During our trip to Sydney, we made the most of the warm weather to take in the harbour and beaches. When the sun shines, Sydney sparkles in vivid colour, and there’s just something about the warm, humid sea breeze.
Living in the gastronomic capital of France ensures we are surrounded by amazing food, and a seemingly endless collection of new things to try. Still, there are things I miss that are hard to come by in France. So, our trip to Australia became something of a gastronomic event. This was not fine dining gastronomy, it was simple pleasures, mostly enjoyed outdoors.
To start our visit, my parents organised a barbeque. Sausages, steak, chicken wings, and a collection of salads contributed by various family members were all enjoyed in the backyard. The beer, wine, and conversation flowed freely. And it was finished off with my Mum’s signature pavlova.
Our visit to Sydney coincided perfectly with the flowering of the Jacaranda trees. For most of the year, these trees blend into the surrounding greenery, but for a few weeks each spring they are crowned in purple flowers.
The streets of Sydney are full of Jacarandas. I’ve always loved the Jacaranda tree in my grandparents’ front garden and the one in my university courtyard, but I’ve never noticed just how prevalent they are. Every time I looked out the window, there seemed to be one in view.
The flowers will soon carpet the ground below, to be replaced by new leaves, and the Jacarandas will fade quietly into the background again.
Our local market was abundant with new produce this week. Amongst the seasonal offerings, there was an array of fruit and vegetables that I have never seen before.
One of these new discoveries is kaki. The shiny orange-apricot coloured globes caught my eye as we passed one of our regular stalls. When I asked the vendor if it was a fruit, he picked one up and sliced a piece off for me to try. The instantly sweet, complex flavour compelled me to buy some. It was only as we walked away with the bag of kaki in hand that the sweetness was replaced with a peculiar, dry sensation.
Happily, after a couple of days sitting on our kitchen table, they seem to have lost their dry aftertaste, and the flavour is a mix between melon, apple, and some tropical fruit I can’t pinpoint.
It was a couple of years ago that I first started to hear about quinoa. Almost overnight it seemed to be everywhere; recipes were popping up on the blogs I follow, and my colleagues were talking about what they’d made for dinner with it.
This little grain seems to have a long list of nutritional benefits, and I was curious to try it. However, it was always on the pricey side in Australia, and I didn’t get around to it.
So when I saw quinoa in the health food store recently, next to the brown rice we had gone in to buy, I decided to get some and finally try it out.
I had a few quinoa recipes I’d collected from trusted sources that I was excited to try. But I was disappointed. I was always left with a mushy-crunchy concoction sitting in a puddle of excess water that I needed to drain. The meals weren’t bad, it just felt like a lot of unnecessary hassle when cous cous could produce better results for a fraction of the time and work.
The quinoa went back in the cupboard, where it sat neglected for many weeks. One day, it occurred to me that maybe I should try cooking it in the steamer. We use the steamer to cook rice and cous cous, so why not quinoa as well?
The first attempt produced no better results than the saucepan methods I’d tried. The quinoa was still left sitting in water that I needed to drain at the end of the cooking time.
For the next attempt, I reduced the amount of water I put in with the quinoa. When the timer went off to tell me the cooking time was up, the results didn’t look promising, it still looked like a soggy mess. I was in the middle of something else at that point, and didn’t have time to deal with all those tiny grains and a colander, so I put the lid back on, and left it for a while. When I came back, it had magically transformed itself; it had absorbed all the remaining water, and become light, fluffy little bubbles that almost pop as you eat them.
Quinoa, it seems, cannot be hurried. For quick and easy meals, I still turn to cous cous. But the quinoa is no longer relegated to the back of my cupboard.
- Rinse the quinoa well and drain it.
- Put the quinoa into the rice bowl of your steamer, and add a little less water than quinoa. I use about 1/2 cup of water for 3/4 cup of quinoa.
- Steam for 15 minutes. Turn off the steamer and let it sit for 10 minutes.