On the weekend I bought a big bunch of fresh mint from my local greengrocer for a Middle-Eastern dish. I was left thinking what to make with still a sizeable bunch left-over. Turn to Sicily!
In Sicily, unlike other parts of Italy, they have a special Eastern Influence on their flavours, because of the island’s special history, this has lead them to use mint as a herb, rather than just a garnish or for sweets. This has produced some real treasures like zogghiu, a minty & pistachio filled pesto. It would normally have some parsley too, but my version still produces a great, fresh & zingy sauce for pasta.
To make you’ll need:
- 200g dried penne (100g per person)
- Half a head of broccoli, cut into florets
- 1 tin of Borlotti beans, drained
For the zogghiu (pesto):
- Bunch of fresh mint (cut the stalks off)
- 3 cloves of garlic
- 4tbs rapeseed/ olive oil
- 1tbs pine nuts
- 1tbs pistachios (unsalted & shelled)
- Zest of 1/2 lemon
- 1tbs white wine vinegar
- Salt & pepper
- Few mint leaves
- handful of pistachios
Start with the pesto, simply add the ingredients into a food processor and whizz up into a fragrant green paste. Before blending, keep a few mint leaves aside for garnish. Remember to stop half way, scrape the sides down with a spatula and go again, this will ensure a smoother, more even pesto. Then remove and scrape into a bowl.
Put a pot of salted water onto boil, as it gets up to speed, place in the broccoli. Poach until they’re tender, but still have a bright green colour. Remove with a scoop. Place the pasta in and cook for 8-10 minutes, until al-dente. In the last minute of cooking, add in the Borlotti beans. Strain and place back into the pan. Add the florets of broccoli and pour in 1/2 of the pesto. You can store the other half in the fridge or freezer for a future meal. Fold the minty sauce through the pasta and vegetables. Then scoop into bowls. Add a few mint leaves and a handful of pistachios as a garnish, a nod to whats in the very special pesto.
Last week in the ICA store in Möllevången, here in Malmö, I saw these awesome new soya bacon pieces. Well, I just had to buy them and make myself a vegan spaghetti carbonara didn’t I 😉
Here’s a recipe for an equally creamy sauce as the original, but 100% plant based.
To make, you’ll need:
- 1/2 pack soy bacon (87g)
- 2 cloves of garlic, minced
- 1tsp vegan butter,
- 100ml Oatly cream (or any other plant based cream)
- Glug of garlic infused oil
- 1tbs nutritional yeast
- 1tbs vegan mayo
- Lots of black pepper, around 8-9 cracks
- Handful of chopped fresh parsley,
- Lots of vegan Parmesan ( I used Astrid och Aporna’s Riv-iera)
Start by putting on the spaghetti, the dish isn’t going to take long to make! Once the spaghetti is starting to simmer in it’s salty water, start by melting the butter in the pan and adding in the vegan bacon. I used ones from ICA here in Sweden, but I’m sure there are definitely nice bacon alternatives you could use, like smoked tofu, or tempeh bacon etc. Fry off until it starts going crisp, then add in the garlic. Fry until it cooks out its raw bite. Now, add in the Oatly cream, black pepper, nooch and garlic oil. Turn the heat down to low and stir. When they have thoroughly mixed together take the pan off the heat. By this time, the pasta should be nice and al-dente. Strain into a colander. As the sauce has started to cool down, you can add in the vegan mayo. This will give the same unctuous taste and feeling as using eggs in a traditional carbonara. Stir through the pasta evenly, so that each strand of spaghetti is enrobed in the sauce. Serve with the chopped parsley and a generous helping of vegan Parmesan.
Here’s a great cheap & healthy recipe for a ragù, that has that same rich taste, but uses green lentils, instead of meat.This is another one of those recipes where time is the most important ingredient, not only to allow the lentils to properly cook but also to allow the rest of the flavours to come together. To make you’ll need:
- 1 yellow onion, chopped
- 2 cloves of garlic, minced
- 1 tin of chopped tomatoes
- 100g of green lentils
- 200ml of water
- Splash of rapeseed oil/vegetable oil
- 1 tbp of tomato puree
- 1 tbp of sundried tomatoes/sundried tomato paste (optional)
- Splash of red wine (optional)
- ½ tsp of salt
- ½ tsp of black pepper (or more!)
- 1 tsp dried basil (or a generous handful of fresh if you can get it)
- 1 tsp dried oregano
- 2-3 Bay Leaves
Fry the onions and garlic in the oil over a medium heat until soft. Stir in the tomato paste and the tin of tomatoes. Season with the herbs, the salt and the black pepper and add the splash of wine if you have it.
Pour in the lentils and add ¾ of the water to the mix. The lentils will suck up the water as they cook. Bring to a good simmer and then put in the oven for at least 45 minutes at 140°c (fan). Take out and give it a good stir – add more water if it’s looking a bit thick. Put back in the oven for another 30 minutes and the lentils should have lost all of their “bitty” ness.
Serve with tagliatelle or spaghetti, fresh bread and a nice glass of red wine.
Here’s a great recipe for using up the vegetables you have left in your fridge. Plus, it’s one of those that kind of works for all seasons, whether frosty Winter or a breezy Summer evening.
- 1 aubergine, cut into cubes
- 1 red onion, diced
- 3 garlic cloves, minced
- Oil, for frying
- 1tsp tomato pureé
- 1tsp sundried tomato paste (optional)
- 1 tin of chopped tomatoes
- 2 courgettes / zucchini, cut into coins
- 1 red pepper, diced
- Handful of new potatoes, cut into pieces (I used purple potatoes)
- Handful of good black olives
- Splash of good red wine
- 1tbs chilli flakes
- Handful of fresh rosemary, chopped
- 1tsp dried rosemary
- 1tsp dried basil
- 1tsp dried thyme
- 3 bay leaves
- Salt & Pepper
Start by chopping the aubergine into pieces and place them in to a colander (over a bowl). Sprinkle salt over them and wait until it starts extracting it’s juices (this stops it becoming bitter). This should take 30 minutes or so.
While this is doing, in a Dutch Oven, fry the onions and garlic on a medium heat until they turn translucent. Then add in the tomato pureé & paste and fry until it’s cooked out. Next add in the tin of chopped tomatoes, peppers and potatoes. Cook for 10 minutes. Now is probably time to check on the aubergine.
Once the juice has been extracted from the aubergine, Rinse with some water, and add into the pot, along with the courgette, olives and herbs. Top up with some good red wine and stir. Season with salt & black pepper, not forgetting the aubergines might still be a little salty.
Place into a pre-heated oven at 140°C, for 50 minutes. In this time the wizard that is the Dutch oven/ cast-iron casserole will do it’s magic and meld everything together. After 50 minutes is up, take the lid off and check if the potatoes are done, by pricking them with a fork. They should be, as cutting them into small pieces, shortens their cooking time, however, if not, place back in the oven for a further 10-15 minutes.
Serve, with a good drink and a nice loaf of bread
Here’s a simple recipe you can knock up with very little effort in around 30 minutes! I used courgette, tomatoes and pepper, but feel free to use any Mediterranean veg you can get your hands on. Aubergine would be great, but if using aubergine, remember to salt & wash it first!
- Handful of cherry tomatoes,
- 1 Courgette, sliced
- 1 Pointed pepper, deseeded & sliced
- 1tbs Balsamic vinegar
- 1tbs olive oil
- Handful of basil, ripped
- Salt & pepper
- 100g Fusilli pasta (per person)
Turn your oven on to 140°C and let it come up to speed. Whilst this is doing, in a roasting tray, add the chopped veg, oil, balsamic vinegar and salt. Toss it around until the sweet, oily, vinegary mixture has coated each vegetable piece. Place in the oven and leave for 20 minutes, only checking halfway through. This is the time you can get on with the pasta.
Weigh 100g of pasta per person, I used 200g as it’s for myself and my partner, Tom. Boil around 1 litre of water in a kettle. Once boiled, add the water to the pan and salt liberally. Nigella famously said (albeit it a Anna Del Conte quote 😉 ) that the water should be as salty as the Med Sea. Add the pasta and cook until al-dente.
Once done, drain and add back to the pan. The roasted vegetables should be ready by now. Take them out of the oven and stir through the pasta. Add in around half of the ripped basil and stir again. It is now ready to serve.
Add to a bowl and finish with a crack or two of black pepper and the other half of the basil.
I paired this rustic yet tasty evening meal with half a loaf of focaccia I had got from Wright’s Food Emporium (an amazing bistro/deli in Llanartne, Wales.) and a chilled Peroni doppio malto. They paired beautifully with the pasta!