img_7646Do you need a protein-packed alternative to a sandwich, salad or quinoa bowl for lunch? Are you looking for something that will keep in the fridge happily for a few days and help keep the hangry-beasts at bay? Do you have nostalgic memories of tuna-salad sandwiches bought from delis, but think you could do with easing up on the bread it goes with? I think I can help. If you need an option that can easily be tweaked to dairy-free, that’s also gluten free etc, skip straight to the photo and recipe at the bottom.

I’ve been chasing quick and fresh meals this week. Cucumbers have been high on the priority list. For one, in this edition of ‘Poppyseed to Pumpkin’,  in this, my last week of the second trimester our stowaway is now  as long as one. For two, I’ve found they nicely quell (though briefly) the heartburn which is still a cruel and sudsy side kick.

And for three, summer is peeking its head around the corner. Both Will and I have been felled with toxic colds/ throat infections/ asthma. It’s amazing how a toddler has the ability to be feverishly up all night, only in repose when slumped forward, koala style on your chest in the rocking chair next to a humidifier, then bounce back with unquenchable energy at 5.30 am. (Steroids being the answer, I’m sure.) With a kick start of fractured sleep and a constant exhale exchange, it doesn’t take a detective to deduce how I got sick too. There is nothing quite as dispiriting as feeling dismal while the sun is shining, so over the weekend I refused to name it properly. Instead we spent the weekend at the beach, sousing ourselves in salt water and scuffing off winter with fine grains of sand. I even went in for my first dip (then second, and third) of the season, which led me straight back to a favourite adage; ‘You never regret a swim’.

But now I’m proper honkingly sick and I have two more days to recover before our annual girls’ weekend to Queensland. Hence, fresh, easy, zippy food is high on the priority list. This tuna salad takes your old deli staple and makes it a little lighter. Instead of being gloopy with mayonnaise, there’s Greek yoghurt and Dijon mustard to help bind the protein together (which also has the benefit of avoiding raw egg yolk for those pregnant folk). Of course if you wanted a dairy free alternative, just substitute the yoghurt for mayonnaise. There’s finely diced fennel for crunch and a little aniseed sweetness, capers for twang and a good smattering of green herbs for vibrancy.

It works perfectly well on sourdough toast and could hold its own as a rustic rillette style presentation on endive boats, or wrapped up in lettuce leaves.

img_7657Yet my favourite way to serve it is in cucumber boats. Simply carve a telegraph cucumber in two and use a tea spoon to plunder out some of the seeds from the belly. Portion the tuna salad into the hollow and pick it up to eat, as if it was a piece of toast. The cucumber adds freshness and contrast – and for anyone who has just caught a glimpse of themselves in a bathing suit for the first time in a long time and realised that they probably need to cool it on the chocolate ice cream after dinner, it’s also carb free.

Take this as a jumping off point and run with it. Try serving cucumber boats with sardines smashed together with avocado, hummus folded with shredded kale and some chilli flakes, or whipped cottage cheese, smoked trout and poppyseeds.

Similarly, you could just as easily substitute salmon or sardines in for the tuna in the salad, celery for the fennel and add a touch of wasabi instead of Dijon mustard.

Summer is officially coming.

Here are a few other things that are going on

Eating: See the dispatch from a few weeks ago when I confessed to eating far too much chocolate ice cream. It’s a craving that’s pretty crazy. Hence, I’ve been trying to tame the beast with some alternatives. It turns out that freezing coins of banana, then whipping them up in a thermomix/strong blender with frozen berries creates a scoopable, pure-fruit ice cream alternative, that managed to fool even the toddler briefly.

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Listening: Last year for Christmas The Hungry One bought me/ (us) a Sonos music system for the lounge room. It’s a nifty set of speakers that syncs up to your iphone over wifi that allows you to play and music from your library through your phone. It’s very handy, particularly for Sunday morning pancake sessions. This week we treated ourselves to some new tunes and bought Passenger’s fresh album ‘Young as the Morning, Old as the Sea‘, which manages to be poignant, buoyant and completely bonny. I remember going to a very small gig of about 30 people, about 8 years ago at a church in Paddington and seeing Mike Rosenberg, this charming friend of a friend perform a solo acoustic set when he spent most of his days busking around the world. We knew he was destined for big things – and it couldn’t have happened to a nicer fellow.

Watching: I’d like to say we saw a searingly informative documentary on Saturday night. Instead we ate my favourite freezer-fodder of black bean and sweet potato chilli nachos with a shuddering amount of guacamole and watched ‘Independence Day, Resurgence‘ on the couch (nb, it’s just as terrible as it looks). Yet I can be talked into most things with a Hemsworth brother in them (it’s the broad shoulders/Australian accent that gets me every time). Meanwhile, surely it’s time for a Michael Keaton style comeback for Bill Pullman?

Discovering: How am I only just learning about Canva now? This amazingly simple (largely free) app makes acceptable graphic design possible for complete amateurs like me. Presentations, posters, cards, blog graphics etc. A clean interface, lots of possibilities. A god send. Many thanks to my sister for showing me the light.

Loving: So much of the content surrounding this US election is dismal and terrifying. Two things I’m loving. 1) The Saturday Night Live re enactments of the debates. Kate McKinnon’s Hilary is golden and Alec Baldwin’s Trump is splurt-my-tea-uproarious. 2) This video of Obama extolling the virtues of being early (both in life, and to vote). As a chronic early-arriver, I loved it.

Nesting: Part budget-busting, part prepping for leaving my flock for a few days, part zeal to get things organised again, I tackled the contents of the freezer on the weekend (living large, I tell you). By which I mean, took everything out, deduced what was in each tupperware, labeled it properly if I had been slack when I put it there – and- here’s the key- made a list to put on the fridge of what was in there. Now I know I don’t need to buy any more chicken breasts, that there is a serve of pulled pork in there for emergencies, enough lamb curry to feed a village plus plenty of other things to tide us (or anyone else) over when the going gets rough. The key is to then strike off what you’ve taken out, when you’ve taken it out. 

Reading: After listening to the Special Sauce episode with Roy Choi and his plans to revolutionize fast food (a great listen if you’re after one) I pulled Roy’s book ‘LA Son’ back off the book shelf and had another read over the weekend. It’s a stellar hybrid of cookbook/ memoir. A great present to keep in mind for any food lover.

Cucumber Boats with Tuna Salad

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Makes 1 1/2 cups of tuna salad. It will keep happily for 3-4 days in the fridge.

Shopping/foraging

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1/4 fennel, trimmed- green tops reserved – and very finely diced
1 telegraph cucumber
2 x 95 g tins of tuna in olive oil
3 tbsp Greek yoghurt
3 tsp Dijon mustard
2 tsp capers
2 tbsp chopped herbs (mint and parsley are nice, but can also use chives)
Salt and pepper to taste

Here’s how we roll

1 Add the chopped fennel to a bowl.

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2 Drain the tuna and add that along with the herbs and chopped fennel tops.

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3. Add the yoghurt and dijon mustard.

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4. Mash with a fork to well combine. Taste and season with salt and pepper to your liking.

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5. Cut the cucumber into a length as long as your hand, then cut in half lengthways. Use a teaspoon to scrape out the seeds. Either eat as a cook’s perk, or add to a smoothie.

img_7635 6. Portion the tuna salad into the wells left in the cucumber. Eat. Or else, spread onto toast.

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Previously in Poppyseed to Pumpkin

Each week mad websites and baby books will tell you how big your baby now is in comparison to a seed, fruit or vegetable. It starts as a poppy seed and goes from there. To make this process a little more palatable, join me as I bake my way through. Here’s the journey so far. (Nb, you can also see the poppy seed to pumpkin process in the app, or ebook from my first pregnancy with Will, or read about it on the blog here.)