Have you ever made Carbonara? Thomas Brock, our resident travelling English teacher (and foodie) is talking about the famous pasta dish. He has explained why this dish is important to him in the latest entry of Thomas’ Blog! Read, learn some new vocabulary, and practise English!
Foodie: a person who loves food and is very interested in different types of food.
Anecdote: a short, often funny story, especially about something someone has done.
Culinary: connected with cooking or kitchens.
Kill Time: to do something that keeps you busy while you are waiting for something else to happen.
Vague: not clearly expressed, known, described, or decided.
Prospect: the possibility that something good might happen in the future.
Divine: connected with a god, or like a god, extremely good, pleasant, or enjoyable.
Complex: involving a lot of different but related parts, difficult to do or understand.
Elegant: graceful and attractive in appearance or behaviour.
Bloody: used to emphasize what you are saying in a slightly rude way.
Aspire: to want something very much or hope to achieve something or be successful.
Seasoning: a substance, especially salt or pepper, that is added to food to improve its flavour.
Estimation: your opinion of someone or something.
Rubbish: something that you think is very low quality, worthless and unwanted things.
Caramelise: to cook a food with sugar so that the food becomes sweet and often brown.
Cremate: To completely burn something, usually used to describe the burning of a body.
Repertoire: all the things or skills that you can do or perform or that you know.
Cure: to treat food, etc. with smoke, salt, etc. in order to preserve it.
Immeasurable: so large or great that it cannot be measured or known exactly.
If you know me, then you know that I am a huge foodie. I love food. I love eating food, I love making food, I love talking about food, I love learning about food. I get excited just thinking about all the foods I could try and meals I could make.
If you are a regular reader of my blog then you may remember that I posted about food before! I wrote about the Christmas dinner that I made, my very first in fact. This week I want to tell you about a dish that is very close to my heart, and about an anecdote I have involving the dish. The dish is Carbonara.
This anecdote is from last year, when I was traveling from the UK to Italy, and what better way to begin my stay in Italy, than with one of the country’s most famous dishes.
With an early morning flight from London to Brindisi, I went down to London on the evening before departing to visit my friend for a few hours until it was time to get the coach to the airport. I love a dinner date and this particular friend shares a simillar passion as I do for the culinary arts.
With some time to kill I headed over to my host’s flat with the vague memory of a promise of food in my mind and a bottle of white wine in my hand. Upon arriving I was greeted with the prospect of Carbonara.
I have been lucky enough to pick up a few friends in my time, but I think only a select few would happily entertain a fairly unexpected guest with some authentic Italian Guanciale, some good quality Spaghetti, and some proper Pecorino Romano.
We stood in the kitchen, he cooked, I drank, and we talked about food for hours. This meeting got me thinking about Carbonara and about why I love it so much.
I have always wanted to write about the things that I love, the things that are deeply meaningful in my life, and Carbonara is most certainly one of them. Food is a passion of mine. I love food, and I don’t even eat that much, but food is divine and Carbonara is a god amongst dishes. Here’s why:
Carbonara is simple. Carbonara is elegant. Carbonara is delicious.
Carbonara is Simple. Carbonara only has four ingredients, not counting the pasta – It’s a pasta dish, so it has pasta. Pecorino, Guanciale, Pepper and eggs. There is some skill involved, but overall the dish is not complex.
Carbonara is elegant. So what do I mean by elegant? Well it looks bloody lovely; the cooking process looks relatively impressive when you have guests; and its well-regarded in the food world. That last point is kind of meaningless, and really goes against what I think is important when it comes to food, but hey, if you care, you care.
Carbonara is delicious. I don’t even need to explain this one. You just have to try it for yourself.
So why do I love it so much?
Well, Carbonara isn’t just about a great dish, it also represents an opportunity; an opportunity to develop, to learn, to master, to impress, to aspire, to discover, to eat. Carbonara presents a technical challenge, not an enormous one, but a challenge all the same. Timing is important, as is seasoning, and quality of ingredients.
Quality of ingredients is one of the things that I think is often overlooked, especially in the UK. The UK has, in my own estimation, an incredible and wonderful food culture, it is just hidden underneath a vast amount of processed, quick, thoughtless, overseasoned, underseasoned, cheap, industrialised, incentivised, mass-produced, plastic-packaged, far-travelled, over-appreciated, under-scrutinised, over-marketed rubbish.
Simple dishes like carbonara, made regularly, are great ways to learn the importance of how good your ingredients are. How fresh; how authentic; how natural; all of these things are important.
The simplicity of this dish is also a great opportunity to learn some kitchen basics like seasoning. Through making Carbonara, I learnt that you can always add more salt to a dish, but just you go ahead and try to take that salt out of a pot of boiling water. How long something takes to cook, to caramelise, and to cremate is also crucial when it comes to developing your culinary repertoire. Carbonara is good for this purpose, as are so many simple Italian pasta dishes.
Let’s talk about those ingredients
Guanciale is what you will find in a true Carbonara, it is the cured cheek of a pig. It is fatty, smokey and delicious. Pancetta is also all of those three of things, just perhaps in a slightly less intense way. Pancetta is salt-cured pork belly and is also much more accessible to most of us. Do not bother yourself with low quality pancetta. If you can’t get a good quality pancetta then use good quality smoked bacon.
Pecorino Romano is cheese. It’s Sheep’s Cheese from Rome, although nowadays is usually not made in Rome. It is one of Italy’s oldest cheeses and was enjoyed by Ancient Roman Legionnaries. Today it is just as important as ever. Pecorino Romano is quite possibly my favourite ever cheese, and I am a huge cheese-lover. Huge. I may even write an entire post about cheese. Parmesan, or Parmigiano Reggiano is a pretty famous cheese, Pecorino is similar, but is paler, sweeter, nuttier and less sharp. It is divine.
Pasta is pasta, right? Well not quite. Just don’t get the cheapest kind, look for fresh pasta, or if you really want to have some fun then make your own. Dried pasta is good, and is equal to fresh pasta in most respects. There are an immesurable number of pasta varieties out there. I had Bucatini for the first time recently. It did not dissapoint. Carbonara is traditionally served with long pasta but short is equally fine. Try something new, go wild, I won’t hold you back.
The other ingredients are all pretty basic. Use the best eggs you can get or afford. Black pepper is black pepper; salt is salt; and water is… you guessed it. Water.
Carbonara. Make it. Love it. Share it.
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Have you ever cooked Carbonara? If so, what did you think of it?
Do you often cook your own food?
What is your favourite food? why do you like it?
What dishes are famous in your home country?