Thursday, August 22, 2013

tandoori trauma

After I came off my restrictive diet earlier this year, I realised how many of my pantry items I neglected and how close they were to expiry. Driven by an odd urge to ‘not waste food’, I overzealously researched and made a list of all the recipes I could and would cook in order to use up these neglected items. Over 2 weeks, I panicked and pondered at insensible hours of the day. Luckily, this obsession was short-lived. While I still prefer to not waste food, I’m okay with chucking things in the compost and letting food rot. Thank goodness this passed quickly!

One of these neglected items was a jar of tandoori paste. I found some recipes for tandoori baked vegetables that sounded delicious. I chopped up firm tofu, zuchinni, mushrooms, capsicum and onion. I also added finely grated garlic and ginger. I marinated all ingredients with a small tub of yoghurt, some lemon juice, 2 tablespoons of tandoori paste and some spices including smoked paprika, cumin and coriander. I added spices for authenticity because I felt guilty taking a short cut and using paste. It was probably a redundant addition.
After marinating the ingredients for a couple of hours, I baked it in the oven for about 30 minutes. The whole house unmistakably smelt like tandoori.

I forgot to cook rice so I had the tandoori dish with a slice of bread… WOW it was hot hot HOT. I didn’t eat much that day so after two mouthfuls, my stomach became really uncomfortable from the heat of the spices and from bloating (I was sculling water and milk at the same time). I probably used too much of tandoori paste/spices.

It was a bit full on. Even though I’ve got 5 leftover servings of tandoori, I’m avoiding it. This makes me think – there are heaps of people who have had a bad experience with certain foods and avoid these foods for years and maybe their whole lives. This may sound like ‘I don’t like the taste of [certain food] so I will take it out of my dish’ or ‘I don’t like what [certain food] does to my body, but it’s not like I’m intolerant to it or will die if I eat it’ or ‘I had a bad experience with [certain food] once, so I don’t want to eat it’. Rarely do people make the effort to re-eat the food and dissociate their bad experience from the food.

It’s normal for people to have bad or traumatic experiences with food then develop preferences for some foods over others. On a tangent… maybe you can replace food with other necessary aspects of life, such as relationships, shelter, sleep etc. If a person has a traumatic/bad experience with one of these, is it normal to avoid certain aspects of these things?

6 years ago, I had a traumatic period where I experienced a sudden breakup (with deception, lies, manipulation) and the sudden/accidental death of my best friend. Today, when I’m reminded of particular things about the past (stressors), I respond oddly. I become hyper vigilant or freeze or freak out. This doesn’t mean that I’ll necessarily break down if someone asks me about the past but I'd get uncomfortable if I feel like these events are replaying themselves in a different format. It's inevitable that these memories will arise in my everyday life, but after some time, it gets difficult to manage. I need to strip it down to basics again and acknowledge that it’s okay to feel vulnerable at times.

When I think about it, people avoid certain types of food and I try to avoid certain types of people/events/scenarios. It’s about self-preservation and knowing what’s good for you. If it’s okay for someone to avoid lemons because they are sour, it should be okay for me to feel uncomfortable with people who are super secretive etc or to always have a back-up plan if my closest friends/family aren’t there for me when I need them the most. 

It’s not like I’ve been living like a hermit in fear for the past 6 years. And I’m not saying that once you’ve had a bad experience with a partner/close friend, avoid relationships at all costs. I’ve actively tried to rebuild myself over time and confront my fears. I’ve done quite well until things re-emerged in the past couple of years. Anyway, I wanted to vent about this because I’m trying to overcome my guilt and self-judgment and want people to know in some vague hope that I'll be able to cope better in the future... it gets more complicated but maybe that’s for another time. I realise there are people who are going to be judgmental and not understanding. But think about how you’d react if you were forced to eat that food that you’ve hated for ages.

Saturday, August 17, 2013

hot air balloons and brekkie

Ever since my first year in Canberra, I wanted to see the Balloon Spectacular – a festival of hot air balloons that begins at dawn. I figured that I’m probably not going to be in Canberra for the long run so I wanted to make the effort this year to attend the festival. And I did it! Yay!

Waking up at 4am and facing the morning cold was worth every second of the festival. I felt like a child again where anything was possible.

By 7am ish, I was starving so my friend and I went to the new café in Curtin called My Gourmet Delights. I ordered a brown rice veggie pattie which came in a toasted sandwich… unfortunately it was pretty disappointing. The pattie was dry and was akin to eating old brown rice. There were extra carbs from the bread and they didn’t tell me that it came with cheese (which I didn’t feel like eating)... boo… oh well. At least the balloon festival was rewarding!

breakfast pizzas

We must have been super hungry and energetic one morning because we made pizza for breakfast. I remember it being really darn good. Turkish bread with a tomato based and topped with spinach, green capsicum, Jarlsberg cheese, shredded ham and an egg. We popped it in the oven then under the grill to cook the egg and yum. I loved having the half cooked egg as the yolk dispersed among the pizza ingredients and made it ever so moist. You can use whatever bread you want and add whatever toppings you want. If someone gave me the same meal today, I don’t know how I’d fit it in my stomach. It was good back then though!

Down the alleyway to a Himalayan restaurant

Dan and I used to get take away for dinner every few days and we quickly got tired of our options. I probably got frustrated quicker as I usually prefer to eat ‘something different’ whenever possible. Instead of sticking around our geographical location, we ventured to Manuka. Normally when you go to this suburb at 6pm on a Friday evening, it takes about 20 minutes to find a decent park. However, we ventured there on a rainy Monday or Tuesday evening and wow the streets were quiet! It felt like there was a zombie apocalypse and it was kinda refreshing.

I pulled him down one of the alleyways of Manuka… towards the ‘Taste of Himalaya’. This restaurant has always intrigued me because Himalayan/Nepalese food isn't very common and because the restaurant is in an odd location.

We ordered the Chicken Shush Tawook (bottom dish in picture) which was boneless grilled chicken marinated in Middle-Eastern spices topped with Spanish onion, tomato and rocket salad served on a bed of tortilla bread with hommos dip. We also got the Daal Jhaneko (top dish in picture) which were lentils cooked with fresh garlic, ginger and spices, flambéed with cumin, tomato and coriander. We ordered plain rice to go with it but should have ordered the pounded rice instead, even if it was against the advice of the waitress… and to try something different. Apparently the pounded rice has the texture of corn flakes. Imagine eating a spicy food with that!

The chicken dish was tasty and all the components complemented each other – juicy and spicy chicken wrapped in a fresh tortilla. The salty hommus added a punch to the dish and it was all balanced out with a refreshing salad. The lentils were not bad, but we couldn’t help but compare it to a daal in an Indian restaurant that we eat at frequently. We were looking for a punch that we couldn’t find in this dish.

I’d probably go to the restaurant again but, in my style, order something different.

Sunday, August 11, 2013

tofu and kale 'pie'

I have an aversion to red meat due to it's environmental impact, taste and cholesterol density compared to other meats. However, this means that I have to find other sources of iron etc. I was slightly excited to get my hands on a bunch of kale, which boasts high iron and calcium and lots of other good stuff. Since I can only buy kale in large bouquet-size bunches, it's always a challenge for me to finish it all within one week. However, I sorted this out by modifying a vegan recipe for savoury swiss chard pie

I blended the cashews, silken tofu, spices, soy milk and cornstarch in my food processor til it was the consistency of yoghurt. I also half cooked the kale, onion and garlic in a pan.

Then layered the ingredients in a pie dish and baked it in the oven until the tofu was firm.

Each slice of the pie crumbled upon serving - if there was a higher tofu to kale ratio, the tofu could have seeped through to the kale mixture and act as a binding agent. However, it was delicious and I could enjoy it for breakfast, lunch or dinner.

Thursday, August 1, 2013

carrot deliciousness

Somehow, I ended up with 3 x 1 kilo bags of carrots in my fridge. As I have a pet hate for wasting food, I found some interesting carrot recipes on the net and my favourite food blogs.

Carrot cake oatmeal
What? Carrots for breakfast? Well why not? Carrots are as sweet as fruit and fruit is often consumed at breakfast so I figured it could be used as a substitute in my breakfast. Plus, I liked the idea of having carrot cake for breakfast. I used a recipe from Oh She Glows, a healthy vegan blog.

I don't have an amazing abundance of stuff in my pantry, so I used the following ingredients listed in the recipe:
*1 heaped cup of finely grated carrots
*1 cup oat milk plus extra where necessary
*1 tsp cinnamon, 1/4 tsp ground ginger, 1/8 tsp nutmeg
*1/2 cup oats
*A bite size chunk of banana
*Toppings: raisins, pumpkin seeds, coconut shavings and yoghurt

The method is a one pot simplicity. I soaked all ingredients except the toppings in a bowl overnight as this would speed up the cooking process the next day. The next morning, I put these ingredients in a pot, boiled and simmered away as I would when cooking normal porridge. After around 10 minutes, everything melted together. Excited...

You can add sweeteners to the oatmeal, but I thought it was sweet enough as the carrots and banana were a natural sweetener. Yoghurt added extra creaminess and the pumpkin seeds/coconut gave the meal a crunch. As the oatmeal on its own looks like a mysterious orange glob, the toppings make the porridge look more palatable.

Carrot hummus
I forgot where I got the recipe for carrot hummus, but the end result was pretty delicious. It was the standard hummus recipe with a can of chickpeas, tahini, garlic and lemon juice... plus two slightly boiled carrots and a bit of fresh minced ginger. These are my work snacks for the week :)
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