Tuesday, 21 August 2012

Two simple pasta dishes.

Again I apologise for the little sabbatical i have been on, but the transfer from student to real working life has taking a hit on my writing. This rude interruption to my blog however does not mean i have stopped cooking, and this post is two quick pasta dishes I have whipped up over the course of the month.

It is also to try and follow the beautifully written restaurant reviews of one of my favourite chefs chain of restaurants, Carluccio's.

These are all very simple, and I am not trying to insult anyone's intelligence but they are just little ideas to create fantastic simple suppers.

Also I have said to use certain types of pasta, but obviously choose which ever one you like best. The best dried pasta is in my opinion De Cecco, it is a bit more expensive, but definitely worth it.

Slow roasted tomato and chilli Linguine.


Cherry tomatoes - About 300g
Red chillies - 2 relatively mild ones
Garlic - 2 cloves
Olive oil.

This really is all you need for this. Put the tomatoes into a low oven whole for a good hour (you can do this before hand and just heat them later). While they are cooking, finely chop or grate the garlic, and slice the chillies.

Boil a big pan of water with lots of salt (this raises the boiling point) until it is in a rolling boil and add the linguine. 

Heat the oil in a frying pan and gently fry the garlic. Add the chillies and slow roasted tomatoes to this and gently heat. 

When the pasta is cooked drain, and add to the tomatoes and chillies. Mix well. This shouldn't really be a sauce, but a mixture of the olive oil and the sweet juices of the tomatoes should provide a lovely covering.

Obviously season well, and cover in parmesan. A drizzle of olive oil and a squeeze of lemon juice adds a bit of depth and also looks good.

Zil is unfortunate enough not to have tried this yet, so a Zilometer score has not been applied.

Spinach, pine nut and ricotta penne.

I am obviously not going to claim responsibility for this combination, as it is age old, but this pasta dish is very definitely, awesome.

Pine Nuts - as many as you want
Spinach - about half a big bag
Ricotta cheese - About half a small pot
Sea salt

Get your big pan of water on the boil, and add you pasta.

Pan fry your nuts in a dry pan. Beware these will turn very quickly so don't burn them. Put them to the side and when your pasta is cooked drain and it to the pan with a couple of spoons of their cooking water and a small knob of butter. 
Add your spinach and ricotta and stir in the frying pan until the ricotta has melted and toss in the pine nuts.
You will need to season this one well as spinach and ricotta love salt and pepper.

Zilometer: A rather harsh 7.5/10 for this dish from Zil, was made up for by an admission later that his postprandial satisfaction was a heart-warming 9/10

I hope you enjoy these lovely pasta dishes, they really are piss easy and really tasty. I do realise they are both vegetarian so my next post (post payday) is going to be a feast of meat, and i promise pictures.

Wednesday, 1 August 2012

Urban Umbria: Carluccio's Restaurant

In this city, whatever the weather, we complain about the weather. What I enjoy is the complaining about the complaining. Complaining twice removed. We’ve complained about the rain. Now, we complain about the heat. Then, we complain about the complaining. “When do we not complain?” the British complain. “We always complain. We’re British”, the British explain. I did not intend to mention the complaining or the complainers. Oh...

I did intend to mention this wonderfully weird weather. There is no such thing as bad weather. There is only an attitude. As with all aspects of life, attitude will dictate whether something is good or bad. Each and every second, our opinionated minds get their opportunity to etch an attitude upon the blank, virgin canvas of experience. Therefore, in my opinion, weather, even British weather, is always subjective.  

Objectively, it has been hot. It is thirty degrees this evening in Hyde Park. Summer hangs thick in the air. Knightsbridge feels even more Qatari than ever. People drifting strolling, heavily and lazily, uncomfortably, this way and that, fanning, sweating thickly. That burqa looks a bit of a ball ache. It looks bloody boiling under there. Or, at least it looks more boiling than if you were to wear the same piece of material as one of these cool maxi dresses that Poppy is wearing.

We’re reclining. Not uncomfortably, very pleasantly actually in a relatively quiet corner of one of the busiest parks on the planet. We are reclining because we have just had a late lunch with drink at Carluccio's in South Kensington. A holiday day in London meant a lie in and a museum. It was OK but warm. I remember dinosaurs being cooler. By the time we'd learnt of the death of the dodo we were in danger of learning of the death of a group of children and their sweating mothers. It was time to leave the education and go in search of rehydration before I extinct-uished one of the adorable children. Combine London with heat and you often get sweat and stress.

We lolled as slowly as possible past the excellent early morning Pain Quotidian and the fun late night Brindisa. I had my mind and stomach set on something light and chilled that I knew a fat, sweaty, Italian man could provide.

I’m a fan of Mr Carluccio and Carluccio’s. In spite of the ever expanding waistline and empire, he and it have never let me down for quality and value. The restaurant chain is how Italian should be in a very London way. Clean. Cheap. Quick. Slick. Smart yet very relaxed. And it can also be used at absolutely any time of day. So, at tea time, it was more than happy to accommodate us for a coffee, an ice cream or a plate of pasta. We had all three.

Arriving at 16:30 we had ordered drinks by 16:31 and we were drinking cold Peroni and cold, cold water by 16:32. The Menu Fisso is such good value that to order it alongside the top quality Antipasto provides a mighty meal at an exceptionally good price. I had the pâté followed by the ravioli which were both exactly what I expected and wanted. The pasta at Carluccio’s is always very, very good. It is better than most more authentic Italians. I assume that quality of pasta should be a yardstick (breadstick?) by which an Italian restaurant is measured seeing as they, the Italians, as a nation, are quite keen on it. If you agree, then go to Carluccio’s and eat pasta. Poppy had bruschetta and a penne dish which, again, was exactly what was wanted and they were very good. No frills, no thrills but quality and exactly how good value Italian should be.

Cold sorbets, cooled coffees and £45 later we were both revived and refreshed and ready to face the steamy Arabian eve once again. I can recommend better Italian restaurants. It wouldn’t cater for my last meal. However, if forced to choose my keeper from all of the high-end high-street restaurant chains, it might just be the one that I would save. It is great value, always. It is great quality, always. And, thankfully, it is always perfectly chilled.