I love a good moodboard, me. For those unfamiliar with the concept, moodboards are simply a way to visualise your aims, ideas, style, likes, ambitions, designs or hopes. The principle behind it is that if you can visually collate your thoughts into one aesthetically pleasing space, then you make it much likelier that your idea will develop and come to fruition, or ‘manifest’ if you’re using the lingo. Frankly, they are just a brilliant way of pulling together your thoughts into a visual reminder of what your main aim might be. For example, when I’m writing ideas for a book or this blog, I like to transfer my thoughts into one space , - notes, sketches, photographs, textures, colours – so that I can see the concept as a ‘whole’ and find connections and a ‘flow’ or theme to the work. It also looks really pretty, and I’m a sucker for anything that would look good in a frame. There is a science of sorts behind it, though I admit visualisation is a science dressed up in hippy pyjamas. Our minds find it much easier to focus and connect with visual ideas, if we can visualise something then we find it easier to make it happen. You can apply the principle to anything: a book design, a new healthy lifestyle, redecorating your kitchen, parties, a brand, it all works.
It is also essentially a way of styling your life; and a very good way of gauging what you really like and whether there is an idea or theme that keeps repeating itself. For example, I recently did a moodboard for the spring and summer recipes I would like to explore this year. Green was a repeat presence: green smoothies, warm spring green salads, artichoke and pea sides, and rich green pesto dominated and this very simple supper was born from that mood board; I craved a fresh green pesto but one with a bit more bite than usual. The introduction of almonds adds a lovely sweet background note, not to mention a slightly coarse nutty effect that I love. That nuttiness and the fragrance of the basil meld nicely with the pasta while the sundried tomatoes add a little zing and colour. I use blanched almonds as I prefer the paler effect on the pesto but you can just as easily use whole almonds, the pesto will be slightly darker but the real flavour comes from lightly toasting them, it just transforms the dish. I recommend serving it as it, as I did, with a griddled asparagus and chicken side, it added just the right oomph to the whole dish and felt very summery indeed, though it would be just as good as it stands, a scattering of sliced sundried tomatoes its only addition...sit down, enjoy and let your thoughts wander and plan.
ALMOND PESTO PASTA
For the pesto
100g blanched almonds
A large bunch of basil
1 small clove of garlic
6 tbsp olive oil
Pinch of sea salt
400g fusilli or penne gluten free pasta
A handful of sundried tomatoes
Preheat the oven to 200c.
Place the almonds on a baking tray and toast in the oven until golden. Remove and set aside to cool down. Once cooled, place in a food processor with the basil, garlic, sea salt and olive oil and pulse until you have a coarse pesto.
Bring a large saucepan of salted water to the boil. Add in the pasta and cook until al dente (follow the recommended timings on the packet). Drain the pasta, keeping aside one cupful (about 250ml) of the starchy cooking water.
Slice the sundried tomato into little pieces. Stir the pesto into the pasta, adding spoonfuls of the starchy cooking water until you have a creamy sauce.Spoon into bowls, scatter with the sundried tomatoes and serve immediately.