‘Dischi Volanti’ translates as ‘Flying Saucer’ and this dish is supernatural in loads of ways! A dish that is easy to prepare, with ingredients that can easily be swapped and changed. The basis is a vibrant ‘pistou’ (very similar to a pesto) made creamy and rich with avocados. I love this side of plant based cooking, always looking for creative ways of adding richness and texture to traditional dishes.
WHAT ARE SUPERFOODS?
There’s a lot of talk about superfoods at the minute in the UK. In fact, its a buzz word all around the globe. I sometimes wonder what actually constitutes a ‘superfood’? It used to be only foods with purely radiant health properties, but this seems to be getting looser nowadays.
Really all plant foods are ‘super foods’. They all contain some form of incredible nutrition (except maybe Jerusalem Artichoke, beautiful when roasted though!) The huge advantage of a plant based diet is very low cholesterol and saturated fats along with a complete lack of animal protein. All of this will result in better health. I also think we need to look at the way our ‘superfoods’ were produced or grown, how they were transported, who profited from them……. I wish things were simpler to fathom, but a superfood to me has greater implications than just our own health.
There is no wonder cure in foods, a harmonious approach to eating and nutrition is important, a balanced diet is ever the way to proceed; rich in wholefoods, variety and plenty of fresh, seasonal ingredients. We like to think that the plant-based way is a ‘super diet’. Ticks all the boxes for a healthy way of being. Food can be our medicine after all!
In the BHK we like to look close to home for our super magic wonder foods and find the sparkling health properties in what some may see as normal fruit and veggies. This dish highlights a few of these superstars; Broccoli, Rocket, Tomatoes, Kale…..to name but a small cluster of shiners.
REAL EVERYDAY WONDER FOODS
Broccoli – probably one of the healthiest and tastiest vegetables. Grows like a dream in the UK and is available for most of the year. Packed with vitamin C, calcium, protein. It really is one of the most amazing things you can eat.
Kale – a leafy green that is obvious a little en vogue at the moment, but rightly so. Its been making people shine for years and all our Holywood/ famous types are not averse to looking and feeling at their best. I guess they get some pretty good nutritional advice. Kale is high in iron, calcium, protein, vitamin C.
Rocket – is one of natures best sources of calcium. I bet you didn’t read that on a milk carton! In truth, there are many better source of calcium in the plant world that milk. Milk is just a source of calcium, certainly not the source (as I was led to believe for much of my adult life). Good to know these things!
Avocado is of course not so local, but we wrote an article about it recently highlighting our love and appreciation for all things avo – Avocado – Friend or Foe?! It’s a treat.
Pistou is like pesto without the pine nuts, I’m taking real liberties here by calling this creamy, plant-based sauce a ‘pistou’ but I think you’ll agree that it works well whatever the name. You won’t find this type of pistou in the south of France, that is for sure! I thought about using blended cauliflower to add richness and that creamy touch, but avocado is easier and sensational (and green to match the colour scheme of the dish).
You can use shop-bought sun blushed tomatoes for this one, but we have plenty of tomatoes coming from the Trigonos farm and in our organic veg box at the minute and this is one way of making them shine. The slow roasting process does take a while in the oven, so maybe you’d like to whip a cake up or some muffins while the oven is one. We made some Blackberry and Almond Flapjacks while our tomatoes were slowly drying out. Thin, tray bakes are perfect at a low temperature so are the ideal fit when drying out your gorgeous toms.
We would have used spelt pasta here, its our favourite at the moment, but we had a bag of Volanti left over from our Italy trip (seems like many lifetimes ago now) so decided to put it to very good use. Also eating ‘Flying Saucers’ makes us feel like kids again, playing with Alphabet Spaghetti and the like. Fun and games with serious flavours!
This dish will only take a short time to get together, the homemade sun blushed tomatoes do take a while in the oven, but otherwise its a matter of blending up the pesto and cooking the pasta. That’s it! It is ideal for people who are averse to green food and we know a few (naming no names……Dad). This is a plate to get everyone into the green revolution!
Try to leave your tomatoes in the oven for as long as possible after cooking has finished. Ideally leaving them to cool down with the oven. This really helps to get them dried gently.
If you are doing a load of slow-roast tomatoes, keep them in a jar covered with oil. This means they will last much longer. Even better if you flavour the oil with fresh herbs and a little garlic.
Some subs – Broccoli for runner beans, green beans, mangetout, snow peas. Kale for spinach. Rocket – Watercress. Cashews – Pine Nuts, Almonds, Hazelnuts
The Bits – For 2
6 tomatoes (cut in half)
250g Dischi Volanti pasta (or pasta of your choice)
1 medium broccoli (florets cut in half, stem thinly sliced)
2 ripe avocados
2 handfuls kale (finely sliced)
14 basil leaves
2 cloves garlic (crushed)
1 lime (juice)
2 tbs nutritional yeast flakes (optional – for added savoury cheesiness in the pistou)
3 handfuls rocket leaves
1/2 red chilli (finely diced)
1 big handful cashews (toasted is nice)
The slow roast tomatoes can be done well in advance. Start the tomatoes off a couple of hours before you want to eat. They take a while to dry well, intensifying the flavours.
Preheat the oven to 160°C / 320°F. Place them skin-side down on a lightly oiled baking tray. Drizzle with olive oil and season with salt and black pepper. Place in the oven for at least an hour, checking after 45 minutes. Now press them gently with a fork or spatula to release some of the juices. Turn them over and pop back in the oven for 20 minutes more. Turn the oven off and leave the tomatoes in there until needed.
When your tomatoes are approaching deliciousness, blitz together the avocado, kale, basil, garlic and lime juice in a food processor. Season with salt, pepper and nutritional yeast flakes if you have some. Add a splash of water, until a thick, smooth sauce consistency is formed, roughly 50ml will do it.
Cook your pasta in a large sauce pan, remembering to add salt to the boiling water. Three minutes before the pasta is ready, add the broccoli to the pan. This will result in nice crisp florets. Drain when the volanti is al dente and pop back into the warm pan. Pour over the pistou and combine gently. Stir in the tomatoes and rocket.
Serve immediately topped with a scattering of cashews and chilli, a drizzle of good olive oil for added richness and a nice green side salad with a racy dressing.
(I think we pretty much covered it above today.)