Last week I made a pasta dish that we often make when we are hurried, tired or not very motivated to cook anything too complicated. I paired it with a lovely white wine and it went so well together that I thought I’d share it with you. It is quite simple and very delicious – particularly in the summer when the vegetables are at their peak. Pasta dishes are handy for us because they can easily be adapted to suit the likes and dislikes of the children. They eat pasta with sliced raw vegetables (cherry tomatoes, cucumbers, peppers, and carrots) and roasted pine nuts. One prefers pesto and cheese while the other likes simple extra virgin olive oil – both are easy to accommodate and are no extra work!
I use wholewheat pasta or whole spelt pasta which once cooked, I douse with extra virgin olive oil and then I stir in a healthy portion of vegan pesto. I then top it with a variety of oven-roasted vegetables, pour a glass of wine and dinner is served! I would guess the whole process from start to table takes 45 minutes at most.
This time I used aubergine/eggplant, red onion, carrots, cherry tomatoes, pine nuts and fresh arugula and basil to top our pasta and I paired it with a lovely wine called Scaramanga White from 2015. If you read my first post about wine and food pairing, you will notice that this wine is also from the South African wine maker Nabygelegen. It is a beautiful wine which does well on its own at a picnic in the park or paired with food. It is made from a blend of three grapes: 60% Chenin Blanc, 30% Chardonnay and 10% Verdelho. This blend gives great balance, but also a diverse flavor pattern and makes it a fairly easy wine to drink and combine with food.
It did very well with my pasta dish because it is creamy, full-bodied, and off-dry with plenty of structure. The creamy notes and oak spices were a perfect match for the earthy flavor and creamy texture of the roasted aubergine. The subtle sweetness of the wine highlighted the sweetness of the roasted red onions and carrots. Those same sweet and creamy notes, together with its floral, citrus and spiced bouquet, provided a nice balance to the tart acidity of the tomatoes, the astringency of the arugula and the peppery basil. I would certainly pair these two again!
If you’d like to try the combination yourself, here is the recipe (in the loosest sense of the word). It serves 2 adults.
- Wholewheat of whole spelt pasta
- Pesto (I use this one, which is vegan, but there are probably many out there or it’s pretty easy to make it yourself)
- 1 medium-sized aubergine, cut into cubes (2.5 cm or 1″)
- 1 red onion, cut into wedges
- 2-3 carrots, washed or peeled and sliced into coins
- 8-10 cherry tomatoes for roasting, whole (plus whatever the kids eat raw)
- 100 g (or 3 small handfuls) raw pine nuts
- a handful of arugula per person
- 5-7 basil leaves per person
- Parmesan (optional)
- Preheat the oven to 220 degrees C (425 degrees F). Boil water for pasta (with a splash of olive oil and a pinch of salt).
- Prepare the aubergine, onion and carrots. Toss them lightly in olive oil, place on a baking sheet and put in the preheated oven. Make sure you flip them after about 12-15 minutes. Total cooking time is approximately 25-30 minutes.
- While the vegetables are roasting, roast the pine nuts on the stove in a pan over medium heat. Keep a good eye on them and shake regularly – they tend to burn quickly once the pan is heated. Once they’re ready, put them in a bowl to cool a bit.
- Put the cherry tomatoes on a smaller baking tray and add them to the oven for the last 10 minutes while the vegetables are roasting.
- Once the tomatoes are in the oven, cook the pasta.
- Stir the pesto into the cooked and drained pasta.
- Place your roasted vegetable trio on a thin bed of pasta. Add the tomatoes, tear up the arugula and basil and add it to the top. Finally add your pine nuts (and Parmesan, if using) and enjoy!
If you’re looking to try this wine and live in Amsterdam, you can get it at Eriks’s Delicatessen. If you live elsewhere, I’m sure a simple search online will provide alternative vendors.
We have a Sunday tradition in our house that involves making and eating pancakes or waffles with maple syrup. I’m not even sure when it started, but at least 6 years ago, I think. Probably longer, since I remember eating one or the other when I was a kid on Sunday mornings. The waffles were special because it was one of the few meals that my father made. His cooking responsibilities were limited to the barbeque, carving the turkey on Thanksgiving and making waffles on Sunday mornings. I’m sure he is well-able to make more than those things, but those are the ones that stick in my memory.
The pancakes we had growing up were invariably made using a pre-made pancake and baking mix, just adding milk, oil and eggs. We did always have real maple syrup to go with them (and real butter – my dad never bought into the “fake” stuff) and if we were lucky, it was local syrup to boot. When I moved to Amsterdam, this pre-mix was no longer an option, so I perused my cookbooks and found a basic recipe in my Better Homes and Gardens “New Cook Book”. As I tend to do, I tweaked it to my taste. I can remember very vividly the first time I made them for my father when he and my mother came to visit, which must have been well over 10 years ago. He tasted my blueberry pancakes and said to me: “Daughter, I think your maple syrup must have gone off. These pancakes taste funny.” Frantic, I tested the syrup and the pancake only to discover that they tasted the same as they always did. Why did he think my syrup wasn’t good? Well, my mother guessed the answer – my pancakes were made from scratch and tasted different than our traditional pre-mix pancakes. I think (and hope) that his taste buds have rebounded from the experience because he seems to enjoy them these days, even eating them when I make them from scratch instead of using the mix during my visits to the States. It is also one of the few things I can count on my kids to eat more of than we do!
Blueberry Buttermilk Pancakes
- 2/3 c spelt flour (or brown rice flour for gluten-free)
- 2/3 c buckwheat flour
- 1 T polenta
- 1 T cornmeal
- 2 T oat bran (optional)
- 2 T wheat germ (optional)
- 1 ½ tsp baking powder
- ¾ tsp baking soda
- 1 t ground cinnamon
- ¼ tsp ground ginger
- ¼ tsp vanilla powder
- 1/8 tsp ground nutmeg
- Pinch of ground cloves
- 1 egg
- 1 ¾ c buttermilk
- 2 T oil
- 1 c frozen (or fresh) blueberries
- Heat the cast-iron griddle. I find I have better results if I start it first and warm it slow and steady on a medium to low heat.
- Put the spelt flour, buckwheat flour, polenta, cornmeal, oat bran, wheat germ, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, ginger, vanilla, nutmeg, and cloves into a large mixing bowl. Mix well, incorporating plenty of air into the mixture.
- In another mixing bowl, beat the egg, adding the buttermilk and oil.
- Place the frozen blueberries in a shallow bowl . Sprinkle a tablespoon of the dry flour mixture over the blueberries and gentle roll them around until coated with the flour. This helps prevent them from sticking together. If you are using fresh blueberries, you can skip this step.
- Add the wet mixture to the dry, mixing until just moist. Don’t over mix. There will be a few small lumps.
- Fold the blueberries gently through the batter.
- Bake the pancakes until bubbles form, then flip them and cook until golden brown on both sides. Serve immediately.
Makes about 18 pancakes.
There is something about winter being just around the corner that makes me long for a generous bowl of steamy soup. You know, the kind that warms, fills and nourishes and needs little more than a slice of crusty bread drizzled in olive oil? I’m a big fan of soup. One of my favorite cookbooks is the Soup Kitchen, which gets used all year long as it’s filled with all kinds of yummy soup recipes. Having said that, when I want something simple and familiar (or I have vegetables in the fridge that need to be used), I reach for ingredients to make my “go-to” soup.
My Irish mother-in-law gave me the base recipe many years ago. When I asked her if she minded me sharing the recipe, she laughed, saying of course she didn’t and that it was my recipe now anyway. I guess she’s probably right given that when I went looking for the paper I wrote it on all those years ago (to “fact check” it before writing this post), I couldn’t find it in my recipe box. Truthfully, I make it often enough to remember it and so she is right. I even wonder if I ever wrote it down, but it doesn’t really matter because the basic recipe is pretty easy, flexible and the best part? My kids usually love it (disclaimer: note I say usually because for some reason they don’t love all vegetables equally). In any case, the base recipe makes enough to feed the four of us (two adults royally and two little people amply) and is exactly the kind of thick comforting soup that we crave as the days here in Amsterdam are at their shortest.
Irish Farmhouse Soup base recipe:
Makes about 1.5 liters of soup (the recipe can easily be doubled)
- 1 medium onion, chopped finely
- 1 clove of garlic, minced or pressed
- 1 liter of vegetable stock
- 1 cup chopped potatoes (about 1 large or 2 medium)
- 3 cups chopped vegetable(s) of choice (we use one small roasted pumpkin as the kids like it)
- 2-3 Tablespoons olive oil
- Pinch of flour
- Bay leaf
- Herbs of choice (for pumpkin soup, I add a few sprigs of fresh thyme and oregano and about 1” of fresh diced ginger)
- Heat oil into a heavy-bottomed pot, add fresh herbs, bay leaf, onions and garlic, cooking until onions and garlic are soft.
- Add a pinch of flour and stir until onions and garlic are coated.
- Add stock and chopped vegetables and bring to a boil.
- Lower the heat to a simmer, cover and boil for about 20 minutes or until the vegetables are tender.
- Remove herb branches and bay leaf.
- Remove from heat and blend for a creamy and thick soup. If it’s thicker than you like, just add a bit of water or stock to thin it.
- Season to taste with salt and pepper and serve with crusty bread drizzled with extra virgin olive oil.
Tip: If you’re in a rush, just chop the vegetables finely (dice) and they’ll cook much faster.
Another tip: My favorite way to roast pumpkin: Cut the pumpkin in half, scooping out seeds and slicing it into pumpkin “smiles”. Put them on a baking tray, coat thinly with olive oil and bake in a preheated oven at 200C/400F for about 20-25 minutes or until tender (test with a fork). Remove from the oven, let them cool and peel (skin should come off easily).