Tuesday, 27 July 2010

TuTo-PaBa

It's funny how things go sometimes. I remember a while back, when I would flick through a thick, glossy paged, illustriously illustrated recipe book in WHSmith, how I would wonder at the recipes before me. How on earth would one possibly come up with such an enormous variety of such delicious looking food? How do you just 'invent' stuff like that?

The answer, I think, is that you don't invent. Take last Saturday. It was a warm and sunny morning, and after razzing it down the local common on my bike I arrived at the Pantiles, to find it looking as beautiful and historic as ever. There was a pleasant buzz in the air too; not the sort created by an airborne insect, but that of a moderately lively atmosphere. As it was so pleasant, we decided on a whim to stay for coffee, which we had at an Italian deli/café/restaurant which I hadn't been to before. As I supped on my cappuccino in the balmy sun, looking at the rickety old carts and baskets laden with groceries, I felt inspired.

Now traditionally on a Saturday evening in my family, we have always had a tea with bacon and eggs. But right then I really felt the urge to eat something fresh, simple and (slightly) Italian. Alfresco too, if possible. But not wanting to intrude too deeply on tradition, I decided the dish must include bacon. Some sort of pasta with bacon then. From there I added ingredients one by one to my mental shopping list until I had compiled the recipe below.

Now I know that the recipe is nothing particularly original. Bacon, pasta and tuna have been combined for eons. But the point that it illustrated to me, is how recipes are (or can be) formed. Influences from place, weather, atmosphere and tradition all combined to create my recipe. I'm not saying that all recipes are formed this way, I'm just saying that I seriously doubt that these great books come about from someone sitting at a desk thinking them up. They are are the result of travel, experience, knowledge and heritage. It's much like art and music – nothing is truly original; every piece of music or work of art has been influenced by something or someone else that came before.

So I guess I've answered my own question then. Next time I'm pondering over a recipe book in WHSmith I'll be less puzzled and more intrigued with what people come up with. The more of their recipes you follow, the more you'll learn and the more likely you'll be able to come up with something great yourself. There are those, of course, who do not follow recipes, and do not need to - and good for them! But if like me you need instruction and inspiration and want to explore more, then the variety of those dishes already created and tested will prove invaluable to you. Go on, try something new. I dare you.

___________

Oh, and as for the rather unusual title to this blog post, it's what I decided to call the dish below. The reason for this is that I thought it would be unimaginably dull and laborious to name it something like the 'Tuna Bacon Sun Dried Tomato and Pasta with Basil, Cheese and Some Other Ingredients' recipe. So instead I got the first two letters of the key ingredients -Tuna sun dried Tomatoes Pasta and Bacon – and christened it the TuTo-PaBa.


TuTo-PaBa


A hearty pasta with wine eaten outside on a warm summer's evening. It doesn't get much better.

Time: It took me longer, but I reckon you could get it down to the 20-30 minute mark.

Serves: 4

Price: £1.78 per serving


Ingredients:

Buy:

370g penne pasta

6 large rashers unsmoked middle bacon

1x 185g tin tuna

1 lemon

250g Wensleydale, Mozzarella, or cheese of choice

1 jar sun-dried tomatoes

1 pack fresh basil


From your cupboard:

2 slices brown bread

olive oil

butter

black pepper


Method:

  1. Cook the pasta according to pack instructions (i.e. place in pan of boiling water until soft).

  2. Meanwhile, add a knob or two of butter to a frying pan and fry the bacon.

  3. Whilst the pasta and bacon are cooking, wash most of the basil and pull the leaves off the stalks. Toast the bread, then whizz in a blender to make crumbs. Grab 8-10 sun-dried tomatoes and chop them into thin strips.

  4. Once the bacon is all fried, chop it into small strips or chunks.

  5. Once cooked, drain the pasta and return to a low heat. Now add the bacon, about two thirds of the basil, the sun-dried tomatoes, the bread crumbs and the tin of tuna (drain it first though!).

  6. Mix it all together. Now add the cheese of choice. I crumbled Wensleydale over it, purely for experimental reasons, and it turned out rather nicely. Feel free to use any other grated cheese, but if using parmesan add sparingly.

  7. Season with the black pepper, and squeeze the juice of half the lemon over it. Taste it – if you like add more lemon or pepper. It's fairly salty from the tuna, cheese and bacon so it shouldn't need any more salt.

  8. Once plated tear and scatter remaining basil leaves over the top. Serve with either a salad or a toasted cheese and tomato ciabatta (or normal fresh roll).


PS – I would love to hear any feedback. Firstly, if you tried the recipe I would like to know what you thought of it, and do feel free to suggest any improvements that could be made. Secondly – the blurb before the recipe. If you liked it, let me know. If you didn't, let me know.


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