Acts of Kitchen: Shalini on food and family and the CWA

AoK_logo_v2In which I experiment with not-meatballs and Shalini talks about growing up Fiji Indian, curries, baking, experimenting, and being a founding member of a new, city-based CWA (Country Women’s Association).

The not-meatballs I made.

I set up a Patreon page!


The question posed: can I take a meatball recipe and, rather than cook the meat in balls in a sauce, cook it all together so it’s like what I would call a bolognese-type sauce, and which Americans might call something like chilli?

Let’s find out!

I decided to use a recipe from Saffron Tales only because I had loved it recently and I had prunes to use up; I intend to try this with the meatball/kofte recipes in Jerusalem, too. The meatballs there are stuffed with barberries and walnut and prune, and simmered in a sauce of tomato and onion and prunes and so on. Oh and the meatballs have cooked rice in them.

So I made the sauce pretty much to spec, and then just… put in the mince, and all of the other ingredients (except the walnuts, which I added at the end) (oh and garlic because I ran out; how even does that happen?). I didn’t pre-cook the rice, just threw that in too, and added a bit more water to compensate. And let it simmer for maybe an hour or so? For the meatballs it said to simmer for 50 min; I figure bolognese sauce is always better when it’s all been cooking down together, so the same principle seemed to apply here.

And the verdict was: yes! This is a good option! I won’t stop making meatballs because there is definitely a place for that, but the place for THIS is in the dehydrator and making me ever more interesting food to take camping. I am very pleased with the results.

Dehydrate! Vacuum seal!

IMG_0882.JPGThat’s right sports fans, no longer are we just dehydrating… we’re now vacuum sealing too. Because apparently we think the apocalypse is coming.

Actually it’s about camping and taking food on long trips away, but same outcome.

This incredibly appetising mess on the left is actually (what I call) bolognese. I have a feeling it’s pretty close to what Americans call chilli. Minced beef, lots of tomato paste and crushed tomato, mushroom, kidney beans, onion and garlic basically. This is what it looks like when it’s been dehydrated and then vacuum sealed and then taken out to some remote location in order to feed us. Below is what it looks like when it’s had boiling water poured on it and then been left to sit for a while… then simmered gently to reduce the liquid a bit:
IMG_0883.JPGAnd it tasted… basically like bolognese. The beans were perhaps a touch on the rubbery side, but really overall it was perfectly tasty. Add a little pasta and cheese and you feel very smug compared to the people either burning sausages nearby or people who are just eating something straight out of a can. Took about 14 hours in the dehydrator.

IMG_0890.JPGThis here is a vegetarian dhal, dehydrated and vacuum sealed. Haven’t rehydrated this one yet; it will be interesting to see how it turns out. I can’t imagine that lentils are going to be terribly fussed by the process, so I think this should be another winner. It’s so very easy.


IMG_0844… but not as you know them.IMG_0843

No, these ones are made with sweet potato. Dehydrated sweet potato.

I’ve been experimenting with my dehydrator. I had rather hoped that dehydrating sweet potato would have them closer to a chip-like consistency. Alas, I was sorely mistaken. Nonetheless, I looked through The Ultimate Dehydrator Cookbook  for how I might use my newly dehydrated sett potato and when I saw brownies… well, I had to experiment. A brief google has revealed to me that sweet potato brownies are Quite The Thing with faux-paleo types who still want to have their sweet things, so I guess I shouldn’t be so surprised.

You rehydrate the sweet potato with boiling water; add honey, and then mix it with flour and cocoa, basically. Cook for 30 min or so and bam. Lovely moist brownies. The one problem I had with the recipe is that it tells you to pour over the water, leave for 20 minutes, and then ‘whisk’. Perhaps my sweet potato was too dehydrated or not enough, or more water wasn’t boiling enough (??), but there was no whisking possible with that vegetable. Bar mixing was required.

I’ll admit that they weren’t quite as sweet, or as toothsome, as I tend to prefer in brownies… so the swiss meringue buttercream got an outing. And that combo was indeed magnificent. It was gleeful giving it to people at work and then telling them it had sweet potato in it.