20 October 2007

Spaghetti alla Carbonara

What does one feed a man the night before he rises at 4:00am to cycle 250km? Pasta.

It is the day before the charity 'Around The Bay in a Day' bicycle ride for The Smith Family. Mr Stickyfingers and I join his Lycra wearing road cyclist buddies for a BBQ and bask in the glorious Spring sunshine.

After a char-grilled protein fix of an exquisite, thick Black Welsh Porterhouse steak from the King Valley, his favourite spicy Asian Coleslaw and a serve of potato salad with caramelised onions. I was stumped as to what my beloved's next meal should be. What would help propel him down that long journey around Port Phillip Bay?

I scanned through my mental catalogue of recipes. And then an old favourite rose to the surface. Spaghetti Alla Carbonara. Perfect. A carb load with the added muscle building protein of eggs.

I never follow a recipe. I cook instinctively using an expansive mental database of techniques and recipes to use whatever is at hand. Pasta is not something we eat often, but it is always kept simple. The Carbonara I wanted this time would feature a couple of non traditional extras: a large King Oyster Mushroom, two small cloves of garlic, a few sage leaves and an onion.

It came together beautifully. The aroma of Gypsy Pig leg bacon - a local pancetta - cooked gently with garlic and onions, wafted through the house. Mr Stickyfingers, who had been pumping tyres and packaging provisions, left his tasks and hovered nearby, summonsed by the smell.

Then to the pan came the mushroom, a little splash of milk, spaghetti,
a duck egg and a couple of hen eggs broken into the pan, stirred through with crème fraǐche, then finished with flat leaf parsley and purple sage. A little Murray River Salt, black pepper and a garnish of a sage flower and fresh watercress finished the picture. Parmagiano Reggiano was on hand but not required.

Meal finished, hunger sated, Mr Stickyfingers retired for the night. In a matter of hours he will rise to a breakfast of Knead Wholemeal bread studded with seeds and grains, and topped with Mountain Honey from Kyneton, leaving the house with his pockets packed with bananas, protein gels, sweets and sachets of Powerade.

And when he returns home with an infinitely painful posterior I shall again ponder the question of what to cook next.

There are a few theories as to the origins of Spaghetti alla Carbonara. Some say that it is named for Carbonari - Charcoal makers - who lived in the hills outside Rome and created the dish. Others claim that it is named for the amount of black pepper served on it, as to resemble coal dust. Still others cite it as having evolved from
a nineteenth-century secret society whose aim was to unify Italy, then
on having been driven into the forests of Abruzzi named themselves
La Carboneria.

Carbonara is said to have been a purely provincial dish in Italy until after The Second World War, when many Italians were eating American Streaky Bacon and eggs supplied by US troops, which is why both bacon and pancetta are acceptable as core ingredients. The first known published recipe for it appeared in 1927 in Ada Boni's La Cucina Romana.


Anonymous said...

I like your instinctive cooking method. I use that a lot of times too, not that I have lots in my mental storage,just that...it's inherent in me.

Thanks for visiting my blog. :)

stickyfingers said...

You're one of the lucky ones Tigerfish, and that's why your blog attracts lots of drooling comments ;-)