Friday, September 14, 2012

Discovering Quinoa

I'm not sure where I read it now, but a while back I came across an article online talking about quinoa.  Pronounced "keen-wah", the article claimed that the seed, often treated like a grain, was almost considered a super food, with better stuff in it than your average cereals. What also fascinated me in this particular article was the mention that quinoa was the sacred food of the Inca's - so much so that when the Christians arrived they banned the growing of the plant, forcing the Inca's to grow wheat instead.

Have you ever noticed how once you're thinking about something new, it starts to pop up everywhere? All of a sudden I was watching a cooking show on TV, to hear of a quinoa based patty being used in a tasty looking veggie burger. It seemed quinoa was cropping up everywhere! So I decided to hunt down some of my own and give it a try.

Now I know you can buy the stuff from major supermarkets, but you'll find that it's probably sourced from South America. I don't have a problem with eating imported foods (most of the time) but I prefer to eat local (or at least Australian) when I can, so a quick google found me the only Tasmanian producers of quinoa - Kindred Organics.  Kindred is a small area tucked up in the countryside of North West Tasmania, a blink-and-you'll-miss-it spot of rolling pasture, old farm houses, and roads that see more tractors than traffic. Stoked to find not only local quinoa, but organic as well, I scoped out where to buy it and put it on my 'to do list'.  Clearly thinking with intent brings about manifestation into this life, because only days later I'd head to the amazing Laneway Cafe in Devonport for a fab breakky, to find Kindred Organics quinoa sitting on the counter in bags for sale!

The recipe I chose to use is a pretty simple one - I wanted a plain recipe so I could experience the flavour of the quinoa without it being swamped by other flavours ("put the sweet chilli sauce away Jess..."). I also thought I'd do a step by step of my cooking so you know what you're in for if you'd like to give this Inca superfood a try for yourself!

Quinoa Salad

Olive Oil
Flat leaf parsley

Now I haven't put amounts on here becuase it really depends on your personal taste. Fresh is always best but bottled lemon juice and dried parsley would probably work the same, although if I didn't have fresh parsley I'd substitute with something like fresh mint before heading to the dried herb section.

Okay, so quinoa has a bitter coating on it, that keeps the seeds nice and safe when they're in the wild. First step is to give it a bit of a rinse to get this off. The stuff from the supermarket has probably had this step done already, but I'd do it again just to make sure.

I used a sieve and a pot of water, swirling the quinoa around in the sieve with my hand and through the water.  The water turns cloudy, like my poor iPhone pic will show you, and after about 4 rinses the water ends up pretty clear.

Next, time to cook! I cooked it just like rice - about 1cm of water above the quinoa in the pot, bring to the boil then turn down to half until "crab holes" appear and the seeds are soft. Kinda like this:

You can see that the seeds end up having two parts - a squishy, part, and a curly seed part. Someone who knows a lot more about plants than me (which isn't hard!) would be able to tell you what these bits are exactly, but all I know is that it's all edible.

Okay, so it can't be a salad with only one ingredient, so while my quinoa was cooking away I prepared the other parts! Chop stuff up to the size you prefer.

Then pile the quinoa into a bowl...

And mix through the rest, and voila!

"Now wait a minute" I hear you think. "The recipe says lemon yet I spy LIME in those pictures!" - ah-HAH! You would be correct, Beady-Eyed One. And you know what that was?

Stolen from here.
A big freaken mistake. TRUST ME. This salad needs the zing of the lemon, and not the zang of the lime. Woops. Thing was, the shop had limes but not lemons, and I was too lazy to go and steal a lemon from the neighbours...

Anyway, the overall taste is pretty good - you gotta approach it not expecting it to taste like rice or couscous or whatever. It has a nutty aftertaste, and I have to say I dig it. I reckon this recipe would be good with some lamb and minted natural yoghurt - or maybe something chickeny. The Kindred Organics website have some pretty good recipies too!

So, if you like your grainy type things, grab some quinoa sometime and give it a try! And let me know what you create! If you're already a quinoa fan, I'd love to hear about how you cook it.


Sunday, September 9, 2012

What did the cheese say when it looked in the mirror? Hallou-mi!

Did you know that I'm a fan of terrible puns and very bad jokes? Well.... you do now! I'm also a fan of cheese (who isn't?! weirdos, that's who) and it surprises me how many people have never heard or tried halloumi. Who are these people I keep spending my time with?! Honestly.

For those that don't know, halloumi is a cheese traditionally made from unpasteurised goat and/or sheep milk.  It's most unique quality is its very high melt point. It's a cheese that you can cook, fry, chuck on the BBQ, and use in a lot of ways that cheese usually isn't good for. It's also known as squeaky cheese, because its kind of noisy when you eat it. Half the fun if you ask me!

You can buy it from the shops in the same section you can find pre-packaged feta, but I prefer to purchase it from Farm Gate Market when Elgaar Farm are in town, because its local, organic, from a fantastic business, and as an added bonus it is given to you after being plucked from a very attractive ceramic vessel by a very friendly dude! 

Halloumi has been around for a long time, originating from Cypress, where it was kept in vats of its own juices with mint leaves as a preservative. The local stuff is mint free, but I'm sure the addition of mint makes it very tasty.

As my lovely man is a cheese lover, it would be wrong not to introduce him to halloumi... I'm sure it will be a favourite from now on!

Jar Potential

Pantry plastics are expensive. You might not realise this. Perhaps your pantry is full of various containers you've collected over the years, inherited, purchased, gifted, forced upon you at the last Tupperware party you couldn't avoid... or maybe you're the sort of person who worries little for containers, and you simply leave things in their original packets (and the lucky ones get a rubber band or peg to keep the contents in check). 

The more I begin to stock my pantry, and more I realise how I must have left my pantry containers behind... and how damn expensive they are when you need to buy a lot. And I'm not sure about you, but I just know that the dodgy ones at the cheapo shops just don't cut it!

When I started my new job, it was no surprise that everyone drinks a metric shittonne of coffee. But what surprised me was, the kitchen cupboards were full of old coffee jars! It didn't take long for me to find no-one was keeping them for a particular reason, and bowerbird-Jess didn't hesitate to whisk them home.

Never ending Jars....
Thankfully Moccona make great jars for storage - these ones fit about 2 litres of stuff, have strong, air tight seals, and being glass they are much nicer looking than plastic. Also, knowing I'm giving these guys a new life and keeping them out of landfill makes me happy :)

I know they don't look like much now, but I'm inspired by the beautiful pantries I see online, all neat and tidy with everything sweetly labelled and all matchy matchy... 

"It will be mine....." *for free!*

Friday, September 7, 2012

Proud as Punch

Can you see how pretty my blog is now? Eh? EHHHH!?!?!? 

You have no idea how proud I am of this small, insignificant, everyone-on-the-interwebs-does-it-so-what's-the-big-deal achievement. I finally worked out how to be less generic. Horay!

I may even get all fancy and change it seasonally. Sothere.

Monday, September 3, 2012

First signs of Spring

As a pagan, I don't dare dream of the coming of spring until the festival of Imbolc comes around. Imbolc is the coming of the Spring - the green amongst the snow, the glow of the coming dawn upon the horizon. At Imbolc, we acknowledge that despite Jack Frost having a firm hold upon us, that hold is weakening - the back of winter is broken, and we can now start to look forward to Spring.  This year, Imbolc feels very real to me. Like a new tree, I've been shipped about and plonked into my new hole over the winter. Now I've decided the ground I'm on seems pretty good, and my roots have settled just a little, I feel confident enough to sprout some new growth, plan for the future, and branch out a little into my new environment, and my new home. 

I'm enjoying looking for signs of Spring in my garden as well. For a moment there I thought the old man had a thing against flowers and bulbs, but perhaps no garden can exist without at least a couple of daffodils, so I'm pleased to find a couple of different types in my garden.

I also have a mystery ring of bulbs appearing near the meter box - care to guess what they are?

I'm also excited to see blossoms on my beloved apricot tree! I said to my lovely man, "I'm tempted to count how many flowers there are so I know how many apricots I'll be getting this summer!" to which he replied "do the flowers to turn into fruit?" *snort* 

I'm still fascinated by being able to see the mountain - some days it wears a coat of snow, other days it's hiding amongst mist and clouds. Some mornings it catches the sunrise and glows pink and purple. Even of a night you can tell its shape of blackness against an almost black sky. 

Have I shown you my strawberry patch before? It fruited from the time I moved in right through to the end of Autumn! I'm a bit puzzled about what I'm to do with it though - I noticed some of the fruit were nibbled on by centipiedes, and I'm not really sure if it needs "maintenance" before the fruit season. Any ideas?

And this is the site for my veggie patch! The shed should protect the plants from the wind, and it faces East so gets sun for most of the day. I'm planning on pulling out half the bushes, and once I feel I can handle one half, do the other half later on. I'm looking forward to making this part of my garden much more useful than a heap of ground covers!