Sadly the sun has definitely set on my Greek island holiday where, as you know, I have been doing a 5-week yoga retreat with my teachers, Graeme and Leonie Northfield.
From past experience, I have found Graeme and Leonie's workshops to be deeply profound on many levels, and this year was no exception. For me this was a much needed time of letting go, after all the stresses of the Christchurch earthquakes and their aftermath, and I am enormously grateful to Graeme and Leonie for having allowed the space and the support for me to find a way in my practice to both honour and overcome what I have been through. I have come home with the inspiration to take a more joyful and compassionate approach to my practice, letting go of much of the judgement that has always "dogged" my practice up until now; a new-found gratitude for what I can do, rather than harsh judgement of what I can't. It was wonderful to come together again with special friends made at previous workshops, and to make some new friends too. The bond which seems to develop between people practising together in this intense way is unlike any other. Off the mat also, the retreat did not disappoint. We enjoyed glorious, sun-filled days (not a single drop of rain in six weeks), mornings at the beach after practice, leisurely breakfasts, mid-day trips to town for coffee and a bit of shopping (which may or may not have included pastries), afternoon siestas, and long dinners at the local tavernas. We even managed to take in a cooking class, which was one of the real highlights of the trip for me, and which I will tell you more about in another post.
And now I have returned to wet and wild here on the Auckland west coast. Day after day the coast has been lashed by fierce winds, bringing with it huge surf. Even in normal conditions the sea here can be treacherous, but right now we are witnessing mother nature at full force. Then at night come the electrical storms.
It is of course all very spectacular, and although it has its own dramatic beauty which I love, there is no doubt that being thrust into the midst of wintery storms after weeks of endless 30 degree C days is a bit of a shock to the system. Crisp, fresh salads and summer fruit have had to move over in favour of more warming food such as soups and pasta dishes, and yet I still want to cling to some of that lightness of summer foods - my body is not quite ready to plunge into heavy stews and casseroles just yet. In a recent issue of Jamie Magazine, The Italian Issue I came across this recipe for Pasta e Ceci, which seemed to fit the bill perfectly. The pasta and chickpeas provide just enough substance to provide comfort and warmth; spinach, herbs and lemon add lightness and brightness to the dish; and the accompanying mixture of creme fraiche, garlic and paprika adds some extra warmth and creaminess without a trace of heaviness. Actually in the original recipe Jamie uses a mixture of yoghurt and harissa, but since I didn't happen to have either of those on hand I used a little creative license.
I'm sharing this recipe with my friends at I Heart Cooking Clubs, where we continue to cook with Jamie Oliver. This weeks theme is Pot Luck, and I think such a dish would be a great contribution to a pot luck dinner anytime of year.
Pasta e Ceci Recipe
Adapted from recipe by Jamie Oliver
Jamie Magazine, The Italian Issue (March/April 2011)
Makes 3 generous servings
Click here for a printable copy of this recipe
250g pasta shapes (I used strozzapreti)
400g tin chickpeas, drained and rinsed
2 tbsp fresh mint, coarsely chopped
flaky sea salt & freshly ground black pepper
3-4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 lemon, grated zest and juice
4 generous handfuls of baby spinach leaves
200g creme fraiche
1 clove garlic, minced
1 teaspoon smoky paprika
Bring a large pan of water to the boil over high heat, salt the water liberally, then add the pasta to the water and cook until almost al dente.
Meanwhile, put the chickpeas into a bowl. Add the chopped mint, salt, pepper, olive oil, grated zest and juice of the lemon. Toss well to combine.
Add the spinach to the bowl of chickpeas and toss together.
When the pasta is almost, but not quite al dente, remove it from the heat, and reserve about one cup of the pasta water. Drain the pasta and then return it to the pan, adding in the mixture of spinach and chickpeas.
Place the pan over medium heat, add the reserved cooking water, and cook until the pasta is fully cooked through and the spinach has wilted.
Remove from the heat, add a little more olive oil, and taste, adding more lemon juice, salt or pepper as necessary.
In a separate bowl mix together the creme fraiche, garlic and paprika and serve alongside the pasta.
I really enjoyed this dish, in fact I ate it three nights in a row - it is certainly not a heavy dish, so could easily be enjoyed anytime of year, and if you're after quick and easy it doesn't get much better than this.
Interested in getting to know Jamie a bit better? Then do go and visit my friends at I Heart Cooking Clubs and see what they've all been cooking up ....
.... or check out Jamie's Italy and many of his other great titles, available from Amazon or Fishpond NZ.
I am also sharing this post at Magazine Mondays (hosted by Cream Puffs in Venice) and at Presto Pasta Nights (which will this week be hosted by Tandy of Lavender and Lime).