Asian Lychee Salad
Oh dear January where did you go? I can hardly comprehend that we’re already a month into twenty seventeen. I held such ambition to diligently maintain The Botanical Kitchen and yet it has remained idle. It might surprise you; but it’s often the words that cause my reservation. I so adore their folly but like my chaotic state of mind most thoughts and ideas are snippets; a sentence here; a paragraph there. I have this plethora of topics at the ready but I care so much about their compilation that it renders my time management useless once I turn pen to paper. The food is restless though - like an insolent child tired of waiting for their meandering sibling. Here in this space I’d imagine that’s what you seek too. Inspiration for your plate. I’m resolved to make my thoughts more unguarded, to make peace with casual tones and to attain a measure of consistency. We’ll see how it goes.
Of course my quandaries do seem such nonsense when you consider the state of our year for so many of the worlds inhabitants. I can hardly pen this; my first piece for twenty seventeen without making mention of the elephant in the room. There’s been a resounding call to arms from so many; from the collective voice to insight outrage and activism. If I’m honest I’ve been selfishly sheltering myself from the stark realities of the world we’re now faced with. A world of daily atrocity. It goes hand in hand with a sense of helplessness and uncertainty. When you hold all the injustice at arms length it makes it easier to justify your musings on trivial matters. To banter about the art of slow living and the privileges you’ve been afforded. To turn your gaze upon the state of affairs assaults the psyche. You grieve for all the ugliness; rage at the discrimination and then ever so surely comes a tide of guilt. Guilt that you alone can not offer resolution; guilt that compassion slips from your mind in daily existence and guilt that you perceive your lack of action as selfishness.
I’m uncertain there’s any solution to be had either. There will always be others far greater and lesser than ourselves. Each of us grapples in different ways with our place in the world and the means we have to effect it. My only thought is that silence never served for change. Freedom of speech democracies our thoughts; it lends weight to even the most unassuming among us. Options needn’t be loud and aggressive either they might be shared in passing conversation, or wayward comment. I only think that as long as we continue the conversation avenues for change will emerge and in a world that seems intent on tearing itself apart; perhaps our greatest blessing is that the interconnectedness we’ve fostered amplifies every ounce of goodness. To live creatively and with privileges afforded to so few; I think it important to honour your craft, temper your despair and embrace your neighbour. I intend to tether myself to what peace there is in gathering, to mindfulness and to the inherent power of food to unite; which now I make mention of is likely your reason for being here.
The root of this recipe was born of impulse I must admit. Lychees are at the height of their season on the East Cost of Australia and there is simply no surpassing their magic given our thick uncomfortable summer. Alone they are devine; unassuming with their rugged armour yet so cloy when undressed. In this compilation their offsider is the; spring onion flower; at first thought you might consider it an unlikely combination, though both are partial to Asian flavours so there is method to the madness. A number of spices lend themselves to marinading the tofu and in a sweet moorish dressing. It’s rich aromatic combination, that marries perfectly with the syrupiness of the lychees and the pungent flowers. All in all it makes for good summer faire.
Asian Lychee Salad / Serves 2
1 tsp of cinnamon
1 tsp of ground cloves
1 tsp of fennel seeds
1 tsp of ground star anise
1 tsp of szechuan peppercorns
4 tbsp of tamari
4 tbsp of maple syrup
2 tbsp of sesame oil
200g of firm tofu, thickly sliced
A handful of walnuts, toasted
A handful of lychees, peeled
The head of a spring onion flower, flowers picked
If you can't find the flowers, simply use sliced spring onion
Salad leaves (I used a handful each of baby kale and shiso leaves)
Lime to garnish
To begin, toast the fennel seeds and szechuan peppercorns on a skillet over low heat before grinding them coarsely in a mortar and pestle. Combine these with the cinnamon, cloves and star anise to finish the spice mixture. To make the marinade; take a teaspoon of the spices and combine it with half each the of tamari and maple syrup. Pour it over the sliced tofu, ensuring that it is well coated before setting it aside to marinade for 10 minutes. Once the tofu has rested; sear each slice on a girdle pan over high heat until browned. I would recommend only a couple minutes on each side, otherwise the tofu will become rubbery; it’s not something that needs to be cooked through, you only want a brown, crisp outside. To make the dressing; take a teaspoon of the spices and combine it with the rest of the tamari, maple syrup and sesame oil. Assemble your bowls with the salad leaves, spring onion flowers, lychees and walnuts and turn through the dressing until everything is well coated. Serve immediately with slices of the grilled tofu and lime wedges.
Seasonal guide / temperate climate
Lychees, late spring through early autumn.
When choosing lychees look for those with bright colour and a sweet fragrance. Store the fruit in a breathable container in the refrigerator for up to two weeks (the skin will likely brown and harden though the flavour will remain intense). Alternatively freeze the lychees whole for several months; they make the most sensational frozen treat in the summertime. To make them easier to peel whilst frozen simply slice off the top of the fruit.
Avocado, spinach leaves, asparagus, green beans