Category: Pasta

K is for Lasagne?

Hanging around?  Nothing to do but frown?  Rainy days and Mondays getting you down?

What you need to cheer you up body and soul my friends is some comfort food.  And the best comfort food in existence is home-made lasagne. It MUST be home-made!  The horrible facsimile that is food court  / take away lasagne ( you know the one – ten layers of pasta with only a layer of a thin tomato sauce separating them, with maybe a tablespoon of meat in the entire dish, no bechamel to speak of, a glut of cheap and nasty Parmesan on top and a pool of oil at the bottom – will only further deepen your despondency and ennui with the world). 

Lasagne al forno4jpg

No, what you need to soothe your soul is a  rich meat ragu, lots of cheese, oodles of bechamel and for a really retro kick, curly lasagne noodles.  Hallelujah and praise the angels.  THAT lasagne is heaven in a baking dish.  And if it doesn’t put a glint in your eye and a spring in your step, then you’re dead already!

Lasagne al forno2I have a Garfield like love of lasagne but an equally strong aversion to making it. Here’s why

  • Usually, by the time I have made the ragu, I’m either tired or hungry (or both) so I turn it into a Bolognese.
  • Lasagne is  a mofo of a thing to make – half a day at least, and that’s if you multitask!
  • The fussiest eater in the world does not eat anything with white sauce so no bechamel for him
  • You cannot make lasagne for one.  Or two.  It’s a four person dish at an absolute minimum.
  • Even my love of lasagne does not equal eating it everyday for a week. 

Lasagne al forno3So I don’t feel I am wrong in saying that the last time I made lasagne was probably in the early noughties.  So I  was excited to see that the very first recipe in the K section of The A-Z of Cooking (1977) was for lasagne. The time had certainly come for me to make it again and even more, I was delighted to discover why it was listed under K and not L of Lasagne or P for Pasta.  Are you ready?

  • K is for Kitchen Aids
  • A freezer is a kitchen aid
  • Lasagne freezes like a dream!  Who knew?

Lasagne al fornoSo, without further ado, here’s the recipe.  I made some minor changes, instead of water in the ragu I added equal parts of beef stock and red wine. And also cooked the lasagne, then cut it into individual servings, wrapped them up and froze them.  They can then be heated in an oven or microwave for lunch or a no fuss supper.

Lasagne RecipeNow you have the recipe, why no make and freeze some lasagne –  because you know that a rainy day or Monday will come around all too soon!

Hope you are having a great week!

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Spaghetti Eggcetera – 1977 vs 2016

Imagine a room lit only by an overhead light.  Facing each other off across a dining table are 1977’s The A-Z of Cooking and me.  With a flourish worthy of a hot stepping disco move straight out of Saturday Night Fever, the A-Z of Cooking, looking like a young and studly John Travolta  places a dish of pasta onto the table, right into the beam of light. 

“I’m calling it Spaghetti Etcetera” It says, with a sneer worthy of a Sex Pistol flipping the bird to the Queen.

Spaghetti Etcetera

I stare at the pasta.  “Looks good”

“Good it tastes too” says the A-Z of Cooking which has now transformed into Yoda.

“But I will take your Spaghetti Etcetera and top it with an egg.  And I will call it Spaghetti Eggcetera”.

Spaghetti Eggcetera“I’m not  finished with you” says The A_Z of Cooking and slinks away with all the dignity of the King of Rock and Roll, Mr Elvis Presley dying on a toilet.

And that my friends, is how I defeated 1977 in the battle of “Let’s Give a Plate of Pasta The Most Stupid Name Ever”.

Spaghetti Etcetera2

Spaghetti Etcetera is from the Informal Suppers Chapter of The A-Z.  Which is maybe why they chose such a lackadaisical name.  Then again, the other recipes in the chapter aren’t called Pizza with Stuff on it, Pork Whatever or Who Gives A Toss Potato Salad so who knows what the thought behind this name was. 

Regardless of the silly name it is delicious.!

The Etcetera is bacon, black olives, mushrooms, anchovies, onions,garlic and parsley.  Otherwise known as the Magnificent Seven of good things to have with pasta.   This was a really quick and easy weeknight supper- you can make the topping whilst the pasta cooks so you can go from fridge to table in around 20 minutes!   Top with a mix of Parmesan cheese, fresh parsley and some chilli flakes, you have a delicious  dish! 

It’s so good –  salty crispy bacon, salty and briny olives, earthy, silky mushrooms, sweet caramelised onions and garlic, fresh and bright parsley with  some umami depth from the anchovies.  Add some bite from the chilli, some more umami and a touch of creaminess from the  Parmesan and you have a dish jam packed full of flavour!

Spaghetti Etcetera3But if you want to take to an entirely new level, why not add an egg and turn it into a Spaghetti Eggcetera?

I used a fried egg but a poached egg would work just as well.  I am also about to experiment with steaming eggs which I think would work really well here too.  Alternatively, if you are runny yolk phobic, you could crack the entire egg into the hot, drained spaghetti, a la Carbonara, so the heat from the spaghetti cooks the egg. It will taste delicious, but will not look as pretty.  Also don’t read the next sentence.  Come back after the photo for the recipe.

Okay,  now those weirdo’s scared of runny eggs are gone,  can I tell the rest of you that breaking into that yolk and then mixing it through the cheese and bacon and mushrooms is a thing of beauty and has an almost addictive joy to it. 

Spaghetti Eggcetera2

 

Spaghetti Eggcetera
Serves 4
A super tasty, super speedy pasta dish, perfect for a weeknight supper.
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Ingredients
  1. 200g spaghetti
  2. 200g mushrooms, sliced
  3. 2 onions, thinly sliced
  4. 2 garlic cloves, crushed
  5. 8 anchovy fillets, chopped
  6. 6 bacon rashers, chopped
  7. 16 black olives, stoned
  8. 4 tbsp parsley, chopped plus more for garnish
  9. 4 eggs
  10. 3 tbsp olive oil,
  11. Parmesan cheese to garnish
  12. Chilli flakes to garnish
Instructions
  1. Cook the spaghetti in boiling salted water until al dente.
  2. Meanwhile, cook the bacon, anchovy fillets and onions in the oil until caramelised around ten minutes.
  3. Add the garlic, mushrooms and parsley, cover and cook for another five minutes until the mushrooms are cooked through.
  4. Whilst the mushrooms are cooking poach or fry your eggs, leaving the egg yolk runny.
  5. When the spaghetti is cooked, drain it well, return to the pan and stir through the bacon and mushroom.
  6. Serve onto four plates, top with the egg
  7. Garnish with Parmesan cheese, chilli flakes and fresh parsley.
  8. Enjoy.
Notes
  1. Don't worry if you do not like anchovies, they break down leaving absolutely no fishy taste at all.
  2. Runny egg phobics - break your eggs into the drained spaghetti at step 5, just before adding the bacon and mushrooms. The heat from the spaghetti will cook the eggs as you stir the ingredients through.
Adapted from The A-Z of Cooking
Adapted from The A-Z of Cooking
Retro Food For Modern Times http://www.retrofoodformoderntimes.com/
I’m skipping the next chapter because it’s Jam and I am not much of a jam eater let alone maker.  Never fear though, I’m not completely ignoring the letter J.  Because coming up sometime in the not too distant future will be a meal – Just For Two.  The selections here are all pretty good – there’s a pepper steak, hamburgers, tuna provencal, sesame chicken and gammon with pineapple and corn sauce.  Who knows where we will land on that.  Stay tuned and have a lovely weekend!

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MFCB 8 – The Neapolitan Omelette

Now, this one really has me bamboozled. 

My first reaction was “That’s one of the dumbest things I ever heard of.  Who puts spaghetti into an omelette?”

But then, I started thinking…what if you replaced the tomato puree with bacon?  Would you get something like a reverse carbonara?  What if you added fresh tomato?  And mushrooms? 

Might the Neapolitan Omelette not become something utterly delicious?

I’m throwing this one over to you in a couple of ways.

You can cook it and let me know. 

Or you can comment and let me know if you want me to cook it when I get home.

Or both…

Comment, send photo’s if you decide to make it and we’ll decide if this is a lost classic or if it should have been left in the 1970’s.

 

 Neapolitan Omelette

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Retro Food For Modern Times – Singers and Swingers – Roberta Ashley (1967): Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell Spaghetti Bolognese

What do my latest kitchen rule and the American military have in common?

Hint – the answer is in the title.

Prompted by my latest foray into Roberta Ashley’s  Singers and Swingers, the events of this week have led me to adopt a strict “need to know policy” in terms of the produce issuing from said kitchen.

The recipe in question was Noel Harrison’s Spaghetti Bolognese, inspired by a recipe by none other than Elizabeth David

It obviously wasn’t all franks and beans for the celebrities of 1967, some of them were slightly more highbrow.

Noel Harrison 001

I dithered over making this recipe for about a week before deciding to go for it.  The reason?

I don’t care if the recipe is inspired by the Grand Dame of British Cookery, a Spaghetti Bolognese without garlic is not any Spaghetti Bolognese I care to make!

That’s not true, well it’s partially true but the real reason for the prevarication was the presence of chicken livers in the recipe.

Ingredients - Noel Harrison's Spaghetti Bolognese
Ingredients – Noel Harrison’s Spaghetti Bolognese with a sneaky garlic clove thrown in!

I have never cooked liver before, in fact I have never, outside of a paté even eaten liver before.  I am actually a bit frightened by the thought of offal. Still, one of my reasons for wanting to do this was to expand my horizons as a cook, so whilst it took a bit of internal debate there really was only one decision that made sense.

The texture of the raw liver was…ooky.  It was softer than I thought it would be, almost a little spongy and a little….stringy. It was kind of gross.  I would certainly not discount using chicken liver in a recipe again but I’m not scouring recipe books either!

Chicken Liver
Chicken Liver

Still, I persevered, (yay, me!) and the end result was a super Spaghetti Bolognese, even if I do say so myself.  It was rich and flavoursome.  There was an undercurrent of liver but the flavour certainly wasn’t overpowering.  Bravo Noel Harrison and Elizabeth David!

Simmering Bolognese Sauce
Simmering Bolognese Sauce

I made the Bolognese sauce in the afternoon as I wanted it to simmer for a few hours.  I had a gym class that evening, so just before I left I  put the spaghetti on to boil and left Mark to fend for himself.   When I got home, he had eaten his.

“Did you like it?”

“I was the best spaghetti Bolognese I have ever had…it was delicious” Proof is in the eating.  he wiped his plate clean.

Mark's Plate...
Mark’s Plate…

Wow!  That’s some praise from a notoriously picky eater!

So, I then sat down to eat mine and, he was right, it was pretty damn good!

I’m putting my next comments down to delirium caused by too much exercise.  Too much jumping around is not good for my brain!  Because the next words out of my mouth were “Yeah, I was really worried about putting the chicken livers in there but they work”.

That was it.  I continued eating, he continued watching tv.

End of discussion.

Spaghetti Bolognese
Spaghetti Bolognese

Or possibly not.

The next night, we were having left over Bolognese with garlic bread, also from the book.  Or I thought we were. I ‘d started to reheat  the Bolognese sauce when I heard a small voice behind me.

“I don’t think I can eat it”.

“Why”

“You shouldn’t have told me about the chicken livers”

“But you eat liver, you eat calves livers when we go out and they’re huge…the chicken livers were tiny”

“I know”

“You had chicken liver paté on toast for breakfast”

“I know”

“You said it was the BEST Spaghetti Bolognese you’ve ever eaten”

“That was before I knew about the chicken livers…I’ll have the garlic bread though, that looks great”

Bolognese and Garlic Bread
Bolognese and Garlic Bread

This example of man logic  floored me.  On a scale of one to ten where one is cold hard calculated rationality and ten is utter gibberish, surely this rates a 9.5?

So, from now on….any, and all, feats of kitchen wizardry are going to be hidden behind a veil, cloaked in a cone of silence and locked in a vault. From now on, nothing coming from my kitchen is being divulged to anyone.  Ever.

Except for you dear readers…just don’t tell anyone!

hear no evil

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