Wholegrain spaghetti with broad beans (fava beans)

Broad beans (aka fava beans) are finally in season in Melbourne so it’s time to share with you this quintessential ‘cucina povera’ dish. The basis of this style of cooking is that you only need to use a handful of inexpensive ingredients to create something wonderful. The cooking techniques are often simple with the emphasis being on the ingredients themselves; usually whatever you have growing in your garden at the time. Try to eat seasonal foods wherever possible- they tend to be tastier, fresher and a lot cheaper to buy. If you’re lucky enough to have space for a veggie patch I’d strongly recommend planting some food for yourself. Broad beans are fairly easy to grow (though you’ll have to wait until next year to plant some) and bringing food from your garden to the table is quite satisfying.

Anyway, back to this dish. When it’s early in the season you only have to remove the broad beans from their large pod (see photo below).

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Later on in the season as their skins become harder it’s best to remove the next layer of skin (see photo below).

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Removing the second layer reveals the tender, sweet inner part of the broad bean which I personally prefer. If you do this they’ll be quicker to cook and they’ll be more appealing to some. Please note however that you’ll probably lose some nutrients by doing this, but I think it’s necessary later in the season.

In regards to the pasta I personally prefer to use wholegrain pasta. The pasta that I buy is more than half wholegrain flour and the rest is regular durum wheat flour, semolina and oat fiber. You can however use any type of spaghetti that you like (just bear in mind differing cooking times- this recipe is for pasta which cooks in 7 minutes). I break the spaghetti up into 6 or more even sized pieces so that you can eat this using a spoon (see photo below). Do this by taking a small handful of spaghetti, hold it with your left hand and snap off small pieces with your right hand.

It’s important to use lots of parsley in this dish and black pepper. The tomatoes add a little colour and flavour. Broad beans take a while to cook but the wait is well worth it. Give this dish a go whilst they’re in season!

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Serves 4

Ingredients

1 large onion, diced

2 tablespoons olive oil

5 cups broad beans removed from their pods and rinsed

1 bunch fresh parsley, roughly chopped

2.5 teaspoons salt

Freshly-ground black pepper

6 vine-ripened cherry tomatoes, cut into quarters

1.5 litres water

250 grams wholegrain spaghetti, snapped into 6 or more even lengths (see description above)

Method

1. In a medium-sized saucepan, heat oil and add the onion. Saute until the onion is translucent, taking care not to burn it.

2. Add the broad beans, 1 teaspoon of salt, the chopped parsley and freshly-ground black pepper to taste.

3. Stir using a wooden spoon to coat the broad beans in the oil and seasoning, then lower the gas to a gentle heat and allow to cook slowly, for about 10 minutes.

4. Add the chopped cherry tomatoes and give it all another stir.

5. In a separate saucepan, add the water, cover with a lid and heat it up. Turn it off just before the water comes to the boil.

6. Once the water is ready, add it to the broad beans. Add 1.5 teaspoons of salt to the pan, give it a stir then cover the pan with a lid and continue to cook gently over a low heat.

7. Once the broad beans are almost cooked (after approximately 25-30 minutes), throw in the spaghetti. Taste the cooking water and adjust the seasoning if necessary. Ensure that the pasta is submerged in the water by stirring and pushing it down with a wooden spoon. Raise the heat a little and cover with the lid again.

8. After 7 minutes, taste the pasta to see if it’s al dente. If it is, turn off the heat and spoon it into 4 bowls. Serve immediately.

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*If you’d like to use this recipe, please reference this blog- thank you!

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Meatballs baked in tomato sauce

Mmm meatballs. Baked in sauce, accompanied by some crusty bread and a fresh salad and you’ve got yourself a comforting and oh so delicious meal!

I believe the key to tasty meatballs is making your own breadcrumbs. In fact, homemade breadcrumbs improve the taste of any dish which require them. You can use any type of bread that you have on hand (I’d opt for rye bread or wholemeal multigrain bread). For this recipe I toasted some rye bread, then tore up the slices and processed them in the food processor until I had coarse breadcrumbs.

I also like to throw in some diced Swiss mushrooms and I use red onion instead of brown onion. Lots of parsley is important too, as well as adding grated Parmesan cheese.

I like to brown the meatballs before baking them as it adds a wonderful depth of flavour to the dish- use minimal oil in the pan and don’t burn them.

You could also serve these with wholemeal pasta if you’re looking for a more substantial meal. Give these a go for dinner tonight and let me know what you think!

Baked meatballs

Recipe adapted from the Women’s Weekly ‘Bakes & Gratins’

Serves 6

Ingredients

1kg lean minced beef

2 large free-range eggs

1 cup freshly made rye breadcrumbs (see instructions above)

1 red onion, peeled and diced

1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese, plus extra for garnishing

1/3 cup chopped parsley, plus extra for garnishing

1 cup diced Swiss mushrooms

Freshly-ground black pepper

2 tablespoons olive oil

1/2 brown onion, peeled and diced

2 cloves garlic, crushed

3 cans peeled tomatoes, minced using a food mill

2 teaspoons dried oregano

1 cup frozen peas

1 teaspoon salt

Method

1. Preheat oven to 200ºC. Spray a baking dish with olive oil spray.

2. In a large bowl, add minced beef, eggs, breadcrumbs, red onion, Parmesan cheese, parsley and mushrooms. Season with freshly ground black pepper and mix with a spoon to combine all the ingredients.

3. Drizzle some olive oil on your hands then roll a couple of tablespoons of the mixture in your hands to form balls. I made 16 meatballs with this quantity. Ensure they’re all even in size.

4. Heat 1 tablespoon of oil in a large fry pan over medium heat, then add the meatballs and fry them until they are browned all over, using tongs to turn them over. Remove them from the pan and gently place them in the baking dish.

5. Wash the fry pan, then add 1 tablespoon of oil and heat it over medium heat. Add the brown onion, then after 1 minute add the garlic. Saute until the onion becomes translucent, stirring with a wooden spoon and ensuring that it doesn’t burn.

6. Add the minced tomatoes, oregano, salt, peas and some freshly-ground black pepper. Stir the sauce and cook for a couple of minutes, then pour it over the meatballs. Sprinkle with a little Parmesan cheese (if desired) and bake (uncovered) for 40 minutes at 200ºC. Check to see that the meatballs are cooked through, then garnish with chopped parsley and serve.

Baked meatballs

*If you’d like to use this recipe, please reference this blog- thank you!

Spiced pork with raisins, pine nuts & couscous

An easy to put together meal cooked in one dish, combining sweet and spicy flavours. For nights when you want to throw everything into a dish and let your oven do all the work while you wind down.

This is something I put together this afternoon with a bit of this and a bit of that found in the fridge and pantry. We had some pork to use, tonnes of spices that I had bought for my Moroccan chickpea and barley salad, some left-over chickpeas and a box of couscous waiting to be tested.

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Serves 4

Ingredients

450g lean pork, cut into cubes

1 onion, diced

2 teaspoons turmeric

1/2 teaspoon chilli flakes

1 teaspoon cinnamon

50g raisins

40g pine nuts

500mL vegetable stock

200g cooked chickpeas

200g couscous

1 tablespoon chopped parsley

Salt and freshly-ground black pepper

Method

1. Preheat oven to 160°C.

2. Put pork in a casserole dish with the onions and spices. Season with salt and freshly-ground black pepper then stir with a spoon to coat the meat well.

3. Sprinkle in the raisins and pine nuts and then pour over the stock. Stir in the chickpeas.

4. Cover the dish with its lid and cook at 160°C for 90 minutes or until the pork is cooked.

5. Remove from the oven once the pork is cooked. Sprinkle over the couscous and return the dish, covered, to the oven for 10-15 minutes.

6. Remove from the oven and give it a stir. Garnish with the chopped parsley and serve.

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*If you’d like to use this recipe, please reference this blog- thank you!

Pistachio & mixed spice biscotti

I love biscotti as they’re great for dunking in tea or coffee and they’re not too sweet. They don’t have any milk or butter in them and you can use whatever type of nuts that you like best. Traditionally, biscotti are made with blanched almonds and vanilla essence (recipe coming soon) but now and then I like this combination as they’re more colourful (and pistachios are always a winner in my mind!)

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As the name suggests, biscotti are baked twice over a 2 day period (bis = again, cotti = cooked) so it’s worth doubling or tripling this recipe given the waiting time involved. I’ve been making biscotti for a good 10 years or so now and can list a number of things that you should watch out for when making them (from my silly mistakes!)

-Be very very VERY careful when separating the eggs! This may sound silly and obvious, but when you’re making a quadruple batch like I do and you accidentally drop in the 12th yolk, tears will ensue as any hint of egg yolks changes the texture of the biscuits (they’ll still be edible, but not as great as they can be).

-Don’t over beat your egg whites and don’t over mix the dough when you’re folding in the flour and nuts.

-Slice the biscotti thinly; thick biscotti won’t have the right texture.

-When you’re baking the biscotti for the second time, do NOT leave the kitchen. I’ve lost count of the number of times that I’ve checked on the biscuits, thought ‘hmm they’re still not crisp enough, I’ll leave them for a few more minutes’, then come back and BOOM they’re brown. They’re quite thin so it doesn’t take long for them to turn from great to burnt. So please watch them carefully!

Ingredients

1 cup plain flour, sifted

1/3 cup shelled pistachios

3 egg whites (from large, free-range eggs)

1/2 cup caster sugar

1/2 teaspoon mixed spice

Method

1.Preheat the oven to 150°C and line a 20 x 11cm loaf tin with baking paper.

2. Beat the egg whites with an electric beater until they are stiff.

3. Gradually add the sugar, beating until the mixture is thick, then add the mixed spice.

4. Fold in the sifted flour and the pistachios until the dough is just combined (don’t over do it).

5. Spoon into the loaf tin, forming a log shape, and bake for 35 minutes.

6. Turn out onto a wire rack and peel off the baking paper. Once it is cool, wrap in foil and leave to rest for 24 hours.

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7. The next day, preheat the oven again to 150°C. Remove the foil and slice the log as thinly as possible using a serrated knife (as below).

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8. Arrange the biscuits on ungreased baking trays (as below).

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9. Bake for 25-30 minutes or until crisp (do NOT let them turn brown). Once baked, transfer them to a wire rack and allow to cool.

10. Serve them with tea or coffee or store in an airtight container (they keep well for a few weeks-if they last that long!)

Biscotti

*If you’d like to use this recipe please reference this blog- thank you!

Globe artichokes stuffed with garlic & parsley

Every year I look forward to when artichokes are in season. I think they’re one of the best tasting vegetables and it doesn’t take much effort to get an amazing side dish out of them. This dish can be made richer by also stuffing the artichokes with breadcrumbs and cheese but I like to cook them really simply with just a garlic and parsley stuffing (keeping things simple is often the best way to show off the true flavours of the star ingredient).

Stuffed artichokes

I remember having this dish in Trastevere and being blown away by the deep flavours and the delicate texture of the artichoke heart. When I eat them now a few years on I’m still taken back to that dish in that wonderful area of Rome.

Artichokes will only be in season for a little while longer so get your hands on some and give this easy yet oh so tasty dish a go!

Ingredients

5 large globe artichokes, stems removed & discarded

1 cup chopped parsley

3 cloves garlic, finely chopped

1 1/2 cups vegetable stock

Olive oil

Salt & freshly-ground black pepper

Method

1. Thoroughly wash the artichokes in cold water to remove all dirt (at least 2-3 times).

2. Cut about 1 inch off the tops of the artichokes so that they’re all flat (the tops are quite hard and inedible) and remove any hard outer leaves.

3. Gently separate the leaves using your fingers to make room for the stuffing.

4. Using your fingers, evenly stuff the artichokes with the parsley and garlic.

5. In a large saucepan over medium heat, add the stock then place the stuffed artichokes inside, facing upwards. Ensure they all fit in one layer (ie- don’t put the artichokes on top of each other).

6. Season with a little salt and a generous amount of freshly-ground black pepper. Lightly drizzle with olive oil, then cover with a lid and allow the stock to come to a boil.

7. Once it boils, lower the heat and allow to simmer, covered, until the artichokes become tender (30-40 minutes). You’ll know they’re done when you can easily remove the outer leaves. Serve immediately.

Stuffed artichokes

*If you’d like to use this recipe, please reference this blog- thank you!

Mulled wine with brandy

A few years ago I was lucky enough to be in Europe during winter time. Many of the major cities had the most beautiful markets dotted with stalls selling mulled wine. When temperatures drop below zero at night there’s nothing more comforting than wrapping your hands around a cup of the fragrant drink and letting it warm you up.

I think mulled wine is one of those drinks that allows you to be really creative- I like to add brandy and blood oranges rather than normal oranges. I believe you can also add other citrus fruits and there are probably other spices that would go well in this drink too. I often make this with honey instead of sugar and it tastes just as good.

It’s the perfect drink for a cosy night in or to serve at your next winter party!

Spiced mulled wine with brandy

Ingredients

Peel & juice of 2 small blood oranges

2 1/2 tablespoons brown sugar

1 star anise

1 teaspoon cinnamon

6 cloves

1 1/2 cups red wine

2 tablespoons brandy

Method

1. Put the peel and juice of the blood oranges into a small saucepan over medium heat, along with the brown sugar, star anise, cinnamon and cloves.

2. Pour in a few tablespoons of the red wine and stir until the sugar has dissolved, then allow to simmer until the mixture starts to thicken.

3. Add the remainder of the wine and the brandy, lower the heat and allow all of the flavours to blend together, for about 5 minutes. It’s important that the mixture doesn’t boil or you’ll destroy the alcohol.

4. Turn off the heat and strain into small glasses or cups. Serve immediately.

*If you like this recipe feel free to use it but please reference this blog- thank you!

Moroccan chickpea & barley salad

The draw card of Moroccan food for me is the extensive use of spices and the addition of nuts and fruit to dishes. This salad ticks all the boxes; the spices are balanced with the sweetness of apricots and the pistachios add wonderful colour and texture. It’s one of the tastiest dishes that I’ve come across this year; I always go back for seconds.Try it for yourself and let me know what you think!

Moroccan chickpea & barley salad

Recipe adapted from Simply Recipes.

Serves 3-4

Ingredients

3/4 cup barley

3/4 cup vegetable stock

1 1/2 cups water

1/2 teaspoon salt

1 tablespoon olive oil, plus extra for dressing

3 cups cooked chickpeas

1/3 cup shelled pistachios

8 dried apricots, diced

1/2 cup diced red onion

1/2 cup chopped parsley

Zest and juice of 1/2 a lemon

1/4 teaspoon freshly-ground black pepper

1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper

1/4 teaspoon turmeric

1/4 teaspoon cinnamon

1/4 teaspoon cardamon

Method

1. Rinse the barley in a sieve with cold water to remove any debris.

2. Heat 1 tablespoon of olive oil in a saucepan over medium heat. Add the barley and sauté for 2-3 minutes, stirring often. Add the stock, water and salt, then cover with a lid and bring to the boil. Immediately reduce the heat and allow the barley to simmer, covered, until it is tender, stirring occasionally. If the liquid is absorbed before the barley is cooked then add 1/2-1 cup water and allow it to simmer further.

3. Once it’s cooked, strain the barley through a sieve and run cold water over it to cool it down, stirring with a spoon to speed up the cooling and strain out the water.

4. Spread the barley out onto a baking tray and drizzle with olive oil. Mix it with a spoon to ensure all the grains are well coated with oil.

5. In a bowl, add the cooked chickpeas, pistachios, apricots, red onion and parsley and mix well. Add the zest and juice of 1/2 a lemon and mix again. Then stir in the barley.

6. In a small bowl, mix together all of the spices. Add this mixture to the salad and stir it through well.

7. Allow the salad to marinate for up to an hour, then drizzle with olive oil and serve.

Moroccan chickpea & barley salad