Monday, April 4, 2016

Rockmelon Gazpacho

Rockmelon Gazpacho 3

I know a lot of people get pretty excited about the arrival of autumnal fruit such as apples, pears, quince and figs.  And whilst I can get pretty turned on about the brief appearance of quince and figs, apples and pears - not so much.  Don't get me wrong, I don't mind them, I just don't get excited about them.

No, by and large, I am a summer fruits kind of girl.  There isn't a single summer fruit that I don't adore, and what gets me properly excited is the arrival of melons just as late summer almost begins to give way to autumn.  Rockmelon (or cantaloupe as you may know it in your part of the world) is my all time favourite melon.  I love its juicy lusciousness and slightly "perfumed" flavour, and this time of year I just can't get get enough of it, though sadly the season is now almost at an end.

For that brief period from the end of February through to about now, when they seem to be at peak availability, I buy them up every opportunity I get.  I cut some of them up into chunks and store in the freezer to use in smoothies and gelato during the year;  I love big chunks of it in salads such as this Shaved Sprout Salad or tossed with some shaved fennel and pine nuts;  I love to eat big wedges of it just on its own (ideally leaning over the sink to catch all the juice that runs down to my elbows);  and I make it into these rockmelon & coconut yoghurt popsicles.

Rockmelon & Coconut Yoghurt Popsicles

This week at I Heart Cooking Clubs we are saying farewell to Ellie Kreiger who has been our guest chef for the last six months, and this seemed like the perfect time to try Ellie's Golden Gazpacho from Weeknight Wonders - a recipe which I have had bookmarked for ages.

Rockmelon Gazpacho 2

Although weather here has definitely cooled and there is often an autumnal nip in the affair, we have still been blessed with some warm evenings, enabling us to cling to those last vestiges of summer before we begin to break out the winter woollies.  Just such an evening was the perfect time to enjoy this gorgeously fragrant, chilled soup.  To me there is always something about a chilled soup that seems very luxurious and elegant, and for some reason I can't explain seems to elevate soup from "comfort food" to something quite special.

In any event, if you can get your hands on some melon, I urge you to try this.  The colour is glorious, with a flavour to match - but I do urge you to make the soup at least a couple of hours before you want to eat it to allow the flavours to fully develop.  Actually even better if you can make it the day before.

I didn't really make any changes to Ellie's recipe in terms of ingredients used, but I did vary the quantities somewhat, particularly the vinegar and seasonings - I think this is an area where you totally need to add these according to your own taste, and what is required is going to vary enormously depending on the acidity of your tomatoes and the ripeness/sweetness of your rockmelon. You will also need, I found, to adjust again after the soup has been standing and just before you serve it, because the balance of flavours will change over that time, also the flavour will be slightly different when the soup is well chilled than when it is at room temperature.  So taste, taste, taste, and adjust as necessary.

Rockmelon Gazpacho 1

Rockmelon Gazpacho Recipe
Adapted ever so slightly from recipe by Ellie Krieger
from Weeknight Wonders
Click here for a printable copy of this recipe

1/2 medium rockmelon, skin and seeds removed
700g (1.5 lb) yellow and/or orange tomatoes
1/2 medium cucumber, peeled
1x large handful of ice cubes
extra virgin olive oil
red wine vinegar
flaky sea salt & freshly ground black pepper

Cut rockmelon, tomatoes and cucumber into cubes.  Reserve a couple of tablespoons of each cut into tiny cubes for garnish, and transfer the remainder to a blender.  Add the ice cubes, and a generous slosh each of extra virgin olive oil and vinegar to the blender, along with a generous seasoning of flaky sea salt and freshly ground black pepper.  Blitz until smooth, taste and adjust the vinegar and seasonings to your liking.

Decant soup into a bowl or jug, and chill in the fridge for at least a couple of hours and up to 24 hours for the flavours to develop.  Taste again and once again adjust flavourings to your liking.

Serve in individual bowls, garnished with the extra cubes of tomato, cucumber and rockmelon.  Finish with a drizzle of the extra virgin olive oil.

If you would like to get to know Ellie Krieger a little better, and to see all the wonderful "Goodbye Ellie" dishes my friends have come up with, then do go visit I Heart Cooking Clubs and check out the links.  And come back next week, when we begin another six month culinary journey cooking with our new guest chef, Curtis Stone.

I'll also be sharing this post this week at Souper (Soup, Salad & Sammies) Sundays hosted by my lovely friend Deb at Kahakai Kitchen.

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Monday, March 28, 2016

Black Boy Peach & Raspberry Jam

Black Boy Peach & Raspberry Jam 5

There have been some exciting things happen here in Christchurch in the wake of the February 2011 earthquake.  Many interesting activities that have popped up around the city as a result of the Gap Filler project, quirky cafes and bars have taken up residence on demolition sites, and many of the city's broken buildings have become the canvas for unique artworks, all of which have given the city a real vibrance that it didn't have pre-earthquake.

But one thing that is very sobering is the number of whole suburbs that have disappeared, and have now become what we know as the Residential Red Zone.  In these areas the land became highly unstable and the Crown determined that it was uneconomic to repair or stabilise the land.  As a result the Crown acquired all the land from the home owners and all the houses were demolished.  What you see today is large areas of land now devoid of houses and people, but the gardens still remain, like a spectre of the neighbourhoods lost.  Walking around the red zone has an almost eerie feeling to it.  But to every cloud there is a silver lining, and these well established but abandoned gardens are a forager's paradise.

My home is less than 100 metres from the beginning of the red zone, and this week I have been gathering pears and several buckets of Black Boy peaches.  I also have my eye on feijoas, walnuts, figs, more pears, and olives - all yet to ripen.

Some of you may have never come across Black Boy peaches.  They are an old heritage variety, with a dark almost purple skin and pink flesh.  You generally won't come across them in supermarkets;  instead you are most likely to acquire some only if you know someone who grows them, or you might stumble across some at a farmers market if you're lucky.  Unlike other peaches, they are in my opinion better suited to stewing or poaching than eaten fresh, and they are also beautiful made into jams and chutneys.

Black Boy Peach & Raspberry Jam 1

This week at I Heart Cooking Clubs is Potluck Week, giving us the opportunity to cook with any one of our IHCC stable of guest chefs.  With the bounty of all the late summer produce around at the moment, preserving is high priority for me right now, and I've been spending a lot of time lately splattering the pages of Diana Henry's "Salt Sugar Smoke" with all manner of delicious sauces and jams.  I love Diana's approach to preserving and, seeking some inspiration for dealing with one of those buckets of peaches, this seemed like the ideal place to look.  I had been thinking along the lines of chutney actually, but then I stumbled across her recipe for White Peach & Raspberry Jam.  Since I had a stash of frozen raspberries to use up as well, I could go no further.

Black Boy Peach & Raspberry Jam 2

I made a few tiny tweaks to the recipe - firstly using these glorious pink fleshed peaches instead of white;  I included the zest from the lemons along with the juice, because why not:  and I added the grated flesh of one apple instead of the box of commercial pectin asked for in the original recipe.  Also once the jam has been made and bottled, Diana then puts the bottles through a canning process.  Personally, this is something I have never bothered doing with jam, and I've had no problem with them keeping for up to 12 months, but feel free to do so if you have concerns about keeping your jams for long periods of time.

Black Boy Peach & Raspberry Jam 3

The resulting jam, as you can see, has the most spectacular colour.  It's not overly sweet, has a softish set to it and incredible fragrance, giving this jam an almost seductive quality.  A dollop of this on top of some sourdough rye and carraway bread I picked up at the farmers market made the perfect start to the day for a Sunday morning breakfast.

Black Boy Peach & Raspberry Jam 4

If you're lucky enough to get your hands on some Black Boy peaches, I urge you to give this a try.

Black Boy Peach & Raspberry Jam Recipe
Adapted from recipe by Diana Henry
from Salt Sugar Smoke
Makes 4 large jars
Click here for a printable copy of this recipe

1.2kg Black Boy peaches (or whatever peaches you can get)
5 cups raspberries
grated zest of one lemon
juice of 2 lemons
1x apple, flesh grated
5 cups sugar

Place clean jars and lids into a low oven to sterilise them.

Meanwhile remove the skins from the peaches by plunging them briefly into a pot of boiling water.  Remove and plunge into a bowl of cold water.  The skins should then slide off easily.  Halve the peaches, remove and discard the stones, and cut the flesh into slices or chunks.

Put all of the peach flesh into a large, deep saucepan, along with the raspberries, lemon zest, lemon juice, and grated apple.  Crush slightly to start the fruit juices running, then set pan over high heat and bring to a boil.  Add the sugar, bring back to the boil, and continue boiling until setting point is reached (100 degrees C/220 degrees F on a sugar thermometer).

Allow jam to stand for 10 minutes to cool slightly, and then ladle into the hot jars.  Leave to cool before sealing with lids.

If you would like to get to know Diana Henry or any of our other IHCC chefs a little better, and to see all the wonderful Potluck dishes my friends have come up with, then do go visit I Heart Cooking Clubs and check out the links.

Sunday, March 20, 2016

Shaved Sprout Salad with Figs & Hazelnuts

Shaved Sprout Salad with Figs & Hazelnuts 1

We've had a spectacular summer in my part of the world, but literally like a switch going off autumn screamed in right on the 1st of March, bringing with it cool, nippy mornings, gloomy days and chillier evenings.  After a couple of weeks of decidedly autumnal weather, however, summer returned this weekend (hopefully for a few weeks to come) with clear blue skies and loads of sunshine.

Since recently moving back to Christchurch, I have of late been enjoying reacquainting myself with the local farmers market, and yesterday was the kind of day that makes it a real joy to venture out - the sun was shining, music played, all the stalls were flat out busy, and plenty of market goers were taking the opportunity to grab something to eat and enjoy "brunch" sitting in the sunshine on the river bank.

This week at I Heart Cooking Clubs, we're going green and healthy, celebrating the spirit of St Patricks Day with our current IHCC guest chef, Ellie Krieger.  I had picked up some brussels sprouts at the supermarket earlier in the week, and was thinking that Ellie's recipe for Shaved Brussels Sprout Salad with Hazelnuts and Dried Apricots from "Weeknight Wonders" seemed like a good jumping off point.  The original recipe combines thinly shaved brussels sprouts with hazelnuts and dried apricots (probably obviously enough);  however, I was really feeling the autumnal vibe and was thinking that fresh figs would be a great complement to the brussels sprouts.  I had great hopes of finding fresh figs at the farmers market, but it seems I was a bit premature - no figs around yet.

Shaved Sprout Salad with Figs & Hazelnuts 2

I still liked the idea of incorporating figs though, so used some nice plump dried figs that I found, and actually I liked the slightly more "chewy" quality of the dried fruit with the shaved sprouts.  Other changes I made were including a large handful of flat leaf parsley leaves ( I love to use the leaves whole like another salad green, rather than chopping them up), and because I wanted to turn this into a substantial meal for myself I also included some blue goats cheese and some beautiful big, fat, green Sicilian olives that I picked up at the farmers market.  Rock melon too have been abundant of late, and with plenty of melon on hand to be used up I thought this too would work perfectly with the sprouts and figs, and would deliver the juicy succulence that I had been hoping for in fresh figs. I also tweaked the dressing a bit really just to suit ingredients that I had on hand.

Here is my version of Ellie's salad, given its "autumn makeover".  Actually this was the first time I'd ever eaten brussels sprouts raw - won't be the last!  This salad packed plenty of great flavours, and lots of interesting textures - certainly delivers enough on both fronts to potentially get this one past even those who claim to hate sprouts.  I was very happy to make a meal out of this and would certainly make it again.  The other great thing about this salad, unlike a lettuce salad, is that it's not going to go all "wilty" on you, making this perfect to pack up and take outdoors for a picnic or barbeque.

Shaved Sprout Salad with Figs & Hazelnuts 3

Shaved Sprout Salad with Figs & Hazelnuts Recipe
Inspired by recipe by Ellie Krieger
from Weeknight Wonders
Serves 1 as a substantial meal or
Serves 2 as a light meal or side dish
Click here for a printable copy of this recipe

large handful of hazelnuts
8x brussels sprouts, washed and outer leaves removed
large handful flat leaf parsley leaves
3x plump dried figs, cut into thin strips
1/4 of a rock melon, skin and seeds removed and cut into cubes
large handful of Sicilian olives
approx 75g (2.5 oz) blue cheese, crumbled

3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
1/2 teaspoon honey
1/2 teaspoon wholegrain mustard
flaky sea salt & freshly ground black pepper

Place hazelnuts in a small dry frying pan, set over medium heat and toast, tosssing from time to time, until the nuts are golden brown.  Remove pan from the heat, tip the nuts out onto a clean tea towel, wrap them up and rub vigorously to loosen the skins.  Set nuts aside to cool.

Meanwhile, cut the sprouts in half lengthwise, remove the hard "core", and then with a very sharp knife cut them crosswise very thinly.  Place the shave sprouts in a bowl along with the parley leaves, dried figs, cubed rock melon, crumbled blue cheese, green olives, and roughly chopped hazelnuts.

To make the dressing, place all ingredients into a small jug or bowl and whisk until well combined.  Pour over salad ingredients and toss until everything is just coated with the dressing.

Serve and enjoy.

Note:  As with so many of my recipes you don't need to be too fussy about quantities here, or even use all of these ingredients - just follow your instincts and your taste buds to come up with your own creation
For example try using:
broccoli instead of brussels sprouts
feta instead of blue cheese
cranberries instead of dried figs
orange or pink grapefruit instead of rock melon
almonds instead of hazelnuts
The possibilities are limitless - just use your imagination

If you would like to get to know Ellie Krieger a little better, and to see all the wonderful "Green Eating" dishes my friends have come up with, then do go visit I Heart Cooking Clubs and check out the links.

I'll also be sharing this post this week at Souper (Soup, Salad & Sammies) Sundays hosted by my lovely friend Deb at Kahakai Kitchen, and at Weekend Cooking hosted by Beth Fish Reads.

Souper Sundays Badge    Weekend Cooking Badge

Monday, February 15, 2016

Peri Peri Prawns

Peri Peri Prawns 3

In case you hadn't noticed (I'm sure you did), this little blog of mine has been sadly neglected over the last few months.  I could give you a dozen or more excuses for that - all of them valid, but all of them equally boring to anybody else but me.  So I'm going to dispense with the lame excuses, and cut straight to the chase - the blog is back, and I'm kicking things off this week with some fiery prawns ... just the thing to wake up the taste buds and a dormant blog.

I'm cooking along with my friends at I Heart Cooking Clubs this week, where we are revisiting a cooking club favourite chef - Tessa Kiros.  I absolutely loved the time we spent cooking with Tessa a couple of years ago, and her book Falling Cloudberries became (hands down) the most used cookbook in my collection.

I had bookmarked Tessa's recipe for Prawns with Lemon, Peri Peri, Garlic & Feta ages ago, and a hot summer evening last night seemed like the perfect occasion to try it.  I made very little changes to the recipe, other than to adjust quantities (since I had no need to feed six people), substituted chilli flakes for peri peri seasoning which I didn't have, and I baked the dish in the oven instead of on the stovetop.

This dish was incredibly simple to prepare, absolutely bursting with the kind of flavours that I love, and served alongside a simple Greek salad, instantly transported me back to the Greek island holidays I've enjoyed so much in the past - if you want to travel without the hassle of packing a suitcase or renewing your passport, this is the dish that will take you there.

Peri Peri Prawns 2

Peri Peri Prawns Recipe
Serves 2
Adapted from recipe by Tessa Kiros
from Falling Cloudberries
Click here for a printable copy of this recipe

400g raw prawns
1-2 tablespoons butter
4x large cloves garlic, finely chopped
large handful flat-leaf parsley, finely chopped
very generous pinch of chilli flakes
flaky sea salt & freshly ground black pepper
1x lemon, finely grated zest & juice
150g feta cheese, crumbled

Preheat oven to 200 degrees C (390 degrees F).

Choose an ovenproof baking dish that will be just large enough to hold all the prawns in three layers.

In a small bowl mix together the finely chopped garlic and parsley, chilli flakes, lemon zest, and a generous seasoning of flaky sea salt and freshly ground black pepper.

Dot some of the butter liberally around the base of the baking dish and cover with a layer of prawns. Sprinkle over a third of the garlic mixture, and dot generously with more butter.  Cover with another layer of prawns, sprinkle over half of the remaining garlic mixture, and once again dot with more butter.  Finish with the final layer of prawns, sprinkle over the remaining garlic mixture, and dot with some more butter.

Peri Peri Prawns 1

Cover dish and place into the preheated oven for 10 minutes.

Remove from the oven, drizzle over the lemon juice, and crumble the feta over the top.  Baste with some of the buttery prawn juices which by now will have settled in the bottom of the dish.  Return to the oven and bake for a further 10 minutes (or longer as necessary), until the prawns are cooked through and the feta is just starting to melt and turn golden.

Remove from the oven and serve immediately, with a simple salad and some crusty bread to mop up the juices.

If you would like to get to know Tessa a little better, then do go and visit my friends at I Heart Cooking Clubs and see what they've all cooked up ...

... or check out Falling Cloudberries and many of Tessa's other great titles available from Amazon or Fishpond NZ.


Monday, October 26, 2015

Crunchy Chicken Noodle Salad with Peanut Dressing

Crunchy Thai Chicken Salad with Peanut Dressing 1

Like many of you I'm sure, I like to travel.  That said, I don't think I'm much of a tourist.  I usually don't have too much interest in popular tourist attractions, preferring instead (wherever I maybe) to search out the local food markets and making interesting food discoveries.  Returning from an overseas trip you are more likely to find my suitcase weighed down with jars of olive oil, tins of anchovies, or slabs of nougat, than bulging at the seams with souvenirs and clothes.  Case in point, I recently returned from a trip to Bali with blocks of peanut sate sauce and 50 beautiful vanilla beans.   Whilst on my stay in Bali I did a couple of great cooking classes (my other favourite thing to do when I'm travelling anywhere), and whilst we learnt how to make the delicious peanut sauce that you frequently finding accompany sate sticks or used in Gado Gado (an Indonesian salad of assorted steamed vegetables, often served with tofu and eggs, and liberally doused in peanut sauce), it turns out that most of the locals don't actually bother making their own peanut sauce, but use the concentrated blocks of it.  It keeps really well, is easy to use - simply break off a large chunk and dissolve in boiling water - and tastes every bit as good as making your own.

So now I have a stash of peanut sauce blocks, and I've been looking for different and interesting ways to use it.  Inspiration this week came from Erin at The Spiffy Cookie.  Erin's blog was my Secret Recipe Club assignment this month and her Crunchy Thai Chicken Salad with Peanut Dressing was the perfect dish to not only use up some leftover roast chicken, but to also provide a home for some of my peanut sauce.

But before I move onto the recipe, let me tell you a little bit more about Erin and the Secret Recipe Club.   The club has over a hundred members, divided into four groups, and each month one member is assigned (in secret) to another member from their group.  That person then selects a recipe (or more) to make, photograph, and prepare a blog post - all in secret.  Then everyone in the group posts their recipe on the same day, and of course the secret is then out.  It's always a thrill to find out who has posted something from your own blog, and is a great way to meet and discover some new blogs.   If you are a food blogger and interested in joining the Secret Recipe Club, be sure to check out the Join SRC page.   As I mentioned this month I was assigned to The Spiffy Cookie, hosted by Erin, who has a PhD in Microbiology - yep, this girl is really smart - and loves to cook and bake for her family and friends.  She tries to stick to the healthier side of things foodwise, but admits that her favourite "food group" is dessert.  Erin also likes to keep herself fit with a regular work out regime, and to get crafty painting on canvas as well as ceramics.  She is a very prolific blogger, and so offered literally hundreds of recipes to choose from, and I've bookmarked a few to try at a later date:  Peanut Butter & Chocolate French Toast (yes, really!), Dark Cherry Chocolate Almond Granola Bars (what better way to start the day?), Gnocchetti with Asparagus & Garlic-Gorgonzola Sauce (it being asparagus season here, this one was a serious front runner), but it was the Crunchy Thai Chicken Salad with Peanut Dressing that ticked all the boxes for me.

I varied some of the ingredients in the salad a little simply to suit what I had on hand or was readily available - for example, Erin used radicchio in her salad which was not available, so I added some baby spinach leaves in with the lettuce, and used some purple carrots for the colour.  I also subbed in some rocket leaves (arugula) for the coriander (cilantro) which I couldn't get, and replaced peanuts with cashew nuts because that's what I had on hand.  I'm also giving you here Erin's recipe for the peanut dressing, though I did (as I mentioned) sub in some of my Balinese peanut sauce.  In terms of the actual salad ingredients here, I don't think you need to be too fussy with quantities here - use what you have in whatever proportions you like and depending on how many people you need to feed.

Crunchy Thai Chicken Salad with Peanut Dressing 2

Crunchy Chicken Noodle Salad with Peanut Dressing
Adapted slightly from this recipe
at The Spiffy Cookie

cos lettuce
baby spinach leaves
orange carrot, very finely julienned
purple carrot, very finely julienned
red pepper, very finely sliced
cooked chicken, shredded
rocket leaves, roughly torn
roasted, unsalted cashew nuts
crispy noodles

1/2 cup creamy peanut butter
1/4 cup honey
2 tablespoons soy sauce
juice of 1 lime
1/8 teaspoon sriracha or hot sauce
hot water

Begin by making the dressing.  Whisk together peanut butter, honey, soy sauce, lime juice and sriracha in a medium bowl.  Slowly whisk in hot water until you reach the consistency you want.  Set aside.

Assemble all your salad ingredients, except the cashew nuts and noodles, in a large bowl.  Toss together well, then arrange on a serving platter, or in individual bowls.  Drizzle the dressing over the salad liberally, and top with the nuts and noodles.

Serve immediately.

I hope you enjoy this dish as much as I did, and visit the links below to check out all the other great dishes my Secret Recipe Club friends made.

Sunday, October 18, 2015

Pasta with Asparagus & Pistachio Pesto

Pasta with Asparagus & Pistachio Pesto 1

This week at I Heart Cooking Clubs sees the introduction of a new event - our monthly "featured chef" event, where each month we will be given the opportunity to celebrate the recipes of one of our previous IHCC celebrity chefs.  In keeping with this being the inaugural celebration, our featured chef this month is Nigella Lawson who was our very first IHCC chef.

Unfortunately, I didn't know about the group way back when they were cooking with Nigella until it was almost too late - I actually discovered the group just as they were saying farewell on their last week of their culinary journey with Nigella.  I came to the party with these Chocolate Caramel Crispy Cakes, which is still one of my go-to treats when I need a crowd or kiddy pleaser, and which actually consistently ranks in the top 10 of my most viewed posts of all time.

Chocolate Caramel Crispy Cakes 3

Looking for inspiration for this week's dish, I decided to break my copy of Nigellissima down from the bookshelf.  I have to admit that although I've had this one in my collection for quite a while, I actually haven't used it very much - no particular reason (it's actually a great book), but there just seems to often be other books I turned to first.

I found my inspiration in Nigella's Green Beans with Pistachio Pesto.  It's asparagus season here right now, and I just can't get enough of it, so I knew I was going to sub asparagus in for the beans.  I made a couple of other changes too, replacing basil in the pesto with some watercress and spinach (because that's what I had on hand, and because basil is not really readily available here yet), and adding pasta to turn this into a main meal instead of a side dish.

If I'm honest, much as I love the flavour of basil, I often find that as a flavour base for pesto it can seem a little overpowering.  Here I loved the more delicate flavour of the cress and spinach in this pesto, which really enabled the flavour of the pistachios to shine through.  This pesto is beautiful for dressing any green vegetable or pasta, would be a great addition to an antipasto platter, or delicious condiment in sandwiches or wraps.  I think this is bound to become a real summer staple in my house.

Note:  This will actually make more pesto than is required for the quantity of pasta and asparagus given, but some leftover pesto ready to dollop on some eggs, alongside some fish, or spread in a sandwich can never be a bad thing.  Pesto also freezes really well so you can enjoy it all year round - it's great to freeze in ice cube trays or small zip lock bag portions - great for using in soups and casseroles.

Pasta with Asparagus & Pistachio Pesto 2

Pasta with Asparagus & Pistachio Pesto
Serves two
Inspired by recipe from Nigellissima by Nigella Lawson

250g penne pasta
8-10 fresh asparagus spears

for the pesto
large bunch watercress
2x large handfuls baby spinach leaves
1x clove garlic, roughly chopped
generous pinch flaky sea salt
1/2 cup shelled pistachios
1/2 cup parmesan, freshly grated
3-4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

to serve
freshly ground black pepper
extra parmesan

Begin by making the pesto.  Put watercress, spinach leaves, garlic and sea salt into a food processor, and pulse until finely chopped.  Add pistachios and parmesan, and pulse again until the nuts have been roughly chopped.  Now with the motor running, add olive oil one tablespoon at a time until everything is chopped to a fine paste and fully amalgamated.  Remove from food processor and set aside.

Bring a large pot of water to the boil, salt the water liberally, and add pasta to the boiling water.  Remove the woody ends from the asparagus, and cut asparagus into pieces about the same length as the pasta.  Once the pasta is halfway through the recommended cooking time, remove and retain one cup of the pasta water, and add asparagus pieces to the boiling water.  Continue cooking until the pasta is cooked but still al dente.

Remove from heat, drain, and immediately return the pasta and asparagus to the pan.  Add a couple of generous dollops of the pesto, and stir through enough of the reserved pasta water to loosen the pesto and make a sauce.  Keep stirring until everything is well coated with the pesto, then serve immediately.  Finish with freshly ground black pepper to your liking and a sprinkling of extra grated parmesan.

If you would like to get to know Nigella Lawson a little better, and to see all the wonderful dishes my friends have come up with, then do go visit I Heart Cooking Clubs and check out the links.

I'm also sharing this post at Cook Your Books, hosted by the lovely Joyce at Kitchen Flavours.

Sunday, October 11, 2015

Green Smoothie Bowls

Green Smoothie Bowl 4

I don't know if this happens to any of you, but I completely lose my cooking mojo over the cold winter months.  Whilst I know many of you relish those hearty comfort food dishes that we turn to so often once the weather turns chilly ... soups, stews, casserole, substantial puddings, and so on ... I personally could hardly give a "thank you" for them.  Sure, I don't mind those things occasionally (as in maybe once or twice a year), but I have no interest in any of it as regular fare.

As soon as the days begin to get longer and warmer, however, and the first asparagus spears appear at the market, my enthusiasm for cooking returns and sends me rushing to the kitchen with renewed creative spark.

I haven't cooked with my lovely friends at I Heart Cooking Clubs for a few months.  This week, however, they're beginning a new six month culinary journey with guest chef Ellie Krieger.  Ellie is a nutritionist, with a number of cookbooks and regular magazine features to her credit, and if you're a fan of Food TV you will almost certainly have come across her show featuring her unique blend of healthy meets delicious fare ... just my kind of food.

This week is a potluck challenge to choose a dish to welcome Ellie to the IHCC stable of celebrity chefs.   Scrolling through some of Ellie's contributions to the Washington Post, I came across her article and suggestions for smoothie bowls.  As Ellie says, the best reason to put your smoothie in a bowl is of course the toppings, and she served up a gorgeous looking cherry and banana smoothie, topped with fresh berries, flaked almonds, chia seeds and toasted coconut - gorgeous.

Green Smoothie Bowl 2

I've been on a major smoothie kick lately, and I'm always looking for new inspiration, so this idea was right up my alley.  But then I got to thinking - what if I gave this a savoury twist ... a delicately flavoured avocado and cucumber smoothie, given a little bit of a kick with peppery watercress, and spiked with lemon and mint.  And the toppings?  Some toasted pumpkin seeds, crispy, crumbled chorizo, and a sprinkling of wasabi peas for a bit of heat and extra crunch, and finished off with crisp shards of sourdough crackers.  Of course, if you want to keep this vegetarian - skip the chorizo.

This was deliciously light and refreshing, and the toppings added enough interest and substance to make this feel like a delicious and healthy lunch.  Thanks for the inspiration, Ellie - I think this could become a bit of a lunchtime staple over the summer months.

Green Smoothie Bowl 5

Green Smoothie Bowls Recipe
with inspiration from Ellie Krieger
Makes one generous serving
Vegetarian (if you leave out the chorizo)

for the smoothie
1x small avocado, cut into rough chunks
1/2 a telegraph cucumber, peeled, deseeded and roughly chopped
2x cups ice
half a dozen mint leaves, roughly torn
two large handfuls watercress leaves
zest and juice of 1/2 a lemon
1/4 to 1/2 cup almond milk
generous pinch flaky sea salt
freshly ground black pepper

for the toppings
toasted pumpkin seeds
1/2 a chorizo sausage, thinly sliced, fried until crisp, then very finely chopped
wasabi peas
sourdough crackers
anything else savoury and crunchy that you can think of

Place all of the smoothie ingredients in a blender and blitz until completely smooth.  Taste and adjust seasoning or lemon juice to your liking.

Pour the smoothie into a bowl, and sprinkle toppings liberally over the top.

Dig in and enjoy!!

If you would like to get to know Ellie Krieger a little better, and to see all the wonderful "Welcome Ellie" dishes my friends have come up with, then do go visit I Heart Cooking Clubs and check out the links.