Daydreams and Walnuts

I have decided that the phrase "A picture speaks a thousand words' is definitely under-rated.

On a fall afternoon in my kitchen I began looking through Maggie Beer's beautiful cloth-covered book, filled with wisdom (that somehow only a mother knows), photos, musings and delicious recipes. In a blissful blur I found myself taken back to Australia, for a moment confusing daydreams with memories of times gone by.

The book is sectioned into seasons and then into Maggie's favourite seasonal ingredients. The photography capturing the striking colours that are so unique to Australia are scattered amongst the heart warming recipes and stories.

Maggie Beer lives in the Barossa Valley in South Australia and I am convinced that it is truly the best kept secret we have. If you ever venture across the pond to Oz, I would highly recommend a visit. (Do you like how I just slipped that little advertisement in there?)

So with new inspiration after reading this very interesting chapter, listening to the rain on my windowpane, I decided that cooking was going to be the activity of the afternoon. ….This seems to be happening more and more.…
“It doesn’t surprise me that walnuts aren’t as popular as they deserve to be. It is simply because so few people have access to the new season’s crop. A rancid walnut, as they so often are if stored badly, would make anyone think twice about eating them. But there is nothing more delicious than picking, shelling and eating walnuts that are just about to drop…..”
And then just as I thought I had the place to myself, and time to daydream of far away places while I pottered around the stove, three pairs of sodden boots and their accompanying (hungry looking) smiling faces blew in the kitchen door. Its back to reality..I had mouths to feed.
It is walnut season during October. I would have loved to make the Mushroom, Prosciutto and Walnut Tart from the book (with real sour cream pastry) but with not much time on my hands and a lot of parsley in my fridge I thought something simpler was just the trick. And so I made this version of pesto with some pasta and fresh shaved Parmesan that I’d bought from cheese shop next door to Barbara Jo’s 'Les Amis Du Fromage'.
I think the dry roasting of the fresh walnuts made a big difference- (and toasting nuts always brings out the rich flavor and releases the inner buttery goodness beneath the crunch).

Maggie suggests that it is also delicious with smoked tongue and after tasting it I agree the smoky flavor would go beautifully. Anyone keen? Instead I topped it with some crisped up four slices of smoked beef in my fry pan and scattered that over the top of the finished dish. I thought it was warm and wonderfully comforting for a Thursday evening.

Walnut and Parsley Pesto

2 cups shelled walnuts
2 cloves garlic
1 cup firmly packed flat leaf parsley leaves
100ml extra virgin olive oil
2 teaspoons sea salt
fresh black pepper, ground

Preheat the oven to 220C. Dry roast the walnuts on a baking tray for 6-8 mins, then rub off the skins with a tea towel and sieve away any bitter skin. Allow to cool, then grind all the ingredients using a pestle and mortar or by pulsing in a food processor. The pesto will keep for a few days covered with a film of foil, in a jar in the refrigerator.I stirred through hot orecchiette with a little of the cooking liquid to make it more ‘saucy’. Shave Parmesan and top with pan-fried and slightly cooled crispy smoked beef. I served this with sauteed whole brown mushrooms in butter and squeeze of lemon juice at the end. And hot fresh crusty bread. I think I have three new best friends.