13 December 2011

spring vegetables, smoked fish & quinoa

We went fishing on Sunday.  Yep we did.  One minute we were grocery shopping and the next minute we were on the pier at Petone.  A friend (aka Zippy) had decided that he wanted to do a spot of fishing.  We decided that we'd join him!

It was one of those early Summer days - sun was up but there was a touch of coolness still in the air.  The pier already had a good number of people fishing by the time we got there.  There were the serious ones that came armed and prepared - large pail of smelly bait, collapsible chairs, chilly bin filled with cold drinks and food and a ghetto blaster.  There were the SUPER serious ones with all of the gear, the most expensive rods and metal cages (think those were for crabs).  And there were the little boys with their simple homemade fishing gear - a long line wrapped around a piece of wood and a weight at the end.

Let's not forget the old Chinese guys that fish alone (they're never in a group or with friends!).  All very serious business this fishing.  They often have every possible gear and accessory.  One guy had on a bright yellow waterproof outerwear (I don't know what it's called) that covered him from head to feet, although there wasn't a skerrick of rain - very Deadliest Catch styles!

The boys spent the afternoon waiting for a fish to take a bite of their bait and yapping away on the ins and outs of bait types, hooks, lines, weights, etc etc.

I spent my time alternating between reading in the sun and taking the piss out of the boys for their lack of luck - 'S' did not catch anything and Zippy caught 2 baby ones that had to be returned to the sea.  I believe I told 'S' that if we lived couple of hundred years ago and he was my hunter/gatherer partner, I'd starve. ;-)

If you're wondering...that's not a sandwich we made for afternoon snack.  It was fish bait - some very smelly bait (think the boys called it bonito) squished between a piece of white bread.  I hear it's Michelin-star cuisine for the fishies!

Now you must be wondering...what has this got to do with spring vegetables, smoked fish and quinoa (post title) got to do with fishing?  Well, not much really.  Except that it was a damn good thing we had bought some smoked fish at Moore Wilsons earlier in the day, since the boys caught nothing!

Now.  On to that spring vegetables, smoked fish and quinoa dish.

So I've mentioned at some point in an earlier post or posts that I've been moving away from stodgy winter dishes that we've been enjoying for the last 3 months or so, and cooking dishes that are a bit more light and healthy.  I'm not only carrying winter weight, I'm also carrying holiday-in-Asia weight, and not forgetting stuff-my-face-at-food-bloggers-conference weight!

But with summer now upon us, it's so much easier to make those healthier dishes loaded with summer greens and fruits.  I'm not naturally a healthy cook - I love rich curries, fried food, butter and cream-based sauces.  Even if I made steamed vegetables or a salad, I'd smother it in a gallon of olive oil or spoonfuls of mayonnaise.  So for healthier options, I have to look elsewhere for inspiration.

Unfortunately for me, I don't have a collection of amazing cookbooks like Ottolenghi's The Cookbook or Plenty or Heidi Swanson's Super Natural Everyday to cook from.  Having been jobless for almost a year kinda puts a damper on spending.  And in the wider scheme of things, cookbooks are classified under the 'want' category and not a 'needs' category!

However, this where the interweb, the digital world, the blogosphere, the internet, whatever you want to call it, comes into it's own.  I might not be in possession of much sought after cookbooks, but there are thousands of recipes online that I can tap into.  And a favourite of mine is Emma Galloway's 'My Darling Lemon Thyme'.  Emma's blog is wonderfully written and her vegetarian/vegan recipes are so simple to follow and yet her dishes aren't simple - you know what I mean?  Every recipe I've tried has been packed full of flavour.  Her recipes definitely put to rest the notion that vegetarian dishes are boring!

So when I came home from the Sunday market with a bag full of fresh peas and 2 huge bunches of asparagus, I was (unusually) inspired to make something healthy (again, unusual) with them, based on several recipes I've read online.  Lurking in my pantry was a bag of quinoa that I had bought a month ago and having only made a quinoa salad once from it, I decided that it was time for it to make another appearance!

I must confess that right up to now, the only peas I've ever eaten came straight out from the freezer.  Nothing wrong or unhealthy even, with snap frozen peas.  But fresh peas are...well, so fun!  Snapping and popping the wee green peas out from their jackets is so therapeutic.  And the crazy in me also thinks that the rows of little green orbs all in a row are so cute!  Nevermind that they are bursting with goodness.  It's the cute factor that won me over!

I can see why Anne Geddes (she of the cute baby photos) was inspired to dress babies up as peas in pods.

I was actually rather surprised that my bag of peas yielded 2 whole cups of fresh peas.  I had thought that at most, I'd get maybe a cup.  More for me - yay!!

Now I know that everyone says how sweet fresh peas are, but maybe it was just the batch I bought.  They had a slight bitter taste to them that I wanted gone.  So fresh as they were, I quickly blanched them for 2 minutes in rapidly boiling water that I'd added 1 teaspoon of sugar to.  And they tasted divine.

At the very last minute, I decided to add smoked mackerel to the salad.  The salad was getting waaay to healthy for me - I'm still not quite prepared (yet) for such healthiness to invade my life!  And I know my body...to be more accurate, I know my tummy well.  If I didn't throw in some protein, I'd be rummaging the kitchen for a midnight snack, which would invariably be something unhealthy like a large mug of milo with a plateful of sweet biscuits.

Mackerel is good fish anyway.  We love it in our household.  Its got all these good oils.  So perhaps I haven't strayed that  far away from making a healthy dinner afterall!

Okay...okay.  There were Nigella-style sploshes of sesame and extra virgin olive oil as well to my salad.  The sesame oil gave a nice nutty flavour to the otherwise bland-ish quinoa.  So I caved in a bit more.  If you have better control than I do, just drizzle instead of splosh! :-)

Spring Vegetables, Smoked Fish & Quinoa
The ingredients below will make enough for 4 people.  Or dinner for 2 and enough to pack away for lunch for 2 the next day.  Just adjust the amounts accordingly if you want to make less.

1 cup quinoa
400g smoked fish of your choice, broken up into chunks
2 cups fesh peas (if you only have frozen ones, I'm sure it'll work just fine)
2-3 stalks spring onions, chopped into same size as the peas
2 bunches asparagus, chopped into bite sized pieces
Extra virgin olive oil
Sesame oil
Salt & pepper to taste

  1. Bring a large pot of water (lots) to boil and salt it (you can omit the salt if you want).  Add the quinoa into the boiling water, stir and turn down to medium-low heat.  Stir occasionally just in case it sticks at the bottom.  When quinoa is cooked, you'll see these little white-ish 'tails'.  I just taste a tiny bit of the quinoa to determined whether it's cooked.
  2. Once the quinoa is cooked to your liking, drain it well and set aside.
  3. Bring another pot of lightly salted water to boil and add your asparagus.  Turn down to medium heat and cook for no more than 3 minutes.  Quickly drain and place in a large serving or mixing bowl.
  4. For the peas - eat them raw or blanch it quickly in boiling water for 2 minutes.  Quickly drain and add to the cooked asparagus.
  5. Add the spring onions and well-drained quinoa to the vegetables.
  6. Add some extra virgin oil and sesame oil, and toss gently to mix.  Add salt and pepper to taste.
  7. Scatter the smoked fish on top of the vegetables and quinoa, and serve.

Smoked fish - if you have your smoked fish in the fridge, take it out at the start before you prep your vegetables, so that it's room temperature when you're ready to add it to the quinoa.  If not, you could zap it in the microwave for 20 secs on high.  But if you don't mind eating cold smoked fish, then skip this.


  1. I'm never usually very successful at fishing so I'd definitely be the type to buy some fish to eat just in case! Yum, this salad looks so fresh and delicious - I've been eating similar salads a lot this spring/summer! Love how smoked fish makes it taste so meaty(?) yet still so light :)

  2. Beautiful salad, your story reminds me of the Jamie Oliver advert where he doesn't catch anything so buys it from from the store but forgets to hide the receipt and get sprung.

  3. @milliemirepoix
    I felt quite 'healthy' after that meal! Yeah, I know what you mean - smoked fish gives a dish substance, yet easy on the tummy. :)

  4. @peasepudding
    Imagine the days without supermarkets or the fishmongers, Alli. If you didn't catch any, you went hungry. Thank god for Moore Wilsons I say! Teehee...

  5. Yum, I LOVE smoked fish. Looks like the perfect summer meal :)

  6. @timeforalittlesomething.com
    It is definitely a summer meal Jemma! Got another pack of smoked fish in the fridge for this week... :-)

  7. Yum - right up my alley - I totally love the look of this. I cook quinoa in big batches, then divide into smaller portions and freeze in snaplock bags ready to whip out for a dish like this. I also have fresh peas and asparagus. Just going to swing by the fish market on my way to teach yoga class and I have dinner sorted. Thanks for the inspiration xo

  8. Aww, you are too sweet :-)
    Your fishing story reminds me of when Si and I went to Vietnam (before kids!), we went fishing with his cousins in the village with fishing rods consisting of wooden sticks and string with hooks tied to the ends. We were after sprats, but got none...
    Merry Christmas xx

  9. I want to go fishing!! Mmm smoked fish...your dish looks so good it's really making me hungry. Must get some lunch...


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