cobnut, stilton and fig pasta

i first tried cobnuts last year - they are a type of hazel and are in season at the moment. their flavour is quite mild and creamy but distinctively hazel (although having said that i’ve seen them described as tasting a little like fresh coconut). last year i used them to make cobnut, apple and cinnamon cake. this year i fancied something savoury.

the pistachio orecchiette that i made a few weeks ago was fresh in my mind – i’d thought at the time about a walnut and blue cheese version but decided that i should do it with cobnuts so i could make something truly appropriate for british food fortnight. the cheese, also delivered to me by foodari, was stilton and i picked up the figs at lewisham market (these are obviously imported, but now is their season).

i toasted the cobnuts (see below for what they look like, out of their shells) so they had an extra depth of flavour. i also swapped the mint i’d used originally for sage which contrasted well with the pungent stilton. this is a much richer dish than the pistachio version and really benefits from the inclusion of fig to lighten everything up. again i think it’s best served with a  green salad dressed with something sharp, to balance everything out.

as well as using it to celebrate kentish cobnuts, i’m sharing this dish with bellini valli from the very wonderful more than burnt toast as she is hosting this week’s presto pasta nights

cobnut, stilton and fig pasta (serves 2)

spaghetti for two

50g shelled cobnuts*

1 tablespoon shredded sage leaves

1 medium garlic clove, crushed to a paste**

a small amount of finely chopped red chilli

extra-virgin olive oil

25-40g crumbled stilton cheese


freshly grated black pepper

2 figs, sliced

cook your pasta.

toast the cobnuts in a dry pan, over a medium heat, for a few minutes – move them around regularly and don’t let them brown. remove and leave to cool then chop roughly (i bashed mine in a pestle and mortar so i got a mix of different sized pieces).

mix the nut with the sage, garlic, chilli (adjust the quantity of this to suit your own tastes) and a glug of olive oil. add the stilton and more oil if it is needed (you want quite a dry pesto). season to taste – i needed to add quite a lot of both salt and freshly ground black pepper, despite the stilton’s innate saltiness.

when the pasta is ready, add c100ml of the cooking water to your pesto. drain the rest of the pasta and mix, in the pan, with the cobnut mix and figs, before serving.

* 250g unshelled cobnuts delivered c50g of nuts. i used my mortar and pestle to crack open each nut. do this carefully to make sure you don’t break the nut. 

** i toasted mine with the cobnuts, thinking a “roasted” flavour would work well – it was too subtle so, if you want to use cooked garlic rather than raw i suggest you increase the quantity