I’ve ventured into the great outdoors for todays post. And by that I mean the communal garden outside my home where my mother is frantically organising tables and praying it doesn’t rain. After being cooped up at home for the past 5 days, working, I decided I deserved a break. Except my Mother had other plans and has put me to other kinds of work. I really don’t like the smell of freshly cut grass, but as long as I’m not left in charge of the creche, I’ll be okay.
My Mother and our lovely neighbour, Anne, host a party for the neighbourhood every year. It was supposed to be just a one-time thing for Anne to get to know everyone when she first moved onto the street from rural England, but after the success of their first party they decided to keep rolling with a good thing. As a community we don’t really interact, besides the odd nod of the head as you walk past each other on the pavements, or the sharing of food during Ramadan. Which came as a bit of a culture shock to Anne who’s lived in a tiny town outside of London her whole life where everyone knew everyone’s business and nobody bothered locking their door at night.
The communal garden is usually populated with secondary school drop-outs with nothing better to do during the middle of the day, although my Grandmother occasionally makes an effort to power walk around the perimeter. So I guess you could say it’s kind of cool thing my Mother’s doing, bringing everyone together and getting people to actually talk and at least know each other’s names. And it’s nice for people to know her as something else other than the resident bird woman. But now her stress levels usually peak around this time of year, every year, and she complains we never help. Just for the record, I baked. That’s helping, right?
People are encouraged to bring and share dishes, and chairs, whilst the local church usually lend us their tables. The kids are kept occupied with giant versions of favourite games like Connect 4 and Twister, and this year Anne’s gone and booked a bounce castle so we’re expecting a lot more kids. Usually there’ll be passer-bys taking a shortcut through the garden whose curiosities are sparked and they end up joining us for a slice of cake. And that’s how the man with the weird hat becomes Joe the carpenter who lives behind the new block of flats. I missed it last year because I had other plans, but I’m pretty sure this years party will top them all.
P.S. There’s a glare across my screen and I can barely see what I’m typing. If there are any typos that look like: fsdlfgnv dfdlf fdf, I’ll be sure to edit it out when I’m released from bounce castle duty. After I get to have a go myself, of course.
This salad is an adaptation of the fig and apple quinoa salad I made last year. I tried it with roasted pears and discovered it works just as beautifully. Ever since trying fresh figs for the first time last summer in Italy they’ve become one of my favourite fruits. I could have cried when I saw them back in the produce aisle, but that would have been weird so I just loaded my shopping trolley with them, and more than half were already gone by the time I reached home.
- ½ cup quinoa
- 1 cup water
- 6 figs
- 2 pears
- Handful of almonds
- Handful of pistachio
- Handful of dried cranberries
- Extra virgin olive oil to drizzle, as desired
- Optional: a few basil leaves
- Slice the pears vertically and arrange on a baking tray. Place them in the oven at 180C for approx. 20 - 25 minutes.
- Wash and rinse the quinoa. Place the quinoa and water in a pan and bring it to a boil. Then cover and leave to simmer for 15 minutes. Remove from the heat and allow to sit for 5 minutes.
- Chop the figs into quarters and add to the quinoa, followed by the nuts, dried cranberries, and pears, and mix together. Drizzle with olive oil. Optional: garnish with basil leaves.