Dining out on the Free’way Beet’

I’ve been everywhere man, I’ve been everywhere…

Well…after three solid weeks gallivanting about the the Victorian countryside…that’s what it feels like anyhow!

Gracing the freeway beat with our holiday centered presence was a rare treat for my dairy-farming, childhood family of six. With water systems to manage; cows to milk; and pastures to prepare, graze and monitor; coordinating an extended trip away was a monumental feat of assiduous planning and execution. Despite these seemingly insurmountable challenges, our Tetris style packing regime would only be complete when the deified, 28 L red-lidded Esky was firmly locked and food-loaded into the luggage hold. Replete with sangas, homemade biscuits and on-road snacks, we kids would guzzle our way across deserts bare and through mountain air until we’d reached our ultimate destination: the home cooked comfort of a family relative’s abode.

Today, when it comes to making my own family’s gastronomic travel plans, I’m a chip off the old wooden-chopping-board block. Eschewing the busy freeway feedlots in favour of the more bucolic, quiet park scenes, has proven – over our frequent family road trip years – to be a winning move for both the wallet and the driving wits. It has also been a great way to enjoy some good ol’ fashioned banter with the locals and to inject some much needed funds and energy into some of those small, almost forgotten bypassed towns: Scott and I take it in turns to peruse the local shops and buy the odd cafe treat or handmade craft.

This Easter holidays, our e-free travelling escapades saw us circumnavigating the wondrous Garden State. From the seaside views of East Gippsland to the rugged plains of the North-East, no stretch of bitumen was ever bereft of lively sites, conversation…or that iconic Esky brimming with sustenance. Whilst many variations on the salad theme have tried bullying their way into the insulated lining of our travelling food bag, it’s the Freekeh and Beet salad that has won the hearts and rumbling stomachs of the family.

Comprising the last of the my summer garden produce (plus a few regular herbaceous additions), I present to you a filling and nutritious salad to serve alongside your best tart or zucchini slice: for your on-road delectation.

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Freekeh and Beet Salad…with some of Grandma’s super yummy Chicken Tart

Oh…of course no family Esky bag would ever be complete without an injection of grandmotherly love: my mum’s mini gingerbread men and hundreds and thousands cookies.

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Freekeh and Beetroot Salad (serves…hmmm…not as many hungry bellies as one would like…there’s always room for that cafe treat!)

3 medium beets

1 carrot

2 sticks celery, cut into thin lengths and sliced, on the diagonal, into chunks

¼ c freekeh (quinoa, millet, barley or a mix of all four)

1 apple, diced

2 tbs mint, finely diced

1 c salad leaves, finely sliced

¼ c currants (saltanas)

¼ c almonds, chopped

Dressing:

1 tsp soy sauce

1 tbs maple syrup

¼ c lemon juice

¼ c olive oil

Before you start: gumboot up the troops and get their garden mits prepped for an end of season harvest clearance: a bounty of produce.

Recover the beets from the burgeoning basket. Slice them in half and place in a saucepan filled with enough water to cover the roots. Bring the water to boiling. Simmer on a medium-low heat for 30 minutes. Drain. Cool. Refrigerate till cold. Meanwhile, rinse the freekeh grains with cold water. Place the grains in a small saucepan with ½ cup water. Cook on low heat, with the lid on until all the water is absorbed (about 20 minutes). Leave to cool slightly with the lid on. Refrigerate till cold. I usually cook the beets and freekeh the day before travelling.

To make the salad, grate the beets and carrot into a large, hard-plastic container or into a ceramic casserole dish. Stir in the remaining ingredients. In a separate jar, mix together the dressing ingredients and cap firmly with a lid.

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When you arrive at your tranquil park, shake the dressing and pour over the salad. Serve – to your cabin fevered hoard – alongside your best “grow food” (tart or zucchini slice) companion. You just car..n’t beet it!

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