The Carbonara

Carbonara

Sometimes I read enough trending food articles and I will instantly go out and buy a series of ingredients to see if what they’re talking about it so damn true. Recently I’ve been reading a lot about A Proper Carbonara, that doesn’t GOD FORBID have a drop of cream in it. Which…is never anything I gave much thought about to be honest, who hasn’t added a bit of double cream or crème fraîche to some pasta. Isn’t that normal? Don’t people do that? Am I wrong that I think that it’s yummy? Considering I’m about to marry someone of Italian decent…this is something I should know right? Also, do you know how much pressure there is to present Italian meal made in a bit of an impromptu mad kitchen moment to an Italian and be like: “This is how it should bloody taste like!” Pressure. 

So I had one of these impromptu “I Have To Cook Now” days and this is the result of me combining a couple of things from a few recipes I was nerding out on. Essentially what we are talking about here is that you only really need 4 basic but high quality ingredients: pasta, guanciale (or pancetta), cheese, and egg yolk. The actual creaminess comes from the delicious mixture of the egg yolks, cheese and cured meat fat. If you can’t get hold of the delicious cured cheek jowls of pork required, or even pancetta, I have actually substituted this for maple smoked streaky bacon in a pinch before and it was still delicious (shhh…don’t tell).

Serves 2.

The Carbonara:
160 g linguine 
4 egg yolks (I used Burford Brown's)
1 tsp olive oil
100 g guanciale, thinly cut
40 g pecorino, grated
40 g Parmigiano Reggiano, grated
freshly cracked black pepper

In a heavy bottomed pan. Place the guanciale in with a little olive oil over low heat. Allow this to render out nice and slowly until nice and crispy. Turn the stove off when done, the heavy bottomed pan should keep it all warm for you.

In a medium-sized mixing bowl, place the egg yolks, grated cheeses, and black pepper.

Cook your pasta until al dente in salted boiling water.

Add your cooked pasta into the mixing-bowl with the egg yolks and mix straight away. The residual heat from the pasta will melt the cheese and cook the egg yolks, forming your sauce. Magic!

Now add your crispy guanciale and some of the rendered fat and keep stirring.

You can adjust the consistency of the sauce with some of the pasta water, add more of the bacon fat should you need it. Adjust your seasoning.

Serve and eat immediately with more grated cheese. I served this with a courgette salad and followed it with a Rather Boozy Tiramisu.

Carbonara prep

Shrimp & Grits: Prawns & Polenta

shrimp and grits

I went to an Asian supermarket Friday evening and bought a rather large box of prawns. Those nice big juicy prawns, not those icky dinky ones. A pad Thai was made (which was delicious but I’m going to absolutely nail it recipe wise so that’ll be a later post)…and then a sort of prawn linguine was made for dinner and yet I still had left over prawns for another meal and I was seemingly at a loss as to what to cook. It was only after browsing a kitchen cupboard and seeing a bag of polenta that inspiration came.

It’s extraordinary how much American food knowledge I actually have in my head and how little I’ve actually been there. There must be some sort of universal love of soul food or at least comforting warming gooey textures that everyone must like. Or at least me. I bloody love soul food.

So for those uninitiated, ‘Shrimp & Grits’ translates to: lovely stir fired prawns (or sautéd if you’re being posh), sat a top a gorgeously unctuous soft polenta.

Serves 2.

Shrimp & Grits:
1/2 cup polenta
About a cup of grated parmesan
1 tbsp butter
1 cup stock
1 cup boiled water (or more as needed)
12 Shrimp - shelled & deveined
1 tbsp Rapeseed oil (or olive oil)
2 rashers of bacon - diced
2 spring onions - finely diced
1 garlic clove - crushed
6 fingers of Okra - roughly chopped
4 Brown chestnut mushrooms - quartered
Dash of tabasco
Splash of Worcester sauce
Salt and pepper to taste
2 wedges lemon

Get some water boiled first, you’ll need this to make sure the polenta is the right soft texture. Heat the stock in a saucepan, once boiling you’ll want to whisk continuously whist slowly adding the polenta into the sauce pan. This will take approximately 20 minutes to cook. Keep checking and whisking the polenta occasionally. Also keep an eye on the liquid content, you may want to gradually add splashes of boiled water to maintain the correct texture. Aim for a thick porridge constancy, where you can just see the bottom of the pan as you whisk.

Now tend to the topping. In a frying pan at medium heat your oil, and when this is hot add the garlic then the bacon. Once the bacon is nearly done add the okra, mushrooms. Stir fry these for about a minute then add the prawns. Keep stir frying and tossing until the prawns start to turn pink. Now add the spring onions and the tobacco and Worcester sauces.  Season to taste. Get the pan off the heat and finish the polenta.

Your polenta should be cooked and just the right texture now, add the grated cheese. Season should you need to and finally stir in the butter.

In a shallow bowl, spoon in the polenta and make a bit of a well. Now spoon over the prawn mixture and serve with a wedge of lime.

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