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I love the capacity of social media to connect like-minded people. Since we started Table Under a Tree, sharing our journey on Facebook and Instagram (seriously, follow us if you haven’t already!) has been a fascinating process.
I have tried to be true to myself and strike a balance of progress and challenge; product and community; business and personal. Hopefully the tone is a consistent one that genuinely reflects, well, me.
As often as not, you’re likely to see me sharing something about the latest animal misadventure at Three Paddocks Farm as you are to read about our tours or meal pods. I like to share news from the region and from our producers and I like to share stories that might encourage you to explore local food regardless of where you are.
A few months back, I struck up a virtual conversation with someone about tempeh, an ingredient I love, but possibly not one many people have cooked with. It kicked off an ingredient ping-pong and eventually a full-blown ingredient challenge. The chicken hearts were my challenge ingredient (I kept it simple with chicken heart yakitori) and Elephant Pigeon, AKA Jess, rose to the challenge with a cracking looking gnocchi topped with chicken heart ragu.
Next comes my failure…
Okra was Jess’ nomination for the next ingredient. I thought that was going to be fine for me, given that I love okra, have cooked with it before and that I’d recently seen it at one of our local farmer’s market. Or so I thought.
When I went to buy some, none of my favourite producers had any. A few had been impacted by the lingering drought, with little by way of adventurous vegetable lines on offer. Some producers weren’t even at the markets temporarily, thanks to the drought. No okra to be found. Not that week and not for quite a few afterward.
But I did find bittermelon.
So while it may not have been the actual ingredient I was supposed to explore, I challenged myself to try something I’d only ever eaten once or twice, with varying degrees of enjoyment to be frank. I figured that was in the spirit of the challenge, if not the letter. So I came home armed with a fairly prehistoric looking gourd ready to cook up a storm. A bit of googling later and I was cooking myself what I discovered to be a classic Filipino vegetable dish called ampalaya guisado: bittermelon sauteed in tomatoes, onions and scrambled eggs.
It was simple. And it was delicious. And I would cook it again.
Maybe I should even try it with okra!
I think Jess gets to pick another challenge ingredient. And I can’t wait to see what it is. Anyone want to come in on the challenge with us?