They say it’s not what you know, it’s who you know that counts. I’ve never really believed that until recently when I acquired three new colleagues at my day job. They’re all clever and interesting people, but one in particular has some very enviable connections and she knows how to work them. She sidled up to me on her first day and said, ‘so, I hear you know about food. Want some smoked fish?’

It turns out that she has a keen angler father who keeps her in ample stocks of beautifully smoked and meticulously boned Taupo trout. Even better for me is that she doesn’t like to eat it. The rest of us keep telling her she’s missing out, but she won’t be swayed. I think this is what’s known in the trade as a win-win. In the meantime, I’m making the most of the catch while I can.

Smoked Trout Pasta

Tagliatelle with smoked trout and mascarpone

This is one of those dishes you can put together while the water boils for the pasta. The hardest bit is not eating all the trout while you wait.

Serves two.

½ cup mascarpone

2 teaspoons Dijon mustard

Finely grated zest and juice of a lemon

2 teaspoons extra virgin olive oil

4 handfuls rocket

150g smoked trout

150g tagliatelle

Put a large pot of water on to boil for the tagliatelle. While you’re waiting, put the mascarpone, mustard, lemon zest and juice and olive oil in a small bowl. Season well with salt and pepper, then whisk to combine and set aside. Flake the trout and stir half of it into the mascarpone mix.

When the water is boiling, add a large spoonful of salt, followed by the pasta. Cook for five minutes (or according to packet directions), then drain, reserving a tablespoon or so of the water. Return to the pot, then toss through most of the rocket and all of the mascarpone. Divide the pasta between two plates and scatter the rest of the rocket and the trout on top. Serve – and eat – immediately.

Got an angler in the family? Here are three more ways with smoked fish to help use up the catch. Failing that, I’m sure I can hook you up with some willing takers!

If you read fashion magazines then you’ll know all about the ‘trans-seasonal piece’. This is an item of clothing that will, apparently, protect you from the vagaries of changing weather patterns while still managing to keep you in vogue (though not necessarily in Vogue, if you know what I mean).

A lot less is said about the equally important trans-seasonal meal, which should lift you out of the food rut you’ve been in all season and hint at the changes to come, while still respecting the needs of the moment.

Pappardelle Pasta With Lemon And Cream

Pappardelle with tuna and cream
Tinned tuna is very unfashionable these days but if you can find a sustainably caught brand I think it’s possible to dish it up without a side of guilt. Cream is probably a bit passe too, in some circles, but I don’t give a hoot. This is a great dinner for the middle seasons of spring and autumn, managing to be comforting and fresh in one go.

1 cup/250ml cream
1 packed cup of fresh parsley, leaves only, finely chopped
1 cup finely diced celery
a good pinch of salt and lots of freshly ground black pepper
1 Tbsp good olive oil
finely grated zest and juice of a lemon
2 x 185g tins good quality tuna in oil
Pappardelle – enough for four

Put all ingredients, except the pasta, in a bowl and stir together gently. Taste for seasoning and add more salt, pepper or lemon juice as needed.
Cook the pasta in well-salted water until al dente, drain well, then toss half the sauce through it. Divide between pasta bowls and spoon the remaining sauce on top. Serves four.

Last week I got an advertising-type email from a gym that reminded all recipients that ‘summer bodies are made in winter’. Reader, I threw it in the rubbish.

I don’t know about you, but I’m hoping kaftans and elasticated waistbands are going to be the height of fashion in summer 2015. Various things – birthdays, parties, stressful life events – are conspiring against my ‘summer body’.

Homemade-Pasta-Atlas-Marcato-Machine

Firstly, I found this – a pasta machine at a charity shop for $20, still in its original box, with its original warranty and instructions. I’ve always, always wanted one to play with and although I’ve only used it once so far, I can see plenty of pasta in my future.

Eclairs-With-Coffee-Custard-Chocolate-Icing-And-Walnut-Praline
Eclair image thanks to my colleague and co-baker Lisa

I know DIY pasta has a difficult reputation but it was a cinch compared to some of the things I’ve been making lately. In a moment of weakness I joined the Wellington On a Plate Bake Club team at work, which has meant many a late Sunday night making pies, slices, cakes and eclairs.

The upshot of all of this is that I won our in-house contest against some seriously tough competition and now I have to join the winners of 80+ Bake Clubs this Sunday morning for the final Bake-Off. I normally go for a run on Sunday mornings – but if the gods have decided I need to be in a room full of cakes, I can only go along with their wishes.

Perhaps I’ll take inspiration from these cute cupcakes – these are made by 15-year-old Emily, of three winners in the Better With BRITA contest. Emily, who made bespoke cupcakes for each of the judges – it takes a special kind of talent to make a miniature BRITA water jug out of icing – joins Alex, who made gluten-free brownies and Rekha, who made samosas, at The Big Feastival in London at the end of the month.

I’d love to join them, but my real goal for August is to make something out of My Paris Kitchen. If you haven’t got a copy of this yet, you’re missing out. My lovely sister-in-law gave it to me for my birthday and I think it’s a strong contender for book of the year.

My-Paris-Kitchen-David-Lebovitz-Book-Of-The-Year!

How has August been for you?

You might think, gauging from recent blog posts, that we have been existing on chocolate smoothies, cake and biscuits. It’s a bit like photo albums (remember them, fellow oldies?), where the main players are either on holiday or celebrating a major life event. Don’t even start me on Instagram and its artfully displayed kale and kohlrabi smoothies. Either way, what you see is not necessarily what you get.

Easy Recipe For Pasta With Sausage And Tomato And Cream

Strangely, the reverse is also true. This pasta may not look anything to boast about, but it has been a much-appreciated addition to my after-work winter repertoire. It’s quick, simple, sustaining and doesn’t require any fancy ingredients so you don’t have to disturb that exotic diorama you’re composing for tomorrow’s Instagram shot.

Pasta with sausage, cream and tomato
If you’re cold and weary and really need the comfort that only a bowl of pasta can provide, this is the dinner for you. It makes a great weekend lunch too, but you’ll to follow it up with a bracing walk in the great outdoors or an hour of sofa snoozing afterwards. Use the best sausages you can find. I’ve made the assumption that if you’ve got this far, you don’t need me to tell you how to cook pasta.

1 Tbsp olive oil
4 good quality sausages
1 small onion, finely chopped
a clove of garlic, finely chopped
a tin of Italian whole peeled tomatoes
a good splash – 100ml or more – cream
enough pasta for four
Parmesan, to serve
salt and pepper

Put a medium-sized heavy pan over high heat and add the olive oil, followed by the onion and garlic. Turn the heat down, then squish the sausage meat out of the casing and into the pan so it forms tiny, rustic meatballs. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the onion is soft and the sausage is browned. Tip in the tomatoes and stir well, then let cook for 10 minutes over medium heat. Just before you’re ready to serve, pour the cream into the sauce and let it come to just before boiling. Taste and season with salt and pepper as necessary. Toss the pasta through the sauce, then serve at the table with lots of Parmesan. Serves four.

What’s your current winter comfort food favourite?

At the moment I’m deeply involved in The Leopard, the famous Italian novel that charts the decline of a noble Silician family during the late 19th century. At a really basic level it’s a bit like a (less violent) version of The Godfather, or The Sopranos. Maybe all life is like that. Anyway, apart from the epic themes of struggle and change and death there are some great descriptions of feasts eaten and given. It’s one of those books where you know it’s all going to end in tears, but you’re compelled to keep reading. I highly recommend it.

Sicilian spaghetti
I made this on Friday night, having opened the pantry and fridge and thought: ‘I only went shopping yesterday, why is there nothing to eat?’ It’s a really good storecupboard sort of dinner and is child-friendly too, especially if your child has a thing for dried fruit, tuna and nuts. I watched Sophie Grigson make it on TV once, about 15 years ago, and I’ve been making it ever since even though I’ve long since lost the notes I made of whatever quantities she used. This is how I made it on Friday night and it was a huge success.

1 red onion, finely chopped
3 Tbsp red wine vinegar
1 x 180g tin of good quality tuna in olive oil
two handfuls of raisins or currants
two handfuls of pine nuts, toasted (I use roughly chopped toasted almonds instead, or sunflower seeds if we are especially poor)
1 cup black olives, stoned
a generous amount of fresh parsley, finely chopped
extra virgin olive oil
enough spaghetti for three people – for us that’s about 250-300g)

Put the onion and red wine vinegar in a small bowl and leave to steep while you get on with organising everything else. Put the water on to boil for the pasta, and add everything except the spaghetti to the onion mixture. Toss together, add a slosh of olive oil and season to taste.
Cook the spaghetti until it is al dente and drain, then toss it through the sauce. Take a block of Parmesan to the table and let diners add it as they wish. Threaten any non-eaters with a horse’s head in their bed. Serves three.