I was lucky enough to be given a bag full of fresh walnuts recently, from a friend who doesn’t like them, and nor does her husband. Short of uprooting their walnut tree and planting it in a pot on our balcony, accepting them gratefully was the best I could do. And I was so glad they’d ended up with me. Creamy, sweet and savoury at the same time, and yet with none of that oily bitterness that pre-packaged nuts seem to end up with.
We don’t own a nutcracker, but even if we did I would have been unable to find it in the midst of the move; experience has now taught me it would have been in the very last box I looked in, so I resorted to the bottom of a coffee jar, gleefully bashing the nuts then picking out that delightful centre.
When I’d eaten my fill just as a snack, I wanted to experience them as part of a meal. My kitchen haul produced real autumnal ingredients; along with these nuts I had the world’s largest cabbage, a good hunk of Kapiti blue cheese, pungent but not palate-burningly strong, and the end of a box of Risoni pasta.
This was a real joy of a dinner – enough textural interest from the walnuts and slippery-smooth pasta, background earthiness of the cabbage and salty tang of the cheese. An unintentionally well-balanced meal, that left me giving thanks for those odd folk who don’t like fresh walnuts. Their loss is definitely my gain.
Risoni with Walnuts
A recipe, if it can be called that, by myself
100g risoni pasta
Handful fresh walnuts
Handful shredded cabbage
1 tablespoon olive oil
20g blue cheese
2 tablespoons cream
In a large pan of salted, boiling water, cook the risoni according to the instructions on the packet.
Meanwhile, heat the olive oil in a frying pan over a medium heat. Saute the cabbage until it is just done and retains some crunch (although I have admitted to my love of overcooked cabbage, this is not the place for it).
When the pasta is cooked, reserve half a cup of the cooking water, drain the pasta, then tip it into the pan with the cabbage, keeping it over a low heat. Stir through the cream, half the cheese and the walnuts, adding as much reserved pasta water as is needed to bring the sauce together.
Serve, sprinkling over the rest of the cheese.