Buy the ebook of Tropical Cuisine

By , January 22, 2015

The ebook versions of Tropical Cuisine: Cooking in Clare’s Kitchen are available on the iTunes, Google Play and Kindle stores for US$2.99 – click on the links below to purchase:




Always have Tropical Cuisine with you when you’re shopping, or taking a break at work and wondering what to cook for dinner!


New directions

By , November 28, 2014

My work in food systems has moved forward into new territory through the period where my blogging here has gone quiet!  I have been working with communities on issues around localising food systems, developing greater awareness and uptake of locally appropriate food plants, developing local food security priorities, and developing cross-sector strategies to implementing changes in the food system.

Stay tuned for further news and a new website reflecting this whole-of-system work on changing our food system to something that is fairer and more sustainable.



Kimberley, WA

By , January 6, 2014

At very short notice I have some work which is taking me to the Kimberley Western Australia until the end of August.  I am looking forward to being back on pindan country (pindan is the local name for the deep red soil and also the type of bush growing on it), seeing old friends and hopefully finally learning how to throw a cast net!  More news soon.

Shared Sufficiency

By , February 3, 2013


I was pondering how what I aspire to is not really self-sufficiency, as I am not a mower of lawns and don’t aspire to be a keeper of goats or anything larger than a dog or chooks, when I had a Eureka moment and came up with the term shared sufficiency.

I then thought I’d best Google it before I started crowing about coming up with such a perfect descriptor, to find that the fabulous folks of Putney, amongst others, beat me to it.

Oh well, they seem like a wonderful crew, and the term pops up regularly on the Transition Putney website, where they are using it particularly in relation to energy use and production.

I like the term in its broadest sense, applied to all aspects of life.  To me it implies that we do not need to be islands of pure Calvinist self-containment, but can be well catered for, live in an entirely sufficient way, in a concert of complementary creation, production and sharing with others.  It’s far closer to what ye olde community life used to be like and what progressively more individuals and communities are re-embracing in movements such as the Transition Towns movement; the reassertion of local government rights and regional or locally oriented economies (here’s one example); and the rise and rise and rise of the local, slow and real food movements, including the concept of food rights (see here for the Wikipedia overview, and here for a website focused on the right to informed food choices and accurate labelling).

There is a very good dose of many of the sentiments of this range of movements up here in Cook Shire, much of which has been guiding people’s lives long before these movements formed themselves over the last decades.   That should not be a surprise to me or anyone really, given the isolated nature of this part of the world, and the sheer necessity, even these days, of being able to make do, adapt, share and assist each other to keep yourself and the community ticking along.

Long dirt roads that disintegrate into raging rocky torrents or impassible mud slides in heavy, consistent rain mean periods of isolation from both the surrounding region and the greater nation have always been a regular event.  And if the rains don’t come, those same roads eventually disintegrate into heavily corrugated bumper rides that threaten to knock our your suspension and send you careening sideways into the forest.

So here, local really make sense, even though the arms of global economic practices and nationalised distribution systems entwine us as much as most places.   Adaptive, recycling, repurposing strategies abound, and are reflected in the low rate of useful things turning up at the tip (they don’t get there, having already found another home or purpose) and the enthusiastic attendance at garage sales and auctions.


Nasi Ulam

By , November 18, 2012

Nasi Ulam, a Malay style rice salad, is the dish I created when Queensland Weekender visited Cooktown recently.

Nasi Ulam

I love the balance of the mild nuttiness of plump brown rice and the intense kaleidoscope of herbal flavours in this dish.  It is fabulous served with grilled fish which is how we’ll be eating it tonight (see my previous post here).

My favourite herbs to combine in this dish are wild pepper leaf (Piper sarmentosum) also called betel leaf; long leaf coriander (Eryngium foetidum); kaffir lime leaves; rice paddy herb (Limnophila aromatica); common mint; Thai basil; garlic chives; gotu kola (Centella asiatica) and maybe some Vietnamese mint.

Two of my staple ingredients: wild pepper leaf and long leaf coriander

It is the sort of dish that does not have strict guidlines – just roll up a balance of whatever Asian herbs you have in your garden or from the markets and chop them finely.  The key thing is to use LOTS of herbs, as this is a herb salad, not a rice salad with a sprinkle of herbs!

I do also like to add a bit of something crunchy, diced really finely and often that will be the smaller stems of whatever is in the garden – Italian parsley, Gai Lan, mustard greens stems, snake beans, Chinese celery or jicama (also called yam bean).  A dash of fresh lime juice and good quality fish sauce add the final touch.

This is a vegetarian (almost, if you omit the fish sauce) version of the Malay classic, which usually includes shredded dried fish and/or shrimps.

I have some fresh coconut today which I’ve toasted and used, but on the filming day for Queensland Weekender we didn’t have it and the dish is great without – it just adds another nutty element to the salad.  Another common garnish is crumbled peanuts.

For those of us who live in the tropics and can grow such things at home, turmeric, young cashew, kencur (Alpinia officinarum ), cosmos (Cosmos caudatus), or young Tenggek Burung (Melicope denhamii or ptelefolia) leaves may also be added as well as finely diced lemongrass stalks and torch ginger flower. The rice can also be flavoured while cooking with one or two knotted pandan leaves.

Here it is!

Nasi Ulam


1/3 cup shredded coconut, toasted and roughly ground (optional)

I cup raw brown rice, cooked and cooled

1 cup very finely shredded herbs – a mix of any of the following:

common mint

Vietnamese mint

wild pepper leaf

long leaf coriander

rice paddy herb

gotu kola

Thai basil

Kaffir lime leaves

Chinese celery or Italian parsley

1/2 cup finely diced red onion or shallots (1/3-1/2 red onion or 2-3 red shallots)

2 tablespoons fresh lime juice

2 tablespoons fish sauce

1/2 to 1 teaspoon coconut palm sugar (optional)

Cook the brown rice.  I use a rice cooker with 2 cups water to one cup brown rice.  When cooked, remove and spread out to cool, forking lightly every few minutes to help cool and keep grains separate.

Gently toast the shredded coconut in a dry pan until golden, then place into a mortar and bash until roughly ground.  Put aside to cool down.

Mix the cooled brown rice with the finely diced red onion or shallots and finely chopped herbs.  Mix the fish sauce and lime juice and taste – adjust so that the balance of salty and tart is right.  This will vary according to the saltiness of the fish sauce brand you’re using.  Add a little grated coconut sugar if needed, 1/2 a teaspoon at a time, just enough to mellow the salty/sour flavours a little (but not too much!).  Dress salad a tablespoon at a time until just moistened.  Top with toasted coconut and serve.

© Clare Richards 2012

Panorama Theme by Themocracy