Sometimes, I like to think of months as people. To me, November is a tall, slender male, with long fingers and a pointy nose. When you're least expecting it, he creeps up behind you, and suddenly it's November and that's the second to last month of the year. I've been calling Maitland home for almost two years, I've become used to the warmer weather, the kōwhai bloomed and dropped its leaves all over the street, and then the yellow rotted into gold and blew away down the drains at the bottom of our street. The salt water pool's opened up again, I'm back from travels and back into the real world, with goals and lists of 'things to do before Christmas'.
Despite the somewhat inevitable frantic nature of this time of year, I'm really loving November at the moment. Cycling home from the pool last night, I came around a corner to see another cyclist passing the other way. He gave me a big smile and lifted his head to say 'sup, and then I realised I too had a big silly smile on my face, for no particular reason. I just felt happy - the simple kind of happy that doesn't require a reason.
At Maitland, the garden is also very happy. This time of year I am always amazed by the speed at which things grow out there - all the salad greens say 'hello', and 'eat me!', the coriander grows tall and sometimes sprouts tiny flowers, the carrots have had enough of growing roots and put all their energy into their green tops. Our neighbour has seedlings she's been nurturing in wooden crates outside our front door, and seemingly overnight they've turned into bright green lettuces.
We had so much coriander we didn't know what to do with it all. I remember this time last year (although a bit later) I nearly wore out our blender making spice paste out of the coriander roots. This time we've had two big harvests already, with more just sprouting out of the ground, and we've been mass producing pesto.
Pesto is one of those delicious but luxurious food items. Also on the list would be avocados, organic balsamic vinegar (quite expensive), hummus unless you make it yourself, good cheese.. Can you tell I'm hungry writing this? We rarely, if ever, purchase pesto at Maitland, as the stuff you can buy can be so expensive. However, one of our local pasta making places sell their pasta, and also pesto, at the Farmer's market. They have several different types, one being coriander pesto. It's a bit different, fresh but a little spicy. So when we had lots of coriander, pesto inspired by the pasta d'oro one was the first thing that came to mind. And the great thing about making your own pesto is it's much cheaper, especially if your garden produces the greens, and so you can stop feeling guilty about piling it on bread or crackers, or making a pasta sauce by just warming up some pesto ..
2-3 cups coriander leaves and stems, chopped roughly
1 cup nuts and seeds - we use a mixture of almonds and sunflower seeds
2 garlic cloves
juice of one lemon
a good pinch of salt
300-400mL olive oil
optional - 1 tsp cumin seeds
This is really a very simple recipe. Roast the nuts and seeds in a hot oven, 200ºC, for about 10-15 minutes. You might hear a couple crackle or pop, that's when they're ready. They shouldn't look browned. We usually use almonds and sunflower seeds, but you could use cashew nuts, or macadamia nuts if you're feeling fancy and are blessed with a suitable nut cracker. I usually use 3 times as many sunflower seeds as almonds, because they're cheaper and they're also pretty delicious.
Roast the garlic cloves too - I usually do this separately because they only need five minutes. They just need to be soft. Blitz the nuts and seeds first. If you happen to put the lid on your food processor the wrong way, some very hot water run over it, and 20 minutes of frustration, will help to remove it! Add the coriander leaves a small amount at a time, alternating with the oil. Add the lemon juice and salt to taste. If you want to use cumin seeds for a slightly different flavour, add them at the beginning. Keep adding oil until your pesto is the consistency you want it. If it's too sticky, you need more coriander leaves. I found that I used more salt and more oil than I was expecting to.
Et voilà! Pesto for crackers, on toast, over pasta, in just about anything you make in a frypan... Enjoy! You can freeze it in plastic containers, or store it more short term in the fridge, in glass.
We've been busy around these parts - although it's the time of year where everyone's busy in their own way. Maitland's lounge has hosted a range of visitors, all of them lovely. H baked often, and filled our freezer with soups we're still enjoying, and D & L made the most delicious tarte tatin, and I learned the word for nasturtium en français, which is the lovely sounding word capucine, in case you were wondering.
Speaking of Europe, there are still travelling stories to tell, and many photos to sort through and perhaps share. I think they'll come, eventually...! I had to end this blogging hiatus with a recipe and real life - travelling seems like a different time now. I found a recipe over the weekend for borscht, I think I feel cooking inspiration returning, just like the garden's growing.
title from bill callahan - rococo zephyr. I think I'm addicted to Bill Callahan's voice at the moment.