Monday, June 30, 2008

A few (not-so) random facts...

  • I love to cook
  • My Mum is the best Mum in the whole world
  • My Mum's birthday is coming up

What does this mean?

PARTY TIME!!!

Yes, I've taken it on myself (in conjunction with my Dad, bro and his GF Su), to throw Mum the best birthday party ever! We are having about 30-40 friends and family over for drinks and food. However, this will be no simple chip & dip affair. There will be matching glasses, votive candles, and more hors d'oeuvres than you can poke a ficelle at. I'm currently throwing around words like "centrepiece", "colour scheme", "spun sugar" and "table-runner" with gay abandon. It's good to aim high.

The party is coming up in 2 weeks. The invitations are sent, and now it is time to prepare. We're currently having a vaguely French theme to the food (although this is not set it stone), as I am hoping to have a croquembouche as the cake, with the possibility of madeleines and macarons to round out the dessert buffet. Is anyone else excited by the words "dessert buffet"? I hope so.

As Colin advises, it's best not to unleash dishes you've never made before on unsuspecting guests, not least of all to save yourself stress on the night. Over the next couple of weeks I'll be trialling (and pre-preparing) some dishes. All duly blogged.

Any tips for hosting a big stand-around-with-food-and-drinks party will be greatly appreciated. Decor, recipes, organising, or anything like that.

Wish me luck!

Pistachio Macarons

Pistachio Macarons. From a technical perspective, they are nowhere near perfect. They are not Pierre Herme, they are not Ladurée. They are simply homemade with love. So it's ok. (Repeat to self 10 times).

My hankering for macarons started up a couple of weeks ago. I caught up for coffee with my friend Markii in Prahran, a day after that infamous macaron article was published in Epicure. The article wasn't great, but it really made us want some macarons. (Click here for reactions to the article and a much more interesting insight into the state of Melbourne's macarons). The only place nearby we could think of that would sell them was Fuji Mart, but sadly they were all out that day. Feeling deflated, and with only cabbage dressing, salted mackerel, frozen takoyaki and miso paste to console us, we gave up and headed home. Incidentally, Fuji Mart sells a cute range of Japanese-style French cakes - red bean layer cake, green tea crème caramel, that sort of thing - which are well worth checking out.

Markii, a physio student, offered to come over exactly one week later to help my mum with her exercises. Without practice consistent and exercise, improvement is slow. (I learned this when I had physio for my back pain last year). As with physio, as with macaron-baking. I offered to make a batch of macarons as a thank-you gift. Pistachio macarons, from Nigella's How to be a Domestic Goddess. Macarons aren't an easy procedure, but Nigella's recipe is simple enough, and the picture is pretty, yet comfortingly ramshackle, with a few cracks across the top.

Now, if you're interested in making a Pierre-worthy macaron at home, I suggest you look at a serious guide, like The Roux Brothers' Patisserie book, or better yet, Duncan's blog. (Perhaps one day there will be classes offered in Melbourne.) What follows here is simply a record of the steps I took to make these imperfect beauties.


The preparation


I started by blanching some already-shelled pistachios. I don't recommend shelling pistachios by hand in any great quantity unless you want your fingers ripped to shreds. To blanch: I placed the nuts in cold water, brought it to the boil for one minute, drained them, rubbed them in a clean tea towel, then slipped off the bits of skin that remained. I don't think blanching is strictly necessary; I've made them once before, with unblanched pistachios, to no huge detrimental effect. However, I highly recommend you give it a go. They look beautifully vibrant and green, and smell incredible! Just like a tarte au citron, I kid you not. I couldn't stop smelling them. Mmm. Next, I whizzed the pistachios to a fine dust with some icing sugar (golden unrefined, thank-you), and whipped up some egg whites to stiff peaks.


The Mixing and Piping

The next stage is to fold the nut-dust into the meringue (check out my flat whisk, especially bought for folding-in purposes), and pipe out small rounds. You have to let them sit for 10 minutes to form a skin before baking.

The assembly

And here are the finished products. Even though some were cracked, some excitingly came out with a nice smooth top. (Just like a real macaron!) Some had smooth bases, and a few of the bases broke as I tried to pry the macarons from the paper. My hint is to let them cool a bit to firm up before trying to move them.

Above we have the filling, a pistachio buttercream. The quantities in the book make more than double the amount of buttercream you will need, so you should halve it. It contains more of that nut-dust, creamed with butter. Impatiently, I didn't wait for the butter to soften sufficiently before making the dessert, so I just added a couple of teaspoons of boiled water to get it to the right consistency. And you do want the buttercream to be quite soft, as the biscuits are incredibly fragile. I actually squished a couple as I was icing them. Whoops.

Hehe... mushy broken macarons. Cook's treat!

I made and iced these the night before, and let them sit out overnight. If you were keeping them for longer, I suppose they'd have to be kept in the fridge, but I doubt they'd last that long.

Clockwise from top left: Macaron with a perfect latte made by my brother's girlfriend on our home espresso machine; 3 macarons on a cake plate; Gooey, sweet and crunchy; Homemade and rustic, about an inch in diameter.

Good god, I love these macarons. I'm not usually a fan of the super-sweet, (and believe me, these are super-sweet), but I can wolf these down. They have a delightful fragrance and crunch from the ground pistachios, and are exceedingly delicate. I love their muted green colour, and think they make a gorgeously impressive afternoon tea or petit four. Their sweetness makes them the perfect accompaniment for a strong, hot espresso.

Friday, June 27, 2008

D.O.C.

Beer, Prosecco, Pago Fragola (or as my brother described it: "the taste of jam, in a refreshing beverage").

D.O.C. Pizza e Mozzarella Bar
295 Drummond Street, Carlton


I organised a little catch-up with a few friends last week at D.O.C., a casual new-wave Melbournian pizza restaurant and mozzarella bar. I haven't been going out much lately - a combination of budgeting and being superbusy. As such, I wanted to choose a place where we could enjoy good food and wine, and have a decent conversation, without one dominating the other. I hadn't been to D.O.C. before, but my brother highly recommended it, and I thought it would fit the bill nicely.

Our group's interest in food ranged from 'super-obsessed' to 'Isn't prosciutto a soccer player?', and we were all satisfied with our experience.

For example, check out my friend's RSVP to my invitation:

Yo Yo Missy S

I will be there at 6.30pm!!
PS dont say anything to anyone, as I dont want to look stupid,because you know Im cool, but what the hell does the DOC stand for hehehe

Ma, cosa significa D.O.C.? D.O.C. stands for Denominazione d'Origine Controllata, an Italian appellation and quality assurance label for food products, especially wine.

The interior: sexy photo of Sofia Loren, incredible meat slicer (it's red and would match my KitchenAid Espresso machine, hint hint), blackboard with specials, mozzarella bar, massive jar of Nutella on top.

I had a glass of DOC prosecco to start with. (I can't remember the name or region, but it if you're interested in ordering it, it's the only prosecco available by the glass). I like to start with something bubbly. But I find champagne can be too full of expectation. And it was great! Only slightly sweet and just delicious, worlds away from the cheap-ass super-sweet proseccos that I sometimes buy from Aldi. (I'm not sure if I should admit that, but I guess it's too late now). The drinks list also features a range of imported beers, DOC wines and some Italian juices and soft drinks.

We started with a selection of cured meats and mozzarella...
San Daniele prosciutto with grissini and mozzarella

There were 5 of us. Did we go a bit overboard...? Or maybe I was trying to subconsciously recreate my beloved German cold-cut-dinners. From top left: Salami with buffalo mozzarella; selection of 3 meats with mozzarella; prosciutto with mozzarella.

A crispy, doughy focaccia to go with all those tasty meats


Adesso, le pizze. We ordered 3 to share between us, which turned out to be a good amount. I was having such a good time talking and laughing with my friends that I didn't take good notice of all the names of the pizzas. I hope there aren't mistakes! Mi dispiace! With our pizze, I chose yet another DOC vino from the list, a chianti.

Porchetta Pizza - this was actually brought to our table by mistake. But I got a sneaky photo in before they took it away. Heh. I'm a conscientious blogger.

Pizza Parma - San Daniele proscuitto, buffalo mozzarella, and tomato.

Pizza ai porcini - mushroom pizza. My favourite of the night.

Capriciossa

Salad with gorgonzola, walnuts and radicchio. Interestingly, I had convince my friends to let me order a salad. Am I the only person who likes salad with my meal? Or are my friends all just meat 'n' wheat munching vultures? Do you win friends with salad?

The salad was great, and I really enjoyed the pizzas. They were quite doughy but still very crisp, with well thought-out, tasty toppings. I thought that the pizzas had just the right ratio of dough-to-topping. They were a little salty for my taste, but I tend to season my food quite sparingly at home.

Dessert. I chose the goat's cheese tiramisu with pavesini biscuits. I was intrigued: I once procured a recipe from one of my co-workers for her mother's tiramisu, which also uses pavesini (i.e. thin, crunchy rusk biscuits) rather than the more usual savoiardi. I haven't gotten around to making that recipe yet, so I was very keen to try a pavesini-based tiramisu.

Fabulous! I can't say I totally detected the presence of goat's cheese. I mean, it was different from an ordinary tiramisu, but had I not been told that it contained goat's cheese, I wouldn't have been able to figure out what it was. I loved the balance of the textures and flavours, especially the fact that the biscuits had absorbed the coffee liquid, rather than being soggily drowned in it. I am now totally pumped to try that pavesini-tiramisu recipe.

For those who are interested in such things, D.O.C. makes great coffees too. (Brunetti is just across the street, but there's no need to traipse over there in the cold weather).

Old-school cappuccino.
Latte.

Love the cup! It reminded my bro and I of the fabulous cappuccini we'd have for breakfast when we were in Rome.

We had a great night! The food and drinks were wonderful, and we found that the atmosphere was totally conducive to conversation. Significantly, for a place that places such an emphasis on the quality of their food, the ambiance and waitstaff were refreshingly relaxed and attitude-free. Hurrah! For such a casual meal, it felt a little pricey - around $45 per person - but considering that we each had a drink or two, and that many of their ingredients are imported or air-freighted, it seems fair.

Recommended.

D.O.C. Pizza and Mozzarella Bar on Urbanspoon

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Germany 2007: Schokoladenbrötchen


Das ist ein Schokoladenbrötchen. Schokoladen = chocolate, brötchen = little bread roll. It's an odd idea, but no less good for that. In fact, I think they're GREAT! I developed a taste for these whilst in Germany - my host father would eat these often, for dessert or a little snack.

To make a Schokoladenbrötchen, you start with a Brötchen. In Australia the equivalent would be a white dinner roll. I got mine for 50c from Baker's Delight. You want something white and soft.


Then, you need the Schokoladen. In Germany I found they had a larger range of thin, brötchen-sized chocolates, but my local Coles had these funky little Furry Friends chocolates, which were just the right size. And, if you head over to the Furry Friends' website, you can learn about Australian animals! Learning and deliciousness.



If Cadbury's too frightfully common for you, I guess you could use a few pieces of Lindt Excellence, which are the right thickness, but then I think you'd be missing out on the point of this snack. So, chocolate-snobbery thrown to the wind, slice your Brötchen lengthwise, place your chocolate inside, and eat. I had the above Schokoladenbrötchen this afternoon with a cup of tea.

At first, I thought it was odd my host father never heated his Schokoladenbrötchen. Melting chocolate in crispy bread sounds like a winner, no? Below we have a toasted Schokoladenbrötchen that I made in Germany. Check out the oozing chocolate...

... which, upon being eaten, proceeded to ooze over my face, my hands, my arms... it was not a good look! And in fact, I realised that I rather like the contrast of soft bread against solid chocolate.

Another variation:

We ran out of Brötchen one night, but still had heaps of regular old Brot leftover from a cold-cut based dinner... and I thought it might be a good idea...
Brot mit Milka Schokoladen. A chocolate sandwich on brown bread. Not the same as the original, but surprisingly still lecker! (Delicious).

I feel that I should just add here that Schokoladenbrötchens - with their high-GI white bread and fattening, sugary chocolate centre - are almost totally bereft of any nutrition. In the interest of health they should not be consumed every day.

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Japan 2007: Kappabashi Kitchen Town


According to its article on Wikipedia, Kappabashi Kitchen Town is an "offbeat" tourist destination. Bollocks! It's one of the coolest places in all of Tokyo. Kappabashi is a stretch of road that is dedicated to kitchen supply and wholesale shops. They sell everything that your kitchen could desire - deep fryers, takoyaki grillers, knives, muffin papers, bentoh boxes, take-away food containers, crockery, pots and pans, trays, silpats, flexipans, giant whisks, industrial piping bags, electronic cookware and those funky plastic food models that you see in Japanese restaurants. (A custom-made one starts from around sixty dollars). If you want to open a restaurant or cafe in Tokyo, start practising your "irasshaimase", and get yourself down to Kappabashi!

I can't believe it's not mentioned in the Lonely Planet, when Osaka's much smaller, less exciting Doguya-Suji Arcade rates a mention. Hmf. Kappabashi is near Tawaramachi station, on the Ginza line. It happened to be a 5 minute walk from my hostel, and near a Mister Donut, a post office, and the Asakusa temple district. Perfect tourist destination, in my opinion. I spent the majority of my second last day in Japan walking up and down the street here, visiting the various stores, spending too much money, and adding to my already bulging and dangerously overweight suitcase.

At the entrance to Kappabashi, you are greeted by a giant model of a chef and these massive cups at the Niimi building.

Plastic food!!!!! How cool is that??


As awesome as I thought a plastic plate of fried eggs would look in my home, I resisted temptation and just bought a keychain for a friend. It was shaped like a pink macaron!

Some other goodies I purchased...

"Silicon Rubber Pan" for madeleines. As yet unused, but I will get around to it soon.

My pride and joy - a santoku knife. It was individually forged by hand, with 37 layers of Damascus steel, titanium pins, and a micarta handle. It only cost me $154, and it is the sharpest knife I have ever, ever used.

Here is my knife after obliterating a pile of onions. Check out the funky-looking waves on the blade.

At the same knife store, I picked up this Wüsthof Grand Prix I 16cm cook's knife.


It was the last in the store, and being thrown away at the bargainous price of $60. SIXTY!!! That's incredible value! A fully-forged Wüsthof Grand Prix knife! I would have expected to pay three times that amount in Australia. (Interested in purchasing one yourself? Click here.) It was the bargain of the century. According to the wonderfully eccentric salesman, it was on sale because the Grand Prix I range had been discontinued to make way for the Grand Prix II range. Which is exactly the same blade, with a slightly improved handle.

The salesman was awesome - a well-travelled Japanese man with an American-ish accent, a tweed jacket, and a salt and pepper scruffy haircut.

Salesman: Oh young lady, you're going to Germany tomorrow? Do you like to gamble? You have to go to Baden-Baden.. there's a wonderful casino, and many beautiful hot springs.
Me: Er... well, I don't really gamble...
Him: Oh it's great! You will love it! Here, let me write it down for you. B-A-D-E-N-B-A-D-E-N


I never made it out to Baden Baden, but I do love the knives I bought from him. The Wüsthof isn't quite as sharp as the santoku, but it's still much sharper than any of the old knives rattling about in my kitchen drawers. And I find the handle incredibly comfortable.

Kappabashi rocks! I enjoyed the shopping there more than I did in the far trendier Harajuku, Shibuya 109 or Omote-sando. I feel better getting that off my chest.

Friday, June 20, 2008

Friday Night Freezer Fun I

Salmon Fishcakes with Ketchup and Peas (or is it Catsup..? Ketchup..? Castup..?)

Friday nights usually find me slumped on the couch in front of the computer or TV, with no desire to move. Take-away would be the obvious choice for dinner, but it gets expensive, and besides, my freezer is full to bursting point. During my How to Eat project in 2005-06, I got into the habit of stashing all leftovers away in my freezer, to cope with the incredible quantities of food I was cooking. However, I soon realised that unless I stored the leftovers correctly - double wrapped, labelled and dated - they would just be wasted, lost in the icy depths of the freezer, unrecognisable and most likely inedible.

Nowadays I have (almost) everything in my freezer labelled, and carefully stored in Glad bags and Decor Tellfresh containers. It's still a mess in there, but at least now I can identify everything when I do start searching through there. I've got egg whites, frozen cubed watermelon, stews, soups, stock, ice-creams, brownies, muffins and fishcakes!

I made these months ago when we had heaps of mashed potatoes leftover from a dinner. They're loosely based on Nigella's salmon fishcakes from How to Eat, but I didn't refer to the exact recipe. To the mashed potatoes, I added a tin of salmon, lemon zest, a beaten egg and some grated parmesan cheese, mixed it up and formed it into patties. (Wearing plastic gloves, of course - same aisle as the Glad bags and the Decor containers). To freeze them, you have to lay them out on a tray, and put them in the freezer. Once they're rock-hard, you can stash them in a freezer bag, then in the freezer, and forget about them!

Until tonight. According to Nigella, you can dip them in egg and crumbs (panko, please) and fry them straight from frozen. Then you just put them in a low oven (120C) for 30 minutes to heat them through. However, they'll sit happily in the oven for up to 2 hours, if that helps with your timing. Whilst the fishcakes were nearly done, I microwaved some peas to go with. I served them with lashings of ketchup, then parked myself on the couch for some Simpsons, Futurama, and Family Guy on Fox 8. The fishcakes were great, unhurt from their extended stay in the freezer. They were soft and warm on the inside, delightfully crispy and crunchy on the outside. Perfect comfort food and perfect comfort viewing.

Goodnight everybody!

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Healthy, Quick and/or Easy Suppers

It's not all steak and cakes, all the time at Sarah's house, you know. Or at least it shouldn't be! I often find it a challenge deciding what to cook for dinner, with time, budgetary and health concerns all playing an important role. Below I have a selection of simple and quick(-ish) meals I've made recently. I hope that fellow time-poor food lovers can find some ideas for your weeknight meals!


Golden Root Vegetable Quinoa


This recipe comes from How to Eat, my most cooked-from recipe source (need proof?). The stew itself takes over an hour to prepare, but most of that time it's just simmering away by itself, and it's easy enough to increase quantities so that you have leftovers for the rest of the week. Nigella serves the vegetable stew with couscous and a chorizo sausage, but in the interest of health, I omitted the chorizo and replaced the couscous with quinoa.

Quinoa, in case you're not yet familiar with it, is a nutritionally excellent grain - full of protein, lysine and iron, and a good source of calcium, zinc, potassium, magnesium, phosphorus, and copper. Woah! (Click here for a nutritional breakdown). Lucky for me, it tastes pretty good too. It is often described as generally "nutty" (not specific or helpful!), but I found that it tasted rather like sesame, with a similar texture to couscous. Delicious.

With the stew, I had to have harissa. Nigella's harissa (also from How to Eat), is my favourite version. It's garlicky, strong, punchy, and fucking hot. You have to deseed a lot of dried chillies, chop them up, soak them in hot water and then pound them with garlic and roasted spices. Please folks, if you're making this, use gloves, wash your hands thoroughly, and don't touch your eyes or any other delicate parts of your body for a good few hours afterwards! Trust me.

Check out the chillis....
That's right folks, I'm the pope of chilli-town.


Salmon with Shiitake Mushrooms and Greens

This is from the Templefood chapter of Nigella Bites. I can't say this is the most dazzling of dinner recipes, but it is reliably good, easy and healthy. I do love the sauce Nigella suggests to go with though - soy sauce, sesame oil and mustard powder.


Broccoli Risotto

This one's a Sarah special, made without a recipe. Can you believe it? I just made a simple risotto base, and added some cooked and processor-blitzed broccoli. Topped it off with a sprinkling of chopped parsley and a dollop of pesto. Yum yum. I have to say, it wasn't the world's greatest pesto. I bought a gourmet-looking tub at the supermarket, only to discover that it was disappointingly bland. When I had a closer look at the ingredients, it had canola oil and cashews instead of olive oil and pine-nuts. Why would you bother? Blergh.


Mirin-Glazed Salmon with Steamed Broccoli with Garlic and Ginger

The salmon comes by way of Nigella, the vegetables from Jamie Oliver. The salmon is quickly marinaded, then pan-fried. You make a sauce by letting the marinade bubble away in the hot pan, then adding some rice vinegar. For the broccoli, you make a dressing by frying finely sliced garlic in oil until crisp, then mixing it with soy sauce, sesame oil, ginger and toasted sesame seeds. The flavours of the vegetables complemented the salmon and became a simply stunning dinner.


Chicken Salad

I made this one a while ago (and you can see a sliver of it in my header!) using a bottle of delicious Yumm Dressing that I picked up at a farmers' market not too long ago. With the dressing, they gave me a flyer with a bunch of serving suggestions on it, which is where I got the idea for the salad. Baby spinach, cooked chicken pieces, red onion, avocado, pine nuts and sun-dried tomatoes. It sounds a bit 90's, but it tasted great!


Spaghetti with Spinach

From Everyday by Bill Granger. As you'd expect any of Bill's recipe to be, it's extremely easy. Bill suggests wholewheat pasta, I used wholemeal spelt spaghetti. You toss the pasta through garlic sautéed in olive oil, baby spinach leaves and parmesan cheese. It's not bad, but be warned it's very bland. I needed a lot of salt, pepper and extra virgin olive oil to make it tasty.


Risotto with Roasted Pumpkin, Rocket and Goat's Cheese

This risotto was the cover recipe from the Italian Issue of Delicious, May 2006, and I had to make it as it contains 3 of my mum's favourite ingredients - pumpkins, rocket and goat's cheese. You roast the pumpkin separately and fold it through the risotto at the end. I found it gave the pumpkin a wonderful caramelised flavour. My whole family loved the risotto, especially my mum, and we demolished it in record time.


Breakfast Burrito


This burrito recipe comes from Jill Dupleix's Lighten Up. She suggests it as a breakfast, but I had it as a light lunch. Lightly toast a tortilla, top with smoked salmon and diced avocado, top with and a sharp and limey-dressed salad and wrap up. I loved it! It was so fresh and vibrant, but still rich enough to be satisfying.

Friday, June 13, 2008

A Very Fast Nectarine and Blackberry Cake

Nigel Slater is a culinary genius. His very fast nectarine and blackberry cake was one of the easiest, most delicious cakes I have ever made. The base is a simple butter cake, topped with chopped up fruit. Nigel suggests pears and blackberries - I used blackberries and some rapidly-ripening nectarines from my fruit bowl.

It comes from the May chapter of his wonderful book, The Kitchen Diaries. I received the book as a gift many, many months ago, but never got around to reading it, let alone cooking from it. Which is a shame, because it is as fantastic as you would expect any book from Nigel to be! When I finally did open it, I couldn't put it down. I love Nigel's writing. I daresay I prefer his writing style to Nigella's, although I do find her recipes a lot more approachable.

Nigel writes that he made the cake as an "emergency cake": a cake made quickly, without a recipe, for unexpected visitors dropping in. It is 'the classic 'equal butter to sugar to flour' base". Before this recipe, I wasn't familiar with this base, but it's quite easy to remember. Basically (hah!) you cream together equal weights of butter and caster sugar, add beaten egg (1 egg per 65g of butter), then fold in sifted flour and baking powder (1/2 teaspoon per 65g of butter). Easy peasy.

Nigel's recipe calls for 2 pears and a handful of blackberries. So, I chopped up 2 nectarines and got out a handful of blackberries (Frozen, of course). I found that half this amount totally covered the batter, and I didn't want the cake to be soggy, I didn't use all the fruit at first. After 10 minutes of baking, however, I noticed that the batter swelled a lot, whilst the fruit on top had shrunk. So I went the whole hog and threw the rest of the fruit on. (And I decided to add another nectarine for good measure). This base is great! It can take a lot of fruit, so don't be timid. It's a great way to use up fruit that is past its best.

As for the cake, it was absolutely brilliant! I took it, still in its tin, when we went afternoon-tea visiting, and it was a total hit. It was so simple, yet so incredibly good. Tender, buttery cake, topped with sweet and tart juicy fruit. Fabulous. I am totally, utterly convinced by this recipe, and know that I will make it time and time again.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Fettucine Marinara with Garlic Bread

Sometimes the best meals happen on the spur of the moment. I came home today with no plans for dinner, but with a lovely loaf of ciabatta bread. I was inspired to buy this bread after seeing Ina Garten make garlic bread with ciabatta on her Barefoot Contessa program not too long ago. When I told my dad that I wanted to make garlic bread, he suggested spaghetti marinara. Sounded good to me! Dad went out to buy some marinara mix, and I started working on dinner.

For the pasta sauce, I sautéed finely chopped onion and garlic in olive oil, then added a tin of chopped tomatoes and let them simmer slowly until thickened. I let it sit on the stove, and when Dad came home I stirred in the marinara mix until it cooked - about 4 minutes. Whilst it simmered, I cooked the pasta (fettucine was all we had in the pantry) and prepared the garlic bread. Ina's exact recipe is here, but here is a rough set of instructions:

Take one loaf of ciabatta and slice it in half lengthways...

Sautée finely chopped garlic and parsley in good olive oil... (you can imagine how good this smells!)

Spread the mixture on one of the slices.

Spread butter on the other side. Reassemble the loaf, cover in foil, and bake in a moderate oven for 5 minutes. Remove the foil and bake for a further 5 minutes to crisp it up. Slice into chunky fingers.

Then it was simply a case of tossing the cooked pasta with the sauce, and scattering some chopped parsley over. Ta-dah! Dinner was done. Easy and delicious! It only took about 30 minutes all up. Even without a recipe, the pasta turned out really well (and I almost never cook without a recipe). Lucky. I loved Ina's garlic bread, and highly recommend it as a tasty accompaniment that's a little bit different from the usual.