Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Meat-free Vegetable Bolognese Linguini

Hands up if you’ve been observing ‘Meatless Mondays’ or 'Meat-free Week’ and generally trying to eat less meat.
*my hand is tentatively half-raised*

My efforts to reduce the amount of processed food I eat has - sort of - extended to eating less meat and less white potatoes, and more leafy greens and vegetables. It’s been a bit of a failure so far, but it has also emphasised to me just how much meat and processed gunk I do consume.

It’s not my fault, she whines. It’s just that most of the ‘good’ food is pretty boring when compared to a juicy chargrilled steak with some little roast potatoes with truffle salt… (I dare you to deny this!).

That was, until I tried this most excellent Vegetable Bolognese. Admittedly, it doesn’t sound too exciting, but please believe me when I tell you that this is one of the most flavoursome pasta dishes I’ve ever had.

The intensely flavoured porcini, sweet carrot and capsicum and a good glug of red wine are all concentrated into this amazingly luscious sauce that looks like meaty bolognese but tastes so much better. You must give it a try, even if you aren’t planning on going meat-free.

Vegetable Bolognese
serves 2

¼ cup dried porcini mushrooms
200g linguini
1 carrot, roughly chopped
1 small brown onion, roughly chopped
1 red or yellow capsicum, roughly chopped
100g Swiss brown mushrooms, roughly sliced
1 garlic clove, crushed
2 tblsp olive oil
½ tblsp chopped thyme leaves
2 tblsp sundried tomato pesto
¼ cup red wine
¾ cup vegetable stock
¼ cup mascarpone
Grated parmesan, to serve


1. Soak porcini in ½ cup boiling water for 10 minutes. Drain, reserving the liquid, and roughly chop the porcini.

2. Place the carrot, onion, capsicum, Swiss brown mushrooms and garlic in a food processor and process until finely chopped but not mushy.

3. Meanwhile, cook linguine in a large saucepan of boiling, salted water until al dente.

4. Heat the oil in a large saucepan over medium-high heat and add the finely chopped vegetables. Cook, stirring, for 3-4 minutes, until softened. Add the thyme, pesto and porcini and cook for another minute.

5. Add the wine, stock and half the reserved porcini liquid. Reduce heat to low and simmer for 2 minutes. Remove from the heat, and stir through the mascarpone, then season with salt and pepper.

6. Drain the linguine. Add the vegetable sauce to the pasta and gently toss to combine. Sprinkle parmesan on top and serve.

recipe adapted from delicious (March 2013).

Lovely veg, including yellow capsicum, onion, carrot, dried porcini and Swiss brown mushrooms

The rest of the ingredients: mascarpone, red wine, sundried tomato pesto and linguini

A rich, flavourful meat-free dish
I don't like my pasta to be too 'wet', but you can add more liquid to the serving, if you like.

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

A challenging Key Lime Tart

One of the the first ‘grown-up’ books I read as a young teenager was Nora Ephron’s Heartburn. It was grown-up to me because it dealt with adult themes of neurotic Americans in therapy, relationships and divorce.  Believe me, coming from a rich diet of Nancy Drew and Trixie Belden, Heartburn was quite an eye-opener.

I haven’t read Heartburn at all since then (can’t say the same about ‘Trixie Belden and the Mystery of...’, heehee), but there were 2 memorable things I got out of Heartburn : how to boil the perfect egg, and Key Lime Pie.

Firstly, the boiled egg: place an egg in a saucepan and cover with cold water. Bring to the boil, then turn off the heat and leave for 4 minutes. Rinse under cold water and you have a perfect soft-boiled egg. So, since I was 13, I’ve boiled eggs this way and they are always just right.

Secondly, Key Lime Pie. Oh how I wished I lived in America so that I could experience Key Lime Pie. Just the description of it, all tangy and creamy and lime green, evoked images of Florida and sunshine and graham crackers, whatever they were. And would you believe, I’ve always been too intimidated to make it, even now that I am a ‘food blogger’. Well, I, too, have grown up and I won’t let a dessert scare me no more. This is a lovely pie/tart, I really should not have waited decades to try it. This recipe is not from Heartburn, but I’m sure Nora Ephron would have liked it as well.

By the way, this effort is being entered in Our Growing Edge, a great concept from bunny eats design that showcases learning and experimenting and meeting challenges, like key lime pie. Check it out here.

Key Lime Tart
serves 10

300g plain biscuits (I used Nice biscuits)
50g unsalted butter, melted
4 eggs, lightly beaten
395g can condensed milk
2/3 cup (160ml) cream
Finely grated zest and juice of 4 limes
Whipped cream, to serve
Candied lime
1 lime, sliced 1-2mm thick
½ cup caster sugar
½ cup water


1. Use a food processor to crush biscuits to fine crumbs. Add melted butter and pulse to combine. Press the mixture into the base and sides of a 25cm-wide loose-bottomed tart pan. Chill in refrigerator for 30 minutes.

2. Preheat oven to 170C/340F. Whisk the eggs, condensed milk, cream, lime zest and jice in a bowl until combined. Pour into tart pan and bake for 40 minutes or until filling is just set. Cool completely in the pan.

3. For the candied lime: Blanch lime slices in boiling water for 2 minutes, then drain. Combine sugar and water in a small saucepan and bring to a simmer over medium heat, stirring to dissolve sugar. Add the lime slices and cook for 10-15 minutes until white pith looks translucent. Drain, then dry on a wire rack for 30 minutes.

4. To serve, decorate the tart with whipped cream and candied lime.

recipe adapted from delicious (April 2011)
Speckled eggs and limes (not Key Limes, but suitable nonetheless)

I used my 22cm tart tin, so had lots of crust and filling left over to fill 2 small (8cm) tins as well.
Even though this was quite an exciting effort for me, Tabitha cat finds desserts quite boring.

My candied lime slices looked pretty but were very bitter to taste, so next time I will just use raw lime to decorate.

A wonderful treat for grown-ups and little ones (not cats, though).