Tag Archives: feta

Bad mood pasta

This is actually a John Whaite recipe that was published in BBC Good Food October and we adapted it for the four of us (and also changed some of the ingredients and cooking times). It’s from Whaite’s new book A Flash in the Pan.

It’s proper title – its kennel name – is walnut, feta and mint pesto with sweet potato and wholemeal pasta. But I was in the worse mood (for no discernible reason) when I selected this for dinner and in the end was in too much of a funk to make it, so my partner very kindly stepped in.

I had reservations…because…potato and pasta is not a combo I’d usually go for. And the calories per serving, which I’m not a slave to but do glance at, look like a typo (I dare not repeat them here but it’s a hefty amount). But what can I tell you. This dish has instantly gone into my top ten pasta dishes and that’s not easy to do.

Don’t be scared by the wholemeal pasta. I used Rummo Organic Wholemeal Fusilli which I get from the excellent Sous Chef¬†and it was delicious and just added something to it without it being obvious. I think the use of wholemeal pasta elevates this dish to something else.

Anyway, here is the recipe for four:

For the pasta:

400g dried fusilli

Two sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into little dice

For the pesto

120g walnuts

Two handfuls of mint leaves

100g feta, plus a bit extra if you want to crumble on top

200-300ml of extra virgin olive oil

First make the pesto, heat a heavy frying pan and when hot add the walnuts and stir around for about 3-5 minutes. Don’t burn them.

Fill a pan with boiling water (or boil in the pan..), and then when boiling drop in the sweet potato and cook until tender (8-10 mins), fish out and reserve, covered, to keep them warm.

Then add the pasta (in the same water if possible, add more water if you need to but make sure it’s on a rolling boil before you add the pasta), bit of salt and cook for the time on the packet (which always lies but it’s a good starting point). Ours was eight and a half minutes.

Meanwhile put the toasted walnuts, the mint, the feta and the oil in a food processor and some black pepper (Whaite says to add salt here – a teaspoon for the recipe above – but personally we found that too salty so would leave it out). Pulse until coarse.

When pasta is cooked, drain but reserve the cooking water – about a cup full, add that slowly to the pesto until you have a looser mixture – you may need less. Reintroduce the pasta to the pan (off the heat), stir through the pesto, scatter atop the sweet potato and serve in a big dish with scattered, crumbled, feta.

Sit in front of the TV or the fire, kick your shoes off and try not to eat five portions all to yourself.

 

A nice healthy lunch: aubergines, tomatoes, feta

This is the sort of lunch that can expand to fit anything from 2-4 people on the quantities below. And it’s easy to augment it to feed even more. Quantities are fast and loose.

1 aubergine, sliced, brushed with olive oil and griddled

A good handful of cherry tomatoes, halved

100g or so of feta, crumbled

A few basil leaves, torn or chopped

A tablespoon/glug of extra virgin olive oil

A handful of pine nuts, dry fried for a few minutes in a frying pan

All I do is have everything at room temperature (if you haven’t just cooked the aubergines), lay the aubergine slices on a big plate, and then just scatter the other ingredients on top. Easy and delicious. If it’s hot outside and you have time, put the olive oil over the tomatoes, season and scatter the basil atop and leave out in the sun (away from elks and birds) for half an hour.

Yum.

Nutty quinoa salad

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Today was the Big Storm. As we waited for it to pass and the 80mph winds almost bent our poplars in half and shook the beech tree like a deranged nanny, I thought about lunch. Something healthy, but not salad, something warming, but not soup.

I found this in the BBC Good Food magazine, which is about as comforting a magazine title as you can get. It says serves 2-3 and I’d say that’s about right. You can obviously up certain ingredients, such as the squash or the quinoa, if you need to make it go a bit further. I never weigh my squash incidentally. The only thing I found was that this was a bit salty for my taste – ergo delicious – so you may want to not salt the squash, for example. Anyway, this is packed with good things and if only I can resist the bourbon biscuit¬†waiting for me in the kitchen, I will have had a wholly good lunch.

A small butternut squash, peeled, seeds out, cubed into 3cm cubes (approx 500g)

10sprigs of thyme

50ml olive oil (not virgin)

50g whole almonds, skin on

250ml stock (veg or chicken) or water

125g quinoa, that lovely middle class staple, rinsed

100g feta, crumbled

4 tablespoons of chopped parsley (we grow our herbs but struggle with the parsley, so I always have some of this in the freezer. It also stops you paying out 80pence for herbs that then go off in the salad drawer).

Preheat the oven to 200C and toast the almonds (whole) for 5-7 minutes, watch them really carefully. When they’re done take them out and at some point before serving, chop them up roughly.

Now put the squash in an oven tray and pour over the olive oil, thyme and salt and pepper. Mix it up and place in oven for 30-40 minutes until it’s tender and slightly brown at the edges. When done take out and put to one side. You’re done with the oven now.

Put the water or stock in a saucepan and put the rinsed and drained quinoa in, cook for about 12 minutes, until the stock is mostly absorbed and the quinoa is tender to the bite. Now put the cooked quinoa into a large bowl or plate, put the squash on top, crumble the feta on top, scatter the almonds and some parsley and you’re done. You can have this warm (I did and it was superb) or at room temperature. Strikes me it would make an excellent packed lunch, too.

For extra veg, eat with a small green salad. I didn’t because I couldn’t be bothered to pick some salad from outside and rinse it, so I’ll, um, have that later.

Watermelon and feta salad. The perfect lunch for a hot day.

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Eating watermelon makes me think immediately of southern Italy, where I spent so much of my childhood. It’s so evocative, it almost makes me want to weep.

Childhood life in Italy was so different to life in London. In London we lived in a two bedroomed flat in a mansion block in west London. Opportunities for roaming the streets were few and far between. In Italy, almost from the moment we stepped foot onto the dusty soil of my mother’s home village in provincia di Avellino, we were free. My mother had her mother, cousins, sisters etc to talk to, we had streets to explore and railings to climb and old houses to dare ourselves to enter. I spent most of my childhood summers wearing a pink and white towelling bikini, playing out with friends, until I was called in to lunch, or dinner, or ‘per la merenda’ (a mid afternoon snack). We frequently ate watermelon, spitting the black pips as far as we could, sitting in the shade of the porch, whilst the grown ups had their afternoon siesta.

This recipe is by Ottolenghi from his Plenty book. It doesn’t seem like much but it is plenty (ha ha). Ottolenghi says you should “eat this on the beach, or at least outdoors, on a hot day, with the sun’s rays unobstructed’. It’s a perfect summer lunch and basically, an assembly job.

You take some chilled watermelon which you’ve cut into wedges, some feta which you’ve cubed, some basil leaves which you’ve torn asunder and a small red onion which you’ve sliced thinly if you like (if not, leave it out). You put the melon and feta on a plate, sprinkle over the basil and onion if using and drizzle some olive oil over the top. That’s it. But don’t dismiss it because of its simplicity, it’s got lots going on.