A vegetarian pasta dish inspired by Ikarian food
There is nothing exceptionally unique in the way this pasta dish looks, yet if you were to cook and taste it, you will understand that simple things put together well are worth everything. This concoction was inspired by a similar vegetarian Rozo pasta dish I had in Greece recently on the Island of Ikaria. The Island has been listed as a blue zone area because of the healthy and happy long age its habitants reach. Apart from the heavily vegetarian dishes they make, they also enjoy tremendous support from the closely knitted communal life they live. We met with one of the islanders named Maria who is ninety years old and gets tremendous joy from looking after her plants on daily basis she told us. She said it’s the first thing she does in the morning, even before eating her breakfast. I asked Maria what was a simple favourite snack that she loves to eat, to everyone’s surprise, it was sugar on toast! Another interesting thing about this island is that age is not a big deal amongst its people- they do not talk about age and it isn’t of any significance when it comes to defining a person- in other words they are not an agist community.
The reason I went to Greece was to attend a food/photography work shop with photographer Lean Timms, cookbook author Tessa Kiros and food author\trip organiser Mary Vale. It was five days of learning how to use our cameras, how to cook a few vegetarian greek dishes but the experience was much more than that. It connected like minded people from all over the world together through sharing stories, recipes, laughter and a few tears along the way.
The group around Tessa Kiros teaching us how to make Baklava flowers…
Back to the vegetable dishes cooked on Ikaria, I noticed that even though this was an area known for using vegetables, it wasn’t something that was done in a trendy or a conscious fashion, it was simply that this is what they had a lot of and they incorporated them into a lot of baked, fried or sautéd dishes. There was no emphasis on how healthy the method of cooking was and I love that. Also I love recipes that can be put together without making trips to stores but by simply using what’s in your fridge and pantry – In my fridge, I had tons of tomatoes, one red pepper and parsley that needed using- Pasta and Parmesan are always there anyways – so this is one of those recipes that you can adapt to what you have available.
When I cook vegetarian dishes, I want to achieve maximum taste from the ingredients and therefore I have fried the drained and washed canned chick peas in finely chopped spring onions (very much in season now in Jordan) and added salt, pepper, dried chillies and oregano to them- I wanted them browned and caramelised (cooked for 5-8 minutes until you hear them pop). I also had a lot of fresh tomatoes that I simply baked and charred in a pyrex pan in the oven with olive oil salt and pepper for 40 minutes and peeled off the skin as soon as the lot turned soft and mushed them with a wooden spoon and added 1 cup of water to them. I also charred a red pepper on open fire, peeling the skin off once cooled in a covered bowl for ten minutes, removing all the seeds. Finally I placed the tomatoes, chopped pepper, chickpea onion and chopped parsley mixture in the half boiled pasta in a dish, added 1/2 cup of olive oil, parmesan cheese and more salt and pepper. To achieve some more creaminess to the dish, I decided to mush two table spoons feta cheese with extra olive oil and 1/2 cup water into the pasta and mix further. Bake it at 200C oven for 40 minutes, stirring it once in a while to produce a sauce.
- 450g Dried Pasta ( boil briefly for 2 minutes so it keeps its shape and bite after baking.
- 1/2 olive oil plus 2 table spoons added to feta.
- 1.5 cup water
- one red pepper char grilled over open fire
- one can chickpeas
- 1/2 cup parsley
- 4 spring onion heads
- a generous pinch of oregano and dried chilli pepper