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 with 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 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!
Here’s a cheap, satisfying & hearty recipe that is perfect for those cold Winter nights coming in!
- ½ Head of cauliflower, cut into chunks,
- 1 tbs Tomato puree
- 1 Tin of chopped tomatoes
- 100ml Water
- 1 Onion, chopped finely
- 2 Cloves of garlic, chopped finely
- Splash of flavourless oil
- 2 Peppers, chopped •
- 1 Pack of vegan cream ( I used 1 pack of 250ml Oatly cream)
- Splash of white wine (Vermouth will also work!)
- 2-3tbs Of paprika
- 1tsp Mixed spice
- 1tsp Ground cinnamon
- Handful of fresh parsley, chopped •
- Salt & pepper
- 100g Tagliatelle or rice (per person)
This is a ‘one-pan dish’, I use my Dutch Oven to make this – shove it in the oven, and as it cooks slowly I can get on with my day, then eat it!
To make, start by frying off the onions & garlic until they become soft & translucent. Next, add in the tomato puree and mix it with the onion until it has cooked out. Then, the tin of tomatoes goes in. After you’ve tipped the tomatoes out, add the water to the tin and add it to the pan- this way it gets all the tomatoey goodness. Next, add in your paprika & spices. Cook it out for a couple of minutes. Once this is done, add in the cauliflower, stir and season. Add half of the chopped parsley and with the lid on, add to the oven (pre heated to 140°c). Leave it to do its own thing for at least 40 minutes, 1 hour maybe even an hour and a half. That is the magic of slow cooking!
Once you’re ready to eat, salt a boiling pan of water generously and add in your pasta/rice. Cook until done.
To serve layer the luscious & hearty paprikash on top of the pasta/rice and garnish with the rest of the parsley!
Here’s a recipe for a Mediterranean meal that’s bursting with flavour, vitamins and nutrients that will help you beat the Winter blues and take you to the shores of the Med.
- 1 medium aubergine,
- 3 cloves of garlic,
- Minced 1/4 head of broccoli,
- Handful of mushrooms, sliced,
- 200g penne pasta,
- Handful of fresh spinach,
- Handful of cherry tomatoes, halved,
- 1 tbs of sundried tomato paste,
- 1 can of chopped tomatoes,
- 1 large brown onion, chopped finely,
- Small glass of white wine,
- 1 tbs dried oregano,
- 1 tbs dried rosemary,
- Handful of fresh basil, chopped,
- Salt & pepper,
- Squeeze of lemon juice,
- Glug of garlic infused oil,
Start by chopping the aubergine into coins 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.
Once the juice has been extracted wipe with a paper towel and fry off into a shallow Dutch oven on high with a drizzle of garlic oil. Once coloured in both sides, take them out and chop them into bite sized chunks. Squeeze some lemon juice over the aubergine and add another glug of oil to the pan. Next, add the chopped onions and garlic and fry off until translucent. Add in the sundried tomato paste and chopped tomatoes. Simmer for 8-10 minutes. Next, add the sliced mushrooms, cherry tomatoes and the dried herbs. Cook until the mushrooms have started to soften. Next, add the white wine and basil. Cook for a further 5 minutes, then place (lid on) into a preheated oven at 140 for 45 minutes- an hour.
While it’s cooking you can prepare the broccoli. To do this, chop the head into florets and parboil the florets in salted water. Once sufficiently ‘al-dente’, remove and pat with a paper towel. Next, place a cast iron skillet on your hob’s highest setting. Once scorching hot, char the broccoli using some tongs (constantly turning them as they can easily burn rather than char). When ready, place them in a bowl, squeeze some lemon juice and place a saucepan lid on top (it will slightly steam them).
Once the hour’s up take out the Dutch oven, add the broccoli and stir. Place on the hob on low, to keep it warm. This is the time to cook the pasta. Boil some penne (dried or fresh) in some salted and oiled water. Cook until sufficiently ‘al-dente’. Strain the pasta, then add it to the sauce. Finally take a handful of fresh spinach and place into the pan. It will begin to wilt as it hits the pan. Stir everything together and serve. Garnish with a sprinkle of chopped fresh basil. We served ours with a couple of glasses of ice cold lemon water and some amazing Rosemary focaccia from Wright’s Food Emporium.
Here’s a recipe perfect for a quick meal on a weeknight and it gives you a variation on the famous Italian pesto.
for the pesto:
- A big handful of spinach
- A handful of watercress
- A handful of basil
- 20g blanched almonds
- 2 garlic cloves, grated
- 10g Parmesan, grated
- Some Extra Virgin Olive oil
- salt & pepper
For the meal:
- A small pack of pancetta
- 20g chestnut mushrooms
- 200g penne pasta ( I usually work on 100g per person, so this serves 2)
- Half a packet of Italian salad leaves/ wild rocket
- salt & pepper
Before you start the meal I’d make the pesto, albeit not a traditional pesto, which includes pine nuts that can be expensive, any creamy nut will work and its fun to experiment with different leaves and nuts. To do this, all you have to do is use blender ( I use a stick blender) and blend up the leaves, nuts and garlic until smooth, pouring in the oil little by little until its a runny paste. Next, add the Parmesan and season with salt & pepper and blend again. Keep aside. You can also freeze the pesto if you’ve made too much.
Next, Heat a shallow pan on low and fry the pancetta, until all of its smokey oil has been rendered. Now, add the mushrooms and fry them until soft. Whilst this is cooking you can boil the pasta in some salted water. When the mushrooms are done, add a big heaped spoonful (or two) of the pesto, to cook the raw garlic out. The pan by this point should be a vibrant green. Next, drain and add the pasta and stir. Then, add half a packet of Italian salad leaves and stir until the green oily sauce has covered everything. Serve and top with plenty of black pepper and freshly grated Parmesan. We served ours with some homemade garlic bread and a couple of crisp larger.