Tag Archives: Fast Food

My kind of Fast-Food: Home-Cooked Pasta Carbonara

Pasta Carbonara Gather and Graze

On nights like tonight, after baking batches of muffins and cookies for children’s end of term parties at school tomorrow, a quick, easy pasta dish for dinner was all I had time for. I love that this recipe is cooked in the time it takes to boil the water and cook the pasta. It’s always a hit with the kids, especially when served with a little garlic bread on the side!

There are so many fabulous variations of Pasta Carbonara out there, but I still felt keen to document and share this particular version – it’s the one we’ve been cooking for years now and we still haven’t tired of it.

A quick post for a quick pasta!

Pasta Carbonara

  • Servings: 3-4 (enough for our family…)
  • Print

  • 300g (Dried) Pasta
  • 1 Tablespoon Olive Oil
  • 200g Diced Speck (or Bacon)
  • ¼ cup White Wine
  • 2 Free-Range Egg Yolks
  • 100mls Pouring Cream
  • A large handful of Finely Grated Parmesan (or Grana Padano) Cheese
  • A sprinkling of Freshly Ground Nutmeg
  • A little Sea Salt and Pepper

Place a large pot of water on the stove and bring to a rolling boil. In a book I’m currently reading, ‘In Search of Total Perfection’, Heston Blumenthal recommends about 1 litre of water for every 100g of pasta.

While the water is coming to the boil, place the egg yolks, cream, parmesan, nutmeg and seasonings into a small mixing bowl and stir well to combine. Set this bowl aside for later on.

Once the water is boiling, add some salt (another Heston tip: add 10g of salt for every 100g of pasta) and give a quick stir before throwing in the pasta. Stir again gently to make sure none of the pasta is sticking together.

In a medium-sized frying pan over med-high heat, pour in the olive oil and when hot, add the speck. Fry until nice and golden. Turn the heat down a little and add the white wine, stirring to lift any little bits of speck stuck to the bottom of the pan. Allow the wine to simmer for a few minutes until syrupy and then turn off the heat.

Keep an eye on the pasta and strain it in a colander as soon as ‘al dente’ (tender, but with a slight bite). Add the drained pasta directly into the frying pan and toss briefly in the oil and speck until all of the pasta is coated. Remove the pan from the stove (so that the sauce doesn’t curdle from the eggs coming in to contact with too much heat) and stir in the egg/cream mixture. The sauce will thicken slightly with this gentle stirring. Check for seasoning and adjust if necessary. Serve immediately.

Cooking Notes:

  • If you can find good quality Speck where you live, please give it a try! It has a slightly smoky flavour and a touch of juniper berry, that is really wonderful in this dish.


World Gone Pear-Shaped?

Image with thanks to 'Uniformed Comment'

Image with thanks to ‘Uniformed Comment’

‘Gather and Graze’ was created in many ways out of frustration. My moments of quiet time for reading and thinking are often spent agonising about how this world is spinning out of control in one way or another. Many things I physically can’t do anything about, but when it comes to finding a solution to the Obesity Epidemic, I’d really like to be a part of it. So ‘Gather and Graze’ was born.

I feel very strongly that each individual needs to take responsibility when it comes to maintaining a healthy weight (excepting of course the very small minority who actually do have medical conditions that make this difficult). It is YOU who consciously makes a decision to queue up in the drive-through lane for Fast Food. It is YOU who fills up the shopping trolley with soft drinks/soda and processed food ready to merely be microwaved and served up on a plate. It is YOU who passes this abhorrent way of eating on to your innocent children. Who are we kidding, if the majority of Western society could exercise restraint and learn how to cook again (even the basics), then the world would be in a far better place than what it is today.

Unfortunately, it’s impossible to turn back the hands of time to a day and age when all of these products weren’t available and people had no choice but to eat REAL food, however we do have the ability to simply (and consistently) say “NO!” Only then might we see a decline in the production of these items and a shift in what is offered in the marketplace. We need to learn from the numerous cultures around the world who haven’t bought in to this awful Western-Style diet, who embrace a healthy diet and life-style, who continue to cook the food of generations past and who are rewarded with good health in both mind and body, plus a longevity of life that not surprisingly goes along with these choices.

My sincere hope is that people (particularly those who desperately need it) might come across my website and realise that it’s actually quite easy and economical to cook from scratch all of those lovely day-to-day meals and baked goods that are out there. It’s not a chore, it really doesn’t take that long and it’s such a wonderful investment in the future for not only the health of ourselves and our loved ones, but equally for the health of the environment and the world we are to pass on to future generations.

More often than not, much of the food in supermarkets contain a list of ingredients that we know not what half of them are. We need to nourish our bodies with REAL food, so that we can be 100% sure of what we’re putting in. Numerous chemicals and modified ingredients are added to both keep costs down for the company that produced it and to allow the product to sit on the shelf for many months/years longer than they should. These ingredients are obviously not being accepted by our bodies in the same way that more natural ingredients would. I can only suspect that it’s through the sheer volume that some people are consuming of this type of food that the unnatural substances are taking their toll and wreaking havoc with their bodies.

PORTION SIZE! PORTION SIZE PORTION SIZE! Our bodies require far, far less than what many would imagine. My personal thought is that it is initially through gluttony (for lack of a kinder word) that we indulge in more food and larger portions than our body needs. Then as the stomach increases in size, from the extra food being put in, it becomes harder to feel satiated by a normal size meal and with the added dimension of exercise no longer being balanced to create an input/output match, there’s little wonder the body becomes bigger and bigger. Importantly though… the stomach having shown it’s ability to increase in size, not surprisingly has the ability to shrink as well. We seem to think that we should be entitled to go through life without ever feeling the pangs of hunger, but we really do not need to be snacking and filling our bodies up with food at all hours of the day. Let your body feel a little hungry now and then – it really won’t hurt you.

There are those who choose not to snack on food, but to always have a drink on hand. Rarely will this drink be water. I lived in the USA for a couple of years and was appalled by how much soda was consumed by people on a daily basis – it’s almost like it’s on tap. I seriously question whether this is doing an equal or greater amount of harm to our bodies… Where we used to drink water, plain milk, fresh-squeezed fruit juice (all very natural substances) we are now taking on board empty calories, high levels of sugar-like substances and a concoction of various flavourings and colourings. The addition of artificial sweeteners to these drinks, to make us supposedly feel like we’re drinking ‘diet’ or ‘sugarless’ beverages is only perpetuating the problem and tricking us into believing that it’s somehow good for us and won’t have an effect our bodies. As always, in moderation and as an occasional drink to be had, I’m sure it would be fine, but too many don’t seem to grasp this simple principle. I find it uncanny that whenever I pass an obese person in the supermarket, they always seem to have a carton of diet soda in their trolley. Is it not obvious that this so-called diet foodstuff is not doing it’s job?

My thoughts on this subject may appear a little harsh and provocative to some, though it is said very much in concern for the individuals themselves and our society in general, that finds itself increasingly heavier year by year. We need to find solutions soon, to turn around this awful and debilitating condition. Without speaking about it and acting upon it, we will ultimately be paving the way to ruin for so many in our society.

Postscript – My husband, myself and my two children all have normal, healthy BMI’s. We eat simply prepared, tasty REAL food. Occasionally we’ll go out for a meal, but never to a fast-food joint or franchise-style restaurant… always to somewhere that cooks good quality REAL food. On these occasions our children might have a glass of soft drink, something seen as a special treat. At home with meals, they will either have water (mostly) or 100% juice. I can’t remember the last time I drank soft drink… We’ve never bought in to the low-fat products on offer – our milk, butter, cheese, yoghurt, cream etc. is all as natural as possible and full-fat. Fresh fruit and vegetables feature large, with always a supply of seasonal offerings (preferably from the farmer’s market or local sources). My husband and children prefer raw vegetables to cooked, so often there are bowls of carrot sticks, green beans or snow peas on our table to go with our meals. Meat is enjoyed in quite small portions with most evening meals. We certainly do have treats in our house, but eaten in moderation and not for consuming mindlessly. It works for us…