A creamy, comforting, cuddle in a bowl.

Has anything good ever come along and then remained unchanged?  I very much doubt it.  All things change, it’s the nature of our universe.  Besides, people always want to have things their way.  Folk have their tastes and preferences.  Pizza is perhaps the worlds’ most popular take away food and comes in so many different forms.  It has changed a great deal since it was first created.  In fact, many of those “pizzas” offend Italians who often have very clear perceptions of what constitutes a genuine pizza.  Gino D’Acampo finds it all a bit perplexing in Buonissimo!  He encourages readers to make a Margherita and add some ingredients to make it more exciting “as long as it’s not pineapple – what is that all about?”

I’ve touched upon this subject before when sharing a recipe for paella.  One has to be very careful about recipe titles because when it comes to food with heritage, it is very easy to incur the wrath of proud and passionate people.  This is no bad thing.  It does mean that food bloggers need to write sensitively about regional food and be clear about what something is, or in many cases, isn’t.

Pasta Carbonara.  It’s a dish that I actively avoid at restaurants.  I’ve eaten gloopy, eggy, garlicky, salty heaps of the stuff and rarely felt like doing anything afterwards except perhaps having my arteries cleaned.  In its simplest form, Carbonara should be silky and smooth and made with little more than egg yolks and a few simple ingredients.  My own version of this dish includes double cream, which for many, will instantly relegate the recipe to the rubbish restaurant examples mentioned earlier.  However, there are no gimmicks in this dish, only good ingredients and simple cooking methods.  My version is by no means traditional or definitive, but neither is it an attempt to insult or distort the original.  I’m not too worried though, since Pasta Carbonara is a 20th Century recipe and less likely to fire up any genuine anger from would-be pasta experts.  In any case, what passes for Carbonara  in my house, is a creamy, comforting, cuddle of pasta and dairy decadence.  It never fails to satisfy.

Creamy, comforting Carbonara

200g dried pasta (I used spaghetti)

200g bacon lardons

75ml double cream

2 eggs

50g parmesan cheese (grated)

2 tblspoons fresh Greek oregano (finely chopped)

50g butter

sea salt

pepper

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I boiled up the pasta as per the packet instructions and then heated a large amount of butter in a separate pan to fry the bacon in.  When the butter had melted, I added the bacon lardons and the oregano.  I fried them until just brown and poured in the cream.  I then took the pan off the heat and stirred everything.  I then ground quite a lot of pepper into the sauce and tipped all of the cheese in before giving it another good stir.

In went the cooked and drained pasta, but I didn’t add any of the pasta water as chefs often make a point of recommending these days.  I tossed the pasta in the sauce before adding the eggs and stirring continuously until everything was silky and ready to devour.  The real beauty of a good Carbonara is the glossy coat that the eggs give to it.  If you make the mistake of adding the eggs while the sauce is cooking, or indeed while the sauce and pasta are still on the heat, you’ll end up scrambling the eggs and getting the same texture as egg fried rice.  It’s really important that the pan is off the heat and also that your eggs are pretty fresh.

All that’s left is to enjoy it with a grating of some more cheese and a good glass of white wine.  Now that’s what I call comfort food!

Strangers in the night exchanging pasties.

Goodness knows why I chose to start making them so late, but it was after midnight before I’d finished photographing my piping hot pasties!  Now, I can guess what you’re thinking.  “You said that Saturday was pie day”.  Yes I did.  Truth be told, I had my heart set on a big steak and ale pie with a deep, dark gravy and tender pieces of fatty beef within.  No sooner had I made my decision and begun to plan my recipe, then I was distracted by a recipe that looked like lots of fun.  So I write to you now with mixed feelings because first of all, I’ve made some pasties which are a type of pie, but not what I had planned, and secondly, the recipe is not my own.  The last point is particularly hard for me to admit because I so wanted to share with you a pie recipe of my own design.  However, I won’t dwell on it because the recipe turned out to be magnificent and has given me lots of ideas for future pastry-based concoctions!

Since my overriding intention is to share good food and ideas that really work, it would be a shame to omit a good recipe just because it didn’t originate in my butter-filled mind.  It would also be downright dishonest to claim this joyous medley of ingredients as my own.  I thoroughly enjoyed testing this recipe out and was delighted with the results.  My only issue was the timing of the cooking.  I’d started very late and this meant that there was no daylight left when it came to photographing the end product.  Food doesn’t look its best when photographed at night and the yellow tinge, coupled with shadows, gives things an unappealling look.  I decided to go ahead regardless.  My photography is anything but professional, but my insistence on showing what actually comes out of the oven pushed me to do my best.  The fact that the spotlights in the kitchen have stopped working means that for the next couple of recipes, I’ll be trying to take pictures while the sun is still out.  Meanwhile, let me assure you that this recipe is well worth trying and that cooking the pasties late at night was oddly exciting.  I think I’d enjoy being a nocturnal pie man.

Cheesy bacon and leek pasties

1 pack puff pastry

250g smoked bacon lardons

2 leeks (sliced)

150g Cheddar cheese (grated)

1 Golden Delicious apple (peeled and finely cubed)

1 potato (peeled and finely cubed)

75ml double cream

1 egg (beaten)

1 tspoon Dijon mustard

vegetable oil

knob of butter

pepper

Fry the bacon lardons in a little vegetable oil until brown and crispy and then add the leeks with the butter.  Cook them until soft and then stir in the double cream and the mustard.  Grind plenty of black pepper in at this point.  Remove from the heat and stir in the grated cheese.  Keep stirring until the cheese has completely melted.  Now it’s time to fold in the apple and potato.  They should be uncooked when added.

Flour your work surface and rolling-pin and roll out the pastry until it is about half a centimetre thick.   Place a small plate on top and cut round it.  Take a large spoonful of the cheesy mixture and place it on one half of the pastry circle.  With some water, wet the edges of the pastry and bring the empty half to meet this edge.  Press down firmly and use a fork to help seal all the way around.  You’ll have to crimp the edges now by folding over the pastry a little at a time from the edge inwards.  This will create a good seal and prevent all of the filling oozing out during cooking.

Brush the whole pasty with egg wash and bake in the oven at 170 degrees Celsius, on the middle shelf, for forty-five minutes.  I would let these beauties cool for a few minutes before serving.  They also taste great cold.  I reckon I’ll be making some mini versions for a picnic soon!

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