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Apparently, 6th April is World Carbonara Day, and I’ve just finished reading this wonderful article by Manuela Spinelli of Eurotoques Ireland on the heart pounding merits of a good classic carbonara, and also reminding us that the principle of Italian cuisine is “generally three ingredients that marry together and become a paradise of flavours.” I shudder to think what Manuela would say to me on spying the mushrooms I love to put in my carbonara, along with parsley and the wrong kind of pork and cheese.
But as much as my Carbonara a la Anglaise may be derided for tearing up the Italian cuisine rule book, I feel quietly confident that the recipe below for a very un-Carbonara-like-Carbonara would warm the cockles of your heart all the same. Just like the real Italian classic, it has three primary flavours, but that aside, this would probably have Italians the world over rolling their eyes at my incredulity and arrogance, while also unable to deny the glorious flavour triumvirate that is Squash, Sage and Pork.
In these times of Covid-19, when more than ever nothing should be going to waste in the kitchen, this recipe was born from the necessity to use up a couple of sausages and half a butternut squash. There is also sage, one of my favourite herbs for chilly days, a gentle hit of chili, garlic (because: well, garlic…!), and some lemon to freshen the whole thing up. It’s a surprisingly easy dish to make, but apologise to the evening’s pot-washer in advance as it definitely isn’t a one-pot wonder!
Top Tip! This dish will feed two people with plenty of left over sauce. This sauce can be thinned out a little the next day and heated up, drizzled with some chili oil and crème fraiche and served up with some thick crusty bread for a hearty soup for one the following day!
- Half a butternut squash, peeled and chopped into medium chunks
- 2 pork sausages, skinned and ripped into small bite sized pieces
- 1 clove of garlic, peeled and sliced
- Red chili: either a few dried flakes or some fresh – to taste, background heat only!
- Handful of sage herb, leaves only
- 1 tbsp of fresh lemon juice
- 1 tsp of sea salt
- Freshly ground black pepper
- Long pasta: either spaghetti or linguine
- Olive Oil and Extra Virgin Olive Oil
- Parmesan Cheese
- Steam the butternut squash until tender.
- Place a large pot of well salted water onto boil. Just as the butternut squash is tender throughout, place the dried pasta into the boiling water.
- Meanwhile, in a frying pan cook down the sausage meat in a little olive oil until browned and glistening. Take out of the pan and place on kitchen paper.
- Reserve the meat cooking juices in the frying pan, and cook slowly the sliced garlic. Drain and place onto a piece of kitchen paper.
- Just before the pasta is cooked, place the tender butternut squash into a blender with the garlic, chili, lemon juice, sea salt, a generous twist of pepper, most of the sage and remaining meat juices from the frying pan. Add a little dash of water, (I use the water from steaming to retain the flavour), to help it along and blitz until completely smooth. Set aside.
- Drain the cooked pasta and place back into the saucepan. Dress the pasta with some Extra Virgin Olive Oil and set aside.
- Back to the frying pan and fry off the remaining sage leaves until crispy. Drain on kitchen paper.
- Pour the butternut squash sauce over the pasta a little at a time to coat it thoroughly and luxuriously. Don’t worry if there is a lot of sauce left over – you can have that for lunch tomorrow!
- Portion out onto warmed plates, top with nuggets of the browned sausage meat, crispy sage leaves, a final flourish with the pepper grinder and plenty of grated parmesan cheese.
Enjoy with a chilled, crisp white wine!
It was a truth that I had previously never doubted that I would never be any good at making pastry. “It’s just too difficult” I thought, “It’ll just always go wrong and then it’ll be a waste”. But then I thought – how hard could it be to make some harmless pastry. Turns out that all I really needed to do was roll up my sleeves and go for it.
Turns out that I’m actually pretty darn good at making my own pastry. Not as an every day thing you understand – I’m not that committed, but certainly in a batch and ahead of schedule and freezing down portions for later use is right up my street and the kind of vision of effortless mid-week cookery that I can handle without working myself up into a frenzy!
OK, so it’s not technically “squash season” anymore, but thanks to the fact that squash can keep well for a long time once harvested if stored correctly, mean that really they are still good to go now as a seasonal veg.
Of course, butternut squash are available all year round now too and thankfully this recipe works well with any kind of squash. Blue cheese, sage and squash is a classic flavour combination, and serving this up with Orzo pasta (fast becoming my favourite pasta because of its versatility) means that this can either be viewed as a comfort food dish or a light summery dish depending on how your mood takes you!
Make this dish extra seasonal by adding a simple in-season green leaf salad with raw Russian Kale (if yours is still growing as vigorously as mine is at the moment) or if you want something with an extra bit of pep, early season rocket or oriental mustard leaves are all in season right now.