Summer Buddha Bowls

Buddha bowls have made a mysterious appearance around here lately. They are deceptive little meals. Initially, they seem easy enough- shove a few things in a bowl, grab a fork or chopsticks and plonk yourself and filled bowl in front of Netflix, then veg out – literally. But once you get into the building stage, you may find yourself led down a culinary rabbit hole, creating more and more interesting elements to complement your initial idea.

Buddha bowls, otherwise known as macro or hippy bowls, have been around for a few years, spreading from the inner suburban haunts of the hipster to outer suburban caf√©s and the countryside. According to the urban dictionary, ‘Buddha bowls are¬†packed so full that they have a rounded belly appearance on the top much like the belly of a buddha’. While I’m not one for succumbing to food trends, I love a hippy macro buddha bowl in summer, so long as certain conventions are followed.

A fine Buddha Bowl is one where the individual elements and flavours complement each other culturally and ethnically. I tend to apply this general principle to other plated meals too. I don’t like mixing Middle Eastern foods with Asian, or Mediterranean with Indonesian, though I have eaten some culturally mismatched foods in cafes which make me cringe. I like to start with a particular cuisine- Japanese, for example, then ferret around the pantry and fridge finding elements that build on that theme. You could add more guidelines:¬†there should be contrast in colour and texture and the composition should be appealing to the eye and not look like a dog’s dinner. Try to include one grain, preferably a wholegrain, the macro element, and some form of protein- such as egg, fish, pulses, beans, or tofu, as well as fresh uncooked vegetables, something pickled, seeds or nuts, and a good dressing. Your bowl doesn’t have to be overflowing like a fat Buddha- a few contrasting elements with some good flavour is all you need.

Today’s macro hippy buddha bowl followed a Japanese path and tasted clean and sustaining. It¬† included:

  • brown rice, cooked, cooled a little, then dressed with sushi dressing and black sesame seeds
  • tofu chunks, fried, then glazed in a miso and mirin sauce
  • pickled cucumber and red onion with ginger for crunch
  • fresh mustard leaves, shredded
  • young radishes

It was one of my ‘holier than thou’ bowls, perfect for the post-Christmas season, the umami element, the warm miso sauced fried tofu, saving the dish from total puritanism. I also considered adding some torn nori. Steamed green beans tossed in browned sesame seed sauce might have gone well too, or a sliced avocado. On market day, a crunchy fried miso glazed small fish would be a good addition. The thing is to use what you have that sits comfortably within a particular country’s culinary framework and that includes using a neutral flavoured oil, and not olive oil, if heading down the Asian path.

When does a bowl become a share platter? New terminology for old ideas. The Medit bowl made from Puy lentils, dressed in olive oil and sherry vinegar, parsley, shallots, goat’s cheese, black olives, toasted almonds. Served with croutons.

Last week’s bowls included a Mediterranean bowl for two ( pictured above) and an Indian feast. To be fair, Indian bowls are as old as Buddha himself. While the rice and dhal are cooking, begin creating small add ons- baked cauliflower with whole cumin seeds, toasted almonds, hard-boiled eggs, and a simple raita, made from yoghurt and cucumber or mint. At this time of year, fresh mango chutney adds a seasonal sweet¬†touch.

The Indian bowl. White rice, hard-boiled egg, baked cauliflower in Indian spices with toasted slivered almonds. Masoor Dal, tomato salad, Raita with mint, mango chutney.

Today’s pickle was made as the rice cooked. It goes well with Japanese meals and makes a nice crunchy change from the commercial pink pickled ginger. It is not one to store.

  • 2 small cucumbers, finely sliced
  • one red onion, finely sliced
  • 1 cup rice vinegar/ or apple cider if improvising
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons minced/grated ginger.
  • pinch of dried chilli flakes.

Layer vegetables in a small jar. Mix the sugar, salt and vinegar, stir until blended and pour over. Leave for one hour.

Part of today’s culinary rabbit hole- a crunchy fresh pickle.

Happy Holidays dear readers.

Turning Japanese. Salmon, Mushroom and Tofu Soup.

When I’m tired, I need fish. Any sort of fish will do, I’m not too fussy. Nor am I willing to ignore farmed salmon, despite some of the bad press it receives. I like to believe that the industry is improving with regard to environmental concerns. The pristine water around the Huon River at Dover and Lake Macquarie, where Australian Tasmanian Atlantic Salmon is farmed, looks as pure as can be. I can’t paint myself into a tight little purist corner when Tasmanian Atlantic salmon is often the only fish option available. Having said that, a little salmon goes a long way.

This little Japanese bowl takes 10 minutes to prepare. The recipe makes two large bowls.

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Japanese broth, salmon, mushroom, tofu

The Marinade and Fish

  • 200 g salmon, skin on, halved lengthwise.
  • 1 tablespoon Japanese soy sauce, Teriyaki or Tamari
  • 1 teaspoon vegetable oil
  • ¬Ĺ teaspoon sesame seeds

Put fish fillets in a bowl and cover with the soy sauce and oil. (not the sesame seeds). Leave aside until ready to grill.

The Soup

  • ¬Ĺ¬†litre or a little more of vegetable stock (or water and 1 vegetable stock¬†cube)
  • 1 tablespoon mirin
  • ¬Ĺ¬†tablespoon soy sauce
  • mixed mushrooms, hand separated ( enoki, cloud ear fungus, shiitake)
  • 1 tablespoon Miso paste
  • 100 g silken tofu
  • a large handful of baby spinach leaves

Putting it all together.

Turn on the grill to around 200c fan forced. Cover a baking tray with baking paper, arrange pieces of salmon on the tray and sprinkle with sesame seeds. Grill for around 5 minutes, then turn for 1 minute. Remove from grill.

Meanwhile, in a medium-sized saucepan, heat stock with mirin, soy, and miso on a gentle heat until well amalgamated for around 5 minutes. Add the mushrooms , then add the cubed tofu. Gently heat through to cook.

Flake the cooked fish and bits of juice from the tray into the base of serving bowls. Add the spinach leaves. Pour over the hot soup, sharing the mushroom and tofu pieces evenly.

If you are making this for four, count on around 100 g salmon per person and use a whole packet of silken tofu, then simply double all the other ingredients.

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Slurping goodness

Time for an ear worm or stuck song syndrome for those old enough to remember:

 

Kale, Tofu and Salmon Soup. The Cure.

I never jumped on the kale bandwagon when it became the most blogged about vegetable a year or two ago. I avoid foods that are trendy, or should I say, foods that are trending (and when did trend suddenly become a verb?) It’s not because I don’t like kale: I do grow the darker version in my garden, or rather, it grows itself annually, the tall Tuscan Prince of Winter, Cavolo Nero. Now that kale has been outstripped by the dreaded coconut in all its fatty guises, I might safely write about it.

A bouquet of kale.
A bouquet of kale.

My friend Dianne presented me with a large bouquet of beautiful purple tipped kale leaves. We were wandering through her productive veggie patch, considering the nature of gardens in their Spring transitional stage. Her bountiful kale plants, all self-sown, may need to make way for spring potatoes. Some serious food swapping needs to happen down her end of the country lane. In the meantime I am happy to take the excess and swap for Cos lettuce or radicchio seedlings.

Di's self sown winter kale. Photo by Di Gilkes.
Di’s self-sown winter kale. Photo by Di Gilkes.

Our garden¬†tour took place before we drank our way through the wine cellar and agreed that a sleepover was not only wise, but compulsory. We raised our glasses in tribute to¬†our recently departed friend and pondered the meaning of life, all those questions that assume magnitude¬†after a wine or six. Promises were made, and as I recall, a meal was eaten. We are too old and wise to adopt the famous drinker’s adage,”eating’s cheating”. No, maybe not wise.

balance and harmony
Balance and Harmony

But, getting back to that kale, now that the old-fashioned winter green is no longer trending, a healthy Japanese soup, combining kale, miso and tofu seems in order. I might even add a little recuperative salmon to the brew. Perhaps I should call this Penance Soup?

INGREDIENTS, for four.

  • 5 cups water or vegetable stock
  • 2 spring onions, white and light-green parts only, thinly sliced
  • 2 teaspoons grated fresh ginger
  • 1 garlic clove, thinly sliced
  • 3 tablespoons shiro miso or pale coloured miso
  • 2 teaspoons Japanese soy sauce, such as, Kikkoman
  • 85 gr kale, trimmed and shredded
  • 175 gr silken tofu, drained, cut into small cubes
  • 180 gr piece of salmon fillet, skin removed, cubed
  • reserved chopped spring onion greens for serving

    The Cure
    The Cure

DIRECTIONS

  1. Bring the stock or water to a boil in a medium saucepan over medium-high heat. Add spring onions, ginger, and garlic. Reduce heat. Cover, and simmer 10 minutes.

  2. Add miso, then stir to dissolve. Add the soy sauce, kale, and salmon. Return to a simmer, and continue cooking gently until kale is tender, about 5 minutes. Add the silken tofu cubes to heat through. Add reserved chopped spring onion greens when serving.

Notes. The salmon can be left out for a simpler vegetarian version. Any tofu may be used but I prefer the silken variety for this soup.

respect and
Respect and Tranquillity.

Farewell to our friend Piers, artist, sailor, adventurer.