Winter being what it is, especially in our cold southern climate, eating from the garden at this time of year demands a little improvisation. Because they are adaptable and versatile and suited to creative use of what the season provides, these two recipes have made regular appearances during our Sunday Table lunches over the last month. And, if second and third helpings and recipe requests are anything to go by, they have been, um…appreciated! Note that as with all the food we cook and eat here, these are simple meals that rely on good seasoning and the best and freshest ingredients, so don’t be afraid to adapt them to reflect what is best in your farmer’s market, garden or window box at the moment.
The quantities here will serve 8-10 as an entree or 6 as a main.
IngredientsTwo quantities of handmade orrechiette - there is a recipe here - or a packet of dried orrechiette.
Three small brown onions, chopped*
Three cloves of garlic, as fresh as possible, finely chopped, green shoot removed
A few sprigs of fresh rosemary, leaves removed and chopped
A few sprigs of fresh sage, leaves removed and chopped
A colander full of walnuts in their shells, freshly cracked and roughly broken into pieces (as this dish relies on the sweetness of freshly shelled walnuts, substitute almonds, pistachios or even hazlenuts if you cannot find or forage some)
Sea salt and pepper
Heat about 5 tablespoons of oil in a large, heavy frying pan over low heat. Add the chopped onions, a pinch of sea salt and a good slug of balsamic vinegar. Let the onions sweat (do not let them brown) until they are very soft and sweet - a good 30 or more minutes. Add the garlic and the herbs and sweat for a few minutes more.
Meanwhile set a large pot of salted water to boil for the pasta. Tip the walnuts into the onion / herb mixture and cook carefully on low heat until the walnuts are very lightly toasted. Check your oil - there needs to be enough in the pan to generously coat your orrechiette. Add more if necessary and check your seasoning.
Cook the pasta and drain when al dente. Tip onto a large platter and add the contents of your frying pan, stirring through gently until well mixed. Add grated parmesan cheese, and a generous squeeze of lemon juice, and check seasoning. Serve with extra lemon and cheese.
*If you're going to grow your own onions this year, it's time to buy seed and prep beds if you're in Southern Australia. This season I'll be planting two huge beds of 'Pukehohe Long Keeper'. We first trialled this variety last year, and I couldn't be happier with them; they have well and truly lived up to their name. You can purchase the seed from Lambley Nursery.