St Albans is not THAT far from where we live, but from suburban Sydney it seems another world away. Google maps tells me its 91.2 km away and the time estimated to get there is 1 hour 44 minutes. It took us just on 2 hours on Sunday (it was quicker getting home) because I didn’t consult Google maps before we left (having been there maybe 5 0r 6 times before) and we have some new freeways that don’t appear in my street directory (ie we took a few wrong turns getting out of Sydney) and it’s some years since we were last at the Settlers Arms for lunch. I should have just let C decide the route – he knows the way to Riverside Oaks well! He enjoyed his first long drive since his recent eye surgery. Four weeks without driving got to him!
The Settlers Arms is one of my favourite places. It is a atmospheric convict built sandstone inn, dating back to 1836, it’s in a remote and unspoiled valley reached by crossing the Hawkesbury River by vehicular ferry,
it’s almost a given to spot at least one kangaroo in the MacDonald valley (I saw several), the birdlife is amazing – and the garden setting is quite lovely. I took my mom there when she visited us – it’s a lovely place to take overseas visitors.
MissN still has an injured hand (torn ligaments which she hurt while playing goalkeeper) so no soccer yet. Thus we were “free” from soccer commitments and could take a long drive for lunch. The food is good quality pub food – not very innovative but fresh, tasty and so much nicer for being eaten in the sun. I had a beer too – something I seldom drink. Cascade Light, if you are interested…
Working clockwise, C had a chicken pie, I had a smoked salmon and potato salad and MissN had a spicy sweet potato soup. It was a bit TOO spicy for her, and she is used to spicy food. (I won’t share that both C and MissN had dessert!) So I thought I would share MY sweet potato soup recipe, photo below taken when I made it a week or two ago.
Roast Sweet Potato and Red Capsicum Soup with Rocket Pesto
Peel and dice 2 sweet potatoes, deseed and dice 2 red capsicum (sweet/bell/red peppers), peel and quarter 2 red/Spanish onions and peel a few cloves of garlic (choose large cloves). Toss all the vegetables in olive oil and place in a roasting dish. Roast for about 20 minutes.
Tip all the vegies into a pot. Pour some boiling water into the roasting dish to deglaze it, and add it to the vegies. Cover the vegies with water and add some stock concentrate if you like (I use Plantaforce – Vecon is also good) and bring the soup to a boil. Simmer for about 15 minutes. Blend the soup.
Serve with a dollop of pesto. I made rocket and walnut pesto, as rocket is a cheaper option in winter, and walnuts were on special too (I stocked up for my brownie cake!)
Pesto (from The Harvest Pantry by Barbara Beckett – a great recipe book I use for a lot of my basics)
2 cups basil (or rocket) leaves
half cup extra virgin olive oil
2 garlic cloves, crushed
2 tablespoons pine nuts (or walnuts)
1 teaspoon salt, optional
6 tablespoons freshly grated Parmesan cheese
2 tablespoons freshly grated Pecorino cheese (I omit this if I don’t have any)
about 2 tablespoons hot water
Put all the ingredients except for the cheese into a food processor (I use my hand-held Bamix) and blend. Add the cheeses gradually. Gradually add some water until is is a smooth thick paste. Serves 6.
This will keep well in the fridge for some weeks or longer. Make sure it is covered with a layer of oil. Pesto originates in the Ligurian area of Italy where it was a way of preserving basil in the winter and adding some “fresh” greenery in winter when other greens are scarce. We had a magical 4 days in Liguria on our first trip to Italy in 1993 (C had been before but it was my first trip) when we stayed in Tellaro, visited Portofino, the Cinque Terra and ate at the wonderful Locanda Miranda. Memories…
Our day on Sunday was special. We laughed and talked, enjoyed great music in the car (a lot of Talking Heads), were refreshed, renewed and restored and nourished by food that was more than just physical.