Weekend Cooking

Since I decided to start cooking again, I am finding bits and bobs in my fridge and freezer that needs to be used up. A few months ago, I went to Strathfield with a Japanese friend in search of kim chi. While there, we found some amazing mentaiko that were the size of a small banana! For those of you who don’t know what it is, mentaiko is the salted roe of cod fish. When cut into chunks, it looks quite unappetising to the uninitiated. It is very salty with the taste of the sea and the fish it came from, and is delicious eaten with hot rice. You do not need to cook it, so I guess it’s like a salt cured sashimi of fish eggs.  Anyway, I bought some when we were in the shop and when I got home, I stuck it in the freezer and forgot about it.

Last Saturday, I decided I would turn it into mentaiko spaghetti. I had no idea how to make it and the Japanese home cookbooks the girls got me last year for my birthday did not have this recipe. So I looked online to see what is out there.  For every post I found, there was a recipe that was different from the others. After going through about 20 of them, the general gist seems to be: to serve two, you need about 100 grams of roe, some butter, one onion, and pasta; then a whole host of seasoning, liquids added, cooking method etc. Eventually I came up with my own version and to my amazement the meal was ready in as long as it took for the spaghetti to cook! I invited a Polish friend over for dinner and dvds. He was not at all sure about the pinkish sauce but once he tasted the finished dish, the plate was quickly emptied. I guess that would be the result any cook would want to see. 🙂

Tonight, after the very rich pasta, I decided I would go veggie instead. I had a hankering for pumpkin and chickpea. Autumn is a fantastic time for pumpkins. When I got to my favourite green grocers, there were pumpkins galore to choose from. I decided on a large wedge of Japanese pumpkin and a beautiful bunch of chard.

Pumpkin & Chickpea Stew

  • 1 Kg pumpkin – Japanese or Butternut. Peeled and cut into 1 inch chunks
  • 1 large onion chopped
  • 1 tablespoon minced ginger
  • 2 cloves garlic minced
  • 1 large bunch silverbeet or kale, leaves only, roughly chopped.
  • 2 cans chickpeas rinsed & drained, or 1 cup dried chickpeas soaked overnight and simmered until tender about 45 minutes
  • 1 can of peel tomatoes
  • 1.5 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1 dried chilli ( optional )
  • 6 anchovie fillets in oil ( optional )
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • salt
  • oil
  1. heat 2 tablepoons oil in a large pan with lid, add onions and cook until soft.
  2. Add ginger, garlic and chilli( if using ), and cook until garlic starts to colour.
  3. Add the cumin and cinnamon, stir to coat onion mixture and cook until fragrant. Add the anchovies if using, stir to break it up and meld into the spices.
  4. Add pumpkin, stir to coat pumpkin in the spice mix.
  5. Add the tomatoes including the juice, crush to break up a little. Add chick peas. If a little dry, add some water, or if using home cooked chickpeas, some of its cooking water.
  6. Add the sugar, and add the salt to taste, on the generous side.
  7. Leave to simmer for 10 minutes, until the pumpkin is starting to get tender, add the chopped spinach leaves. You may need to do this in several batches – the leaves will wilt down into the stew.
  8. Leave to simmer for another 10 minutes. The pumpkin should be very tender and the leaves should be soft.

Serve with rice, couscous or crusty bread.

Variations:

  • Left overs can be turned into soup by the addition of some stock and blended to make a creamed soup.
  • Use white beans instead of the chickpeas.
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