Leaving Liverpool was with a heavy heart. A tiny bit of me was so ready for a fresh start but my heart will always belong there. However, as with first loves of any kind, on distancing oneself from whatever you once loved, only to allow the sands of time flow and life unfold a little in a new microcosm, I am fearful the return is never quite as sweet as the memory of how you loved it.
One day I may return but I say that with the same likelihood I may emigrate and become and honorary-Kiwi. Or something like that. You just don’t and simply can’t know what the future holds as that’s the beauty of it… Deep? Oh yes – that’s me. Deeply dippy maybe. Anyway, I digress. BACON!
Down the road from our dinky little flat was a wonderful deli called Delifonseca. The perfect 1.5 miles round trip from my sofa, it was one of my frequent haunts for many reasons. I would do “walks” to it as part of my alleged get fit regime (don’t judge how pathetic that sounds, please) and during exam time, it would make an excellent getaway-from-the-books-as-it’s-not-like-I-don’t-procrastinate-enough-already destination.
Hey, I got Honours in my degree, it did me no harm to pay daily visits to the meat counter to lust over their perfect smokehouse pancetta. Sweet and smoky, barbecued and sea salty, it was sheer perfection. Not only did it grace our Christmas table cooked with the sprouts and crushed chestnuts for the 7 years we lived in our old home, it made many a sinfully rich carbonara a la Nigella as well.
This Christmas in fact, I made a 30 mile trip from my folks’ house to buy a stash for our new freezer in The Apple Chapel as I’d missed the delightful Delifonseca and their marvellous free range produce so much, I simply had to detour our journey back into Yorkshire. It was with a heavy heart I wandered around the shop floor, gazing lovingly at their excellent array of fresh, local cheeses, the butchers counter filled with ruby red beef and plumptious chickens.
The wine cellar, I have bought many a bottle from for a “special night in” with Hungry Hubby, the bread counter where I’d purchased artisanal bread to eat with their deli meats and cheeses. The small but perfectly formed restaurant also bore witness to many a celebratory meal – birthdays, Valentine’s days, anniversaries, my last graduation when they gave Step Mum a free cupcake to take home as she couldn’t squeeze in a pud.
When we were feeling flush, we’d go for Saturday morning brunch and reassure ourselves we could afford the calorie splurge by that afore mentioned vast walk to and from the restaurant ;) When Hungry Hubs shattered his leg 13 months ago I even spent one afternoon there alone, worried sick about him and Daddums who had also gone back into hospital, having the first hot meal in a week of hospital visits in between shifts at work, a hearty bowl of soup with German rye sour dough and plenty of salty butter to enrich and soothe my soul. A venue for every occasion you might say!
So last night I took out one of my packages of pancetta and rifled about the fridge for inspiration. A crisp, light, post box red long pepper and a bushel of snooker bay green basil caught my attention. I picked a courgette as I wanted the veg to bulk out the meal and add some much-needed antioxidants after a rather indulgent festive season. Cream felt all wrong so I toddled to my larder cupboard to retrieve the ever-present tin of tomatoes I simply can’t sleep if I don’t have in there, along with the bottle of Marsala I likewise, feel somewhat naked in the kitchen without.
With no definite plans for how the recipe would end up on the plate, I just did as I do on most evenings after work each week. Cooking on instinct, not worried by the constraints of a recipe book nor the pressure of having folk to feed – it was just dinner. For me and Hungry Hubby. Who is as always, my willing chief taste tester.
A little oil anointed my pan before the pancetta was sliced and cubed before rendering down it’s glorious, rich flavoured fat. Meat of this quality need not be present in, forgive me, the size of a cow proportions to make it’s presence felt and time is its best friend as you want the pork to cook, not caramelise and the fat to turn translucent and melt into the pan leaving no trace of pearlescence opacity between its meaty layers. A slosh of marsala to capture it’s essence leaching out into the pan before adding the ever-present diced onion began the unifying of these simple ingredients.
The crisp peppers and julienned courgette added moisture to the final dish as well as a vivid wash of colour.
A mere minute or two more until the veg took on some colour and began to wilt a little, and it was time to add in the tomatoes and pop the pasta on to cook. Leaving enough time to open some wine and set the table.
On eating this simple meal, studded only with a sparse sprinkling of pancetta but not lacking in flavour for being so diminutive on the meat Hubs normally looks for to make a meal, a meal we realised this was the way we should eat our beloved pancetta. Not smothered in double cream, eggs and parmesan as in the comfort food of the gods, carbonara, but complimented with the acidity of tinned tomatoes, the juicy freshness a crisp pepper gives and the earthy but somehow fresh flavour of the bucolic basil, finely shredded and folded into the pasta with its smoky, sweet, salty sauce. Salut. To the glory of the future – no matter what it holds for us all.
- 1 tsp olive oil
- 150 g pancetta chopped
- 1 small onion finely diced
- 1 garlic clove minced
- 2 tbsp Marsala wine
- 1 long pepper finely sliced
- 1 medium courgette julienned
- 1 can of chopped tomatoes Small bunch of basil approx 400g, finely shredded Pasta, to serve with
Put a large pan of water on to boil for the pasta (it always takes longer than I think!)
Heat the oil in a large frying pan then slowly render out the fat from the pancetta
When no more visible fat remaining in the pancetta (be patient, you want it to render, not catch and burn around the edges), add in the onion and cook until translucent
Add in the garlic and cook for a minute until fragrant
Add in the courgette and cook for a couple of minutes to turn it in the oil and start to soften it before adding the pepper and doing the same
Add in the can of tomatoes with a swish of water in the empty can (you only need about a third of the can, no more)
At this point, put your pasta in to boil and by the time the pasta is cooked, the sauce will be ready (go by the pack directions - my penne took 11 mins to cook to just over al dente, how we like it)
Add a ladle full of the pasta water into the sauce then drain the pasta itself and add to the sauce
Combine thoroughly then stir in the shredded basil
Serve with some parmesan grated on top, if you have any.