It is always difficult to imagine temperatures different from what you are currently in. Yes, you know what it is like to be huddled under duvets with a hot water bottle and a cold nose, alternating what hand you use to turn the pages of your book so one doesn’t get too icy. You know that just a few months ago you were desperately leaving all the windows and the doors of your classroom open, hoping for a breeze to flow through and air the thirty hot and bothered teenagers to lift pen to paper. But it is difficult to really remember the feeling of the changing seasons.
I landed in Taipei on Saturday evening, and instantly felt like I had stepped into a wet and hot bathroom after someone had had a shower. The air was damp and hot, soft on the skin and heavy to breathe. The debris left over from the typhoon that delayed my flight lay strewn across roads, expertly dodged by scooters and cars alike.
Too hot for wandering the streets, this trip I have sat in cool cafes drinking iced coffees and ploughing my way through books and marking. I have consumed my weight in tropical fruits and ice cold beers. And I have spent some time in the kitchen making use of the fresh produce available. Here are two recipes for dishes best enjoyed in the heat of summer, so New Zealand readers, you may just have to wait. The first is from Ottolenghi’s vegetarian cookbook, Plenty, which I was originally dubious of- eggplant and mango? Touching in one bowl? I was not convinced until my mother made it for us at home in Wellington the other weekend. The sweet, sour, savoury and spicy that goes on in your mouth when you take your first bite is to die for. Definitely give this one a go.
Ottolenghi’s Soba Noodle Salad
120ml rice vinegar
½ tsp salt
2 garlic cloves, crushed
½ red chilli, finely chopped
1 tsp sesame oil
1 lime, grated zest and juice
300ml sunflower oil
2 eggplants (if you are using normal ones. Here they are shaped long and skinny like cucumbers so I used four)
300g soba noodles (I couldn’t find them here, so used a Chinese equivalent)
½ red onion, thinly sliced
1 large mango, peeled and cut into 1cm dice (I used two because they are so sweet and delicious here)
Handful of basil, chopped
BIG BIG handful of coriander, chopped
In a saucepan, gently heat the vinegar, sugar and salt, just until the sugar dissolves, for up to a minute. Remove from the heat and add the garlic, chilli and sesame oil. Set aside to cool, then add the lime zest and juice.
Heat the sunflower oil in a large pan and shallow-fry the egg plant in three or four batches. Once golden-brown, transfer to a colander, sprinkle with salt and leave to drain.
Cook the noodles then drain and rinse under cold water (don’t cook them for too long or else they will go mushy in the salad). Shake off the excess water and place on kitchen towel to dry. I had never done this with noodles before, but the recipe told me to.
In a bowl, toss the noodles with the dressing, eggplant, onion, mango and half the herbs. You can leave it aside for an hour or two to let all the flavours combine. When ready to serve, add the rest of the herbs, mix and pile on a plate or in a bowl. Delish!
My second recipe, which is perfect after this salad, uses my Y ingredient- yoghurt. Who knew it was so easy to make frozen yoghurt? And who knew it was so tasty? All the recipes I read online put the yoghurt in a blender when it was half frozen to fluff it up a bit, but there isn’t one in this apartment, so I missed that step. It was quite hard to scoop but tasted GOOD!
Lemon and Lime Frozen Yoghurt
4 cups of Greek yoghurt
1/2 cup sugar (honey would be better- couldn’t find any)
The juice of 2 lemons and 2 limes
The zest of half a lemon and half a lime
In a saucepan, melt your sugar with the lemon and lime juice until you have a syrup. Leave it to cool slightly before mixing it with the yoghurt and zest. Freeze until almost solid, about 2 hours. Take out of the freezer, and thoroughly stir it with a fork. Put back into freezer and freeze until solid.
A refreshing, healthy and yummy way to cool down at the end of a hot day. Enjoy x