Carbonara for Non-Italians

If you’re Italian, I suggest you turn away, because all things considered I definitely do not want you to wretch or cringe at what I’m about to share. I also do not want you to think less of me as a cook, because I’ve had enough of people thinking that every time I tell them how I once burned water while boiling it.

Lazy breakfasts. We don’t even toast bread anymore…

The last few days have gone by in a haze of confusion. A few of my recipe testers got back to me with their feedback on the dishes they’ve been testing and I have to say that I’ve been left bamboozled by some of their notes. This is no laughing matter, people. I think I will pour myself a drink tomorrow, better yet I’ll just hold the entire bottle close to my chest, and go through all of the feedback. I will report back on that.

Between recipe testing and writing and studying and attending baby showers in Texan suburbs, I have improvised upon the traditional spaghetti carbonara. It seems like me and Kumar (you guys can call him Sundaram, if you want) are preferring meals-in-a-whirl more and more, especially for the past few weeks of the new year. The mornings are quiet and cloudy, because that’s what Plano has been serving up for the last few weeks. But now and then, the sun will come out and bathe everything in bright, eye-hurting gold. Love those days. And all we want to do is walkabout outside and sit with our backs to the sun. We hardly feel like spending too much time in the kitchen. But we haven’t stopped cooking. We’ve just been finding shortcuts.

We made a fish curry that took exactly five minutes of prep. We make omelets with leftover mushrooms for breakfast and we don’t even bother to toast the bread. We learned a plain tomato pasta recipe from a friend of Kumar’s, that has sustained us multiple times over the last year and we have already made that four times in the last month. And then there were those cookies (which take less time than a pedicure, and is infinitely more pleasurable). All that is, of course, interspersed with generous doses of tonkatsu ramen from Ramen Hakata and Monta, dumpling from Sichuan Folk, and gelato from Amorino (only so we can dig into a big bowl of it while walking by the fountains in Legacy). Let’s chart it up to lack of time and convenience.

And now this carbonara. Which is not just for people out of time and non-Italians, it’s also for cooks who don’t always know what they’re doing in the kitchen.

Spaghetti Carbonara for Non-Italians

Adapted from a recipe by Nigella Lawson, and heavily altered.

Ingredients:
Dried spaghetti, 2 servings worth
3-4 strips of smoky bacon
1 tbsp of minced garlic
2 tsps of red chili flakes
½ cup of chicken stock
¼ cup of cream cheese, softened to room temperature
1-inch piece of Parmesan cheese, plus more to grate over once the dish is ready
Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
2 eggs, lightly beaten
¼ cup of freshly chopped parsley
Extra virgin olive oil, to dress

How to:
Bring a large pot of water to boil. While you’re waiting for the water to come to a boil, cook the bacon in a large non-stick or stainless steel pan until most of the fat is rendered. Remove the bacon from the pan and place on a bed of paper towels. When the pot of water starts boiling, add a generous amount of salt, add the spaghetti and cook till al dente. It’ll usually take 8 – 10 minutes. Meanwhile, in the pan in which you cooked the bacon, add garlic and chilli flakes. Reduce the heat to medium low and cook for 30 seconds. Add the chicken stock, cream cheese and the piece of Parmesan. Cover and cook on medium low until the stock is reduced to almost half. Before you drain the pasta retain ¼ cup of the starchy pasta water. Chop up the cooked bacon and add it back to the pan along with the spaghetti, the pasta water, salt and pepper. Cook uncovered on high heat till most of the liquid disappears from the pan. Take the pan off the heat and add in the parsley and lightly beaten eggs. Toss the eggs with the sauce and the spaghetti quickly to prevent it from scrambling. Serve and top with grated Parmesan and a generous drizzle of EVOO.

Advertisement

Madness

It feels like I’m about start leaking marbles from my ears. Can you see it? Can you see the veins against my temples starting to split at their seams? In a moment, I’ll leak and be declared insane.

You, darling reader, would be happy to know, that I have survived a meltdown. Of elephantine proportions. There is a chance I’m exaggerating, but allow me this. Saying that I have “been busy” would be an understatement. You already know that I have been in this state of busyness, for a while. But last week was it for me.

alice-donovan-rouse-177304
Seriously…

It started two months ago with a small idea of reviving the “book”. Which in hindsight has proven to be a bigger task that I have ever come across, but we all know that I’m prone to biting off more than I can chew. The “book” has been on and off for the last ten years. Even before I graduated from college. Back then, it was mostly about friends and the comic heights of being a student of architecture. It then moved on to life inn Mumbai, graduate studies in Nottingham and then finally London.

I’d write pieces. Stow some away. Some I would use and put them in the blog here, mostly the ones related to food. The others would just sit quietly in the vastness of Google Drive. Right after we traveled back from our SE Asian holiday, an ad-man friend, Richard — who comes as a complete set with the sculpted beard and curled up mustache — asked me to review a short story he had written and was thinking about submitting it to a literary magazine (!!!!). As expected, the piece was brilliant. But more inspiring than anything.

“Do you think you can take it on?” I found Priya asking me, a week later. We were discussing Richard’s piece over Skype, and how I felt hungry and tempted to fire up that old Google Drive account and retrieve all my forgotten stories.

“You know where we are with the company,” she continued. I did know. I do know.

We have a Bali retreat coming up (in a week’s time!) and in my anxiety I have chewed off all my finger nails. Priya’s daily routine now includes rocking back and forth on her office chair, every morning, for two hours, imagining all organisational disasters that could possibly happen during the retreat. There’s an Egypt trip coming up in December, which adds to the frenzy. We’re about to announce our 2018 dates. The website is being pricked and prodded and torn apart by an SEO expert. The Indian banking system is a nightmare to navigate. We’re rapidly running out of money we had set aside for marketing. The affiliates’ program is about to be launched. Bloggers and influencers rule the world. Our tech guys are more scholars than executors.

Continue reading Madness