Aron was away in Melbourne for a few days so I had some alone time with which to feed my love of trawling through my ever expanding cook book collection (surely not an illness!) as well as watching some previously recorded cooking shows, including Nigella Lawson’s, ‘Nigellisima’. Perhaps it was the latter which gave me an appetite for making, and yes eating, pasta…I could just hear that lovely ‘thick’ squelchy, unctuous sound pasta makes when stirred after it has been perfectly cooked & sauced, and I am sure you will agree, Nigella provides just the right motivation. Anyway, this is my excuse for what turned out to be a few days of pasta indulgence, particularly as pasta doesn’t usually feature in my diet … you know, it’s the carb thing!
The whole process of cooking is an absolute joy to me and it includes shopping for the essential ingredients. I picked up, capers, sliced green olives, organic free range chicken thighs & several different pasta for the next few days cooking .To be frank I went a ‘bit’ overboard on the pasta, perhaps due to it usually being a ‘forbidden fruit’. My haul included some Italian organic wholemeal fusilli, Italian wholemeal spelt spaghetti, squid ink fettuccine & some Fregola; Sardinian pasta made of semolina & rolled into balls similar to Israeli Cous Cous. I also bought some exquisite anchovies, sardines, artichoke hearts & frozen broad- beans. Not all my precious loot was for the task at hand, some of it I simply just couldn’t resist, (formulating recipes as I eagerly scanned what was on offer), and it was stashed away in my ever growing pantry for another day.
The cooking was quick and based on instinct of what pairs well. I have to say I was very pleased with the result of both meals which were enjoyed with a glass (or two) of red and eaten whilst watching some old time favourite movies s of the ‘chick flick’ variety. I told you I was being indulgent!
After such a surfeit of pasta I knew I had to pull it back and what better way than a light meal of a Spicy Roast Pumpkin Pastry Parcel. I know, I know, pastry after all that pasta! I can see my dear friend FJB shaking her lovely head, but not to worry, I’ll be back on the no carb wagon next week….well, that’s the plan!
Chicken, Artichoke & Green olives with Fusilli Paesani Pasta (Kathryninthekitchen recipe)
1.5 tbsp olive oil
1 medium brown onion (or 3 eschalots) – diced
1 clove of garlic – crushed
1 tsp dried chilli flakes (or to taste)
Lemon zest from ½ lemon
500g organic free range chicken thighs – cut in large slices
75ml dry vermouth
2-3 sprigs of thyme leaves
2-3 tbsp sliced green olives (jar is fine)
400g artichoke hearts – drained and sliced
100ml pouring cream
Fusilli Paesani Pasta
¼ cup of pasta water
Parmesan cheese – grated
In a heavy casserole dish add the onion to 1 tbsp of the olive oil and soften over a low heat – but don’t brown. I have it on good authority that you add the onion to cold oil in Italian cooking (Cucina Italian Cooking School).
Add the garlic, chilli flakes and lemon zest and when cooked through set aside.
In the same casserole dish add the remaining oil and the chicken pieces, cook on all sides.
Return the onion mixture to the casserole.
Add the thyme and the vermouth and cook off and then add the olives and the artichokes and heat through before adding the cream.
Season to taste & allow the sauce to simmer gently over a low heat
Cook the pasta and drain – retaining ¼ cup of the cooking water.
Add the hot pasta water to the sauce – it makes a real difference to the amalgamation & consistency of the sauce.
Add the drained pasta to sauce and serve, drizzle a small amount of olive oil and a good grating of parmesan.
Wholemeal Spaghetti with Salmon (Kathryninthekitchen recipe)
1 salmon fillet (skinless)
2tbsp olive oil
1 small brown onion – diced
1 garlic – crushed
½ tsp chilli flakes
1 tbsp capers (if using the salted capers rinse before adding)
Zest of ½ lemon
Glug of dry vermouth
Juice of ½ lemon
1 tbsp fresh dill – chopped
¼ cup of pasta water
Wholemeal spaghetti (I used an Italian organic spelt variety & it was delicious)
Add half the oil to a frypan & over a high heat cook the salmon on both sides until cooked through.
Set the salmon aside and when cooler flake into pieces.
Add the remaining oil and soften the onion, then add the garlic and chilli and cook for a minute.
Add the capers, lemon zest and the vermouth, cook through and add the lemon juice and dill.
Add 2/3 of the flaked salmon to the sauce and season to taste.
Cook the pasta and drain – retaining ¼ cup of the pasta water
Add the pasta water to the sauce and the drained pasta and stir through.
Serve the pasta topping with the remaining salmon flakes and a sprinkle of dill.
Spicy Roast Pumpkin Pastry Parcels *
Pumpkin (any variety – I used Jap) peeled and cut into medium size chunks
1 red onion halved and then quartered
¼ tsp Cumin seeds
¼ tsp Nigella seeds
Chilli flakes to taste
Nutmeg – a light grating of fresh
Puff pastry (home-made or good quality such as Careme)
Place the pumpkin and onion in a roasting pan and drizzle over the olive oil and sprinkle over the spices.
Bake @ 180 c for 30 – 40 mins, turning to ensure browning.
Once cooked mash the pumpkin and onion roughly and season to taste.
Make either 1 large pastry parcel or 4 individual parcels by adding the pumpkin filling to the middle of the pastry base, leaving the edges clear. Baste the edges and place the remaining pastry on top pressing down the edges. Once the parcel is made crimp the edges and make a few cuts on top to allow steam to escape. Egg wash the top (can add sesame or poppy seeds to top at this stage if desired).
Return to the oven and bake for 25 – 30 mins until golden.
Serve as a side or as a light meal with a salad.
*Inspired by a Pete Evans recipe in which he roasts spiced pumpkin for a salad and a Gordon Ramsey recipe in which he encases mashed roast pumpkin in pastry.