Wednesday, 25 April 2007

Romas go home

After this year’s bumper crop (which we have attributed to the drought, smoke haze from the bushfires and loads of Charlie Carp), we have decided that there is little better than home-grown tomatoes. The Romas came first, all deciding (rather considerately, as it turns out) to ripen at once. At first we tried eating them in sandwiches and salads, but soon discovered that they were somewhat watery and lacking in flavour. So, I referred to the trusty copy of ‘Fork to Fork’. If you’ve never heard of it, Fork to Fork was a most excellent program run on the Lifestyle channel several years ago. It followed this couple, Monty and Sarah Don (who are apparently quite well known in the UK) around their spectacular organic garden, as they planted, tended and cooked their produce through the seasons. We were simultaneously engrossed and tortured with jealousy through every episode. They had spent ten years planting fruit trees, walling the garden beds with WOVEN BRANCHES (for goodness sake!), composting, more planting... it was like ‘The Good Life’ on HGH. They even had an original baker’s wood oven in the farmhouse on the property, and had ‘discovered’ and done up an AGA (oh, but how I coveted the AGA) for the purposes of everyday cooking. Unfortunately, there is no DVD available for the program, but you can get a hold of the accompanying book through Amazon.

Digression. So I checked in the Fork to Fork book, and Monty, bless him, had a suggestion for what to do with slightly tasteless, as he described them, ‘English’ tomatoes. You basically just cut them in half, drizzle them with olive oil, sprinkle over a few cloves of some finely sliced garlic and herbs of you choice (I used fresh thyme), season, and put them in a hot oven for half an hour or so.

My, oh my, were they tasty. I would have included an after shot as well, but we ate them too fast. I served them as an accompaniment to a yum-yum meatloaf wrapped in prosciutto. I cooked about a kilo of them, so we now have several containers waiting patiently in the freezer for the perfect occasion to arise. I’m thinking pizza. Mmmm.

Here’s the meatloaf recipe to make you hungry, hungry hippo. It makes a huge portion, so you might want to halve it. It’s based on a recipe in last year’s winter edition of Donna Hay magazine.

Posh Meatloaf

750g quality minced meat (I used half pork, half beef)
1 large carrot, grated
I large zucchini, grated and squeezed
1 ½ cups of cooked couscous
6 green onions, chopped
1 cup chopped oregano or thyme leaves
1 cup chopped basil leaves
sea salt and cracked black pepper
12 slices of prosciutto

Preheat the oven to 180 degrees. Place all the ingredients except the prosciutto in a bowl and mix well to combine. Lightly grease a loaf tin and line with the prosciutto, leaving enough excess over the edges to cover the meat loaf later. [Important note: in Donna’s recipe, they suggest an 8 x 26cm tin, but this isn’t a standard size. Mine was shorter and wider, which increased the cooking time considerably.] So then you just push the meatloaf mixture into the tin and fold the prosciutto over the top. Bake for 45mins – 1 hour 15 mins (depending on the width of the tin), or until cooked through. Remove from the oven, rest for a bit then turn out and slice. Serve with afore-mentioned, roasted tomatoes.

Serves 6 – 8.

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Saturday, 21 April 2007

Kickarse Pasta Puttanesca

Forgive me readers, for I have sinned. It has been 8 weeks since my last blogfession. A little guilt-inducing needling from a fellow Blogsketeer last night has driven me, head hung low in shame, to the keyboard. I have of course, been unfathomably busy since last we met. What, with taking care of Number One Child, working, studying and the aftermath of Stingray’s untimely death on Neighbours (blood poisoning, I ask you!) I’ve hardly had time to scratch my proverbial self. Hopefully the goodness that follows will make up for this unacceptable absence.

I thought it was about time I published an actual recipe, rather than just describing one. This is a tasty version of one I saw on Tony & Georgio, a fabulous English cooking program that aired on Seven’s Saturday Kitchen last year. It’s a great show… haven’t been able to find a DVD copy or a related cookbook title, so I’ve had to try out the recipes from memory (too lazy to get up off the couch and find a pen). I saw the Puttanesca on the ‘Hangover’ episode. Tony (English geezer) and Georgio (Italian love-God) charge around London downing bevvies and generally running amok. The Puttanesca was Georgio’s answer to the greasy fry-up Tony had suggested as a possible cure for their self-induced ills. Feeling somewhat fragile myself, I decided to cook it that night. Verdict? It kicks arse. In fact, it could also potentially be renamed ‘Lickarse Pasta Puttanesca’, because it would serve very well for one of those, ‘please forgive me for my minor misdemeanour’ type dinners. Easy AND impressive. Outstanding qualities for any recipe.


½ tin chopped tomatoes
handful of small basil leaves, washed and dried
small tin of GOOD QUALITY tuna in oil
tablespoon salted capers, rinsed and drained, chopped if you like
3 – 4 anchovies, chopped
2 cloves garlic, finely sliced
300 grams dried pasta

Get your pasta cooking (I think dried spaghetti or bavette works best with this recipe). Heat a deep frying pan over a medium heat, add a lug of olive oil then throw in the garlic. Stir for thirty seconds (make sure you don’t burn the garlic) then throw in the anchovies and stir for a bit. Once the anchovies begin to melt, add the tuna and capers. Don’t break the tuna up too much; it’s nicer chunky. Finally, add the tomatoes and basil. Resist the urge to put in the whole can. This is a tuna sauce with tomato, not a tomato sauce with tuna (thanks, Georgio). Let this simmer gently until the pasta is al dente. Drain the spaghetti, addling about ½ a ladleful of the pasta water to the sauce. Toss the pasta through the hot sauce. Yum. Doesn’t need any parmesan, but hey, whatever gets you through the day.

Serves 2 greedy people.

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