Proper carbonara. A cheap midweek dish that is simple, sumptuous, quick (>10 minutes) and bursting with flavour.
You won’t find cream in a real carbonara. Few things make me more sad than jars of stuff that purports to be carbonara “sauce”. A poor man’s food, true carbonara should consist of four main ingredients: spaghetti, egg, guanciale*, and Pecorino cheese**.
These ingredients alone are enough to create a silky, delicious meal without coating it in cream. The trick to is to drain the spaghetti (retaining a teaspoon or so of the salted cooking water), and to add the egg and the cheese to it in its hot pan, having taken it off the heat (you don’t want the egg to scramble), stir vigorously and - voilà! - once the cooked guanciale and the a bit of the oil it has been cooked in is added, you have a carbonara!
I personally like to add cracked pepper and cook the guanciale with a clove of garlic. On this occasion I used about 25g (80p) of pancetta I bought in a larger chunk (a small chunk of pancetta can transform so many sauces!).
*(though pancetta or bacon can serve as a substitute)
**(Parmeggiano Reggiano or Grana di Padano works well, too).
Lamb and coriander meatballs cooked in a spicy red onion, tomato and chickpea sauce served with garlic flatbread, lemon and sultana couscous and cooling raita. All sprinkled with almonds for good measure.
Risotto al boscaiolo
Porcini, portobello mushroom, and truffle risotto with cavolo nero and brie de meaux.
It doesn’t get better than this. Happy Monday.
Sunday breakfast: thickly sliced portobello mushrooms fried with cheese made from raw buffalo milk and Black Russian heritage tomatoes. Served on homemade pecorino and rosemary bread and a garnish of parsley.
Ġbejniet tal-bzar, peppered and pickled Maltese cheese made from sheep’s milk. They remind me of my Nannu; there is something distinctly Maltese about the strong pepper flavours. They are delicious with ftira or Ħobż biż-żejt.
NB: unfortunately I made neither the cheese nor the crackers above - so this is different from my other posts - but I think these cheeses are so pretty and Maltese is seldom spoken about so it was a nice opportunity to do so.
Jamaican carrot soup with cornmeal dumplings. Soup base with scotch bonnet, ginger, scallions, cumin, allspice, a dash of soy sauce and some grated nutmeg. Finished with crème fraîche, fresh parsley, a dash of lime and smashed black pepper.
As the cold weather starts to creep in, I’m finding myself in need of a different kind of heat. The kind of heat scotch bonnet gives to food is that of a wide smile and a strong embrace, both of which would be quite welcome right now.
I had an abundance of bunched carrots I’d bought at the market just over a week ago and thought this would be a nice way of using them. I included the tops as it seems wasteful to throw them away.
The carrot plant is related to the parsley plant and the tops of carrots taste rather like a carrot-y form of the herb. The resulting colour is very inviting, though I initially worried it would turn brown!
The dumplings were made with a 2:1 ratio of flour to cornmeal (fine polenta), a little salt and some cinnamon. They are sometimes made with a bit of vanilla, but I didn’t have any.
Mutter gobi paneer: One of my favourite vegetarian dishes originating from the North Indian region of Punjab, this dish has been a favourite of mine since I was very young. I made this with Romanesco instead of the usual ‘gobi’ or cauliflower, and added the remains of some beautiful pink chard that was starting to look a bit sad, too.
Few dishes can show you just how beautiful vegetables are: just look at all the colours and the complexity of shape!
I have a soft spot for paneer cheese, it’s a sheep milk-based cheese and absorbs the flavour of the gravy it’s cooked in with great ease. In this case, the gravy is made by heating some cumin seeds in ghee, and then adding a base mix masala of tomatoes, garlic, ginger, chilli and coriander, to which a dry garam masala (warming spice mix) of turmeric, cinnamon, cloves, cardamom, mustard seeds, and ground coriander seeds is added once the oil has separated and risen to the top of the wet masala. The mutter - our peas - are then added to the mix with the cauliflower (Romanesco in this case), which is a highly valued vegetable in India as it does not grow well there. The cauliflower is followed by 2 cups of water, and any other veg you may want. This is then allowed to simmer down a bit before adding the paneer, which you do not want to over cook as it will go hard.
Some people like to add cream once the desired thickness has been achieved and the heat has been switched off but that’s down to your tastes.
Leftovers: Indulgent starter
Well, I foolishly thought that one small pumpkin might make one cheap, wholesome meal to be eaten over a couple of days. It has now turned into the unwanted gift that just keeps giving and I’m mildly fed up of seeing it.
With the last of the delightful orange mass I have made some crispy, spicy organic beef-filled fried dumplings.
I cracked an egg into the mashed remains of the pumpkin, made them into patties, filled them with the seasoned meat, which had been cooked with onions, harissa, parsley and paprika and a dash of tomato purée, rolled them into balls which were in turn rolled in a flour and crumb mix and fried in a hot pan.
Served with rose harissa mayonnaise.