Woodford to Caboolture

Next stop on  our journey was Woodford, home of the Woodford Folk Festival. We stayed at the showgrounds ($15) for a couple of nights, which is just around the corner from the main street and just next door to two little shaggy ponies like this guy.

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Woodford has a really nice vibe to it – it’s small town, but quite funky, and all the people we talked to were really lovely. We spent about 45 minutes in a music/antique shop talking to the guys there, who we had a good old chat about everything from Tasmania to candles to hotspots for fruit picking to the folk festival.

We made good use of our bikes and rode into town the few days we were there. Billy was taken by a little fruit and veg shop that had this Elvis Parsley’s Grapeland mural on the side and we had to stop for a photo shoot. 
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We also rode down to a cute little place just on the other side of town called Storey Brook Cottage, which is a teahouse/cafe/restaurant/bar, with a small but pretty garden and a craft shop attached. They had some gorgeous handmade jewellery in there that even Billy was a bit taken by – beautiful pendants made by trapping herbs in a kind of resin in the shape of a little lightbulb.

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We wandered around the garden, then popped back to the cafe for a coffee, where we discovered talking to the lady who runs the cottage that you can book murder mystery parties there. How much fun does that sound?!

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After Woodford, we went onto Caboolture, stopping at various strawberry farms along the way trying to find some work. No dice.

In Caboolture ZZ started making TERRIBLE noises, our plans were stalled as we had to stay overnight so we could take him to a mechanic the next day. A whole day (and a good chunk of our pockets) later, we had a new clutch and we were ready to leave this town that damned us with bad car luck.

Oh, and check out this rad art installation we saw at the gallery there while we were killing time – it’s all made out of core flute!

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Raw Pad Thai

So I’m thinking about doing Vegan MoFo…is anyone else here signing up?

I’ve been following it for years, but now I’ve got my own blog I think it’s time to  participate. I don’t know how well I’ll do at posting every day, especially once we’re on the move again, but hey – could be fun trying! I’m excited for the interweb being alive with vegan blogging!

Yep, I’m in.

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Now, I just wanted to interrupt my backlog to share this beautiful meal I ate the other night, courtesy of the lovely Sophia at Silk and Spice. Raw Pad Thai had been at the back of my mind for a while, and once I saw the colourful recipe she’d put forth, I knew I had to try it. I managed to snap a picture of it just before sun down (we get terrible light in the van), so it doesn’t quite do the dish as much justice as it deserves, but you can hop over and check out the recipe in all its glory here.

I used coriander instead of chives as I had them on hand, and we squeezed a bit of lime juice on top too, and let me tell you – it was deliciously fresh, crunchy and filling. A winner! Thanks Sophia!

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Kingaroy to Benarkin

Our first night in Kingaroy we splurged for some power and showers and booked a site at the showgrounds. It was kind of pricey for a showground at $25/night, and it was packed to the brim with grey nomads for some reason. The next day we discovered there were $2 hot showers in the public toilets in town anyway. Ah well. We spent another fruitless day at the library searching for work, the highlight (or lowlight?) of the day being seeing Bob Katter and his minions outside the library, and Billy photobombing them during one of their media ops. I wonder if it made the papers.

The next night we stayed a bit out of town at a free site in Wooroola, which also had $2 hot showers (they were super clean too – cleaner than the showgrounds!) and then popped back into town to continue the hunt. We had a couple of hopeful but not immediate prospects, and Billy spent some time getting his white card, while I got my Queensland RSA.
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We left Kingaroy and headed to Nanango, which as you can see is the fourth oldest town in Queensland. Wowzers, what a claim to fame! Kingaroy is apparently the peanut capital of Australia, so we had to stop in at the famous peanut van (albeit in Nanango, not Kingaroy – apparently this one is better…according to a local informer, the Kingaroy van uses imported peanuts and claims them to be local…peanut scandal!) They had more flavours of peanuts than you could poke a stick at, plus macadamias and other peanut related products. We got some chili lime peanuts and smokey hickory macadamias which tasted CRAZILY like cheese and bacon balls. They lasted all of one day.

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In Nanango we bumped into a guy we met at the Tara blockade, who told us there were some awesome monthly markets on the next day. He and his wife put us up for the night in their lovely home (complete with new baby black faced sheep) and we headed out to the markets in the morning. These were seriously one of the biggest markets I’ve been to. They were a mix of all kinds of things – second hand, fruit & veg, clothes, tools, plants, and more. Billy picked up an Elvis song book, and we scored all these avocados for $2. You should have seen how many you could get for $7. I’m talking a shopping bag overflowing with them. I thought that was a bit excessive for the two of us in the van, but as we started powering through our avo supply I began to regret our decision.
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We left Nanango after the markets and set our target for a free rest stop we’d found not too far away in Benarkin, which had power (rare at free rest stops) and hot showers – amazing. Queensland has been so good to us with hot showers, New South Wales really needs to take a leaf out of their book. I was killing it, with a personal best of six showers in six days. The rest stop was really lovely, lots of grass and a playground, and a little general store across the road. I went in there to get some garlic but there was none left, and the lovely lady there went out the back to her house and brought me some of her own garlic – so sweet.

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We took a walk around Benarkin in the evening and bumped into a couple of kangaroos, who became startled and hopped away from us. As they hopped across a paddock, what started off as three turned into about fifty kangaroos, all emerging from the bushes. It was quite a sight. There were also some awesome forest roads around the place, and we started our sunday morning with a kickass bike ride around some of them. Yahoo! Then off to our next destination…to be continued (I’ve almost caught up now, I swear!)

Technical difficulties

Oops…this little vegan bear is having some technical difficulties, in that I accidentally deleted a bunch of past photos, so they’re all appearing as empty boxes. I will get onto fixing that up later this afternoon.

On the plus side, I added both a recipe and an eating out index at the top of my page, for ease of access to the food stuffs that I’ve posted about so far.

Tara to Toowoomba + Wray Organic Cafe

After Tara, we spent days looking up and calling farms, trying to find some fruit or veggie picking work. It was kind of demoralising.

We just missed the vine pruning season for grapes, we were a month too early for all the veggies around the Lockyer Valley region, they all told us to try back later. Strawberries were booming on the Sunshine Coast, but so were the swarms of backpackers, waiting to pounce on anything available.

We finally thought we had it in the bag when a lady who had a strawberry farm told us she needed five more workers the following week. Yes, we said! We’ll do it, we said! All was going well until she found out we were Australian, at which point we were told that they only hire backpackers for picking jobs, because they will work hard for poor pay.

Uh lady…obviously you haven’t heard about our apple picking experience!

We honestly called at least 200 farms, and couldn’t scrounge a measly day’s work. So we decided to head towards the coast anyway and start getting in peoples faces where they would be unable to resist our charm and wit and would immediately offer us employment.

We headed to Dalby, ran some errands and then camped out at Oakey Creek Reserve, which was a lovely little spot a few kilometres off the highway. We have Camps 5 (I think they are up to 7 or something now) which lists lots of rest stops and free or cheap camp sites. It has sure saved our butts a few time, but sometimes it is so off the mark. We first went looking for the rest stop before that one, which was marked with a tick – meaning it’s supposed to be pretty damn good. What we found was a semi circle of gravel with a rubbish bin at the centre, right on the highway. Toilets way up the road. Thankfully we kept going, because Oakey Creek was lovely (and popular too – with about 10 other groups there), with stacks of space and nice grass to camp on.

Next day, we drove on to Toowoomba. I can’t remember why we decided to do that, because we wanted to go through Kingaroy to the Sunshine Coast and as such the quickest route would have been to go north from Dalby. Anyway, we headed east and got to Toowoomba. I guess we just wanted to be moving after being quite still for some time.

We marveled at what it was like to be in the ‘big city’, ate some gelato and ran some errands. We camped about 10km out of Toowoomba at a noisy rest stop off the side of the highway. You kind of get used to the constant sound of trucks on a highway after a while. In the morning, we headed back into Toowoomba, where Billy got a few hours in at one of the skate parks there, and then set off north for Kingaroy.

On the way out of town, we stopped for a quick bite to eat at a place called Wray Organic, which I had spotted on the way in. Wray Organic consists of a cafe, as well as a market to buy grocery items, and I think it’s part of a chain of stores. The cafe had very few options for vegans – I think there was a choice between a roast vegetable sandwich, or a roast vegetable salad. Everything was pre-made, so there wasn’t much flexibility with the menu. Most of the vegetarian dishes had either egg or cheese, and though there were several gluten-free options, the majority contained meat. I went with the salad.

The lady pointed at two containers and asked if I wanted small or large. I asked for small. After saying that we wanted to eat in, she informed me that the small when eating in was smaller than the takeaway small and was really only a side. I thought that that was kind of weird, but I wasn’t super hungry and wanted to get a smoothie as well anyway.

The salad was okay, but lacking flavour in a simple oil dressing, and I ended up adding a good dose of the pink himalayan salt that was on the table. I did like the fact that they used silverbeet as a base, and the additions of crunchy buckwheat and pumpkin seeds were welcome. It just wasn’t outstanding.

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I also got a blackberry smoothie, which was good. It was made up of banana, blackberry, almond milk and rainbow blend, and was topped with shredded coconut, which was very cute. Billy ordered a custom juice and drank it before I could get a picture.

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Wray Organic offered a decent selection of grocery items, however I wasn’t overly impressed with their cafe menu. Perhaps it was my own expectations and assumptions that got in the way, as in my experience organic cafes have tended to offer a wider range of vegan options. It wasn’t helped by the strange exchange that took place with the lady there, who didn’t say ‘hello’ or smile once in our dealings, giving the impression that she had better things to do than to take our order.

It wasn’t a terrible experience – the salad could have been great with a bit more flavor and the smoothie was definitely on the mark. It was just nothing to write home about (even though I just did…)

Wray Organic
Corner of Russell & Mylne Sts, Toowoomba
Monday to Friday – 8.30am – 5.30pm
Saturday – 9am – 4pm
Sunday – 9am – 3pm

Raw Pasta with Creamy Garlic Avocado Sauce

I loooove raw pasta. For some reason, it seems so much more filling than just eating the constituents on their own, and it’s definitely way more fun. I whipped this one up the other day and we enjoyed it for lunch on a sunny Queensland winter’s day. It’s really yummy, and soooo easy. Go ahead, try it!

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Raw Pasta with Creamy Garlic Avocado Sauce
(serves 2)

1 large or 2 small zucchinis
2 cloves garlic
2 medium avocados
3 Tbsp basil infused olive oil (plain olive oil will obviously work fine too…I had this on hand and thought it would be tasty – it was!)
Juice of 1 lemon
1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
Salt and pepper to taste
Chopped tomato and red onion to top (optional)

Turn zucchini into pasta using whatever method you please…spiralise, veggie peeler, grater, etc and separate into two bowls.

Chuck garlic, avocados, oil, lemon juice, salt, pepper and cayenne pepper in a food processor and process until smooth and creamy. Taste for seasoning. Add water one tablespoon at a time if you’d like the sauce to be thinner.

That’s it! Easy as that! Divide sauce between the two bowls, top with chopped red onion, tomato and a generous sprinkle of pepper. Enjoy!

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Can’t eat coal, can’t drink gas

Okay, so this is going to be a bit of a biggie. It’s jam packed with photos, so it may take a little while to load, but please stick it out and read on.

After the Abbey Festival, we got dropped back in Main Arm where we’d left ZZ, only to make the decision to turn around and drive back to Queensland the following day with our HelpX host to camp out at an anti-coal seam gas blockade. We stocked up on supplies, grabbed some gumboots and spent the whole next day driving up to Tara, which is a small town about 280km west of Brisbane.

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At this stage, I feel that I only know the very basics of what there is to know about coal seam gas mining, and I am trying to educate myself as much as possible about this important issue. But for the time being, I’d like to share some of what I know. Coal seam gas is a type of unconventional gas (requiring specialised techniques for extraction of commercial quantities), comprising mostly methane. The practice of mining CSG involves drilling wells into the ground in order to release the gas from underground coal seams (usually between 300-1000m below the surface). Coal seams consist of water as well as gas, and it is the water pressure which holds the methane in the seam. In order to release the gas, the water must be pumped to the surface to depressurise the coal seam. This salty water can contain heavy metals, and toxic and radioactive compounds, and there is currently no appropriate and safe disposal method for it, so it is instead stored in massive open air evaporation ponds (or holding ponds), which are lined with builders plastic, before being transported to a treatment facility. Yeah, I know….sounds safe. While this practice has been banned for all future operations due to the risks involved (overflowing during rain, poor lining allowing seepage into soil), any current ones are still able to use them (and still do). Birds have been sighted swimming in these ponds, and a while back there was an article about a kangaroo having to be euthanised after becoming trapped inside one. The following image was sourced from www.news-mail.com.au

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If the gas does not flow freely on its own, a process called hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, is used to stimulate the extraction process. Fracking is when a mixture of sand, water and chemicals is injected at high pressure into a well, causing fractures in the coal seam and allowing the gas to flow to the surface. Many of the chemicals used are potentially very dangerous, yet they have not been thoroughly tested for their effects. Not only that, but in Australia there is currently no requirement for gas companies to divulge which chemicals they are using as a part of the fracking process. While in the US, over 750 chemicals and compounds have been identified as being used in fracking, only 20 have been confirmed by the Australian Petroleum Production and Exploration Association as being used here in Australia. The use of some volatile organic compounds like benzene, toluene, ethylbenzene and xylene has been banned in New South Wales and Queensland, however, these compounds occur naturally and can be released in the fracking process. Fracking has been linked to some bad shit, including water contamination and earthquakes, and some countries such as Bulgaria and France have banned it due to environmental concerns.

Other extremely worrying concerns about CSG mining include the loss of agricultural land and native forests (and the potential this has to impact on our food supply); the potential contamination and depletion of water systems and supplies; air, water and soil pollution and the ramifications for human and animal health; leaking of methane from wells and pipelines and off-gassing of compounds from holding ponds and compressor stations. All these factors that affect the future of our country, just so that something crazy like 80% of the gas extracted can be sold overseas. This is an aerial view of the gas fields in Tara (sourced from csgfreenorthernrivers.org). Keep in mind that this is in its ‘early stages’.
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At the moment there are around 4000 wells in Queensland, but there are up to 40,000 wells planned for the state by 2030. Can you imagine what that might look like?

What is very alarming and upsetting about this whole situation is that lack of foresight from our government, who are so focused on the short-term monetary gain that they are willing to risk the future of our land, water and people. I don’t want to live in a gas field, I don’t want my children to live in a gas field. Hell, I don’t want anyone to live in a gas field! That’s why we need to say enough is enough, before it goes any further.

While in Tara we met many incredible people who came together to make a stand against CSG mining, and our time spent there has certainly inspired and left a great impact on us. The kindness and warmth we met from complete strangers was really something special. Not only that, we had heaps of fun too (all within the framework of peaceful, non-violent protest/civil disobedience). The more you learn about what is happening in our country and in our world, the less you are willing to sit back and passively let it happen. And with that, I’ll leave you with a whole bunch of photos from our couple of weeks in Tara.

If you would like to learn more about CSG mining, try checking out some documentaries on youtube, or starting with some of these websites which give a good, simplified overview;

Lock the Gate
Stop CSG
CSG free Northern Rivers
ABC
SBS 

Shots from blockading
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Kumbarilla state ‘forest’

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Shots from the Saturday march

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Puppy-sitting!

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 Mission to see the methane bubbling out of the Condamine River

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Some panels in the QGC Information Centre describing the wonderful work they are apparently doing

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QGC: Queensland’s Greatest Cyclists

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Crunchy Sweet Potato Noodle Salad

This is a recipe that I adapted from a trashy magazine I was reading in the waiting room at the burns unit back in Sydney. We had one of those moments where the planets aligned and we had pretty much every single ingredient we needed on hand, so this was perfect. Billy claimed it was his favourite meal in ages (though he says that quite regularly) and at the shops the other day, he disappeared and came back with a packet of fried noodles…subtle hint.

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Crunchy Sweet Potato Noodle Salad
(Serves 2)

1 large sweet potato, cubed
100g fried noodles
2 Tbsp oil
1 Tbsp ginger, minced
3 cloves garlic, minced
1/3 cup coconut milk
2 Tbsp lime juice
2 tsp brown sugar
2 tsp red curry paste
Dash of chili flakes
2/3 cup peanuts, toasted
1 cup coriander, chopped roughly
Salt

Heat 1 Tbsp oil in a pan and saute the ginger and garlic until golden. Transfer to a bowl or jug and allow to cool. Add coconut milk, lime juice, sugar and red curry paste and whisk together with a fork. I got a bit more of the coconut cream than intended, so added a little water to thin the dressing out. Salt to taste, then set aside.

Heat the other tablespoon of oil in the pan and add sweet potato, cooking over med-low for a couple of minutes. Add a dash of water and cover, allowing the potato to steam a little. Once softer, remove the lid, add a pinch of salt and a (generous) pinch of chili flakes and continue to cook uncovered until the edges are nice and golden and a bit crispy. If you have access to one, you could oven-cook the potato by drizzling it with oil, tossing with the salt and chili and baking for 20-30mins, until tender.

Combine noodles, potato, half the coriander and half the peanuts in a bowl. Pour over dressing and toss to combine. Top with the rest of the coriander and peanuts. We also sprinkled some fried shallots on top as an afterthought. Eat immediately. Yummo.

The Abbey Medieval Festival

Early last month, we were lucky enough to have the opportunity to go along to the Abbey Medieval Festival, in Caboolture – not far north of Brisbane. We met a lady in Main Arm through our Helpx hosts who needed help with setting up and packing down a henna stall and campsite, and was offering tickets to the festival in return, so we jumped at the chance. Both of us have wanted to go to a renaissance style festival for years now, and the Abbey festival happened to be the biggest of its kind in Australia! We found out we were going the night before it happened, so we had to throw together some costumes last minute. Billy fashioned some brown sheets and cord into a peasant outfit, and I managed to find some gypsy-ish clothes in my little wardrobe. We made the five or so hour drive on Friday, and Billy and I crossed the border to Queensland for the very first time!

We were only required on Friday night to set up the stall and Sunday afternoon to pack it down, so the rest of the time we got to wander around and enjoy ourselves. It was such an awesome festival, and we had a great time so I just wanted to share some photos from our time there (warning: this post will be quite picture heavy). One thing that was pretty special about the festival was how nice everybody was – it had such a good vibe, with plenty of kids and families running around. It was very cool.

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This was before we left, when I was a guinea pig for some henna practicing. It turned out beautifully, but because the ink was a bit old it didn’t set into the skin very well and only lasted until the end of the week.

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The cute little stall we set up.

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Some guys doing a very theatrical fencing reenactment.

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One of the two local taverns. Here you could get a meal, some mead, cider or beer. In the evenings when the festival was closed to the public, all the workers, reenactors and volunteers could go in for a drink, and there would be people playing folk songs by the fire.

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Some roaming musicians. No idea what that box thing the guy in blue is playing is.

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The opening ceremony. The sound from this cannon was INSANE. It scared the bejeesus out of Billy, which I caught on video…hehe. Throughout the weekend, the cannon would continue to go off at random times, with no warning. By the end you ALMOST got used to it.

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A tiny silver knight.

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One of the many battles we saw over the course of the weekend. We saw swords, shields, axes, spears. We saw one on one, groups of 5-10, and then some like this – a full field, all in battle, with teams of about 20-30 each. It was very entertaining, and it was easy to get caught up in the oooohs, ahhhhs, and YEAHHHHHHs!

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These are the ladies from the Shuvani Romani Kumpania (Gypsies!), doing circle dancing. They were my favourite of all the groups…each group had their own little camp, with demonstrations of particular customs of the time, such as archery bow making, chainmail making, the types of foods eaten, clothes worn, etc. There were groups such as the Nordic Society and the 15th Century society. The Shuvani Romani Kumpania were definitely the loudest and the most colourful (and the best dressed!)

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Peasant Billy stuck in a pillory.

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The lovely ladies from the Henna stall, taking a brief moment for a picture in between the madness.

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Billy getting the once over from a leper.

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The Gypsy camp!

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Billy buying sweets from an old lady. They weren’t very good, but maybe sweets weren’t back in medieval times.

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This dude was pretty amazing. He had built this bear warrior suit himself. He must have been sooo hot walking around in it – and he was in it ALL day.

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Some dork in front of the Henna stall.

And that’s about it! I’m so stoked to have finally sent this post out to the interweb! It won’t be long before I’m all up to date again. Until then…

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Spicy Coriander and Lime Hummus

Another quick recipe post, in lieu of my backlog – I have a few picture heavy posts ahead which I need to spend some time in one place uploading, hopefully over the next couple of days. This is a simple, yet delicious spin on hummus that I whipped up with some leftover limes and coriander we had lying around in the van. I love the chili/lime combo, and the coriander balances it out nicely as well as adding a bit of colour. Enjoy!

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Spicy Coriander and Lime Hummus
(Makes about 1 1/2 cups)

400g chickpeas, cooked
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 Tbsp olive oil
3 Tbsp tahini
Juice of 2 limes
1 1/2 tsp cayenne pepper
1 bunch coriander, chopped
Salt and pepper

Add chickpeas, garlic, oil, tahini, lime juice and cayenne pepper to a food processor or blender and blend to combine, scraping down the sides as you go. Add water as needed – I added 1 Tbsp to thin the mix out a little. Add coriander (leave a little to garnish) and season with salt and pepper, then blend until smooth. Garnish with a dash of cayenne pepper and leftover coriander.