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Pasta Al Vino Bianco

This is a variation of recipe I’ve been cooking occasionally for a while, but last week I made it again with a few variations that really just made it spectacular, so I needed to write it up. You will notice that a lot of these numbers are not as precise as I might like, that’s because I was really just winging this recipe, substituing ingredients I didn’t have on-the-fly. Regardless, it was a big hit.

The original recipe I followed is quite good, and I still recommend it, but it’s a bit more work than the new recipe I discovered due to not having all the original ingredients around, and I was forced to improvise. The new one, I think, was even better than the original!


  • Olive Oil
  • 150g (or more) Pancetta
  • 2 Red Chilis (chopped) (I used chilis from this plant)
  • 2 Garlic Cloves
  • Cheap Bottle of Dry White Wine
  • Fresh Pasta (I used Waitrose Fusilli, but it should work with other pasta types)
  • Double Cream (single cream would probably work just as well)
  • Bag of Spinach
  • Parmesan Cheese


  1. Add 1 tbsp olive oil to large sauce pan or wok, and let it get hot over medium-high heat, then add the pancetta and let it cook til crisp. Remove pancetta with a slotted spoon into a bowl, leaving the oils behind.
  2. Press garlic to the hot oils and add chopped chilis. Saute for a couple of minutes until garlic begins to brown.
  3. Add about a third of the bottle of wine to the oil/spice mixture and let it reduce down for 5-10 minutes minutes.
  4. Reduce heat to medium, then add the fresh pasta to the pan followed by the next third of the bottle of wine. The goal is to get the pasta to “al dente” in about 8 minutes. Stir to ensure that all pasta gets cooked similarly, and add a bit more wine if its going to dry out too early. It will depend on exactly how much pasta you have, but don’t be afraid to keep it wet until it’s about time. If needed, you can add water as well.
  5. Add about 100ml of the cream and stir to cover all the pasta. Next, add alllll of the spinach. It will seem that you have a ridiculous amount of spinach compared to everything else, but trust that it will wilt and reduce significantly from the volume you add. Dump in the last of the wine or water to give some liquid and then cover over medium heat for just a couple of minutes until the spinach reduces down.
  6. Add about half the parmesan to the pan and stir it in, then dump in the pancetta and stir it all together before serving with the balance of the parmesan for presentation or for people to add on their own.


This recipe itself is a grand variation on the original, and I suspect that the basics here can be used in any combination with the original that you fancy. In particular:

  • you can use arugula instead of spinach
  • you can add toasted pine nuts, that can’t hurt
  • you can use dry pasta, perhaps pre-cooking it for a few minutes in water first
  • you can use red pepper instead of the chilis
  • you can use bacon cooked til crispy instead of pancetta

Chocolate Chip Banana Bread

This banana bread recipe has quickly become my favorite baking project, and in fact a full double loaf powered me through my recent run of the London Triathlon (Olympic length!). I haven’t done the extra chocolate topping at the end, and I’ve been doubling it pretty much every time, turning the recipe into:

  • 2 ripe bananas
  • 2 tbsp milk
  • 100g soft butter
  • 150g plain flour
  • 150g caster sugar
  • 1 tsp bicarbonate of soda
  • 1 tsp baking powde
  • 2 eggs
  • 100g dark chocolate chips

Prep is simple: Preheat a convection oven to 160 C, mash the banana, mix int the rest of the ingredients, grease a 2lb loaf pan, add the chocolate chips and put into the oven for 45-50 minutes.

First Risotto Success!

While I’ve enjoyed it a number of times, I’ve never made Risotto myself. I recently felt inspired to try doing it and found to be to fairly easy but also extremely delicious! This will definitely join my toolbelt of wonderful foods that are also fun to cook.

I used the directions on the back of the Waitrose Arborio rice package I bought with minor modifications:

  • 250g Arborio rice
  • 845 ml water + 2 beef bullion cubes
  • 1 medium onion
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 2-ish tbsp olive oil
  • 77g pancetta (or more!)
  • Butter, to serve
  • Parmesan cheese, to serve

I diced the onion and crushed the garlic, then brought the olive oil to a shimmer in a large sauce pan. I added the onions and garlic and stirred to coat them with oil and cooked until things got clear but before they carmelized. Then I added the rice to the mixture and stirred continuously until everything was well mixed.

Then, cup by cup, I added the broth to the rice, stirring until the liquid was absorbed, and repeating until all of the broth was consumed. Meanwhile, I got the pancetta cooking in a small pan. Once the risotto had absorbed the liquid, I added the pancetta to it with a slotted spoon and stirred. I served with a bit of butter and as much parmesan cheese as I felt like, which means a lot.

In the future, I’d probably use vegetable broth for a more neutral taste if I wanted to combine the risotto with a seafood, but this was good for a rich taste.

Red Lentil and Chorizo Soup

I recently had a hankering for some lentils, and I found a recipe for Red Lentil and Chorizo Soup.

It was spectacularly good. I took a few creative liberties with the recipe:

  • I replaced the chicken stock with vegetable stock
  • I used both Plain Yogurt and Sour Cream (one dollop of each on top!)
  • I used up all the chorizo on about half the soup, so more Chorizo is definitely desirable
  • I used more generous helpings of the olive oil, spices, and garlic
  • I used ground cumin rather than cumin seeds
  • I avoided the sugar
  • I didn’t blend it at the end at all

This recipe is relatively easy and absolutely fantastic. It’s definitely joining my regular repertoire!

To preserve it for posterity in case the BBC changes its links or whatever else might happen, the recipe is copied below:


  • 1 tbsp olive oil, plus extra for drizzling
  • 200g cooking chorizo, peeled and diced
  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • 2 carrots, chopped
  • pinch of cumin seeds
  • 3 garlic cloves, chopped
  • 1 tsp smoked paprika, plus extra for sprinkling
  • small splash red wine vinegar
  • 250g red lentil
  • 2 x 400g cans chopped tomato
  • 850ml vegetable stock
  • plain yogurt and/or sour cream, to serve


  1. Heat the oil in a large pan. Add the chorizo and cook until crisp and it has released its oils. Remove with a slotted spoon into a bowl, leaving the fat in the pan. Fry the onion, carrots and cumin seeds for 10 mins until soft and glistening, then add the garlic and fry for 1 min more. Scatter over the paprika and cook for 1 min, then splash in the vinegar. Simmer for a moment, then stir in the lentils, and pour over the tomatoes and vegetable stock.
  2. Give it a good stir, then simmer for 30 mins or until the lentils are tender. Can be made several days ahead or frozen for 6 months at this point. Serve in bowls, drizzled with yogurt and olive oil, scattered with the chorizo and a sprinkling of paprika.
  3. Nom nom nom