Easy meals jam-packed with goodness

Cook with the season’s offerings and fill your pantry with delicious relishes, pesto and sauces

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With the real gift of the holiday season being family time, jampacked by Tina Bester inspires you and your children to cook with the season’s offerings and fill your pantry with mouth-watering relishes, pesto and sauces. Once the shelves are stocked, school night suppers become quick, easy and layered with flavour.
Mushroom and gorgonzola toasts with onion relish
It’s definitely worth making the polenta bread for these toasts – the sweet corn flavour is the perfect partner for the onion relish and strong taste of the Gorgonzola cheese.
Serves 4–6
For the polenta bread:
40g instant yeast
400ml warm water pinch of castor sugar
250g strong plain flour, plus extra for dusting
250g fine polenta (must be fine polenta otherwise the bread is too coarse)
1 tsp sea salt
2 tsp olive oil, plus extra for greasing
60ml olive oil, plus extra for drizzling
400g wild mushrooms freshly ground black pepper
1 clove garlic
30g wild rocket
100g Gorgonzola cheese
1 x 350ml jar onion relish
To make the polenta bread, preheat the oven to 220°C. Mix the yeast and water together in a jug, then add the sugar and about 2 tbsp of the strong white flour and leave for a few minutes.
Mix the remaining flour and polenta together. Place the flour mixture on a clean worktop and make a well in the centre. Pour the yeast mixture into the well and knead it into the flour, adding a little more water if required. Add the salt and oil and knead hard for about 10 minutes. Line a loaf tin with baking paper and place the dough in the tin. Allow it to rise until it has almost doubled in size. Bake the risen dough for 45–50 minutes or until it has cooked through. Tap the bottom of the bread tin and listen for a hollow sound. Cool on a wire rack.
To make the topping, heat half the olive oil in a pan and cook the mushrooms in two batches with a good grind of black pepper. Toss them in the pan until they are golden brown and set them aside.
To assemble the toasts, cut 4 slices of polenta bread, drizzle with a little olive oil and toast in a hot griddle pan. Cut the clove of garlic in half and rub each slice of bread with the cut side of the garlic. Top with rocket, slices of Gorgonzola, the cooked wild mushrooms and a good dollop of onion relish.
Roasted red pepper and cashew nut pesto
The rich, savoury-sweet flavour of this pesto makes it a favourite in our house.
Makes 500ml
4 red bell peppers, halved and seeds removed
5 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 tsp balsamic vinegar
30g fresh basil leaves
50g finely grated Parmesan cheese
3 cloves garlic, crushed
100g roasted cashew nuts
¼ tsp freshly ground pepper a good pinch of sea salt
Preheat the oven to 180˚C. Place the peppers, cut-sides down, on a baking tray.
Roast the peppers until they are soft and cooked and their skins are slightly charred. Remove from the oven, place the peppers in a bowl of cold water and peel off the skins.
Place the peeled peppers and the rest of the ingredients in a food processor and blend until you have a thick paste. Adjust the seasoning if necessary.
The pesto keeps well in an airtight container in the fridge for about 4–5 days.
Roasted red pepper and cashew nut pesto with homemade spaghetti
This is the perfect midweek dinner and is also a delicious choice to serve to friends who are vegetarian.
Serves 4
For the spaghetti:
400g flour
4 eggs
1 quantity roasted red pepper and cashew nut pesto
For the spaghetti, place the flour on a clean kitchen surface and make a well in the centre. Crack the eggs into the middle and lightly whisk, slowly bringing the flour into the centre until the dough starts to come together and all the flour is combined. Turn it out onto a lightly floured surface and knead for 4–5 minutes until the dough is smooth. Wrap it in clingfilm and let it rest for 30 minutes.
Divide the dough into four and pass the dough through the biggest setting on the pasta machine. Repeat this 5 or 6 times, folding the dough over each time. Set the pasta machine on the next setting and pass the dough through, repeating 5 or 6 times on each setting until you reach the narrowest setting.
Lay the sheets of pasta on nonstick baking paper. Repeat the process with the other portions. Pass the thin pasta sheets through the spaghetti cutter on the pasta machine.
Cook the pasta for 3–4 minutes in a large pot of salted water. Mix through the pesto and serve hot.
Onion relish
This sweet-piquant relish takes a cheese sandwich – or a homemade burger – to new heights.
Makes 3 x 250ml jars
125ml olive oil
2kg onions, peeled and sliced
200g brown sugar
250ml red wine vinegar
salt and freshly ground black pepper
Place the olive oil and the onions in a large pot and cook for about 40 minutes until the onions have browned and caramelised. Add the brown sugar, vinegar, some salt and a good grind of black pepper and cook for a further 10 minutes until the onions are thick and syrupy. Spoon into sterilised jars and seal.
Tomato sauce
Once you’ve had this with your chips, you’ll never crave store-bought tomato sauce again. This is the real deal!
Makes 1 litre
1.5kg tomatoes, roughly chopped
1 red onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, crushed
2 tsp freshly ground black pepper
2 tsp mustard seeds
2 allspice berries
2 whole cloves
½ cinnamon stick
1 tsp paprika
pinch of ground chilli
70g brown sugar
80ml apple cider vinegar
juice of ½ lemon
1 tsp sea salt
Place all the ingredients except the brown sugar, apple cider vinegar, lemon juice and salt in a pot and simmer slowly for about 30 minutes, stirring frequently. Remove from the heat and allow the mixture to cool. Once cooled, place the tomato mixture in a food processor and blend until smooth. Strain the blended mixture through a sieve and into a saucepan, making sure you have extracted as much juice as possible from the pulp. Place the saucepan on a medium heat and stir in the remaining ingredients. Simmer for 10–15 minutes. Pour into sterilised bottles or jars. This sauce will keep for up to three weeks in the fridge.
About the book
Tina Bester, fondly known as the Queen of Tarts, is the author of five bestselling cookbooks. Her latest book, jampacked, R255, is published by Quivertree and is available at leading bookstores.

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