burnt toast

Category: Pasta

Caramelised Fennel with Tomato and Saffron Orzo

This is a wonderful recipe for when you a.) are feeling like pasta but want to make it fancy, b.) are feeling a nostalgic twinge for some umami-packed paella, and / or c.) got a little too enthusiastic at the supermarket and bought too much fennel but cannot muster the enthusiasm to make fennel salad. Again.

Caramelised Fennel with Tomato and Saffron Orzo

Inspired by the wonderful OTK recipe that can be found here.

Serves 4 (with some salad on the side)

For this, you will need a big frying pan and a baking tin. You can absolutely forgo the baking tin and do everything in the frying pan, but you won’t quite get the same caramelized and concentrated effect the oven and the baking tin will give you. You can also replace the fennel with any other veggie – halved caramelized onions or a few wedges of roasted pumpkin would be delish.

The fennel

2 large bulbs of fennel, washed and trimmed, each cut into 6-8 wedges (depending on size) with the core still intact

2 Tbsp olive oil + 1 Tbsp butter, cubed

½ tsp salt

ground pepper

100ml water

1 ½ tsp raw sugar

The orzo

200g orzo (rice-shaped pasta)

1 Tbsp olive oil

4 garlic cloves, chopped

2 Tbsp tomato paste

500ml stock (I like beef, but vegetable is wonderful, too)

100ml white wine (can be replaced with water, if preferred)

1 tsp salt

ground pepper

The saffron water

1 envelope ground saffron

2 Tbsp hot water

2 Tbsp parsley, chopped

grated parmesan cheese, for serving (optional)

Preheat your oven to 240°C fan. Combine the fennel and the oil in your baking tin, giving it a good toss. Spread the fennel out evenly and dot over the butter (you can of course, leave this step out, but to me, fennel and butter are SoULmAtEs, so move forward at your own peril) and sprinkle over the salt and some pepper. Gently pour around the 100ml of water and roast in the oven for 15 minutes. Briefly remove the baking tin from the oven, give your fennel slices another toss, and sprinkle over the sugar. Roast for another 15 minutes – if it needs a little longer, give it a little longer. Undercooking the fennel is the worst thing you can do here, you hear me? Once the fennel is soft and nicely caramelised, remove it from the oven and set aside.

In the meantime, toast the orzo in your large frying pan over medium-high heat for about 7-8 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the pasta has darkened a little in colour. The “grains” won’t all be the same level of toastedness, but that is absolutely fine. Pour into a bowl and set aside.

Once the fennel is ready and waiting for you on the sidelines, you can pop your frying pan back on the stove and add the olive oil and garlic. Fry for a few minutes or until starting to go golden around the edges. Add the tomato paste and smoosh It into the garlic, stirring constantly for another minute to get some caramelisation going on that, too. Add the stock, white wine, salt and pepper, and give everything a good stir. Sprinkle in your toasted orzo and arrange the fennel slices over the top. Cover with a lid and bring to the boil. Reduce the heat and let it simmer for about 10-15 minutes or until all the liquid has been absorbed and the orzo is done.

In the meantime, combine the saffron and the hot water in a small bowl. When the orzo is ready to serve, drizzle over the saffron water and sprinkle over the parsley. Serve with parmesan on the side.


Creamy Zucchini Linguine

creamy zucchini linguine

It’s time for some more pasta I think. Melbourne, in its cheeky European-esque manner, has decided to have a good cry on all the plants and a few bits of stray washing outside today. It’s a good day for staying inside, drinking tea and making lists.

Pasta is rarely something I cook for guests, because I think they deserve more of an effort than that. But as a homey dinner for one, this is spot on. There’s something so inherently comforting about a bowl of pasta that for once isn’t laced with pesto or marinara, something cheesy and decadent but with still enough of a vegetable percentage for you to hi-five your conscience for getting at least one fifth of your five a day.

The combination of zucchini, garlic, thyme and dairy is one you’ve come across before here. If you by some chance are in possession of too many zucchinis, make both recipes.


Creamy Zucchini Linguine

Serves 4, with salad or something else to accompany it – can be halved or quartered to suit your needs


400g linguine, or whatever pasta you favour

3 Tbsp olive oil

4 small firm zucchini, diced into 1 cm cubes

1 tsp fresh thyme, leaves picked, chopped

2 fat garlic cloves, finely chopped

250ml cream

1 splash soy sauce, because umami, obviously

salt to taste

90g / 1 cup freshly grated parmesan

chilli flakes


Bring a big pot of water to boil and add enough salt to make it taste like the sea. Add your linguine and cook for as long as the packet instructions say, stirring occasionally to prevent the pasta from sticking.

In the meantime, make the sauce. Heat the olive oil in a large fry pan and add the zucchini and the thyme. Fry the cubes over high heat until golden and cooked but still holding their shape. Add the garlic and  stir for another minute, before adding the cream, soy sauce, salt and ¾ of the parmesan. Set aside.

Pour your pasta into a colander, give it a good shake, and then add it to the sauce in the fry pan. Give everything a  stir and divide amongst four plates. Top with the rest of the parmesan and a few chili flakes.


PS: Feel free to add a whole 500g packet of pasta here. I just like a higher sauce to pasta ratio.


You know those annoying people (usually women – I’ve rarely come across a man saying this) whom you go out to dinner with that go: “Oh sorry, I don’t do carbs.  I guess I’ll just go for a salad…” And then you feel like a pig while you order some garlic bread and some extra potatoes with your duck confit? Yeah, I’m one of them. Well as often as I can bare it. I just do it to make you feel like crap, actually. And secretly, behind your back, I’ll eat half a triple cheese pizza (with wasabi) just to spite you. The truth is, I would love to be one of those people. That “ I can eat everything and still look fabulous” race. They seen to have some sort of supernatural powers, I swear. Where else does do all those fries go?!

To be honest, I’m a sinner half the time. It’s more fun that way anyway. Be a little naughty. Do something you shouldn’t. Especially when it’s devilishly good. Like chicken angelica pasta. Remember whenever some old family member goes: “Oh well, apples and cinnamon are a match made in heaven, simple as that”, well, this recipe also belongs to the heaven category. Cream, white wine and mustard? I mean, come on.

Chicken Agelica Fettuccine

600g chicken thigh fillets, chopped into 2cm pieces

200g semi-dried tomatoes, chopped

3 Tbsp seeded mustard

3 Tbsp garlic butter

150ml white wine

450ml thickened cream

1 cup basil, finely sliced

1 Tbsp soy sauce (it adds a finishing touch to the depth of the flavour of the dish)

cracked black pepper

500g fettucini

parmesan, to serve

Fry the chicken in some olive oil until ¾ done. Add the sundrieds, the mustard and the garlic butter and cook for a further few minutes on high heat. Reduce heat and add wine and cream. Simmer until sauce has thickened and chicken is done. Stir in the basil.

Cook the pasta, then combine with the sauce. Top with parmesan and enjoy with a glass of wine. Because pasta just needs wine.

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