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.
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.