Spooked by the Weather and a Spring Pasta.

Two weeks ago I was whingeing about the cold, lack lustre Spring weather here in Melbourne. Today, as the mid afternoon temperature hits 35¬įC/95 ¬įF, with a wind speed of over 50kph, I take this all back.

It’s October 6 and the seasonal warnings are ominous. The morning radio warned of a Godzilla El Nino year, and the CFA (Country Fire Authority) has seen plenty of action today. Small grass fires are appearing around the State, some escalating into emergencies. The air smells of smoke: the sky is a strange colour: it is not yet mid Spring.

Below is a screen capture of the radar of the smoke pattern from the fires today.

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3pm and the sky is pink and ashen
Early afternoon sky, pink and ashen.

A few hot days in a row also sees the Spring herbal abundance bolt to the sky. The seeds of these bolters don’t set until summer and then it’s a little too late and too hot for them to germinate. I’m working my way through the tasty greens and will need to sow parsley, dill and silverbeet on the next wet day, greens that are our summer mainstays.

Today’s pasta recipe, before I¬†became¬†totally¬†spooked by the¬†weather.

orecchiette, dill psto and
orecchiette, dill pesto and ricotta

Orecchiette con Aneta e Ricotta/ Orecchiette with dill and ricotta.

For 4 as a light lunch.

First make the sauce in a food processor

  • one large bunch freshly picked dill, woody stems removed
  • two garlic cloves
  • one handful pine nuts
  • 1/2 teas sea salt flakes
  • extra virgin olive oil to mix
  • 100 gr ricotta.

Add all the dill, garlic, nuts and salt to a food processor and process well, scraping down the sides as necessary. Add the oil slowly to the dill mixture and process until the mixture resembles pesto. Then mix in the ricotta, process to barely mix. Taste for salt.

Then

  • Cook 300-400 gr orecchiette pasta according to packet instructions.
  • ¬†Drain. In a warm mixing bowl, mix the pasta and enough of the herbal sauce to coat well.
  • ¬†Plate. As this is a mild tasting dish, you may wish to add parmigiana cheese at the table.

Note. By omitting the ricotta, the dill ‘pesto’ makes a lovely sauce for grilled fish or chicken, or could stirred through a pile of cooked white cannelloni or borlotti beans (fagioli scritti).

Winter Routines and Pasta d’Inverno

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I have to be honest, coming home from a long holiday in the tropics to Melbourne hasn’t been easy. It’s not just the cold weather. ¬†The first week back home has been hectic, full of dinner catch ups, missed family birthdays involving cookathons, garlic planting, entertaining our Italian guest, visiting and cooking for Mother, a football match to attend, and more.¬†The days just seem too short, yet a mountain of tasks towers ahead. I am looking forward to a slower pace and some space to catch up with things.

Although I don't follow football, I admire these girls who play so well for their local team, Hurstbridge.
Although I don’t follow football, I admire these girls who played so well for their local team, Hurstbridge.

Cold weather routines are slowly re-emerging. Vegetable stocks go on the stove, barley or beans are soaked as I mull over the next week’s budget meals.

On sunny days, the low-lying sun streams through the north facing windows, warming the house in the middle hours of the day, reminders of the effectiveness of passive solar energy in house design.

Mr T gathers dry kindling and wood from the shed to feed our two wood stoves. Last night’s left over hot ashes become roasting beds for Autumn eggplants.

On our second day back, a late crop of pine mushrooms popped through the deep litter of pine needles, providing a tasty topping for bruschetta. Alberto searched for more along the ridges but found none, only the toxic Fairy rings of Fly Agaric. Foraging for food is always such a pleasure.

Annual crop of Pine Mushrooms for Bruschetta.
Annual crop of Pine Mushrooms for Bruschetta.

Although a few days remain before Winter officially commences, today’s pasta,¬†Pasta d’Inverno or¬†winter pasta, is a nourishing dish to go with these times of low light and slow pace. Quantities suitable for two hungry people.

  • 200 gr orecchiette pasta (de Cecco brand is my current favourite)
  • 3 Tablespoons Extra Virgin Olive oil.
  • 3 onions, sliced finely
  • 3 anchovies, roughly chopped
  • one small branch of fresh rosemary
  • 1-3 garlic cloves, finely chopped
  • finely sliced cauliflower, around one quarter of a head.
  • grated parmesan cheese, plenty
  • pasta cooking water
  • parsley,finely chopped.

Method.

Boil a large pot of water for the pasta. Salt well and then add the orecchiette and cook according to packet instructions.

Meanwhile, heat the olive oil in a medium-sized frying pan. Add onions and cook very slowly and gently until they soften and almost melt, without colouring, then add the garlic and anchovies. Stir these about for a minute or so: the anchovies will vanish into the onion mixture. Add a small amount of freshly chopped rosemary.

Add the sliced cauliflower to the onion mixture and toss about for a few minutes until it is softened. Slicing cauliflower allows it to cook faster than small florets. I like the way it disappears in the sauce.

When the pasta is nearly cooked, remove at least a cup of the pasta water. Add this to the onion mixture, turning up the temperature to reduce a little. Stir in a few tablespoons of the grated parmesan to thicken the sauce.

Drain the pasta and add to the pan to amalgamate well with the sauce. Add the finely chopped parsley.

Serve in heated bowls, adding more parmesan at the table. There should be plenty of unctuous sauce to mop up.

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