Something to stew...

A little bit of this and a little bit of that...that's all it takes to make a flavourful and delicious stew for your next dinner. The only effort this fragrant seafood stew requires is a trip to the nearest fish market or seafood counter.
When cooking with seafood it not only makes a huge difference to buy it as fresh as possible but also to cook it as fast as possible. In this particular stew I used fresh king prawns (a favourite here in Australia), black mussels and squid. In addition to the salty and briny flavours of the sea, I added some classic aromatic accompaniments like plenty of white wine, chopped garlic, fresh and tinned tomatoes, a touch of chilli and handfuls of herbs such as bay, fresh lemon thyme, rosemary and basil.  
The key to this dish is to let things stew - but not the seafood! Sounds funny, I know. First cook everything except for the seafood together on a slow heat, stir the pot a little and then, when all the tastes have come together you add the star.  Fresh prawns, mussels and squid cook in just a few minutes and they don't need any more handling than that. Follow the recipe and you'll have perfectly cooked seafood every time! So lovely and delicious...

fragrant seafood stew
serves 4

1 tbsp olive oil
3 shallots, chopped
3 cloves of garlic, peeled and chopped
2 bay leaves
1 sprig of rosemary
2 sprigs of lemon thyme
1 punnet cherry tomatoes, halved
1 tin of tomatoes (use a good brand if you can!)
1 cup white wine
1 red chilli, seeds removed and chopped
1 tsp sugar
sea salt and cracked black pepper
water (about 1/2-1 cup)
6 large prawns (like king prawns or similar), cleaned
8-10 large mussels, scrubbed
1 squid (cleaned, skinned and sliced into pieces)
handful basil leaves
fresh lemons, quartered

Place a large pot on medium heat and once hot add oil, shallots and stir for a few minutes. Then add garlic, bay leaves, rosemary and thyme.  Sweat for about 5-10 minutes and then add tomatoes and white wine. While simmering add chopped chilli, sugar, salt and pepper to taste. At this point add some water because it will evaporate while cooking. Let stew for about 20-30 minutes on a low heat and add a bit more water if too dry. At this point increase heat to medium and place seafood in - prawns first - let cook 1-2 minutes with lid on, then stir in mussels and squid, place lid on pot.  Wait just a few minutes until mussels are open.  Turn off the heat and serve right away in bowls with fresh basil leaves and a quick drizzle of olive oil to mellow things out- serve with fresh bread and lemon.

*credit: stoneware bowls in grey (with prawns) and green (with basil) by Golden Brown Fox Ceramics.

A nutty day.

Quinoa (pronounced 'keen-wah') is considered a superfood. While I can't speak much on the reasons why this is the case, I can tell you that quinoa is actually an ancient seed and that it's quite delicious too.   It's packed with protein and a perfect substitute for folks with wheat and gluten allergies. I know it's on the list of many healthy food eaters but even the more indulgent eaters of the world would love this dish.
Combining simple ingredients - toasted quinoacrunchy raw almonds, fresh vegetables like red capsicum, cherry tomatoes and cucumbers, along with sweet sultanas and fragrant fresh mint leaves - make this quinoa dish the perfect lunch. I won't leave out the dressing: made with a touch of garlic, extra virgin olive oil, lemon, balsamic and a touch of honey and chilli - it's the best accompaniment to bring out all the flavours of the food.
Make this tonight and leave in the fridge for tomorrow's lunch - a great way to get something simple, fresh and delicious onto your plate. Enjoy!

nutty quinoa salad
makes 3-4 servings

3/4 cup quinoa 
1/4 cup raw almonds, chopped roughly
1 small cucumber, quartered and chopped
1 small red capsicum, chopped
1/2 pint cherry tomatoes, chopped 
1/4 cup organic sultanas/raisins
1/2 bunch fresh mint leaves, torn

1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
1 small garlic clove, crushed
1.5 tsp dijon mustard
1/4 lemon, juiced
1 tbsp balsamic vinegar
1/2 tsp crushed dried chillies 
good pinch sea salt and fresh pepper

To make quinoa: place medium size pot on medium heat - add washed quinoa grains and stir consistently until grains become toasted (about 5-7 minutes, depending on heat). Once toasted, add almonds and enough water to cover quinoa. As quinoa cooks, keep adding a little bit of water at a time (about 1/3 cup) until fully cooked. Let cool.
While cooking quinoa, in a separate bowl mix vegetables, sultanas and mint. Make dressing by combining all ingredients (garlic is meant to impart flavour to the dressing, discard after letting it sit for a few minutes). Once quinoa is cooled, mix all elements together and adjust seasoning. Eat right away or place into fridge for a great lunch the next day!