What madness! I apologise for my long sabbatical from the world of food – this has been a rather trying past two weeks with near-constant preparation for my Masters classes. This week I have to present on the conflict between truth and politics (fabulous topic!) but I have already exceeded my word limit ten times over (yes, ten), so now I have to work like a beast to re-read all the sources to ensure that I haven’t gone off on a tangent in terms of my understanding, and then begins the more challenging task of cutting down all my hard work. So it goes! Nevertheless, this while past has not been without food, so here is a tasty treat I baked up since I’ve been so good with my oven usage of late (or rather, no time to bake!).
My amazingly generous and kind-hearted colleague gifted me with a big 1kg bag of raw black beans last week, so over the weekend I spent many an hour rinsing, soaking and then boiling them. The taste is phenomenally different from what I’m used to (I usually just sub kidney beans in recipes that call for black beans), but I am absolutely going to make more this coming weekend and make lots of sweet brownies or the like, and, of course, more of these delightful pasta shells. Yum! We don’t really do much pasta in our house, mainly because I try restrict my intake after living strictly off of that and bread in my first two to three years of university (hence the raging obesity). There is also not such a thing as wholewheat or rye jumbo pasta shells, it seems, so this was definitely an out-of-the-box treat. Sometimes, however, I feel one must splurge on form and texture, not to mention happiness. Hannah Arendt speaks quite frequently of the idea of the individual never being alone – always in dialogue with hir inner self. The idea that one must live in integrity with your self as being of many aspects contained within your own personal consciousness is very striking, because lately I’ve been grumpy and rather cruel in my anxiety over not being able to control my mounting panic over small things. I’ve decided to power down for a while, to retrace my inner self to a place of neutrality, and then live in the world and within myself with integrity; not to elevate myself to great heights, but to show love to those around me who deserve better, such as Man-thing. I usually do that with confessional apologies, food and hugs, but sometimes it is not enough to say one has been beastly – instead, tackle the beast, chop off its head, and present it to wronged friends or lovers as a proof of your smarting conscience.
In place of a head, what then? Pasta shells, says I! So, not so far away from food as one would hope, but it’s symbolic. And stuff.
Ingredients (serves 2):
- 10 jumbo pasta shells
- 1 can of chopped tomatoes, or 3 – 4 freshly chopped tomatoes
- 1 cup cooked black beans
- 5 dried figs, soaked in hot water for an hour
- 5 basil leaves
- 2 roasted red peppers (or fresh, depending on what you have around)
- small handful of roasted carrots (again, steam them if you do not care to turn on your oven)
- spices & salt
- 2 TBSP lemon juice
- 1 TBSP soy sauce
- 1 TBSP curry powder
- 1 TBSP onion powder
- Roast or steam your carrots and red peppers, depending on your fancy
- Boil the pasta shells in salted water until al dente. Rinse them under cold water to get rid of the starchy fluff.
- Preheat to 180C.
- Prepare an oven dish by pouring out half a can of chopped tomatoes (or half your fresh cuts). Mix with the 1 TBSP of curry powder and 1 TBSP of onion powder (or nutritional yeast).
- In a food processor, blend together all ingredients, liquids and spices except the figs until relatively smooth, but where you can still see hints of bits (such as sprinkles of red pepper). Then add the figs and blend for a few seconds until incorporated.
- Split your filling ingredients in two, then fill each pasta shell so that there’s no more left over (or just divide equally). Be sure to really line and squish your filling into the shell so that it doesn’t stand a half-empty crust but a nicely puffed nom-bite. The filling, not the pasta, should be the star of the show.
- Line your shells in your curried tomato sauce upright. Pour the rest of the tomatoes atop your creation.
- Bake for approximately 15 minutes, depending on taste. I like mine uber roasted, but some may just want the hint of baked.
Optional: You can add some vegan cream or ground cashews to your filling or to the sauce, as is your preference. A gravy will also go smashingly atop this wonder once it has come out of the oven. Mmmm!
I heated these up for lunch because I had baked them the evening before, being in a bit of a rush/spin, but they came out swimmingly. Man-thing called them a “roaring success”, which is good enough for me. So yes, not the most glamorous shots ever, but the time for focus and artistry is unfortunately not now. Plus, to me pasta is one of those things that represents comfort food. I can just close my eyes, take a deep sniff and snuff and know that, no matter its looks, I will be full and content at the end of the journey. With so much chaos in life at the moment, and especially because it is the chaos of the self in relation to others, a no-nonsense, back-to-basics approach is what I’m aiming for to reclaim the essence of that which I hold dear; friendships, relationships, and a sense of acceptance of self as a being trying to navigate through the overlapping scaffolding of truth and opinion, pause and action.