It’s a bright and sunny and freezingly cold Sunday morning here. The frost has covered my garden with shimmering white icing. I’m watching a blue tit and a red robin feeding on shredded suet and peanuts still left in the feeders after yet another invasion by the starlings. None of them need to worry about Tufty, the cat, sneaking upon them. She’s curled up on the radiator side of the bed, quite happy to trust my skill with the tin opener for her meals today.
There’s a wonderfully reassuring smell coming from my kitchen. I’ve got my favourite winter warmer slow cooking in the oven. My pasta fazool carbonara. In other words, pasta with mixed beans and bacon.
Turn the oven to its highest setting.
But, a word about bacon first.
I love bocek, Polish bacon, but it’s not always available in the Polish deli in my area. Obviously, I also like pancetta but it’s hideously expensive. So, if I can’t have the best, I buy the cheapest. You know the large packs of cooking bacon piled up on the bottom shelves in the supermarket? Yes, that. Fatty, full of water to increase the weight, full of chemicals to prolong shelf-life, full of salt for who knows what reason.
I open the pack, wash the bacon under cold water, then boil it for about 10 – 15 minutes. Throw the gunky water away, wash the bacon under cold water again, not least to save my fingers from being burnt and to save time waiting for it to cool, but mostly to get rid of any gunk that may stick to it. You may want to taste a piece of the cooked bacon at that point. It’s not as delicious as bocek or pancetta, but it’s perfectly acceptable and flavoursome.
While the bacon is boiling, I chop two large onions and sauté them till they turn pale yellow. Also, I poach tomatoes in hot water, peel them and add them chopped to the onions. Once the bacon is done, I chop it and add it to the pan with tomatoes and onions. I mix well together and fry the lot for a minute or two. When that’s done, I mix in a clove or two or five of pressed garlic.
Now, I take out my best crock pot or any suitably large pot, add a pint of home made or bought passata, a pint of water or vegetable stock, four tins of mixed beans, and the contents of the pan, i.e. the bacon, onions and tomatoes. Mix well.
Turn the oven down to 180C.
Place the well covered pot in the middle and leave it to cook for about an hour and a half. Then I take it out and add any pasta that I happen to have at home or better still, gnocchi, mix it all in, recover the pot and return it to the oven for another 10-15 minutes.
I’d love to say that it can feed an army for a month.
It disappears very quickly.