Thursday, January 10, 2008

January 6, 2008: Picnic in the park

After a few ridiculously hot days, Sunday was a mild and pleasant Melbourne summer's day (an aside: I still can't get my head around Melbourne summer - when the temperature can drop 10 degrees in 10 minutes, nothing makes sense anymore) and Cindy and I were inspired to put together some sort of picnic and head off to enjoy the late evening sunshine.

We decided to keep things reasonably healthy (at least pre-dessert): a couple of dips and lots of fresh vegies. I took on dip responsibilities and raided Cindy's bookmarks to find sun-dried tomato hummus and agresto.

The hummus was ridiculously easy to make and was the star of the show - the tahini was noticeable without being overpowering, the few unblended bits of sun-dried tomato provided a bit of texture and the lemon juice gave things a little acidic tang.

The agresto was a little more problematic - there were too many ingredients to fit into our mortar and pestle and I gave up after a little while and reverted to the food processor. Also, I nearly forgot the roasting nuts and things probably tasted a little more charred than it was meant to. We specially purchased verjuice for the recipe, and I must admit that I didn't really notice its impact. Still, it was fine - just a little bit too nutty and too un-basilly for my tastes. I think if I put in half as much parsley, twice as much basil and maybe two-thirds as many nuts I'd be happier with the end results. (Regardless, it worked very well as flavouring in the little pastry treats Cindy and I had for dinner tonight, which I'm guessing will appear on here in the next week or so.)

To cap things off, I packed a thermos full of freshly shaken cosmopolitan. Fantastic.

It should be noted, not only are the Trin Warren Tam-Boore wetlands a fine place for a picnic, there's some pretty good bird-watching to be had as well - I saw my first Australasian Grebe!

Sun-dried tomato hummus
(a recipe from Pinch My Salt)

6-8 sun-dried tomatoes
1 x 400g can chickpeas, drained and rinsed
1 tablespoon tahini
juice of 1 lemon
4 tablespoons olive oil
salt and pepper, to taste
shake of cayenne pepper

Puree everything together in a food processor. Taste, and adjust the flavour balance to your liking.


  1. melbourne is great for picnics so long as you are prepared to change your plans if the weather turns on you - never heard of those wetlands - sounds like an interesting place! Nice food too (was fascinated by the dark colour of the agresto!)

  2. Yes, Johanna, and we weren't quite prepared for all seasons that evening! With bikes and fairly thin clothing, it could have been a cold damp trip home when the sky began turning grey. Lucky for us all remained dry. Michael is tracking down all these nooks in his quest for novel birdwatching - I had no idea those wetlands were tucked away there either.

    The agresto was indeed very dark, almost black! I think the nuts were over-roasted but this would be a darker-than-usual pesto anyway.

  3. wow, you guys actually bring cocktails with you? I'm so impressed and will surely have to keep that in mind for our next outing.

    btw, our Fitzroy Gardens outing for some swing music last night ended up a little chillier than when we first started too. sigh, Melbourne!

  4. Cin, we got the picnic cocktail idea from our friend Jo-Lyn. Last summer she made us some awesome Pimms punch for a night at the outdoor cinema. This time we packed ours in a thermos and it remained nicely chilled.

    We had yet another picnic on the night I think you're referring too - the cold was quite a surprise to us too! I hope the dancing kept you warm.