Mother’s Day Pasta. Reginetta, Little Queen for the Day.

Mother’s day is something we reserve for the matriarch of our family, and so we will be celebrating the day with my 94-year-old mother. She doesn’t expect gifts but certainly looks forward to a visit and a good lunch. She recognises that her daughters and granddaughters are also mothers and so we toast each other on the day. The younger mothers in our tribe don’t give the day much thought, although sometimes random tokens of remembrance turn up. Gifts are not expected and never have been. I fondly recall the very peculiar little presents my children proudly gave me, after their father provided them with a few coins to buy something at the school mother’s day stall. The more memorable gifts were handcrafted items and cards, made under the guidance of a creative grade teacher.

Mother’s Day began in Australia in 1924, following the American institutionalising of the day in 1908. The commercialisation of the day sped up during the 1950s, and today it is a billion dollar industry in Australia. With a barrage of advertising brochures and catalogues infiltrating our household as the day draws near, an amusing pastime is to find the most annoying or stereotypical item proffered as a desirable gift for mother’s day. What about a new iron? And why aren’t irons offered as desirable gifts for men on the great iron- man day, Father’s Day? If someone turned up here with a gift wrapped iron, I might show them the door, or more kindly, send them into the spare room to deal with the despised and forlorn ironing pile.

If, however, someone asked me around for lunch and made this pasta dish, I would be more than pleased, especially if they opened a bottle of King Valley Sangiovese to go with it. I made it for myself and Mr T this week. Mother’s and Father’s Day is everyday here. The pasta, Reginette, means ‘little queens’, a most suitable choice for Mother’s Day. Reginette also goes by the name Mafaldine, named after the Princess Mafalda of Savoy, Italy. If you are entertaining a queen for the day, I can recommend this rich and economical option.

Reginette con Zucca, Cipolle, Gorgonzola e Salvia. Reginette with pumpkin, caramelised onions, Gorgonzola and sage.

Ingredients. For two big serves. Multiply as required.

  • 200 gr Reginette ( or Mafaldine, a wide ruffled edged egg pasta )
  • One chunk of Kent Pumpkin, around 400 gr
  • 4 -5 brown onions, finely sliced
  • a small piece of Gorgonzola Dolce
  • sage leaves, a generous handful
  • EV olive oil
  • Black pepper.
  1. Heat the oven to 180c FF. Cut the pumpkin into 3 cm chunks and bake for 20 minutes or so until just done but not mushy. Set aside.
  2. Meanwhile, finely slice the onions, and caramelise them in a large deep-frying pan with olive oil and a little salt, until nicely coloured and reduced. This takes at least 20 minutes. Adjust the temperature as you go and stir about from time to time. Remove and set aside.
  3. Fry the sage leaves in a little butter so they turn brown and crisp. Set aside.
  4. Heat a large pot of salted water. When boiling, add the pasta and cook for 5  minutes or according to the information on the packet.
  5. Drain the pasta, retaining a little of the cooking water in a cup. Add the cooked pasta to the frying pan ( the onion frying pan will have some luscious bits left at the base). Add some pumpkin pieces and onions. Decide how much you need to add here. Less onions perhaps. Stir about over high heat, adding a little pasta water to sauce the dish, and try to keep the pumpkin pieces intact. Finally crumble in some gorgonzola and add the crunchy sage leaves. Add black pepper to taste and serve the lot in a large preheated serving bowl.

As this dish is rich and sweet, serve it with bitter greens salad, simply dressed.

More on other’s day catalogues and stereotyping:

French Onion Soup with Vegetable Stock. Voilà

A big bag of onions hiding in a cold larder is a call to soup, especially a comforting one such as Soup a´l’Oignon. French onion soup became popular in the 1960s and although it may seem retro to some, I have never stopped making this classic soup. Every winter I tweak the stock and have now settled on a flavoursome brown vegetarian stock, a good substitute for the beef stock used in the original. The key to a rich dark stock is to roast the vegetables first.

Brown Vegetable Stock.

Chop all the following vegetables into small chunks. Don’t peel the onions and the garlic.

  • 3 Tablespoons Olive oil.
  • 2- 3 carrots
  • 2 sticks celery
  • 3 onions
  • 3 garlic cloves
  • one medium-sized potato
  • 5 or more large dark fleshed mushrooms.
  • one tomato
  • two bay leaves
  • some parsley stems
  • other herbs from the garden
  • half a fennel bulb (optional)
  • 4 tablespoons soy sauce.

Toss the chopped vegetables and toss them in the oil. Don’t add the soy sauce yet. Bake in preheated oven to 180°c for 30 minutes or so, occasionally moving and tossing the vegetables around. When ready, remove them and place in a large stock pot, covering well with water, around 3 litres.  Add the soy sauce. Bring to the bowl, reduce heat to low and cook for approx one hour. Strain into a bowl, pressing hard on the vegetables with the back of a large spoon to extract more flavour.

You will need only 1.8 litres of stock for the onion soup so freeze the rest.

Soupe a l’Oignon- for 6 servings.

  • 45 gr butter
  • 1 Tablespoon Olive oil
  • 700 gr onions, thinly sliced
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 2 tablespoons plain flour
  • 1.8 litres boiling stock
  • 150 ml dry white wine
  • freshly ground pepper
  • 2 tablespoons brandy ( optional but very nice)

For the croûte topping

  • rounds of French or Italian crusty bread, toasted or baked
  • 120 gr or enough Swiss cheese to cover, cut into fine slices
  • grated parmesan cheese

In a large heavy saucepan, melt the butter, add the oil and cook the onions slowly for at least 30 minutes, stirring occasionally. The onions need to colour a little but not brown. When done, sprinkle in the salt and flour.

Stir over moderate heat for 3 minutes, remove from the heat and add the boiling stock. Add the wine. Season to taste. Simmer for 40 minutes.

Correct seasoning. Just before serving, stir in brandy. Pour the soup over grilled bread and serve the cheese separately OR, after grilling or baking the bread, cover with the cheese, pop under a griller to melt, the place these in the base of each serving bowl, the cover with the hot soup. The toasts should rise to the top.

The next day, just as good.
The next day, just as good.

This recipe came from my old Margaret Fulton Book, re-purchased in Savers for 99 cents. I have adjusted the original imperial measurements to metric, changed the stock to vegetarian, and abbreviated the making of the bread and cheese topping.

Margaret Fulton inspired many home cooks during the late 1960s and continues to do so today, with her simple but precise versions of classic recipes. At the time, many of the recipes seemed quite sophisticated. I still often refer to her version of Crème Caramel, Mushroom Soup and her cake recipes. Thanks Leah, for including one of our leading lights of Australian Cookery in your series, The Cookbook Guru.

In My Kitchen, Winter. June 2015

On the first day of every month Celia, from Fig Jam and Lime Cordial, hosts a blogging event, In My Kitchen. This is a remarkable event for many reasons.  In My Kitchen has provided a platform for many like-minded folk to connect. Through Celia, I have acquired my first sourdough starter, as have so many others, and learnt more about frugality, common sense and urban connectivity.  I have also found some very dear friends. Are they virtual friends? I think not. Thanks Celia.

Winter view from front window.
Winter view from front window.

As I consider this month’s winter post, the rain continues to alternately pour or drizzle and all I can think of are Cornish Pasties. My theme for this month is not yet self-evident, especially as the kitchen is in a shambles, the light is too low and a little photo shoot may involve searching for props and lights. Rather than start the clean up, I ponder a suitable pastry for said pasties through the posts of Sandra, the best cook in Melbourne and Debi of Sheffield, Britain, who is passionate about pastry, when she’s not researching antiquity or intriguing books.These little deviations into the land of procrastination are far much more pleasurable than reading the online bad news

But back to my kitchen. The disarray in the kitchen usually results from too many ambitious projects occurring simultaneously. Yesterday I made some wonderful dark rich stock as I was yearning for a bowl of Soupe L’oignon.  As I don’t eat meat, a suitable vegetable stock required the pre- roasting of vegetables, mushrooms and some other tricks. It worked well.

Fish is cheap and plentiful in the fresh markets at present. King George Whiting is a sustainable species. Here they are baked whole in Cartoccio, small parcels using baking paper, with fennel, lemon peel, tomato, garlic, fresh oregano, and olive oil.  After 15 to 20 minutes in a moderate oven, they are ready. No waste, no frying. This year the quince tree started out with masses of baby fruit. Despite netting a few branches, the birds removed most of them, knocking them off the branches, then pecking their hard skins and discarding them. These two survived.

My only two quince.
My only two quince.

As quinces are now abundant in the market and are extremely cheap, my two decorative quince joined some other less attractive specimens in a slow poach. I then stored the pieces under their ruby sweet poaching liquid in a covered box in the fridge. They make guest appearances in different sweets over the winter months and the poaching liquid becomes a glaze or a sauce for many other desserts.

poached quinces
poached quince

For example, this little baked thing, a cross between a Far Breton Pruneax and a Clafoutis is a moody dark dessert to eat in front of the fire while watching Top of the LakeRecipe coming!

Far Breton with Quince
Far Breton with Quince

In my kitchen are a few constant reminders of the cooking tasks ahead. Mr Tranquillo will eat all the oranges and mandarins before I think of a way to use them. The lemons from my mother’s tree will be transformed into lemon curd, lemon delicious pudding and some cordial. Each time I visit, I return with another large bag.

Citrus Season in Melbourne
Citrus Season in Melbourne

The pumpkins from the garden are loitering on the verandah table, a source of winter comfort food ranging from soups to Risotto alla Zucca. And what’s a winter kitchen without a few crazy kids? It was so lovely to return home from Indonesia and have a monster family dinner. How did we turn into 14? Here are two of them!

Kids in the Kitchen
Kids in the Kitchen