We may ring in the New Year like it’s going out of fashion — but it isn’t and it won’t.
Celebrations to mark the beginning of the New Year began several millennia ago. The first were recorded about 2000 BC in the city of Babylon in ancient Mesopotamia. Festivities in other regions of the world were often connected to the land or astronomical events. For example, in Egypt the beginning of the year coincided with the flooding of the River Nile, which usually happened when the star Sirius rose.
The New Year is the traditional time to make changes for the better. And it's customary to make some positive resolutions. However, every year my usual plans for fitness plus fun seem to come unstuck. Fun wins out and the planned 7000 steps every second day alternating with gym sessions falter. However, it’s always good to have a goal.
Developing innovative healthy dishes is an ongoing goal for me. It provides a great opportunity to catch up with family and friends — they make wonderful taste testers and their company provides plenty of fun. Hopefully my fitness plan can be accommodated too.
BAKED ONION BHAJI
Gluten-free, cheap, cheerful, yummy and easy to make and serve as pre-dinner nibbles.
500g brown-skinned onions
1 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 tablespoons grated root ginger
1 teaspoon each: cumin seeds, ground coriander
1/2 teaspoon ground turmeric
pinch cayenne pepper
3 tablespoons finely chopped coriander stalks and leaves
1-2 teaspoons green chilli sauce
100g gram (chickpea/besan) flour
2 tablespoon canola oil
Peel and quarter the onions. Thinly slice then place in a bowl and sprinkle with the salt. Mix well. Cover and stand for 2 hours.
Tip into a sieve and rinse under cold water. Place in a bowl. Add the spices, chopped coriander and chilli sauce. Mix well. Sieve the gram flour over the onions and mix. There should be enough water from the rinsed onions to form a thick batter. If not, add 1-2 tablespoons. Mix the oil in with your hands until the onions are evenly coated.
Preheat the oven to 200°C. Line a baking tray with baking paper.
Using your hands, form the mixture into 10 balls just a little smaller than a golf ball. Place on the tray. Bake for 35-40 minutes until cooked and golden.
Great served with a good chutney. Makes 10.
CHICKEN LARB IN LETTUCE CUPS
Taste the dressing and add more lime juice, fish sauce or sugar, if you prefer. I poached a chicken breast in water and root ginger on very low heat for about 20 minutes. It was so tender it shredded easily using two forks. I used crisp crown lettuce leaves cut into cups.
Dressing: finely grated rind 1 lime
1/4 cup lime juice
2 tablespoons fish sauce
1 tablespoon brown sugar
2 cloves garlic, crushed
1/8-1/4 teaspoon chilli flakes
Salad: 250g cooked chicken, finely shredded
4 tablespoons finely chopped roasted peanuts
2 spring onions, diced
2 small makrut (kaffir) lime leaves, julienned then diced
1/2 cup each: mint leaves, basil leaves, finely sliced
1/2 long red chilli, diced
8-10 small crisp lettuce cups
Combine the dressing ingredients in a bowl.
Add the shredded chicken and stand for 15 minutes.
Combine the remaining salad ingredients — except the lettuce cups — in another bowl. Using tongs remove the chicken from the dressing to the salad bowl. Toss gently.
Spoon into the lettuce cups. Top with a little extra dressing. Makes 8-10 nibbles.
WASABI SALMON IN MINI BREAD CASES
Bread Cases: 1 loaf sliced white sandwich bread
1/4 cup olive oil
2 cloves garlic, crushed
Filling: 180g hot smoked salmon
1/4 cup mayonnaise
2 tablespoons each: sour cream, lemon juice
1-2 teaspoons wasabi paste
freshly ground black pepper to taste
capers and fresh herbs to garnish
Remove and discard the bread crusts. Flatten the slices using a rolling pin. Using a 4cm diameter biscuit cutter or similar, cut into rounds.
Preheat the oven to 190°C.
Combine the oil and crushed garlic. Brush 24 mini muffin pan holes with the oil then brush the tops of the bread rounds. Press into the muffin pan holes. Bake for about 20 minutes, until crisp.
These can be prepared days in advance and frozen in an airtight container. Reheat to crisp before use.
Flake the salmon. Combine the mayo, sour cream, lemon juice and wasabi. Lightly combine with the salmon. Spoon into the bread cases and garnish. Makes 24 cases and filling for 12.