You know something? It's been just over three years since we packed up our little quiet New Zealand life and in a sleep-deprived moment of madness decided to move 5345.72km to what felt like the other side of the world. My friend asked me the other day if that was a hard decision to make and the short answer is yes. Yes it was most probably the hardest decision I've ever had to make, to take my then 2 and 4 year old kids away from the only life they had ever known, to leave the home they were born in, to take them away from their friends, cousins, grandparents, great grandparents, aunties and uncles. To up-root myself from my home, where my heart still lives.
It's not a decision we took lightly. We actually put it off 2 years longer than we were going to.
In the weeks leading up to the move, Si and I would sit on the couch at night, when the kids were tucked up in bed and wonder out loud how our life was going to be in the coming months, weeks, years. We sat there trying to imagine how different everything would soon be, but in that moment we were unable to see. But there is also a longer answer that's basically summed up by this: In many ways it was not a hard decision to make at all. We were barely scrapping by, only able to afford food on the table and a roof over our head. It's not how either of us wanted to live. So we took a leap...
We moved to Perth with nothing more than a few bags of possessions each. We shipped over some of my cookbooks and the kids bikes and that was basically it. We even borrowed money out of Ada's bank account to buy the plane tickets (note to self: pay her back one day!). I still remember the feeling of being completely and utterly lost in this new land, and the tears that came from all of us. Okay maybe not Si, I can't really remember, but I know the kids and I shed enough tears over the next year for the lot of us. Not long after we found our own place to rent (we stayed with my mother-in-law for the first few months) Si got a job which took him away for weeks at a time. I suddenly found myself in a new country alone, with two kids and no idea of how to even get around Perth, let alone live in it and enjoy it. That first year was hellish. I don't think I really ever let it slip on here just how tough it was at the time (but you can probably tell from the amount of baking I did back then that I really wasn't coping so well!).
But you know, time is a funny thing. After that hellish year passed I started to find my feet, mostly thanks to some of the loveliest ladies I've ever met. They picked me up and held my hand and opened my eyes to this beautiful place we now call home. Now, three years on I can't imagine life any other way than what it is right now. The thought of moving home to NZ again while it makes me excited, it equally makes me sad. I miss my family like crazy, I miss quiet NZ life and I miss the beach. If you'd said 15 years ago that my kids would one day have Australian accents I would have laughed out loud in disbelief. I wear my pounamu (greenstone) earrings with pride, but I don't take it so far as to have silver fern stickers all over our car (!!). The fact that my kids aren't growing up surrounded by Maori culture (like I did) makes my heart hurt, but I also know that life over here is pretty damn perfect too. Nearly everyday I toss up the pros and cons of bringing up kids in both places, but it never gets me anywhere. I guess that's what ya get when you fall in love with someone from another country.
When Si's home on his one week off we now sit on the couch at night, when the kids are tucked up in bed and wonder out loud how our life is going to be in the coming months, weeks, years. We sit here trying to imagine how different everything will be when we move back home to NZ, but in that moment we are unable to see...
ginger roasted pumpkin + quinoa salad w/ mint, chilli + lime
This is my favourite go-to way to eat quinoa. Flavoursome roasted vegetables, quinoa, a ton of herbs and a bright simple dressing. I used Queensland blue pumpkin, but Crown (NZ) or butternut would be great too. I used a couple of our fire-hot birds eye chillies from the garden, but you can use whatever you like. Regular long red/green chillies would be fine, use 1-2, it's up to you. I buy my coriander (cilantro) in large bunches that have the stems and roots still attached, which I finely chop and add to the pumpkin before roasted. This adds loads of flavour, but if you can only get coriander without the roots, don't worry about it.
Serves 2-4 or more as a side
1kg piece pumpkin
1 tablespoon finely grated fresh ginger
2 green or red chillies, finely chopped
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 teaspoons pure maple syrup
a handful of finely chopped coriander (cilantro) roots and stems, optional
Fine sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 cup (185g) quinoa
1 1/2 cups (375ml) water
The juice of two limes (or large lemon)
a good handful each of fresh mint and coriander (cilantro) leaves
toasted pumpkin (pepita) seeds
Pre-heat oven to 200C/400F. Peel pumpkin, remove the seeds and cut into even chunks approximately 2-3cm wide. Combine pumpkin with ginger, chilli, garlic, olive oil, maple and coriander roots and season well with salt and pepper. Combine well before turning out onto a large oven tray. Bake for 25-30 minutes, turning once or twice or until the pumpkin is lovely a golden and soft right through. Remove from the oven and set aside to cool slightly.
Meanwhile place quinoa into a fine-mesh sieve and rinse well. Bring the water to the boil in a small saucepan before adding the quinoa, covering with a lid and reducing the heat down to a gentle simmer. Cook for 10-12 minutes until the water has been absorbed and the quinoa is tender. Remove from the heat, leave the lid on and set aside to steam for a further 5 minutes before fluffing up with a fork.
When both the pumpkin and quinoa are cooked, combine the two in a large bowl, making sure you scrape any lovely bits of ginger and oil from the bottom of the roasting tray into the bowl too. Squeeze over the lime, stir through the herbs, season with more salt and pepper if desired and scatter over the pumpkin seeds to serve. You can eat this warm or cool the pumpkin and quinoa first before stirring through the herbs and serve at room temperature.