It was a sunny spring morning and I was driving south on the Monash tollway - maximum speed 70 km/h - and I had the radio on in the car and they were talking about National Vegetarian Week.
I didn't know there was one, although there seems to be a 'week' for just about everything these days. Some very important things even get an entire year to themselves. For example, what do you think 2008 is the 'year of'? What would you think is occupying the consciousness of the world at this point in history?
Which means this year's National Vegetarian Week - occurring within the Year of the Potato like some kind of tuberous alignment of the planets - is sure to be a great success.
My contributions to this momentous week will include some old favourites. So let's commence with the first. I have diplomatically remove a previous option of prosciutto in the following recipe and added capers instead for a salty kick.
National Vegetarian Week, Day One: Tubetti con patate
(tubetti with potato)
An unusual but surprisingly robust and unctuous pasta dish.
1 1/2 tbsp olive oil
1 tbsp butter
1 onion diced
1 celery stalk, sliced
1 carrot, peeled and diced
3 potatoes, peeled and diced
1 fresh or canned tomato, chopped
1 sprig fresh marjoram
Caperberries or capers
400g tubetti or any short tubular pasta
1 tbsp freshly grated parmigiano
Heat oil and butter in a heavy-bottomed saucepan. Add onion and cook for 10 minutes until it starts to soften. Add celery and carrot and cook for 10 minutes. Add potatoes, tomato and marjoram and cook until potatoes are tender. Keep stirring, adding spoonfuls of water when necessary to prevent the potatoes from sticking. The 'sauce' will become creamy as the potatoes cook and soften, but they should still retain their shape. Cook pasta in plenty of boiling, salted water until al dente. Drain, and place in a warm serving bowl. Top with potato sauce, mix gently, add capers and serve with cheese. Serves four.