Chicken and Quinoa Salad and…Near-Death Holidays

Some holidays are not relaxing and you arrive home just grateful to have survived.

When I was a teenager some friends of my parents thought it would be a fabulous idea for us to go away with them and another family for a week on three boats we would hire from a company in Akuna Bay.  I’m not sure a lot of thought went into the idea, the instigator being an Ideas Man who would act first and think later, much later.

Akuna Bay

One Saturday morning in January we met down at Akuna Bay and each family was shown aboard a boat, handed the keys and told we could take off.  The problem with the boat we were given is that it was filthy and there was a terrible smell coming up from the bilges of rotten fish and diesel.  My father went back to the office and brought the issues to their attention and they said, ‘Well don’t worry, we have another boat you can have, it will just be a few minutes’.   So we packed up everything we had unpacked and waited for the replacement boat.

Meanwhile the other two families took off in their boats and were almost rounding the first bend when the steering broke in one of the boats.  The boat ended up on the other side of the bay tangled in bushes and they had to be towed back to Akuna Bay and wait until the steering was fixed.

Sydney’s Pittwater

We were shown the replacement boat and took off to the bay where Ideas Man had told us to meet.  The only problem was that by the time we arrived all the moorings had been taken so we had to anchor.  The boat with the new steering quickly joined us and he also had to throw down the anchor because of the lack of moorings.  Mission accomplished we hopped into the dinghies and rowed over to Ideas Man’s boat where we were enjoying a few drinks until my father noticed that the boat with the replacement steering was now drifting into the distance.  There was a mad scramble to retrieve the disappearing boat and the father, (with no boating experience)  rowed over to it, jumped on board, threw the engine into reverse and reversed over his dinghy.

Aerial Photo of Akuna Bay

We started out with three dinghies but now had two between 15 of us.  Somehow, in all the confusion, Ideas Man lost his boat hooks so we started out with six but now only had four and they lost a camera as well and can’t explain how any of that happened.

And then it rained.  And it rained for a few days.

And then one of the boats ran out of water so they had to go back to Akuna Bay for a refill and alerted the company running the hire boat business that perhaps they should re-stock the boats between occupancies.

On the last day Ideas Man thought it would be a great to leave the calm and gentle waters in the secluded bay area and head out into the open water where around a few bends there was another beach we could visit.  We spent the morning there and were heading back when my father noticed the engine was ‘missing’ every now and then.  We were coming around a point in very rough seas when the spluttering stopped.  We had run out of petrol.  And we had run out because the boat had been given to us in great haste and had not been re-fueled.

Chicken and Quinoa Salad

The tide was going out, the swell was increasing and there was every chance the drifting boat was going to capsize.  My father threw over the anchor and somehow it managed to to reach the ocean floor and hold the boat in its precarious position.  We all had to put on our life jackets and my father threw a rope into the water and told us that if it does capsize, jump overboard and hang on to the rope.

I was looking into the water and wondering if when the time came for me to jump in whether I would be eaten by a great white shark because I had a feeling that directly beneath me was where they liked to congregate to ease their appetites.  And if I didn’t get mauled by a shark on my way to the Point, would I instead be smashed against the rocks?

There were no radios on board so we stayed in that position crashing up and down with each enormous wave and hanging on to the side of the boat for dear life.  One of the boats in our party said they would go back to Akuna Bay and get the company to come out and rescue us.  They took off and we waited and we waited and no one came.  Another boat came around the point and saw us in great distress and he had a radio and called the company who said they had sent someone to get us but he was hiding around the corner as didn’t want to come any closer because ‘It’s too dangerous.  The sea’s too rough’.

When we realised the company that had handed us a boat with near-empty petrol tanks had no intention of rescuing us the man in the boat with the radio called the Water Police who said they’d be there as soon as they could.  This kind and caring man stayed with us, circling our boat and getting ready to perform a rescue if necessary.  The Water Police did eventually arrive.  They towed us to calmer waters, put some petrol in the tank and followed us back to Akuna Bay making sure we made it.

We handed in the keys to the boat and returned to our car to discover it had a flat tyre.

After a harrowing week at sea it’s wonderful to come home to a comforting home-cooked meal.  Here’s a high protein meal for those who are energy drained.

Poached Chicken Salad

Serves 4-6

Degree of Difficulty:  2/5

Cost:  This is not a cheap family meal because free-range chicken, quality pesto and organic quinoa are not inexpensive ingredients.  This salad would be cheaper if you bought processed chicken, pesto in a jar and blended it with pasta instead of quinoa.

  • 1 kg chicken breasts
  • 1 onion
  • 20 black peppercorns
  • tsp salt
  • 3 cups chicken stock
  • 2 cups quinoa
  • 2 tbspns olive oil
  • 2 tbspns lemon juice
  • 1/3 cup toasted pine nuts
  • 1/3 cup chopped pistachios
  • 3/4 cup pesto
  • 1 handful green beans, trimmed
  • 1 handful snowpeas, trimmed

In a medium sized saucepan filled with simmering water add chicken breasts, onion, peppercorns and salt and simmer for five minutes.  Turn off water and allow to rest for 15-20 mins.  Strain, shred chicken and keep warm.  Add olive oil, lemon juice, nuts and pesto and stir to combine.

Heat chicken stock in a medium-sized saucepan until boiling.  Add quinoa, simmer covered with a lid for 15 mins.  Remove from heat.

In a medium-sized saucepan bring a small amount of salted water to the boil.  Add beans.  3 Minutes later add snow peas.  After a minute drain.

In a large mixing bowl combine quinoa, chicken mixture, pesto and peas and beans.

Serve on heated plates.

This recipe has been adapted from a recipe found in the June edition of Delicious.

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  1. J Cosmo Newbery says:

     Lovely location.  Tried Quinoa in Peru.  can’t see what the excitement is about.

  2. Test

  3. J Cosmo Newbery says:

    OK.  That worked.  Perhaps it was the ‘new visitor’ syndrome.

    (Arrgh!  No it’s not. Doesn’t remember my details so have to type in email in full and name in full for every post.  Bleah!)

    • hotlyspiced says:

      You shouldn’t have to. Your details should appear automatically. I hope things improve! xx

  4. Niasunset says:

    Oh my God… what a experience… I am glad you are all fine dear. But photographs are so nice and your recipe seems so delicious. Thank you dear Charlie, love, nia 

  5. What a harrowing story. I grew up on the prairie, in a county without a lake in the “Land of 10,000 Lakes,” as Minnesota is known. I do not like being on the water and cannot swim, although I took swimming lessons from a mean teacher who threatened to throw me into the deep end of the pool. That is my water story. Not nearly as dangerous or scary as yours, but frightening enough for a child threatened by a bully swim teacher.

  6. No thanks for me on that boat ride … but we like quinoa and chicken!

  7. Horrid story but your photos bring back such happy memories for me.  We had our boat at the Akuna Bay marina for years and we’d fly to Sydney, hire a car, drive to the supermarket, stock the boat, take off for a week then head back, clean it all out, pack the car and fly back to Wodonga.  Pain in the neck.

    However, it was the most peaceful time of my life.  I love the Hawkesbury.

    I’m not much on the rough seas.  When we took the boat to Sydney Harbour I took the train and met him at the Opera House.  🙂 

    Love your chicken salad, it looks beautiful.

  8. Wow – thanks Idea Man!  There’s one in every family.  How brave of all of you to get on those boats.  I like to look from the safety of a beach.  

    The chicken salad looks yummy – I’ll put it on my list of things to try.  Thank you for sharing (both the story and the recipe)!

  9. It sounds like the plot of a movie — just throw in a little romantic tension, and you’ve got a hit!

  10. Holy Smokes that sounds like the NIGHTMARE holiday from hell. Tell me – did you ever get back on a boat again after that!. I hope you have a book in the pipeline lovely. Seriously! xx

  11. that is beautiful

  12. OMG … what a a story! Sometimes life is stranger than fiction 🙂

  13. Now that is some adventure, Charlie. I do hope that company takes more precautions if they are even around today. It does make for an interesting story, that’s for sure!
    Your chicken quinoa sounds lovely; we enjoyed a beautiful quinoa with a poached egg at the lake this weekend.

  14. You have the best stories!! 🙂

  15. Choc Chip Uru says:

    That company should have been ditched my friend, putting their customers through such a horrible experience – I have never even heard of a boat company give a near empty petrol tank!
    I think this meal would have been more than deserved considering your situation – looks gorgeous 🙂

    Choc Chip Uru

  16. Barbara at winosandfoodies says:

    What. a nightmare Charlie. The salad looks nice though.

  17. Justasmidgen says:

    I’m not sure why, but people seem to dismiss safety when it comes to the water and watercraft.. the “powers that be” have tightened up on this, making everyone write a boating exam before they can drive one. So many people end up in situations like this and it could have ended so frighteningly… I’m so happy you’ve lived to tell the tale..and make us this lovely dish!

  18. My goodness – what a terrible company! Too bad you couldn’t have scuttled their boat off the coast somewhere to teach them a lesson!

    • hotlyspiced says:

      I know. And they got away with being shoddy too. Don’t think we even got a discount off the bill. Wouldn’t get away with it these days though. They’d be fined and hauled into Court over a large compensation case. xx

  19. CateCanCook says:

    Don’t you love boating holidays?! Not?

    Love the look of the salad though!

  20. InTolerant Chef says:

    Lovely, lovely recipe, and why not make it with the best ingredients? You deserve it! Especially after such a harrowing holiday as that! Sometimes its easy to see why we have become such a litigious society.

  21. CheezyK says:

    Thank goodness for the kindness of strangers hey!

    This salad sounds fabulous, I’ll be adding it my ‘must try’ list pronto.

  22. Hmm, poached chicken. This sounds delicious!

  23. We used to have a boat when my sister and I were younger and have so many similar stories. I don’t think we ever went out without some sort of drama. The best was when the stove caught on fire and my sister and I were loaded into the dingy in our PJs with our teddies and told to throw the rope if we got the nod.

    I wonder if this would be nice with couscous? Looks delicious. 

  24. GourmetGetaway says:

    Oh my God!! That must truly be the worst holiday ever!

    I don’t even know what to say… thank God your alive!

    The chicken looks so delicious, I would have that as a nice warming meal any day.

  25. What a holiday! I was put off boats by far less daunting experiences, so I suspect that week would have scarred me for life!

    I am always keen for new ideas for quinoa – these flavours sound like a nice match for it and a perfect lunch base.

  26. ChgoJohn says:

    How fortunate you all were! Thank goodness that rope was only a precaution and there was no need to use it.  And returning to a flat tire? Talk about adding insult to injury! 

    This chicken dish sounds wonderful. Adding the pistachios with the pesto would bring a nice crunch and added flavor to the chicken. I need to try this.

  27. Juliet Batten says:

    That’s a harrowing story. People die all the time in boating accidents, and now I know why. Lucky for you that it turned out well, and that you have lived to make many dishes of fine food.

  28. I haven’t had a similar adventure on the high seas, but we did take our boat up the Ord River in the Kimberley last year. We had just enough fuel to get back, but we ran into trouble about 1.5-2hrs up the river, when the outboard hit a rock. Between that and the river weed continually fouling the prop (not to mention the crocs circling) we were pretty lucky to get home!

  29. Sounds scary! I don’t like boats and don’t trust the sea – there’s just too much of it.  I hope your dad got his money back!
    I’ve only recently begun playing with quinoa – it’s a wonderful product and even my picky teens seem to enjoy it.

  30. Mandy - The Complete Cook Book says:

    Oh boy – not sure I would have allowed the company to get away with all of that!  Disgusting!
    Love your chicken salad though.
    🙂 Mandy

  31. Hi,
    That was a nightmare trip, I certainly hope there was a few words said when you got the boats back, disgusting behaviour by this boat company. How unlucky was it as well to find a flat tyre, a trip never to be forgotten that is for sure.

    Love your chicken salad, looks great. 🙂

  32. The salad looks fantastic! I could swap quinoa for pasta, but I haven’t had an “unhappy” chicken for years and somehow got used to pay a lot more for free-range meat. 

  33. Deeps NaughtyCurry says:

    how terrible, its just like in the movies! well atleast u all returned safe thats imp 🙂

  34. Oh gosh that’s horrible…that’s the worse 🙁 I’ve had a similar experience but definitely not as extreme when I was a child, when we went fishing and the boat that we rented the motor had stopped working and we were lost at sea for a couple of hours I was so damn scared! Glad you got home safely though! The chicken salad looks lovely healthy and yummy! 

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