Tuesday, January 3, 2012

The Bee's Knees

There are some foods that I quite simply adore. Raw honey happens to be one of those.

Today I tasted my first ever fresh, fresh, FRESH raw honey (and first ever vegan “pasta” – more later). My dear old dad started keeping bees last year and today we went down to our local beekeeper’s place to extract the first lot of golden goo from the hive.

The equipment we used was all home-made and the innovation displayed in its construction was truly amazing. I would love to explain the whole process but I think more reading is required on my behalf and they say a picture says a thousand words, so…

Chock-a-block full of honey
Uncapping the frame using a blade heated by steam
The uncapped frame
Spinning out the honey in the extractor

Pouring the honey out of the extractor
Mm-mmmm.
Left over wax from the previous extraction (2-3 weeks ago)
I honestly have never tasted honey before that is so delicious. You might remember that I mentioned that I even put honey on warabi mochi (a Japanese jelly-like confection made from bracken starch and usually eaten sprinkled with kinako, or soybean flour). It also goes into my porridge and on my toast by the tablespoon, as well as on peanut butter crackers, yoghurt, fruit, tea, coffee, etc. I’m not exactly sure how much of the stuff I sucked out of the comb this afternoon, but it was enough to ensure that not getting home until late at night didn’t call for too much rumbling from my tummy.

Dad has been crazy about his bees for some time now and I have got to admit that they are pretty exciting. I’d really like to learn a bit more about them and how they behave so maybe that one day I will be able to keep bees of my own! There seem to be a few things that you really have to be able to do to be a beekeeper (rescue the hive when it swarms, for one) that I would have absolutely no confidence with if someone asked me to give it a go this very moment. The hive Dad keeps lives at and feeds off the local community garden – an amazing urban farm that chugs out seasonal vegetables like they’re going out of fashion. That’s where all the zucchinis I’ve been using have been coming from… which brings me back to my vegan “pasta”.

Whenever zucchini was served with dinner when I was a kid, my parents would sit there  and force me to finish my food. It didn't matter how much I cried, dry-retched or point-blank refused, there was no way I was allowed to leave the table until those horrid (or so I thought at the time) vegetables were cleared from my plate.

Photo sourced from internet
Today I took my relationship with zucchini to the other extreme and tried it raw. Disguised as pasta. Apparently this is what vegans eat when they crave the comfort of carbs.... I don't think I could ever manage but, each to their own and I respect the rationale behind veganism. I've been wanting to try this recipe for quite a while now because the concept of raw pasta really fascinated me.  I am slightly annoyed to admit that it tastes like it sounds as it should: exactly like raw zucchini. 

Is that a mind-blowing revelation or what? 

However it appears that my parents knew what they were talking about when they wanted me to eat my zucchs. It turns out that not only does the peel help keep you regular but the flesh is  packed full of vitamins A, B & C, potassium, antioxidants and folate. This is a tangy summery dish that fills you up on minimal calories and maximum goodness, particularly if you're using organic veggies. I would probably recommend peeling the skin if the zucchinis are not organic to prevent the ingestion of even more unnecessary chemicals. 

Zucchini Pasta with Heirloom Tomato and Basil (adapted from Roost
Serves 4 as a main or 6 as a side

Ingredients:
4 cups chopped heirloom tomatoes (I also put in 10 sun-dried tomatoes for an extra kick) 
1 small shallot, coarsely chopped
1-2 cloves garlic, depending on how many nice boys you want to be kissing later that day
3 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
1 cup coarsely chopped fresh basil
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
5-6 medium zucchini
Salt and pepper
Pine nuts (optional - I also threw on some pumpkin and sunflower seeds)

Directions:

1. The sauce: Put the first five ingredients into a highspeed blender and blend until smooth. As the blender is running, slowly pour in the olive oil and continue blending until completely mixed.

2. The pasta: Trim the ends of the zucchini and, using a spiral slicer or vegetable peeler, slice the zucchini into ribbons. Toss the zucchini ribbons with sauce and sprinkle with salt and pepper to taste. top with pine nuts and garnish with a little bit of extra basil. 

It wasn't bad I suppose, but I wouldn't rush out and go to the trouble of making this again. My zucchini pancakes (from Skinny Taste) and carrot & zucchini cake (from my last post) that I served on the side and for dessert, however, were quite delicious and I'll keep these recipes for falling back on when it's necessary to use up the zucchinis in a rush. It ended up being quite a zucchini-y lunch now that I think about it.

Now to find some new zucchini recipes to experiment with! It's funny how a vegetable you detested as a young 'un suddenly becomes something of a staple in your diet...  

- Matilda



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