Thursday, 6 August 2009

Poor Man's Carbonara

After Bolognese, Carbonara was the next item I learnt to cook while at university. It took a bit of experimentation to get right; some advice from Wikipedia and Jamie Oliver has helped. Amongst other things, the cream in Carbonara is actually an Americanism, it seems. In any case, I had cream left over from my post on truffles, and a whole hunk of cooking bacon that I'm going to have trouble clearing later, so Carbonara was ideal; I could clear the ingredients in my fridge, and revisit an university experience.

Eggs tend to be expensive here, with the exception of the low price eggs you get in the supermarkets, and perhaps the farmers markets too. Sainsbury's Basics eggs are actually quite okay - they taste perfectly fine, and the only problem you would encounter would be the inconsistent size from egg to egg.

Initially I wanted to use the spaghetti from this post, but it turns out that my flatmates had used it all with my blessings. This gave me the perfect opportunity to go get the other Basics pasta product they stock; the penne (price information in the link on this paragraph).

This penne, like the spaghetti, is a bit harder and starchier than its regular cousin. Unlike the spaghetti however, it doesn't take less time to cook relative to the regular penne. On the other hand, this would be excellent material if you're making a massive pasta bake for pot luck; I'm sure your friends would understand that you wouldn't want to spend too much on bulk cooking.

So we proceed as follows. We start off with another hunk from the packet of cooking bacon leftover from the poor man's bourguignon. I forgot to mention the last time by the way that I got lucky this time round, and the cooking bacon I have is very lean. Many of the other packets tend to have significantly more fat. The one in the picture is the fattiest.

Strip off the fat and dice the bacon, along with a few cloves of garlic.

Heat a wok up, and render the fat (you don't have to use all the fat), so that the wok is sufficiently greased. A healthier option would be to throw the fat away altogether and use olive oil. Or you could use Basic's Butter.

Fry the bacon. Meanwhile, beat the egg into the cream, season with pepper.

Cook the pasta and drain, but save some of the pasta water (about 4 tbsp per person). Add the garlic into the wok, but don't let it cook for too long or it would burn. Shortly after add the pasta and heat. Then and the pasta water, along with the egg-cream mixture.

Stir for a bit, then take it off heat and stir a bit more, letting the pasta cook the egg but not allowing it to coagulate. End result should look like this.

DescriptionPrice per UnitNo. of servingsTrade-up PremiumTrade-up Benefits
Eggs£1.85 (10.3p / Egg)18+15.9p / Egg (£2.39 for 15)More regular size, free-range

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