It’s the end of November and I realized that I still had a bit more spending room for “cheap fancy” grocery—not just your usual meat, eggs, dairy and bread variety (which I consider to be the 10 EUR weekly budget shopping). So yesterday (Friday), I went straight to the nearest grocery (Exotic World, along Brusselstraat) after dragging myself home from the lab.
Yes, I hauled in some essentials, like eggs (a must-have for guerilla-cooking in a communal kitchen…for a future post), bottled white beans in tomato sauce (instant side dish, or main course with rice), sardines (ooh, Carrefour Discount! I wonder if it tastes fine), a tetra-pack of tomato sauce (again…but just stock in the cupboard), glutinous rice, and frozen veggies…
Frozen veggies. When I picked up my usual “minestrone” pack (I was tired of eating the cauliflower-broccoli-carrot mix, which had more carrots than the other two vegetables), I noticed that the store had some frozen assorted mushrooms.
Then I heard my mental gears whirr and click into place. A non-rice meal idea!
Without hesitation, I picked up a bag and added it to my basket. Today, after continuing my shopping in another supermarket (ALDI), where I found a 500-g bag of uncooked spaghetti (for around 45 cents, cheap!), I whipped up something non-rice for supper: Pasta met champignon en spek (Pasta with mushroom and bacon).
- 125 g uncooked spaghetti / any pasta
- 50 g smoked bacon fine lardons (I had a lot of this in my freezer space…lardons are useful to have!)
- a thin slice/pat of butter
- dried garlic, dried onion, ground pepper
- some frozen assorted mushrooms
- extra-virgin olive oil
- Cook pasta according to manufacturer’s instructions (water with a bit of salt and cooking oil at medium to high heat, 10 mins average), or until al dente. Drain and rinse with cold running water, then toss a tablespoon or so of olive oil to keep the pasta from sticking.
- On a non-stick frying pan, melt a thin slice or pat of butter. Saute the lardons, season with a dash of dried garlic, onion and ground pepper.
- When the lardons begin to brown, add the frozen mushrooms. Saute until the frost has melted and the mushrooms give off their liquids. When the resulting sauce thickens, remove from heat.
- Assembly: cooked al-dente spaghetti + mushroom/bacon topping.
Results and Discussion
Cooking spaghetti. It’s absurdly easy to cook pasta noodles. It’s so easy, it’s prone to overcooking! Always check the manufacturer’s directions for the cooking time…but don’t follow it too closely. A few minutes before the recommended cooking time, fish out a strand of pasta and bite through. If it’s firm but chewy, (and if the strand’s cross-section doesn’t have that white uncooked core), immediately take the pot from the stove, dump the pasta into a colander and wash it with cold water to stop it from cooking further, then toss with a bit of olive oil to keep the noodles moist and not sticky. I cooked my serving of pasta in less than 10 minutes.
No…salt? Yes, if you had noticed, I did not include salt in the Materials list. First off—I cook the noodles with a bit of salt already. Second—smoked bacon lardons are a bit salty themselves. Note that the butter I usually use for cooking is the unsalted kind.
It took me 15 minutes to come up with a pick-me-up supper with a few ingredients (look, Ma, it’s not afritada!) yet has a slight sophisticated touch (assorted mushrooms). A 15 minute gourmet dish that has carbohydrates, fats, protein and vitamins/trace minerals to break the monotony of rice meals.
Who says grad students cannot be gourmets nor gourmands?