My dear friend Steevie is leaving Canberra for Northern NSW this week. His parents are ageing and unless one of the kids steps up, the farm – in the family for generations – will have to be sold. So he’s taken a year’s leave from work to test drive the farming life, pasture fattening steers and breeding bush chooks. It doesn’t hurt that the property, at the foot of the border ranges, is lush, well watered and drop dead gorgeous.
Thinking selfishly, there are some of Steevie’s friends who we know quite well, but not really well yet. We decided it was time to have them over for dinner before he left. No point not doing it properly, but little kids make elaborate plans difficult, so Sichuanese hotpot it was. All you have to do is make the broth and cut up some things to cook in it at the table. Of course, you can do this the simple way or the food nerd way. I chose the food nerd way.
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Five weeks now without a car, although the insurance company promises me it’ll be fixed on Wednesday. Promises, promises.
Having no car, even in Canberra, even in winter, has been absolutely fine until this last week when I’d already been sick for a week when both the kids got really crook. Bit of a bugger walking a five year old home from the doctor and having to wait while he vomits because he’s been coughing so hard. Could be worse, of course, as no-one has cancer (we hope) and everyone has all their limbs, but I felt sorry for the little bugger all the same.
So on Saturday morning I pounced on my dear friend Steevy when he dropped by IN HIS CAR and inveigled him into taking us to Choku Bai Jo. It was lovely to see Cristy, Paul and Lily there, even though I had to confess that I was buying a bunch of baby turnips just because they were tiny! (the largest nearly an inch wide) and cute! although I had no idea what I was going to do with them.
Pasta with baby turnips, bacon and turnip greens
This needs about 10 minutes preparation time and up to 15 minutes to cook, depending on the pasta you choose (wholemeal spirals for us). Will serve 3 adults or 2 adults and two kids.
1 bunch baby turnips, washed thoroughly with the greens cut into 3-4 cm lengths.
2 rashers bacon
2 cloves garlic, crushed or finely chopped
fresh flat leaf parsley, finely chopped
toasted walnut fragments
romano cheese, grated finely
a sturdy pasta that you like
Put on a big pot of water to boil.
I’d planned to leave a little of the stems on the turnip bulbs, Japanese-style but was defeated by the tiny grit filled folds of stem and cleanly beheaded them before slicing each one into two or three thick slices. Go with whatever you’ve got the patience for.
Parboil the turnips for a minute or so and retrieve them. Add the turnip greens to the pot for just a minute and drain them, then add salt and the pasta to the pot.
Chop the bacon into 1 cm slices and fry gently. I only had that poxy flabby packet bacon – thanks, Dad – so cooked it veerrrrrrry slowly until it had crisped gently and then splashed on some some Camellia Oil. I have fallen in love with Camellia Oil thanks (again) to Fuchsia Dunlop – it’s earthy, peppery and delicious. Add in the crushed garlic and turnips and after a few minutes stir through the greens. In just a minute the pasta will be ready, and you can throw some in the pan.
Serve in a nice deep bowl, and sprinkle generously with parsley and walnuts and a bit less generously with cheese and pepper. The turnips are mellow and subtle, the greens are zingy and delicious and the pasta gives you enough energy to chase children all afternoon. Ann, you may omit the bacon, but then you’d want to add some salt.
So now I have to work out what to do with the cavolo nero (aka Tuscan kale, black kale or dinosaur kale) that was the other thing I couldn’t resist …
One of my favourites and I feel an excellent example of bachelor cooking at its best. Why? Because it works as a v. tasty and stylish addition to a romantic candlelit dinner on the balcony or as comfort food spooned right out of the saucepan while watching “Enter The Dragon” in your undergarments. And like most bachelors of independent means, it’s rich and thick. Also you only have to wash up one saucepan and two or three utensils afterwards. (Anyone who gets round to inventing a combination clothes and dishwasher has got my dollar.)
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