We have been back at work for two weeks. Coming back from a holiday on the south coast of NSW, we slowly settle back into life in the city, our sun tans fade and I finally get that bit of sand out of the beach towel.
There was a ‘quiet gladness’ that comes from being immersed in the sea, sand and surrounding bushland. Here are some photos (some taken with our p+s camera, often with a phone), and two recipes at the end of the post.
Recipes – chopped pesto; dates with goats cheese
Both made appearances in the beach house over the holidays, often between a walk on the beach and a walk to the next beach. Neither require a functional stove or oven – bonus in a holiday house.
The Pesto was chopped with an old utility knife, because that was all we had. All that chopping was a lesson in patience, but the result was really good, with a fresh-from the fields rustic look. And afterwards, I read that my improvised hand-chopped pesto has a proud Italian lineage. Who knew?
The dates with goats cheese (and prosciutto) were a hit at a couple of lunches with the extended family. They are easy, flexible with ingredients, and can be made with any old knife, a fork and a teaspoon.
(adapted from so many pesto recipes, and improvised each time. The rule-of-thumb proportions are given below. Heidi Swanson from 101 Cookbooks, among others, have written about hand-chopped pesto)
Young-ish and smallish basil leaves, picked from 1 large bunch of basil
1-2 small garlic cloves
a handful of pine nuts, about 100 grams
a similarly sized handful of freshly grated parmesan
a good splash of olive oil, up to 10 tbsp
1. Optional: lightly toast pine nuts for 2-3 minutes in a frying pan, until the pine nuts are very lightly coloured and starting to give off that gorgeous smell.
2. Gather basil leaves into neat-ish bunches, and chop finely or chiffonade. Finely chop the garlic cloves and parmesan. Roughly chop pine nuts.
3. Mix basil, garlic and parmesan together. Chop for another 5 minutes if you have the patience.
4. Fold through pine nuts and add olive oil until you get a thick, chunky consistency. Scatter a few whole pine nuts over the top just before serving.
Note: Try for a thicker consistency if you will be spreading the pesto on slices of bread, and try for a thinner consistency if you will be using it for pasta (or reserve some pasta cooking liquid to thin out the pesto). I served some lightly steamed beans with the pesto as part of a shared lunch.
Dates with goat cheese
Serves: around 8 people as nibbles, depending on how many times you pass the plate
20 dried medjool dates (about 400g, depending on the size of the dates)
120g soft goats cheese
80g crumbly white feta (we found sheeps milk Bulgarian feta)
Optional: a few slices of prosciutto, or walnuts
1. Remove the pit from each date: cut the date lengthwise, open the slit and remove the pit with your fingers. Be careful not to break the date in half.
2. Mix the two cheeses together. Optional: add about 30g of chopped walnuts.
3. Using a teaspoon, stuff a small amount of the cheese mixture into the cavity of each date. Optional: place a small slice of prosciutto on top and press into the cheese mixture.
Note: some recipes ask you to bake the dates at medium-high temperature or under a grill for a few minutes, until the dates soften and the filling is just melted. I like the dates as they are without being baked. Besides, the beach house oven took its own holiday for a couple of days…