Spaghetti carbonara has to be one of the best store cupboard pasta dishes that one can whip up in the time it takes for the spaghetti to boil. We’ve only just discovered that the addition of something green is absolutely brilliant as it helps cut the richness a little and you certainly feel better about getting your greens in even with such a quick meal.

While I’ve seen recipes for courgette carbonara, we like the addition of broccoli. Broccoli keeps for ages in our fridge and well, I just feel courgette can be a bit boring at times. Adding the broccoli doesn’t add any time to the preparation of the pasta dish as it’s cooked with the pasta. And, of course, as my Italian colleagues are likely to shout at you – no cream! The egg and cheese and pasta water will make it all creamy by itself.

Farfalle and Broccoli Carbonara

Broccoli and Bacon Carbonara
serves 2.

250g dried spaghetti or other pasta shape you need to use up (farfalle in our case)
olive oil
5 slices smoked streaky bacon or pancetta
about 1/2 a small head of broccoli
3 medium-large eggs
about 30-50g grated pecorino romano
salt and lots of freshly ground black pepper

Set a large pot of salted water to boil and get your pasta cooking.

Crack all your eggs into a bowl and beat them well. Add the grated pecorino romano and season with salt and lots of black pepper and beat well again.

Heat a large saute pan and add a little olive oil. Chop the bacon/pancetta and fry off the pieces slowly. Keep on a low heat when ready.

Chop all the broccoli (the stem too) into small pieces and toss them into the pasta water when the pasta is almost done. When the pasta is ready, the broccoli will be too – drain them both and add to the warm pan with the bacon. Stir and while stirring, pour over the egg mixture, and keep mixing all together. The egg and cheese should coat the pasta without scrambling. If it’s looking a bit too dry, add some of the pasta cooking water. Serve immediately.

I get these bizarre obsessions once in a while and the making of the dish being obsessed over suddenly takes priority over everything else in my to-cook list. Baked beans suddenly became this latest dish, due in part to my having a large bottle of maple syrup from Toronto. The recipe below isn’t for the true Boston baked beans (for that, substitute the maple syrup for molasses and even then that might bring up arguments) but instead is more like a Québécois feves au lard and is just as delicious.

Baked Beans

I’d rarely cooked beans from dry, usually using canned ones when cooking. However, these beans were tender in a much shorter amount of time than I expected – only about 2-3 hours on the stove. I’ve always loved baked beans in this style and they’re one thing (amongst many) from North America that I do miss. While all the cans of baked beans in the UK are full of tomatoes and sugar, there are lots of variants available over the pond – in tomato sauce, with pork, with cocktail hot dogs, with molasses, with maple syrup, with brown sugar, in barbecue sauce. I do love them all but, for me, while I’m happy to mix and match the sweeteners, melt-in-your-mouth, slow cooked bacon is a must. The beans from this recipe were sweet but not too sweet and wonderfully porky.

Baked Beans

But it wasn’t just the baked beans I wanted; I had to have the entire bean supper. Baked beans are very traditional in New England and baked bean suppers are often held as fundraisers for churches and other public services; a great description of both can be found here at the Maine Farmhouse Journal – they are feasts! Along with the baked beans themselves, hot dogs, bread, salads and desserts are served. The traditional bread to have alongside is a unique steamed brown bread but I opted instead to serve a Bostonian baked bun, the Parker House roll (recipe in my next post). It was a real stick-to-your-ribs meal, perfect for a cold night or just big appetites!

A Baked Bean Supper

The leftovers keep very well too. When cooked together with sliced frankfurters/hot dogs, you end up with beanies and weenies (aka franks and beans) – I love its name.

Maple Baked Beans
serves 6-8, depending on appetites.

500g dried beans (I used flageolet but haricot, cannellini or kidney beans would also work)
a 400g chunk of salt pork or bacon (I used a Polish boczek), cut into smaller pieces
60 ml maple syrup
1.5 tbsp dark brown sugar
2 tbsps dark rum (optional)
1 large onion, chopped
1 tbsp Worcestershire sauce
2 cloves
1 tbsp dried mustard
salt and freshly ground black pepper

The night before, dump your beans into a large pot/casserole, cover with lots of cold water and leave to soak overnight.

The next day, drain the water and add the onion, bacon, cloves, mustard, maple syrup, sugar, Worcester sauce and rum, if using. Add water to cover and set the whole thing over medium-high heat. When it starts boiling, turn the heat to low and leave to simmer, stirring occasionally, for about 2-3 hours, until the beans are tender.

Preheat your oven to 160 Celsius. After the 2-3 hours on the stove (until the beans are tender), season with salt and pepper and then pop it into the oven without a lid on. A crust should have formed after an hour and it’ll be ready to serve. To cook it the entire time in the oven, you’ll want to cover it and place it in there for about 5 hours prior to removing the lid. You’ll also want to check periodically to make sure it isn’t drying out.

Here’s a quick recipe post while you can still get peaches in the shops! It’s based on the grilled peach sandwich at Num Pang in New York City; since Num Pang is a whole ocean away from me, I had to make one had home.

Grilled Peach and Bacon Sandwich

The combination of sweet, juicy peach, salty, crispy bacon, sour crunchy pickled carrots and bright green coriander made for a most satisfying sandwich for dinner. The original sandwich included a glaze of Guinness and maple and sauteed chives but I didn’t have any of that in the flat and liked mine just as it was. I reckon a splash of savoury Maggi sauce, one commonly found on banh mi sandwiches, wouldn’t be amiss either.

Layers

Grilled Peach and Bacon Sandwich

Shred or julienne  half a carrot and marinade in 1/4 tsp salt, 1 tsp sugar, 2 tbsps white vinegar and a splash of water.

Fry 4 slices of streaky bacon until crispy (easier done with American style bacon!). Slice a small peach into 4 flat slices and grill on both sides until they get great grill marks. They should be sweet and soft.

Get a 20-25 cm length of baguette. Slice in half lengthwise and squish it flat a bit; if it’s just too thick and bready, pull out some of the insides. Spread both chilli paste (like a Vietnamese chilli and garlic sauce or a sambal oelek) and mayonnaise on the bottom half. Arrange the bacon on top, then the peaches, then the drained carrot pickle, and finally sprigs of fresh coriander. Slap on the top half, press together and eat.

Remember that huge trayful of eggs? We’re not finished with them yet! We had quite a number of meals of fried eggs (once with fried Spam in a sandwich) and then luxurious scrambled eggs drizzled with truffle oil, all on toast. We actually went through those eggs quite quickly due to their diminutive size – I’d gladly take another trayful but the chickens are growing and so are the sizes of their eggs. No more bargain egg trays for the rest of the year.

I came across this recipe for fried eggs and spaghetti on Mark Bittman’s blog in my initial search for egg recipes and made it one night for dinner, tweaking it by keeping the garlic and adding another breakfast classic, bacon. Why not? Bacon and eggs, go together like a horse and carriage… or something like that. It’s kind of like a carbonara but with more of an eggy chew, I reckon. Anyway, this meal comes together in about 10 minutes – once again good for late weekday nights.

Bacon and Fried Egg Spaghetti

Bacon and Fried Egg Spaghetti
serves 2.

4 rashers bacon (any kind you want), finely chopped
4 small eggs (or 3 large)
2 cloves garlic, minced
a good pinch of dried chili flakes
salt and freshly ground black pepper
olive oil
a small handful of flat leaf parsley, minced
200-250g spaghetti

Set a pot of water to boil for the spaghetti.

Heat a saute pan over medium heat and add about two tablespoons of olive oil. Fry the bacon until it’s almost done to your liking and add in the garlic and chili flakes. Continue stirring as it cooks. When the garlic just starts getting a bit of colour, turn off the heat.

In a separate frying pan, heat enough olive oil to fry an egg or two. Fry the eggs one or two at a time, taking care to keep the yolk fluid – so sunny side up or over easy are both good. Add them to the bacon pan when done and continue with the rest of the eggs. Salt and pepper the mixture.

Bacon and Eggs

Salt the now boiling water and get your spaghetti cooking. When it’s done, add it to the pan with the bacon and eggs, along with the parsley. Stir the whole lot together, breaking the fried eggs up in the process, allowing the yolks to coat the spaghetti strands. Add a little of the pasta cooking water to help with the stirring and some extra virgin olive oil for extra flavour. Serve.

It started with some random thoughts on pastries and potato pies early in the week. By the middle of the week, the focus was on filo pastry, those fragile sheets that require lots of melted butter and that bake up shatteringly crisp. At the end of the week, these daydreamy thoughts threatened to take over every waking moment I had and something had to be done about them! After running some ideas past Mirna, I came up with the following idea.

A Bacon, Cheese and Onion Filo Spiral

I wanted a contrast to the crisp exterior of filo and so soft and creamy mashed potatoes would be the filling. But just mashed potatoes would be boring, no? How about some chopped browned onions mixed in? And then while I was at it, I fried some pancetta too and stirred that through. And then, heck, why not? Some grated cheese at the end. And this is what I came up with! We had them with some salad for dinner but they’d make a lovely snack or light lunch (that is, if you serve only one and refrain from gorging on them!).

Spiral Filling

If you’re not keen on the shape, after rolling the potato mixture into the filo, you can cut the cylinder into shorter lengths and bake it like that.

Bacon, Cheese and Onion Filo Spirals
makes 8.

For the filling
4 medium sized baking potatoes, peeled and cut into large chunks
1 large onion, chopped
70g pancetta, chopped
olive oil
3 tbsps milk
salt and freshly ground black pepper
a few handfuls of grated mature cheddar

For the pastries
8 sheets of filo pastry
melted butter

To make the filling, place the potatoes in a pot, cover with water and bring to the boil. Boil until they are soft and ready for mashing. In the meantime, heat a tablespoon of olive oil in a frying pan and fry the chopped onions over a low-medium heat until they are starting to brown. Add the pancetta and fry until it has cooked and the oil rendered out. When the potatoes are done, drain them and return them to the pot for mashing, also throwing in the milk. Mash, mash, mash! Stir through the onions and pancetta and salt and pepper to taste. When the filling has had a chance to cool down, stir through the grated cheese.

To make the pastries, firstly preheat the oven to 180 Celsius. Take a sheet of filo pastry (take care to keep the other sheets covered to prevent them from drying out – a damp tea towel is good for this) and lay it on your board/workspace. Brush the whole sheet with melted butter. Along one end, put an eighth of the filling (about 2 heaping tablespoons) and then roll up the entire sheet – you should have a long cylinder of filo pastry with the filling through the middle. Coil the cylinder into a snail shape but you can also slice the cylinder into smaller tube shapes. Lay the pastry on a lined baking sheet and brush the tops and sides with more melted butter. Repeat with the rest of the filo sheets and the filling.

When all the pastries are ready, slip the tray into the oven and bake for about 25-30 minutes, or until the pastry is golden brown. Serve.

Filo Spirals