Posts about Food

Scratch pasta and sauce

  • Pasta (penne is more traditional but it really doesn’t matter)
  • Tomatoes (I use a 2:1 ratio of diced tomatoes and whole plum tomatoes)
  • Bacon or thin-sliced ham (I use bacon scraps and hand-remove all the fat to produce semi-ham)
  • Olives (I prefer oil-cured black kalamata olives but green also work)
  • Rosemary (a little goes a long way)
  • Garlic
  • Olive oil
  • Salt

Chop the meat into little bits and then heat until cooked but still limp (not crisp or chewy!). Drain the fat. Quickly chop and brown the rosemary in the bottom of a saucepan along with the garlic and a little olive oil. Chop or slice the olives and dump the meat, tomatoes, olives and rosemary into the pan with the rosemary and garlic, and stew until the diced tomatoes have lost most of their consistency. Salt to taste. When ready, dump over freshly cooked pasta (a little al dente is good – the chewiness adds structure and makes it easier to eat).

While great hot and fresh, the final dish also refrigerates well and improves in flavour over time as the flavours meld. If you’ve picky kids, lower the rosemary and olive proportions. If you’re like me, up the rosemary and olives. If you want to (deliciously) experiment, coarsely cube and brown some aubergine on the side and dump into the mix right before the end.

The fabled return of the pastie

Tinners’ Trail, while otherwise an ignorable game, reminded me of the noble pastie and what a fine food it is.

Basic ingredients:

  • Pie dough (pre mixed sheets from the store or make your own with all-purpose flour, salt, water and a little lard or butter)
  • Rutabega (aka swedes – it isn’t a pastie if it doesn’t have rutabega)
  • Potato (I like small quartered reds with the skins on)
  • Onion (I prefer strong yellow but red will also work)
  • Meat (I opted for hamburger, but chopped steak, stew beef, chicken, turkey, ham or pretty much any other lumps of dead animal will work)
  • Fatty meat. (I used ground pork but sausage or suet will work and many prefer the arguably more traditional suet)
  • Salt & pepper

Optional ingredients:

  • Lamb instead of or mixed with the beef
  • Beef stock (helps stick it together, adds salt and a little flavour)
  • Celery (leave the leaves on)
  • Parsley
  • Mushrooms
  • Most anything else that might be tasty. A little rosemary can go very well for instance.

Ratios are very flexible. Use suet instead of the pork if you want a more traditional (and tastier) pastie. I used roughly two parts beef to one part pork to five parts potatoes to two parts rutabega and one part celery. Next time I’ll probably decrease the total meat proportion as I’m a little tired of meat-heavy/centric meals. I might also throw in a few other vegetables like turnips or cabbage or anything else I can think of just for variation (ObNote: carrots are traditionally verboten).

Precision is not important in the world of pasties – variation is the spice of life. Chop or cube the vegetables. Don’t worry about keeping it small, just whack them about a bit with a knife. Mix everything except the dough into a gooey mass. Salt, pepper and other spices to taste. Parsley is good. Don’t bother with keeping the mix even as distribution variations are tasty. Roll the dough out into circles around 30cm or so in diameter (precision is not important), or use pie dough that has already been formed into circles. Don’t roll the dough too thin; 3mm or so is fine. The dough needs to be thick enough to solidly hold the final contents. Dump of big glob of goo-mix near the centre of a dough circle and fold it over to make a half-circle with the lump in the middle. Thickly fold over and crimp the edges. If needed (depends on the dough), brush the edges before and after with water or butter/lard to make them stick together better. Prick the top in several places to allow steam to escape. Bake for around an hour at around 180C (350F).

Pasties can be made very quickly. 30 minutes from ingredients to oven is reasonable. A quick google search will return scores of variations on the above base. Some of the vegetarian curry pasties are especially good.

Eat hot or cold. Some like them plain or with catsup or hot sauce; it is all good. Eat by hand like a slice of watermelon, holding onto the thick crimped edge and eating out the filled centre. I made a bunch on Sunday evening and ate them all week for lunch. They were great.