Wednesday, March 25, 2020

Henry’s Spag

Or how to make cooking fun in this Time of Corona.
The Sauce
Open a bottle of your preferred red wine. For me that’s shiraz, although cab sav or merlot work almost as well. If using merlot halve the amount of sugar. While the wine is breathing (yes, it should be a half way decent one, cheap wine does nobody any favours) dice the onions on the smallish side, dice the salami into one cm or 7/16 of an inch squares and dice the olives into six segments each. In a separate bowl mix the basil, oregano, paprika and cayenne pepper (if using). Mince three cloves of garlic (if using fresh). If you’re using fresh tomatoes, dice them into bite sized pieces and retain as much of their juice that you can.
Taste the wine, if its drinkable pour yourself a glass, you deserve it. If you’re a smoker you no doubt deserve one of them as well, so sip and puff.
In a wok or a frying pan with high sides add the olive oil and heat over a high flame. When warm add the diced onions and sauté for a couple of minutes then add the garlic. Stir and mix with the onions, then add the salami and sauté for a couple more minutes. Add the mixed herbs and spices and mix. It should be starting to look pretty dry. Add the olives followed by the tomatoes and their juice. Stir well then add the tomato paste and mix. Then add 1 ½ standard glasses of wine and mix well, then add 300ml of water and stir. Add two heaped dessert spoons of raw sugar (one if using merlot) and mix.
Bring to the boil and have another weel deserved drink and a fag (about five minutes). Then set to a brisk simmer and let it reduce by at least a third. Have another drink and ciggie if so inclined. It’s going to take 15 to 20 minutes to reduce and should be stirred regularly. At the 10-minute mark spoon off any excess oil sitting on top. Just before finishing taste for sweetness and add sugar, if needed.
Once cooked let it rest for half an hour. Then you can serve with your favourite pasta (see below) or put into containers and freeze. It should serve six average appetites and when thawed can be heated in a micro-wave in three minutes. Mix through a tablespoon of water for each serving when micro-waving.
The Pasta
Pasta is not porridge! Consequently, cooking pasta isn’t a set and forget process. You cannot un-cook pasta but when overcooked it ends up with the same texture as porridge. Porridge with a sweetener and moo juice is a fine breakfast, with a savoury sauce, mmm… not so fine.
When selecting dry pasta, the colour of the packet doesn’t matter as long as it’s made from Durum wheat, a hard wheat that mills very fine. Whilst you can make your own pasta from scratch is far too much of a fiddle for this little black duck. Cooking should be fun, and making pasta is a chore.
The first time I cooked this meal for the best beloved she upbraided me for serving her raw pasta, now, some 20 years later, I get the same tongue lashing when it is limp and soggy. She indulges the same rigour to my pasta cooking as she applies to her rice cooking. It should be light with a resistance to the bite which cooking shows say is “Al Dente.” This is easiest to achieve by following the packet instructions up to a point. Boil in the recommended amount of water and if they say for ten minutes start tasting at eight and turn off the heat when it is almost done, the residual heat will take it the rest of the way.
If you have a pasta style that requires draining, count to 20 then pour into a colander, shake but don’t rinse. If you’re cooking spaghetti use a server to lift it straight out of the pot, let it drain and then place it in a bowl. Repeat until you have the desired amount. Mix a generous amount of sauce through the pasta and serve. Sprinkle with Parmesan cheese, which for me is lots, pasta is my excuse to eat Parmesan cheese. Enjoy with what’s left of the wine or if a shared meal opening a second bottle is recommended.
1 Bottle of red wine (optional but fun)
3 or 4 cigarettes (optional except for addicts)
3 tablespoons of olive oil
2 small onions (Diced)
3 cloves of garlic or 3 teaspoons (heaped) of pre-minced garlic
100gms of Hungarian salami (hot or mild according to taste)
70gms of diced Greek Kalamata Olives
2 heaped teaspoons of dried Basil
1 heaped teaspoon of dried Oregano
2 ½ heaped teaspoons of Hungarian paprika
¼ flat teaspoon of Cayenne pepper (optional)
2  400gm tins of diced tomatoes or 8 Roma tomatoes cored and diced
3 ½ heaped dessert spoons of triple concentrated tomato paste
1 ½ glasses of red wine (from the bottle above is recommended but not mandatory)
300ml of water
2 dessert spoons of raw sugar (halve if using white sugar or merlot)

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