The saga of the $28 strawberry, and Mimi's Moroccan Spaghetti

Posted October 4th, 2014 by Mimi

This appeared in the newsletter a few years ago, but I thought I'd repost it here.

The Moroccan Spaghetti is a really frugal and surprisingly delish dinner :)


Did I tell you about my $28 strawberries? Actually, there were four. Four strawberries. Twenty-eight dollars each.

Well, you see, it was about this time one year ago, that I last got all gung-ho about growing my own produce. I'd grown garlic chives and sprouted spring onions and flirted with finger eggplants that no-one but me would eat, so I thought I knew a thing or two. Yes, I know this is about Moroccan Spaghetti... bear with me.

So I read along with Rob on his gardening hints and tips (Rob's being the garden I most admire), asked a few questions that made me sound like I was in the know, and off I went. I was raised on a farm and my maternal grandies actually grew strawberries for a living, so I thought that berries being in my blood, as such, I'd start there.

Course, being the fusspot I am, there was no way I was growing my strawberries in polystyrene containers, or hells bells, in the ground! I wanted those Frenchy looking white wicker basket things to hang fetchingly from my retaining wall, thus rendering my distinctly Aussie home a little more soignée (also known as 'noice' in true blue Aussie lingo).

A trip to the hardware store and $110ish later, I was home and ready to grow my own berries. At no stage, did I question how many punnets of said berries in season I could have purchased for aforementioned ridiculous outlay. Positively plummy with the anticipation of success, I loaded my white wicker hanging baskets up with commercial potting mix and organically inclined things, and in went the strawberry runners.

Frenetic watering and fertiliser with stinky stuff went on. We watched with bated breath as little pink flowers appeared. We applauded excitedly as a teeny weeny berry formed in the centre of each pink flower. Then it all went pear (strawberry?) shaped, and my memory is a bit hazy. I tend to block traumatic memories, you see.

We think the brush tail possum that resides in our roof ate a couple. Then there was that visitor with the inquisitive two-year-old who wanted to pick the flowers. And of course, the run in with our excitable little whippet, which resulted in one entire basket, contents and all, being spread all over the front garden. Whatever the circumstances, the outcome was the same.

Four strawberries.

Those four strawberries were unlike any strawberries we'd ever eaten, and how we wished there'd been more.

However, Husband was so traumatised by the idea of consuming a $28 strawberry, that he forbade me to try growing any more, fearing a cataclysmic outcome for the kids inheritance that we're madly trying to spend.

So, now I stick with herbs. Herbs I can do. I'm happy to hide herbs amongst the other stuff in the garden. I'm even content with plastic pots full of happy little herbs. Growing herbs actually saves me money, so Husband is happy too.

So, here's a great recipe that uses all of my favourite easy-to-grow herbs. It's vego, is easily adapted for gluten sensitivity, is dairy-free, and has the potential to turn you off traditional spaghetti sauce forever. It's an absolute corker and all you need is a couple of pantry ingredients and some home grown herbs. Not a $28 strawberry in sight!

You'll need a big pot of water to cook the pasta and a medium one for the sauce, as well as a non-stick frying pan for toasting the almonds. A couple of sharp knives and some scissors will be handy too.

Here's the ingredients list:

  • Pasta, any sort. We use gluten-free fettuccine, but just use your favourite.

  • 1 punnet tomatoes. If you're a more savvy gardener than I, then you might be lucky enough to have some cherry tomatoes or heirloom tomatoes or something equally impressive nodding in your garden. I don't, so I tend to use either a punnet of cherry tomatoes, or 4-5 big bought (insert long suffering sigh) tomatoes, chopped up, roughly. Please don't use tinned tomatoes for this one. It just won't be the same. This is, however, stunning with sun-dried or semi-dried tomatoes.

  • 2-3 big handfuls of herby stuff, snipped up with the kitchen scissors. So, shallots, parsley, garlic chives, coriander, mint, rocket, even a little bit of dandelion, nasturtium leaf and stinging nettle washed well and blanched if you're in to foraging, are all good.

  • A handful of nuts or seeds. Between ¼ and ½ cup is ideal. We like almond slivers, but you could use pine nuts if you're posh, or pumpkin, black mustard or poppy seeds if you're allergic.

  • 1 onion, finely chopped

  • 2 cloves garlic, crushed

  • ½ tsp each of cinnamon and turmeric

  • 1 tsp each of ground coriander and cumin

  • 1 tin chickpeas, drained and rinsed till they stop foaming, or the equivalent amount of soaked and pre-cooked ones.

  • ¼ cup olive oil

Get out your medium saucepan and add the oil. Heat it over a medium hotplate until warm and add your onion and garlic. Stir it all around for a minute or two until it's soft. You don't want it browned so much, just tender.

Add your tomatoes and spices and turn it all down to simmer very gently while the rest of your meal is cooking. It doesn't need to fry. All you need is for the tomatoes to break down a little.

Turn on your largest hotplate and get the water boiling for your pasta. Cook as directed on the packet.

Put another hotplate on the highest setting and get out your non-stick frying pan. Toss the nuts or seeds around until they're roasted and smell warm and toasty. Tip them out of the frying pan onto a platter straight away or they'll burn.

By now, your Moroccan sauce should be coming along just fine and dandy, and it's time to add the chickpeas and toasted seeds or nuts. Taste it, toss it all around, and add seasoning if you think it's necessary.

Drain your pasta well, and add the sauce, tossing it all well. Add your herbs and turn the pasta over them gently. Ready!

Now Husband, not being a huge pasta fan, skips the fettuccine and says 'I'll just have the Moroccan thanks, hold the spag'. So be it. This is such a great flavoursome meatless meal, that as long as he can have it 'hold the spag', he's happy.

As for the strawberries, the bought variety will do me just fine, thanks very much. I've got my kids' inheritance to spend and it won't be on strawberry runners!

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