Ponderings from travels Near & Far + Grilled Miso Tofu, an exclusive recipe

By Amy Crawford

I'm having a rather interesting time at the moment, to say the least. My recent travels both overseas to India and over shorter seas to Flinders Island have seen me immersed in vastly different cultures and lifestyles. I've been connecting with wonderful souls making marks on the world in their own small way; appreciating beauty in it's very simplest forms and; tasting flavour combinations and foods my taste buds will forever thank me for. Throughout this time I've felt incredibly inspired, happy, fascinated, activated and 'awake', so acutely aware of the tiniest of details and happenings around me. Surely removing yourself from the daily humdrum to travel (near or far) must be one of the most wondrous life experiences of all. 

Yet, amongst all of this there's a constant and ever building 'swell' inside of me, a feeling of incessant inward questioning, this building desire to simplify my life further, and soon. I feel like I'm about to jump off a cliff, but am waiting for the gentle nudge to make it happen. I liken it to the notion of a bow and arrow, pulled taught, soon to be propelled forward with a sudden burst of momentum. It's like I'm waiting, waiting for a sign that now's time.

Life, it takes so much courage doesn't it? 

Anyway, amidst all of this inner uncertainty (which ultimately points to a sea or a tree change... it's just a matter of when) my mind has been pondering different opportunities for THI, opportunities that will satisfy my need for personal growth and change and continue to inspire those in this community. 

Whilst sitting on glorious Flinders Island, I got to thinking about writing a book that might tie in my island experiences (or elsewhere if the case may be); a book that would tie in the different combinations of produce and flavours, one that would allow me to utilise my skills and creativity in the kitchen. Then, wouldn't you know it, quite serendipitously I received a copy of a glorious recipe book titled (rather aptly), Near & Far.  Written by American Heidi Swanson, it's pages are filled to the brim with recipes inspired by home and travel.  "Travel inspired my thinking, relationships, sensibility, sense of self and, eventually, the way I approached cooking." Heidi Swanson

Needless to say Heidi's words spoke to me, as of course did her beautiful vegetarian recipes accompanied with evocative, stunning photography. This book is worthy of appreciation. 

Divided into two main sections, Near & Far, it's recipes are inspired either from Heidi's life in San Francisco ('Near') or by five regions she's enjoyed to travel: Morocco, France, India, Italy and Japan ('Far'). The latter are places with rich, often ancient, culinary cultures – places Heidi has explored in depth. Each chapter includes a list of Heidi’s favourite ingredients traditionally used in the cuisine of that place (My Moroccan Pantry, My Japanese Pantry and so on). Techniques, traditions, ingredients and flavours. Every place has its own, always evolving, culinary voice.

"Seek out food and ingredients that are healthy, powerful and full of beauty and vitality - the sort of food that lifts the spirit and sustains the body: food that isn't stripped of its natural nutrients and beneficial properties. It matters and it's worth it." Heidi Swanson

I certainly couldn't have said it any better myself. In fact maybe Heidi's done my job for me. This is a truly stunning publication. If you'd like to explore it you can purchase it here. 

In light of my recent Flinders Island inspired spring vegetable tofu scramble, I've chosen to share a recipe from the Japanese section of this beautiful book. 

Grilled Miso Tofu.

You will need:

340g extra firm tofu
1 tablespoon mirin
2 tablespoons sake
1/4 cup sweet white miso
1 egg yolk
A small handful of mitsuba leaves or basil or coriander, plus extra for serving
1/8 teaspoon sansho pepper
4 spring onions, thinly sliced

Line a baking tray with baking paper. Drain any liquid off the tofu and pat completely dry. Slice the block horizontally and then into six equal sized slabs. Arrange onto the baking tray.

Combine the mirin, sake, miso and egg yolk in a small saucepan over medium - low heat. Continuously whisking, heat until it thickens to the point that it holds streaks as the whisk runs through - about 71 degrees C - thick enough so you can spread it across the tofu and not have it run off. Immediately remove from the heat, transfer to a bowl and allow the miso mixture to cool a bit. Chop the mitsuba extremely finely and stir it in along with the sansho pepper. Taste and adjust to your liking. 

Place a rack in the top third of your oven, give each slab of tofu a thick slather of the miso mixture and place under the grill until the miso is set and visibly baked. Serve hot or at room temperature, sprinkled with spring onions and chopped mitsuba.

Note: If you make double the miso spread, it's great alongside rice or swirled into an egg scramble. I call for a sweet white miso here, but occasionally add a touch of red or brown miso to add a bit more depth - for example: 3 1/2 tablespoons sweet white miso plus 1/2 tablespoon red miso.

*Look for these herbs in your Asian grocer, Mitsuba is often referred to as Japanese parsley.

Another snippet from the pages within...

*This is a sponsored post, however please know that we will only ever promote products or services that we believe will add value to the lives of our readers.

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November 12 2015

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