Thursday, June 6, 2013

Fresh Food Love

Recently a customer asked me what it was that made me smile. I had to think for a moment, not because I don't smile; I smile and laugh often every day, anyone that visits The Fresh Ingredient will have experienced the quirky style and sense of humour that pervades the business, I had to pause and think because I needed to pinpoint what it was that made me smile. I replied that the sound of children laughing made me smile. I thought about this conversation often in the days following and added many things to my mental list of things that make me smile. This list includes; the snuggly cuddles of my children, the feel of an anticipated book in my hand, a cup of coffee made by my husband and handed over with a smile, but the thing that keeps coming up in my list is always related to food. Food is not just fuel for my body, it is also food for my soul.

I love cookbooks, I always have. I remember as a child often sitting and reading cookbooks, I didn't necessarily want to cook what I was reading about, I just loved to read the recipes. I love to read menus, I will take a long time to decide what to order in a restaurant or cafe, because I am reading each item and thinking about how it will taste, or how it has been prepared. These make me smile.

I love to look at fresh food, I love to hold fresh food, these make me smile. I love to cook. Cooking food for family and friends makes me smile, however I don't have a lot of free time, so I need to have a repertoire of "recipes" that are tasty, family friendly and reasonably fast to prepare. I am inspired to create meals by the beauty of fresh produce, I will think about flavour combinations and play around with the ingredients, with what I have on hand and what is affordable.

With pumpkin in season I am creating many dishes inspired by this delicious vegetable, soup comes to mind first, but The Fresh Ingredient family also love  a pumpkin pasta dish. I turn the oven on as soon as I get into the house, ready to roast the pumpkin and also to heat the kitchen, which is the heart of our home. With this dish I don't measure or weigh out ingredients and I substitute if I don't have something on hand. The protein element in this dish can be either chicken or bacon (or both). The sauce can be cream based, or stock based or both.

Creamy Pumpkin and Chicken Pasta
Ingredients(serves 4)
1/2 butternut pumpkin, peeled and diced, or use a good sized wedge of Jap Pumpkin.
2-3 tbs extra virgin olive oil
2 cloves garlic, crushed
1 eschallot, diced
1 double chicken breast, sliced.
2-3 rashers best quality bacon, cut into strips (I love Seller's Butchers at Merewether, they smoke their own bacon. It is the real deal!)
1/2 cup pure cream (Udder Farm if available)
1/2 cup chicken stock (or pasta cooking water)
3 cups dry penne pasta
1/4 cup pine nuts
fresh parmesan, grated
salt and pepper

1. Preheat the oven to 200 degrees C. 
2. Toss pumpkin in half of the oil and roast for 30 minutes or until tender and golden. Season chicken with salt and pepper and add to oven for the last 10-15 minutes. In the last 2-3 minutes place a small roasting pan with pine nuts into oven, agitate to make sure they roast evenly.
3. Shortly before the pumpkin is ready, boil salted water for the pasta, cook the pasta following packet directions.
4. Fry bacon, add garlic and eschallot to the pan, (use remaining olive oil if required) turn heat down to low heat.
5. Add pumpkin to frypan contents stirring gently, slowly stir in the cream and stock. Pumpkin should go a little mushy and blend with the cream. 
6. When pasta is ready, stir the parmesan and chicken into the pumpkin mixture and season with salt and pepper.
7. Drain pasta and combine with pumpkin mixture. Serve with a little extra parmesan, the roasted pine nuts and a grind of black pepper.

1 comment: