Back in the days when Jerry was only a little chick, I was busy reading all sorts of expert advice on parrot nutrition. This is quite a tricky issue, because what your parrot eats is as important as the way he goes about obtaining his food. As parrots are very intelligent and social creatures, it turns out that activities such as looking for food, foraging, sharing with other members of the flock and having to shred, chew or tear through leaves, pods, husks, etc in order to get to the yummiest bits are crucial to their physical and emotional wellbeing.
Some avian experts even go as far as advising that we should always do our best to offer our parrots an environment closely modeled on their natural habitat. Now, while I wholeheartedly agreed with that principle, I experienced somewhat of a mental block when trying to come up with suitable ways of making a 70 m2 inner-city apartment more… Argentinian forest-like. A local Yellow Pages search for the services of a certified “parrot-friendly interior designer” returned no results.
Luckily, the trusted parrot toy manufacturers out there were way ahead of me on this matter and had already come up with a huge array of foraging devices, guaranteed to offer any discerning parrot “hours of entertainment and mental stimulation”. Essentially, the idea behind most of these toys is that the parrot has to chew or shred through various layers of paper, cardboard or soft wood in order to uncover a hidden treat. And, to a human mind, at least, this sounds pretty clever.
Jerry, however, was too busy at the time (probably snooping around the fridge or the pantry) to pay attention to the avian experts. When presented with his first foraging device, he gave me an incredulous “So you think I’m going to chew through some cardboard to get to the nuts?!?” look and flew away in disdain. Several months, different types of toys and dozens of helpful “Teach Your Parrot How To Forage” articles later (humans can be very slow learners sometimes), it turns out he’s always loved foraging – it’s just the man-made contraptions he doesn’t like. His preferred ways are by chewing green beans and pea pods, shredding chilies and cherry tomatoes so he can get to the seeds, etc. D’oh!
Which also explains why there is an abundance of green beans and snow peas in our fridge at the moment and, whatever escapes his enthusiastic shredding, can be turned into a delicious noodle salad, full of crunch and refreshing flavours and perfect for a warm summer night. Don’t be put off by the long list of ingredients, this is very easy to make and there is not much washing up to do afterwards either :-). You can vary the vegetables according to season and your own preference, however try to include the herbs as they make a huge difference to the overall flavour of the salad. For a non-vegetarian version, you can try swapping the tofu for some cooked chicken or prawns.
200 g fresh or dried Asian style noodles
1 small cucumber, sliced
1 small head of broccoli, broken into florets
300 g green beans or snow peas, or a mix
100 g pressed tofu, diced
50 g bean sprouts
50 g roasted peanuts
1 cup of coriander, mint or Thai basil (preferably a mix of all of these), shredded
grated zest and juice of 1 large or 2 small limes
2 tbsp rice vinegar
2 tbsp olive oil
1 tsp sesame oil
1 tbsp freshly grated ginger (use less if you are not too fond of ginger)
1 tsp honey
1 tsp soy sauce
1 red chili, finely chopped (seeded or not, depending on how spicy you like it)
Mix all the dressing ingredients in a bowl and set aside.
Cook the noodles according to the packet instructions, then drain and mix with about 2/3 of the dressing while still hot. The noodles will absorb some of the dressing and become infused with its flavours.
Bring some more water to the boil in the same saucepan you used for the noodles, and then blanch the broccoli, green beans and peas for about 2 minutes – try not to overcook them, as we need to keep them still crunchy. Drain, then set aside to cool.
Place the cool noodles and vegetables in a salad bowl, add the bean sprouts, peanuts, tofu, herbs and remaining salad dressing and toss well. If possible, allow the salad to rest for about 20-30 minutes before serving. Serves 4.