Christina McElhinney is a racing producer for Racing TV who has used the 2020 Lockdown to finally give her second passion a platform in the form of The Food Waffle blog – a place where the musings of an amateur home gardener and resourceful cook result in delicious recipes and accessible tips. Here, she debuts on The Wine Tipster Blog with a pasta recipe to solve your courgette cravings and perhaps your abundance of Lockdown garden produce. Tuck in…
It’s fair to say 2020 has been a learning curve; all the things we’ve had to adjust and adapt to, plus a lot of us have had some downtime to work on things that we have perhaps meant to for some time. In my case, this was finally launching The Food Waffle in which to spread a bit of happiness, focussing on fresh produce, varieties of plants, great producers and ingredients, healthy options as well as indulgent ones, and a general love of food, wine and everything that comes with them.
Things have been very difficult for us all, but equally if you’re determined to see the positives, there are things to celebrate. Some of us have spent more – or less! – time with family. Some of us have spent more time in the garden and probably, like me, been very grateful for it. More time to cook, think about our health, seasonality, local producers. I’m certainly not trying to trivialise the overall experience and the trauma it’s caused so many, but it is important to find individual positives.
For me, the garden was a lifesaver for a couple of months. Nurturing young plants, preparing their ultimate homes, indeed enjoying giving some away to people who were trying their first season of growing vegetables like my neighbours or whoever was passing the driveway and helped themselves to a free plant…thinking of all the fresh produce I’d be cooking in the coming weeks and months was a calming mental influence and made me feel that I wasn’t wasting time spent in lockdown, but also that I was producing something that was not only good for me physically, in terms of both food and exercise, but also mentally.
But of course I over-seeded plants as I always do in case nothing germinated, and everything did. So then the courgettes arrived.
So. Many. Courgettes.
They get a bad reputation. The allotment joke every summer. For being a glut of bland, dull things that sit on the side and go to waste and that even if you do use them don’t taste of anything.
First of all, there are some great varieties out there that just don’t hit the supermarkets. But secondly, treated with a bit of care, or creativity, or both, they’re delicious, they’re not exactly bad for you and they’re a celebration of good old British summer time – along with wasps and either having too much or too little rain – so they’re actually coming out on top.
And I currently have dozens of the things (there’s only so much you can offload to a neighbour), so there have been a few recipes of the more creative variety going on. Courgette fritters currently on foodwaffle.co.uk, a work-in-progress courgette bread that’s really good, but I also wanted to do something that simply, elegantly and lightly showcased the pure, good old courgette for what it can carry on its own. And the obvious plate-fellow for me had to be basil pesto (my recipe will be landing on foodwaffle.co.uk soon).
Not a huge hit of it though – and coupled with double cream to make a light sauce. Just enough of that lovely bright summery basil flavour to still let the courgettes be the star – whatever variety you end up using.
Two of the best ingredients summer throw at you, combined with the incomparable flavours you can only get with goats cheese, toasted pine nuts to enhance that light hit of pesto brought down to a mellow softness with double cream, pumpkin seeds for an earthy texture hit and carried together with a sauce-grabbing pasta. Light enough that it’ll be enough for a hot summer day but equally could be doubled up for a bigger serving on a cooler evening, this is my favourite way to celebrate these gorgeous courgettes that are currently rampaging into the kitchen.
And any meal that can do that needs some beautiful wine with it – and I’ll let Neil do the talking on that front because I’m sure he’ll come up with something ideal.
INGREDIENTS (SERVES TWO AS A LIGHT MEAL)
Gently heat the double cream over a low heat. When warmed, add the pesto and the grated cheese. Keep an eye on the mix and keep warm.
Meanwhile, cook pasta according to instructions depending on what you choose – something ideal for catching sauces is best here. Make sure the water is generous and well salted – if it doesn’t taste like the sea, it’s not salty enough. Remember, you’re not going to eat it – but what cooking water you reserve is going to help season your final dish. Also add generous olive oil to stop the pasta sticking.
Heat a griddle pan over a medium-high heat. Take the lightly oiled, crescented courgette slices and, when the pasta is near al dente, add to the pan in a clockwise pattern so you know when to turn each one – look for light charring, but leaving the flesh firm and fresh.
Retain a cup of pasta water, drain and add the pasta to the cream, season well with fresh black pepper, loosen with a little of the water as needed.
Serve straight away, scattering with goats cheese, basil leaves and the toasted pine nuts and seeds (lightly toast them on a low heat while the pasta is cooking to have them warm, although cooled is fine – the texture they bring is as key as their temperature and flavour).
Drizzle with a good Extra Virgin Olive Oil for a last hit of summer flavour and enjoy the subtle blend of just-there pesto, soft and mellow goats cheese, sweet courgettes and pungent basil against the crunch of the nuts and seeds for a beautiful and light small plate dish.
With Christina’s delicious seasonal dish The Wine Tipster has selected a couple of fabulous whites to enjoy. The Yealands Reserve Sauvignon Blanc 2019, Marlborough, New Zealand, £11.59 in Waitrose has the pure fruit flavours, important crisp acidity and mineral character to pair with the courgettes, goats cheese – a great pairing with Sauvignon Blanc – and the pesto too. Given, white wines work more harmousily with the pesto and the rest of the ingredients in Christina’s lovely dish The Wine Tipster has also chosen another high class white, this time from Lugana in northern Italy, with the fresh and Sauvignon Blanc like Buglioni Musa Lugana 2018, Italy £14.95. Enjoy making Christina’s dish and the wines too. Cheers!
The Wine Tipster
© 2018 The Wine Tipster
The Wine Tipster supports responsible drinking and gambling.
Website by Bubble Creative Solutions Ltd