Thursday, January 21, 2010

Farewell and welcome

Yesterday we celebrated Nerys' life with friends and flowers, laughter and tears, with music and poetry, candles and song, the fragrance of herbs and her favourite essential oils. Her strength and beauty shone, mirrored in the faces of her family, her joy for life in the dancing of her grand daughters and her love for all in the rich variety of her many friends gathered together.
Nerys would be thrilled to know my new grandson, Luke, arrived yesterday and that twin lambs were born at Summertime Farm this morning. So moves the circle of life.
with love,

Saturday, January 16, 2010

'Life isn't measured by the breaths you take, but by the moments that take your breath away.' Marcus Aurelius

It is with a heavy heart that I write today as Nerys passed away suddenly on Friday morning at Summertime Farm. Her great enthusiam for life, her insatiable curiosity, the wonder and delight she found in the magic of nature, her passion and limitless courage to push boundaries have inspired everyone who knew her. An extraordinary human being, she leaves family and friends worldwide missing her wise and generous heart.
Travel well gypsy woman.
with love,

Monday, January 11, 2010

Tukmaria: sacred seed

On a recent shopping trip, I was bemused when my beloved returned home with three 100g bags of basil seed. Pulling the crumpled shopping list from his pocket, he pointed, ‘See, there!’ The line above said fennel seed, so of course I had meant basil seed too, hadn't I?
What to do with all this seed? He had found it at the Indian shop. The owner obviously knew his stock for the packets were labelled as ‘Tukmaria’, with basil seed underneath in small type. After a search on the computer I was totally hysterical in front of an Indian cooking video of a very jolly man who was cooking sweet dishes to attract love. Whoever responded would have had to have had a serious sugar addiction coupled to a very blasé attitude to weight gain!

Back to the seeds... The tiny black teardrop shaped seeds are also known by various names: sabza, subza, takmaria, tukmaria, tukhamaria, falooda, selasih (Malay/Indonesian) or hột é (Vietnamese.) In India it is used in Muslim and Buddhist cuisine and as a medicinal herb. The use of Sacred Basil is restricted by Hindus as it has a sacred association to the god Vishnu. Basil seed also appears in the cuisine of Indonesia, Thailand, Iran and Afghanistan. The two varieties I have found from which the seeds are harvested for culinary use are Sacred Basil, ocimum sanctum and Hairy Basil, ocimum canum. I don’t know if common Sweet Basil works in the same way.
The seeds themselves have little or no flavour. What they do have is the ability to soak up water to create a jelly rather like tapioca. As the little black seeds look like tadpoles hatching, there is also a textural similarity to caviar with a crunchy centre. Reputed to have cooling properties, they are mainly used to thicken drinks and desserts. In Iran they are teamed with lemon juice, in Vietnam with either young coconut milk or water flavoured with palm sugar. The most common use is in the Indian recipe for Falooda.
Depending on what recipe you choose, falooda can be as simple as a milkshake or as elaborate as a Knickerbocker Glory. The Hari Krishna cookbook has a version that contains jelly and custard as well as the more traditional ingredients of milk, ice cream, noodles and rose syrup. All the recipes contained massive amounts of sugar, so I have taken some elements from a few recipes. It is a quick and easy dessert that looks impressive. Feel free to adjust the amount of sweetener to suit yo
ur own palate.

FaloodaI tsp basil seed (tukmaria)
1 litre milk
2 pinches of powdered cardamom
1 Tbsp sugar
1½ C rose syrup
1 litre vanilla ice cream
Chopped nuts to garnish( pistachios look nice)

Soak the basil seed in one cup of water for at least half an hour to swell.
Heat the milk until it boils, remove from the heat and add ½ cup rose syrup, the cardamom and the sugar, mix well and chill in the refrigerator.
Strain the water from the basil seeds and add them to the cooled milk.
Whisk in ½ C ice cream until dissolved. At this stage you can store in a covered jug in the refrigerator until needed.
To serve, in a tall glass for each person, place a scoop of vanilla ice cream and one or two teaspoons of rose syrup. Top up with the well stirred milk mixture and garnish with chopped nuts.

Serve with a long spoon and a straw.

You can thicken with a little corn flour when boiling the milk or serve with a spoonful of Falooda sev noodles in the bottom of the glass. Falooda sev is available at Asian stores. This recipe will serve 8-12 people depending on the size of your glasses. You can keep any remaining milk mixture in the refrigerator for a couple of days.
I made my own rose syrup. If you can’t find any, use half a teaspoon of rosewater in half a cup of corn syrup or mild honey with a little red food colour if required.
Children love the pink sweetness of this dessert. I created a little kit for Christmas gifts which included seed, rose syrup and rosewater with the recipe. However, I still have 2 bags of seed in the pantry so more research is needed!



Monday, January 4, 2010


Today is the first day of the return to some sort of reality as the limbo of the week between Christmas and New Year ends. Shops, banks and the Post office will be open ‘normal’ hours all week and hopefully we will be able to stop asking each other what day it is. Living in a tourist town it is often hard to focus on work when the rest of the world is on holiday but the demands of animals, gardens and harvest keep me somewhat grounded in the practical.

Christmas is the time of year that the St John’s Wort flowers here. Some of the most prolific patches grow on the damp verges of the road to Summertime farm (the same road pictured above). This year the crop flowered early and I harvested a bag of flowers the week before Christmas. Hypericum perforatum is an introduced weed of excellent medicinal properties. Analgesic, anti-inflammatory, antiseptic, antiviral and antibacterial, it has been used To soothe wounds, burns and bruising, ease fibrositis, sciatica, arthritis, rheumatism and gout and to help relieve depression.Last year Nerys and I made extractions into oil and Nerys has posted a blog on this wonderful process that saw yellow flowers gradually turn the oil a miraculous deep red. and This year she asked me to make her a tincture.

Here is the method:

Fill a glass jar with flowers, after the spiders have had a chance to run away.

Cover with the highest proof alcohol you can buy (I use vodka but you can use brandy or gin.)

Label the jar with the date you start and the date the tincture will be ready (10 – 14 days.)
Each day tap the base of the jar 100 times ( or for one minute) onto either the heel of your hand or a folded cloth. This is known as ‘succussion’ and is a process that allows the release of the plants properties into the alcohol.

After 10 days – 2 weeks, strain the tincture first through a sieve and then through a paper coffee filter into a brown bottle to protect from the light. 5 ml of glycerine added to each 250ml of tincture will increase its keeping properties.

Label and store in a cool dark place.

Dosage is 5-15 drops in 40ml of water three times a day.

Do not give tinctures to children under five.

More information on herbal tinctures is available in 'Healing with Herbs,' click on the cover in the side bar.

The particular magic of making this tincture was that it turned red before our eyes. As the weather became very hot, I decided to strain it after 10 days.By the way, be careful, the red tincture created black stains on my white shirt, which then spookily turn yellow in the wash!

May the New Year bring you joy and inspiration,