pecan pesto pasta

Pesto pasta would have to be my ultimate go-to meal when I crave something satisfying and quick. Washed down with a glass (or three) of wine, a bowl of pasta has the power to improve even the grumpiest of moods. Mind you, a bit of ice-cream doesn't go astray either.

In the past I have been a die-hard traditionalist when it comes to pesto. Tonight I switched it up a bit and used lime juice instead of the squeeze of lemon (living on the egde, I know) and thought that pecans might be a nice substitute for the normal pine nuts, particularly paired with seafood as my protein of choice (Masterchef wank talk). The sweetness of the pecans really ties in with the sweet notes in the prawns. Scallops are a luxurious addition.

At the risk of upsetting Nonnas all over the World - I highly recommend my pecan pesto variation. But I might just be biased.

pecan pesto pasta
Serves 2 (very hungry people)

500g green prawns, peeled, deveined
200g scallops, roe removed
250g fettuccine

1 bunch basil, leaves picked
1/2 cup pecans
2 cloves garlic
30g parmesan, finely grated, plus extra shaved parmesan, to serve
Juice of 1 lime
Olive oil
Salt and pepper

To make pesto, in a small food processor combine basil, pecans, garlic and lime juice. Process to a thick paste, then add olive oil in a thin stream with motor running, until the right consistency is achieved (it should be loose and quite runny). Stir through the parmesan then season to taste. Reserve two tablespoons of the pesto.

Cook pasta in salted boiling water according to packet instructions. Drain then toss pesto through the cooked pasta. Set aside, keeping warm.

In a medium frypan, in batches, cook prawns and scallops over a high heat. Depending on their size, they will only need less than a minute on each side.

Spoon pasta into bowls, then top with seafood, a generous dollop of remaining pesto and shaved parmesan. Devour!


salted nutella and cherry cookies

There is a bit of a conflict in our house at the moment. On the one hand, I am trying (not trying) to get in shape for Summer (though at this rate it might not even be an issue - thanks crappy Melbourne weather). On the other hand a 5kg jar of Nutella is proudly perched on our bookshelf/storage shelf/pantry (the joys of apartment/shoebox living).

In case you are wondering, I did not purchase this gigantic jar of Nutella (though I think this would be a perfectly wise emotional investment for anyone considering it) but actually won it in an SBS Feast mag competition. Short of eating it straight out of the jar with a spoon, I have been looking for ideas to use up all this Nutella, preferably disguised in the form of baked goods that I can give away to unsuspecting co-workers/neighbours/family/hairdressers (true story) to increase their waistlines instead of mine.

I came up with this recipe which has produced two batches of cookies and used up 1/25th of my Nutella supply.

salted nutella and cherry cookies
Makes about 24

200g unsalted butter, at room temperature
190g Nutella
110g Demerara sugar
110g raw caster sugar
2 eggs, at room temperature
200g plain flour
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp bicarb of soda
50g dried cherries, roughly chopped
50g hazelnuts, roughly chopped
2 tsp salt flakes

Preheat oven to 160ºC (fan forced).

Combine butter and caster sugar in a large bowl. Using an electric mixer combine on low setting to start, then when combined increase speed to medium and beat until pale and fluffy. Add Demerara sugar and beat to combine.

Add Nutella and eggs to the butter mixture and beat until combined.

Combine flour, baking powder and bicarb. Add to wet mixture then stir well to combine. Fold through salt, hazelnuts and cherries.

Line two baking trays with non-stick baking paper. Spoon teaspoon-sized drops of the cookie mixture onto prepared trays, making sure there is plenty of room between each (these cookies spread a lot!). Bake for 10 mins, then remove from oven and allow to harden and cool slightly on trays before transferring to cooling rack to cool completely.


beef and blueberry empanadas

My inspiration for this recipe was sparked by a curious French dish teaming beef with a blueberry-based sauce. It got my thinking about other ways fruit is used in savory dishes and the first thing that popped into my mind was empanadas, with their mix of spicy beef offset by sweet, tart little currants and crunch of pine nuts.

I thought I'd be brave and pop some blueberries into the mince mixture, and change the nuts and a few of the spices to compliment the blueberry substitution. I am pretty happy with the end result and THBBF (The Hungry Babushka Boyfriend) gave these a double thumbs-up but I suspect it was only because I was sneaky about the blueberry situation ;-)

beef and blueberry empanadas
Makes 20

500g beef mince
1 tbsp olive oil
20g flaked almonds
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp cumin
1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
1 punnet (125g) fresh blueberries
5 sheets shortcrust pastry
1 onion, finely chopped
2 cloves of garlic, crushed
2 tbsp finely chopped parsley
1 x 400g can crushed tomatoes
2 tbsp tomato paste
Sea salt and freshly cracked black pepper
1 egg, lightly whisked

Heat olive oil in a large frypan over medium heat. Cook onion and garlic until soft and translucent, then add cumin, cinnamon and cayenne pepper and fry for an additional 1 min or until fragrant.

Add mince, breaking up lumps with a spoon, and increase heat to med-high, cooking 8-10 mins until browned. Add tomato, tomato paste and 1 cup water and increase heat to high, bringing to a simmer. Season with salt and pepper. Reduce heat to low and allow to simmer for 1 hour or until mixture thickens. Season if necessary, then allow to cool slightly before gently stirring through blueberries, almonds and parsley.

Preheat oven to 200ºC (180ºC fan).

Using a small bowl (approx 12cm in diameter) cut rounds from the pastry. You should be able to get about 4 rounds from each pastry sheet. Spoon 1 and a half tbsp beef mixture into rounds and fold pastry over the beef, pinching edges to seal then crimp edges if you have the skillz (the woman in this YouTube video demonstrates with a much better accent that I have). Repeat with remaining pastry and beef.

Brush empanadas with egg mixture and then place on an oven tray lined with baking paper and cook for 20 mins until golden.


anchovy and parmesan crusted lamb cutlets

Since I learnt to cook, I have clung desperately to recipes, like a Costa Concordia passenger clings to a life-raft, I wouldn't even dare change one ingredient, instead racing off to my nearest supermarket to pick up the correct ingredients.

After reaching a point where I simply couldn't be arsed to do that anymore a few years of experience, I have become more comfortable with ingredients and warmed to the idea of substituting. I do like to stay true to the original where I can as I do still enjoy the challenge of sourcing something completely exotic and random - thanks SBS Feast mag.

I had grand ambitions of going on Masterchef (until I realised I didn't have the attention span to fill out the 50 page application form) and pictured myself going to the markets on the weekends, casually popping things into my nanna trolley simply because I liked the look of them, and not because I was dictated by my perfectly printed shopping list (OCD much?). I have always wanted to be one of those people who meerly glanced at a random bunch of ingredients and tied them all together into some crazy but organised dish that would make Heston Blumenthal weak at the knees. Unfortunately, I am still sitting here, 2 years later, trying to think of what savory food would be best paired with white chocolate (Masterchef mystery box challenges REALLY do my head in).

This week I'm throwing caution to the wind and having a red-hot go at coming up with my own recipes. Tonight is day 2 and I am pleased to report I have my first success. My first attempt last night may have been a case of trying to run before I could walk (think poached chicken with celery mousse - let's just say it was more like celery soup) so tonight I've gone back to the basics and stuck with simpler techniques so I could concentrate more on the flavour pairings.

If you give this one a go let me know what you think!

anchovy and parmesan crusted lamb cutlets
Serves 4

12 lamb cutlets, frenched
1 cup panko breadcrumbs
1 tbsp finely chopped parsley
4 white anchovy fillets, finely chopped
15g finely grated parmesan
1 cup plain flour, seasoned with sea salt and cracked black pepper
1 egg, lightly beaten with a splash of milk
30g butter
Olive oil, to fry
Cooked green beans and mashed potato, to serve

Combine breadcrumbs, parsley, anchovy and parmesan in a large bowl, mix thoroughly until well combined.

In a separate bowl put flour. In another separate bowl put egg mixture.

Lightly coat each cutlet in flour, then dip into egg mixture and finally into breadcrumb mixture. Repeat with remaining lamb cutlets.

Melt butter in a large frypan over medium-high heat. When butter is foamy add a splash of olive oil and allow to heat. In batches, cook lamb cutlets 4-6 mins each side, until golden and cooked to your liking.

Serve with mash and beans.

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