Recipe: proper spaghetti carbonara

 

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Recipes are not protected by copyright law, probably as they are evolving all the time. And as much as I like to keep to tradition when it comes to certain dishes I love to experiment with others.

When it comes to pasta there is no reason to always stick to the traditional recipes, but I think it’s good to try to master them first.

Growing up in Sweden in the 1980s and 1990s, we had a lot of traditional Scandinavian dishes, usually including meat and potatoes. Italian dishes then, when the world seemed a bigger place, were often (very) bastardised versions of the real thing, and therefore not of great inspiration to me. Because I only had the school dinner version of lasagne to sample I thought for a long time I didn’t like the dish. But it turned out it was just that terrible (yes, terrible) version I didn’t like. It was the same with ravioli (and other non-Italian dishes); my reference points were bad. Whereas everything my mother (or grandmothers) cooked was always delicious, but more Scandinavian in heritage.

Now my relationship with Italian food is quite different. I have been to Italy a few times and tried the real thing, and also cooked proper Italian dishes at home. And the emulsion of water and Parmesan keeps fascinating me. First of all, it’s DELICIOUS, but also, once you get the hang of it, it’s not difficult at all as this recipe proves. And once and for all, you do not need cream to make a creamy carbonara, just a little patience and using the method below. But I must admit I added one tablespoon of it during my first attempt, although it’s not needed. As always Gennaro Contaldo’s recipes are spot on. Grazie.

Spaghetti Carbonara, serves 2

Adapted from Gennaro Contaldo’s for Jamie Oliver recipe.

3 large free-range egg yolks

40g Parmesan cheese, plus extra to serve

150g good quality pancetta, diced

200g dried good quality spaghetti

1 clove of garlic

extra virgin olive oil

black pepper

Put the egg yolks into a bowl, finely grate in the Parmesan, season with pepper, then mix well with a fork and put to one side. Cook the spaghetti in a large pan of boiling salted water until al dente.

Fry the pancetta in a little oil over medium-high heat. Peel the garlic and crush it and add it to the pan for flavour – remove if it browns or when finished cooking. Reserve some cooking water and drain the pasta and add it to the pancetta pan. Toss well over the heat so it really soaks up all that lovely flavour, then remove the pan from the heat. Transfer the pasta back to the spaghetti pan, season and add a splash of the cooking water, then pour in the egg mixture (the pan will help to cook the egg gently, rather than scrambling it). Toss well, adding more cooking water until it’s lovely and glossy. Serve with a grating of Parmesan and extra pepper. 

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Book Club, Street Party and a relaxing weekend

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The summer weather seems to have disappeared, but that’s completely normal for midsummer, which is later this week.

Sadly I won’t be celebrating it, but I’m meeting up with friends so it will still be a nice day. There are of course midsummer celebrations in London, but celebrating with lots of people in Hyde Park doesn’t appeal to me.

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Monday last week was a quiet one (that’s how I like my Monday’s – the shock of getting up early and going to the office is enough for me) and I made a yummy pasta with cream, sherry and last year’s girolles (picked by my auntie) from the freezer. So yummy and a perfect start to the week!

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Tuesday we met up with the book club at Marie-Lou’s and she has prepared a feast as usual. It was lovely to meet up and discuss the book and catch up!

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On Wednesday I went to the Motcomb Street Party which was lots of fun with entertainment, charity auction, food stalls and flowing prosecco. All the food stalls looked good but I decided on a brioche bun with roast beef and creamed horseradish. Really yummy!

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The rest of the work week was quieter; on Friday I watched the Portugal-Spain game at home and just chilled out. Saturday I met up with Laura in Surbiton for a walk along the river, lovely lunch and a cheeky ice cream. So nice to catch up!

The remainder of the weekend was unplanned which was just lovely. I can’t remember the last time I could catch up on sleep like this, binge on TV series and just chill. Such a treat!

 

 

Recipe: fabulous lemon spaghetti

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Right now we have normal Spring weather in London (as one would expect in May), but when I made this lemony pasta for the book club girls we had summer temperatures in April (!). If it hadn’t been so windy, I would have liked to eat outside but indoors had to do.

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Because of the nice weather I wanted to make something summery, but more filling than a salad, so when my colleague suggested this River Café recipe I had a hunch it would be perfect.

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And it was!

Looking at the ingredients list it might seem like a heavy dish but the acidity from the lemon makes it appear as light as air (well almost). It’s so fresh and really tastes of summer. So much so that it’s easy to dream of Mediterranean holidays…

But back to London and reality. The pasta went down a treat (everybody had seconds) and Mary-Louise even asked for the recipe. She has since reported back that she made it twice in one weekend and that it works just as well with the pasta shape bucatini. Thank you M-L!

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Lemon spaghetti with Parmesan and basil, serves 6

Adapted from River Café’s recipe.

250 g spaghetti

juice of 3-4 lemons, preferably Amalfi lemons

150 ml olive oil

150 g Parmesan, freshly grated

2 handfuls of fresh basil, leaves picked and finely chopped

finely grated lemon zest 

Cook the spaghetti in a generous amount of boiling salted water, then drain thoroughly and return to the saucepan.

Meanwhile, whisk the lemon juice with the olive oil, then stir in the Parmesan; it will melt into the mixture, making it thick and creamy. Season with sea salt and black pepper and add more lemon juice to taste.

Add the sauce to the spaghetti and shake the pan so that each strand of pasta is coated with the cheese. Finally, stir in the chopped basil and some grated lemon zest.

 

Spring and a rather decadent Saturday night

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As soon as the snow melted spring arrived. Hallelujah! I’ve swapped my ankle boots for ballet flats and it feels so much lighter.

The snow disappearing certainly put me in a good mood for the week and I’ve had a lovely one. I had some time to do chores at home (love to get organised!) but also made it to the cinema to see Red Sparrow (it was alright but not as good as I had hoped) and had a girlie night in with Ro and Gaby watching rubbish TV, eating a lovely pasta dish that Gaby cooked and some pampering in the shape of gold (!) face masks.

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The weekend was quite packed as well with after work drinks at Gordon’s Wine Bar on Friday, outside but under heaters. Saturday I got some more things done at home and I finally feel back on track, before going out for a lovely dinner in the evening.

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I finally made it to a restaurant I’ve been meaning to try for a while (review to come) and after a lovely dinner there we carried on with champagne at The Charlotte Street Hotel and Kettner’s Townhouse in Soho. It was such a treat! I just love discovering new places in this amazing city!

London: New York Italian at Hai Cenato?

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Jason Atherton’s empire continues to grow and the latest restaurant to open was this New York-y Italian restaurant in the new Nova development by Victoria. It’s in goof company with Rail House Café, Aster, Franco Manca etc. nearby.

The first time I came was early one Sunday evening with my friends Helen and Pete and their son Eddie. We’d had a lovely Sunday afternoon exploring the Natural History Museum, had eclairs and coffee at wonderful Maitre Choux and a walk to Buckingham Palacea and were happy to sit down and tuck into some food just as the skies opened.

Hai Cenato? (means ‘Have you had dinner?’ in Italian) certainly feels New York-y with it’s high ceilings, long bar counter, sketched portraits and cosy feel. It’s nice but relaxes and the menu echoes that with pasta dishes, rosso and bianca pizzas and meats from the grill.  and modern yet cosy interior.

They also have a kids menu and children eat free on Sundays, which is a nice touch.

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Eddie chose a pasta with tomato sauce and plenty of grated parmesan from the kids menu  and was very pleased with his choice.

Helen and I both chose the corzetti pasta with bolognese sauce sage, browned butter and grated Berkswell cheese. It was absolutely delicious and felt very indulgent. The sauce was really rich and could have done with a bit more pasta because of the richness but it was a nice size portion. We also shared a side of amazing crushed potatoes that soaked up the last of my bolognese.

Pete chose a lovely vibrant green risotto with oeas, broad beans and crab that was just perfectly executed.

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We were certainly full after our main courses but still fancied pudding and after a quick browse on the (excellent) dessert menu I chose the brioche with salted caramel ice cream. I just love salted caramel and expected a dainty dessert, perfect to finish off my meal but instead I got a large (burger size) brioche bun and THREE scoops of salted caramel ice cream (insert surprised emoji here). The flavour combination was spot on of course but the portion size ridiculous, especially after such starchy food as pasta or pizza.

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Helen’s chocolate and coffee fondant with creme fraiche, puffed rice and caramel was more the size we had expected and absolutely delicious!

We had a lovely dinner here, but also experienced some (I hope they are) teething problems like slow service and I got poured a flat glass of prosecco which just shouldn’t have left the bar and it took ages to get a new one. It’s not the end of the world of course, but I expect an overall smooth and lovely experience when I go to a restaurant, especially when it’s a quiet evening.

I went back last week with my friend Nick for pizza and a glass of wine and the service was a lot better (i.e. smooth) and the place buzzing with people. Oh, and the pizza? DIVINE!

Hai Cenato?, 2 Sir Simon Milton Square, London SW1E 5DJ

London: crudo and pasta at Veneta

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SaltYard Group, the company behind favourites like Ember Yard and Opera Tavern recently opened a restaurant in the newly redeveloped area of St James’s, just next to Swedish Aquavit actually. Called Veneta it has a distinct Italian, and Ventian, cuisine, compared to the other restaurants with a more Spanish menu.

I assume it’s because of my frequent visits to Opera Tavern (I wonder how many times I’ve eaten their mini pork and foie gras burger) that I was on the mailing list for Veneta’s soft launch.Either way, I was quick to book a table and went there one night after work with my friend Ro.

As it was a soft launch they offered 50 % off food in exchange for trying things out on us, and requesting feedback.

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Just like the other restaurants in the group, Veneta’s menu consists of small dishes perfect for sharing. I was super excited to see a whole section of the menu devoted to crudo, i.e. raw fish and seafood, which I love and we quickly ordered the raw red prawns with rosemary (top photo). They were plump and sweet and very fragrant from the rosemary. Lovely! Next time I want to try the raw red prawns with lardo.

Next we had the tortelloni, filled with red prawns and served in a seafood broth. It was nice but didn’t blow us away.

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The goat kid ragu with pappardelle however, did. It was just amazing and I predict it will become one of their signature dishes (if it isn’t already!).

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The salt baked carrots and beets with sheep ricotta, date purée and oregano was lovely and the plate was as pretty as a picture. It’s fun to see the vegetable dishes getting as much care and attention as the meat and fish dishes.

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The lamb with chard, lamb fat crisps and caprini fresco cheese was another amazing dish I’ll come back for.

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For pudding both Ro and I were set on having one of the amazing sounding sundaes but they were all sold out (sob) so we had a rethink and settled on fritelle doughnuts for Ro and tiramisu for me.

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The doughnuts were rather compact and chewy but that could have been intentional, as neither of us have had Italian doughnuts before. The taste was lovely though and chocolate sauce, whipped cream and jam works every time. The tiramisu was really nice but lacked a little in presentation I thought.

I could definitely see some teething problems here, like the tables being too close together (it felt like we had dinner with, not next to, our neighbours) and the waiting staff didn’t seem to have worked out a routine yet, but that’s also the whole point of this trial run soft launch.

Food wise I think the savoury dishes were very good and thought out, whereas the puddings could have done with a little more work, however I’m still intrigued by those sundaes and hope they haven’t sold out on my next visit.

I have already planned my meal. Definitely lots of crudo, the kid goat ragu and the lamb. And that ice cream.

Veneta, 3 Norris St, St. James’s Market, London SW1Y 4RJ

Recipe: Cacio e pepe

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Cacio e pepe, this heavenly dish consisting only of pasta, pecorino and black pepper (and a little cooking water from the pasta) has always seemed so daunting to make. I have enjoyed it cooked to perfection in Rome (it’s a Roman dish) but I never thought I could recreate it at home. But then I read Felicity Cloake’s article about the perfect cacio e pepe and decided to have a go as she made it seem so easy. And it turns out, with her guidance, it actually was!

The receipt is perfect. I didn’t change a thing and it worked perfectly the first time. If you’re a cacio e pepe novice like I was I highly recommend reading the article beforehand just to understand the elements of the dish better. And I can’t stress enough how important the quality of the ingredients are; buy some good dried pasta (I love de Cecco) and some really nice pecorino ( I got mine from Natoora) and your finished dish will be just as nice as the one you had in Rome on your holiday.

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Cacio e pepe, serves 2

Adapted from Felicity Cloake’s recipe.

2 tsp black peppercorns

200 g spaghetti 

80 g pecorino romano, at room temperature, finely grated 

Toast the peppercorns in a very hot, dry pan then roughly crush with a pestle and mortar.

Bring a wide shallow pan of well-salted water to the boil, then add the pasta; it should be covered but not by much. Stir occasionally during cooking and, five minutes into the cooking time, scoop out 250 ml water into a wide bowl to allow it to cool slightly.

Drain the pasta and leave it to cool for a minute. Meanwhile, put the cheese and most of the pepper in a large, heavy bowl or pan and beat in some of the pasta water very gradually to make first a paste, and then a sauce the consistency of bechamel. Add the pasta and toss furiously while adding enough of the water to make a sauce that coats each strand of spaghetti.

Divide between warm bowls, sprinkle over a little more pepper, and serve immediately.