A better kind of lemon chicken

One of the joys of Canberra is the four distinct seasons, and of all of them Autumn is my favourite. Although this summer wasn’t as bakingly hot as it has been for the last couple of years, it was still hot enough that I’m enjoying the beginnings of briskness in the mornings and snuggling in a warm bed at night.

If you try to eat seasonally, particularly if you grow some of your own food, Autumn is the best time of year. I live in a cul-de-sac of eleven houses, four of which have veggie gardens, and it’s quite common to see someone or other ambling across the road with a handful (or a box) of excess produce. It was our turn last week, when our neighbour Kev dropped in with two lovely early butternut pumpkins from his patch. I’m hoping for some figs, as our tree is tiny. It’s one of three in this street and the next grown from a cutting from No. 8′s magnificent tree.

One of the best arrivals with the cooler weather is lemons. Meyer lemons seem to be the most commonly grown variety locally because they tolerate cold fairly well, but I spotted the first fresh thin-skinned Eurekas of the year at Choku Bai Jo last week. While they’re very common and often cold-stored to sell over the summer, freshness really brings out their appetising sharpness. I love their colour too which is more “lemony” than intensely yellow.

 
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The law of diminishing returns

A few days ago we went to stay with my old friend Tallullah (not her real name). She is a very old and dear friend, but has always been a rotten cook. In fact until recently the only interesting thing she’d ever put on a dining table was her naked self and her moistie of the moment. It was a crap old share house table and of course it broke.

Would you believe they then proceeded, lust undiminished, to the kitchen table and then broke it too? Well, they did. What propelled this concupiscent wreckery to the realms of share house legend was that they had resorted to busting tables only because the entire household – four flatmates and one weekend guest – had scored on the same evening. At a bar called, “The Private Bin”, about which I shall make no further comment. Tallullah, while a resident, had got home too late that night to enjoy the privileges of her own bed. (So you see why I did that with her name, now, huhn?)

That was nearly fifteen years ago, and Tallullah’s cooking has come a million miles from the two minute noodles and sliced up oranges she used to serve for dinner. Last week we had a very tasty lasagne – she told me she’d been working on improving her cheesiness, and the cheesiness level was excellent, intense and creamy but still light. She’d also made a beautiful salad of chunks of avocado, tomato, and cucumber with butter lettuce. Tallullah’s known me for a long time too, so she waggled a bottle of “Fat Free French Dressing” at me and said “You don’t want this, do you?”

No.

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A spooky salad for Friday the 13th

From epicurious, via the best-named food blog evah, Rachel’s Thus Bakes Zarathustra, a slightly spooky salad for Owy to take to the school fundraiser trivia night. (I was going, but have got an evil lurgy and instead I am going to bed with a pile of magazines. There is no need to feel sorry for me as I have been doing a very good job of that myself. But thank you.)

 
I hate it when “bring food to share” turns into six kinds of dip and two kinds of biscuits, so the plan is to take some trimmed up corn mountain bread and let people make little wrappy things with this rather lurid beetroot pesto from stone soup and the salad.
 

I used tinned black beans, which Rachel found impossible to find. I’ve only found organic ones, which suits me fine. I used a little hack picked up from another outspoken female (I think) and briefly boiled the tinned beans to remove any metallic flavour. Because I am undeniably poncy, and because it is Friday the 13th, I used black quinoa.

quinoas

Who knew there was such a world of quinoa? I’ve seen the white and red varieties before, but the health food store at the local shops has a new owner and she’s really expanded their product range. She didn’t know much about it, other than it was organic, and she suggested that you could cook all three kinds together. Not sure about that, as the black to me is a little toothier than the white or red. I boiled then steamed it as per the epicurous method and I’m a convert. The little white rings so characteristic of quinoa become more apparent after cooking, so you lose some of the intensity of the colour, but it has that lovely quinoa nuttiness. The salad dressing features melted butter and lime juice so of course it’s excellent.

You’d think that realising how much of my thinking about what to have for dinner comes from food blogs might stop me buying cookbooks, wouldn’t you?


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