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Before I forget

Updated: Jul 22, 2021

Well I have sort of forgotten what this was. It's a spaghetti carbonara, I know that much, but this photo has been sitting on my desktop for a week now because I wanted to include it in a 'this and that' blog, but I can't actually remember why this particular carbonara. Well I now know, because I couldn't stand not knowing and checked for about the hundredth time last week's Guardian newsletter. And there it was - an example of restaurants that 'ordinary' people have been missing in lockdown over there. It's just a carbonara from a restaurant in Bristol UK which I shall never be visiting:

"Their carbonara was out of this world, with lard-wrapped poached egg and pork belly."

So not quite your standard carbonara because of the poached egg and the pork belly instead of ordinary carbonara with egg and bacon - well pancetta. Let's be a proper foodie. But I remember now why I kept that photo - it was the plate - which went so beautifully with the dish. An absolutely perfect pairing.

Whilst I was trying to find it though, I thought that it was a carbonara cacio e pepe, and this was because of one of my other 'on the desktop to be used sometime' photographs, shown here. This is a cacio e pepe waffle - yes a waffle - as served at Ronnie's - a restaurant right here in the Melbourne CBD. The chef Matthew Butcher describes it in the Melbourne Food and Wine Festival newsletter:

"The idea came from my love of New York and Italian food. Whenever I’ve travelled to New York, I’ve always wanted to eat either waffles or cacio e pepe pasta. And now that I’ve got a restaurant of my own, I’ve combined the two. The waffle part is made with fermented potato, which we then top with cheese and cracked black pepper. This is our hero dish, and also reminds me of my childhood of eating mashed potato, as I’m sure it will for many of you too. It’s not for the faint-hearted but certainly a must-try."

Fermented potato? Really not sure about that. Although it does look pretty.

The photo of the carbonara was right next to the waffle, which is how I came to think it was a carbonara cacio e pepe, so that was my starting point for finding it. And along the way I found that Spaghetti carbonara cacio e pepe is indeed a thing, and there are heaps of examples of recipes out there. Here is one of them from a website called The Londoner, but there are lots more. And I just found that The Londoner is a lady called Rosie (my family's name for me), so a connection is made. For Rosie it was a what's in the fridge meal:

"the love child* of two of the finest pasta dishes Rome has given to the world. Carbonara with its salty bacon and oozing egg yolk, cacio e pepe with its unxious peppery sauce, all coming together in the most glorious fashion to create something incredibly simple and devastatingly moreish."

('Unxious' - is that a word? Does she mean uxorious?)

I do love both of those classics, but I have never had any success with carbonara - I'm the one who ends up with scrambled eggs, so I shall just have to psych myself up to try it one day.

This post is called Before I forget, because I have a number of 'little' things in a list in my diary together with photos on my desktop so I thought I would catch up with them all in one go. A 'this and that' post. So to continue:

Vanilla essence - did you know you can make your own vanilla essence? This one is from the Coles Magazine A-Z section on how to waste less. The idea is to immerse spent vanilla pods in alcohol - vodka is suggested - or brandy - 6-8 pods per cup of alcohol. Store in a cool dark place and shake every now and then. Usable after two months or so. A bit like making liqueur really. I don't know how effective it is and besides you can easily buy it from the shops. In fact making your own will probably be rather more expensive than buying a bottle. There are other recipes out there though - some get very cheffy about what kind of vanilla pod you should use, but basically the principle is the same as the one described by Coles. Personally I use my leftover vanilla pods to make vanilla sugar - just stick them in a jar of caster sugar. Now that works. But maybe it would be fun to try this one day. When I've got some spare vodka or brandy.

Marinades - Now here's a new source of information - David's New Scientist magazine. In one of the recent editions - there are heaps of them lying around - one of their columnists tested out different marinades to see how it affected the tenderness of the meat. He tested the meat in marinades whose tenderising ingredient was: a salt solution, a sodium bicarbonate solution, lime juice, red wine, yoghurt and minced kiwi fruit - yes kiwi-fruit - it's supposed to work. Now guess which came out on top. - Well yoghurt - so as he says go make tandoori chicken. The lime juice, red wine and baking soda were the worst and made the meat tough and dry. The kiwi-fruit "softened the meat, but the resulting texture was mushy and unpleasant." Interesting, though he did add the caveat that he may have marinaded the meat for too long in the ones that didn't work..

20 years in Food - if you have an idle moment you could skim this article from The Observer which is celebrating 20 years of its Food Monthly. How times have changed. It's obviously British focussed but lots of the things it talks about here - celebrity chefs, veganism, Master chef, Influencers ... and also relevant here.

Make your own ricotta - back to Coles and Curtis Stone in this instance who tells you how to make ricotta with just milk, cream, buttermilk and lemon juice. It sounds pretty easy, though I may well have told you how to do this before. It's pretty easy to make all sorts of soft cheeses such as labneh, paneer and cottage cheese. Well I say that, never having actually tried it - other than labneh that is, which is indeed very, very easy. The easiest of the lot really - you just hang it up to dry in a bit of cheesecloth - though a Chux will do..

Cheese toasties

I thought I had done cheese toasties to death - but here are a couple of addenda. On the left a different way to fold quesadillas. Make a slit in your tortilla from the centre to the edge. On each quadrant place a different component of your filling, then fold them over each other to get a triangular shape which you then toast - or maybe fry?

On the right Mozzarella in carozza from The Guardian's Rachel Roddy:

"Taking the first bite was like walking into a room filled with old friends – eggy bread, fried bread, cheese on toast, Breville toasted sandwiches – and, at the same time, quite unlike anything I had eaten before. It was also the most delicious thing I had ever eaten (again, I was starving, so unfair advantage), and entertaining: the string of cheese stretching between my mouth and the bread triangle, like an extendable dog lead, then sticking to my chin."

The key difference being the Mozzarella I guess. Rachel Roddy's articles are always interesting and this one included another lot of words about 'authenticity':

"Like resourceful home cooking everywhere, there are as many ways to make mozzarella in carrozza as there are cooks, with strong feelings usefully stemming from the fact that people feel extremely attached to what they grew up with, and the psychological reassurance of it tasting a certain way."

Jar vinaigrette - this is not just making your vinaigrette in a jar - lots of us do that particularly if you are making large quantities. No - this is getting that last little bit of mustard out of the jar when it's finished. Put your other ingredients in the jar, give it a good shake and there you go - two birds killed with one stone. Another good little Coles thing.

Leftover cake - I'm not sure there is ever any leftover cake - and if there is any then you would have to think the cake is suspect. But just in case:

Coles suggests making truffles. Crumble the cake into a bowl with some liqueur or orange juice, put it in the fridge. When firm roll into balls and roll in desiccated coconut. Something to nibble on whilst you watch something silly on the television.

So there you go - this and that from here and there. And tomorrow another Guardian newsletter will land in my inbox so I shall have another store of little things.

One last thing - I took down the netting over my tomatoes today and pulled most of them up. The remaining ones should probably be pulled up too - they look virtually dead anyway with a few small unripe tomatoes clinging on. It's amazing how the tomatoes keep appearing even when the plant looks completely dead. As usual I didn't have a great success with my tomatoes. Just a few really. But then I didn't buy the plants. They just grew. The herbs will start dying off soon. I am possibly the world's worst vegetable gardener.

Winter approaches. But no - it's going to be temperatures in the mid 20s at the weekend. Melbourne I love you. Always a surprise around the corner.


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