Along the Grapevine


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Jerusalem Artichoke Ravioli

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We finally received our first snowfall of the year last night, just after I rescued every bit of green from the garden. The Jerusalem artichokes should remain accessible until we get a really hard frost, but I still had some in the fridge to use up before I bring any more in. As a result, my offering to Fiesta Friday this week is a mixture of these and some of my fresh greens.

I have been pleased to see that several blogs I read are making use of these tasty little tubers, but there still are not a lot of recipes out there for them. If you are hesitant to eat them, I recommend trying them in moderation and well cooked.

My first ravioli recipe is made simply by mixing cooked Jerusalem artichokes with flour. I used bread flour because I wanted to make sure it was strong enough. It makes a very elastic dough, and was the easiest pasta recipe I have ever made. I didn’t even need to use my pasta machine, as the dough rolled out very easily. It is also nice and stretchy, so making the ravioli was very easy. I had no breakage at any point during the process, including during the boiling stage. It is very important to work on a well floured surface so that things don’t stick, and as long as you do that, these can be made in very little time.

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There are many fillings that would work with these, but I wanted to use my last harvest for the season which included arugula, Swiss chard, kale and sorrel. You will probably have a different combination of greens than I have, but there are so many you could use, alone or in combination – for example beet, turnip or carrot greens. I made my standard style pesto knowing that any extra I had could be frozen for later use and it is one of the best ways to preserve these delicate leaves.

Jerusalem Artichoke Pasta


Ingredients

2 cups cooked peeled Jerusalem artichokes

1 3/4 cups bread flour

1 tsp salt

1 Tbsp lemon or lime juice (optional)

Method

Puree the Jerusalem artichokes and salt. Add the flour gradually until it forms a clump of dough. It will be a bit sticky at this point. Wrap it in parchment and chill in the fridge for at least an hour.

Divide the dough in two and roll out one half at a time on a well floured surface to the thickness of a thin pie pastry. Cut out circles and place on board or plate also covered with flour. Place a dollop of filling on a circle, then cover that with another circle. Seal with the tines of a fork all around.

Drop a few at a time in boiling salted water. When they come to the surface, in about 2 minutes, they are ready. Drain and set aside. Serve as is, or top with grated cheese or your favourite pasta sauce.

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Pesto

Ingredients

4 cups fresh greens

1/2 cup walnuts (or other nuts)

1/4 cup oil

1/2 tsp salt

2 cloves garlic

Method

Blend all ingredients in a food processor.


20 Comments

Roasted Pear and Nut Stuffing

 

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In my last post I outlined the different ways I had of preserving a bucketful of feral pears I was lucky enough to find. Now, with a good supply of dried fruit and peel and some scrap vinegar, I was tempted to enjoy some fresh pears in an original recipe, one that suited the season and the cool weather. This fruit and nut stuffing is also ideal for those festive dinners where some choose not to eat meat, but is rich enough to appeal to vegetarians and omnivores alike.

To begin with I peeled, cored and chopped the pears and then roasted them in the oven at 350 degrees for about an hour, or until they are a caramel brown and have some crisp edges. Then I chopped them some more.

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For the bread I used a home-made sour dough corn bread, but any firm day old bread will work. For the nuts I used pecans, and the dried mushrooms I used porcini, but these can be varied according to what you have on hand or what you prefer.

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Roasted Pear and Nut Stuffing

  • Servings: 8
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Ingredients

8 cups of cubed bread

1 cup toasted nuts

15 oz dried mushrooms, soaked in 2 cups hot water

1/2 cup oil

one large onion

2 cloves of garlic

1/2 cup chopped parsley

1 Tbsp fresh sage

1 tsp black pepper

2 tsp. salt

1 cup chopped, roasted pears

Method

Trim the crusts off the bread, cut in cubes and set aside. (The crusts can be ground into bread crumbs and saved for another recipe.)

Toast the nuts in a frying pan briefly until they begin to change colour. This will only take a couple of minutes, so be careful not to scorch them.  Chop and set aside.

Pour the boiling water over the dried mushrooms and set aside to cool.

Chop the onion and fry in the oil in a heavy skillet. Once translucent, add the garlic, parsley, sage and salt and pepper. Continue frying for another fi

Drain the mushrooms, saving the liquid, chop them and add to the mixture. Remove from the heat.

Add the nuts, pears and the onion mixture to the bred cubes and combine well. Add the mushroom water and stir again.

Pour into a lightly greased casserole dish and bake in a 350 degree oven for about an hour, until it is cooked through.


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Walnut and Sumac Eggplant Rolls

The sumac shrubs are at their height now in terms of colour. There are masses of them along the roadside, but I decided to photograph my own for this post. The first one is the focal point in one of my flower beds, and the others are just little shrubs growing next to the shed.

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I need to collect more of the berries, but the weather has been so wet, I have to wait until they are drier, as they lose some of their flavour when rained on. We might need to reach freezing temperatures before they are pickable, but at least it will be dry, and the berries will wait. If you need any information regarding sumac, please refer to this post.

Meanwhile, I used some of my store of powdered sumac to use in this recipe using walnuts and eggplant (or aubergine). It is a very popular Georgian recipe which I discovered in Russia. I was told the stuffing was made with just ground walnuts, but additions can be and are made. In Georgia, there are often several spices added, and sometimes petals of edible flowers to give it some colour. I have made it many times, always trying to duplicate the distinct flavour of the ones I bought in the Russian market. This is the recipe I came up with.

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Walnut and Sumac Eggplant Rolls

  • Servings: approx. 10 rolls
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Ingredients

2 medium eggplants

oil for frying

1 cup walnuts

1 clove garlic

2 Tbsp rice wine vinegar

1/2 tsp fenugreek

1 Tbsp sumac powder

Method

Slice the eggplants (skin on) lengthwise  about 1/4 inch thick

Place them in a shallow dish and sprinkle liberally with salt. Leave them for 30 minutes to 2 hours. Rinse the salt off completely, and pat dry.

This step can be omitted, but it helps to remove any bitterness from the eggplant. Because I always detect some salt even after rinsing them, I did not put salt in the recipe.

Fry each piece in some oil on both sides until they are lightly browned and cooked right through.

For the paste, put all the ingredients in a food processor and blitz really well until it all holds together. If it is too crumbly, add a few drops more vinegar.

Place a spoonful of the walnut mixture along the base of the aubergine slice and roll up.

That’s it! These little rolls are a great appetizer, picnic food or served with a salad or rustic bread. They are eaten either chilled or at room temperature, which is how I prefer them. I wish I could describe how they taste, so much better than the sum of their parts, but there are no words that convey their distinct flavour.

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I am bringing these tasty appetizers to Angie’s 38th fabulous Fiesta Friday. I hope you will drop by this virtual party, and if you have a dish you would like to bring along, click here for the simple instructions.

 


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Stuffed Milkweed Pods

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Milkweed pods late in the season

It is a little late in the season to be collecting milkweed pods. There are still a few small ones on the plants, and by small I mean under two inches, but for the most part they are going to seed now. When I collected pods for my first recipe, I had extra which I blanched and froze for future use. If you don’t have young plants with immature pods or some pods stowed away in your freezer, you could make this recipe just as easily with okra (which has a very similar taste), peppers or zucchinis. In any case, blanche the vegetables first. If you are collecting milkweed pods, please refer to my post on “Milking the Weeds”.

I chose to make a vegan and gluten free recipe. Using polenta, mixed with dried mushrooms and chili peppers, I found there was enough flavour as is – but if you want a richer and non-vegan recipe, add 1/2 cup of shredded hard cheese and/or sprinkle some cheese on top before baking. Use whichever herbs you prefer, fresh if possible. I used thyme, but parsley, basil, tarragon etc. would all be good. I also used powdered sumac as a garnish, but paprika would work just as well. Choose your peppers according to how hot you want it – the serrano peppers I used with seeds made it noticeably hot, but not overwhelming.

Milkweed Pods Stuffed with Polenta

  • Difficulty: Easy
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Ingredients

36 cleaned (seeds removed) and parboiled milkweed pods, between 1 and 2 inches

1 Tbsp olive oil

1 onion, chopped finely

3 cups boiling water

3 Tbsp dried mushrooms, chopped

2 dried chili peppers, chopped

1/2 cup cornmeal

1/2 tsp salt

1 Tbsp chopped fresh or 1/2 Tbsp dried fresh herbs

a light sprinkling of oil and sumac or paprika

Method

Pour boiling water over the mushrooms and chilis and set aside until the water cools.

Fry the onion in olive oil until translucent, but not browned.  Add the water, mushrooms, salt, chili, herbs and cornmeal, and cook over a medium-low heat, stirring constantly, until the mixture comes away from the sides of the pan – about five minutes.

Fill the pods while the mixture is still hot. Place them in a shallow casserole dish, and spray or drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle some sumac or paprika on top. Bake in a preheated 400 F degree for about 15 minutes, until they are heated through and beginning to brown on top.

Serve warm. Makes approximately 36 pods.

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Stuffed pods before baking

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Stuffed pods after baking

These make a delicious side dish, or can be served as an appetizer.


57 Comments

Wild Apple and Walnut Cake

This is my 100th post! It is also Fiesta Friday,  so I wanted to make something special. By special I mean something sweet which can be enjoyed with a glass of wine as easily as a cup of tea, but healthful and light enough that you will still be able to try the other treats at the party.

With all the wild apples almost on my doorstep, I used some to make an apple puree to flavour a walnut based cake, gluten-free and with a dairy free option. I made both versions, and they are equally delicious – with surprisingly little difference even in the texture. DSC01085

I admit these apples are never going to win any awards at a harvest fair. Most of them were picked up off the ground. But I love cooking with them for their tart flavour and dense flesh. Here is one cut open to give you an idea of how nice they can look, even if you wouldn’t likely choose to eat one raw.

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To make the apple sauce, I cut and cored them and removed any bad spots – quite a few. I then covered them with water and simmered them until very soft and put them through the food  mill. Because of their colour, they give a very rosy sauce which I know is free of any chemicals or additives.

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This cake is completely original, and I am pleased with the texture and flavour. It is, after all, mostly a mixture of fruit, nuts and seeds with only honey as a sweetener. It is great on its own, but a honey glaze or other sweet topping just makes it that much more special. I made a glaze with honey and rose geranium leaves, since I am still experimenting with this winning combination of flavours which I first used in last week’s jelly.

 

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Wild Apple and Walnut Cake

  • Difficulty: Easy
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Ingredients

1/2 cup oil

2 eggs, separated (or 2 Tbsp chia seeds)

1/2 cup liquid honey

1 1/2 cups apple sauce

1 cup ground walnuts

1/4 cup coconut flour, sifted

1/2 cup flax seeds, ground

2 tsp baking powder

2 tsp cinnamon

1/4 tsp salt

Method

Mix the dry ingredients together. In a separate bowl, beat the egg yolks and add the oil, honey and apple sauce. Beat the egg whites in another bowl until they are stiff but not dry.

Add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients. When thoroughly mixed, fold in the egg whites.

If not using eggs, mix the flax seeds into the wet ingredients and let sit a couple of minutes before adding to the dry ingredients.

Pour the batter into a prepared tin, and bake at 325 degrees for about 1 1/2 hours, or until the cake springs back when poked.

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For the glaze, I infused some water with a few geranium leaves by simmering them together for five minutes. I then mixed equal amounts of liquid honey and the infused water (about 1/3 cup each) and brought it to a boil for another five minutes. Drizzle cooled mixture over the cake.

This cake is good any time of day and would make a great treat in packed school lunches – if you don’t mind sharing it.

 


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Verjus – made from unripe blueberries.

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Basket of unripe blueberries

Since I learned about verjus, or verjuice, I have been looking forward to making it with wild grapes instead of the usual wine grapes. With the acres of grapevines around our place, I thought I would have lots to work with, but this year the grapes are just not co-operating at all, so that is one recipe which will have to be put on hold.

Verjus is made from unripe grapes, usually those which are removed from the vines when growers want to boost their crop. The grapes are put through a food mill, creating a green mush which is used like vinegar. It is used in Middle Eastern cuisine, and has been adopted by the French, who have given it its international name. Recently it has made its way into international markets, and if you are lucky you might find some in specialty gourmet shops. I myself have never seen it, or tried it, but if you are curious, you can read more about it and how to make it here.

It seems to be used primarily in salad dressings, replacing the vinegar or lemon with a less acidic flavour which will not interfere with the taste of your wine when eating salad. Makes sense to me.

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Blueberry Fields in Tweed, Ontario

So when I was out picking blueberries the other day at Wilson’s Organic Blueberries in Tweed and found it was easier to pick the unripe berries than the few ripe ones, I decided they resembled grapes enough that I could make my own version with these. They are a little too hard to put through a food mill, so I cooked them gently in water first until they softened. Some of them already had some pink or dark blue in them, so my version is far from green, but the taste was exactly what I had hoped for – fruity and slightly sour, but less acidic than a vinegar or citrus juice.

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Cleaned berries ready for poaching

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Pink Verjus

To make the salad dressing, I mixed one part to two parts olive oil and seasoned it with salt. Such a simple salad dressing. I kept my salad in the same colour theme, using only green and reds: green zebra tomatoes, French green beans, arugula, sorrel, lettuce and amaranth – all from my garden. But needless to say, it can be used on any salad calling for a vinaigrette. Next time, I will also vary the dressing with other flavourings, but here I just wanted to taste the verjus. And the wine did taste better!

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Salad with verjus dressing

 


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Rhubarb and Berry Crisp

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I count rhubarb as a forageable ingredient, although one of the few you can also find at the supermarket if you don’t come across it in an abandoned homestead – or in your backyard. It grows with total neglect, expands regularly and provides an abundant source for recipes of all types – chutney, soup, dessert, baking et al from spring well into summer if you remember to prune back the flowers in the spring.

For this rhubarb recipe I also used some wild berries – raspberries and blackberries – I found recently growing at the front of our property.

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Fruit crisps are nothing new, but I have been making them a little differently lately – gluten free, low in sugar and with no oats. I just wanted a little variation so as not to be repeating the same recipe, and now I find I prefer this one to my old recipe. So I hope the guests at this week’s Fiesta Friday enjoy this seasonal dessert.

If you really like sweet, feel free to add sugar to the topping, or a little extra to the fruit. Or increase the fruit ratio and use less rhubarb.

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Rhubarb and Berry Crisp

  • Servings: 12
  • Difficulty: easy
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For the filling:

6 cups (1.5 lbs) chopped rhubarb

1 cup berries (blueberries, strawberries, raspberries, gooseberries etc. or any combination)

1 cup sugar

For the topping:

1.5 cups ground almonds

1 cup hemp hearts

2 Tbsp ground flaxseeds

1 tsp cinnamon

1/2 cup coconut flour

1/2 cup coconut oil

Method:

Mix the rhubarb and berries with sugar in a rectangular baking tin.

To make the topping, mix together the rest of the ingredients and distribute evenly on top of the filling. Bake at 325 for about 35 minutes, or until the top looks crisp and the filling is bubbling. Serve on its own, hot or cold, or with ice cream, whipped cream or yogurt.

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29 Comments

Lambsquarters and Farro Burgers

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I have just begun to cook with farro, and my trials so far have given such good results that it will no doubt replace barley, rice and other grains for many of my recipes. It has a nutty, sweet flavour with a pleasantly chewy texture. The fact that it is higher in protein and fibre than wheat is another good reason to choose this grain.

Although it has been around longer than any other cultivated grain, it is relatively new in the North American market, and there is still some confusion about it. Related to spelt, it is sometimes lumped in with this grain. The botanical name for spelt is Triticum Spelta, while farro (emmer) is Triticum Dicoccum, so there is a difference.

My latest recipe mixes farro with one of my favourite greens, another ancient superfood, lambsquarters.

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If you don’t have as much as I do, you can use part or all of other greens like kale or spinach. For the herbs, I used green and red basil and mint, but use whichever mixture you prefer.

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And so I bring to Fiesta Friday 21 an original, vegan burger I hope you will enjoy.

Lambsquarters and Farro Burgers

  • Servings: 6
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1 cup raw farro

2 cups water

4 cups lambsquarters

1 Tbsp chia seeds, soaked in 2 Tbsp water

2 cloves garlic, minced

1 bunch chopped herbs

1 shallot, chopped

2 Tbsp hemp hearts (optional)

3 Tbsp chickpea or other flour

1/2 tsp salt

To prepare the farro, soak it in water overnight or for a few hours. Then cook it as you would rice. This will take 10-15 minutes.

Steam the lambsquarters, or other greens, until they are nicely wilted with just a little water. If there is any excess water, drain it off (and use it for cooking the farro).

Chop the greens and mix all the other ingredients together.

Form into patties and fry in a little oil of your choice on a medium heat, approximately 10 minutes on each side.

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11 Comments

Fiddleheads

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I had the opportunity to visit a fellow backyard forager’s property where I was able to collect another regional delicacy – fiddleheads. These can be found for only about a two-week period in the spring, and grow only in the wild. However, if you’re lucky, you can find them in some markets and grocery stores at this time of year in areas where they grow.

There are many types of fiddleheads, but the ones harvested in the north and east of North America are the ostrich ferns. Be sure only to harvest a type of fern that is edible, as there are many which are toxic. The ostrich fiddleheads have to be cooked well or they can have nasty consequences. I know from experience and now am very careful to cook them well. I have found different advice on just how long well-cooked is, and some recommend boiling in two lots of water to get rid of any bitterness. I followed the advice of steaming them for about ten minutes and found the flavour to be only a little stronger than and similar to asparagus with no ill effects.

Once you have identified them for certain, picking them is quite easy, although it involves a lot of stooping and bending. You only need to snap it off – no digging or cutting. It is important to note that each plant produces seven fronds, so you should be careful to pluck no more than three from each plant in order for that plant to survive.

Before the fern appears, they can be identified (which is important so you don’t step on them) by what looks like a burnt piece of wood, about the size and shape of a large artichoke.

 

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The first sign of growth are little copper-coloured nubs which is the skin covering the green fiddleheads. Eventually the green appears and grows out of this black stump and when large enough is ready to be picked. It doesn’t take long to fill a bag with them.

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To prepare, you have to remove all of the copper coloured skin. I spread them on a tray, took them outside and tossed them a little and most of it blew away (luckily there was enough breeze blowing to help me in this). The rest I did by hand.

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I then soaked them in salted water with lemon juice to get rid of any lingering microbes.

I steamed them for ten minutes. After that they are ready to prepare as you like. The most popular method is to fry them in butter and/or oil, garlic and salt with a little lemon. You can also use any asparagus recipe

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I decided to fry some in a pakora batter, which is simply chick pea flour mixed with a little salt and chili powder to taste and enough water to make it the consistency you want. Mine was like a thick pancake batter, but if you make it thinner the coating won’t be so doughy. Just dip the fiddlehead in the batter and fry until it is crisp and golden. Serve it with a chutney or tamarind sauce, or even ketchup.

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A Backyard Forager’s Pasta Dish

Pasta is a great dish when you want to be creative, or even when you don’t have much in the pantry. With a few pickings from our garden, lawn and fields, I decided to make a vegan, gluten-free pasta dish using Jerusalem artichokes, wild strawberry leaves and chives. I was pleased with the effect of the artichokes and lemon juice in creating a creamy white sauce with no dairy products. As for the greens, you could use any of your edible wilds or not so wilds, but I wanted to try the wild strawberry. I learned that all parts of wild or cultivated strawberries are edible, and since our wild plants are plentiful and don’t give much fruit, why not use the greens instead. For more information about identifying, using and finding resources, check out this site.

If you do decide to use strawberry leaves, there are a couple of points worth mentioning. First, as always, be sure you have identified the greens properly. They are pretty easy to spot, but be sure you know what you are picking. The other point is that, while these leaves are most often used in making tea, they should be eaten only when dried, or very fresh. Once the wilting process has begun, they enter a stage of non-edibility until they are perfectly dried. So that is something to bear in mind if using them.

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Most articles I read said that they are edible, but not really tasty. I beg to differ. They are mild, with a pleasant citrusy after taste. Not remarkable, but certainly nutritious, especially rich in vitamin C. If not sure, sample a leaf or two. This is always a good idea anyway to make sure you don’t have any problem if it is new to you, and you can decide if you want to add them to your dinner.

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Jerusalem Artichoke Sauce

1/2 pound Jerusalem artichokes, boiled and peeled

juice of 1/2 lemon

1/2 cup blanched almonds

1/2 cup almond milk

1/4 tsp salt

2 cloves garlic

Puree all the ingredients in a food processor. Heat the sauce gently, without boiling. Add some chopped chives and strawberry leaves, and then mix in half a pound of cooked, hot pasta (I used quinoa spaghetti). The flavour of the artichokes worked very well as a cheese substitute, but feel free to add cheese, or anything else, to suit your own taste.