Thursday, 27 July 2017

Pasta with Lentils

Haul me over the coals for being a slack blogger, because this last month has been a nightmare for me. Cold and flu and back problems aside, the time has just flown by with family issues.

Tardiness on my part has been due to a number of things; a few family health issues - can't be avoided. Trying to make a decision like 'holiday or kitchen renovation', doing my sums, looking at pros and cons for both. The holiday has won out and I will be heading to New Zealand for the first time in 2018 plus a few side trips this year to get in a little kayaking on the Murray River and to see my amazing daughters in Melbourne.

Added to this I have been furniture hunting and finally - big excuse - I have been painting my family room. Yes OK I hear you!  That's not enough to slow me down. I'm fully hand smacked! I'm raring to go now so I'm trying to keep up the weekly blog posts.

So let's do it!

There are a lot of people I know that avoid eating pasta because of the carbs. But  how can you say no to pasta totally?? Put pasta and lentils together and you have double love. Let me tell you a little story about this recipe.

A few years ago I started, with the help of many volunteers,  a 'Book Shed' in a country town in South Australia. People donated books, they were resold and the profits went to a community organisation. It was a great way for locals to get new books for a little outlay and a terrific fundraiser. 

A friend who was having a clean out gave me a pile of cookbooks for the book shed and told me to take any book for myself I would like. Amongst them was an Italian pasta cook book that caught my eye but investigating I found many of the recipes had meat in them. Lentils with pasta caught my eye and I realised I could make something with that.

I've taken the basic recipe and rejigged it to take it from an OK recipe to what I think is a great winter dish without meat. I hope you agree. I truly love this dish because it is fast to cook, comforting on a cold winter's night and tastes really, really good.



250g Pasta - Rigatoni, Penne or Macaroni
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 large onion, chopped
3 cloves garlic
1/2 cup dried brown/green lentils
1 long red hot chilli, cut in half
2 -3 small potatoes, peeled and cubed
2 cups of water or stock, or half and half
1/2 bunch spinach/chard/silver beet, washed and chopped
salt and pepper
2 tablespoons parsley, chopped
grated parmesan

In a heat proof container add lentils and enough boiling water to cover. Set aside for half an hour. You can do this the day before if you are short of time.

Heat oil in fry pan and add onion and garlic. cook for a few minutes until the onion is transparent. Add the potatoes and mix until coated in oil. 
Now add enough water 1 cup at least to cover the potatoes by 5 cms. Now bring to the boil and cook for 5 mins uncovered.

Next, add the drained lentils, chilli, salt and pepper and cook for a couple of minutes.

Add the pasta and 1 cup of water, salt and pepper, half the parsley. Cook until the pasta, potatoes and lentils are soft. If the mixture looks too dry, add a little more water.
At the last minute add the spinach and allow it to wilt. If you are using silver beet, you may need to cook it a little longer.  Check seasoning and adjust to taste. Take out the chilli and discard.

Serve in a bowl with grated parmesan cheese and a sprinkling of parsley.

Wednesday, 19 July 2017

Mulled Wine

Winter! It has its own beauty. Foggy mornings, rain to refresh the garden after the summer heat and a rare sun to warm that spot on your back. 

It has it's downfalls too. Dark, stormy clouds, unremitting rain and cold and the proverbial runny noses and high fevers. 

We can cook soups and stews to head off the winter chills and warm our bodies and spirits but nothing will clean the head like a glass of mulled wine. 

Close your eyes; Can you smell the fragrance of the cinnamon, the musky pungence of cloves and star anise. A burst of citrus and the sweet smooth taste of syrup. What does it conjure up for you?

Oh England, my England it brings back memories of Christmas and family and home.

Oranges and tangerines were scarce and only ever came to our tables at Christmas. They were a fabulous treat to find in your Christmas stocking along with peanuts and chocolate bars. And the joy of peeling that first orange, stains on the hand and orange lips. The fruity smell of tangy, sweet goodness.

And of cinnamon sticks and star anise - my first encounter when I was in my twenties. Now a staple in my pantry.

As the years slowly pass, I am thankful for the abundance of what I have. A wine growing region on my doorstep, orange and lemon trees in my garden and spices, the best antidote for winter blues and home sickness.


Juice and zest of 1 orange - I used a blood orange
zest of 1 lemon
60g caster sugar
500ml red wine - (I used Yardstick Fleurieu Cabernet Merlot 2015)
1 cinnamon stick
1 star anise
1/2 tsp grated nutmeg
2 cloves
fresh ginger
Couple of slices of orange for decoration

Nothing could be easy than making mulled wine. Just remember not to boil it unless you want to remove the alcohol!!

In a small saucepan, add the cinnamon stick, star anise, nutmeg, cloves, juice, zest, sugar, a small grate of fresh ginger and 50 mls wine. 

Place on a low heat and simmer for 4 - 5 minutes stirring all the time until sugar dissolves. Once the mixture becomes syrupy, take off the heat and add the rest of the wine. Stir quickly to incorporate the wine and the syrup then over a very gentle heat warm the wine until it just starts to steam.

Strain the mixture and tip into glasses. Decorate with slices of orange and serve immediately.

This makes 4 glasses. But if you want to serve more, increase the sugar content at the beginning and add more wine.

Fleurieu Cabernet Merlot 2015 was used for the mulled wine