Tag Archives: Picnic

Quinoa tahini-mint salad-2

All the Good Stuff Quinoa Salad with Tahini-Mint Dressing and Za’atar

Serves 3-4

 Quinoa tahini-mint salad


I know when you write a food blog you’re supposed to have this whole story behind what you make, like the mystical journey of a pea that was destined to become bruschetta or something, but honestly, that is rarely the case for me. When I do my grocery shopping, 90% of the time I just buy what’s fresh and cheap with no idea what I’m going to make with any of it. I then get hungry, open the fridge and throw something together.

If I’m inspired by something, it will usually be the memory of a dish I’ve eaten before, or something I see on a restaurant menu that sounds good but that I’m too stingy to pay for. And so, it often happens that I have a recipe all ready to post, but nothing interesting to say about it apart from ‘this is yummy’. Sometimes I sit in front of the computer for an hour thinking about what to say and then give up. Sometimes things aren’t particularly special and are just straight up, honest good food that taste great and that’s the end of the story.

This is one of those dishes and one of those days. Loosely inspired by the Monkey Salad at Israeli street food joint Tahina, this is easy, yummy and filling but light enough for the scorching hot days we’re having at the moment. So yeah. Here it is.


1 cup quinoa, washed well

1 small head broccoli cut into florets (around 3 cups). Use the stalk too, it’s the best part

1/2 head cauliflower cut into florets (around 3 cups)

1 large sweet potato, peeled and cut into 1.5cm cubes

Kernels from two fresh cobs sweetcorn

1/2 tsp paprika

1/4 tsp chilli powder

Pinch ground cumin

Olive oil as needed

A few pinches za’atar


Scant 1/4 cup tahini (the runny, pouring consistency kind)

Juice of 1 lemon (just less than 1/4 cup/around 45ml)

1/4 cup water

Big handful fresh mint leaves, finely chopped

Large tsp rice malt syrup

Salt and pepper to taste


1. Preheat oven to 220C. Place the sweet potato onto a tray and drizzle generously with olive oil. Toss through a pinch of salt and some black pepper. Place in the oven and bake until nice and soft and a little bit caramelly on the edges, around 30 minutes.

Place the cauliflower onto a baking tray and drizzle with olive oil. Don’t be too stingy with the oil. Mix the paprika, chilli and cumin together with a pinch of salt and toss through the cauliflower until well combined. Move to one side of the tray in a single layer. Toss the broccoli with a drizzle of olive oil and a pinch of salt and place on the other side of the tray. Roast until the edges are nice and toasty, around 20 minutes.

Set veggies aside to cool.

2. Meanwhile, place the quinoa into a saucepan with 1 3/4 cups water and a pinch of salt. Bring to the boil, stir and reduce heat to low/  a very gently simmer until the water has been absorbed. Stir, cover with paper towel and a lid and leave for 10 minutes. Remove lid and paper towel and fluff with a fork. It should be perfect.

3. Heat a little oil in a pan and throw in the corn. Cook until they start to brown. Set aside

4. Mix all dressing ingredients together in a bowl. You’re going to want to mix the lemon juice into the tahini first, then gradually add the water mixing well after each addition to avoid lumps. If it’s too thick add more water as needed. Stir in the remaining ingredients.

5. Toss the veggies and quinoa together in a large bowl/platter. You can serve this warm, at room temperature or cold, so whatever tickles your fancy. Drizzle with the dressing or serve it separately at the table. Sprinkle with za’atar and serve.

leek asparagus tart

Braised Leek and Asparagus Tart with Polenta Crust

I’m back in the cooking mood! After feeling a bit kitchen-lazy the last couple of weeks, I got back into the swing of things yesterday while helping the amazing ladies from Las Vegan and Big Sky to cater the Animal Activists’ Forum social. It was a fun day making canapés, actually my favourite kind of food to make. So much fun in fact that while I was laying awake all night as I always seem to do, I found myself writing a list of everything in the fridge and pantry, and scribbling down ideas for new dishes. I came up with a dozen new canapé ideas before I got onto the practical ideas, because while my brain is always very awake when I should be sleeping, it’s rarely helpful.

This recipe came to me around 5am as I was getting hungry for breakfast, and made it to the top of the list because I wanted to go for a picnic today. A perfect warm and sunny spring day, the birds were singing and the air smelled of flowers. And polenta tarts are perfect for picnics; they are best at room temperature, they are sturdy and travel well (once cut into pieces), and you don’t have to worry about keeping them in the fridge. Hooray! Plus they are gluten free, which is excellent, because most of my favourite picnic foods revolve around the bread I can no longer eat.

Of course, in typical Melbourne fashion by the time the tart came out of the oven a thunderstorm had rolled in. Bye bye picnic. It was sad times, until I ate this tart, then I was very happy again. This tart might be great for picnics, but it’s just as delicious when you eat it inside. It’s great for a rustic brunch or lunch or at a BBQ. It would also fit well into an Italian restaurant style antipasti plate (where each diner is served an individual tasting plate of 3-5 antipasti).


2 large leeks (mine were very large, if in doubt use 3)

3 bunches of asparagus (approx 21 spears), woody ends snapped off

5 large cloves garlic, roughly chopped

A couple of sprigs of fresh rosemary

1 bay leaf

1 cup vegetable stock

1/2 cup water

1/2 cup vegan parmesan

Olive oil for cooking

Salt and pepper to taste

For the crust

1 cup polenta (aka cornmeal)

4 cups water

A generous pinch of salt and a little more for good measure

2 tbsp olive oil

1/3 cup vegan parmesan


1. Make the crust

Line a rimmed baking tray with baking paper

Bring the 4 cups water, the salt and the oil to the boil in a medium saucepan. Add the polenta to the boiling water while whisking. Reduce the heat to medium-low and continue to whisk until the mixture thickens. Switch to a wooden spoon and continue cooking over a low heat until thick and creamy, approx 20-30 minutes. Remove from the heat and beat in the vegan parmesan. Check salt and adjust if necessary.

Pour the polenta onto the tray and spread into a rectangle approx 30 x 20cm. Try to concentrate more of the mixture at the edges if you can, but make sure the middle is 1 to 1.5cm thick. Leave to cool and set a few minutes, then form a crust by pinching up the edges. Leave to set 30 minutes (or longer, you can make this in advance).

2. Preheat the oven to 200C/190C fan forced

3. Remove the tough dark green leaves from the leeks (but keep the light green parts). Cut the leeks in half, then slice lengthwise 5mm thick. Wash very well. Heat a generous splash of olive oil in a heavy frying pan over medium heat and add the leeks. Sauté until softened and starting to brown a little, then add the rosemary, bay leaf, stock and water. Stir to deglaze, then cover with a lid. Allow to braise until all the liquid has absorbed and the leeks are meltingly soft. Remove from the heat and stir in the parmesan. Keep stirring until you have creamy dip like mixture. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

3. Place the set polenta crust into the oven and bake 20 minutes to crisp up. Remove from the oven and spread the leek mixture evenly over the top. Place the asparagus spears on top, pressing them in a little. Brush with a little olive oil and season with a little salt and pepper. Return to the oven for another 20 -25 minutes, or until the asparagus spears are nice and tender and the polenta crust is nice and crispy.

4. Remove from the oven and leave to cool at least 10 minutes. Use the baking paper to lift the tart onto a serving board and let cool to lukewarm before slicing. This tart is best served at room temperature. Garnish with a little fresh parsley and a squeeze of lemon juice before serving, if desired.