Wow, it has been a while, hasn’t it? I do apologise. I’ve spent most of the last two weeks in a state of exhaustion, between the demented craziness of getting the Project Grants in (an article came out on Thursday claiming that scientists last year collectively spent approximately 400 years on unsuccessful grants. While I feel that this figure is slightly exaggerated, it certainly felt like a decade or two was spent on them in the last month, and this was actually less time than I spent last year…), and some rather stressful things going on outside work. So when I go to start thinking about recipes for the next week, this happens:
Which may provide us with cute cat photos, but doesn’t lead to me doing much cooking.
Anyway, Farmhouse Direct, in their evil wisdom, chose this moment of weakness on my part to waive all delivery fees for a weekend. I was instantly and utterly distracted from grants by the prospect of big, puffy, homemade marshmallows in such delectable flavours as lemon, pistachio, rosewater or raspberry; by steamed chocolate and cherry puddings, and by buttermilk ricotta and truffle-infused butter. All of which, I must confess, did find their way into my shopping cart and have arrived in the last couple of days.
But it wasn’t all about the sugar – my soul was particularly drawn to the most gorgeous box of autumn vegetables: butternut pumpkins, capsicums, all sorts of sweet frying peppers, several kinds of chillis, huge bulbs of garlic, and a zucchini or two for luck. I could already see it in my mind’s eye, colourful and comforting and brimming with goodness.
And oh, it really, truly was. Better still, it’s the sort of goodness that I can cook with no matter how tired I am. With the possible exception of chilli (which, by tradition, I get all over my hands, which are then irresistibly drawn to my eyes, nose and lips, ow, ow, ow), these are all default vegetables for me. Even tonight, when I am both very tired and profoundly silly.
So tonight’s embarrassingly late dinner was all about comfort food – basically taking things out of my veggie box, roasting them, and stirring them through pasta. And why not? Few things taste better than roast vegetables that have gone all nice and caramelised around the edges. Stir them through pasta, add some shavings of parmesan or some chickpeas for protein, and you have the perfect meal for an autumn evening.
(Oh, and speaking of autumn, Melbourne people – yes, I’m tired and have the attention span of a goldfish right now, sorry – wasn’t yesterday’s weather *brilliant*? All those insane gusty winds that made our meeting room whistle like a demented and untalented flautist until we gave up on the meeting, and then that black sky and dashing rain, and then Melbourne going all blue skied and sunny-golden in the late afternoon pretending that it had never even *seen* a storm, oh no… And yet there are people out there who don’t like Melbourne’s weather. I don’t understand them at all. And I’m ending this paragraph now before this whole post turns into a paen of praise for Melbourne’s generous bounty in giving us all the weather we could possibly want.)
On to the recipe!
Your Shopping List1 awesome veggie box!
Or, alternatively…1 butternut pumpkin 1 bulb of garlic 3 capsicums 3 sweet frying peppers (sometimes they are called sweet chillies – they are long and sweet and delicious and come in red, orange, yellow, gold and green) 1 chilli, any kind 4 smallish brown onions 2 tablespoons of olive oil, approximately 1 teaspoon dried rosemary (or thereabouts) salt, pepper 300 g penne rigate, rigatone, or any other short pasta with enough ridginess to catch the vegetables. Spiral pasta would work, bowties, not so much A few shavings of parmesan – I didn’t measure this, but 30 g would probably be enough.
Now what will you do with it?
Pre-heat the oven to 200°C, fan forced if possible (conventional will work, but will need more cooking time), and get out your biggest baking tray that has a rim.
Cut your pumpkin in half, slice off the skin, scoop out the seeds, and chop it into medium-sized chunks. Incidentally, the difference between doing this with a smallish knife and with a big, heavy, and above all, sharp, knife, cannot be adequately described. If you possibly can, get yourself a good knife for this purpose. Scatter the pumpkin into the baking tray.
Don’t peel the garlic, but slice a lid off the top to expose its innards. Put it in the baking tray with the pumpkin. Slice up the peppers and capsicum into squares of about 1 inch, or whatever you like really – they will shrink during cooking. Finely chop your chilli, and put it into the baking tray along with the peppers. Try not to rub your eyes with your chilli hands, but it’s probably inevitable. Peel and quarter all your onions and chuck them in, too.
Drizzle everything well with the olive oil, sprinkle with rosemary and seasonings, and toss to combine. Roast for 15 minutes, turn, and roast for another 15 minutes, until everything is soft, well caramelised, and entirely gorgeous to behold.
Meanwhile, put the water on to boil for pasta in a large pot. Have I mentioned that you always have to use drought-inducing levels of water to make pasta? If you are diligent about such things, you can collect the water into a bucket or another saucepan when you drain the pasta, and use it to water your garden. But seriously, you do want your pasta to have lots of room to swim in your stockpot, or it will stick together like nothing else. Once the water comes to a boil, which it probably did while you were reading all about the pasta’s swimming activities, or at least, it should have done if you used the hot tap to fill the saucepan, which is also handy because it saves gas or electricity later, drop in the pasta, stir it well, and cook for five or so minutes, until al dente.
Anyone else could have written that in one short sentence. But not me. Did I mention that I spent an hour yesterday afternoon randomising mice and giving them all special mousey names like Coriolanus and Faustus Mousus and Ophelia and Rigoletto? That’s what happens when you ask the arts graduate to label the mice…
Anyway. Drain your pasta, and add to the vegetables. Fish out the garlic, which you should have thought of earlier, but you probably got distracted by the mice, as who wouldn’t, really, and my God I need to sleep soon, and squeeze it out of its skin all over the pasta and vegetables. You will, inevitably, either burn your fingers or get garlic all over your oven mitt. I’m really sorry about that, but it’s actually worth it. Well, the oven mitt part, anyway.
Use a vegetable peeler to shave some parmesan over the whole lot, and serve.
Anything. Anytime. Really. This could be added to chickpeas to make a salad! Or you could add chickpeas to the pasta anyway, to make the meal higher in protein. You could take out the cheese, too – it’s yummy, but mostly gilding the lily. Obviously, this is gluten-free with gluten-free pasta, and fairly low-GI, especially if you add the chickpeas, which I view as my personal Get Out Of Diabetes Free card. Yes, I really do need to sleep.
You could use almost any herbs you liked with this, including fresh herbs like parsley or dill stirred through at the very end. You could also add cumin and ginger and other Middle Eastern sorts of spices, and serve the whole thing over couscous or rice. That would be pretty good, actually. It’s pretty hard to go wrong with this recipe. Oh, and it works as an awesome pizza topping, too. Also, Shakespeare’s plays were bloody well written by Shakespeare. Thank you so much, Derek Jacobi, for ruining a lifelong crush with your wrong-headed ideas. Yeah, I think I need to go to bed. And to stop watching Discovering Shakespeare when I’m tired and cranky (I also had Opinions about the History plays and their relationship to history, but fortunately for you, I’m too sleepy to share these just now).
This time last year…Recipe: Rocky Road for Timon Timon: Quick Foodie Preview