There are days when even a domestic goddess such as my humble self struggles for the inspiration and motivation to put a meal on the table. I enjoy cooking – no, really, I do – but the mind-crushing tedium of deciding what to cook every, single, bloody, night really burns my biscuits sometimes. The best way around those occasions is to be the type of efficient paragon who sits down on a weekend and works out the week’s menu. No last minute head-scratching, anxiety-racked ravaging through the freezer or panicked eleventh hour shopping visits in those homes. No sir – just happy, shiny faces around the table and a wholesome, home-cooked meal on it. Every. Night.
Probably no teenagers and young adults with fascinating lives and prevaricating plans in those homes either. The number of people expecting to put on a nose-bag at dinner time in my house can vary wildly and with almost no notice. One evening a few weeks back I went from anticipating six for a family roast dinner to buying take-aways for two – all in the space of three hours, as the numbers dwindled in the face of better offers. For reasons like these and because I can be very lazy at times, I like to keep some quick cheats in the pantry. There are the old stand-by’s of tinned beans and fish, but also a locally produced and wittily named range of “Thistle Be Good” products that I adore, made by the delightfully Celtic Jacqui Good.
Originally from Kirkcaldy in Fife, Scotland, Jacqui found herself in Australia in 1999, having indulged a fanciful wanderlust which took her nowhere in particular and everywhere in general. Still wafting on the breeze (yes – a little like thistle down) it took her nine months to make her way to Adelaide where she promptly lost her heart, but found her home. Settling with her Australian partner south of Adelaide, Jacqui was surprised to find how quickly she felt at home. “I feel I belong here more than I ever did in Scotland” she told me. Which is all just as well really, as she has become such an integral part of the South Australian and southern region food scene.
Jacqui took her first steps into the food world while working in the wine industry at a well known McLaren Vale cellar door. Local well-respected food icon Russell Jeavons had taught Jacqui how to make the now popular Egyptian nut and spice blend, dukkah, and she was making it for functions and selling small amounts of it at the cellar door. The passing mention of its possible use as a meat rub by a customer sent Jacqui scurrying off to her books to learn what a meat rub actually was. It wasn’t long before her range was extended to include “The Rub”, followed a few years later by a range of prepackaged risotto and couscous blends and now her quinoa mix.
Jacqui and Thistle Be Good are a wonderful example of the role farmers markets have to play in developing and incubating small business – the Willunga Farmers Market is where Jacqui began to sell her range to the general public. It quickly became clear to Jacqui that she would need acceptable commercial facilities to produce her growing range of products and she was one of the group of local food producers who set about establishing the first council approved community kitchen in her area.
Thistle Be Good now boasts 18 products over five ranges, employs four people, is still produced locally, with the kitchen in the town of Willunga and the office in Aldinga, and is now also available nationally, with distributors in all Australian states. Jacqui is an advocate of “clean” food and always looks to local sources for her ingredients in the first instance so this is one product that I’m very happy to use to make my life easier. I was already a fan of both the couscous mix and the risotto mix, but the quinoa blends have really won my heart – especially the Persian Date and Pistachio mix. I used it the other night as the base for this very healthy, tasty and brilliantly quick Persian chicken salad. I added my divineconfit cherry tomatoes and this recipe is as good a reason as any to make them. The mix is delightful as it comes, but I admit to beefing mine up a bit with some added spice – just because that’s what I do.
Cheats Persian Chicken & Quinoa Salad
- 1 Pkt "Thistle Be Good" Persian Date and Pistachio Quinoa
- 350 gms cooked chicken meat
- 4 spring onions chopped
- 2 stalks of celery sliced
- 1 cucumber chopped
- 1 cup cherry tomatoes halved (or cherry tomato confit, if you have it)
- 150 gms fetta cubed
- 1/2 teaspoon ground coriander
- 1 bunch of fresh coriander chopped
- 1 bunch fresh mint chopped
- 1 bunch flat leaf parsley chopped
- Extra virgin olive oil
- Prepare quinoa as per the instructions on the packet. Fork lightly through to make it fluffy.
- Combine the quinoa with the rest of the ingredients, drizzle with the olive oil and toss it all lightly together before serving.