Saturday, October 6, 2012

Spring Bounty

A quick visit to the garden yesterday evening and I came back with armfuls of home-grown goodness. The leeks and rainbow chard made their way into a divine spanakopita we made for dinner last night (don't believe Jamie Oliver, a good one takes more than 30 minutes). The first of the broad beans are waiting in the kitchen to be podded and made into broad beans on toast. 

And last, but most definitely not least, a bunch of blooms from my plot  (sweet peas!) and the sensory beds which are currently sitting next to the tv looking sensational. Sitting on the couch, watching Harry Potter last night, I kept catching gentle wafts of sweet pea scent drifting across the lounge room. Bliss!

Monday, October 1, 2012

Hello Spring, You Sexy Thing!

I mean that title both figuratively and literally. Flowers are, of course, plant's reproductive organs so sweetly scented spring blossoms mean a whole lot of pretty, petaled procreation is going on, right under our noses. Of course, the flowers have been at it since late winter (wattles, plum blossoms, magnolias) but weather-wise it's been along wait this year for spring. We're now in October and it would seem the days are finally showing some promise of warmth. The garden is all abloom. I've never noticed quince trees before but the tree at the garden (pictured above) has the most lovely flowers and my wild and woolly tangles of sweet peas are finally beginning to bloom.

Still only a couple of flowers but I'm hopeful they'll soon be a huge mass of sweetly scented blooms. The plants were self seeders from last year so I wasn't sure how they'd look. Seems they've thrown back to the wild, Sicilian red and purple variety which would explain their crazy, tangled growth form which I politely refer to as over-enthusiastic. I love how the wild ancestry comes back so quickly. Must read up about those monks and early genetics.

In the meantime here's some more gratuitous flower photos. How could I resist....

Broccoli Blossom Bonanza

Last summer I discovered the wonders of zucchini flowers, now I'm on the broccoli blossom bandwagon. In case you didn't know, and there's no reason you should, broccoli heads are actually tightly packed flower buds and most of us despair when they go to bloom. Well despair no more, harvest those buttery yellow blooms and use them to make a little dish I like to call.....

Broccoli Pasta Primavera, a la Rocco!

A couple of years ago now, my mate, Rocco, a real live Italian (from Verona, in the north), made me his mum's broccoli pasta for dinner. I have to admit, when he told me what he was making I was less than thrilled at the prospect of boiled broccoli with pasta. Broccoli is not one of my favourite vegetables (right up there with pumpkin and zucchini) and his version sounded seriously un-appetising. But I was his guest so I held my peace, held my breath, ate up politely and was delighted to discover that it was actually completely wonderful.

It's an incredibly simple, surprisingly delicious recipe. In need of an Italian lesson and with the school broccoli ready to pick, I decided to cook Rocco's recipe with my class. Unfortunately a warm day or two sent the broccoli into bloom as so the recipe was adapted to include a special secret ingredient. Broccoli flowers! 

No doubt you're thinking that broccoli pasta a strange choice for a class of six and seven year olds but such was the faith I had in the delicious simplicity of Rocco's recipe. And it didn't let me down. Of course, cooking it at school lends a certain excitement factor but I know from experience, if they don't like it, they really won't eat it. And let me tell you, you haven't lived until you've heard 40 excited grade 1/2s delightedly shouting to each other at the top of their little lungs.. "Broccoli Pasta! Yum!"

Don't take my word for it,  or theirs, here's the recipe, in English and Italian. Try it for yourself.

Broccoli Pasta Primavera, a la Rocco


broccoli, chopped up
pasta (Rocco recommends orrichette)
parmesan, lots
olive oil
broccoli flowers (not essential but a great addition)
Boil some water with a pinch of salt, put the chopped broccoli in, wait till they're half to way to tender (~5min), then pour the pasta straight into the same boiling water.

Keep boiling pasta and broccoli till pasta is ready (and broccoli hopefully are just soft without having fallen apart).

Then get the water out (strain it) and add olive oil, parmesan and pepper and a generous sprinkling of broccoli flowers. Yum!

Bolli l'acqua per la pasta in una pentola. Taglia i broccoli a dadetti, mettili nell'acqua e lascia bolllire finche i broccoli incominciano a bollire.

Butta la pasta (preferibilmente orecchiette) nell'acqua bollente co0n i broccoli e lascia bollire finche la pasta ne' al dente e i broccoli appena teneri.

Scola aggiungi olio d'oliva generosamente, parmigiano, broccoli fiori e pepe. Delizioso!