I have 3 walnut trees planted, but none are yet producing, so every year i do the rounds of my local roadside walnut trees. There is always a bit of a competition for these walnuts, as the trees are mostly on the main highway, and there seem to be a fair few other keen foragers in my area. Only once have i met anyone else out at the same time, but sometimes i know i have arrived soon after someone else has been foraging, due to the scarcity of nuts on the ground. However this season i managed to collect a moderate haul of nuts, and hung them in onion bags in the sun on the verandah to dry. Now they are dry they get stored in the garage. The first season i collected walnuts i hung them in the onion bags in the garage, and my walnut supply diminished significantly before i realised that they were being carted away by unwelcome garage rats.
The remaining walnuts then got moved to a 20 litre heavy-duty plastic bucket with lid, but the rats chewed holes in the lid, so these days my dry walnuts get stored in a metal rubbish bin with metal fitted lid. I'm still using up last year's nuts, but this year's should be ready for use.
Today's recipe is really just a home-made version of the student standby 'Pesto Pasta'. You know the one; boil up a packet of pasta, toss through a tub of green goop, and "hey pesto" - you've got a meal. This version involves making your own pesto, using walnuts as the base nut, and oregano and parsley as the greenery.
I'm not sure where the recipe came from - i have a feeling it came from a "Lifestyle Block" magazine, although the line "make it really grunty" sounds like something Jamie Oliver would say.
Herb and Walnut Penne
200g penne pasta
2/3 cup shelled walnuts, roughly chopped
1 clove garlic, crushed
1/4 teaspoon salt
Extra virgin olive oil
6 tablespoons oregano, chopped
6 tablespoons parsley, chopped
1/2 cup Parmesan, grated
Salt and pepper
Toast the walnuts in a heavy-based dry fry-pan until golden. Reserve a few for garnish, and rub off the skins of the rest with a dry tea-towel while still warm.
Cook the pasta in a large pot of boiling water until tender. Drain, reserving one cup of the pasta water. Meanwhile, use a food processor to turn the walnuts, garlic and salt into a paste. Add the chopped herbs and Parmesan, then drizzle in the olive oil with the motor running until you have a pesto-like paste. Taste and season with salt and pepper - make it really grunty.
Toss the walnut pesto with the pasta, adjusting the consistency of the sauce using the reserved cooking water.
Serve in two bowls, garnished with reserved walnut quarters and oregano leaves.