Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Winter....what's not to like?

Some people say they don't like winter, but I just love it, and so far it's been a cracker.  There's been frosts and snowfalls on the nearby hills and rain, hail and sleet in our neck of the woods.  
The creek has done a banker and the paddocks are wet and muddy.
For all the days of bad weather though, there are as many magical winter's days that are sunny and still, with a quiet chill in the air.
The evenings in particular are beautiful and I love the garden when it's stripped back to its bare bones
and I'm always happy when the roses have been pruned.
It has been light the fires, put on the uggies and hunker-down weather (apart from last week when there were a couple of days that were alarmingly spring-like).
So why do I love winter?   Let me count the ways....
roaring fires, baked porridge,
soup and more soup..

ugg boots, red wine and lots of cards:
Oh, and my favourite winter tipple..sherry...(don't tell anyone).
I have discovered the most delicious Dark Baltic Rye bread  from the Dunkeld Bakery,
and found that it is wonderful with homemade lime marmalade:
There are still some vegetables coming out of the garden,
although it seems to be most productive in the weed department.
And I have become totally obsessed with Ottolenghi's Cauliflower, Grape and Cheddar Salad (from Plenty More):
The only thing I don't like is a) the wind and b) the mounting pile of end of financial year accounts that leered menacingly at me throughout the school holidays and has finally been bought under control....well vaguely under control.

Pesto is an odd thing to be thinking about in the middle of winter but I do love it and have come across a couple of recipes that might be of interest.  There are literally millions of different ways to make pesto, many very far from the original basil pesto that originated in Genoa, but I do like the idea of extending this wonderful sauce beyond the basil season in summer.

The first one is actually less of a pesto and more of a corrupted guacamole.  I had it at a cafe in Melbourne with some really dark sourdough bread and it was a bit of an Oh My God moment.  I'm not entirely sure what they put in it but here is my attempt at replicating it.
The measurements for this are not precise, you can adjust the flavour as you go along.
A handful of cashews, toasted to golden brown in the oven
A couple of sprigs of parsley
The juice of half a lemon
Red chilli. diced (as much or as little as you like)
A slosh of olive oil
1/2 an avocado
salt and pepper

Whizz the cashews and parsley in a food processor (or use a bamix) to roughly chop.  Add the lemon juice and chilli and whizz again.  Add the olive oil, avocado and season with salt and pepper.  Whizz until combined, I think it's better if it's not too smooth.  Add more lemon/olive oil/ salt and pepper to taste.  A sprinkle of paprika would not go astray either.
Pile this onto some good quality bread with some rocket and there is a perfect lunch. (The cafe served it with pickled radish and kale which was good too).
The other pesto is more traditional, but with a couple of substitutes.  There is no basil this time of year but there is plenty of nettles (and I mean plenty) and they give you a very vibrant green pesto, which is great on toast, added to a soup, or pasta, or drizzled over lamb chops or chicken.   I'm sure if you don't like the idea of nettles you could do this with spinach or rocket.

NETTLE PESTO  makes about a cup.

Approx 2 cups of nettles (make sure you pick them and strip the leaves off with gloves on and don't touch the leaves until you have cooked them)
1 clove garlic, peeled
1/2 cup parsley
2/3 cup pumpkin seeds (lightly toasted in the only takes about 5 minutes)
1 teaspoon capers
juice of half a lemon
2-3 tblsp olive oil
salt and pepper

Get a saucepan big enough to fit the nettles and half fill it with water.  Add the garlic clove and bring to the boil.  Add the nettles and cook for about 1-2 minutes until wilted.  Pour into a seive and rinse under cold water.  Allow to cool a bit then squeeze the water out with your hands.

Put the nettles and garlic with the other ingredients in a food processor or blender and whizz until well combined.  If it's a bit thick add a little water.  Taste and adjust seasoning if necessary.

I didn't add parmesan to this so it is a lower fat version, but I'm sure it would be even better if I had.

So stay warm and snuggle up and enjoy the other good thing about winter...we've had some beautiful sunrises:
PS:  What did you think about Brexit??  I loved this photo:
  And while you're at it have we reached peak kale??  My old school buddy Sam Gowing thinks so....

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