A fast, healthy weeknight pasta tossed with fresh smashed pea, mint and basil pesto and tender poached salmon. Jump to Recipe
I’m not sure yet how I feel about my paediatric rotation coming to a close. We have an eight week block as part of our fourth year of medical school, with a range from high acuity wards and emergency department shifts to six week baby check-ups and continence clinics. Though the majority of kids are easy-going and happy to talk about their favourite teacher or best friends, it seems that most of the art is in being able to communicate just as well with worried parents. Paediatricians are pros at explanations and reassurance, even in the most frustrating situations. It’s challenging to figure out what’s wrong with a child who can’t talk yet or says yes to all questions, but rewarding when you’re met with smiles and gurgles. Very unwell children can be incredibly sad and scary, probably more so than adults, but most of the time it’s positive with good outcomes. It doesn’t hurt that in my experience the paediatric teams have been the friendliest in the hospital – I guess you have to be to work with kids, and feeling included as part of a team does make being a student significantly more enjoyable.
Finishing this rotation also signals another step closer to those looming exams. Life has become a routine of study, sleep, running and eating – it’s a productive one, and necessary, but the eating has to be GOOD to keep me motivated. Something to look forward to in amongst a weekend at my desk. Last weekend was our university ball, which I took as an excuse to practice my Paris picnics with a pre-drinks spread of silky smooth hummus, goats cheese, chorizo and strawberries; there was that batch of Thalia’s chewy, buttery spelt cookies, oozing with pockets of dark chocolate; a quick walk around the botanical gardens and brunch with friends.
There were smaller things too, like our house Game of Thrones rituals on Monday evenings, always accompanied by crumble (we’ve gone through pear-chocolate-walnut, strawberry-rhubarb, and peach-blueberry so far – any more good ideas??). My daily cafe flat white in the sun between clinics. Getting the chance to walk to and from the hospital for once (usually I’m placed a half an hour drive away, so it’s a luxury!). Taking the odd book out from the library for an evening away from my computer. I find noticing and appreciating those moments is so vital for me at times like this – I need things to hold on to and look forward to during those hours spent scrawling flashcards and typing up assignments. What gets you through pressured times in work and study?
With this escalation in study, meals have certainly become less elaborate and more time efficient. I’ve been obsessed with smashed peas lately, as you may have noticed on my instagram story – it is such a cheap and healthy way to bulk up a pesto or avocado smash when bulk herbs and avocado can get pricy. Here I have used them in a pea, mint and poached salmon pasta: a brief blitz of peas with mixed mint and basil, almonds, parmesan and lemon, loosened with fruity olive oil and a splash of pasta water. It’s paired with flaked poached salmon, an easy, mess-free method of cook oily fish that works every time. Enjoy!
A fast, healthy weeknight pasta tossed with fresh smashed pea, mint and basil pesto and tender poached salmon.
- 3 cups of water
- 2 bay leaves
- teaspoon white or black peppercorns
- 500 g fresh skin-on salmon fillets (I generally allow about 150-200g per person)
- 1 cup peas + 1/2 cup extra (frozen is fine - just pour boiling water on top, leave for a few minutes then drain)
- 1 clove garlic
- 1 1/2 cups mixed mint and basil
- 1/3 cup pine nuts or almonds
- 1/3 cup freshly grated parmesan
- zest and juice of 1/2 a lemon
- liberal freshly ground salt and pepper
- 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
- a few tablespoons of water to loosen , as required
- shell pasta , about 350-500g depending on appetites
In a small-medium frypan, bring three cups of water to the boil. Add the bay leaves and peppercorns and simmer for 5 minutes. Add the salmon, skin side down, cover the pan and turn off the heat. Leave for 15 minutes. Remove the salmon from the water and set aside.
Bring another pot of water to boil to cook the pasta.
Meanwhile, in a food processor, blitz the 1 cup of peas, garlic, herbs, almonds, parmesan, lemon, salt and pepper and olive oil. You can make this as smooth or as chunky/textured as you like (it’s quite smooth in the photos but doesn’t have to be).
Cook the pasta according to packet instructions. Just before draining, save a bit of pasta water.
Toss the pesto through the pasta with extra peas, using pasta water to loosen if necessary.
Flake the salmon on top, and serve with extra parmesan and freshly ground salt and pepper.