Quinoa is something that I’ve been meaning to cook for quite a while. About ten years, in fact, ever since I read Nigel Slater‘s Real Fast Food. He has several recipes for this protein-packed ancient grain and, as with all his writings, I was seduced by the delicious descriptions. Not seduced enough, however, to seek it out in Ireland but, since arriving in New Zealand, I’ve come across it on several occasions. Eventually, an article in Cuisine led me to buy some from Piko which…just sat in the pantry until an inquiry about it from the Boyfriend’s mother made me decide that it was time to actually try cooking it instead of admiring it every time I opened the door of the pantry.
Anyone who knows me is well aware of the fact that I do not like potatoes. I am not a fan of the mashed potato, nor do I like boiled potatoes, potato cakes, potato croquettes, potato salad, baked potatoes or potato gratin. I avoid any dish which involves the word aloo in Indian restaurants and I don’t like potatoes even if they are disguised as Shepherds Pie or hash browns or slipped into a soup or stew. In short, you may say, that I detest the common spud. The only two potato-based products that I do eat are chips, not wedges (too potato-y), and crisps, preferably Tayto Cheese & Onion, although I also have a sneaking, if unpatriotic, fondness for Walkers Ready Salted crisps.
Bread is very important to me. I love it fresh, I love it stale and ready for toasting, l love it with cheese, I love it in particular – fresh or toasted – with good salty butter. I love the way it mops up your plate after you’ve had a particularly tasty tomato pasta dish. I love the yeasty smell from the breadmaker as it cooks yet another loaf of homemade bread. I love making my own Brown Soda Bread and, most importantly, eating it. In short, I can’t fathom a life without bread. That was why it was so important, after I moved to Christchurch – before the coming of the breadmaker – to find a local source of decent bread. The only time I ever use slice pan or a sliced loaf from the supermarket is when I’m temping and need something quick and easy to make my sandwiches for lunch. But it’s not something that I’d chose as part of my normal daily life.
I’ve always been a lover of peas, beans and lentils – things that are cheap and can be turned into something delicious without too much effort. But, in Ireland, a hectic schedule prevented me from really getting involved with these in their dried form. Instead I had to content myself with their tinned equivalents which, although not hugely expensive, do prevent you from using them with too much abandon. Since coming to New Zealand, however, and discovering that dried peas, beans and lentils are readily available through the Bin Inn chain and also through the self-serve bins in all supermarkets, I’ve been putting them to good use.
I think that my interest in the Mexican combination of chocolate and chilli may have been originally sparked from watching the film adaptation of Laura Esquivel’s Like Water For Chocolate in college. The fire of chilli and the dark richness of chocolate seems, to me, to be a rather good combination. The Chocolate and Chilli Biscotti I picked up recently to accompany my flat white (coffee) at the Underground Coffee Company Café in Christchurch was a good example of this and put my mind musing over other ways I could use chocolate and chilli together.