fish mediterranean pasta recipes

Orecchiette with cauliflower, sardines, pine nuts and capers

Sprrrrrrrrring!!!! Ted’s back in Melbourne after three and a half weeks in the US, we’ve had a weeks’ holiday together at home, and we’ve sat in the sunshine, gone walking in the Dandenongs, worked in the garden, read lots of books, and eaten the first asparagus of the season. I am so, so refreshed. (I am ignoring the results of last night’s election. La la la la, it never happened, don’t think about don’t think about it, just make lots of donations to family planning and refugee charities.)

I spent quite a bit of the last week lolling around thinking about the things I should be doing, and instead just lying on the couch reading novels. But after eight days off work I am finally full of energy, so have made kimchi and torshi left, planted out seeds for summer (nine varieties of tomatoes, lots of greens, herbs, chilis, many other things), cleaned up my bike in preparation for riding in to work tomorrow morning, and even done some of that yoga I’ve been planning to do for the last several months. Oh man I love spring in Melbourne.

We made this dish for lunch today after spending the morning out under the sunshine in the garden. I know the proportions of pasta to sauce are reversed from what they traditionally should be here, but I just really love cauliflower. Sorry, Italian grandmas.


Sicilian-inspired orecchiette with cauliflower, sardines, pine nuts and capers

600 g cauliflower, cut into small florets (1-2 cm)
olive oil
sea salt and black pepper
2 large golden shallots, finely sliced
4 anchovy fillets in olive oil, chopped
aged red wine vinegar
2 tablespoons pine nuts, gently toasted
2 tablespoons currants or small sultanas
1 generous tablespoon salted capers, rinsed
1 tin good sardines
100 g orecchiette
large palmful each of finely chopped dill and parsley
chili flakes, optional

Pre-heat the oven to 180 C. Toss the cauliflower with a drizzle of olive oil and a sprinkling of salt and pepper, and roast for about 20-30 minutes, until golden around the edges.

Meanwhile, heat a little olive oil in a small pan and saute the shallots and anchovies for 5 or 6 minutes or so, until the shallots are golden and the anchovies have melted. Add a good dash of aged red wine vinegar, and continue cooking for another minute or two. If the shallots need to soften some more (they probably will), add a slosh of water (preferably from the pasta that will be cooking, if you’ve read all the way to the end of the recipe before beginning) and let them cook further until the water has evaporated and the shallots are done.

Cook the orecchiette in boiling water until al dente, then drain, reserving a cup of the cooking water.

Tip the drained pasta back into the pot in which it was cooked, then add the shallots, cauliflower, pine nuts, currants and capers (and chili if you want it), and mix together. Break up the sardines very slightly, and add these and the herbs to the pot, and mix through gently so as not to turn the sardines to paste. Serve at once.

Serves two.


dinner meat mediterranean recipes

Lamb and pistachio kofta

Stuff that has been making me happy recently:

1. Spending Christmas with friends – Iñaki, Begoña, Unai, Naia and Heather came over to our place for Christmas lunch. We all contributed mezze; I made these slices of baguette with french goat cheese, roasted cherry Roma tomatoes, and salted capers. Then Iñaki made paella, and we ate it with slow-roasted Roma tomatoes, griddled zucchini with lemon and mint, and roasted peppers tossed with sherry vinegar, and a spinach, pea, mint and ricotta salad.


2. Checking out green places around Melbourne, including the Botanic Gardens, where queued for 40 minutes to see this spectacular titan arum blooming on Boxing day:




the fernery, heritage orchard, succulent garden etc etc at Ripponlea Estate:


and the perfect hidden river cafe at the Fairfield boathouse (where I had prawns, watercress and lemon aioli on a brioche roll for lunch today):


3. Delicious stonefruit from the St Kilda and Victoria markets, this week and last.

4. Seeing Helvetica at ACMI with Ted and Helen last week.

5. Two delicious meals at Dainty Sichuan in Chinatown, including one on the 4th of January, described here, which made a hellish public transport trip in 39 degree heat worthwhile.

6. The garden, where all but one of the nine tomato varieties I have planted have started to produce fruit. Only a couple of wild sweeties have ripened yet, but I have hope for a good harvest from the rest. The fig tree is also covered with green figs – last year the earliest ripe ones were at the end of February, so there is still a while to wait yet. But just sitting out there, or watering, or weeding, the beautiful green box that is our garden always returns me to at least some degree of serenity.



For dinner tonight we made these kofta, inspired strongly by a recipe in Ottolenghi’s Jerusalem. The original recipe made a larger amount, used half beef and half lamb, pine nuts instead of pistachios, red chili instead of green, and so on. I modified according to what we had in the house and came up with these, which were delicious.

Lamb and pistachio kofta with tahini sauce

400 g freshly minced lamb
half a red onion, finely chopped
2 garlic cloves, crushed
40 g unsalted pistachios, chopped
2 large handfuls of finely chopped flat-leaf parsley
1 long green chilli, deseeded and finely chopped
scant teaspoon ground allspice
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/2 teaspoon salt

Tahini sauce
4 tablespoons tahini paste
1-2 tablespoons lemon juice
1 garlic clove, crushed
hot water to mix

To serve
a big salad of tomato, cucumber and mint
pita bread

To make the kofta, mix the ingredients together well in a bowl, using your hands. Shape them into about ten kofta, either long, thinnish torpedo shapes, or rounder and flatter frittery shapes. Shape them firmly so they stay together during cooking.

Make the tahini sauce by combining the tahini, lemon juice, garlic and a pinch of salt. Add hot water, stirring briskly, until the sauce is a bit runnier than honey (in Ottolenghi’s very clear phrase).

Preheat the oven to 200C. Heat a slick of oil in a pan over medium-high heat, and sear the kofta all over until golden brown. At this point they will be still rare inside. Place them in an oven tray and cook them in the oven until they are done to your liking. How long this takes will depend on how cooked you want them and what shape they are. If you got a butcher to mince the lamb for you today, it’s ok to leave them a little rare if you like; otherwise make sure they are fully cooked. Ours took about 12 minutes in the oven, under alfoil.

To eat, spoon the sauce around the kofta and drizzle a little over the top. Sprinkle with more parsley and some more chopped pistachios if you have any over. Serve with the salad and pita.

Serves 4.

dinner mediterranean pasta recipes

Tuesday pasta for ten

Luciano is in Melbourne for a workshop, so we gathered up most of the old lab from UQ to come over to our place for wine and chat with him this evening. He was eating dinner at the workshop, so I wanted to make something for the rest of us to have before he arrived, but I also wanted to avoid any frantic or stressful cooking on a Tuesday night. Solution: a giant pot of pasta, served with a not-quite-so-giant side dish of green beans. Ted and I got home and started cooking a bit after 6 pm, and served this up a bit after 7 (and had loads of time to sit about on the couch for a while in between).

I really like the way the eggplant is cooked here. I think cutting it into long wedges and then slices, so that each piece of eggplant has skin on one side and so holds together nicely, works well. And then just chucking it in the oven to roast, rather than sauteeing it, leaves each piece with a little bit of crispy-chewiness, and doesn’t result in it soaking up litres of olive oil. The fact that it requires no stirring or other attention while it cooks is just an added bonus.


Fusilli with tomato, chorizo and roast eggplant

4 medium-large eggplants
olive oil
aged red wine vinegar
sea salt and pepper
2 onions, peeled, quartered and sliced
4 cured chorizo (Saskia Beer’s Black Pig chorizo is great)
1 sachet tomato paste
1 ultra-gigantor glass of red wine
3 x 400g cans of whole tomatoes, roughly chopped
1 x 700g jar of passata
1 kg good quality fusilli

Heat the oven to 180 C. Cut the top off each eggplant. Slice each eggplant into quarters lengthwise, then cut each quarter into half lengthwise again. You should have eight equal-sized long wedges. Cut the wedges crosswise into pieces about 1.5 cm wide. You should now have lots of little triangular pieces of eggplant, each with skin on one end. Spread the eggplant out across four oven trays (you might need to do this in a couple of goes unless you have a very large oven). The pieces can touch each other a bit, but should not be piled up, or they will steam rather than roast. Drizzle the eggplant with some olive oil and red wine vinegar, and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Toss to coat. Note that the eggplant doesn’t have to be drenched in oil! Just a decent drizzle is fine. Put the trays in the oven and  leave to cook 20-30 minutes, until the pieces are cooked through and browning on the edges. No need to toss them part way through cooking. Once they’re cooked, remove from the oven and set aside.

Heat a glug of olive oil in a large pot over medium heat, then add the onions and cook for about 10 minutes, until they’re soft and golden. Cut each chorizo in half lengthwise, and then into 1.5 cm pieces. Add the chorizo and the tomato paste to the onions, and cook another couple of minutes. Then add the red wine, tinned tomatoes, and passata. Stir together, bring to the boil, then turn down to a rolling simmer. Cook for about 30-40 minutes, stirring now and then, until the sauce has come together and is a bit reduced. Add the cooked eggplant and cook another minute or two.

Cook the pasta until al dente, then drain. Combine the pasta and the sauce, and serve at once.

Serves 10-12 people with a vegetable on the side or salad to follow.

dinner meat mediterranean recipes

Potato and chorizo tortilla with chard agrodolce

This tortilla was dinner tonight, together with some chard agrodolce. It was all delicious. We used royal blue potatoes – purple skin, yellow flesh – though the skin didn’t stay purple through cooking, alas. The chorizo was from Black Pig.  I think the success of the tortilla would depend on using a really flavourful chorizo (this one was fantastic). In the absence of that, I’d add a couple of skinned roasted peppers and some smoked paprika. This tortilla has less egg per potato volume than a traditional tortilla, and is thinner (about 2 cm thick), but that’s how I like it.

The chard agrodolce was a good match. This was a large bunch of ruby chard, stemmed, chopped, blanched and squeezed dry, then sauteed with olive oil, minced garlic and a handful of currants, and finally tossed with a splash of aged red wine vinegar and some toasted pine nuts. A++ would make again.


Potato and chorizo tortilla

2 onions, quartered and sliced
olive oil
5 medium waxy or all-rounder potatoes, scrubbed, cut into 1-2 mm slices
1 cured chorizo, ~120 g, sliced
1 good handful chopped parsley leaves
4 eggs
salt and pepper

Heat the olive oil in a frypan over moderate heat, add the onions, and cook until translucent and soft. They’ll get quite a lot more cooking, so no need to take them to the golden stage at this point. Add the raw potato slices and continue to fry, stirring frequently, until they are cooked (but still keeping their shape). This took about 15 minutes for us – it will depend on the potato type and how finely they’re sliced. Add the chorizo a few minutes before the end, so its flavour gets mixed through everything.

Turn down the heat under the pan to low. Whisk together the eggs, parsley and salt and pepper, then add to the pan. Give it a very quick stir through, and pat everything down flat. Our mixture was about 2.5 cm thick at this stage. Leave to cook until the middle of the frittata is getting solid, and just the top remains runny. At this point, you can flip it if you are highly skilled. If you’re like me, on the other hand, you can instead just put the pan under the grill until the top is cooked.

Serves 4, with a vegetable side.

mediterranean recipes salad vegetarian

Pearl couscous and roast veggie salad with feta, herbs and harissa

It’s the season for social events 5 nights a week, which I love love love until I abruptly get the almost uncontrollable urge to go home, lock the door, and pull the sheets over my head for a few days.  I’m not quite there yet but I’ve caught myself meaningfully eyeing off the bed and making sure there’s a good supply of reading material on the table beside it.

The last week’s been lovely though.  Judy’s down from Pomona, and she came over for excellent conversation on Thursday night over a dinner of linguine with home-made pesto, a salad of cauliflower, slow-cooked onions, anchovies, currants and parsley, and some roast cherry tomatoes with spinach. She also sent me some Spirit House recipes the next morning, including one for tea-smoked duck salad that is now on my immediately-try list.

We went out with Ian and Lisa on Friday to the new Indian restaurant in Toowong, Ceylon Inn, where we accidentally banged noisily into a table and spilled red wine (separate incidents, both within the first 5 minutes of arriving and while completely sober), and I later tipsily tried to explain the mechanics of next-generation sequencing technology to Ian after the meal.  Sunday we met Francesca for a relaxing meal and chitchat at the Tibetan Kitchen in West End and I renewed my love affair with their lime and tofu curry.

And on Saturday we were at Anne and Arthur’s for a great party to which I brought this couscous salad. It’s forgiving about being made several hours before being eaten, and also about being carted across town on public transport, bless it.  It’s yet another variant of the grain/roast vegies/herbs/cheese salads that I keep making and lab people keep asking for recipes of and I keep neglecting to write down…  sorry dudes, but here is one at last.

2 large red capsicums, finely sliced
5 slender zucchini, chopped into pieces 1.5 x 1.5 cm
5 finger aubergines, cut into half-moon shapes about 1 cm thick
olive oil
garlic-infused olive oil
sea salt and black pepper
aged red wine vinegar (e.g. Forum) or sherry vinegar
cinnamon powder
harissa paste
1.5 cups pearl couscous (aka Israeli couscous)
2 cups boiling water
1 large bunch flat-leaf parsley, leaves picked and chopped
1 large bunch mint, leaves picked and chopped
1 packet feta, crumbled

Pre-heat the oven to 180C.

Toss the aubergines with several teaspoons of salt in a large colander and leave to drain for ~45 minutes.

Toss the capsicum with a glug of olive oil and vinegar and some sea salt and pepper in a baking dish.  Roast for ~30 minutes, depending on size of slices, until capsicum is soft and brown at the edges. Set aside.

Toss the zucchini with garlic-infused olive oil, salt and pepper in a baking dish.  Make sure the pieces aren’t piled up on one another, so they can roast rather than steam.  Roast for ~30 mins, until softened and golden.  (If you don’t have garlic-infused olive oil, you can use normal olive oil instead and then add lots of crushed garlic for the last 10 minutes of roasting.) Set aside.

Rinse the salt off the aubergines, and toss dry in the colander.  In a large saucepan, heat some olive oil over medium heat and fry the aubergines until they are soft and golden.  This shouldn’t take too long (and they shouldn’t absorb too much oil) if they were well salted.  Mix together in a little bowl a glug of the garlic olive oil, a glug of red wine vinegar, a teaspoon or so of cinnamon powder, and harissa paste to taste (depending on how hot your harissa is, this could be a quarter teaspoon or two heaped teaspoons).  Add this to the pan and continue to cook for another couple of minutes.  Remove from heat and set aside.

In a large saucepan, heat a dash of olive oil over medium heat, then add the couscous and stir until you start to smell it toasting.  Add 2 cups of boiling water and a pinch of salt.  Simmer, covered, for 8-10 minutes, stirring occasionally.  The water should then be all absorbed and the couscous cooked.  Add a little more water near the end if it is dry before the couscous is cooked.  Now spread the coucous out on a large flat bowl to cool.  Give it a stir every few minutes to break up any clumps and make sure it does not get gluggy.  (I’m not totally sure if this is necessary but I always do it to be safe.)

Make a dressing for the salad by collecting the olive oil and vegetable juices from the baking dishes of roast capsicum and zucchini, and mixing into that liquid a little more red wine vinegar, some cinnamon powder, and some harissa paste to taste.

Toss together in a large bowl the vegetables, couscous, herbs, feta and dressing. Serve slightly warm or at room temperature.

mediterranean pasta recipes vegetarian (almost)


And today I found out that I got ARC funding for 3 years so now I am suddenly relaxed like the floppiest thing ever.  Perhaps I can stop being a drama queen about my stress levels for a while!  Here was tonight’s really quite rocking dinner, serving 4, adapted from Karen Martini’s Cooking at Home:

 Rigatoni with roasted cauliflower, saffron, currants, pine nuts and caramelised onion

Slice 2 brown onions, and cook in olive oil in a large saucepan over low heat for 15 minutes.  Add 4 sliced garlic cloves and a handful of fresh thyme leaves, and cook for a further 15 minutes or more until everything is delightfully caramelised.

Cut a medium cauliflower up into florets, toss with olive oil, and roast at 180C for around 25 minutes, or until golden.

Cook 400 g of rigatoni until al dente; drain.

Add to the onion mixture 4 chopped anchovy fillets, 80 g of currants, 2 pinches of saffron threads, and half a cup of water, and simmer for 5 minutes. Add 70 g pine nuts, a dash of red wine vinegar, 150 ml white wine, the cooked and drained pasta, and a slug of olive oil.  Cook over low heat for another couple of minutes, until the sauce has adhered nicely to the pasta.

Check seasoning, add some chopped flat-leaf parsley and toss to combine.

Eat with lots of wine and a glorious, overwhelming, muscle-loosening feeling of relief.