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Broccoli Pasta Sauce

No, I didn’t make a mistake with the title. The dish really is a Broccoli Pasta Sauce. A rather amazing and totally delicious sauce at that. This is definitely a “don’t judge a book by its cover” type deal and is inspired by Tea and Cookies. Enjoy!

Broccoli Pasta Sauce – Don’t judge a book by its cover.

[ Serves: 4 | Time: 15 Minutes | Cost: $4 ]
[ Joes Rating: 4 / 5 | My Rating: 4 / 5 | Brittanys rating: 4 / 5 ]

Ingredients

5 cups broccoli
1 onion, diced
5 tablespoons olive oil
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 lemon, juiced
3 tablespoons water
Salt and pepper to taste
Pecorino Cheese to taste

Method

  1. Wash the broccoli and cut it into bite size chunks, including the stems. Steam or boil the broccoli until it is tender – about 10 minutes.
  2. In a large frying pan, bring a drizzle of oil to temperature and fry of the onion and garlic until transparent. Add the drained broccoli and saute for a few minutes until tender and coated in the oil and onion mixture.
  3. Pour the broccoli and onion mixture into a blender. Add the oil, lemon juice, salt and pepper and blend until smooth. If the mixture is too thick, add a little water.
  4. Mix through hot pasta and serve with grated cheese.

Season it well and serve with grated pecorino cheese

Observations

  • Reserve the water from the boiling / steaming process to use to thin out the sauce during the blending stage. Also, reserving vegetable water is perfect for feeding sourdough starter!
  • I was honestly so surprised at the taste of this dish. I was even more surprised at how Brittany loved it. Seriously, the child lapped it all up and was looking for more! Definitely a winner.
  • Diabetic Note: Ok, so pasta is naughty. And I struggle really hard when I do eat it. Be wary of your serving size and opt for more sauce than pasta and you *might* be ok. (Remember, pasta is ~70% carbohydrates.)
  • Ethical Note: Oh how awesome is this recipe. You use the stems too. Far too often broccoli stems are discarded as waste even though they are delicious and totally edible.
  • Did you get all the way to the bottom and are still trying to work out why I haven’t gotten duck recipe #2 published yet? Tomorrow guys, I promise! 🙂

This is my portion. I try to make it small and keep to 1 cup cooked pasta.

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Maltese Macaroni

You may remember a few weeks ago I was talking about making dishes of food for a grieving family? Well today’s dish is along the same chain of thought – comfort food. This dish, commonly refereed to as Macaroni by Maltese people, is a family favourite. It is carb heavy, delicious and just what the doctor ordered when morale is low. There is nothing that brings warmth, comfort and nourishment like Macaroni. Nothing!

There is, however, one important draw back of this dish. It uses tinned corned beef which is a staple meat product in Maltese cuisine. As my regular readers would know, I don’t cook with beef because of the environmental issues associated with beef production. (Read this article for more information). There really is no substitute for it and I have tried to make a vegetarian option of this dish that was a total failure.

So I bring you my ethical dilemma –  Maltese Macaroni.

Maltese Macaroni – to me this is made of winning, and tastes of all things good.

[ SERVES: 6  |  TIME: 90 MINUTES  |  COST: $10  ]
[  JOES RATING:  5  / 5  |  MY RATING:  5  / 5  |  Brittanys RATING:  5  / 5   ]

Ingredients

1 packet macaroni pasta ¹
1 tin hamper corned beef
1 tin tomatoes, chopped
1 small tin tomato paste
1 onion, diced finely
1 cup Pecorino cheese, grated
¼ cup continental parsley, chopped
4 – 6 cloves of garlic, crushed
1 tablespoon basil, fresh (or 1 teaspoon dried)
1 tablespoon oregano, fresh (or 1 teaspoon dried)
1 teaspoon curry powder
4 bay leaves
2 free ranged / organic eggs
salt and pepper to taste
dash of olive oil

Method

  1. Bring a large pot to the boil with about 6 – 8 litres of water. Add a good pinch of salt to the water before adding the pasta. Cook the pasta until half-cooked – it should still be quite firm and undercooked ². Drain, rinse and set aside.
  2. In a large frying pan at moderate heat, sauté the onion and garlic in a dash of oil until caramelised. Add the corned beef and stir well until the well incorporated and melted to a liquid like consistency. Add the tinned tomatoes, bay leaves, parsley, basil, oregano and a little seasoning. Stir and let simmer for 15 – 30 minutes until slightly thickened and rich in flavour.

    This last photo is of the sauce sauteing. It has not yet been thickened but I don’t thicken it very much at all past this point. It needs to still be quite thin. See note ² in observations below.

  3. After the sauce has simmered and reduced slightly, taste for seasoning. If the sauce tastes sweet, add the curry powder ³. Thicken with tomato paste ². Remove bay leaves.
  4. Preheat oven to 200°C.
  5. In a very large baking tray, add the pasta and sauce, mixing well to incorporate evenly throughout the tray.
  6. Add the cheese evenly throughout and mix lightly.
  7. Lightly beat the egg and drizzle throughout the tray. Move the egg lightly throughout the dish with a fork – do not over mix at this point.
  8. Cover the baking tray with aluminium foil and bake in a moderate oven for 45 minutes. Remove the foil and cook until the top layer of pasta is crunchy and well cooked.

    This is time-lapse photos of the pasta cooking.

Observations

    • Note ¹ The type of pasta we use for this dish can be difficult to obtain out of large cities. It is very long tubes of pasta that are quite thick and hold their form without collapsing when cooked. By using this sort of pasta, the egg, sauce and cheese can run into the pasta tubes and each bite is mouth-watering delicious.

      This is the pasta that I use. Note how thick and long the pieces are in this 20 litre boiling pot?

    • Note ²  If you hit al dente during the boiling portion of the cooking, you have over cooked the pasta. You want it to be about half-cooked so when you bite it, it still is really very firm and raw towards the middle but not hard and uncooked. The cooking process will be finished off during the baking phase. This is why it is very important not to over thicken the sauce – the liquid is going to be absorbed by the pasta to finish off the cooking process during the baking phase.
    • Note ³  Sometimes, I find the fresh herbs bring a unique sweetness to the dish that is not always desirable. Traditionally, curry powder is incorporated to bring a balance to the dish. Let your taste buds guide you on this.
    • The flavour of this dish is excellent. Sometimes, though, I add an extra egg if the sauce looks too dry. Be warned, though – don’t make it too eggy!
    • I only use good quality grated Romano Pecorino for this dish. If I am making it for the uneducated, I may use tasty cheese just because its cheaper. At the end of the day, though, the Pecorino adds something special to the dish so if possible, opt for quality. If you like things a bit on the cheesy side of life, then go ahead and add more cheese to the dish.
    • Diabetic Note: I eat this dish and ask, “Why are the gods so cruel?”. There is NOTHING like this dish. I absolutely adore it. It is all things good and homely to me. Of course, it is also carbohydrate heavy which is the diabetics nightmare. The pasta is about 70% carbohydrates and while there is little to no carbs in the rest of the ingredients, a good diabetic should limit their portion size on this meal. Luckily for me, I’m a bad diabetic…

Ok, so this portion might feed two diabetics. (Or one bad diabetic…)

  • Ethical Note: As I said above, this is a family favourite. When we stopped eating beef two years ago, this is one dish I truly missed. Although I have tried to make vegetarian versions of this dish, they fail miserably. This is the first time I’ve cooked it in two years, and it was a real ethical dilemma for me. Joe and I recently discussed minor transgressions with beef to balance diet ect, and we both agreed on one thing. If everyone reduced their beef intake to perhaps one meal a week, our environment would be so much healthier. Being conscious of the impacts of your meal is the first step to a healthier environment.
English: Maltese baked macaroni with shortcrus...

I found this excellent photo of Maltese Macaroni on Wikipedia. See how the sauce ends up thick cause the pasta absorbs the liquid. Note how it holds its form? All hallmark signs of a good macaroni! (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

 
7 Comments

Posted by on June 30, 2012 in Food: Diabetic Friendly

 

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Pesto – home made yummies!

While I was at the organic farmer markets recently, I spied a bunch of basil for just two dollars. I have to admit right up front that Joe and I are not fans (generally) of pesto, but I decided to try to make my own. My idea was to bypass all the mass-produced nasties, and hopefully deliver something that is fresh and wholesome that would capture our attention. There is something about the process of home making food that wins the day. This is an example.

[  SERVES: 3  |  TIME: 25 MIN  |  COST: <$3  ]
[  JOES’ RATING: 4.5 / 5  |  MY RATING: 4.5 / 5 ]

Ingredients

2 cups of basil leaves
¼ cup pine nuts
¼ cup grated Pecorino
¼ cup olive oil
juice of one lime
4 cloves garlic, minced

Method

  1. In a blender, combine the oil, garlic and juice and blend well.
  2. Add all other ingredients and shred finely using the pulse setting on your blender.
  3. Serve with crackers, over hot pasta or with steamed vegetables.
Basil leaves (Ocimum basilicum).

Basil leaves. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Observations

  • This was SOOOOOO good. We both really loved it and were amazed how unlike the commercially produced crap this is. Quality fresh produce wins the day once again.
  • If you do not have some quality Pecorino or Romano, use a freshly grated Parmesan Cheese.
  • Diabetic Note: Small serve, Rhianna – that is one carb heavy meal there.
  • Ethical Note: The cheese and basil were all locally produced and grown. YAY /
 

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Cannelloni

I am not sure how this dish is made, authentically. This is the way I’ve always made and enjoyed it. 

[  SERVES: 6  |  TIME: 15 MIN  |  COST: <$5  ]
[  JOES’ RATING: 4.5/5  |  MY RATING:  3.5/5 |  Brittanys rating: 4.5/5]

Ingredients

1 packet cannelloni pasta shells

Filling

500 g Ricotta Cheese
250 g packet frozen spinach – well drained
3 Free Ranged Eggs
Handful chopped flat leaf (Italian) parsley
Salt and Pepper to taste

Sauce

1 tin tomatoes sauce
1 onion, chopped
2 tablespoons chopped parsley
2 cloves of garlic, chopped fine
1 teaspoon basil
1 teaspoon oregano
1 teaspoon curry powder

Method

  1. In a large saucepan, sauté the onions and garlic in a little oil until opaque and fragrant. Add the tomatoes and remaining herbs. Simmer for 20 minutes until well cooked.
  2. Mix the filling ingredients together with a fork, ensuring a smooth, even consistency (see photo above). Use a piping bag to fill the pasta tubes with the cheese mixture, and place evenly in the bottom of a baking dish.
  3. Pour sauce over the top of the filled cannelloni shells, and cook in a moderate oven for 45 minutes. Check every 15 minutes. If the sauce appears to be drying out, add a little water to moisten.
  4. Serve with grated Romano cheese.

Observations

  • When I bake this in my portable convection oven, I always make sure there is water in the bottom to stop the sauce from drying out. The moisture in the sauce needs to cook the pasta underneath, so make sure it doesn’t dry out.
  • Diabetic Note: This dish is not too bad on my Blood glucose levels. I tend to only have four tubes so it’s not a terribly big serve anyway.
  • Ethical Note: We try to grow all our own herbs on our balcony in recycled boxes. A small herb garden is an excellent way to reduce your carbon footprint.

 

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Fettuccine with braised vegetables

There are times when I surprise myself. This dinner worked but honestly, it was all ass, and no class. Do you have days when you just fluke an awesome meal?

[  SERVES: 6  |  TIME: 15 MIN  |  COST: <$5  ]
[  JOES’ RATING: 3.5/5  |  MY RATING:  3.5/5 ]

Ingredients

Equal portions vegetables. We used:

  • Carrot
  • Zucchini
  • Potato
  • Pumpkin
  • Sweet Potato
  • Baby Broccoli

Fettuccine
300 ml Vegetable Stock
shaved Romano cheese
1 tablespoon corn flour
salt and pepper to taste

Method

  1. Cook fettuccine as directed.
  2. Boil the vegetables gently in the stock until they are cooked. Do not over cook.
  3. Mix a little corn flour and water in a glass and slowly add into vegetable mixture until desired thickness has been attained. Stir continually to avoid uneven glugginess.
  4. Drain pasta and stir through vegetables and sauce. Season and garnish with shaved cheese.

Observations

  • Quick, easy and delicious. A great way of using up left over vegetables at the end of the shopping week.
  • Diabetic Note: The pasta is a little scary, so watch your serving size.
  • Ethical Note: Using up all your vegetables with meals like this is a great way to reduce your waste. Better for your hip pocket too!
 

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Leftovers & Pasta surprise!

About an hour ago, Joe and I decided it was time to eat. We tossed around the usual luncheon ideas when he mentioned there was some plain wholemeal spaghetti left over from his dinner a few nights ago. The cogs started to turn, and this is what we just dined on!

[  SERVES: 2  |  TIME: 15 MIN  |  COST: <$3  ]
[  JOES’ RATING: 4.5/5  |  MY RATING:  4/5 ]

Ingredients

3 cups leftover cooked pasta
2 big handfuls rocket
1 cup cherry tomatoes
½ cup chopped yellow capsicum
¼ cup chopped fresh parsley
small handful pine nuts
2 tablespoons  crushed garlic
good drizzle of olive oil
shaved peccorino romano cheese
salt and pepper to taste

Methodology

  1. In a warm dry skillet, roast the pine nuts before placing aside.
  2. In the skillet add olive oil and garlic before frying it off slightly til fragrant. Add the cherry tomatoes and capsicum, stirring well to coat evenly. Heat through and sauté for a few minutes.
  3. Reduce the heat to medium and toss through the pasta. Again, ensure it gets a good coating of oil, garlic and that the vegetables become well incorporated. Stirring continually.
  4. Remove from heat and gently fold through the rocket and parsley. Season well with salt and cracked pepper.
  5. Garnish with grated hard cheese and pine nuts. Eat immediately.

Observations

  • Everything in todays meal was in the fridge. I didn’t organise anything ahead of time. Even so, these flavours just worked fantastically. Joe wants more, but alas, it was leftovers so there is none  left!
  • It could have used a freshen up with a tiny amount of lemon juice, but that’s probably more to do with me being fussy than anything else.
  • I am not usually one to give much salt to my cooking, but I did with this dish, and I am glad I did. The saltiness worked a treat against the sweetness of the tomatoes and the garlic flavours. Careful not to go over board, though!
  • Diabetic Note: My plate was the back one, and as such, it was a smaller server, and was mostly vegetables rather than pasta. Instead of eating bread, I supplemented my meal with a piece of fruit (citrus) and my Blood Glucose Levels should be happy for it.
  • Ethical Note: The average household wastes far too much food. Where possible, try incorporating your left overs into a quick make up meal such as this.
  • Pesto (karinemeals.wordpress.com)
 

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Bil-Ful – Stewed Broad Beans

Broad beans, shelled and steamed

Broad beans, shelled and steamed (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

And the trip down memory lane continues. When I was a young girl, my Nanu (meaning “grandfather” in Maltese) was always busy in the vegetable garden. No small feat, given that we lived at Brighton-Le-Sands in Sydney and the sand soil wasn’t very good for such activities. Nevertheless, he managed to grow all manner of things for the dinner table, including broad beans.

My Nana would shell the beans like those in the photo (left) (Photo credit: Wikipedia) and make a kind of tomato sauce / stew / thing which we would eat with pasta, bread and vegetables. When I found this recipe on on Silvias Corner, I knew I was on the right path.

Kosksu is a small pasta that my Nana use to get and put in soups and stews. I can’t get it here, so I just used Fettuccine today. I also altered the recipe a bit from the one on Silvias site, going from memory. Hopefully it wont offend any traditionalists who may be reading!

[  SERVES: 3  |  TIME: 2 days + 60 MIN  |  COST: <$5  ]
[  Joes’ Rating: 3.5/5  |  My Rating:  3/5 |  Brittanys’ Rating:  3/5]

INGREDIENTS

1 400 g tin chopped tomatoes
250 ml vegetable stock
150 grams dried broad beans
1 onion, sliced thinly
handful flat leaf parsley, shredded
2 tablespoons tomato paste
3 basil leaves, shredded
1 – 2 tablespoons minced garlic
drizzle of olive oil
pinch bicarbonate of soda
salt and pepper to taste

Method

  1. The dried beans should be washed under running water before being placed in a container with ample water and a pinch of bicarb soda. Check the water after several hours, and top up if needed. Change the water every 24 hours. See photo below.
  2. After two days, the beans will have doubled (or tripled!) in size. Rinse the beans under running water. Bring a pot of water to the boil and add the beans. Cook for 30 – 45 minutes, or until soft. Drain and set aside.
  3. In a frying pan, add the garlic and onion to a little olive oil. Once the onions start to caramelise, add the chopped tomatoes and cook over a medium heat until reduced by one third – approximately 15 – 20 minutes.
  4. Add the herbs and beans and stir well. Increase the heat slightly, add a little stock to thin slightly as needed. Stew for 10 – 15 minutes, or until the beans are tender.
  5. Season and thicken if needed with the tomato paste before serving.

Observations

  • The beans went in with the skin on them, resulting in a slight rubbery texture. I remember them being slightly sponge like a kid, but I guess they were fresh, and these are dried. Removing the skins is not an option, as the insides tend to fall apart rapidly. It is an unusual texture, and could take some getting use to.
  • Brittany didn’t enjoy the beans so much and felt there were too many. Joe and I enjoyed the dish, but it was a lot of work. It is a nice alternative for occasions however, and will be made again at some point in the not so distant future.
  • If there is anyone reading who does know authentic Maltese cuisine and can offer any suggestions, please drop me a line! rhianna at nor dot com dot au – ta!
  • Diabetic Note: I am having all sorts of trouble trying to find a diabetic friendly pasta. As you can imagine, my blood glucose levels didn’t like all the carbohydrates in the pasta, so an alternative to this may be to pour it over steamed veggies or with some crusty bread instead of pasta.
 

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