March Newsletter

I had to pinch myself that I was actually able to visit the Sphinx in Egypt

Apologies for my lack of communication and this is a short newsletter this week as there is so much going on.
We are only just back in London after a trip to extraordinary Egypt. It has long been on my bucket list and did not disappoint to stand in and beside structures that have stood for 3000 years and see paintings still coloured after all that time. What a culture!
We found the travelling safe and easy though the roads in Cairo are crazy and best avoided. Surely some of the worst driving in the world. However, Cairo was our first stop with sensational visits to Saqqara where there were pyramids older than those at Giza, especially the Step Pyramid which was a precursor to later ones. In Giza the three great pyramids, the Sphinx but on the horizon in all directions more pyramids could be spotted.Then we flew to Luxor where we were able to visit Karnak, Luxor Temple, the Valley of the Kings and Queen Hatshepsut’s Temple. We also visited the much less well known Tombs of the Workers and Tombs of the Nobles which were very different but also impressive. Also Howard Carter’s House where he lived when he was searching and ultimately found the Tomb of Tutankhamen.

L: wall painting inside the Tomb of Rameses V & VI in The Valley of the Kings t and R: climbing out of the Red Pyramid, Saqqara

A cruise down the Nile from Luxor to Aswan was both relaxing and fascinating, with stops at Esna, Edfu and then the opportunity to see Philae, with temples and ruins moved to another island when it was flooded with the erecting completion of the High Aswan dam.
We ended with a couple of days at the Old Cataract Hotel where we were able to see (but didn’t stay in) The Agatha Christie Suite and The Winston Churchill suite. Great fun.

L: the Step Pyramid at Saqqara and R: the Great Pyramid at Giza

I found the Egyptian people very friendly. Although you may get hassled in the street to take a taxi or caleche or to “look in my shop, no hassle”, once you worked out how to communicate when you were not interested, it didn’t bother me at all. It was also great fun shopping in the bazaar and learning how to bargain. The Egyptians also have a great sense of humour and enjoy the game. Those in hospitality were also very keen to please, though sometimes communication was an issue.
The food was not fabulous, even though we tried different types of places. Outside a hotel there was never alcohol available and within a hotel, it was quite expensive especially if you wanted imported wine. We drank local Egyptian wine. The best of the food tends to be the dips you find throughout North Africa and the Middle East: hummous, babaganoush, tahini, yoghurt and cucumber and salads like fattoush and tomato and cucumber.
The main course I enjoyed the most was hamam mahshi or stuffed pigeon. It can be stuffed with rice or freekeh and the three times I had it, it was rice. There is rather more rice in the pigeon than flesh and it is also served on a bed of rice, but I concentrated on the meat. The rice is flavoured with pinenuts, onion, cinnamon, perhaps chicken liver and cinnamon. It is put inside,  the little pigeon legs are daintily crossed to hold in the stuffing. The pigeon is then either poached with onion and bayleaf, then browned in the oven or on the grill. The rice swells so that the pigeon skin is taut.

Dinner in Cairo on our first night with the usual dips and salads and R: Stuffed Pigeon

Now read on or scroll down, remember there’s something for everyone in this newsletter wherever you are in the world.

In the UK

So, this is FABA and me – spelling out (kind of) the word FABA

I had enormous fun yesterday at Base Studios in Stourbridge shooting a pilot episode for a comedy series with The Fizzoggs who masquerade as FABA, a comedic spoof on a tribute band for Abba. I got to play myself. It was hysterical. I know the group as they have performed for one of our cocktail parties. Watch this space to hear more. Meanwhile I am joining them on their weekly radio programme tomorrow morning 13 March from about 9.10am to 10am on Black Country Radio 102.5fm DAB. If you’re in the UK, do tune in.

Youtube video

Fresh from my kitchen to you. Another of my new youtube series – so simple but delicious,my Japanese-inspired Tuna Tataki.
Click here If you like it and would like to see the video, please subscribe to my Youtube Channel. To get a printed version of the recipe click here.

Jump ahead to see:
What’s In Season in March
The best in fruit and veggies this week
Recipe of the week
In Season Recipes
Something New To Taste
Let’s Not Panic about Corona Virus

What’s in Season in March

Autumn’s bounty; clockwise from top left: Dragonfruit, Sweetcorn, Kale, Figs

Fruit

  • Apples
  • Bananas
  • Dates
  • Figs
  • Finger limes
  • Grapes
  • Guava
  • Kiwifruit
  • Limes
  • Mangosteens
  • Nashi
  • Oranges: Valencia
  • Passionfruit
  • Papaw
  • Pears
  • Plums
  • Pomegranates
  • Quinces
  • Tamarillo

Veggies

  • Asian greens: Bok Choy
  • Beans
  • Broccoli
  • Capsicums
  • Chestnuts
  • Cucumbers
  • Eggplant
  • Eschallots
  • Kale
  • Lettuce
  • Mushrooms
  • Okra
  • Onions
  • Potatoes
  • Pumpkin
  • Sweetcorn
  • Swiss chard
  • Tomatoes
  • Witlof
  • Zucchini

The best in fruit and veggies this week in Australia

Lots of grape varieties this week, plus William pears and limes

FRUIT

Apple harvesting is underway across the country. New-season varieties fresh off the orchards include Royal Gala, Fuji, Jonathon, Delicious and Granny Smith. Storing apples in the crisper section of the refrigerator maintains their crunchy texture. 

Super sweet Piel de sapo melons (also known as Christmas melons) are good value. Wash melons before cutting to ensure no soil is on the rind. Rockmelons continue to be reasonably priced with good flavour.

Available until late autumn, Williams pears are fast ripening and perfect for poaching, add slices of firm pear to a salad or simply wash and enjoy as a healthy snack. 

Sweet figs are sublime. Figs team equally as well with savoury foods such as nuts, meats and cheese. Try adding figs to a homemade pizza, teamed with prosciutto and feta.

Tangy limes are plentiful and very affordable, also look for bulk buy specials. To maximise the volume of juice you get from a lime, roll limes between your palm and the benchtop to loosen fibres before cutting and juicing. This Lime Cheesecake With Summer Fruits is a crowd-pleaser.

Whole Seedless watermelon is good a thrifty choice this week. Try cutting into chunks, then placing in a colander in the fridge, over a bowl. the watermelon will not go soggy and you will get some lovely juice underneath.

Premium quality table grapes are plentiful this week. Select from Black Muscat, natural Sultana, Thompson seedless, Crimson seedless. There is also a new variety called Cotton Candy worth a taste test. 

Sweet persimmons season has started. Sweet persimmon also known as Fuji fruit look like a persimmon however unlike traditional persimmons, they can be eaten hard and crisp. Their attractive tangerine coloured flesh is a tasty addition to a salad or cheese board.

Attractive ruby-coloured and antioxidant-rich pomegranates contain fruit contains jewel-like seeds bursting with juice and flavour. Sprinkle the seeds over a range of dishes, and use the juice for salad dressings or marinades. Pomegranate compliments lamb, duck and chicken dishes. Liven up your porridge, salads, couscous, eggplant or hummus with a spoonful of pomegranate seeds. 

Don’t miss out on flavoursome plums, bursting with colour and flavour. Autumn Giant, Angelino, Sugar plums, Tegan Blue and October Sun are all in season. These easy plum tarts are scrumptious. Ultra-tasty and healthy Queen Garnet plums are also available.

New season Australian grown Sheppard avocados are the best eating avocado at this time of year. This pear-shaped avocado with smooth green skin has a butter flavour and does not brown (oxidise) once cut.

Versatile bananas make the ideal quick snack, as the carbohydrates found in bananas hasve a low glycaemic index which means they are absorbed slowly and are extremely filling giving you sustained energy.

Luscious tropical papaya is in plentiful. Start your day with a large wedge of these vitamin A and C rich fruits, enhanced with a drizzle of lime juice. 

L: Brown onions and Zucchini R: potatoes

VEGETABLES

Eggplants are a standout for value and quality this week. Serve up a platter of barbecued eggplant with minted yoghurt and pomegranate. Try crumbed eggplant with a minted tzatziki or bake layered with tomato sauce and three cheeses.

Brown onions are top value or try white or red For a mild oniony flavour, leeks  are a good choice.

Tender and juicy Lebanese cucumbers prices have eased a little. Telegraph cucumber are reasonably priced and Baby Qukes are widely available. This lime-marinated fish with cucumber & avocado salad makes a delicious and easy mid-week meal.

Lengthy bunches of snake beans offer home-cooks a cheaper option this week to green beans. Add snake beans to salad, curries and stir-fries.

Super versatile and ultra-healthy carrots are the perfect ingredient to build a meal around. Fabulous raw in salads, crunchy in stir-fries, pureed in soup, caramelised in a casserole or grated into wholemeal muffins – no matter how you enjoy them, carrots are top value.

Broccolini is a hybrid cross between Chinese broccoli (Gai Lan) and broccoli. with broccolini you get the best of both worlds: long, tender, asparagus-like stems and delicate flowery, green florets. With broccoli prices up this week, broccolini makes a good alternative.

Leafy and nutritious kale is a popular choice for green juices, stiry-frying or adding shredded to frittatas and omelettes. Add a bunch to your shopping list. This sautéed kale, enoki, mushrooms & eggs is an ultra-delicious way to start or finish the day with.

Ideal for making long pasta-like zucchini ‘spaghetti’, zucchinis is low carb, gluten-free and contains fibre. Created from fresh zucchini, it’s very easy to make using a julienne peeler or a spiralizer. About 800g zucchini is sufficient to make ‘spaghetti’ to serve 4. Get creative with super versatile zucchinis this week as they are well priced.

With its attractive orange flesh and rich creamy texture kumara is delicious roasted and enjoyed hot or cold in a salad or couscous dish. Spice it up with a little grated ginger, chopped coriander or cumin to make it extra special. 

Recipe of the week

Hidden Onion Quesadilla

Makes 1
Preparation time 10 minutes
Cooking time 25 minutes

2 slices bacon
1 ½  tablespoons (30ml) extra virgin olive oil
1 medium brown onion, thinly sliced
Salt and freshly ground pepper
2 large flour tortillas
120g grated cheese
30g rocket

  1. Place a non-stick frying pan, large enough for one tortilla to lie flat, over medium high heat.  Add bacon and dry fry until crisp, turning once to cook on both sides. Remove from heat and drain on kitchen paper.
  2. Add 20ml olive oil to the pan over medium heat.  Add onions and cook, stirring frequently until soft and translucent. Remove to a bowl and wipe out pan with kitchen towel.
  3. Brush one flour tortilla with extra olive oil. Place tortilla oil-side down into the clean pan. Taking care not to fill ingredients right to the edge, spoon or spread over the onions, then top with bacon,  grated cheese, sprinkle on rocket leaves and season to taste.
  4. Cover with second tortilla, pressing to seal. Brush top of tortilla remaining olive oil and place over medium high heat. Cook for 2-3 minutes, pressing down occasionally.  Turn and cook for a further 2 minutes, until the cheese is slightly melted and the tortilla is crisp. Cut into 8 wedges and serve immediately. 

Lyndey’s Note: To flip the quesadilla more easily, cover the top with a dinner plate and turn out the tortilla then slide back into the pan.  This can also be cooked in a sandwich press.

In Season Recipes

Five Spice Plum and Almond Crumble Pie

Fried Pumpkin Balls
Fragrant Asian Chicken soup
Coconut & Chilli Curry with Salmon, corn & Snake Beans
Peter Evans Crisp Kale chips
Three-level Shepherd’s Pie
Persian Chicken with Walnuts & Pomegranate
Five Spice Plum & Almond Crumble Pie
Plum & Apple Sundae
Women’s Weekly have a collection of Pear Desserts

and also What’s in season in March

Something New To Taste

L: Papples and R: Cucamelons

PAPPLES

This juicy new star in your greengrocer is a pear dressed as an apple. Developed in New Zealand and now grown in Victoria, this round fruit is a cross between the Asian and European pear varieties.

Crisp and juicy like a nashi pear, the papple is deliciously sweet and low in acid. It fully ripens on the tree but has a long shelf life and keeps well. It’s best stored in the fridge.

QUICK WAYS TO SERVE PAPPLES

  • Thinly slice and serve on a cheese platter with chutney.
  • Chop and toss through an autumn fruit salad with seedless grapes, pineapple, Valencia oranges and passionfruit pulp.
  • Add slivers to an autumn salad comprising rocket, radicchio and parmesan. Dress with a honey and mustard vinaigrette.

CUCAMELONS

Also known as a Mexican cucumber, this small juicy morsel resembles a tiny melon and is about the size of a large grape. It tastes like a cucumber with just a hint of sourness.

Refreshing cucamelons are sold in 100g punnets in your greengrocer. Look for them in the refrigerated section.

Choose plump cucamelons with shiny, firm, mottled-green skin. Store in the fridge and use within 3 days.

TOP WAYS TO USE CUCAMELONS

  • For a zesty Mexican salsa, combine halved cucamelons with cherry tomatoes, jalapeno chilli, red onion and coriander leaves.
  • Pickle whole cucamelons in apple cider vinegar and sugar.
  • Add chopped cucamelons to your favourite taco fillings.

Let’s Not Panic about Corona Virus

Handmaid Youtiao

Corona virus is impacting us all in one way or another, but there are some crazy things going on. Let’s keep calm and see what we can do?
Disappointing and inappropriate behaviour prevails with the spread of this virus – though it is  worth remembering that those who are most at risk are those with underling, ongoing health issues.
Sadly,  Chinese restaurants are still doing it tough – and Jane Caro reported on Facebook an unfortunate incident where an elderly Chinese lady asked if she could join Jane and her husband on their daily walk as she was afraid because she had been abused by a man in the park who swore at her. Kim Terakes is eating in a different Chinese restaurant nearly every day to set an example as coronavirus hysteria sees businesses go to the wall.
You can enjoy authentic Chinese breakfasts for under $10 in Sydney including these strips of deep-fried dough with a golden crust and fluffy inside. Read Local Knowledge: China Jiaoz

Meanwhile, don’t be nervous. Forget the toilet paper – better to cook and share with those you love and you can also learn How To Stock a Pantry. Let’s avoid unecessary hysteria take sensible precautions and realise that there are many things more fatal than potential corona virus. We need to support our community and our businesses.

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What are you cooking, eating and drinking?
Lyndey

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