I don’t even dare look at my blog to see how many weeks have gone by since I’ve written. I’m so sorry for the hiatus – first work got busy, then I got sick, then I was organising lengthy walks for my walking group and recovering from those, and then I realised that my best friend’s wedding and my overseas trip were no longer so much on the horizon as breathing down my neck, and I was nowhere near ready, and in between, I’ve been obsessively baking cakes from my new favourite cookbook, Red Velvet and Chocolate Heartache (which I *will* review any day now), with the result that I haven’t been producing many new recipes and I’ve not had any time to write down the ones I have produced.
So I’m terribly sorry, as I said, and will try to make up for this by getting a few posts out before I go, and maybe even finally updating my recipe indices, which are also woefully out of date. Aargh.
Anyway, this recipe owes a significant debt to Tom Hunt’s book, The Natural Cook, which I recently bought and am enjoying very much. Essentially, I’ve taken two of his recipes, modified them to my liking, and then combined them in ways he probably never had in mind and mixed them through some roast vegetable ravioli that I bought at the Bundoora Farmers’ Market nearly a month ago (speaking of things I haven’t blogged about, double aargh).
It’s a lovely recipe, though – spicy and healthy and smoky and fresh – and it’s also one of those recipes I think of as ‘accidentally vegan’, which is to say, I wasn’t aiming for a vegan meal, but I essentially produced one. The ravioli, come to think of it, probably have a bit of egg in them, but I believe one can get vegan ravioli, and one can certainly get vegan pasta, so altogether, this will be useful one to bear in mind next time I manage to entice The Original Cate over to Melbourne.
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3 heads of broccoli
zest of one lemon
2 slices rye bread
75 g almonds (blanched are good here)
6 garlic cloves
1-2 tsp chilli flakes
1 brown onion
1 red onion
3 tbsp smoked paprika (yes, I really do mean tablespoons)
1/4 tsp chipotle chilli powder
60 ml extra virgin olive oil
200 g roasted red peppers (from a jar is fine)
a splash of white wine vinegar
1 kg roast vegetable ravioli
Now what will you do with it?
First, roast your broccoli! Preheat your oven to 200°C, and cut your broccoli into florets. You can peel and roast the chopped stems, too, and if your broccoli is the sprouting kind, you might be able to skip the tedious peeling part of this arrangement. Combine the broccoli with the lemon zest, lavender salt, black pepper and a bit of olive oil in a baking dish, and toss together well.
Pop into the oven for half an hour or so, or until soft and getting a bit browned. You might want to turn them halfway through. You might forget. I did. It still worked.
Now you might want to start putting on the boiling water for pasta while you make your romesco sauce. Do you know what would be super cool? If you made this with romanesco broccoli (the bright green fractal stuff). Then you would have pasta with romesco sauce and romanesco broccoli, and you would know that you were special. I hope you know that anyway. But I digress.
To start the romesco sauce, heat a little more of the plain olive oil in a wide frying pan, and add the almonds and bread. Cook over medium heat, keeping a close eye on things so that nothing burns, which they will try to do if you aren’t watching them sternly. Meanwhile, crush your garlic and chop your onions fairly finely, adding them to the pan as you go. You want somewhat fine, so that the onions get nicely coloured, but you will also be putting this through a blender, so don’t make yourself crazy trying to make your onions MasterChef tiny. Add the chilli flakes, too. Keep cooking everything until the bread and nuts are golden in places and the onions are soft and beginning to get golden, too. Add in the smoked paprika and the chipotle pepper, and stir together well for a minute or two.
With a bit of luck, you are now at the point where your broccoli is almost ready, and your pasta water is boiling. If so, put the ravioli in now! If not, wait until you are at that point, and then do so. While the ravioli is going, tip the contents of your frying pan into a blender with the roasted peppers, vinegar and olive oil. Blend until you have a fairly thick sauce – you may need a little more oil, or a little less. To be honest, I just blended it a bit, added oil, blended it some more, added a teeny bit more oil, and then finished it off. It’s OK if the sauce isn’t totally smooth, too, or at least, that’s what I think! Taste after the first bit of blending, and season as needed. It will be quite spicy!
Once the pasta is cooked, turn off the heat, and ladle out a little of the starchy water – set this aside. Drain the pasta, and transfer to a very large bowl. Add in the romesco sauce, and toss to combine. If it isn’t combining happily, add a bit of the starchy water to loosen the sauce and also to help it stick to the pasta. Pasta water is a little bit magical when it comes to thinning pasta sauces.
Toss through the broccoli, or just use it as a topping, and serve. This makes about six portions in total, I should say, and you won’t need cheese – there is so much of a flavour punch in the sauce and the broccoli that cheese would be too much.
This recipe is vegan, assuming you can find vegan ravioli or pasta – certainly, it is as dairy free as you want it to be. It could be gluten-free if you choose your pasta and your bread well, and it is relatively low GI. It is not nut-free, alas. You could take out the nuts entirely, but you’d get a much runnier sauce. This might not be a problem for you, of course! But you would also be losing your source of protein for the meal, so just be aware of that. In terms of fructose and FODMAPs, there is a lot of garlic and onion in this, and of course you would need to make sure your bread and pasta were low FODMAP too.
In terms of variations – I don’t want to mess with this sauce, to be honest, but you could substitute the almonds out for hazelnuts or cashews if you wanted, and adding a few sun dried tomatoes to the sauce would probably also be rather nice. If you were using plain pasta, you might roast some pumpkin as well as the broccoli, to toss through. Nothing else comes to mind. Oh, except that you might want to reduce the chilli – this sauce was verging on making my head explode, but then, I’m a wuss…