Christmas Down Under (and a deliciously festive pasta dish)

Last week I talked about how much I long for a traditional winter Christmas with all the trimmings that add the festive cheer associated with this time of year.

But this morning I was up early walking on the beach and it was so perfect I had to concede that perhaps having Christmas in the summertime is a small price to pay for living in such a wonderful place.

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And we are not without traditions in New Zealand. After all, we have our very own Christmas tree. The Pohutukawa is endemic to New Zealand and in December the tree flowers, bursting with vibrant crimson flowers.

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That it just happens to flower in December sporting the Christmas colours has led it to being fondly named the Kiwi Christmas tree. My local beach is lined with them and the trees are so beautiful at this time of year they never fail to put a smile on my face.

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The other sure-fire way to boost my festive spirit is to put a bit of Christmas into the food I’m cooking. I won’t say it’s the most pleasant of experiences to have ovens cranked up and turkeys and vegetables roasting in summer heat. In fact, I would go so far as to say that I prefer the kitchen pottering that goes on in the lead up to Christmas.

Last week it was mulled wine and Christmas cookies. This week I’ll be making my mince pies. But I also cooked a delicious pasta dish that was a huge hit with my husband. When it comes to adding some festive cheer in the kitchen my pancetta and chestnut farfalle fits the bill perfectly.

It’s the perfect meal for two. I say that because the chestnuts elevate the dish and turn it into something special. If you and your loved one manage to steal a couple of hours to yourselves then light a few candles, have some Christmas tunes playing softly in the background and cook this pasta. Enjoy a Christmas treat that doesn’t involve going anywhere near a shopping mall.

Having some mulled wine warming on the stove wouldn’t be a horrible idea either.

Getting back to the chestnuts briefly, I realise they give the dish an autumnal feel and the chestnut season in New Zealand is long gone. But I reliably find tinned chestnuts at my local gourmet supermarket, which are cooked, peeled and ready to be chopped and added to the pasta. (Or steal a couple for yourself to munch on while you simmer and sauté – cook’s treat!)

But if you dwell in the Northern Hemisphere then this recipe will hit the spot as you draw the curtains on those chilly evenings leading up to Christmas. If you did want to cook and peel the chestnuts yourself go ahead but I find there’s only so much faff I’m prepared to go to when I’m hungry and want to get dinner on the table.

 

Pancetta and Chestnut Farfalle

Serves 2

 

40g unsalted butter

Dash of olive oil

6 sage leaves, left whole

150g pancetta, chopped into lardons

2 shallots, finely chopped

1 clove garlic, finely chopped

6 sage leaves, chopped

100g cooked and peeled chestnuts, chopped

60 ml chicken stock

190g farfalle pasta

Sea salt

Freshly ground pepper

20g toasted pine nuts

Parmesan shavings

 

The first thing to do is bring a large pot of water to the boil for the pasta.

Heat a large non-stick pan and add 20g of the butter and a dash of olive oil. Once the butter starts to sizzle add the whole sage leaves. Fry on either side for a minute or so until they are just crispy. Remove and lay between some kitchen towel.

Now to the same pan add the pancetta and sauté until it starts to crisp up.

Once the water has boiled for the pasta, season the water generously with sea salt and then add the pasta. Cook it to the packet instructions (although I always check from a couple of minutes before the recommended cook time just to be sure it doesn’t pass al dente).

While the pasta is cooking, add the shallots and garlic to the pancetta and sauté until soft. This won’t take long as the shallots are finely chopped and cook quickly. Finally, add the chestnuts and chopped sage leaves and sauté briefly just to soften them and warm through the chestnuts. By this stage the pancetta should be cooked and crispy. Add the chicken stock and stir through. Simmer gently for a couple of minutes to create a lovely sauce. You can always add a little extra chicken stock if you think it needs it.

Once the farfalle is cooked, drain and return it to its cooking pot, retaining a tiny bit of the cooking water. Add the remaining 20g of butter along with a good grinding of pepper and stir through. Now add the pancetta and chestnut mixture and stir through the farfalle.

Dish up into pasta bowls. Sprinkle over the the toasted pine nuts and parmesan shavings. Arrange the fried sage leaves on top as a gorgeous garnish (they taste delicious too). I like to also drizzle over a little extra-virgin olive oil but this is completely optional.

Take it to the table and eat.

Merry Christmas!

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3 Comments

  1. annika says:

    Thank you for sharing a little bit of your Christmas… since your last post, I kept wondering how Christmas would be without winter! Now I know the answer, beautiful still. Lovely recipe as well! Merry Christmas!!

    Liked by 1 person

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