Jamaican Flower Gin&Tonic

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Summer is upon us. The warm breeze and the sun feels amazing on my skin when I ride my bike around the city. Whenever there is a heatwave, I keep a large pitcher of iced tea made with Jamaican flower tea, or also known as Hibiscus tea, and drink a glass or two when I feel worn out by the heat. This hot pink, wonderfully fragrant and sour tea made from dried Jamaican flowers is a great thirst-quencher, and it is known to bring the body temperature down. As it is Saturday, and the Champions League finale is about to happen in about an hour,  I made an alcoholic version. You will have about 230-250ml syrup from the recipe below, which you can mix with sparkling water and lime juice if you don’t feel like drinking alcohol. A small handful of mint muddled a bit before adding the rest of the ingredients for the cocktail would also be lovely.

Dried Jamaican Flower tea (Hibiscus)

Dried Jamaican Flower tea (Hibiscus)

Jamaican Flower Gin&Tonic

Note: Jamaican flower tea (hibiscus) can be easily bought at specialty tea shops. I bought mine at an organic supermarket in Leipzig called Biomare on Karli. 

For the syrup,

20g dried Jamaican flower (Hibiscus) tea

250ml water

100g sugar

20g ginger, peeled, and sliced thinly

For the cocktail (serves 1),

30ml or 2 Tbsp Jamaican flower syrup from above

30ml-40ml Gin (I used Bombay Sapphire. You can use whatever gin you prefer)

15ml or 1 Tbsp freshly squeezed lime juice

1 slice lime

A handful of ice cubes

Tonic water (I like Schwepps, even though it sounds boring. I tried some expensive hipster tonic water but I can’t taste that much difference)

1. To make the syrup, bring the sugar, water, and ginger to boil, and wait until the sugar has dissolved completely. Add the Jamaican flower tea and remove from the heat. Let it steep for about 30-40 mins. Strain the syrup in a clean glass jar and chill in the fridge.

2. To make the cocktail, add the ice cubes in a tall glass. Add the syrup, lime juice, and gin. Top with tonic water and garnish with a sliced lime.

Banh Mi Sandwich with Tempeh-Brown Rice Balls

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Hi guys! Excuse the long absence from blogging. I have been very busy with work lately and I barely had time to cook. I ate out a lot (probably spent way too much money) and felt pretty gross after not eating at home for days. I missed my knife and cutting board, and fresh vegetables. I then realized that this city lacks in quick eateries that focus on healthy yet delicious food. Sure, there are many bakeries in every corner with ready-made bread rolls smeared with remoulade sauce (why? why always the remoulade??), some bland cheese or ham, and sad, limp pieces of lettuce. Or there are plenty of packed salads consisting of (again) sad looking iceberg lettuce, tasteless tomatoes, chopped ham, and canned corn (eeeek) , and you can choose from yogurt dressing, balsamic dressing, or some unidentifiable “herb” dressing in a packet. But I wish there was a sandwich place where you could order what goes in your roll or sandwich, and they are freshly made. Ready made salad would be fine by me if these places would have some variations. A good friend from LA sent a picture of a ready-made salad that he bought from Trader Joe’s. What was in the picture were the followings; Lemon chicken&rocket salad, Roasted butternut squash, red quinoa, and wheatberry salad, and Kale&edamame salad. Seriously? You wouldn’t even find these kinds of salads in most cafes here. Needless to say, I was very jealous. And let me stress that these pre-packaged salads weren’t from some fancy-shmancy gourmet supermarket. Humph.

Anyways. Enough complaining. Life is still great even if I can’t buy pre-packaged kale salads. 🙂 After craving vietnamese Banh Mi sandwich one day, and not wanting to make yet another marinaded tofu for the protein filling, I came up with these little balls. They are packed with protein, punchy herbs, lemongrass, allium, and chili. You can freeze these babies once they are shaped, and take them out whenever you feel like a Banh Mi. (see recipe note). Enjoy!

Banh Mi Sandwich with Tempeh-Brown Rice Balls

Recipe note: To freeze these balls, shape them, then put them on a plate, slightly apart, and place the plate in the freezer for an hour. After that, remove the balls and pack them into a ziplock bag. To re-heat, brush them with oil, and bake them in the oven in 180 celsius degrees for about 30 mins, turning a couple of times in between.

Serves 3-4

For the quick pickles,

250ml rice vinegar

2.5 Tbsp Sugar

1 tsp salt

1/2 tsp chili powder

8 pink radishes, sliced finely

1 medium carrot, julienned

For the tempeh-rice balls,

140g tempeh, cut into cubes

2 tsp coconut oil or canola oil

5 small shallots

2 lemongrass, 6cm of the root, tough outer layers removed, and finely chopped

1 thumbnail sized ginger, finely minced

2 large clove garlic, finely minced

1 hot chili

1 large handful coriander

1 small handful mint leaves

1 egg

2 tsp soy sauce

A pinch of salt

1/2 tsp palm sugar (grated if necessary)

6 Tbsp breadcrumbs

100g cooked short-grain brown rice, cold or at room temperature (*scroll down to the bottom for the recipe)

2 Tbsp coconut oil or rapeseed oil, for frying

For the sauce,

2 Tbsp mayonnaise

1 Tbsp lime juice

2 tsp (or more) sriracha hot sauce

1/2 Tbsp-1 Tbsp soy sauce

To serve,

2 baguettes

A small handful of the following,

-Coriander leaves

-Mint leaves

-Thai basil leaves

Sriracha or other Asian hot sauce

1. First of all, make the quick pickle. In a jar, dissolve the first four ingredients until the sugar and salt are dissolved. Add the radishes and carrots and mix to combine. Leave in the fridge for 30mins-1hour to pickle.

2. Bring a small pot of water to the boil. Add the tempeh cubes and simmer for about 5-7 mins. Drain well.

3. Heat the coconut oil in a small frying pan over medium-high heat. Add the shallots, garlic, ginger, chili, and lemongrass. Fry until fragrant and soft. Transfer to a food processor.

4. Add the tempeh cubes, soy sauce, the herbs, egg, salt, palm sugar, and breadcrumbs to the food processor. Pulse 6-8 times to combine and break down the tempeh. Add the brown rice and pulse quickly to combine, scraping the sides in between. Add a bit more breadcrumbs if the dough seems too wet.

5. With wet hands, form little balls about the size of pingpong balls. Place them on a large plate. Cover, and refrigerate for 1 hour for them to firm up.

6. Whisk all the ingredients for the sauce. Set aside.

7. Heat the coconut oil in a large frying pan over medium-high heat. Fry the balls, without crowding the pan, until they are golden all over.

8. To assemble the sandwich, cut the baguette in half and slice it lengthwise but not all the way. Smear some of the sauce on both sides. Lay the herbs, pickles, and the tempeh balls. Add some hot sauce on top if you like. Close the baguette. Enjoy!

*How to cook short-grain brown rice (“Rundkorn Naturreis” in German. You can find it at organic supermarkets or sometimes at DM)

1 cup short-grain brown rice (soaked for 4-8 hours, if possible)

1.5 cups water

In a saucepan with fitting lid, bring the rice and water to the boil. Turn down the heat to low, and steam the rice for 30-40mins until the rice is tender, and has absorbed all the water. Remove the pan from the heat. Let it stand for 5 mins before fluffing the rice with fork.