Wednesday, 13 February 2013

Marinated Red Tilapia

Starting with a great, fresh fish, there are many ways to prepare red tilapia.  Being very fortunate to have lots of ingredients that I can use as a marinate at the farm, I decided to experiment a bit to see how the flavors will blend.  I enjoyed it so I am sharing it here.  This marinate can be applied to 1-1.5kg of fish.  Ensuring that the fish is fresh and farmed in "running water" makes a difference to the final taste of the dish.

Ingredients for marinate:
  1. 2 stalks of lemon grass (serai)
  2. 1 yellow onion
  3. Fresh tumeric (kunyit)
  4. 3 calamansi (limau kasturi)
  5. Salt to taste
I prefer using a mortar pestle (lesung batu) as opposed to a blender so I placed all the ingredients for the marinate together and pounded them until they became a paste.  I then added some salt and the juice from the calamansi - I added this after the other ingredients were pounded to prevent it from "jumping out" of the pestle.  To speed up this process, I had sliced the lemon grass, onion and tumeric.  Try to use fresh tumeric as it does make a difference to the taste as opposed to using tumeric powder - this will also add better nutrients to the dish.  There are numerous health benefits from the lemon grass, tumeric and calamansi so this is a healthy way to prepare the fish at no expense to the taste.

The marinate was then applied to the fish and left to marinate for 1 hour.  You can marinate it longer if you wish - I was just hungry hence the 1-hour marinate.
This fish can then be grilled, cooked over charcoal or fried.  For a low-calorie option, you might want to avoid deep-frying the fish.  as a note, there is no need to add any flavor enhancers as by using fresh ingredients that bursts with flavor, your palate will enjoy the experience.  In my hurry to eat the fish, I forgot to take pictures of it done :)

Saturday, 9 February 2013

Toona Sureni - long term plan

It is always amazing what you learn from people who become a part of your life.  In this case, I was introduced to Suren leaves or as people from Kerinci call it: daun suhin or in Malay - daun surian, as a condiment you use in cooking rebung and young bananas as well as other savoury dishes.  It adds a slightly sour taste to the dish.
It's botanical name is toona sureni or known in English as Indonesian Mahogany.  I am not sure if it can be easily found in Malaysia and the ones that I know of have been brought over by people originating from Kerinci where it is widely planted.

It is planted from tiny seeds that was sprinkled over the ground and lightly covered with soil.  When it was about 10cm tall, we started to transplant them to various locations on the farm.  Depending on the location of the plant, some died, some grew faster than the others.  In general, I found that if it was planted in the ground that had a 50% clay composition it would grow slower that in ground that had a lower clay composition but at the same time had at least 30% organic matter.

The tree produces distinctive stems of leaves from the main trunk and grows straight without any branches.  In the 2 years that I have had this tree seeded and planted, the tallest tree is now over 8m tall and the shortest is about 2m tall.   Traditionally, it has been used as natural insect repellent including for mosquitoes.  The natural aroma from the leaves and tree bark repels these insects.  I have noticed that the immediate area surrounding the location of the tree has fewer insects, including mosquitoes and gnats.

The young leaf shoots are red in color which turns into a dark green as it matures.  Before the leave fully stem of leaves fully matures - where there are still leaves that have a red tinge to it - is when it is used as a condiment.  Hence I categorize this tree as a tree that falls into the edible landscape variety.

This tree can grow to 30m tall with a trunk diameter of up to 2m - this of course will take years.  You can say that this will be for the next generation which by then should make this into a valuable tree.  The lumber produced is prized in the production of quality wooden furniture and window frames.   I am looking forward to observing the growth of this tree and what its fruit will look like.  So if you are selecting a tree to add to your landscape, you might want to consider this tree with its multi-uses.

Tuesday, 5 February 2013

SHL Trellis Plants Adventure - Part 1

I have always had a fascination of plants growing on a trellis or arbor ever since I saw in real-life grapes growing on an arbor in California.  Somehow, I do not think that grapes will grow well at the farm so I began to experiment with different plants.  There is a multitude of choices so I selected based on what I enjoy eating.

To start with, I selected long green beans and french beans - both versatile vegetables.  Both these plants produce lilac flowers so I wonder if these types of beans produce lilac or purple flowers.  I also noticed that the angle bean (kacang kelisa ) also produces purple flowers.  Both the long beans and green beans does well planted in polybag, just watch the soil level against the root growth.  Should the roots become visible, it is essential to top-up with additional soil to ensure the plant continues to produce good quality and lots of beans.  Periodic removal of mature leaves will encourage production of flowers and new growth.  These two plants share a trellis well as the trailing vines have similar light texture.

Baby cucumbers are also a favorite, with its crisp, sweet, fresh taste.  They also produce nice, small  yellow flowers.  These plant are really sensitive to the water availability as well as vulnerable to insects which tend to eat the leaves as opposed to my other trellis plants.  The leave have a coarse surface texture and can stick to your clothes easily.  I spray them at least once a week with my serai wangi mix.

The bottle gourd or labu air produces medium-sized white flowers  with a yellow center, which unlike most of the other flowers, have petals that open at dusk and through the evening and closes when the sun rises. 

The leaves are similar to the loofah/luffa or petola plant.  The difference between the two, the loofah plant produces yellow flowers and similar to the bottle gourd, it opens at dusk and closes at sunrise.  The bottle gourd, loofah and baby cucumber can share the same trellis as they have heavier trellis so they can support each other.  It is best not to plant these plants on the same trellis as the long bean or green beans as they can weigh down the vines of the beans,

There are several varieties of bitter gourd and they produce white flowers.  The leaves of the bitter gourd appear to be delicate and has a distinctive shape, with lots of details - rather beautiful.  It is also soft to the touch.  It's tendrils are also delicate and break easily.  The bitter gourd can share the same trellis as the green beans due to their similar lighter vines.

Most times you will find pumpkin grown on the ground, often referred to as a pumpkin patch.  However, these plants can be grown on a trellis, albeit with a little help from "strings" to help support the plant.  Personnally, I prefer the green/yellow speckled pumpkin which you find at supermarkets often labelled as Japanese pumpkins.  It is best to plant the pumpkins on their own trellist as they have heavy vines and much larger leaves.

All these plants are planted in large polybags to ease maintenance as well as ensure maximum fertilization as the fertilizer is placed within the polybag and no wastage.  I can just focus on the weeds that grown in the polybags and use a weed-cutter in the areas surrounding the polybags.  When the plants die off, I just remove the polybag from the trellis and replace with another. 

Being in polybags also mean that I have to monitor the moisture level of the soil more than if it was planted in the ground but the trade-off is worthwhile since it makes preventing it from being overcrowded by weeds much easier.  With all the various colors of flowers and its fancy-shaped leaves, it presents a beautiful trellis to the eyes.  My next addition to the trellises will be honey dew and cantaloupes.  And so the adventure continues......