23 August 2011

thank god for the pine tree

Christmas trees (well, in NZ anyway).  Timber.  Paper.  Keeping the planet's CO2 levels down and O2 levels up.  Dodgy pine cone decorations.  Resin.  Food for some types of moth.  Pesto.  Pines are wicked. 

Pasta was on the menu last night.  Not a particularly unusual thing for a Monday night, by any means, but by no means unbloggable.  Once we'd established that we wanted pasta, we moved onto step 2 - creamy, tomato-based, or oil/herb-based...  I vetoed creamy and decided on tomato.  Step 3, that's the fun part.  Scooting around the pantry and the supermarket and creating the dish inside your trolley.  We had some bits and pieces in the house - a red onion, some cashews, tomatoes, but that wasn't going to be quite enough.  I figured I'd head to the supy and grab some bacon, 'cause that's always a winner.  Happy days to be at Countdown, 'cause they had red capsicums and pinenuts on special, which almost never happens (well, for the pinenuts). 

Allow me to digress for a little, and wax lyrical about the (not-so)-humble pinenut.  Pine nuts are pretty much what the name suggests - the edible seeds of pine trees.  There are about 20 species of pine which produce nuts big enough for eating (thanks Wikipedia), though all pines have edible seeds (though you might need tweezers for some).  The most well known type is the pinus pinea, the Stone Pine, cultivated throughout Europe and famous for its use in italian cuisine, such as pesto.  In NZ the pinenuts we get tend to be the pinus koraiensis, from Korea - they're slightly fatter than their elongated continental brothers.  Next time you're looking to get some pine nuts, see where they come from, 'cause pine nuts pines seem to thrive on pretty much all continents.  I like it.  I'm seriously tempted to head back to Masons, a garden centre here in TA, and grab me a pinus pinea - there was one there when we picked up an avocado tree a few weeks back.  How cool would that be, harvesting your own pine nuts? 

Okay, I'll stop with my piney rant now, but if you've ever eaten homemade pesto before, or had lightly toasted pine nuts on their own, then you'll know where I'm coming from.  If you haven't, break out man.  Just one word of warning - pine nuts, once they start browning (and it takes a while before they do), boom! they brown quick. 

400 g turkey mince (it was there, had to try it!)
1 egg
dried herbs/spices
salt and pepper
1/2 red onion, diced
3 cloves garlic, finely diced
1 red chilli, finely diced
1 tin tomatoes
basil (fresh or dry)
c. 1 cup cashew nuts
c. 1/2 cup pine nuts
parmesan cheese, grated
  1. Mix the turkey mince, egg, herbs/spices and salt/pepper and form into little balls.  It'll be very wet, but will hold their form.  Place into hot pan (oiled, if necessary) and brown on one side before carefully turning over.  Remove from pan and set aside.  They'll still be pink in the middle, that's fine. 
  2. In small pan toast pine nuts (no oil required) - they'll seem to do stuff all to begin with, but once their oil starts to come out they'll brown really fast, so be careful that they don't burn.  Set aside. 
  3. In meatball pan fry onion, garlic and chilli (don't worry about cleaning the pan) in a little oil.  Add tomatoes and nuts (we crushed half the cashews, so there weere different textures).  Simmer for a little while and cook spaghetti. 
  4. Add meatballs back to pan, carefully covering with sauce ('cause you don't want to break the balls up).  Leave them to simmer while the pasta cooks - this will allow the turkey to cook through. 
  5. Serve on spaghetti, with frehly grated parmesan on top.  Yum!! 
Nb: I forgot to add any salt, pepper, herbs or spices to the meatballs themselves, which meant we had a super tasty sauce, but the meatballs were pretty bland.  Next time I'll be adding some cumin seeds into them, along with the salt and pepper.  Whoops, dumb mistake. 

07 August 2011

if you like piña coladas...

Okay, this isn't actually anything to do with piña coladas, but piña colada sort of rhymed with peanut butter, so...  Hey, it's a Sunday night, so throw a girl a bone here.  Anyhoo... a couple of weeks ago we had friends and their families over for lunch, potluck.  There are two things which rule about potluck meals - you don't have to cook everything, and there is a variety of dishes to sample.  Oh, and a good portion of the dishes go home with those who brought them.  So three things.  Sweet.  This recipe is for a satay sauce.  Ooooh, I hear you (sarcastically) coo.  Seriously, before you roll your eyes and declare there's nothing special about satay, it's just a peanut sauce, try this one.  Get some chicken kebabs (that's what we had), or slap a layer onto a tasty homemade burger, then sink your teeth into a taste sensation.  Over the top?  No.  This sauce, from Mel Instone, is sublime.  It's got a nice twist, from the chilli and fish sauce.  I'm just trying to thing of more ways to slip it into our evening fare.  Maybe on pizza bases?  Or just on a spoon.  Yum.  So good.  Hungry.  Going to make some more.  Bye!! 

1 cup peanut butter
1 1/2 cups coconut cream/milk
1/2 cup sweet chilli sauce
2 tbsp fish sauce
2 tbsp lemon juice
1 onion, finely diced
4 cloves garlic, crushed
a little oil
  1. Fry onion and garlic in oil. 
  2. Add all other ingredients and simmer for 15 minutes. 
  3. Eat and enjoy!! 

02 August 2011

Stop! collaborate and listen

Rice, rice baby (din na na na na na na).  We're officially into the last month of winter.  It should be bitterly cold all the time, with the only culinary thoughts breaking through being those of casseroles and hearty stews .  Not colourful salads and BBQs.  However, global warming seems to be intent on throwing off the weather books and doing its own thing.  Which suits me fine 'cause I'm all for warmer climes and the foods that go with (not that I don't love a good, warming, rich stew too, especially with dumplings, or stuffing, or yorkshires...). 

We had a party on Saturday, a 180th birthday party (combining the festivities for granddad, mum and brother).  Held at Ngongotaha, on a gloriously sunny Saturday (in the middle of winter).  Sure, once the sun went down it was cool, but certainly not freezing (though brother and boyfriend may dispute this, seeing as they were the ones actually standing outside AT the BBQ).  Throwing off the shackles of winter cookery we had a BBQ (in case you hadn't picked up on that), complete with sauteed calamari and deliciously light and fresh rice noodle salad.  Stick that in your pipe and smoke it, winter! 

The noodle salad (made with rice vermicelli, or glass noodles) was amazing, a creation of my sister-in-law Ness.  Really tasty, easy to make, and incredibly colourful, which in winter is a nice change.  We get so much variety in summer, it was great to see some summery colour back on the plates.  KB and I liked it so much that we made it again on Sunday night, to go with our duck.  So, without further ado, rice is back with a brand new invention...

50 g rice vermicelli (about half a packet)
2 carrots, sliced real thin, into wee matchsticks
1 capsicum (colourful, so red, yellow or orange)
1 red onion
good handful of each mint and coriander
1/4 cup lime/lemon juice
1 - 2 tbsp fish sauce
2 tbsp sweet chilli sauce
salt and pepper
  1. Cook noodles by pouring boiling water over them and stiring around in a bowl for a minute or so.  Drain and set aside (I stirred through a little sesame oil, to help break them up a bit and stop it sticking in a clump). 
  2. Stir through veges and herbs. 
  3. Mix together the lime, fish and chilli sauces.  Stir through the salad. 
  4. Season with salt and pepper and serve.  Really good with fish, calamari or prawns too.