Sunday, 23 May 2010
It’s been a busy fortnight. Book pitches. Meetings. Business plans. Scouting out potential restaurant locations. Press events. Oh, and making 6000 canapés with Dhruv for a hungry City crowd.
We jokingly suggested to the producers of Masterchef that the latter of these should be a new challenge on the show. Apologies in advance to future contestants if it makes the cut.
All this is a round about way of excusing myself for neglecting the blog which itself is in the middle of an overhaul.
This weekend has seen some glorious weather. One may go so far (providing you’re not the superstitious sort) as to say that summer is upon us and with it the freshest bounty of the garden and meats grilled over hot coals.
No more braises, stews or hearty belly-fillers. The next few months are about simplicity. Fresh, zingy flavours and ingredients cooked simply and, whenever possible, enjoyed al fresco. A meal soundtracked by nature and the sounds of the open is far tastier than one taken indoors.
Although it rarely fills our bellies during the darker half of the year, come spring and summer pasta forms a larger part of our diet – its innate versatility somehow more suited to the ad hoc nature of summer meals where time spent in the kitchen detracts from time spent outside.
Consequently, now seemed a good time to invest in a book on the subject and The Geometry of Pasta appeared to fit the bill perfectly. A rather beautiful, monochrome tome it harks back to a traditional Italian approach where pasta and sauce are matched with care to capitalise on the characteristics of each. A noble concept indeed.
Although the prospect of hand-crafting some intricate orecchiette was tempting, last night’s supper was an exercise in simplicity: fresh pasta tossed with bacon, peas, a little blue cheese and cream and finished with grassy pea shoots picked from little pots in the garden.
Tagliatelle with peas and bacon
As tasty as homegrown peas are, I find growing them a thankless and arduous task that yields disappointing results. With the frozen sort as good as they are I have no qualms about using those to bulk out a meal and picking off the wonderfully fresh tasting (not to mention pretty with their winding, curling fronds) pea shoots to serve as a delicious garnish.
200g pasta flour
OR 200g dried pasta
150g bacon, pancetta or other cured pork, diced
A medium sized onion, finely chopped
A splash of white wine
Two handfuls frozen peas, cooked in boiling water (or the microwave. Really)
200ml double cream
Any leftover cheese you happen to have, as long as it is of the melty variety.
Salt and plenty of black pepper
If you are the sort of person who has a pasta machine, you don’t need me to tell you how to make the stuff. Just whip up a batch in your usual fashion, it will be more than fine.
If you are the sort of person who doesn’t have a pasta machine, you don’t need me to tell you how to cook the stuff. Surely. Just go about it in your usual fashion. But not before making the sauce.
Fry the bacon until it renders off its lovely fat and begins to turn crispy. Lower the heat under the frying pan and add the diced onion. Cook it gently until it softens in the bacon fat. If it looks a little dry add a dash of olive oil (but not the good stuff). Give it 10-15 minutes so it softens and sweetens without burning and turning acrid.
Deglaze the pan with white wine - just a splash should do the job - then add the cream, peas and cheese. Season well with black pepper but go easy on the salt depending on what cheese you’ve gone for.
Cook up your pasta in a big pan with plenty of salt and as soon as it is ready, drain it (but only briefly – the cooking water adds a tasty element) and toss into the sauce. Heap into bowls, garnish with pea shoots and serve outside just as the sun is dipping beyond the trees, ocean buildings or whatever vista forms your view onto the world.
Food fotos by Charlotte (Flickr page)