Tag Archives: walnut

Butternut Couscous

23 Sep

With Walnuts + Goats Cheese + Red Wine SauceToday we started getting in gear for Queen Z’s 1st Birthday Party. Did most of the shopping and I prepared the butter cookies for baking tomorrow morning. So tonight, we wanted a good and simple meal that would nourish us and keep us going! I decided to cook the butternut that has been sitting on the table looking at me friendly like for the last couple of days. My friend, Floating Lemons, posted a recipe on my Facebook page that inspired me.

I decided to make roasted butternut and combine it with toasted spiced walnuts and some gorgeous blue goat’s cheese I found at the market. I wanted to serve it with spinach couscous, which I have made before. As the recipe was coming together, I decided that the butternut and couscous together would be a bit dry – so I made a red wine orange sauce on the fly! I combined the butternut with the walnuts and cheese, placed them on the green flecked couscous, and drizzled the wine sauce over. It was delicious! And a great example of how a recipe can expand as you make it.

This may seem a little complex, but to be honest, I made the whole thing in one small saucepan (with a tight fitting lid!), and a roasting dish. We all have too much on our plates for me to start cooking with a thousand pots, so the recipe will reflect the step by step process I went through. It feels and sounds quite complicated, but if you read the recipe a few times, you will see that its really easy peasy!

I started the butternut roasting and then got on with the rest – toasted the walnuts, chopped the cheese (which you can omit easily if you are vegan), made the sauce and the couscous. By the time the butternut was ready, the other ingredients were just waiting to be combined!

This meal will serve 4 hungry greedy people or 6 refined ones. You can easily cut it in half as well, or double it if needed. Enjoy!

Roasted Butternut

  • 1 medium butternut, peeled, seeded and chopped
  • 9 – 12 cloves of garlic, peeled
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • Salt and pepper

Preheat the oven to 200C (400F).

In a large bowl, using your hands, combine the butternut, garlic and olive oil. The oil should lightly coat the butternut, not overwhelm it. Salt and pepper lightly and mix again with your hands to combine.

Line a jelly roll pan or cookie sheet with parchment paper. Arrange the butternut and garlic in a single layer on the pan, and roast for at least 30 minutes (it can go up to about 45) or until the butternut are soft, and slightly caramelised around the edges.

Once the butternut has roasted to your preference, take out of the oven and set aside to cool a little.

Toasted Walnuts

  • 1/2 cup walnuts
  • 1 tsp (or more) paprika
  • 1/2 tsp red pepper flakes
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • A few drops (literally) of olive oil

Chop the walnuts into small chunks, and put them into a non stick saucepan.

Place saucepan over medium heat, and start to toast the walnuts. You need to watch quite carefully so they dont burn, and stir often with a wooden spoon. If you are worried, lower the heat a bit. The oils in the walnuts will release and you will smell the wonderful, unmatchable scent of toasted nuts. Gorgeous.

Once the walnuts have just started to toast, sprinkle the paprika, red pepper and salt over the walnuts and stir to combine. Wait for the spicy scent to hit you and then drop a few drops of olive oil over all, and stir. The olive oil will help the spices adhere to the walnuts.

Toast for about a minute or so more – and taste to see if its to your liking. If so, take off the heat, and set the walnuts aside. I put them in a teacup!

Red Wine Orange Sauce

  • 1/2 cup good red wine
  • 1/4 cup orange juice – fresh squeezed is best but if you only have orange juice from a carton thats fine too – it will be a bit sweet, and you might have to adjust accordingly.
  • 1 tbsp butter (or Earth Balance margarine if you are vegan)
  • Salt to taste (I only used a tiny pinch)
  • 2 tbsp sour cream (or heavy cream – or if youre vegan, use coconut cream or soy creamer/milk – oat milk would be good here too) – optional

This is not tons of sauce, its just a lick to give moisture and flavour.

Clean out the saucepan, and combine the red wine and orange juice together. Over high heat, bring the mixture to the boil, and boil quite rapidly until reduced by at least a third, and up to half.

Whisk in the butter or margarine, and add salt to taste. You should have quite a thick winey sauce – almost a glaze – with a strong orange flavour. Orange goes beautifully with butternut, so this will only brighten its amazing taste.

Whisk in the sour cream, if using, until the sauce is smooth. Taste and adjust salt. You could add some pepper as well, though I chose not to.

Pour into a teacup or mug (or small bowl, if youre fancy!) and set aside.

Spinach Couscous

  • 10 oz (about 280 g) box of couscous
  • 1 3/4 cup water
  • 1 tbsp butter or olive oil
  • 1/2 tsp salt, or to taste
  • 1 cup raw baby spinach, minced

Clean out your saucepan again, and  heat water, butter or olive oil and salt until the water comes to a full boil. Stir in the couscous, and take the saucepan off the heat. Cover with lid, and allow to sit for five minutes.

Mince the spinach very fine.

Remove the lid from the saucepan, and using a fork, fluff the couscous. Add the spinach all at once and mix thoroughly to combine. Taste and adjust seasoning.

Assembly

  • Roasted Butternut and Garlic
  • Toasted Walnuts
  • 1/2 cup blue goat’s cheese or chevre (optional)
  • Red Wine Orange Sauce
  • Spinach Couscous

The roasted butternut should have cooled a bit to room temperature.

In the roasting tin, combine the butternut, walnuts and cheese (if youre using). Mix well. Drizzle about half of your red wine sauce over and toss gently to combine.

Arrange the spinach couscous on a serving platter or in a large bowl. Make a well in the centre, and place the butternut mixture into the well. Drizzle the rest of the red wine sauce over, and serve. Enjoy with loved ones.

PS – the leftovers are divine for lunch the next day, tossed together as a salad – or you could bring the whole thing on a picnic as a salad – its good cold too!

Fig Walnut Tart

24 Aug

This tart was something I dreamed up in my imagination, and it turned out better than I could ever have imagined! I made it for my sister’s birthday feast, but it would be phenomenal as a meal on its own – perhaps with a simple side salad of arugula + tomato. It would also be a stunning first course – served either in slices or in little individual tartlets – you could use muffin pans. Its savoury and sweet, incredibly rich, and yet surprisingly light. If you like figs, this is nirvana.

My sister’s husband, BSA, and I were chatting about how I would incorporate all the fresh purple figs that are growing on their tree into my sister’s feast. They are beautiful, and really needed to be used up … I also found some pretty green Calamyrna figs at Whole foods, and I added those too! BSA suggested walnuts – I have to admit I am not a huge fan of the nut in and of itself. I find it bitter and powdery in a funny way. But incorporated into a crust, now thats a different story!

And the figs had to sit in something. I first thought of smearing the base of the tart with blue cheese, but the blue goat’s cheese I found wasnt really blue, and didnt meet my fancy. So instead, I mixed together fresh mascarpone, ricotta and a touch of creme fraiche, with a few eggs. The eggs and ricotta lightened the base – it became almost fluffy, and yet retained a beautiful clean sweetness. Bland, but a perfect counterfoil for the rich luscious figs. I think I was inspired by the wonderful open faced ricotta and fig sandwich I had at Le Pain Quotidien!

I poached the figs in a bit of sweet dessert wine and then reduced the poaching liquid to a thick syrup. I sliced the figs in half, and stuffed each of them with strong soft goat’s cheese and literally tucked them into the pillowy bed of ricotta and mascarpone. They sunk in a little, and I baked the whole thing until the filling was puffed, and the centre didnt jiggle any more. About ten minutes before I thought it would be done, I poured over the poaching syrup and let it bake in.

This was wonderful at room temperature, and really superb the next day, cold. This tart will keep, and the figs are transformed by their bedmates. This is a sensualist’s meal – textural, full of tastes, layers of flavour, and silky smooth. Serve it to those you love. They will be wowed.

I baked the tart in a 9 3/4 inch springform cake pan, and just released the edges when serving. It made for a rustic beautiful tart, but use whatever you have!

Serves 8 – 12 people

For the walnut crust

  • 1 cup chopped walnuts
  • 1 cup whole wheat pastry flour (for extra nuttiness, but if you only have regular flour – use that!)
  • 1/2 – 3/4 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp cracked black pepper
  • 1/2 stick (4 tbsp) butter
  • 1 egg

In a food processor (or, as I did, in the wonderful attachment mini processor that came with my sister’s new immersion blender!) pulverise the walnuts until they are a fine coarse meal. In a small bowl, mix together the walnut meal and the flour, and add salt and pepper. Use your judgement when it comes to the salt – I eventually added about 3/4 of a teaspoon, but I was using unsalted butter… you might find you need less if you are using salted.

Grate the butter into the flour mixture, and using your fingers, mix until you have sandy pebbles.

Crack an egg into the bowl, and using your fingers, combine the egg into the flour-butter mixture. You will get a slightly sticky dough. Knead this a couple times in the bowl, and then refrigerate to allow all to come together for about 10 minutes or so.

Preheat the oven to 190 C.

Take the dough out of the fridge, and on a floured surface, roll out. You might find this is difficult, but do your best. The dough will be crumbly. Transfer to a tart pan, or a 9 – 10 inch springform cake pan. Use your fingers to spread out the dough across the bottom of the pan, and up the sides. Its okay if the dough tears, just use slightly wet fingers to patch it up again.

Put the pan in the fridge for 5 minutes to let the dough set, and then prick the dough all over with the tines of a fork.

Bake for 15 – 20 minutes until the pastry is lightly browned. The butter will have foamed up on the surface of the pastry – this is okay, it will incorporate back in once you take the pastry out of the oven. Cool for at least 20 minutes before assembling.

For the filling + assembly

  • 1/2 cup sweet dessert wine (or port wine, or red wine, or white wine, or if youre not into wine, grape or apple juice!)
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1 tbsp honey
  • 10 – 12 ripe fresh figs, whole
  • 1 cup mascarpone
  • 1 cup fresh ricotta
  • 2 heaping tbsp creme fraiche or sour cream
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/2 cup or so soft goat’s cheese (or blue cheese if you would rather – Cashel Blue might be wonderful here!)

Place wine, water, honey and figs in a medium saucepan that will fit all the figs snugly. Over medium heat, bring the wine to a boil, and then turn heat down, and simmer for about ten minutes. Remove the figs from the wine and allow them to cool separately.

Bring the wine mixture to the boil, and boil steadily until reduced to a very thick syrup. Set aside.

Beat the mascarpone, ricotta, and creme fraiche together until just combined. Beat the eggs into the mixture, and taste. You might want to add a little salt and pepper, but I didnt think it needed it.

Preheat the oven to 190 C

Pour the mascarpone mixture into the cooled walnut tart shell.

Chop the goat’s cheese into bite sized chunks, slice each fig in half from stem to bottom, and stuff the centres with a piece of goat’s cheese. Lay the figs into the mascarpone mixture gently, cut face side up.

Bake the tart for about 30 – 45 minutes, or until the centre does not wobble any more. About ten minutes before it is done (when you see a bare wobble), pour the reserved wine syrup over.

I really liked this cooled to room temperature before serving, particularly in the hot summer night, but if you want to serve it warm or hot, please let it sit for at least 10 – 15 minutes before slicing and devouring!

Enjoy!!!