This is a fairly regular dish in my household, beloved by me and my son and any friends who happen to surreptitiously ‘pop round’ around dinnertime (which happens rather a lot, much to my Irish Mammy/Greek Cypriot Moumia feeder tendencies – I mean with that particular splicing of the gene pool, is it any wonder I’ve ended up where I am?!). I’ve made dozens of variations of it over the last few years, and this is tonights version. Black pudding is cheap, delivers an incredible amount of flavour per penny spent on it, and a little goes a very long way. It’s also rich in vitamins and essential nutrients, like Vitamin A, B6, B12, C, D, E, K and folate – a real superfood in my opinion. I’ve snuck some finely chopped greens in here too, as anyone raising children may empathise, you can do your best, but there generally comes a time when you have to employ every degree of sorcery in your repertoire to stuff some vegetables inside them. Usually around the same time as they get an element of mild freedom, some pocket money, and a penchant for the local sweet shop. I’ve blitzed mine up super small so it can’t be picked out here, and one of the benefits of doing that is that you can use whatever greens you have to hand this way; spring greens, kale, spinach, dark green cabbage, even a bag of sad looking salad leaves, all work wonderfully.
FUEL/COOKING TIME: 15 minutes
FUEL SOURCE: One single hob, electric or gas
EQUIPMENT: One pan, a knife, a large spoon, bowl or plate, mug or jug for the water (or a clean tin can!)
INGREDIENTS – as ever, feel free to substitute for whatever you have available, and most things can be left out if you don’t have them to hand. The pasta is kind of essential (although you could use broken up spaghetti, rice, or any other grain, remembering that rice or sturdy grains would need a slightly longer cooking time!) but everything else is fairly dispensable, so don’t be put off by the unusually longish list of ingredients. I just found myself throwing bits in, but that doesn’t mean you have to! I write suggestions, not prescriptions, and I love seeing your adaptations of them and knowing that you have the confidence to fiddle about with them is a REALLY good feeling. <3
Serves 4, from 45p each
1 small onion, around 100g, 5p (50p/1kg, Just Essentials at Asda)
2 tbsp light cooking oil, or around 20g butter or baking spread, 6p (75p/250g, Baking Block, Asda)
a pinch of salt, <1p (30p/750g, Asda)
115g black pudding, 55p (£1.10/230g, Asda)
100g cooking bacon, 15p (75p/500g, Just Essentials at Asda)
225g macaroni or penne pasta, 14p (32p/500g, Just Essentials at Asda)
700ml cold tap water
1 chicken (or other) stock cube, 5p (60p/12, Asda)
50g fresh or frozen kale, spinach or other greens, 8p (£1.40/850g frozen spinach, Asda)
250ml milk, 17p (69p/1l, UHT Skimmed Milk, Smartprice at Asda)
scant 1/4 tsp mustard, any kind, <1p (45p/200g, Just Essentials at Asda)
120g cheese, 53p (£3.65/825g, Just Essentials Mature White Cheddar, Asda)
plenty of black pepper, <1p (£1/100g, TRS at Asda – check the World Foods Aisle!)
First peel your onion, then halve it, then very finely slice or dice it. Toss it into a large nonstick frying pan or wok. Don’t pop it on the heat just yet – every minute counts here!
Drizzle over the oil or add the spread if using that instead, and season generously with salt and pepper. Dice the black pudding around 1cm all over, or a fingers width if you don’t want to get the ruler out! Chop the bacon, and add to the pan. Toss everything together to coat it in the oil, salt and pepper. It may seem odd to do all of this without any heat yet, but think of it like a swift wham-bam marinade job, as well as saving some pennies on the fuel bill.
NOW. Come on baby, light your fire. I’m sorry, I can’t help myself. Turn the heat on high on the largest hob ring, and place the pan of goodies onto it. Fry for 4 minutes, jostling occasionally to prevent it from sticking and catching, and to cook evenly. While this is cooking, weigh your pasta and set it to one side, and measure out your water, so both are ready to go when you need them shortly.
After 4-5 minutes, the onions should be soft (that’s why they’re chopped super small) and the black pudding starting to crisp at the edges. Swiftly remove the bacon, black pudding and onion from the pan with a large spoon or tongs, and decant into a bowl or onto a plate to one side for a moment.
Quickly pour half of the water into the still-hot pan, and season with a little more salt. Add the pasta and stir well, then cover the pan with a lid, or if you don’t have a lid for it, a large sturdy dinner plate, tin foil, larger pan upturned over the top like a dutch oven, or a baking tray – improvise with whatever you have to hand that will trap that expensive heat in where you want it!. Keep the pan on the highest heat, and it should come to the boil fairly swiftly. Add the remaining water, crumble in the stock cube, and give it all a good stir. Then cover again, and continue to boil vigorously for a total of 8 minutes, until the pasta is almost cooked.
While the pasta is boiling, finely chop your greens, and finely grate your cheese. Set these to one side for a moment.
When the 8 minutes (or thereabouts) are up, and the pasta is al dente (almost cooked with a little remaining bite to it), add the greens and stir through. Add the milk, mix in quickly, and turn off the heat. Fold through the reserved onion, bacon and black pudding gently, and cover your pan again. You won’t be using any additional fuel from this point, so trapping in the steam and residual heat from the cooked pasta and hot liquid will continue to cook everything and warm the black pudding and bacon back through.
Leave it to stand for 6-8 minutes to continue to cook in the residual heat (for free!) until the pasta is soft and has absorbed most of the liquid.
Stir in the cheese to melt it, season with plenty of black pepper, and serve.
TO KEEP: Leftovers will keep in the fridge for up to 3 days, or the freezer for up to 6 months. If freezing, loosen the sauce with a splash or two of water to stop it from thickening up and prevent ‘freezer burn’. Defrost in the fridge overnight and reheat to piping hot to serve.
All text copyright Jack Monroe, not to be reproduced without the explicit written permission of the author.
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