Spaghetti with green tomatoes and herbs


Years ago I did a series of evening cooking classes with Diane Seed here in Rome, which was great fun. She really demystified Roman cooking for us, and helped make sense of how to cook the piles of colorful strange produce in the market. I had never seen a fresh apricot before moving to Rome. I had never made pesto, or cooked agretti, or deep-fried zucchini flowers. Some of those recipes I still use.

The other day my husband had bought some nice green tomatoes, with nothing specific in mind. I had been looking at the herbs on the balcony getting slightly weedy, and thought: “Diane’s green tomato pasta!” It is an uncooked sauce, which is great in the summer heat. (We are having a very cold week, but I am in a summer mood for cooking regardless.) While your pasta cooks, just blitz green tomatoes, mixed fresh herbs, garlic, parmesan and a splash of oil. It is a flexible dish, just use the herbs you have that go well with each other and with tomatoes. Some mint is recommended. Lovely light and fresh dish.

Spaghetti with green tomatoes and herbs, adapted from Diane Seed

6-7 small green tomatoes, roughly chopped
3 cloves of garlic, peeled
1 cup of fresh herbs: a mix of mint, basil, parsley, sage, chives
1/4 cup grated parmesan
1 tbs olive oil
Salt and pepper, to taste

300g dried spaghetti

Wash tomatoes and herbs, and and combine garlic in a food processor. Process to a chunky salsa consistency. Just before serving, add in the grated cheese and olive oil. season to taste. Boil pasta in lightly salted water (as long as the packet recommends). Drain pasta, spoon over some green tomato sauce and serve.


Trifle with strawberries and pistachios

making trifle

Trifle is one of those very British desserts (or puddings, as they would say). The basic principle is this: layers of cake, fruit of some sort, alcohol, then custard and whipped cream. Italian have a variation on this called zuppa inglese, meaning English Soup. We made a more classic British one, with a pistachio-flavoured twist.

Trifle with strawberries and pistachios

6 ladyfinger biscuits (Savoiardi)
A few splashes of pistachio liqueur
A punnet of strawberries, hulled and halved
1/2 liter of custard
2 cups of strawberry jelly (half a packet)

250ml whipping cream
handful of shelled pistachios

Line the base of a glass dish with ladyfingers, or small rectangles of a plain sponge cake. Pour liqueur or sherry over to soften and slightly soak the biscuits. Don’t worry about buying alcohol just for this, you could use fruit juice as well. Sprinkle chopped strawberries over the biscuit base. You could also use raspberries, blueberries or sliced peaches, or other soft fruit. Make strawberry jelly (you’ll need two cups. Save the rest for a visiting child or enjoy it yourself.) When cooled slightly, pour over the biscuit base and fruit and put the entire glass bowl to cool in fridge.

Make up the custard, cool slightly and pour over the jelly layer. Too soon, and the layers will mix, which should be avoided. Allow glass bowl to cool in fridge. When this layer is set, whip cream and layer it on top of the custard. Keep chilled until serving. Just before serving, decorate with some sliced strawberries, and chopped pistachios (optional).

Note: My husband made this, and it was delicious. It was also a good chance to use up some mystery ingredients. We used pistachio liqueur  (Cremoncello Pistacchio) that we bought on holidays on Favignana (small island off Sicily)  last year. We tasted it once, and it’s been lingering in the fridge ever since…. Nice here though. Plain custard is customary in trifle, but I’d found pistachio-flavored custard powder in one of the Asian shops here and I thought it would be fun to finally try it. Besides being green, it worked well with the strawberries. 

pistachio liquer and pistachio custard
Pistachio liqueur from Sicily and pistachio custard powder from Pakistan ….. finally a use for both!

See also:

Easy veg curry

fridge shelves

At the top of our fridge, there are some items that have permanent residence. Jars come and go, but there will almost always be a selection of these: tahini, lingonberry jam, mango chutney, lime pickle, and curry paste. I see some Romanian horseradish paste, sambal oelek, some Norwegian appetittsild (pickled herring), and a mysterious pistachio dessert sauce we found in Sicily. It’s like tahini, but pistachio-flavoured and very sweet.

Last night we fancied something light. After a week of fighting a stomach bug, we thought we’d brave rice and a mild curry. I’d had this recipe for Sweet potato, spinach & lentil dahl recipe – BBC Good Food on my to-try list for ages, and thought I’d try something like that. Of course, when cooking this I totally forgot to add the sweet potatoes, so that’s still on the list. And we had korma paste lurking in the fridge (does it ever go off?), so I used that instead of making curry paste from scratch. Sometimes it’s just easier.

veg curryEasy veg curry

One onion, chopped
2 stalks celery, chopped
small splash olive oil
3 generous tbs korma paste
1/2 cup uncooked red lentils
450 ml water
2 zucchini, sliced and cut in two
150 g fresh spinach, washed and chopped
3/4 cup plain yoghurt (I used low-fat Greek yoghurt, as we had some left over)
salt to taste

Chop the onion and celery, sauté briefly in large pan and add korma paste. Another Indian curry paste would do nicely as well, I am sure. Add red lentils, water and zucchini, and let it simmer with lid on until the lentils are tender. Fifteen min or so, it took. When the lentils are tender, toss in the handfuls of fresh spinach, it will wilt in the heat. Turn the heat down and stir in the yoghurt. See if you think it’s spicy enough, or if you want to add more curry paste or salt. Serve with rice and naan.

naan on steketakkeI made coriander naan following The Pink Whisk’s recipe, which is very reliable. Recipe here: Naan Bread – Plain plus Garlic & Coriander | Baking, Recipes and Tutorials. Actually I just made the dough, my husband rolled them out and griddled them. That is a Meteor steketakke, a Norwegian-made griddle for lefse and other traditional flatbreads. Excellent for naan and pita bread as well.

Note: of course, no other major appliances (kettle, dishwasher, washing machine) can run while the griddle is on. Electricity in Italy can be temperamental, and most apartments have a 3kw contract, which does not have much leeway. It’s rock, paper, scissors, just with household appliances: washing machine + iron? Dishwasher running, and your guest says she’ll just pop the kettle on? You catch yourself running across the kitchen saying NOOOOOO……. Too late. There go the fuses again…..