I was fortunate enough to be in Rome last month on holiday, or rather, on pilgrimage to the Vatican City and to the art of Michelangelo Buonarotti. But of course, in addition to all the sightseeing, I made time to have a taste of whatever dishes that might be unique to the region. Being in the land of pasta, Pasta Amatriciana is one of them. According to Wikipedia, ‘Amatriciana is a traditional Italian pasta sauce based on guanciale (dried pork cheek), pecorino cheese and tomato, well-known in Roman and Italian cuisine.’
So very basically, I gave it a go with bacon, red onions, tomatoes and Parmesan. Also, I had it with mushroom tortellini as opposed to the usual bucatini.
- Set your pasta boiling away in a pot of salty water.
- With the help of a teaspoon of oil in a hot skillet, render the fat of the bacon out.
- Toss in the minced onions, and sweat it out till almost translucent.
- Add in the tomatoes, together with some passata. Or just add in some chopped tomatoes from a store-bought carton. Add volume to the sauce with pasta-cooking water, if necessary.
- Stir in a small handful of freshly grated Parmesan.
- Drain the cooked pasta and add to the sauce.
- Mix and serve with a grating of more Parmesan.
Even though I think the best way to have Bolognese is with spaghetti, sometimes penne is a pretty good change. Served in a deep bowl, all you need is a fork to stab and shove.
- 2 pork sausages
- 1 small handful of frozen peas
- 2 inches of a medium carrot, diced finely
- a quarter of an onion, diced finely
- 1 small small knob of butter
- 1 clove of garlic, minced
- chilli, minced (optional)
- 2 tsp of double concentrate tomato puree
- a pinch of dried basil
- sea salt, freshly ground
- black pepper, freshly ground
- freshly grated Parmesan,
- a couple of fresh basil leaves
- 2 handfuls of quick cook penne
- Get your pasta boiling in a pot.
- In a hot wok, toss the peas in.
- Once they’ve defrosted for a bit, dump the carrots in, together with the small small wad of butter. Toss.
- Then add the garlic and onions. Let them fry away happily, tossing occasionally.
- If you want it slightly spicy, add in the chilli now.
- Peel of the skin of the sausages and throw them into the wok. Cut them erratically with a spatula whilst stirring everything together.
- Scoop out some of the starchy pasta cooking water and pour into the wok.
- Stir in the tomato puree and add more pasta cooking water accordingly.
- When you’ve got the consistency you want, and the sausages cooked, pinch in the dried basil, salt and pepper. Stir and turn off the heat.
- Drain pasta.
- Serve with bolognese. Garnish with Parmesan and fresh basil leaves.
15-minute meal for the famished soul.
Dear Samuel, it’s your birthday today, so this one’s for you.
This is how a Five-Hour Pork Shoulder Slow Roast would look like.
Especially after being completely macerated with a pair of tongs and a cerated knife.
Okay, I screwed up the crackling on this one big time. But the meat was just perfect. It better be after five hours of baking in the oven.
- Get a hunk of pork shoulder (about 800g to 1kg) from the supermarket or butcher. If you can get it with the bone in, even better.
- I can’t comment much on how to do the crackling right. But in theory, here’s how it goes: Score the skin half a centimetre deep, and about a centimetre apart. Rub salt into the crevices.
- Season everywhere else with freshly ground sea salt and black pepper.
- Get the whole hunk of meat on a roasting dish and stick it in the oven for 30 minutes, at 220ªC. This should make a crackling happen.
- When the crackling looks right, wrap the whole dish snugly with a double layer of foil and stick it back into the oven for 4 hours, at 180*C. Go out and have a beer with the lads, or have a nap.
- Prepare some stuff to accompany the pork shoulder – carrot slices, diced onions, smashed garlic (a whole bulb, skin on) and a couple of rosemary sprigs.
- After four hours, remove the foil and set in the carrots, onions, garlic and rosemary. Baste everything in the fat rendered at the base of the dish.
- Stick it back into the oven for another half hour before serving.
It sounds like a lot of work to do, but it’s so simple for something so amazing. Tender tender goodness.
You probably won’t have enough time in the mornings, but when you do, you’d be pleasantly rewarded if you try this – almost as good as a panini.
- Toast a couple of slices of bread, wholemeal or white, up to you.
- While that’s in there, fry up some onions and white mushrooms. Don’t forget to add a sprinkle of dried thyme or basil, salt and pepper.
- Your bread should be all crisp and toasted before you’re done with the onions and mushrooms. Slap on a small hunk of butter on both slices.
- On goes the mushrooms and onions on one slice, and fresh rocket leaves on the other.
- Peel out some mature cheddar with a speed peeler, and lay them on the sizzling mushrooms and onions.
- Then, here’s the grand finale – a fried egg, sunny side up, done with an egg ring.
This is an egg ring (with an egg in it):
- Once that’s done, lay it gently on the cheese. Be careful not to burst that lovely yolk of golden goodness.
- Sandwich everything together and cut up into pretty triangles, if you must.
Gloomy autumn mornings are a thing of the past.
Mummy was out at work today so I had to make lunch for the family. Here’s a great one-dish meal to have with fresh bread or rice.
Red Wine & Oregano Beef Stew
- 250g minced beef, prepared with:
- 1 tbsp of corn flour
- 1 tsp of balsamic vinegar
- 1 tbsp olive oil
- 1 knob of butter
- 1 onion, peeled and diced
- 1 carrot, peeled and diced
- 1 potato, peeled and diced
- half a green pepper, chopped
- 1 red chilli, seeds removed and finely chopped
- 2 cloves of garlic, peeled and minced
- half mug of beef or vegetable stock
- quarter mug of red wine
- 2 tbsp of dark soy sauce
- a pinch of dried oregano
- sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
- a pinch of fresh coriander leaves
- Put the oil and knob of butter into a hot wok. TIP! This is to prevent the butter from burning to brown.
- Add the onion and green pepper, and fry till they start to shrivel a little.
- Toss in the carrot and potato.
- Together with the garlic and chilli, wine and stock, get the minced beef in.
- Add the dark soy sauce too.
- Season generously with freshly ground black pepper, and just a little salt, according to taste.
- Don’t forget the pinch of dried oregano.
- Bring to a boil, place a lid on top and lower the heat to a simmer.
- Let it stay on the stove for 15 minutes, checking every 5 minutes or so that it doesn’t dry up. If it’s too dry for your liking, add water in small quantities till you get the consistency you want. Be sure to add salt if necessary.
- Serve with fresh coriander leaves on top.
To all those overseas who crave the good ol’ Tze Char Noodles, I’d like to share this recipe with you. It’s not exactly the same as what you’d get for cheap in the neighbourhood restaurant you frequent weekly back in Singapore, but it’ll serve to satisfy your cravings.
What you’ll need:
- prepared ingredients for Melt-In-Your-Mouth Pork
- 1 serving of quick-cook spaghetti
- 1 generous handful of spinach leaves
- 2 inches of a medium sized carrot, sliced into small inch-long pieces
- half a red onion, sliced
- 2 cloves of garlic, minced
- a couple of fresh mushrooms, quartered (optional)
- 1 tsp of vegetable oil
- 2-3 tbsp of oyster sauce
How to do it:
- Get the pasta cooking in a pot. And place a wok on another hob, turned up to full whack.
- Add the garlic and onion into the wok to flavour the oil.
- Welcome the Aroma Fairies.
- Carrots go in ‘cos they take longer to cook through.
- Toss the pork in and add water from the pasta bit by bit, stir-frying till just done.
- If you’re having mushrooms with this, dump them in now.
- Add the oyster sauce and grab some pasta water to pour into the wok, till ingredients are almost completely submerged. Mix and watch your gravy form.
- Turn off the heat and drain your pasta. Get them in, together with the spinach leaves. Toss about till the spaghetti is coated with all the gravy goodness, and till the vegetable leaves have wilted just a little.
- Serve hot, with Pickled Green Chilli. More on that soon.
I wouldn’t call this a Mediterranean dish ‘cos it isn’t exactly one. But the combination of peppers and sage remind me of Greece. Anyway, here’s a simple recipe for a slight taste of the Great Middlelands.
Grilled Peppers & Sage Chicken Pasta
- 1 serving of long pasta
- 1 tsp of olive oil
- half a small white onion, minced
- 1 handful of sliced red peppers, inch-long
- 1 handful of sliced yellow peppers, inch-long
- 1 handful of sliced mushrooms
- 1 handful of chicken fillet, breast or drumstick meat, cubed bite-size
- half tsp of dried sage
- salt and pepper, for seasoning, to taste
- handful of spinach leaves, for colour
- Get your pasta cooking on the hob. (Remember: The Italians say the water used to cook pasta should be as salty as the Mediterranean
- Put a wok on the hob too. Turn the switch up to full whack and get the wok screaming hot. Add the oil in.
- Toss the minced white onion into the wok to flavour the oil.
- Before the onion turns brown, get the peppers to join the party. This time, let them sit still up to 2 minutes each time before tossing, until they show signs of slight charring. TIP! The trick here is that you don’t have the time to heat up an oven to specially grill your peppers. Pan-searing does the trick.
- Add mushrooms and toss.
- When the mushrooms are just about done, get everything out and put your chicken cubes in. You want to dry stir-fry them. This means you use the starchy water from the pasta, to stir-fry the meat. By adding the water in small quantities, stirring as you go along, you allow the meat to absorb all the liquid. Result: the chicken cubes are ‘dry’ yet juicy.
- Once the chicken is just done, add all the ingredients back in. And add salt, pepper and sage. Stir.
- The pasta should be just about done. Drain and add to the wok.
- Turn the heat off and add the lush green spinach leaves.
- Mix and serve.
Greece really does make a special place in my heart warm, especially it’s food. You can’t blame me, the Greek really know how to do their meat. One in particular I have an absolutely soft spot for is Souvlaki.
“Souvlaki (Greek: Σουβλάκι) is a popular Greek fast food consisting of small pieces of meat and sometimes vegetables grilled on a skewer. It may be served on the skewer for eating out of hand, in a pita sandwich with garnishes and sauces, or on a dinner plate, often with fried potatoes. The meat is traditionally lamb in Greece and Cyprus, or in modern times increasingly pork due to the lower cost. In other countries and for tourists, souvlaki may be made with other meats such as beef, chicken and sometimes fish (especially swordfish). The word souvlaki is a diminutive of (σούβλα) souvla ‘skewer’, itself borrowed from Latin subula.”
I got this recipe from The Meatwave, but didn’t have all the right ingredients, so I made a couple of subtitutions and hoped for the best.
For the marinade:
- 1/2 cup olive oil
- 1 red onion, finely chopped
- 2 garlic cloves, minced
- 4 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
- 2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
- 2 teaspoons oregano
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
Other stuff you need:
- 600g pork loin, cut into inch cubes
- Wooden skewers, soaked in water for 30 minutes before use
- Slice of lemon
- Red onion, sliced
- Fresh rocket leaves
Preparation and cooking:
- Made with your everyday condiments, pour the marinate into ziplock with the pork cubes. Make sure all pieces get a lick of the marinate. Let it sit in the fridge overnight.
- Instead of using a charcoal grill, I did it in the oven, which isn’t as good ‘cos you don’t get that kickass smokiness. But I had to make do.
- After skewering the cubes, grill for about 15 minutes in total at 200°C. Turning them around every once in a while.
- Let them rest for about 5 minutes before gobbling. Serve with a slice of lemon, sliced red onion and fresh rocket leaves.
I had a friend who once told me that his favourite meat is pork. Personally, if I sink my teeth into pork that is done this way, I literally fall to my knees right away.
Okay, not literally. But heads up for some melt-in-your-mouth goodness.
It should look something like this. And taste absolutely phenomenal. Very Asian, extremely happy-fying.
- 75g of pork shoulder, sliced thinly
- 1 tsp of cornflour
- 3 tsp of soy sauce
- 1 tsp of sesame oil
- 1 dash of white pepper
- half a clove of garlic, minced
- 1 slice of ginger
- 75ml of water
- 1 tsp of cooking oil
- (optional) quarter a white onion, sliced
- (optional) 1 closed cup mushroom, sliced
N.B. If you’re going for lean tender soft meat, use pork shoulder. If you’re like me and always prefer it just slighty chewy with fatty bits, use pork loin.
Preparation & Cooking:
- In a small bowl, combine the first five ingredients.
- Stick a pan or wok onto the hob, put the oil in and get it to be screaming hot.
- When the pan is ready, fry the ginger and garlic first, till fragrant.
- Then dump your seasoned pork into the pan. Toss and fry about for a bit.
- Add water in small amounts. Stir-fry till the water more or less dries up each time. Here, you’re stewing the pork in high heat, building a gravy steadily.
- If you’re having it with onions and mushrooms, toss them in now.
- In less than 3-5 minutes, your pork should be done. You’re aiming for it to be just cooked, not overdone.
- Serve with steamed Thai fragrant rice, or with nothing else.
There are a couple of things that are absolutely necessary in a couscous dish, especially if you’re making one ‘cos you crave the rich flavour of the brilliant Mediterranean. Oregano and Cumin are essential. Unfortunately, I had a craving and had no cumin powder of any sort. But here are the ingredients I used to satisfy the craving as best as I could:
- Onions, preferably red.
- Mushrooms, just because.
- Balsamic vinegar, for ZING.
- Garlic, for wholesomeness.
- Parsley, for healthy colour.
- Oregano, essential.
- Sage, as a pathetic substitute for Cumin.
- Tomato puree, for lush redness.
Roasted root vegetables like aubergines or cucumbers would’ve been lovely. Bell peppers even. But I really had to make do with what I had in the fridge and great thing I had Asparagus and Greek Feta to save the day.