Food Adventures

My food adventures are nothing like anything you could post to Instagram or any other site lauding the expertise of both cooking and photography.

Sludge gone chewy

My food adventures this year are the result of how COVID19 is keeping me indoors with my two co-morbidities–heart problems and asthma, with my asthma in a long enduring state of aggressive flare-up supposedly due to wood-smoke in the local air–and the resulting difficulties of getting food into the house.

Friends help and recently I’ve begun to order in a fruit-and-veg box fortnightly. All good, one would think. But I’m lacking quite a lot of groceries out of my normal diet. Canned fish. Any kind of fish. Tofu. Tempeh. Olives. Rice milk. Tomato paste. Olive oil. Oil to fry with. Coconut yoghurt.

Food additives are my curse. My gut forces me to commit to the low FODMAP diet and so I need to go down to the shops and read labels. All the above need reading. But I’m still coughing too much for a trip into the supermarket.

More doctor appointments needed. Why haven’t I seen a specialist yet? The state border between us in Northern New South Wales and South East Queensland where all the specialists live, is closed. I mean, did you hear about the sick baby that was airlifted from NSW? The parents had to by road and were denied entry. They were directed to a fortnight’s quarantine at their own expense. Can you imagine?

It’s all too stressful.

So …. when I order a bag of brown rice with ancient grains–and am not able to read the label because the way the product is presented on the website–there’s nothing for it when it arrives but to experiment. [Should’ve read the label when it arrived!]

It’s rice. I cook it the way I cook all rice. Never had a failure. A student from Malaysia taught me when we were both marooned at Waikato Uni (NZ) for the holidays a long time ago.

This time, three-quarters of the mess in the pot is half raw while a few rice grains have made it to the desired density. I study that for a while and decide there is no way I’m going to be able to separate the half-raw from the cooked. I add more water and more heat.

The result is sludge. In the days when my son still lived at home this might’ve been the point where I would accept defeat and traipse the mess out to the worm farm.

But last week I decided I didn’t want to waste my money–ten dollars for the bag–and would continue experimenting. That night, planning for dinner, I extracted three tablespoons of the sludge–pot kept in the fridge to prevent it going to beer mash–added three tablespoons of a chewy, low FODMAP flour, two spoons of curry powder, salt, bit of baking powder and an egg and stirred it all about.

Looked all right. I set it cooking in a heating frying pan, like a big pancake and topped it with tomatoes, broccoli, cooked carrot and a couple of chopped spinach leaves. Flipped it when the baking powder told me, and hey presto.

Nice meal. Enjoyed it. A couple of hours later lots of complaints by my gut. Why, I said? I gave you everything according to the diet?

Next day I thought I would try a breakfasty thing. Two tablespoons of the mash in a mug. Cocoa to taste. Brown sugar. Two tablespoons buckwheat flour. Rice-milk to help amalgamate it all. Pinch of baking powder. Three minutes in the microwave.

A very tasty and and different kind of breakfast. Ate it with a teaspoon. Debated whether to write the recipe on paper to slip into my favorite low FODMAP cookbook for future reference. More gut complaints. I put them down to the one-eighth apple I had been eating every day.

Third day. I studied the mash and thought it probably would be reaching its use-by date pretty soon. But I decided to have a go at making bread with it. A hot oven kills off all kinds of wild-life, right? The yeast mixture bubbled nicely. I drained four tablespoons of the mash thinking to use it to replace one of the two flours used in the recipe. Added the yeast mixture, and the second of the two flours. I used to love making bread in the days when my gut wasn’t the pernicketey animal that it is now.

The ‘dough’ wasn’t like any that I’d ever associated with successful bread-making before. More like a stiffish batter. Too far into the process, I pressed on. Turned the stuff into a bread pan. Topped the loaf with sunflower seeds and pepitas. Set it to rise on the stove. No rising. Set it to rise in the preheating oven. Then thought I might as well bake it. Upped the heat.

The seeds helped to form a nice crust. I ate that. The innards were not edible. Sludge gone chewy. For a while I played with the idea of frying pieces of it… frying improves a lot of foods. It’s the times I was raised. A good fry-up remains one of my favorite meals. But why was this stuff so obdurate?

Next morning, I read the label. Picked out the baddie at once. Lupins. A high FODMAP food. I decided on a trip into the backyard there and then. Mash gone. Chewy sludge gone. The rest of the packet of Ancient Grains, gone.