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Penne carbonara

Yum – penne carbonara

Eating as a family isn’t something we get to do a lot, thanks to the time I get in from work being too close to the girls’ bedtime. We do all eat together at weekends, though, and those are some of my favourite meals of the week. Well, the ones where we don’t have to keep nagging the girls to eat up, anyway.

What’s a little strange is the foods the girls will devour and the ones they need more encouragement with. We both love a good, traditional roast dinner, but the girls? Not so much. Pasta, on the other hand, will often disappear before the bowls have all been set down on the table. At least that’s how it sometimes feels. Gem and I reckon there must be some Mediterranean blood in one of us somewhere – what other explanation can there be?

Our family favourites include chicken parmigiana (breaded chicken on a bed of spaghetti, in a tomato sauce) and carbonara. The latter is one that’s a speciality of mine and, dare I say it, is one of the few things I can make as well as, if not better than Gem!

There are a lot of carbonara recipes out there, many of which over-complicate things, but the one we use is simple (which is why I can do it), economical and healthier than most, because it doesn’t include any cream. I’m sure I’ve read that traditional Italian recipes don’t include cream either, so I should add “classic” to that list!

Here’s our carbonara recipe:

Classic Carbonara – serves 2

200g dried pasta – spaghetti, linguine or penne
2 medium eggs
60g grated parmesan cheese
4 rashers bacon, diced
2 cloves garlic
1-2tsp mixed Italian herbs

Boil the pasta in salted water according to packet instructions.

Heat a frying pan and add your bacon. Cook until almost crisp then remove from the heat but leave in the pan. Crush in the garlic and stir in herbs. Leave to one side.

Beat your eggs in a cup and mix 2/3 of of the egg into 2/3 of the cheese. (Reserve the rest for sprinkling).

When the pasta is cooked, drain and return to the pan, off the heat. Stir in the garlicky, herby bacon and finally add the eggy cheese mixture and stir well, adding the last drop if egg if you think it’s too dry. The egg will cook with the heat from the pasta so don’t put it on the heat as you don’t want scrambled eggs!

One thing I love about this recipe is that all the quantities are even numbers, meaning it’s easy to scale up or down to suit the number of people we’re feeding. For example, we usually work on 3 adult portions t feed the four of us, splitting one between the girls, although to be honest I think they would devour however much we put down in front of them

This post is an entry for the #eggmainsinminutes Linky, sponsored by British Lion Eggs. They’ve got loads of eggy meal ideas on their Main Meals in Minutes site.

Egg Mains in Minutes linky

This autumn I'm running/cycling in a 30km duathlon and a half marathon, to raise money for Breast Cancer Campaign. You can read more about my challenge here or support me here. All donations, however big or small, gratefully received!

365 pictures: 21-30

30 days in, and I’ve yet to miss one. Although there have been a couple of close shaves. Still having fun with it, though, and still aiming to keep going for the rest of the year. Let’s be honest, most New Year’s resolutions have died a death by the end of January, so if I’ve made it this long I can make it to the end of the year, right? Right?


21. Recycling
We had a post-Christmas mini-disaster with our recycling bin; because it was jammed full of wrapping paper and cardboard packaging, it didn’t empty properly, which meant we started the next 2 week cycle with a half full bin. So by the next collection, we had more boxes full of stuff in the kitchen that wouldn’t go in the bin. I think we’re sorted now.


22. Snow
While the rest of the UK has been under a blanket of snow for much of January, we’ve managed to almost miss it entirely. Makes a nice change! This was about as bad as it got round these parts.


23. Gangsta
I’ve got a small collection of baseball caps (3!) hanging on the bedpost, and every so often the girls like to try them on for size. Megan, for some reason, always prefers hers to be backwards. Heather picked this one, and asked if the hole in the back was for a pony tail to fit through – smart kid, that one.


24. A bag for a hat
From the sublime to the ridiculous, here’s Megan modelling an altogether different sort of headgear- a mini shopping bag. What cracks me up is when they walk around like this, as if it’s the most normal thing in the world. Maybe it’s me who’s got it all wrong?


25. Happy birthday Rabbie
Gemma’s not that keen on haggis, so when it comes to Burns Night we tend not to go with tradition. I have in the past done haggis, neeps and tatties just for me, but it means either consuming a whole haggis (not good for the waistline) or throwing some away. This year I got creative and we had haggis burgers (although Gem had hers without the haggis). I washed mine down with a surprisingly decent bottle of Rabbie Burns from Traditional Scottish Ales. The Bard would be proud.


26. The artists at work

Both our girls love to scribble, and while Megan’s pictures really are just scribbles, all of a sudden Heather is able to produce pictures that actually look like what they’re meant to be. She told me a few weeks ago she’d like to be an artist, so who knows?


27. Gogga Gone (chocolate scone)
Gem baked some scones on Sunday, for Sunday Bake Club, while I went out for a run. When I got back, Megan met me at the door, to very excitedly tell me about the “gogga gones” that Mummy had made. They were awesome, by the way – no susprises there! :)


28. Early night
After a busy weekend, Monday night was a chance to get to bed at a decent hour. Just a few years ago, anything before midnight would have constituted an early night, but that was before we were being woken at 7 every day. Not that I’m complaining of course, just reflecting how much things have changed since the girls arrived.


29. Baby Annabel
I came across this the other night when I was tidying up the toys, and the absurd pose amused me far more than it should. I think my mum might have had a hand in this one…


30. Salad
I’ve mentioned before that one of our aims for this year is to cook everything from Jamie Oliver’s 15 Minute Meals, and last night I produced a fantastic Jamaican jerk pork dish. It was accompanied by this awesome looking salad, which I enjoyed far more than I was expecting, as I’m not normally a fan of sweetcorn in things. Shows you what I know!

This autumn I'm running/cycling in a 30km duathlon and a half marathon, to raise money for Breast Cancer Campaign. You can read more about my challenge here or support me here. All donations, however big or small, gratefully received!

If you can’t stand the heat…

My curry creationAnyone who knows me will know that I’m married to a kitchen goddess, an amazing woman who can not only follow a recipe like a pro, but who can take whatever happens to be left in the fridge and concoct an amazing meal out of it. That, my friends, is seriously awesome!

Once upon a time we shared cooking duties, but changing circumstances (office moves, babies) as well as general excellence (Gem, not me!) have led to my share slowly declining, to a point where I’ll maybe cook once or twice a week. And when I do, I tend not to venture much outside of my comfort zone – carbonara, fajitas and the occasional steak.

Recently I’ve been saying I need to get in the kitchen more, and expand my repertoire, so I was thrilled when Gem and the girls got me an Ashoka Cook School voucher for my birthday. And so it was that on Saturday I joined 15 or so other students in a kitchen at Motherwell College, to learn the art of Indian cuisine.

Ashoka provide a range of classes from beginner to advanced, with a number of menus to choose from. Gem chose for me Chicken Jaipuri with pilau rice and paratha, which sounded exactly like something I might order from a takeaway or restaurant.

After introductions, our instructor (one of Ashoka’s chefs) gave us two demonstrations – first the preparation of the paratha dough, and then how to make the chicken dish.  At the end we got to taste the chicken – delicious! – before going to our workstations to recreate what we’d just been shown.

While we worked, there were various “staff” going round the room giving assistance and intervening when things weren’t going quite right, something I was very thankful for when making my bread dough, as I was stopped from adding too much water.

When it came to the curry, everything went pretty much to plan. I followed the recipe on the card and tried to remember everything that had been shown to us earlier. Spices were provided in a Massala Dabba (an Indian spice box) and the other ingredients (onion, tomato, peppers) were already measured – all I had to do was chop and add at the appropriate time. For hygiene reasons, the chicken came pre-chopped.

Once the curry was made, put in a container, and everything washed up, it was time for our next demonstration – making the pilau rice and paratha. I’d never had paratha before, let alone made it, but again everything looked straightforward and before long we were back at our workstations.

It was in this second round of cooking that I learned what might be the most important lesson of the whole day – when stirring your boiling rice, don’t hold the short metal handle with bare fingers. We were warned about this early on, so it’s my own fault I burned my finger and thumb, but that didn’t make it any less painful.

My second lesson learned here is not to leave the rice on the heat too long, otherwise it sticks to the pan. Big style. Fortunately there was plenty that wasn’t stuck – enough to fill another container at any rate.

Once everything was cooked, and the pots washed, we were free to take our creations home. I had mine for lunch on Sunday, and the picture below should tell you how much I enjoyed it, although the paratha was a bit past its best next day.

I really enjoyed my morning at curry school. It’s given me another dish to add to my repertoire, but more than it’s boosted my confidence in the kitchen. Now I just need to find time to go through Gem’s collection of recipe books and see what I’m cooking up next!



This autumn I'm running/cycling in a 30km duathlon and a half marathon, to raise money for Breast Cancer Campaign. You can read more about my challenge here or support me here. All donations, however big or small, gratefully received!