Roasted pumpkin and pine nut spaghetti

Why do boring when you can do flavourful… 

I am a morning person but dinner is my favourite meal of the day. It’s the one meal my husband and I eat together, whilst chatting about our day, watching our favourite tv show or simply drinking a glass of wine.

Even after so many years my husband gets so excited about my cooking. His face lights up when he asks ‘what’s for dinner?’ One of the reasons why I love cooking so much is because he enjoys eating so much.

My cooking routine is simple. Pour a glass of wine, crank up ‘French cafe radio’ on Pandora and rustle through my fridge and pantry for flavourful combinations. The other day I found a beautiful cut of Kent pumpkin, baby green peas and goats cheese in my fridge. To compliment these ingredients, I had smoked paprika and pine nuts in my pantry. There were many different ways these ingredients could have ended up but I had only one dish in my mind – PASTA!

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Ingredients: 14 Cooking time: 30 minutes

Serves: 4

  • One packet of pasta, I used spaghettini 
  • Half a pumpkin, peeled and cubed
  • One cup of green peas, fresh or frozen
  • One red onion, finely sliced
  • Three to four pods of garlic, finely chopped 
  • Two tablespoons of fresh mint, finely chopped 
  • Two tablespoons of pinenuts, toasted 
  • Two tablespoons smoked paprika
  • One teaspoon of dried oregano
  • One teaspoon of chilli flakes
  • Five to six tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil
  • Salt to season
  • Cracked black pepper to garnish
  • Handful of goats cheese, crumbled for garnish (optional)

Pre-heat the oven to 200 degrees Celsius. In a baking dish add cubed pumpkin. In another bowl add about three tablespoons of olive oil, smoked paprika, oregano and chilli flakes. Mix well and pour this dressing on the pumpkin. Mix well and roast in the oven until charred and soft. Keep aside.

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In a saucepan bring water to a boil and cook pasta as per packet instructions.

In another pan heat remaining olive oil. Add garlic, cook until aromatic. Then add onions and cook until translucent. Now add peas, mint and remaining smoked paprika. Cook until peas are tender.

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Now mix in the cooked pasta. Toss the ingredients well to evenly mix all the flavour. Add a little olive oil if it appears to dry.

By this stage you will be tempted to devour the pasta as it is, but fight that temptation. Remember good things come to those who wait!

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Drop the cooked pumpkin into the spaghetti. Gently toss it so as to avoid breaking it. Don’t fret if some of the pieces begin to crumble, it will give the spaghetti a saucy, creamy texture. Add the toasted pine nuts, cracked and crumbled goats cheese to garnish. Feel free to avoid goats cheese for a vegan friendly dish.

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Your lip smackingly delicious spaghetti is ready to be served. Serve alongside a heavy bodied Shiraz and enjoy.

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Quattro Fungi and Toasted Pine Nuts Risotto

Your little dose of aphrodisiac…

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Food in my view is an all-encompassing experience, engaging all your senses, giving you a sense of euphoria! Add Friday to this mix and it is reason enough to celebrate.
 
My ideal Friday is coming home to my wonderful kitchen and cooking an easy but equally delicious and indulgent meal for Ji and I. What better a way to unwind! Cooking  on a Friday night may feel like climbing the Everest for some but believe me once you start enjoying the cooking experience as much as the eating experience, your life will never be the same again.
 
On my way home from work last Friday I was tossing up what to cook for dinner. I knew I had two luscious globes of broccoli in the fridge, but my mind and belly felt like something a little more indulgent. The chill in the Melbourne air  also called for some rich, decadent, flavour packed comfort food. 
 
Contrary to my popular choice of comfort food this meal is all about celebrating the humble yet gastronomically glamorous Italian food! I chose to make a mushroom risotto, a perfect dish to spice up your night in. Mushrooms belong to the family of natural aphrodisiacs, add a glass of wine and company of your better half to the mix – that’s what nirvana feels like!
 
Ingredients: 13  Cooking time: 60 minutes
Serves: 4
  • 1.5 cups of brown arborio rice or medium grain rice
  • 500ml of white wine (I used a chardonnay)
  • One cup each of assorted mushrooms (I used dried shiitake and fresh oyster, Swiss brown & button mushrooms)
  • One medium-sized onion chopped
  • Six to eight pods of garlic finely chopped ( there is no such thing as too much garlic)
  • One cube of vegetable or chicken stock (I used Massel vegetable stock cube)
  • Five tablespoons of olive oil
  • 1.5 litres of water
  • Salt to taste
  • Tablespoon of butter (optional)
For the garnish
  • Handful of toasted pine nuts
  • Finely chopped continental parsley
  • Freshly grated Parmesan cheese

Start by preparing the mushrooms. Slice the swiss  brown and button mushrooms (prior to slicing them remove the stem). Add one cup of hot water to the dried shiitake mushrooms and soak them for about 10 to 15 minutes until soft. Strain the shiitake mushrooms, don’t throw the water away as we will use it for stock (this stock is key in bringing out the flavour). If you have dried porcini mushrooms its even better, prepare them in the same way as the shiitake mushrooms.

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In a saucepan add olive oil followed by onion and garlic. Cook the onions for 10 – 12 minutes on medium heat, until they are lightly browned. Now add the vegetable or chicken stock cube, this should be easily available at your local supermarket. Stir the onion mix until the stock cube is nicely incorporated.

Add 1.5 cups of uncooked rice, I used medium grain brown rice.  Coat the rice with the onion garlic mix and cook for five to seven minutes on a medium heat. Brown rice in my view is a great option because of the great nutty flavour and crunch. Plus face it brown rice will be slightly kinder to your waistline than white rice.

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Time to get naughty!! Add 500ml of white wine to the rice, I used a Bethany Chardonnay.  Keep stirring until the wine reduces. Brown rice requires a lot of liquid to cook, so add stock of the shiitake mushroom and three cups of water (approximately 750ml of water). Keep stirring. 

The key to a creamy risotto is either lots of cream and butter a.k.a calories or a woman/man with a good arm that can keep stirring. When the water has reduced add the remaining water, cover the saucepan with a lid and cook the rice for 30 – 40 minutes on medium heat.

Check the rice to see if it’s cooked, remember brown rice tends to be crunchy and  holds it form better than white rice.  So don’t fret if the rice is still visibly separate, nobody likes a gluggy sloppy risotto! 

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Add the mushrooms, cover the lid and cook the risotto for another 10-15 minutes. Season with salt as desired. To make the risotto glisten you can add a spoon of butter and give it a good stir, this is optional!

Garnish this bad boy with toasted pine nuts, fresh parsley and grated parmesan. Serve hot and let your Friday night in sizzle with this lip smackingly delicious beauty!!!

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