Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Pasta Fest!

Pasta Fest, as the kids like to call it, is a night of various different kinds of...well, pasta....! I made the kedgeree (recipe to follow soon) last night for Brian and I as the kids really wanted Macaroni and Cheese with garlic pizza. Brian ended up eating the macaroni too so I sat on my own some with my wee bowl of kedgeree, glowering at them all and froze the rest. So tonight, there will be no macaroni...there will be tantrums (and that's just from Brian) but I'm not making it two nights in row. Pasta Fest always involves one pasta dish never before tried and is usually made up of leftover kitchen ingredients. So tonight, the menu is.....
Spaghetti alla Carbonara
Spaghetti Frittata

Rigatoni al Forno

Puffy Bread

We usually have someone turn up on Pasta night, quite by chance (hmm) so I always make plenty. All pasta dishes keep really well and can be heated up either in a pan, in the oven or by microwave. I prefer to place leftover pasta in foil, sprinkle over mozzarella, regardless of the dish and seal, bake in oven at 170 degrees Celsius for 20 minutes. Ensure pasta has come to room temperature and that oven has had a chance to heat before placing anything in the oven !

Spaghetti alla Carbonara (Helen's 2nd version)
Cook the spaghetti as per instructions.
Fry 2 finely chopped slices of bacon or pancetta in olive oil until crispy. Turn the heat down and add a a little extra olive oil and small amount of butter, a finely chopped shallot or half small onion and cook until soft. Stir and ensure the onion does not go brown (adding a few drops of water will help this but don't leave it, keep checking and stirring). Add a finely sliced clove of garlic if you wish but it must not burn so stir constantly. Do not add garlic at the same time as the onion(with any dish) as it cooks far quicker and can easily turn bitter. If adding garlic, cook on allow heat for 1 minute and then add a splash of white wine. Let it come to a quick boil and bubble away for a few minutes then turn it off.

In a separate bowl, beat together 2 eggs (if making for a family of four or five-halve the ingredients if less), double cream to taste- I use approx. 4 tablespoons but feel free to use more or less and two large handfuls of Parmesan.

When spaghetti is cooked, add it to wine/bacon mix and stir. Immediately afterwards, add the cream/egg mix and toss well. Add a good grinding of black pepper and a fine grating of nutmeg. Serve with extra Parmesan.

Spaghetti Frittata (New dish!)
This is taken and slightly adapted from Nigella's Feast cookbook but with added chorizo.
Knob of butter
Few drops of garlic infused oil (shove a bashed garlic clove in some olive oil, cover and leave for an hour if none already made up)
200g cooked spaghetti
4-5 eggs
Sausage shaped chorizo, cut a few thick slices and chop roughly.

Beat the eggs and add some salt, the cooked spaghetti and chorizo. Add to hot pan (with oil) and swirl around until pan covered. Nigella tells you to put it under a grill at this point but I will be sliding it on to a plate, placing the pan on top of the plate and using oven gloves to hold the pan and plate together tightly. Then, I'll be turning it over so that the uncooked side of the frittata is in the pan...did that make sense?? I don't like uncooked egg and coming across a runny bit would not be good for my appetite so I'm cooking this like I would do any other frittata. Oven gloves are a must, the pan and frittata will be hot. Be careful.

Cook in pan for a few minutes, checking underneath to ensure it doesn't burn. Sprinkle with whatever fresh herbs you have (thyme, rosemary, basil, parsley) and a little sea salt and black pepper. Slice like a pizza.

Rigatoni al Forno
There is no need for exacting measurements with this dish. Make enough pasta for the amount of people and how hungry they are and add as much or as little sauce as you like. Remember, the meat sauce freezes really well and tonight I'll be using some already prepared weeks ago. This means you only have the bechamel to do. This dish freezes just as well as lasagna. Place in foil packages, enough for two and sprinkle over some fresh Parmesan before freezing. It can be re-heated from frozen over a low heat but I prefer to take it out of the freezer the night before and then out of the fridge 20 minutes before re-heating, if I have the time. It cuts down on heating time and ensures evenly distributed warmth of the dish!

The meat sauce and bechamel is exactly the same as for the lasagna (see below). Put the oven on to 200 degrees Celsius and then cook the pasta in boiling water as per instructions. Remember to salt the water. Drain and add back to the pan, adding the bechamel sauce, mixing well. Then add the meat sauce, mix again and add to buttered, oven proof dish. Cover with grated Parmesan and bake for 30 minutes or less. The top should be golden and a bit crispy in places.

Puffy Bread
This is utterly delicious which I can't quite understand considering the very basic ingredients. It's probably the deep frying part although because they cook so quickly and then drain on kitchen towel, they do not hold a lot of fat. I use these to accompany curries (I originally got the recipe from Madhur Jaffrey's Indian Recipes, and is also known as poori bread) but it is a great change to the usual garlic bread with pasta. The kids love it.
100g sieved (discard the remnants in the sieve) wholewheat flour
100g plain flour
Half teaspoon salt
120ml milk (or water)
Vegetable oil-2 tbs for cooking, more for frying.

Put flour and salt in a bowl. Dribble the oil over the top and rub in until it resembles coarse breadcrumbs. Slowly add the milk or water until a stiff ball of dough is formed. Empty the ball onto a clean, lightly floured surface and knead for 10 minutes until smooth. Form a ball again and rub a little oil over the ball and either place inside a plastic bag or wrap in clingfilm. A sandwich bag is easier. Set aside for 30 minutes.

Knead the doughball once again and then divide into 12 equal balls. Don't worry if you get more or less! Have something handy to cover 11 of the balls with-I use clingfilm or a clean tea towel which I've ran under water and squeezed all the excess water out of-and with the 12th ball, flatten it and roll out into into a pancake or circle shape. If you have the space, do all the balls and cover with the tea towel or cling film on a single layer....they'll stick otherwise. I have found myself without the space and running back and forth rolling out each ball as I cook it!

Heat around 1 inch of oil in a deep pan, wok or frying pan. It has to be deep as the oil and bread bubbles upwards. Let it get really hot. Have a platter nearby lined with kitchen towel. Lift up the first 'poori' and lay it careful on the surface of the oil. Its ok if the first few sink as they should quickly rise back up again and begin to sizzle. Using the back of a slotted spoon, push the bread back into the oil with tiny, swift strokes. As you push down on one side, the other side puffs up so you keep moving about. Within seconds, the bread is ready and puffed up. Turn it over and cook for about 10 seconds then put onto platter. If the oil is not hot enough or for other unknown reasons, sometimes the bread doesn't puff up all that much; don't worry, it's still delicious and won't happen with them all. Put down more kitchen towel if the platter is full and keep adding the pooris.

Once you've made this bread once, you'll realise it isn't as much hassle as it sounds. Its really pretty straightforward but like everything in life, a wee bit of practice makes perfect. And a lot of practice with this bread is worth it.


Christel said...

thanks for the recipes. J'adore la béchamel. I love bechamel!

Helen McGinn said...

You're very welcome! x

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