Cheeseboard with zucchini relish


 
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It's happened. It almost happened overnight. New York has become a smelly, sweaty puddle of angry people, AKA summer. Yesterday I was wearing leggings and a long top (as per usual - I look like I have been dragged through a bush 90% of the time), and today I am all of the sweaty. So gross. I closed the windows and snuck the aircon on today 'for the kittens', because mama cat gets too hot and crazy stressed as soon as I even think about turning on the oven, so I gotta keep it pleasant for her. That's what i'm saying anyway. The kittens are suddenly almost 6 weeks, and have grown up so fast from teeny little squirmy sausages to the cutest things IN THE WORLD. I am low key obsessed with them, and I am already scared about saying goodbye to them. Does anyone want to adopt them? Ideally you will be ok with me coming around every day to snuggle them. I'll bring treats. I promise! 

One of the only good things about this gross hot weather, aside from day drinking and excessive amounts of rosé, is cheese boards! Actually, that is a lie, cheese boards are amazing all year round, but there is something about sitting outside with friends and having an epic cheese board! 

I usually have at least 5 types of cheese in my fridge at any given time, because I am often hungry when I go to whole foods and therefore have zero control, which results in excessive cheese purchasing. The number of cheese I have at any given time has only increased since I started spending time with my New York Mum, who is the cheese wizard. Every time I go around to her house I try a new crazy sort of cheese that she has, get addicted to it, and have to immediately make a special trip just to buy it. We went on a little adventure yesterday and ended up at a whole foods, where I got even more types to try! The best. 

I tend to just throw whatever I have in the fridge on the board. I usually try to go for something soft, something harder, something interesting, and something goaty, and then just some interesting add-ons, something sweet, and some sort of relish. This time I went with a cumin seed gouda, a marinated sheep and goat feta that I am OBSESSED WITH and you must try immediately, and a Vermont Creamery Coupole. I had plans to also pop on a bit of sharp cheddar, but I think I got hungry and carried away, and found it on the bench after the shoot. I also added some almonds for a bit of texture, a really nice salami, and some preserved lemons, because they go on / in everything these days since I made a giant jar a few months ago. Then there was a little brick of home-made quince paste, which I inadvertently made a GIANT TRAY of back in quince season (will share the recipe this season), so we are still working our way though it 6 months later. Luckily it keeps well. I finished the board off with some crackers, a little fresh mint, and a home-made zucchini relish, which has become a total fave in our house! 

The relish is a cheese board game changer.  When we have guests round for dinner (which is usually 2-3 times a week because I much prefer having people round than going out), I plonk whatever cheese I have in the fridge on a board, and pop a jar of the relish next to it, so everyone can just make their own snacks. The relish is a lovely combination of sweet and tart, and is crazy easy to make. I always, always get asked for the recipe, so figured I would finally pop it up here! Provided you grate and sweat the zucchini and onion ahead of time, the actual cooking process is only about 20 minutes, and is super easy to scale if you were wanting to make a bigger batch. It's also great on sandwiches, sausages, scones, stirred into quiche, anything that needs a little lift in flavour. 

A few wee notes:

  • If you are planning to store this, make sure that you have sterilised jars. I tend to use pint-sized mason jars, and I give the glass jars 15-20 minutes in the oven to kill any bugs. Make sure that you always use new lids - these can be bought separately
  • Use a larger pot than you think you will need - this has turmeric in it, so splashes can stain easily. I like to also use plastic or metal utensils rather than wood to avoid turning them yellow.
  • Provided you get a good seal on your jars, this can be kept at room temperature until you are ready to use it. Once it is open, store it in the fridge. 

 

 

 

Zucchini Relish
- Makes enough for 3 pint jars-

1 kg (2.2 lbs) Zucchini, washed and grated
2 medium brown onions, peeled and diced finely
approx 1/3 cup salt (To sweat the zucchini and onions. I used Kosher salt)
3 cups (600g) white sugar
2 cups (480ml), white vinegar, plus a little extra to make a paste with the flour
4 tsp mustard seeds, or 5 tsp mustard powder
2 tsp celery seed or celery salt
3 tsp turmeric powder
3 Tbsp flour
approx 1/3 cup salt (I used Kosher salt)

- PROCESS -

Wash and grate the zucchini. Place into a large bowl. Add the finely diced onions. Salt heavily, and stir well to combine. Leave for at least 2 hours to allow the zucchini and onion to sweat.

In a large pot, combine the sugar, vinegar, mustard seeds, celery seeds and turmeric. Bring to the boil and simmer for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. 

Drain and rinse the zucchini and onion, squeezing out any excess moisture. Add to the pot and cook for 10 minutes, stirring to ensure it does not catch. 

Mix the flour with a little vinegar to make a smooth runny paste. Add to the pot, and cook until the relish thickens slightly. 

Pour into sterilised jars, and screw on lids tightly. Allow to cool completely before using. Store in the fridge once open.

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Truffle Spaghetti


 

Our exciting news for the week - we got a fresh truffle! I decided to splash out and buy one, just to have a play around with! We had amazing memories of this one spaghetti dish we ate during a tasting menu for my birthday dinner at Recette in West Village. It was NEXT LEVEL. The dish consisted of a super simple spaghetti, in a light sauce. The show stopper though was when the waitress came out with a fresh truffle and a shaver, and proceeded to drown each of our plates in layers of fresh black truffle. It was hands down one of the best dishes I have ever eaten. We vowed to try and go back and have the same dish again, but each time we returned, it was either out of season, or they weren't serving it that evening.

 The restaurant has since closed down, so seeing as we weren't able to go back and have it in real life, this was the next best option!  While ordering a truffle isn't something I am going to do on the regular, this was a huge treat to do just once! 

The trick to making this dish amazing is to use freshly cooked spaghetti, and high quality ingredients. There aren't many ingredients in the dish, so you need to make sure that each one is amazing on it's own to ensure that each element shines in the dish. If you don't have a pasta maker, you can buy fresh spaghetti from the supermarket, or use a high quality dried version. I use my food processor to make the pasta dough, as it is a quick and easy way to bring it together. I then use a pasta attachment on my kitchenaid mixer. 

If you haven't made fresh pasta before, I highly suggest you give it a try! It is super simple, far less intimidating than it looks, and a real crowd pleaser. Once you get the hang of it, it becomes something that is super easy to throw together with ingredients you most likely already have on hand (eggs and flour!). I am almost willing to bet that I could make a dough, roll it out, and cut pasta in less time than it would take me to walk to the shop and buy a boxed version. The dough is extremely versatile, and can be used for everything from lasagne to bow-ties. That being said, I can never go past a super simple lunch made with dried spaghetti. All the carbs. All the time. Can't go wrong.

What helps to keep it simple is the 'secret' ingredient - the cooking water from the pasta. As the spaghetti cooks, the cooking water becomes starchy, which means that it is the perfect ingredient to help emulsify a sauce, and to act as a medium on which a sauce can be based on. Pasta water is super under-rated - I always add it to the pan if I am combining the pasta with the sauce directly on the element, as it helps to bind everything together beautifully. I often throw together a quick dinner of pasta, tossed with some pasta water, good quality cheese, and whatever vegetables we have in the fridge that need using up. For this particular recipe, I added a little white wine to the sauce to help add a little depth of flavour. If you don't have any on hand, then you can simply omit it. 

If you don't have truffle (Let's be real here, nobody is ever going to have a fresh truffle kicking around in their fridge), this dish is also incredible finished with some chilli flakes and fresh lemon zest, or any other flavours you may like to add to it. Jazz it up however you like! I promise you will love it.

 

 

Truffle Spaghetti
- Serves 3-4 -

Spaghetti
2 cups (290g) All-purpose flour
3 large eggs
water to bind

Spaghetti 'Sauce'
4 Tbsp unsalted butter
1 cup (240ml) spaghetti cooking water, divided
1/4 cup (60ml) white wine
freshly ground black pepper, to taste
1 cup (150g) freshly grated, good quality parmesan cheese (such as parmigiano reggiano) 
Freshly shaved truffle, to taste (optional, sub in chilli flakes and lemon zest, or any finishing flavour of your choice)

 

- PROCESS -

SPAGHETTI

In the work bowl of a food processor, place the flour and eggs. Pulse until incorporated - it should resemble chunky cous cous, and should hold together when you pinch some between your fingers. If it is a little dry, add water a teaspoon at a time and pulse to combine. Turn the dough out onto plastic wrap, and press together into a large disc. Rest at room temperature for 30 mins to an hour. 

Divide the dough into five or six pieces. Working with one piece at a time, and keeping the others well covered, run the dough through the rollers of a pasta machine on the widest setting. Pass it through the rollers on the widest setting 4 or 5 times, folding it up between each pass to help develop the dough. Once you have given it several passes on the widest setting, begin decreasing the width of the rollers with each pass. You do not need to fold the dough on the thinner width passes. Continue rolling, decreasing the width, until you are on about the fourth or fifth widest setting of your pasta machine (for me this is a number four or five, but I know that some pasta machines count in the opposite direction). 

Switch to the spaghetti cutting attachment on your pasta machine. Pass the dough through carefully, catching the noodles that come out of the machine. Arrange on a pasta drying rack. 

Repeat with the remaining pieces of dough, until it is all cut into noodles. 

COOKING THE SPAGHETTI AND SAUCE

Fill a large pot with water, add 2 Tbsp salt, and bring to a rolling boil. Meanwhile, have a large skillet on another element ready to prepare the sauce and toss the cooked spaghetti. 

Add the spaghetti to the salted water, and cook for 4-5 minutes, or until al dente. (If you are using dried pasta, follow the cooking instructions). 

While the spaghetti is cooking, melt the butter in the large skillet over a high heat. Add a few grinds of pepper. Once the spaghetti has been cooking for at least two minutes (to allow the water to become starchy), add half a cup of the cooking water to the skillet, along with the white wine. Bring to a boil, and stir until it emulsifies, approximately 2 minutes. Continue to stir while the spaghetti finishes cooking. 

Once the spaghetti is al dente, transfer it to the skillet using tongs. Lower the heat to medium low. Add the cheese, and toss well with the tongs to combine. Add another half a cup of cooking water, and toss again, until the spaghetti is well coated in sauce, approximately one minute. 

Place in serving bowls, and garnish with the freshly shaved truffle. Serve immediately.