Laura’s/Delia’s Spaghetti alla Carbonara

This post is dedicated to my good friend Laura Whiskerd

She lives far away now, well, London.  But it’s further than Boisfort – and miles away from Rue Archimede that’s for sure.

Laura came into my life in the autumn of 2007 – she knew Clare Appleby when they played hockey together several years before.

I knew Clare because she used to drink in a pub that I worked in, then one day we ended up doing a pub quiz together, winning (of course) and deciding to go back to play hockey.  We joined the club that Laura played in and the rest is history.

Our relationship grew to such an extent that our significant others at the time began to to get un peu… irate… that we wanted to spend more time with each other than them. It turns out that our relationship lasted longer anyway so perhaps they were wiser than we thought at the time.  This is us through the years…

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Anyway, this blog is supposed to be for me to gather together recipes of dishes that I have made and liked, so that I remember to someday make them again.  If you had told me 2 or 3 years ago that I would be putting up one that Laura gave me, it would have seemed unlikely.

Food and Laura in my mind used to equal this:

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That’s what she would usually arrive to your house with, or have in her bag.  Now that I look at it – it’s all very… beige.  She’s lucky we didn’t spot that at the time, she might have been labelled as being beige in other aspects.

Then came the day that we were invited to dinner in her house, I think it was to mark her departure to London.  She produced a delicious Lasagne for us.

From scratch.

It was a sign of things to come, I was in London last week and she had prepared a fancy looking salad for her lunch the next day. There was tupperware. And dressing. Who was this person?  I would say it could be partially due to a certain man in her life who she is inspired to cook for, though I’ve also seen her flatmate/brother cook himself up some form of fancy things, I nosed about their cupboards – there was all sorts of ‘ingredients’.  Things happen in that kitchen….

It’s obviously paying off, because she looks amazing, one might even say she is glowing (not in a pregnant way).

She sent me this recipe, and I made it last night.

I know it’s super simple and takes less than 10 minutes to make but it was delish – and I must say (proudly) it was my very first Carbonara 🙂

Ingredients

  • 8oz (225g) dried spaghetti
  • 50z (150g) sliced smoked pancetta – I couldn’t find any so used half a pack of bacon and some chorizo I had leftover – they worked a treat
  • 2 large eggs, plus 2 extra yolks
  • 4 tablespoons Pecorino Romano, finely grated, plus extra to serve (I used parmasan)
  • 4 tablespoons double cream
  • little olive oil
  • freshly milled black pepper

Directions

  1. Cook the pasta for 8-10 mins (or according to the packet) in boiling salted water with a dash of olive oil
  2. Fry the pancetta until it’s crisp and golden (about 5 minutes)
  3. Whisk the eggs, yolks and cream in a bowl and season generously with black pepper then whisk in the cheese.
  4. When the pasta is cooked, drain it quickly in a colander, leaving a little of the moisture still clinging.
  5. Quickly return it to the saucepan and add the pancetta and any oil in thepan, along with the egg and cream mixture.
  6. Stir very thoroughly, so that everything gets a good coating – the liquid egg cooks briefly as it comes into contact with the hot pasta.
  7. Serve in hot deep plates with some extra grated cheese.

Ta daaaaa!

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Thanks Laura for the tip, also for the last 6 years of being a great friend, here’s to many more …..

Olympics 2

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Mary’s Lasagne

Ok so you use the Bolognese from my previous post, plus the following…..

  • 1 ltr Milk
  • 60g butter
  • 150g flour
  • 1 Onion
  • Cloves
  • Peppercorns (whole)
  • Bayleaf
  • Salt/Pepper
  • Grated Cheddar Cheese
  • Lasagne sheets
  • 1/2 teaspoon made mustard

Note – my beloved mother’s instructions on how to make this white sauce were quite vague. Below you have the measurements that the Stork Recipe Book recommends, and of course there are plenty of Roux/White sauce recipes available on the internet.  She literally just ‘throws it in’. Sigh.

Stork: 575 ml milk, 50g marg, 50g flour, 75g grated cheese (1/2 for top)

  1. Pierce the onion with the cloves, add to the milk with a few peppercorns and the bayleaf.  Bring to a gentle simmer and allow to infuse with flavour for a while – 10-20 mins
  2. Strain the milk and put it back on the hob, add the butter and flour, bring to the boil stirring continuously with a whisk, simmer for 2-3 mins until think and glossy
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  4. Stir in half the cheese and the mustard.
  5. Dip the lasagne sheets in boiled water to soften gently.
  6. Layer as follows: Lasagne sheet, bolognese sauce, lasagne sheet, cheese sauce, bolognese sauce, lasagne sheet, cheese sauce, cheese
  7. Bake at 190degrees for 30-40 minutes.

I stuck it in the freezer for a couple of weeks and cooked it yesterday – it was delish if I do say so myself!

next time I might use slightly more white sauce, it was prefect when just out of the oven but for reheating it got a bit dry.

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A coop of hens, and an attempt to be Sylvia…

My 3rd Hen Party

I mean the 3rd one I’ve attended, not held in my honour, thus far I have had none….

This was the Hen of Miss Sarah Knox Esquire, soon to be Mrs Sarah Hendrick, or some form of that, or perhaps she won’t change her name at all, anyway she’s marrying Danny, and he’s lovely.

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It was in Kilkenny, so I flew home for it and a great weekend was had by all. You understand of course that details cannot be divulged here.

All I can tell you is that there was alcohol, twerking, junk food, a dancing Grandad, and advice from a bouncer that the nightclub would be ‘too messy for us’…

It was a pleasure to spend time with old friends, and make some lovely new ones!

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For the occasion I took on the challenge to make Sylvia’s Guinness and Chocolate Muffins.

My flight landed at 11am, I got the aircoach home, slipped into Spar to pick up the ingredients, discovered a Tim Horton’s stand and got momentarily distracted.

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Headed home and whipped them up before making the trip to Kilkenny.  I got 24 out of the batch, plus a bit left over which I used to make a mini-cake for the family.

It will be a while before I’ll get them as perfect as Sylvia does, but I’ll definitely try again – practice makes perfect!!!

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Tiffin Biscuits

I forgot to post this alongside the Iced Lemon Traybake so here it goes…

I couldn’t find digestive biscuits so I used different ones, the biscuits turned out quite sweet (not surprising as they have alot of sugar in them!) but I definitely think using digestive biscuits would have helped this as they aren’t very sweet, so will make an extra effort to find them next time.

  • 170g unsalted butter
  • 55g cocoa
  • 55g sultanas, washed
  • 110g caster sugar
  • 200g digestive biscuits
  • 170g dark chocolate (minimum 55% cocoa)
  • 25g white chocolate
  1. Place the butter, cocoa, sultanas and sugar in a saucepan and melt.
  2. Break up the digestive biscuits but don’t crush completely.
  3. Add to the cocoa mixture and stir thoroughly
  4. Press into a 9” square baking tin lined with baking paper
  5. Melt the dark chocolatein a bowl over a saucepan of simmering water and pour over the cocoa mixture.
  6. Melt the white chocolate in the same way and scatter over the biscuits using a fork
  7. Leave in the fridge for an hour or so and cut into squares.  The recipe says 9 but I got 16 – they are heavy so they don’t need to be huge but it’s up to you!

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Iced Lemon Traybake

It’s been a busy few months, after a wonderful 2 week holiday at the beginning of August I came back to work with a bang.  We had our General Assembly followed by the EuroHockey Championships = 11 days in a row, of approximately 12-14 hours work per day, this included such exciting incidents as a flat tire and a 4am Airport drop-off to Charleroi (because I am a great sister).

Unlike my colleagues who took their holidays after the event, I was straight back to the office leading into a September of 2 additional weekends of work, and the other weekends taken up with Electric Picnic, a football tournament in Paris and a weekend at home for my Mammy’s birthday.  Ok I know that those last 3 events are actually enjoyable so I’m not looking for sympathy really, but still I was kind of looking forward to a semi-chilled out weekend.

This weekend was the Belgium GAA ‘All Stars’ Weekend. Also the 10 Year Anniversary of Belgium GAA.  Also the Race Night Fundraiser for Belgium GAA.  I was very much looking forward to it, it all happened from 14.00 on Saturday till… the wee small hours of Sunday! Ok not very chilled out I admit.

However, in addition to that my good friend Dave was running a GAA Coaching Course Level 1 on Friday evening and Saturday morning.  Now, I did foundation level last year, it was great, and I was initially very interested in doing Level 2 (even though I haven’t actually used many of my coaching skills yet).

When I saw that it was this weekend though I weakened. I took my name off the list, I just wanted to relax.  But I wasn’t the only one, so the numbers dwindled, Dave sent an email around basically saying what a great opportunity it is and how they really needed people to attend, the guilt got to me and I put my name back on the list.  And I really enjoyed it, so delighted I did it, it was a lovely group of people and the Saturday morning session was almost all outside, I think I even got a little bit of sun!

However, I decided that I would need something to help me stay concentrated after a long week in work, and everyone knows that sugar is good for that.

So on Wed evening I made some Tiffin Biscuits (post to follow with recipe) and Thursday night I made these bad boys.

  • 225g (8oz) softened butter
  • 225g (8oz) caster sugar
  • 275g (10oz) self raising flour
  • 2 level teaspoons baking powder
  • 4 large eggs
  • 4 tbsps milk
  • grated rind 2 unwaxed lemons

For the icing

  • 3 tbsps lemon juice
  • 225g (8oz) sifted icing sugar

Instructions

  1. Pre-heat the oven to 180 C/Fan 160 C/Gas Mark 4
  2. Grease and line a 30 x 23 cm (12 x 9 in) traybake tin.
  3. Measure all the cake ingredients into a large bowl and beat until well blended. Turn the mixture into the prepared tin and level the top.
  4. Bake in the preheated oven for about 35-40 minutes or until the cake has shrunk away from the sides of the tin and springs bake when pressed. Leave to cool in the tin.
  5. Mix together the lemon juice and icing sugar to give a runny consistency. Spread out evenly over the cake and leave to set before cutting into  pieces.

They don’t look very pretty as I forgot to take the photo before stuffing them into a tupperware…. but they tasted good!

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Friday night: Shane coaches Caoimhe the ‘throwing a ball of paper over your shoulder into the waste paper basket’ skill.

She got it first try – legend.

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Saturday morning: this session took place in the International School of Brussels, we were in Jenny’s classroom for it.  

She teaches ‘Math’ as they call it in Canada.  According to the sign on her door Math Club is fun.  And sure why wouldn’t it be with Jenny as your teacher?

This is me at her desk:

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Mary’s Bolognese Sauce

It was my Mam’s birthday on 28th September so I took the trip back to Dublin for the occasion.

We had a lovely dinner out with the family, followed by a mini-pub crawl which included crashing my friend Michaela’s hen party, leading to an unfortunately unsuccessful search for a stripper and topped off by a birthday Jaegar-bomb bought by Eddie.

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Anyway, a good night was had by all, and after a walk on Sandymount strand to let Toby stretch his little dog legs and try to seduce some lady dogs (also unsuccessful) all traces of hangovers disappeared.  I made dinner on Sunday evening and in return, on Monday Mam kindly agreed to show me how to make lasagne.

Basically she makes a massive amount of Bolognese Sauce and uses half of it for the lasagne.  I mentioned before that there is alot of guess work in her cooking, including a certain amount of boiling over, forgetting about things etc etc, and yet somehow it all tastes delicious. It’s not fair.

That is why the below is a bit vague… but here it goes. I also include a photo from her old recipe books where the original recipe can be found, but this has of course been altered over the years…

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  • 2 Carrot
  • 1 Onion
  • 3 Celery
  • 2 Garlic
  • Bacon/salami
  • Oregano
  • 5 Tin Tomato
  • Dash of Red wine
  • Tomato Puree
  • 800kg Mince

This made about 4 servings of Bolognese and 1 large lasagna – it is currently frozen so I’ll let you know how it tastes when it’s been cooked!

  1. Chop the carrot, onion, celery and garlic and gently saute with the bacon for a few minutes.
  2. Add the tins of tomatoes, salt and pepper and simmer gently until the veg is tender.  Add 1/2 teaspoon of sugar per tin of tomatoes
  3. Blend the sauce (or if you prefer, blend 1/2 the sauce so that it is still a bit chunky) using a hand blender.  Keep some aside to use in other dishes instead of plain tinned tomatoes if you have enough, I guess you can freeze it too!

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4. Meanwhile, fry the mince with some tomato puree and add to the sauce along with the red wine, salt and pepper.

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5. Simmer very gently for about an hour, don’t stir! Taste the sauce as you go and if necessary add a veg stock cube for extra flavour  (this is what I’m talking about with the vagueness….)

My first attempt was ok.

It’s hard to get good quality mince in Belgium, it’s usually pure beef (so no fat = not much flavour) or a mixture of beef and pork, so I’m sure with a good quality mince it would make the difference.

Also I think I added too many tins of tomatoes – I had extra sauce (about 400ml which I froze for future), and when I tasted the sauce before adding the last tin there was a lovely flavour, especially from the chorizo, but that seemed to get last in the end dish.  I will play around with it the next time and let you know what happens!

My finished product (I have to get better at taking photos of food, this looks a bit sad).

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Lonely Veg Soup

I bought leeks for another dish and had some leftover, I planned on making a leek and potato soup, but sometimes I find it a bit heavy/stodgy so instead I just kind of made this up with the veg that was looking a bit lonely in the fridge….

Unlike most of the soups I ‘just kind of make up’ using the contents of my fridge, this one was actually quite tasty.  Maybe I’m getting better at it….

The chorizo and chilli gave it a nice flavour!

  • 1-2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 25g butter
  • 1 Leek
  • 1 Onion
  • 1 carrot
  • 2 celery stalks
  • 2 clove garlic
  • 1/2 chilli chopped
  • 1 medium potato
  • chorizo (6-7 thin slices of pre-sliced)
  • Bay leaf
  • Thyme
  • 2 Chicken Stock (or Veg if you prefer) cubes
  • 1.5 litre water
  • salt & pepper
  • Handful of split peas
  1. Chop the onion, celery, carrot, garlic, leek and chilli and gently saute for a few minutes in the oil and butter
  2. Peel and chop the potato and add to the veg along with the chorizo and add to the veg stirring and allow to cook on medium heat for another 2-3 minutes
  3. Add the water and stock cubes, along with the bay leaf and a couple of thyme sprigs, bring to the boil and allow to simmer until veg is tender.
  4. Blitz with hand blender adding salt and pepper to taste.
  5. At this point I found the soup to still be quite thin so I added in a handful of split peas and simmered for about another 10-15 minutes.
  6. You should probably add these along with the potatoes at the earlier point or instead add only 1 litre of water.  Though I like the flavour the split peas bring!
  7. Blitz again and enjoy!

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4th October: An update on the Lonely Veg Soup…..

I made a second batch, but had no celery or potatoes left so used a 1/4 of celeriac instead – worked a treat

I was out of chilli too so put in some chilli flakes/pepper mixture and about 2 teaspoons of harrisa paste – give it bit more of a kick.

Add the last of the split peas which was slightly more than a handful – so this batch was thicker, next time I’ll keep to the handful but it’s all a matter of taste!