Often overlooked because of the delicious sweet potatoes themselves, the leaves of the sweet potato plant are nourishing as well. Sweet potatoes grow in the soil unseen, but above them is where all of the action is happening. Given enough space sweet potato vines are prolific. They will act as ground cover, stretching across your yard, and when given the opportunity to climb, will grab hold of nearby plants, posts, and fences. With plenty of sun provided, the heart shaped leaves stay ever stretching to find new opportunities to sun bathe.
Any gardeners reading are likely to join in our enthusiasm for these tasty leaves. The same can’t be said of regular potato leaves which can be toxic. Pumpkin, squash and other gourds have leafy vines, but the leaves have a sticky layer on them that needs to be peeled. Then there’s the incredibly popular cruciferous greens like kale which are well known, but sweet potato leaves are seldom as bitter, often being neutral tasting. This means they’re also good for introducing more green into the diet of young people as well.
A few ideas for cooking sweet potato include having them raw in a salad, or as an addition to a green smoothie. When harvesting them for a salad, look for the tender young leaves, often a deeper color than the larger leaves. For stews, stir frys, and any heavier cooking, the larger leaves hold up well. We use the beautiful new leaves as a colorful and tender garnish on top of other dishes as well. These leaves appear darker in color and more waxy looking, but lose this sheen as they grow larger.
Today we want to share a bowl of simple, sweet potato soup. The recipe is versatile, allowing for lots of variations. Feel free to make it your own, using different vegetables and locally grown herbs if needed. The point is for the soup to be a vehicle for nutrition, and a champion for biodiversity. The flavor comes from the combination of soft and hard aromatics in the recipe, basil leaves and lemongrass, and should only be mildly sweet with an optional touch of heat from fresh chili. Enjoy the recipe below with a heap of sweet potato leaves, and any other nearby and nutritious ingredients you have to add.
Serves: 4-6 people
Equipment: mortar and pestle, pot
Prep & Cooking Time: 30 minutes
1L water or stock 500g sweet potato leaves 500g winter melon (substitute another soft gourd like zucchini if needed) 1 angled gourd, sliced 1 carrot, sliced 5 lemongrass stalks, smashed 6 shallots, smashed 4 coriander roots, smashed 3-4 fresh Thai chili (substitute with mild chili or bell pepper if desired) 1 tbsp of palm sugar 1 cup of soy sauce 1 tsp of salt 1 tsp of black soy sauce 1 bunch of lemon basil (or other sweet tasting herb leaf, like Italian basil)
1) Prep all your ingredients, washing and peeling as neccesary. Before you start cooking, consider which vegetables you’re adding that may need more time than others to cook. 2) Pound your shallots, coriander root, and lemongrass in a mortar and pestle. Or bruise with a heavy object. 3) Add water to your pot with these three aromatics (shallot, lemongrass, and coriander root) and bring to a boil. 4) When the soup is fragrant and lightly boiling, add any tough vegetables like carrot, followed later by soft veg like winter melon and angled gourd. Cook until soft. 5) Adjust your heat to low and season by adding your palm sugar, soy sauce, black soy sauce, and salt. Taste and adjust as needed. 6) Turn off the heat and add your fresh handful of lemon basil. 7) When serving remember to avoid adding lemongrass into your serving bowl. You can remove it completely, but leaving it in the soup will allow it to continue to add flavor to the broth.
This recipe is suitable for a large family of 5-6 people and may put a big dent in your garden. Don’t worry though, the sweet potato plants are resilient, and can survive your pruning and nibbling. Do let us know if you loved this recipe by donating to our charitable work, or signing up for one of our online classes. Then check back soon for more updates and recipes!
Are you familiar with turmeric milk, golden milk, or if you’re feeling fancy a ‘golden milk latte’? They may be popular at your local cafes and in the health food community, but they’re easy enough to make at home too. Whatever you prefer to call this special drink, let’s have a closer look at the ingredients and method for making your own healing cup.
The most prominent tradition of drinking turmeric infused milk comes from India. On the subcontinent a traditional ‘haldi doodh’ simply calls for warming milk with turmeric before serving. However, now that turmeric is becoming increasing popular outside the region, you’ll find popular versions mix in Indian spices like what you would find in a recipe for Chai, including: ginger, cloves, green cardamom and cinnamon. This makes the tea more fragrant and tasty, and possibly distracts newcomers to turmeric from the pungent, unfamiliar flavor. Turmeric aficionados however, can feel free to veer from the recipe, making your turmeric milk with as few or as many spices as you fancy.
But why do we call turmeric-infused milk, ‘golden milk’? No one seems sure, but we shouldn’t underestimate the possibility of the culinary world simply appropriating a common Indian drink and renaming it. If this is the case, whether the term originates as a clever marketing campaign, or an intentional attempt to obfuscate or mystify the origin of the milk tea, we should have strong reservations about what we call it. Keep this in mind if you’re deciding to add it to your menu.
Controversy aside, we should all be including turmeric more regularly in our diets, as recommended in the tradition of Ayurvedic medicine. Long before the hundreds of research studies commissioned in the past decades, traditional healers in India recognized the benefits of consuming this brightly colored root. Thanks to the volume of research the western world now also associates turmeric with a long list of health benefits including being a powerful blood cleansing, inflammation reducing, brain boosting, heart healing, and cancer resisting rhizome.
For those not already very familiar with turmeric here are a few tips for maximizing the potential uses in your daily life:
1) Avoiding Yellow Hands & Utensils
One of the first things you’ll learn from using turmeric, especially the fresh version, is that the color is incredibly strong. While the skin on the root is usually a dull black, once gently scraped away, you will reveal the surprisingly deep orange color. Beware though, because this enchanting orange-yellow color can stain your hands, cutting boards, kitchen countertops, and anything else the root may come in contact with.
2) Understanding Powders and Supplements Pills
Outside of Asia, one of the most common ways to consume turmeric is as a powder or supplement. Be sure you have it from a reputable source, and understand whether you’re having dried turmeric powder, an extract like curcumin, or some variation. This is important to know as the potential benefits and use may vary. If you’re using these products to battle a specific illness, consider consulting your doctor about the appropriate dosage
3) Increasing Bioavailability
In addition to not being widely grown in many western countries, the other reason turmeric is often taken as a supplement is that turmeric may be less bio-available to your body in other forms. Bioavailability means your body can easily digest and put to work the most healing chemical components. Some foods require us to prepare them a certain way to make the nutrients in them more bioavailable. To improve the bioavailability of turmeric, for instance, prepare with healthy fats sources like coconut milk. This is because turmeric is more easily fat-soluble than water-soluble. Another tip is the use of black pepper, which can give the body more time to circulate and process the turmeric
If you think about how turmeric is typically consumed in places around Asia, we know local traditions have dictated this bioavailable method of consumption for hundreds of years. The best example can be found in many of the curries you love. Typically most any yellow colored curry you can think of, regardless of the nation of origin, is so colored because of the addition of turmeric. Those curry pastes contain many ingredients, but two not often excluded are coconut milk and black pepper. One of the tips in our green curry recipe calls for adding a small nob of turmeric to enhance the color, not to mention the health benefits!
Turmeric Milk Recipe (Golden Milk)
2 cups of coconut milk (or the milk of your choice) 5g turmeric, smashed (or 1 tsp of turmeric powder) 5g of sliced ginger, smashed 2-3 black pepper pods 1-2 green cardamom pods, smashed and seeds removed 1 small cinnamon stick 1 tbsp of date syrup (or other natural sweetener)
1) Smash any fresh or whole spices in a mortar and pestle, or with another heavy tool. This isn’t a pulverizing smash, but strong bruising that will allow the essential oils to come out more easily. 2) Add dry spices to a small pot over low heat. Briefly toast until fragrant. 3) Pour coconut milk (or the milk of choice) over spices and allow to simmer for 5 minutes. Don’t let your milk boil too vigorously. 4) Add your sweetener and stir. 5) Turn off heat and allow to cool for another 5 minutes or longer before serving. This gives the ingredients more time to steep into the milk. 6) Strain out your spices are you pour into a glass or mug. Serve hot, or over ice. 7) Garnish with a sprinkle of cinnamon on top if desired.
Tom Yum lovers will be excited to learn you can enjoy the popular soup in a variety of ways. One of our favorite renditions is in the form of fried rice. This is similar to what you would order at a street food stall with a wok station. If you can find fragrant herbs to add, this recipe will be a great way to spice up your usual homemade fried rice!
Aromatics & Cooking Method
If you’re new to tom yum, the flavors come from a combination of aromatic herbs popular in Thai cooking. Those herbs are lemongrass, galangal, and kaffir lime leaf. If you’ve ever had them in a Thai restaurant you may remember them because they’re the bits in the soup you can’t eat comfortably. Although all of them are edible, each is so coarse they would be really tough to chew.
To make the fried rice version, you’ll need to find your local asian grocer and prep the ingredients. Unlike the soup where the herbs will boil together, this recipe requires the elbow grease to pound them in a mortar and pestle. This is a big job, and is best done in a traditional stone mortar and pestle, so that each of the ingredients is properly smashed.
Can you put the items in a food processor or blender? Sure you can. However, often when we’re using the mortar and pestle, blending is not the most important function for using this traditional kitchen equipment. What we really desire are the essential oils from the ingredients that will make a paste that will remind your eyes, nose, and mouth of your favorite tom yum soup!
Finally, we should add some details about the moisture content of the fried rice. If you’re not cooking over high heat, or using leftover rice that is drier than rice freshly steamed, you may find the final product too soggy. If you know you prefer the drier, more crusty fried rice— be prepared with a heavy duty wok or pan to use. That way you can stir fry you rice longer, and scrape the stuck rice at the center of the wok to free the toastiest bits before they burn (not the best use of your non stick pan). Don’t be surprised to find cooks who love their fried rice this style, even throwing the wok or skillet of fried rice into the oven for a crispy finish.
Tom Yum Fried Rice
Equipment: mortar and pestle (preferably stone), wok
1 cup of rice
70-100g of protein (we used tofu)
1 tbsp of oil
30g tomato (plum or less watery tomatoes work better)
2 kaffir lime leaves
2 tbsp of soy sauce
2 tbsp of sweet chili jam (nam prik pow)
Optional: Lime to squeeze on top and spring onion for garnish
Tom Yum Paste Ingredients:
1 tbsp of minced galangal
1 tbsp of thin sliced lemongrass
2 chili (optional)
Prep all your ingredients. In mortar and pestle, pound lemongrass, galangal and chili together. Set aside.
Chop your proteins bite sized or smaller.
In a wok over medium heat, add a tbsp of cooking oil.
Add your proteins (If using tender meats like shrimp, you can set aside after cooking) and stir until mostly cooked.
Then add your paste and allow to become aromatic. Followed closely by your onions.
When your proteins are cooked and other ingredients smell nice, add your mushrooms and tomato.
Now you’re ready to add your rice. Mix with everything and add soy sauce and chili paste.
Stir fry until ingredients are well incorporated, or you have achieved the desired texture (give it an extra few minutes if you prefer a dry fried rice).
Plate and garnish, reminding your guests to squeeze their lime wedge over the top before enjoying.
We’re excited to share our participation in Bangkok’s first plant based food and sustainability market. The upcoming market takes places this month on July 19th in the Ekkamai area. The event will host a collection of vendors promoting their plant based food items, and a variety of lifestyle products encouraging sustainability.
The market is hosted from 12pm to 4pm by the team behind the Root the Future blog and healthy eating campaign. The website promotes plant based eating and sustainability in Thailand. The term ‘plant based’ refers to diets similar to veganism that promote eating fruits, vegetables, and whole foods for the majority of nutritional needs.
The health benefits of a plant based diet are a major reason we’re excited to be participating in the event. However, the focus on the reducing waste and protecting ecosystems through more sustainable living is equally important. The event will also be our first opportunity to publicly promote our tempeh, a healthy source of plant based protein.
Our tempeh is made by fermenting organic soybeans into patty that can be sliced and added to food as a meat substitute. The healthy product is a great addition to Thai dishes which can too often over emphasize the meat products. In addition to fundraising through the sell of these products, we will also be excited to share about the work we’re doing to serve vulnerable communities in Bangkok.
Participants are reminded to bring their masks, water bottles, food containers, and reusable bags for this event. No single use plastic will be available, and social distancing will be encouraged whenever possible. Including Courageous Kitchen, there should be around 20 vendors with a variety of products for sale, ranging from plant based burgers, to natural soaps, and even a mini cafe for cats needing to be adopted through the Paws Bangkok Foundation.
Root The Future Sustainability & Plant-Based Market
We announced recently that we have begun making our own tempeh for those who want to try and support us in Bangkok. Since tempeh is so new here and many places around the world, we wanted to make sure some of the common questions you may ask about the soy product are answered. One of those is, “Is there a way to tell if my tempeh is still good?”
There are a few factors you should know about to be able to evaluate good tempeh — no matter whether you’re evaluating the freshness before you buy in the store, or after the tempeh has been sitting on your refrigerator shelf.
Look at the list below and keep each of these components in mind so that you can help have the best chances of getting great quality products from good sources.
When you buy your tempeh you should be able to look at it and have an idea of the freshness. The beans in the tempeh should be packed around a firm layer of white mold (called mycelium). As this layer reaches peak, some discoloration may occur where you see some black or gray spots. If the tempeh continues to mature, the mold will become a more yellow color. This is normal and still edible unless the tempeh is wet or consumed by mold of another color.
2) Aroma (Smell)
“Why does my tempeh smell bad?”
How do you judge a fermented product which can already be strong smelling by using your nose? Your tempeh should smell nutty, fermented and earthy, but not overly pungent. If the tempeh can be smelled from a distance, odds are it has likely gone bad. A smell of rot or noticeably strong notes of acetone, alcohol, or ammonium mean you need to dispose of your tempeh. These smells arise as other type of bacteria begin to rapidly grow on your tempeh. Preventing this means keeping your tempeh refrigerated or frozen, and dry, until ready to use.
Your tempeh is made of soybeans enshrined by white mycelium. If properly fermented, this layer of edible mold should grow evenly between the beans. When choosing your tempeh be sure the mold has grown completely without any cracks or areas among the beans where the mold has not grown.
Low Moisture Content (Dryness)
Your block of tempeh should be dry, never slimy or damp. Storing the tempeh with too much moisture can encourage other types of bacteria to grow, making your tempeh go bad more quickly. Tempeh can be frozen safely, but be aware that if not properly defrosted (this can be safely done in the refrigerator), moisture and condensation can start to form on the outside of your tempeh.
When possible buy organic tempeh. The soybeans are easier to soak when making the tempeh, and result in softer and more porous tempeh overall. Since the majority of soybeans are mass produced GMO crops, these can be harder to find, but worth the search. Farmers who do grow soybeans without damaging food and environments with dangerous chemicals also need our support.
Also, look for vendors using natural packaging to ferment their tempeh instead of plastic. The most common material used is banana leaf, which unlike plastic, naturally allows air to circulate, promoting the growth of the mycelium. The result is beautiful tempeh, naturally fermented that doesn’t contribute to environmental degradation.
Tempeh is a great source of plant based protein for everyone. Let’s spread awareness about the need to create diets that are more inclusive or plant centric and environmentally responsible. Courageous Kitchen is doing our part to educate and feed people in need in Bangkok, and your support makes a difference.