, I seem to have some undesirable reaction to it - which makes my skin itchy and red. So I kept my hand under cool water as long as I could, but, with conventional wisdom saying to hold it there at least 10 minutes, it's just impractical. I held ice packs on, and being hot here, I replaced them regularly, for about 4 hours - the pain did not lessen at all. Eventually, I couldn't keep anything cold enough to be effective. I had to come up with another solution, because I was heading to bed soon and had no idea how I'd be able to sleep with a hand full of fire. I couldn't believe the pain was still so intense after so long. I also knew that the next morning, I'd have to go do a lot of baking, in a hot commercial kitchen (somewhere you don't want a burnt, sensitive hand).

Now, before we go any further, I want you to know that I am not a medical professional, and I cannot, and will not, give health advice. I'm just telling you what works for me - and if I suspected a burn was something very serious that required medical attention, was bleeding, instantly blistered, or similar, I would get myself immediately to a hospital! (Gee, I wish we didn't live in an age where everyone was a potential litigator and we didn't have to use such weasel words, but we do. And, truly - burns can be a very serious business).

The solution: something I'd read in a book called "The People's Pharmacy", years ago, that had worked for me in the past - 100x better than anything else. First of all, immerse your hand under cold water for as long as you can. Then, you're all gonna think I'm crazy, but here goes: soy sauce. Now, most of you know that I'm fairly scientifically minded, and take pretty much everything anyone says to me with a grain of salt (and fairly extensive investigative research ;), ha!), but this is no old wives' tale. For me, it works. And it has worked a number of times.

It's Soooooooooooy Sauce!
What I do is find a way to immerse the burnt area completely, and continually, in soy sauce. In this case, it was on the top of my hand - so I filled up a dish with soy sauce, placed it on the coffee table, lay on the couch, and rested my hand (top-down), in the dish, while I watched TV (multi-tasking laziness with a purpose: brilliant!). As usual, within 10 minutes, the pain had at least halved, and within 40 minutes, the pain was pretty much entirely gone. Every time it works, I'm gobsmacked. But it does, every time!

How does this work? I have no idea. Chef friends have told me they think it is because, when applied to meat, soy sauce draws blood to the surface. And when it's on my hand, it kind of feels like it "draws heat" out of my hand, and into the soy sauce. If you've ever burnt soy sauce, you know that familiar, Asian BBQ smell - quite thick, unpleasant, burnt, and salty. Oddly enough, as I was sitting there, James mentioned (without him knowing what I was doing) that he was noticing an unpleasant smell in the house - like burnt soy sauce and barbequed meat! I guess that was my hand cooking, in a way. The salt almost forms a crust over your skin, which seems to stop the pain. Does it have something to do with the probiotics that occur in soy sauce? The natural alcohol? Who knows. I haven't found any clear answers, through much research.

It was a pleasure to get a good night's sleep, wake up the next morning - and still no pain. Perhaps minimal tightness/discomfort with stretching in the kitchen the next morning. Here is my hand, the morning after the burn:

Still a little swollen, but it's still good - it's still good!
A day after the burn, I applied rose hip and calendula oils on the burn, to help the appearance of the skin. This seemed to make my hand redder, and didn't help - but I still did it for two days. A medical worker subsequently also cautioned against applying oils to burnt skin. Here's a photo of my hand, as I write this, approximately 60 hours after the burn (and with possible oil-caused bonus redness).
Today! Maybe I need to apply some more?! Oh my gosh, I might become a soy sauce addict! (Not).
Of course, when I'm applying something to distressed skin (or any time!), I make sure it's as natural and unprocessed as normal. In a time like this, I wouldn't want preservatives, colours, MSG or other additives on my skin. The soy sauce we have in the house is a supermarket variety, but a top shelf one - Kikkoman. Simply water, soybeans, wheat, salt and naturally occurring alcohol from the fermentation process. And I wouldn't use low-sodium soy sauce for this, the salt seems to be an important factor.

Simple, traditionally brewed: nothing weird or gross here!
I happened to mention what I was doing on Twitter, and a few people got quite agitated at me. They felt that what I was doing was incredibly stupid, and that I should follow conventional medical thought (which I had, and wasn't working). As far as I'm concerned - as long as it works, without harm, it's my personal decision - I'll keep doing it. Some people recommended applying lavender oil, amongst a bunch of other things - but I just didn't feel comfortable putting most things, especially something as potent as lavender oil, directly on a burn (but go figure, soy sauce is OK!)

Has anyone else tried this?

Wednesday, 23 January 2013

Totally Tempeh: Local, Brisbane Tempeh Producer

I am a bit of a tempeh fan-girl, as you may have noticed. Beliebers ain't got nothing on me (probably because they don't like tempeh (or have really poor investigative skills)) because, dedicated hipster though I am not, I certainly enjoy being dedicated to a vastly misunderstand, and consequently rather unpopular, food item. The greatest reason for it's misunderstoodness (and unpopularity) is most likely because of the horrid array of products claiming to be tempeh, most of which taste somewhere between beige and ironing fluid.

One clear exception to this is Mighty Bean's Fresh Local Tempeh (which I know I go on about a bit), but I was very excited to discover the other day that, in fact, there's tempeh being made in Brisbane! No way was I missing out on that!

I got into contact with Lara, the owner/tempeh maker behind Totally Tempeh, and arranged to pick up some tempeh but, more importantly, learn a bit more about the process involved.

Lara lived in Indonesia (with her Indonesian husband) for some years, where tempeh is not some obscure item seen only in healthfood aisles, but a street food, consumed and appreciated by all. It was here that Lara learned how to make tempeh, a skill she brought back with her when her family returned to Australia. Though she and her husband made tempeh at home for themselves and friends, they recently decided that it was high time to share their tempeh with the wider world, and Totally Tempeh was born.

Tofu and tempeh are often erroneously lumped in the same basket (along with all other "soyfoods"), but not only did they originate in completely different areas, but the process by which they are made, and the result, are entirely different.

Probably the greatest difference is that tofu is made from soymilk, whereas tempeh is made from whole soybeans. To begin, the beans are boiled for about an hour, then poured into buckets full of water, where they are massaged to hull the beans: the hulls float to the top and can then be washed away. Lara explained that the tempeh starter culture cannot get through the tough hull, so they need to be removed.

The hulled beans are soaked for 12 hours, which removes enzymes in the soybeans that can sometimes result in a bitter taste. After they are soaked, they are boiled again to sterilise them, then laid out on a towel to air-dry. Once dry, the batch is divided into a few mounds, to ensure the starter is evenly distributed, the starter is added. Portions are then weighed off and bagged.

The bagged tempeh blocks are then kept at 30degrees for 36 hours: somewhat incredibly, in the final 12 hours they must be fanned as the culture generates so much heat that the blocks can overheat! (those who have sprouted will recognise the somewhat odd sensation of picking up a sprouting jar to find that it's hot).

After the 36 hours has passed, the process is complete! Lara pops the tempeh in the fridge, where it will last for 5 days (I suspect that some larger producers steam tempeh after the incubation period, which accounts for the longer shelf-life), or it can be stored in the freezer indefinitely (not that it'll last anywhere near that long!)

Yes, it's being kept in the fridge, but fresh tempeh should also not be stacked in the freezer, or it will heat itself up again! Gosh, what a crazy cat.

When we visited, Lara was kind enough to fry up some of her tempeh that she'd frozen. It was absolutely delicious, of course, and I think she's very lucky that there was any left (OK, Matt told me to stop eating it...). But then Lara brought out some of a more recent batch, and by "more recent" I mean "It finished incubating last night and was put in the fridge oh my gosh this tempeh is under 24 hours old". The outside I can only compare to Camembert: a undulating surface of delicate white, only occasionally broken by a cream-coloured soybean. And Lara cut into the block, I couldn't help but smell the block, and sniffed a delicate bouquet that was both familiar and excitingly new. I managed to contain myself and waited until the slices had been fried before having a taste.


I'm just going to say that again so you get what I mean


This is what tempeh is meant to taste like. Not covered in all kinds of sauces or hidden away in casseroles, but just lightly salted and fried, eaten while still piping hot.

Like chippies!

Once again, Matt told me to stop eating, as Lara's children ran in and grabbed a few pieces to nibble on (take note: children eating tempeh and loving it!). To be honest, I think Matt was telling himself to stop eating it as much as he was me.

We left with two blocks (one for us, one for Susan (if she's lucky!)), but I guarantee we'll be going back for more very soon.

At the moment, Totally Tempeh is still in the planning stages (check the facebook page: only created on the 16th!), and Lara's only making tempeh for friends, but you can help them get on their feet (and support an amazing local small business!) by contributing to their pozible project (for which you will most certainly be rewarded with amazing tempeh!)

Needless to say, I think I already have the star of my Favourite Things 2013...

You can contact Totally Tempeh through their facebook page, or by contributing to their pozible project (see below: and don't forget to check back on the project as new goals are set!).

Tuesday, 15 January 2013

Disappointing Kitchen Appliances - A Bamix Rant (Light At The End of the Tunnel/Stick Blender Love/Hate Transmission)

I recently upgraded our stick blender (sometimes called an immersion blender). And learned a lot.

First, a whinge: I bought a Bamix a few years ago – in awe of the prestige, and the wonderful reports I’d heard. It wasn't cheap, either - somewhere in the ballpark of $190 (and this was not even the top of the line model!). Upon using it, I was so terribly disappointed. Why is it that "good brands", "prestige", and "word of mouth" persevere like old wives' tales - regardless of whether it is warranted or not? Do people seriously just listen to other people and parrot the same opinion?! OR DO THEY JUST NOT KNOW ANY BETTER?!

Ultimately, I *knew* my new Bamix was just a stick blender, but the box and website claimed it would do so much more than just blend. It was claimed with the included blades you could, at minimum, beat, emulsify, cream, chop, mince, puree, strain, mix, crush, etc. Honestly, that is a load of baloney. 

The Bamix *will* puree soups/liquids, and very well. It does do some of the more esoteric/unnecessary-in-a-stick-blender things like beating, emulsifying, creaming, etc – but how well? And aren't those things easier to do by hand/with other equipment that you're already using for that particular recipe? It's like when the Vitamix tells you that it can knead dough - hysterical LOL. I bet it can, but WHY WOULD YOU KNEAD DOUGH IN THE VITAMIX?! If the lack of correct technique doesn't put you off (not slow, steady kneading - instead it's quick, jumpy, blade-slicing mixing), doesn't the mess?! Does it seem rational to have to scrape out sticky, gooey dough from the bottom of a gigantic, sharp-bladed blender?! Anyway, I digress...

Regardless, the Bamix does not chop or mince vegetables well, no matter what they tell you. I’ve tried everything. I've even tried deliriously cutting up tea-towels to use as a skirt to protect my kitchen from flying, poorly "chopped" vegetables. I've tried blending in the dark. And sadly, upon calling the company, they were very cagey and unhelpful on how to perform these functions – and little advice is available on the internet, least of all, their website. The best result I achieved when trying to “chop” carrot or onion was an uneven puree of some whilst leaving others in large chunks/watching the rest fly around the room. 

Sucker for punishment that I am, and not just content to just let their misleading claims go, I bought some of their ridiculously overpriced accessories (a couple of years ago when I bought it, the blender came with almost nothing but the stick itself), and perhaps unsurprisingly, they didn’t work particularly marvellously either. The mini processor/grinder was a), way too small to process anything of any substance, and b), didn’t do a good job. You couldn't have too little in it, or too much, and expect any consistent result. THEN, they suggest to you that for “really grinding”, you need to buy the POWDER/GRINDING DISC to put in the DAMN OTHER THING YOU JUST BOUGHT. It’s just an endless scheme of expensive accessorising.

The design of the Bamix is terrible, too. It is so dangerous – you can easily process/puree your finger/hand because safety has not even slightly been taken into account – the metal, bulged-out buttons are too easy to accidentally press when you're ordinarily holding it, and you have to pull blades on and off with your fingers wrapped around them (imagine doing that while you knock the button and it's plugged in). It also doesn’t come apart for easy cleaning. To clean it, you have to drag the whole thing, cord and all, to the sink, whilst attempting to not get the upper half wet. The design of the blade & housing also means that when you’re pureeing something hot, you regularly splash yourself, too. Charming and fun, particularly when you’re making a coulis, jam, etc. I love hot sticky splashes that burn your skin slowly but surely. I always wanted pink freckles (not).

Bamix. All one piece, top-heavy, solid. But check out those hard to avoid, easy to knock buttons.

The Bamix will last in the long-run. It has a great motor and is quite sturdy, but, if you’re being reasonable about what you can expect from a stick blender – you don’t need something this expensive/impractical.

Solution: Let There Be Light! A Cordless, Stick-Blending Light!
BUT - the wonderment of life and Christmas-time meant that I decided it was time for an upgrade. Call me selfish, but buying presents for so many other people makes me much more willing to buy myself a "present". For so long, I've wanted a cordless stick blender. 

All I can say is - just do it. Take the plunge. We got a Braun 7 series stick blender rather inexpensively from a major department store, and for around $80 (HALF the price of my Bamix). The pack included a mini food processor attachment that was at least double, if not triple, the size of the Bamix attachment I had to *buy*, and with a better, more useful blade. Even the included Beaker was bigger than the Bamix.  And it wasn't overkill. I don't need a stick blender to come with 10 power settings, a whisk, a dough hook, and everything else - I just need something to do what it says on the box.
Braun in charging dock (without the blade! Because that has been taken away, for washing! HOW PRACTICAL!)

The design of the Braun is so much better - the metal around the blade is built in a wavy pattern, meaning that it doesn't splash you - no matter how small the amount you're blending is. And you can take it ANYWHERE with you, because it is cordless (it recharges from a "docking station"). I could bring it to work, if I wanted! I could puree shirts in a Department store, if I wanted (OH NO WHERE WILL THIS END?!). And the metal blade half comes off, for easy washing/immersion in the sink without worrying about the electrics up top - and you can recharge the top part WHILE you wash the bottom part!

In terms of safety, it's also much better. The cordless nature of the Braun meant that it *could* have been much more dangerous, but they've cleverly designed it so you have to hold a "lock" down, whilst pressing the "on" button at the exact same time. It requires a deliberate light pressure (unlike the Bamix), but is still easy and uncomplicated to do.

Don't get me wrong - I still love kitchen appliances. All of them, even the impractical ones. Ultimately, I don't necessarily expect an appliance to perform miracles. I just wish companies would be more honest and realistic about what their products will actually do. Overall, I'm much happier with the Braun, and could have saved myself a lot of money from the outset with the bonus of a more functional device.. Now - don't get me started on the mystique/practicality of the Vitamix...

Of course, the evening after I wrote this only semi-literate rant, I was making Dreena Burton's excellent Thai Chickpea Almond Curry.   As I was doing it, I had to open a giant new container of nut butter. And you know how the oil is always at the top, and it's not mixed through well? Easy, I thought, as I grabbed my Braun and attempted to blend the peanut butter back into a consistent mix. It turned out that it wasn't quite that easy. The Braun really struggled, and didn't really mix it well, whereas the Bamix would have not had the slightest problem performing this task quickly, and consistently. So, the Universe has a sense of humour. Even if I don't. GOOD THING I HAVEN'T GIVEN AWAY THE BAMIX YET, RIGHT?! RIGHT?! *manic laughter*.

So, of course, after about 5 uses, the Braun stick-blender has completely died, and won't charge, or hold charge. I guess it's now time to return it and consider another brand.

Just to prove I never learn - I'm now considering a Dyson vacuum...

Have you been duped by the prestige of kitchen appliances? What is your philosophy when it comes to purchasing these kind of things?

Tuesday, 8 January 2013

New Year, New Eats

Happy New Year everyone! I know I already said that in my last post, but I thought it was best to cover that in case.... I don't know. Anyway.

As I'm sure you've heard (probably from us) time and time again, Brisbane isn't exactly known for it's huge range of veg eating options, but the last few months have seen a vegetable explosion of new places to eat. I thought it would be good to highlight some of the ones we're aware of here: we haven't visited all of them (some are still closed, some are too recent and we haven't had time/are lazy), but hopefully you can let us know if you've been or know someone who has, etc, and we'll add more details when we visit them/as information becomes available.

9/1 Enoggera Terrace, Red Hill | | 3367 3334 | facebook | @botanicafood
Open: 10a-7.30p (M-F), 9a-5.30p (S-S)
(UPDATE DEC 2014 Their new hours: Tue-Fri 9a-6p; Sat/Sun 9a-5p)

Salad lovers: get thee to Red Hill! Opened just three days ago, Botanica has a focus on "real foods".
Positioned just on the corner of Musgrave Rd and Enoggera Tce, it's a prime location, and the shop, small though it is, is beautifully laid out, with simple, clean decor.

We had expected a vegetarian cafe of sorts and, though everything is vegetarian (and most is vegan), it really is just a salad take-away, though this is not a bad thing. Salad is one of those things we never eat for two reasons: firstly, it's usually horribly bland; and secondly, cutting up all those bits to make a tasty salad at home is a pain. I'm sure many share our pain. Rather than rushing around at the last minute trying to make some "WOW" salad to take to a picnic/BBQ/lunch/dinner, and without resorting to some Coles premix salad, simply walk in, pick the salad/s you want, and be on your merry way.

Aside from the salads, they also have some baked goods (we tried the brownies), a muesli made in-house (dry, to take home), a "super-greens" pesto, house aioli, and the de rigueur drinks fridge (from a quick glance, some bottled water and the Parker's Organic Juices).

We got a large box, which was about 30x15cm and was able to fit 5 salads, which came in at $20: a delicious potato salad, a green bean and sweet potato salad, a sort-of chickpea tabbouleh, a beetroot salad, and a carrot salad (former three all delicious, the final two could have done with some more variation in ingredients/flavour/texture). The brownie was $4. According to the chef, the menu will change seasonally, and will remain entirely vegetarian (he hopes). When we went, only one salad was not vegan; I imagine the situation will remain the same as their menu changes.

The menu on their website lists many things that weren't available when we went (it does note that it is a "sample"): presumably different items will be available depending on the day (we were quite excited to try the Brownie with salted coconut caramel, which unfortunately wasn't there when we were). It will be interesting to see how the menu and experience evolves as Botanica continues to grow.

Natascha Mirosch also recently reviewed Botanica for The Queensland Good Food Guide.

Peace Pies
140 Sutton St, Redcliffe | | facebook
Open: 10a-5p (W-F), 9a-5p (Sat), 9a-3p (Sun), Closed: M-Tues
Opened in December last year, this shop is run by Tracey, who for several years ran the Loving Hut Express stall at Lawnton and Redcliffe Markets. Her "Peace Pies" were available at Loving Hut and The Green Edge for a number of months before the shop itself, and her desserts were available previous available (or may indeed still be available) at Vegerama in the city. The Peace Pies website also lists a number of other stockists around south-east Queensland.

Though the ultimate plan is to convert Peace Pies into a vegan grocery store and cafe, at the time we went there were very few items on the shelves. Pies are $6 each (oddly more expensive than they sell for either frozen at Loving Hut or hot at The Green Edge), or $14 with a side salad (though attractive, unfortunately unseasoned) and curly fries (yes, the Aldi ones, but I'd kill for the seasoning that was on them!). Pie nostalgics can also have their pie with a serving of mushy peas for $1.20. The pies in general aren't my favourite, but I did not mind the Thai pie I had when we went. There are also a range of drinks, including juices, smoothies, milkshakes, coffee, and tea. The menu notes that take-home meals (presumably frozen) are available, though we did not see these when there.

It seems that Peace Pies is still changing a lot as it grows (it was very busy when we went), so prices and menu offerings may have changed since we went (just after Christmas; please let us know if you've been recently!). Their grocery options will also most likely expand in the coming months, though no doubt they are having trouble coping with demand in the cafe!

Peace Pies were recently featured in Quest Newspapers' Redcliffe & Bayside Herald.

(UPDATE DEC 2014 Peace Pies has since closed)

Shop 30, Post Office Square, Brisbane CBD | | 3220 6000 | facebook
Open: 8.30a-6p (M-F), 9a-5p (Sat), Closed: Sun

The original VegeRama, in the Queen Street Mall Food Court, was for a while one of the only places offering explicitly vegan food (along with many vegetarian options) anywhere in the CBD area. Their new store, next to the Coffee Club on Adelaide Street (under Post Office Square) is exclusively vegan (though there has been some mention of the original store now becoming entirely vegetarian, we are still yet to confirm whether anything has changed).

Unfortunately VegeRama was closed over the Christmas/New Year period, and does not open again January 7 (today!), so we are yet to try it, but it certainly provides a boon of new options for CBD-working/living/visiting veg*ns (and omnivores so inclined!), and is probably the most conveniently located vegetarian restaurant in the great Brisbane area, barely a 5 minute walk from Central Station, and perhaps 7 from King George Square (our friend at Queensland Rail is ridiculously happy to have a convenient lunch so close to work). We will report back ourselves when we try it ourselves (and please let us know of your thoughts if you've been).

The Banana Lounge
170 Boundary St, West End | facebook
Open: 7a-3p (M-F), 8a-3p (Sat), Closed: Sun
Another to open just three days ago, The Banana Lounge was opened (just up the road from The Forest) by the previous owner of The Green Edge. Unfortunately, details are a bit scarce: we know for a fact that there are pies (Ykillamoocow No Bull Pies and Pumpkin & Barely Rolls are the likely culprits), cakes, and drinks (coffee/smoothies, etc). They also have some meals on the menu: pancakes, scrambled tofu, and plates for breakfast and lunch, made by the chef previously from Loving Hut Mt Gravatt. Alas, that is all we know! The rumour mill suggests that this will eventually be a full cafe/bar (evidenced by the newly built bar outside). Details of opening hours are also sketchy, though we'll update this as we know more and when we try it (and let us know if you have).

UPDATE DEC 2014 The Banana Lounge has since closed.

Final Bites:
there is word of a new Indian vegetarian restaurant around Mt Gravatt (opposite Garden City); our sources say it's called Top In Town: apparently it was an omnivore restaurant that has become pure vegetarian (keeping the same name), though the website still lists many meat dishes (perhaps they just haven't updated the website?). We'll have to give it a look, and if it turns out it isn't, we'll just head on down to Su Life instead!

And finally, outside of Brisbane, you may have heard of some changes in Maleny's raw food scene. Though there was word late last year that Kind Living Cafe was moving or perhaps closing, it has since changed hands and will continue to be open in Maleny (25 Maple Street, Maleny). The previous owner, Lucy, is now working on The Raw Food Institute of Australia, which we wait with much anticipation to hear more about, and may also be working on opening a Kind Living Cafe in Brisbane.

Raw & Peace also recently announced that they are closing their doors of their cafe in Maleny, though hopefully this is only temporary while Ames (the owner/chef) regroups. In the mean time, you can get your fix of their amazing treats at the Northey Street Markets on Sunday mornings (raw pizzas and burgers to die for. Live for. Just eat it).

If you know of any other new veg places that have opened around Brisbane/South East Queensland, and/or have tried any of those above, please let us know below. We'll add more details to this post as they become available.