Convenient and simple

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The kitchen is being painted. What started as a greasy picnic adventure has now reached a level of tiresomeness which is purely my aggravation that I can’t bake anything. Instead, I must satisfy myself with squidgy pieces of banana bread made on Sunday, cold pizza from the fridge, and try not to stare at pictures of food on the internet.

Convenient and simple has been the meal theme this week. Fiona cooked our dinner last night; I already planned what she would make me, I just needed to tell her discuss ideas with her. Good news, she took to my idea like a champ, bad news I had to go out to buy the ingredients. Note to self – suggest food we actually have in the house. Convenient and simple has, by this point, gone out the window.

So, dinner was spaghetti alla Clara. This has been mine and my sister’s go-to dinner since we were 8 and 6 years old. At that age we were intense and overly enthusiastic fans of a 90’s pop band called Steps. We bought all their albums, their videos (not videos in the way we know them now, these were actual VCRs) and, what it came down to, in a childish way we worshipped them. My nostalgia for Steps is still strong… (where have those days gone when it was acceptable for everyone to wear the same colour…). Now, one video had bandmember Claire cook a delicious pasta dish, thus named after her, and we have cooked it ever since, occasionally adapting it depending what we had to hand. This pasta sauce is incredibly versatile; you can easily add peppers, olives, herbs, chorizo, bacon – anything really, but don’t forget to coat it in all cheese at the end.

Spaghetti alla Clara

Serves 2

150g-200g dried spaghetti (depending how hungry you are)
Half a white onion
1 clove of garlic
A large handful of mushrooms
Slices of cooked ham
1 tin of tomato soup
Hearty gratings of whatever cheese you have
Salt and freshly ground black pepper

  1. Finely dice the onion and slice the mushrooms.
  2. Fill a large pan with water and sprinkling of salt. Bring to a boil and add the spaghetti. Cook according to packet instructions. Once cooked, drain thoroughly.
  3. Heat mild flavoured oil (rapeseed, sunflower, mild olive) in a deep frying or sauté pan. Once it is hot and gently sizzling, add the onion and fry on high heat for one minute before lowering the temperature to low-medium and cooking until soft and lightly golden, stirring regularly. If onions start to catch add a splash more oil and reduce the heat.
  4. Finely chop or crush the garlic and add to the pan and cook for until aromatic.
  5. Add the mushrooms and cook until soft.
  6. Tear up the slices of ham and toss together with the onion and mushroom, cooking gently for a minute or so. Season with salt and pepper.
  7. Pour in the soup (clean out the can with a splash of water and add to the sauce). Bring to the boil then reduce to a simmer and cook for five minutes.
  8. Grate as much or as little cheese as you would like over the sauce and stir to melt.
  9. Pour in the spaghetti and toss to coat in the sauce. Season again and divide into bowls. Cover with cheese and devour.

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Fiona and I also made mini garlic bread batons as accompaniments – merely cut some crusty bread into bite-size chunks, mix together oil, crushed garlic and some chopped fresh herbs and liberally brush over the bread. Stick ’em under the grill until toasted and intoxicatingly garlicky.

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