Grandpa is eating leftover Yorkshire Lasagne as I write this.
It smells heavenly but I can’t eat any because I’m having a colonoscopy on Wednesday and today I have to eat what’s called a “low-residue diet”.
So far I’ve had five cups of black tea and a jar of Heinz Smooth Summer Fruits Gel, plucked fresh from the baby food aisle at Woolies this morning.
According to the label on the jar it’s suitable for “ALL ages over 6 months”, so this will be good practice for when my teeth fall out.
For dinner tonight, I’ll have strips of skinless chicken breast poached in Campbell’s Chicken Consomme with some pasta thrown in for good measure.
(And I mean that sincerely – Campbell’s consommés are tops.)
Tomorrow I’ll move on to the serious bit, referred to around here as Hello Sorbent.
No food to be consumed AT ALL (there are lots of capital letters on the instruction sheet) and from 4pm I’ll drink a glassful of ColonLYTELY™ every 15 minutes until all three litres are consumed or until I fall off the toilet and drown in my own vomit, whichever comes first.
ColonLYTELY™ cleans out your insides and tastes vile – like seawater with half a lemon squeezed in.
The person who invented it wanted to call it ColonFUCKINGAWFUL but wasn’t allowed.
Wednesday at 6.30am I will venture into the non-luxurious surrounds of Albany Regional Hospital and shortly thereafter have the old telescope-up-the-bum procedure.
Après colonoscopy (that’s French for “no longer shitting”), I will be given a sandwich by a nurse and it will be one of the best sandwiches I’ve ever tasted in my life.
I know this because I’ve been après colonoscopy twice before.
Moving on: Your Uncle Paul came to stay on the weekend and it was lovely.
Yorkshire Lasagne is his favourite meal, so I cooked it on Saturday night.
I only cook it on special occasions because it takes forever to make, but believe me, it’s worth it.
It’s called Yorkshire Lasagne because I don’t think they cook it like this in Italy.
Whatever. It’s delicious. And rich enough to bring Elvis back from the dead.
1 x 375g packet of instant lasagne
lots of grated cheddar cheese (as in, when you think you’ve got enough, you haven’t really)
lots of grated parmesan cheese
For the bolognese sauce
1 tbsp olive oil
1 onion, finely chopped
450g lean minced beef
1 big clove of garlic, crushed
1 x 140g tub/tin of tomato paste
1 cup red or white wine (I use leftover Yellow Glen, such is my level of chic-ness)
water to cover
2 tomatoes, chopped up
½ tsp dried oregano
salt and freshly ground pepper
For the white sauce
3 tbsp plain flour
3 cups low-fat milk (to make up for the rest of it)
To make the bolognese, fry the onion in the olive oil in a big saucepan over low-ish heat until the onion’s soft but not brown.
Increase the heat and chuck in the mince and garlic and cook, stirring with a fork, until the mince is brown and no longer lumpy.
Stir in the tomato paste and white wine.
Pour in enough water to cover (you want a runny sauce) and then stir in the tomatoes and oregano.
Season with salt and lots of pepper and simmer, partly covered with the saucepan lid, over low heat for 1-1½ hours.
Let it cool.
While it’s cooling, make the white sauce by bringing the milk to just below the boil in a small saucepan.
Have a balloon whisk handy and melt the butter over low-ish heat in another saucepan.
Off the heat, stir the flour into the butter with a wooden spoon, then increase the heat slightly and let this mixture (called a roux) cook for a couple of minutes.
Pour in the hot milk all at once and whisk like buggery with the metal whisk.
Doing it this way, you never get lumps in your white sauce.
Bring to the boil and let it simmer until slightly thickened.
Turn off the heat and stir in a handful of the grated cheese.
Preheat the oven to 180C.
To assemble the lasagne, put a ladleful of bolognese sauce and half a ladle of water in the bottom of the lasagne dish and mix them together.
Put a single layer of instant lasagne sheets on top.
Cover the lasagne sheets with some bolognese sauce, top this with a layer of white sauce, then sprinkle grated cheeses over the top.
Continue layering in this way until all the sauce is used up, finishing with a layer of bolognese on top.
Sprinkle cheeses on top of the bolognese and bake in the oven for about 40 minutes, or until tender when pierced in the middle with a knife.
Let the lasagne sit on the bench for five minutes before serving.
Long story short: Nanna was once told by an Italian drug dealer that you should never fry your chopped garlic for longer than 30 seconds.
Just fry it until it’s fragrant, he said. No longer.
And because he had a gun in his bag, Nanna was inclined to believe him.
That was in Manjimup in 1974, when the local pub was like something out of The Wild Bunch and you never knew who you’d meet over a middy (but guess what – it was never William Holden).
For some reason – possibly because I was terrified – I’ve never forgotten Mr I.D.D.’s garlic-frying rule and to this day I whip the frying pan off the heat the second the smell hits my nostrils.
Then I discovered a dish called Orecchiette with Broccoli, Anchovies and Chilli and realised that sometimes rules are made to be broken.
This dish is apparently a very old, traditional one and there are dozens of different recipes for it on the Internet.
Your Grandpa and I love it so much, I cook it every couple of weeks.
You need to use proper orecchiette, not the San Remo stuff.
Orecchiette means “little ears” in Italian and looks like this.
Proper orecchiette is very easy to get hold of.
Believe me: if you can buy it at Woolies in Albany you’ll be able to get it in Tashkent.
If you hate broccoli, you’ll still love this dish.
If you hate anchovies, you’ll still love this dish.
Trust me. I’m your Nanna.
ORECCHIETTE WITH BROCCOLI, ANCHOVIES AND CHILLI
Serves 3 (or 2 for dinner and enough left over for 2 small lunches – it reheats well the next day in the microwave)
1 lge head of broccoli
2 garlic cloves, chopped finely
6-8 anchovy fillets, chopped roughly
a splash of olive oil
2 big pinches of crushed, dried chilli
one-third of a cup of grated parmesan cheese
Put a big pot of salted water over high heat and bring to the boil.
Add the orecchiette and cook according to packet directions (the Pirro brand you see in the picture takes 18 minutes).
As soon as you’ve put the water on to boil, cut the broccoli into small-ish florets, reserving as much stalk as possible.
Put the florets in a saucepan of water, bring them to the boil, cook for 3 minutes, drain them, then run them under cold water to stop them cooking.
Put to one side.
Cut the broccoli stalks into chunks then put them in a food processor and process until finely chopped.
Heat the oil and half the butter in a big frypan over low heat and cook the chopped-up broccoli stalks, garlic, anchovies and dried chilli for 10 minutes, covered, stirring every now and then.
When the orecchiette is cooked, put a ladle of pasta water in the frypan, tip in the drained pasta, the broccoli florets, the remaining butter and half the parmesan cheese and stir until it’s all hot and combined.
Serve it with the remaining parmesan cheese sprinkled over the top.
More prawns! It’s the promised second recipe and it’s called Prawn and Prosciutto Ravioli.
I suppose it’s really a special-occasion dish because even though it’s not difficult, it does involve a bit of faffing around.
It’s also a Nanna creation, in that I combined about four different recipe ideas.
The garlic butter recipe is pinched from a top New Zealand chef called Adam Newell, who has won a Michelin star for his restaurant, Zibibbo.
Like all celebrity chefs worth their salt, Adam has an “absolute passion for food”.
At least that’s what it says on the fly-leaf of his cookbook, A Consuming Passion, which was given to me by your Great Uncle Gerard and his partner, Mignon, and is an excellent read.
In case you’re thinking of being a celebrity chef when you grow up, I should warn you that you will have to have “an absolute passion for food” every minute of every single day.
When you’re a celebrity chef, you’re never allowed to say things like, “I’m really tired and I couldn’t give a shit about the confit.”
Or, “Fuck seasonality. I want to eat strawberries in winter.”
You’re only allowed to say things like that when you’re like me and all you want to do is cook something nice, then eat it, then fall asleep in front of the telly.
A word on pasta machines.
I bought one 10 years ago and have never used it.
So, every time a chef on TV uses one to make pasta, your Grandpa says, “There’s a good idea, Michele. Why don’t you buy one of those?”
He thinks this is funny, but after 10 years it’s wearing a bit thin.
So I’ve decided that when I do use the pasta machine for the first time, I’m going to put your Grandpa’s fingers through the rollers.
In the meantime, I make ravioli with those wonton wrappers you buy in Chinese supermarkets (or, if you live in Albany, at Mariella’s Deli).
For this recipe I use the round gyoza skins so you get a nice half-moon shape, but if you can’t get hold of any, just use the square wonton wrappers and fold them into a triangle.
The ravioli are dead easy to make and just about everything is done in a food processor.
You can also make the garlic butter a day or even a week ahead.
PRAWN AND PROSCIUTTO RAVIOLI
Makes about 32 (enough for 4-6 people)
For the garlic butter (don’t panic, you won’t use all of this)
100g butter, softened
100ml extra virgin olive oil
handful flat-leaf parsley
2 cloves garlic
salt and pepper to taste
For the ravioli
Packet of gyoza skins or wonton wrappers
500g raw king prawns, peeled
50g prosciutto (about 4 slices), chopped
1 spring onion
salt and pepper
20 or so grape tomatoes (Nanna grows her own)
Another handful of parsley, chopped finely
To make the garlic butter, put all the ingredients in a food processor and pulse until the parsley is chopped.
You won’t use all the garlic butter, so put what’s left in a tightly sealed container in the fridge.
It will keep for a couple of weeks and is great for garlic bread or on top of spuds or barbecued steak or fish.
To make the ravioli, wipe out the food processor bowl and drop in the prawn flesh and chopped prosciutto.
Pulse it until it’s all chopped up.
Finely chop the spring onions and mix them into the prawn mixture along with a little salt and pepper.
Fill a big pot with salted water and bring it to the boil while you’re assembling the ravioli.
To do this, first put some water in a small bowl.
Next, lay a gyoza skin on your chopping board and put a heaped teaspoonful of prawn mixture in the middle (see pic at end of recipe).
Dip your finger in the bowl of water, wet around the entire edge of the skin and then fold it over and press the edges together tightly to seal, pressing out any air as you go.
Repeat until all the prawn mixture is used up.
Cook the ravioli in the pot of boiling water for about 3 minutes.
While they’re cooking, fry the tomatoes in a big frypan in a little of the garlic butter.
When the ravioli are cooked, fish them out with a slotted spoon and put them in the frypan with the tomatoes, along with as much of the garlic butter as you think your arteries will stand (basically you need just enough to coat the ravioli).
Heat everything up for a couple of minutes then serve in big bowls sprinkled with the extra chopped parsley.
This is really nice eaten with broccolini.