Is there anything more inspiring than someone who actually gives a fuck? Case in point, I’ve found myself in a conversation with Little Indi co-owner Frank Meura on the finer points of biodegradation. I think. I’m not 100% on what he’s on about, but I am appreciating the passion and earnestness for the subject. That, and the excellent cup of hand-pumped espresso (in the form of a macchiato) I’m sipping away at. I’m nursing it in its little bowl like its a precious baby.

I haven’t yet ordered anything to eat from their vego, sustainable menu, but judging by the delicious bruschetta-like item chef Rebecca Chippington (formerly Revolver) has just dished up, I probably should have; it is a gorgeous mess of boiled eggs, avo, herbs nuts and cheese piled high on a thick, seedy slab of Iggy’s bread, ‘made with love,’ she grins. I’m wishing I’d skipped brekky so I could have some.

It’s been almost a year since the pairs’ Surry Hills pop up ‘Naked Indiana’ finished. Their new project, Little Indi is located in an industrial laneway in Alexandria and serves a rotating vego menu with a raw/vegan focus. They are also selling the produce they use direct to the public, acting as a point of convergance for independent aussie food and drink businesses. Everything at Little Indi is local, at the very least, Australian; if they can’t get it from this wide brown land, they don’t use it. Everything they use is recycled and composted, nothing goes to waste. And the coffee, using Public Grounds beans, is damn good.

I notice the sign offering a 30c discount on coffees for those who bring their own cup for takeaway. Frank tells me that’s not really taking off. ‘I lend people my cups instead, but you know, I’m running low, so…’ I love this idea; I hate the sensation of sipping coffee from a paper cup; it just doesn’t feel like a coffee break if I’m gulping my caffeine from a flimsy disposable receptacle.

I have to say it’s refreshing to meet two people so genuinely excited about something I can’t much be bothered thinking about. In an age where concepts like ‘sustainable’ ‘green’ or ‘raw food’ can act as little more than buzzwords, meeting a pair of ethical entreprenuers who actually, no joke, want to ‘get active in saving our environment’ is kind of lovely. And the reason a place like Little Indi works so well is that even if you could care less about any of the things that drive it, if you love good food and good coffee, it’s for you. I’m thinking I’ll be back to pop in for a coffee or maybe some of that old-school cream-topped Tilba milk they use.

Little Indi
50 McCauley Street
Alexandria NSW 2015
Tuesday – Friday 7:00am – 2:30pm
Closed Weekends
www.insideindiana.com.au

Little Indi on Urbanspoon

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Home made Hummus. It’s one step up from buying a tub of dip and a box of crackers, and yet somehow, platingt up seems so much more decadent, like a special occasion. People don’t generally expect home-made snacks, as shop-bought snacks are neither rare nor expensive nor difficult to come by.

This recipe came from a supermarket magazine, either a Coles or Woolworths one (I’m sorry, I can’t recall, I only have the clipping). It never fails. It’s great with pita shards or carrot sticks if you’re feeling particularly virtuous. I’ve served it here with some awesome Multigrain Struan that I made in a Brasserie Bread Class the other day.

You could soak dried chick peas (it makes the hummus creamier). You could add coriander (it adds complexity). You could use lemon instead of limes (it’s a tad more exotic). But sometimes, isn’t it nice to serve up something plain, simple, spur-of-the-moment and yet somehow impressive? Classics are often classics for a reason.

Quick tip: use middle eastern tahini/tahina rather than the rock solid stuff my mum used to buy in health food stores. It’s often more expensive than ‘anglo’ tahini (is there such a thing?) but it’s much creamier. Just give it a stir, it’s infinitely more stirrable as well.

Piss-Easy Hummus

1 tin of chick peas, undrained
The juice of one lemon
1 Tablespoon Tahini
1 garlic clove, quartered
1-2 Tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

A food processor or immersion blender

Process the chickpeas with half their liquid and all other ingredients. Serve drizzled with olive oil and sprinkled with paprika.

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My friend Ms. Phonetic, a Texan girl born and bred, often laments the lack of good Mexican, never mind Tex-mex, available here in Sydney. When we were sharing a house back in the day, I remember her half-baked plans for tortilla stands, burrito buses and importing Mexican beer. More recently, I witnessed her untamed joy as we walked through Fiji Market on King Street, Newtown and came a across tins of Chipotles in adobo, Mexican hot chocolate, hominy and a plethora of Mexican sauces.

In recent years Australia has seen a lot of Mexican grill franchises popping up (Guzman y Gomez, Mad Mex and the like). Generally, these places will use large flour tortillas to wrap a burrito filled with your choice of grilled meat, rice, refried or black beans and various salsas, sauces, sour cream and always ALWAYS charge extra for guacamole. Ms. Phonetic maintains that they’re twice the price and nothing like the real thing. Debates about authenticity aside, I’ll have to take her word for it. I guess nothing beats a freshly made tortilla or a fresh batch of Mexican rice or real queso dip.

So, having only my experiences eating at lost-in-translation burrito franchises to go on, I worked to duplicate something of what I had tasted. I scoured the internet for ‘Mexican Rice’ recipes. This recipe is really easy and delicious, all I’ve done is added more spices and extra garlic. My favourite way of serving this is as part of a burrito, which I’ll outline in my next post, but it’s also an amazing side dish. I’ve yet to mix up a batch for Ms. Phonetic but when I do, I’ll let you know how it goes.

Mexican Rice (adapted from The Frugal Chef)
serves 4 as a side dish.
1-2 Tablespoons Olive Oil (I used Extra Virgin because that’s all I buy)
1 Tablespoon pickled jalapeños, finely chopped
2-4 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1/2 a small onion, finely chopped
1 cup Basmati or other long grain rice
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon ground coriander
1 teaspoon ground paprika
1-2 Tablespoons tomato paste
1 cup liquid stock
1/2 cup water

Heat the oil in a small pan to medium high. Sauté the jalapeños, garlic, and onion for a couple of minutes. Add rice and spices and toast a couple more minutes.

When the rice begins to ‘pop’, quickly stir through the tomato paste. Add the stock and water and stir through.

Put the lid on and turn the heat as low as it goes. Simmer 15 to 20 minutes. Burning the bottom of the rice a little is encouraged. I generally turn off the heat after 15 minutes and just let the rice sit for 5 to 10 minutes. Serve with black beans or chicken or in a burrito.

I know it looks ugly, but trust me. It’s delicious.

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There are these very rare moments where you stumble across something you never expected, a hidden gem. Even better are those times when someone lets you in on their little secret…

On a recent visit to Canberra, my Mum took me to the Aru Padai Murugan Temple, a Hindu temple in Torrens. To raise money for the construction of the temple they open a canteen every Saturday selling Sri Lankan food, much like the Sri Venkateswara Temple in Helensburgh does.

The food was crazy delicious, not to mention crazy cheap. The dish that really stood out for me was spinach with coconut. This is a tad strange because I’m not normally much of a coconut person, for example, I don’t really like lamingtons all that much. But this vivid green, plain salty dish won my heart and made me realise I actually love coconut in it savoury incarnations. So I did what all of us do in this situation and googled the hell out of Sri Lankan spinach recipes until I found on that fit the bill.

The great thing about this recipe, besides it being quick, easy, vegetarian and high in iron is that (if you have spinach in the freezer) you may have all the ingredients on hand, which makes it great for when you don’t feel like shopping. I served it with basmati rice cooked by the absorption method (directions below) and a big dollop of greek yogurt.

Spinach with Coconut
(makes 2 generous servings)
Canola oil
½ an onion, finely chopped
80g potato or pumpkin, cubed (optional)
½ teaspoon cumin seeds
¼ teaspoon ground cumin
¼ teaspoon ground coriander
¼ teaspoon ground paprika
1 Tablespoon of red lentils
150g spinach, fresh or frozen, finely chopped
A handful of beans or snowpeas, finely chopped (optional)
Salt
Up to 1 cup stock or water
½ cup dessicated coconut
A smidgen of ground cayenne pepper

Parboil the potatos/pumpkin and lentils for 5 minutes, drain and set aside.

Heat oil and cook onion, cumin seeds, lentils and potato or pumpkin (if using) for 5 minutes with a pinch of salt to prevent browning.

Add some liquid and cook for another 5 minutes or until everything is soft.

Add all remaining ingredients and cook until spinach is soft. Serve with yellow rice.

‘Yellow Rice’
½ cup basmati rice
¼ teaspoon mustard seeds (optional)
Canola oil
Salt
Turmeric, for colour
1½ cups water

Heat oil in the pan on high heat and add rice and mustard seeds. Toast until seeds start to ‘pop’.

Add all other ingredients and immediately turn heat down as low as possible. Once rice is simmering just a tiny bit, put lid on and cook for 15 minutes. Leave pan on the stove with the heat turned off for another 5 minutes.

Do you have any food discoveries to share?

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Recently, my friends and I had a discussion about carbohydrates. We tried to decide if we were stranded on a desert island and were only allowed one type of carb, which it would be. And I’ve gotta say that although it’s a toss-up between pasta and potatoes  for me, potatoes won out. Their just so versatile and impossible to duplicate. In fact, I might go so far as to make them my desert island food. They’re what I’d eat if I were allowed only one kind of food for the rest of my life.

I won and amazing barilla prize pack from Not Quite Nigella recently. It included pastas, sauces a pizza kit and a packet of instant polenta. Awesome. The thing is, I wasn’t quite sure what to do with the instant polenta. I’ve had a bag of the non-instant stuff in my pantry for about 2 years and only recently broke it out to make the polenta with bolognese recipe from ‘Poh’s Kitchen’.  I’m ashamed to say that’s the only time I’ve ever really had a go at it as I was under the impression I’d have to stir for an hour, but in reality polenta is a stir-every-so-often-type-deal.

So I was really excited when I stumbled on Malaysian-born Aussie Emily’s blog ‘fuss-free cooking’ and her post on Donna Hay’s Polenta-crusted baked potatoes, which called for instant polenta. Bingo. Two carbs in one dish! I couldn’t wait to make them, but of course I had to tweak the recipe quite a bit, as a pretty much always do. I halved the recipe as I only had half a kilo of potatoes on hand and I used Pontiacs rather than sebagos. I also left the potatoes unpeeled to make them extra crispy (also because I’m a lazy cook). I also used a pizza stone, because my oven is basically a glorified grill. Finally, couldn’t resist adding 3 cloves of garlic in with the polenta. I can’t wait to experiment with maybe a bit of romano cheese and cracked black pepper as well…

So how are they? Unbelievably crisp on the outside and fluffy in the middle, with a gorgeous salty aftertaste and just a hint of garlic. I love their golden colour and how simple they are to prepare – definitely a case of results far outweighing effort.

Polenta-Crusted Potatoes
Serves 2 as a side dish

500g potatos, unpeeled and quartered (I used Pontiacs)
1/3 cup (85g) instant polenta
2 Tablespoons of Extra Virgin Olive Oil
½ teaspoon freshly ground salt
3 cloves of garlic, peeled and finely chopped.

Preheat oven to 220 degrees Celsius (425 degrees Fahrenheit).

Place the potato in a large saucepan of salted cold water and bring to the boil. Cook for 8 minutes or until just tender.

Drain and return to the pan with the polenta, oil, salt and garlic. Shake the pan to fluff the potato and coat in the polenta. Give them a stir.

Place the potatos on a baking tray and roast for 30 minutes or until crisp and golden.

So, dear reader, if you were stranded on a desert island and could only have one carb, what would it be? Pasta? Potatos? Rice? Or something else altogether?

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If you’ve paid attention thus far, you’ll know I eschew any food prep that’s complex or time consuming, unless I know it inside out. I’m also a massive declutterer so I’m not into purchasing appliances unless they’re absolutely necessary (all part and parcel of having a tiny kitchen). In fact, the only thing that made me happier than my aunt giving me her old blender a few years back was a few months back when it broke. ‘Huzzah!’ I thought, ‘Now I can get rid of something!’

The problem with this philosophy is that sometimes you miss out on opportunities. From listening to my friend Gina talk, making ice cream is a complex process. It involves making a custard and having an ice cream maker taking up space in your freezer. Just thinking about doing either of these things makes me sleepy. As a result, I’ve never had a go at homemade ice cream, sorbet or gelato other than a few times with my Grandfather when I was a teen. Or a tween. Some marketing-type-word.

So when I went round to Gina’s to watch her make ice cream I was surprised that it could be so easy. I figured since she was doing all the work, I should supply the ingredients, so we chose a blackberry banana sorbet as I had a kilo of what I thought were blackberries in my freezer at home as well as a banana I’d never gotten round to using. As soon as Ms. G saw them she said ‘They’re not blackberries.’ So we made boysenberry banana sorbet instead.

Since the majority of the ingredients were frozen it only took about 20 minutes in the ice cream machine and then maybe an hour of freezing. Gina picked her ice cream maker up on ebay for twenty bucks but she says that with this recipe, you don’t even need one. Having blended everything together in a food processor, you would simply transfer it into another container and leave it in the freezer, stirring with a whisk every half hour until set. You could hypothetically do this with any recipe but it works best if the ingredients are already frozen. In fact, once the mix was blended we wanted to eat it with a spoon then and there!

Banana Boysenberry Sorbet (from ‘The Perfect Scoop’ by David Lebovitz)
1 medium ripe banana (mine was chopped and then frozen, but it doesn’t matter).
2 cups of frozen boysenberries (you could really use any berries).
½ Cup caster sugar
1 Tablespoon fresh lime juice

Place all ingredients in the food processor and blend until most of the skins are liquidised. You can’t really strain them out because you won’t be left with much.

Chill in the ice cream maker as per its instructions or if you don’t have one, place immediately in the freezer, whisking every half hour until set. Consume ASAP.

What’s your favourite ice cream flavour?

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