Vegetarian carbonara

It feels like yesterday, but evidently it was just over two years ago that I wrote a post on carbonara.

Much more recently we went to Maccaroni Trattoria in Melbourne and tried their vegetarian version of carbonara, which replaced the bacon with zucchini. Alice and I enjoyed it so much that we both thought in terms of cooking it at home. I certainly haven’t exactly done that, if for no other reason than the restaurant version had cream, whilst mine stuck to the traditional carbonara only egg attitude.

Ingredients for two

spaghetti
olive oil
3 eggs
parmesan, grated
pepper, freshly ground
2 medium zucchinis grated
shallot, chopped finely
garlic, chopped finely

Method

While the spaghetti is cooking:

Mix one egg per person and an extra yolk per two people.  Add parmesan, perhaps a cup, leaving some for the table. Add lots of freshly ground pepper.

In a large pan, I use a wok, heat olive oil and gently fry the shallot until soft, add the garlic, mix, add the zucchini and gently fry until softened.

Keep a cup of the cooking water before you drain the spaghetti.

Then, as for the normal version, put the pan back on the heat, add the spaghetti. Mix and then add the egg/cheese mixture, turn quickly if not frantically, take it off the heat, you don’t want scrambled eggs. Add some of the cooking water you saved, still stirring in a completely panicked way. It all seems to come together into a nicely silken coating needing nothing more than loads and loads of extra pepper as you eat. This is not to say that the panic was unnecessary, it is probably an essential ingredient. This dish doesn’t want you to think you are in control.

The lack of meat for taste made me add the shallot and garlic. I might also have added parsley. I should have added only some of the cooking water, but I tossed in a whole cup and this was okay – a bit runnier than it should be, but that was a good excuse to overdo the cheese served at the table.

I would happily have this any time, and surely it would be a happy marriage to combine the two versions, using both pancetta and zucchini. I will report on that some time.

Roden’s spinach and chickpea soup revisited

When I went to make this much loved recipe, I discovered that I had a couple of issues. Firstly, the only vinegar I had was so woosy that one could scarcely tell it was vinegar at all. It was a Coriole sweet aged red wine vinegar, to be precise. Secondly, I had no stock, either chicken or vegetable, so water had to do.

I thought I had free rein at this point to vary it as I pleased, and instead of cumin and paprika, I added ras el hahout.

Worked a treat!

A pesto conversion

For years I’ve been using Stephanie Alexander’s pesto recipe. As it’s the other side of the world, I’m relying on the internet to give me an accurate rendition, but it’s something like this:

  • a big bunch of basil (she says a firmly packed cup)
  • 2 cloves garlic crushed
  • 1/4 cup pine nuts toasted
  • 60g parmesan grated
  • 1/2 cup of olive oil

I don’t add salt and pepper at this stage.

You puree these and mix in some hot water from the cooking pot to thin the consistency.

That’s always done me, I like the balance. But the other day at Bottega Rotolo I got talking to Rosalie Rotolo-Hassan who mentioned that in her cooking classes she’s always modified it by adding a little asparagus and making half the nuts unsalted pistachios, also toasted.

I’ve been dying to try this variant, picked up some of the last asparagus around today and some really ordinary hydroponic basil as I couldn’t find any that had been properly raised. Now we have:

  • a big bunch of basil
  • no garlic because I forgot
  • 1/4 cup of pine nuts and raw unsalted pistachios, toasted separately as they need different amounts of time
  • 60g of horribly expensive parmesan because we couldn’t figure out the price until we got home and looked at our receipt and went arrgghhhhhhhhhh
  • 4 asparagus pieces steamed until softish
  • olive oil, but slowly added and not nearly as much as 1/2 a cup

I left out the cheese to be added at the table. I pureed the rest, with maybe a couple of tablespoons of oil to begin with and then added a bit more later. I also added hot cooking water to reach the consistency I wanted.

The asparagus made it creamier and added to the sense that less oil was required compared with usual. Having said that, it’s all to taste of course. I did not in the least miss the garlic – loved the gentle taste of this.

Pepper and parmesan to taste at the table.

Serves two to three – we found that because it didn’t give the usual pesto punch that we added more of it than we usually would.

 

Avocado on a mortgage

You can do this: go out, avo, juice, coffee $25 x 2 or….

  • Ciabatta from Lucia’s at the Market – perfect ciabatta $6.90 does practically an infinite amount of toast, so I’m saying…$1
  • Avocado, one Hass, lovely taste, right size $2
  • Harissa $1
  • Feta $1
  • Lemon 50c
  • Eggs x 4: $2
  • OJ freshly squeezed $2
  • Coffee/tea $1

Cost in the vicinity of $12, rounding up for butter, power, milk…

I don’t believe we need a recipe for this one. For posterity I note that we used biona organic harissa from the UK and it is really nice, none of the harsh vinegar aspect one generally gets from jarred harissa. Due to the situation which developed last time I made it myself, when Manny kindly offered to deseed 70 bird’s eye chillies, we now buy it premade.

It’s so good we’ve been having it for dinner too. Sliced tomato on top is an excellent addition if the mortgage repayments permit.

White beans and chorizo

This ensued after buying San José smoked fresh chorizo at the Central Market last week.

Ingredients

  • two onions, peeled and diced
  • smoked fresh chorizo skinned and chopped
  • ghee for frying
  • white beans – I used two tins of cannellini
  • garlic finely chopped
  • tomato paste
  • half a bunch of spinach, chopped fairly finely
  • a cheddar that melts nicely, grated

Method

Fry the onions until softening, add the garlic and stir a few times without burning,  add the chorizo and fry until it’s getting brown and the onions are fairly soft. Add drained and rinsed beans or dry beans you have cooked yourself. Add water and tomato paste at some point, bring to the boil and then put on a very low simmer for a couple of hours.

Sit overnight. Next day when serving add spinach while the spaghetti is boiling. After stirring the cooked pasta through the sauce, mix in cheese. This is a soupy stew you could serve with ciabatta, but we had it as a spaghetti sauce with parmesan on top.

A couple of bunches of parsley instead of spinach would be good. I had initially meant to cook it with celery, but forgot to buy any, but I could imagine trying that too.

Spaghetti with Italian pork sausage

I don’t really understand what’s hard about pork sausages. And yet, there it is. In Switzerland you can only get horrible Swiss pork sausages even though one might expect a better return for Italian being one of the national languages.

Adelaide Central Market: Marino make traditional Italian pork sausages. They are so good that the rest of it can be very simple.

Ingredients

  • 500-750g Italian pork sausage with fennel (or add a little ground fennel).
  • finely chopped garlic
  • a large onion diced
  • 2 tins tomatoes crushed
  • water
  • butter/olive oil

Method

Fry the onion and garlic gently in the butter/oil until softened. Turn up the heat, add the sausage which you have first skinned (slice it longwise and the skin will easily come off) and stir vigorously, breaking up lumps, until it has lost is raw colour. Add the tomatoes and water, bring to the boil. Then turn down to a slow simmer and cook for a couple of hours.

I guess this must be better the day after – it’s the sort of dish that is. We were not able to wait that long, however, and instead had a first helping of it with fresh spaghetti we bought at the Goodwood producers’ market this morning. From the Grain has a gloriously colourful display of pasta, which, much as my preference is for plain, I found irresistible. We tried a vivid green garlic and parsley spaghetti. It combined fabulously with the sauce, parmesan on top – perfecto.

Something’s wrong with the banks

With his $12 million salary this year, Commonwealth Bank chief executive Ian Narev has become the latest poster boy for corporate excess, making 106 times that of an average Commonwealth Bank worker.

Nearly $10 million of his pay was in bonuses, while 25 per cent of the long term portion was awarded for customer satisfaction. from the ABC

Today I queued at the Commonwealth Bank opposite the Central Market. This sort of bank used to have a large line of tellers, but now it is down to one. There was an employee standing near the door ‘welcoming’ people who stepped in. I said to the lady in front of me that it would be better if that man was working instead of standing there.

She was elderly and bitter. She worked hard and paid her taxes for 50 years. Now she is treated like shit. She is treated like shit by society at large who thinks it can’t afford to pay her pension. She’s treated like shit by the bank. The same bank who employs the CEO who has apparently made $4M this year just for his customers being satisfied. How dare society, how dare the bank.

May I assure you, Mr Narev and the Commonwealth bank, that your customers are not satisfied. We do not want to wait an eternity for a teller. Once I had got to see the one teller in a bank which seemed to have lots of employees doing other things, we had this conversation.

Me: I’d like to get withdraw some money.

Teller: Hey, you could link your account up to a card and then use the machines.

Me: I don’t want to use machines, I want to stand in a queue and talk to a human being when I get to the top.

Teller: But you wouldn’t have to wait if you took my suggestion.

Me: If you took my suggestion and employed more tellers, I wouldn’t have to wait.

Teller: Do you have a financial adviser? I can organise an initially free appointment with a financial adviser for you.

Me: I could have said already, not unreasonably, I just want my fucking money. Is that too much to ask. Instead I said no thank you, I don’t want financial advise.

Teller: We’ve got some great Apps you can download to your phone.

Me: thinking WTF, this is how Mr Narev gets his customer satisfaction bonus? By getting this teller to harrass me instead of giving me my money?, said: I’m a Luddite, actually.

Teller: (thinking WTF’s a Luddite, no doubt) gives up. Offers me what I went in for in the first place.

Mr Narev, you should be ashamed of yourself, taking this money. You should employ more bank tellers. You should not use them to try to force services upon the customers.

Society, what are you thinking of? It’s not even your money, it’s her money, this lady who has paid her fair share of taxes and probably a contribution to make up for whatever Mr Narev avoids.

Our elderly citizens are angry. Something is wrong with our society. Something is wrong with a society so greedy for its bank dividends, it will kowtow to the excesses of men (sic) like Narev, whilst treating those they should be honouring like they are tedious interruptions to their time and their financial planning. Couldn’t we do better?