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Simplified Chicken Cassoulet


(serves 2)
Cassoulet is a hearty meal-in-one dish of poultry, pork and beans in a tomato sauce from Languedoc, in the south of France. This is my simplified method for making a Cassoulet using everyday ingredients like chicken legs and baked beans. It’s not exactly the same as what you’d find in Toulouse but I think you’ll find its a close enough imitation as long as you’re not French. More importantly my recipe only takes 1 hour to prepare and cook instead of a whole day if you were to do it ‘properly’.       
 

Ingredients

  1. Chicken Leg with Thigh (2)
  2. Pork Sausages (2)
  3. Pancetta (100g)
  4. Onion (1/2)
  5. Shallot (4)
  6. White Wine (1/2 cup)
  7. Baked Beans (1 can, small)
  8. Oxo Beef Cube (1)
  9. Tarragon
  10. Thyme
  11. Coriander Seed Powder

Preparation 

  1. Peel the shallots but keep them whole. The half onion should be cut into 3 wedges.
  2. Trim (and retain) any excess skin and visible fat from the chicken. Season the chicken legs with a dusting of pepper, but no salt.
  3. Fry 100g of diced pancetta in a pan on low heat with 1T oil (goose fat if you have any) together with the chicken trimmings and the two pork sausages.
  4. When the fat from the pancetta begins to render, add the shallots and onions to the pan. Move the contents of the pan around to prevent them from getting burnt until the onion breaks up into soft pieces.
  5. Pour everything from the pan into a casserole. The Casserole should be tall enough to prevent boiling over. Drain the oil back into the pan and turn up the heat.
  6. When the pan is hot, brown the chicken in it. The chicken shouldn’t be in the pan so long that it gets cooked completely.
  7. Place the browned chicken in the casserole as well and arrange all the contents snugly as shown. Sprinkle some black pepper over everything.
  8. Preheat your oven to 180oC (350oF).
  9. Melt 1 Oxo Beef cube in 3/4 cup of hot water and use this stock to deglaze the pan. Turn on the heat again and add 1/2 cup of white wine and the can of baked beans. While the mixture is being brought to a boil, add 1T Tarragon, 1T thyme, 1t coriander seed powder.
  10. After the sauce has been boiling for half a minute, pour it into the casserole. Place the casserole in the oven for 25 minutes, uncovered. The cooking time may vary slightly, you’ll know its time when enough of the liquid has evaporated and the chicken is partially exposed.
  11. You may serve your cassoulet immediately but it can also be put aside and reheated later, it will taste just as good. It is traditional to serve the whole casserole (as per below), with the individual plating done at the table. The dish has a lot of sauce, so it goes well with baguette or some other kind of bread.

Notes

  • If you haven’t cooked an authentic cassoulet before, here is a summary: Cassoulet is usually served with Duck Leg Confit instead of chicken and this is to be roasted separately. You’ll also need Toulouse Sausages which are hard to find, plus you also have to soak beans ahead of time and cook them for a really long time to get them soft. Other typical cassoulet ingredients that I left out include tomatoes, celery, carrots and laminated pork.
  • The nice thing about canned baked beans is they come pressure-cooked and their sauce has the same effect as the gelatin you would normally get from cooking pork skin in the Cassoulet for a long time. Baked beans are thus the secret to the greatly reduced cooking time.
  • Speaking of pork skin, if you’d like you could try adding pieces of smoked ham hock if you so desire; treat them the same as the sausages.
  •  Some recipes sprinkle breadcrumbs on the cassoulet to form a crust, but I don’t belong to the crust camp.     
  • You can use a pot or pan instead of glass or ceramic ware as long as they come with an all metal handle. Be warned – if you use an oversized sized container the liquid level will be too low to cover the chicken initially and it will get burnt. A solution is to bake the casserole covered and then again uncovered at the end. 
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Japanese Rice Paella in a Frying Pan


(serves 4)
Paella is a culinary gift from the Valencia region of Spain to the rest of the world. In this version we have a combination of meats from land, sea and air, simmered to perfection with saffron-infused rice in the pan.  Not that many people cook Paella because they believe it requires a special variety of rice from Spain and a special cast iron Paella pan. It does not, everybody can cook a reasonably authentic Spanish Paella even if they are not from Spain. My recipe uses Japanese Rice, the ideal substitute rice for Paella.       
 

IngredientsPaella

  1. Prawns (4 large)
  2. Chicken Leg with Thigh (1)
  3. Black Mussels (8)
  4. Smoked Pancetta (80g)
  5. Spicy Chorizo Sausage (80g)
  6. Onion (1)
  7. Tomatoes (1)
  8. Raw Japanese Rice (1 cup)
  9. Lemon (2 wedges)
  10. Saffron Threads
  11. Garlic
  12. Parsley
  13. Paprika
  14. Oregano

Cooking paella is a bit more tricky than other rice dishes and the proportions need to be just right. For this recipe you’ll need a large frying pan that is 11 inches in diameter (top) and 2 inches deep. It can be a slightly bigger but definitely no smaller.

Preparation

  1. Debone the chicken leg and cut the meat into bite sized chunks. Cut the heads off your prawns just behind the carapace and snip off all whiskers. Shell and devein the prawn bodies and slice lengthwise down the middle to bisect each prawn.
  2. Boil 2 cups of water in a pot. Add the chicken bones and prawn heads into the boiling stock pot and keep the stock simmering on a low flame.
  3. In the meanwhile marinate the chicken and prawn meat in a mixture of 2T oil, 1t oregano, 1t chopped parsley, 1t paprika and flat 0.5t of salt.
  4. Julienne the onion into small bits, press enough garlic to get roughly  1T of minced garlic and dice 1 tomato. Furthermore cut the Chorizo into thin slices and the pancetta into small pieces.
  5. Soak and agitate the mussels in some cold water. Strain, then clean and de-beard the mussels.
  6. Drizzle some oil onto your frying pan. Stir fry the chorizo and pancetta on low heat until the fat has been rendered from the meat. Set aside 4 slices of Chorizo and put the remaining slices of Chorizo into the simmering stock pot.
  7. Add the onion to the pan. Continue stir frying on low heat until they begin to brown. Next add one cup of Japanese rice and continue to stir fry for a minute more to coat the rice grains. Stop at this stage until you are almost ready to serve the Paella.
  8. Pour the stock through a strainer into the pan. Add the garlic, tomatoes and the mussels together with 1t paprika, 1t oregano, 1t of saffron threads, 0.5t sugar and the juice from 2 lemon wedges . Top off with enough hot water to bring the water level halfway to the top and bring to a low simmer. Simmer uncovered for about 35 min for the rice to be done.
  9. Arrange the prawns, chicken and the 4 reserved slices of Chorizo in a casserole (or baking tray) and place in a preheated oven. Grill till the prawns twirl up. Remove from the oven and spoon the drippings onto the cooking rice evenly. Mix gently. Return the casserole dish to the oven (now turned off) to keep your meat warm.
  10. When the pan begins to dry, check the rice for texture and decide if you need to add additional hot water – drizzle only a little each time. Too much water will result in mushy paella. Once you are satisfied that the rice is properly fluffed up and at its maximum size, turn up the heat a bit, arrange the meat on the rice.
  11. When there is no more liquid visible and the ‘socarrat’ or crust has formed at the bottom of the pan, turn off the fire and allow the paella to rest for a few minutes on the stove and then serve your paella in the pan itself.

Notes

  • The ideal rice for Paella is a short-grained Spanish variety like Bomba, but those are not easy to buy outside of Europe. Many tend to use Italian Arborio as a substitute because it also happens to be short grained but that is entirely the wrong type of rice to use. Rice meant for risotto cannot absorb too much water without becoming mushy because of its high amylopectin content which is why risotto is eaten wet and al dente. Paella must be cooked until it is dry outside but fully hydrated inside which is what makes Japanese rice ideal in this case.
  • A personal secret ingredient when I cook my paella is cod liver oil. I usually add some diced smoked cod liver and use some of the oil that comes in the tin instead of olive oil. This adds tons of rich seafood flavour.
  • You can also use mussels that were pre-cooked in brine and frozen but pour away the brine. It is very easy for Paella to get overly salty. Sometimes I use clams instead of mussels.
  • Try not to disturb the rice too much. These rice grains are delicate and you don’t want to break them; you can move the rice around a bit as the pan begins to dry to keep the part over the fire from sticking but you definitely do not want to keep stirring continuously like you are cooking a risotto.
  • You will notice I boiled some of the Chorizo in the stock. In my opinion this is the best way to extract its flavour to the rice. Do not add the boiled Chorizo back to the rice, only the Chorizo that was grilled with the chicken can be used as a topping.
 
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Posted by on August 2, 2016 in Japanese, Main Courses, Poultry, Recipe, Seafood

 

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Oven Cooked Creole Jambalaya


(serves 12)
Jambalaya is an all-in-one rice dish specific to the American South-east. If I’m not mistaken Jambalaya means Ham-Rice.  While some consider Jambalaya a spicy version of its cousin the Spanish Paella, I tend to think of it as a heavier meatier version, as is the way with all things American, and that’s the way I make mine, with lots of smoked or cured meat. I use a special extra ingredient, minced pork sausage filling, this flavours the rice really nicely. I also grill the chicken and seafood separately first, this flavours the fresh meats really nicely.      
 

Ingredients Jambalaya

  1. Clams in Shell (600g)
  2. Prawns (16 large)
  3. Scallops (6 Jumbo)
  4. Chicken Legs with Thigh (3)
  5. Smoked Pork Belly (400g)
  6. Breakfast Pork Sausages (400g)
  7. Chorizo Sausages (250g)
  8. Onion (2)
  9. Capsicum (2)
  10. Celery (2 cups, chopped)
  11. Chopped Tomatoes (1 can, 400g)
  12. Raw Jasmine Rice (4 cups)
  13. Chicken Stock Cube (1)
  14. Whisky
  15. Cayenne Pepper
  16. Paprika
  17. Cumin
  18. Oregano
  19. Thyme

Preparation

  1. Boil 7 cups of water in a pot with one chicken stock cube. Cut the heads of your prawns just behind the carapace and snip off all whiskers. Thrown the heads into the boiling stock pot and keep the stock simmering on a low flame.
  2. Shell and then devein the prawn bodies and cut into finger tip size pieces. Cut the scallops into similar sized pieces. Marinate together in a bowl using 0.5T paprika, 0.5T cumin, a pinch of salt and a dash of oil.
  3. In a second larger bowl rub 3 chicken legs with 1T paprika and 1T cumin and 1t of salt.
  4. Grill the chicken for 10 minutes and then the prawn and scallop for 5 minutes. Since the seafood cooks faster, you should not grill them together. Dissolve any left over marinade in hot stock and then pour the liquid back into the stock pot.
  5. Dice 2 cups of celery, 2 onions and 2 capsicum (i.e. bell pepper).
  6. Soak and agitate the clams in a bucket of cold water. Strain and then throw the clams into the stock pot with 1/4 cup of whisky. Boil for a minute on high heat with the cover on before turning the fire off.
  7. Debone the cooled grilled chicken and cut it into bite-sized chunks. You can mix it with the seafood bits at this stage. The bones can go into the stock pot.4 Bowls of Pork
  8. Dice the smoked pork belly. Cut the lard portions into smaller pieces (10 o’clock) and the meat portions into larger cubes (8 o’clock). Slice the Chorizo into slices (4 o’clock). Remove the skin of the pork sausages (2 o’clock) and mix the filling with 1/2 cup of water to loosen it.
  9. Spoon 4T of vegetable oil into a large frying pan. Add the pork belly and Chorizo and fry on medium heat till the lard renders. Next, add the sausage filling as well and stir fry until the minced pork browns.
  10. Remove the meat. Reserve 4T of the flavoured oil leaving the rest in the pan. Stir fry the celery and onion in the same pan until they are limp. Then add 4 cups of jasmine rice (or another type of long grain) and stir fry for a further minute.
  11. Pour the contents of the pan into a large iron pot (i.e. Dutch oven) or large casserole dish. Add the prawn heads and clams (discard those that did not open). Add all the cooked meat and diced capsicum. Mix well.
  12. Preheat your oven to 150oC (300oF).
  13. Reheat the stock and add 5 cups of boiling stock to the pot. Follow this with the can of diced tomatoes, 1T cayenne pepper, 1T oregano, 1T thyme, 1t salt, 1t sugar. Reheat the pot on the stove until is just begins to boil.
  14. Place the pot in the oven with cover on. After 45 minutes, check if the rice is cooked. If the jambalaya is already dry but the rice is still hard, sprinkle on 0.5 cups of boiling water and bake for a further 5-10 minutes. Check the rice deep under the surface. When the rice is perfect, allow it to rest inside the oven with the cover off.
  15. In the meanwhile, mix the reserved pork oil with the remaining stock in the same pan and boil down till it begins to thicken. Spoon this over your jambalaya and serve.

NotesJambalaya in pot

  • This is a recipe for a very large amount of food. You can halve the portions if you don’t have that many people. There shouldn’t be any scaling issues.
  • Between two pots of the same volume, use the one that is flatter. The Jambalaya will cook more evenly.
  • Why didn’t I just cook the jambalaya on the stove?
    Because there is a tendency for the bottom of the pot to burn. You can try that after you have perfected the oven method.
  • Why do we have to grill the chicken and seafood first?
    This is a great way to sear some flavour into them so they don’t taste like boiled meat. The high heat will also remove freezer taste and ensure the prawn does not get mushy, which tends to happen if it is cooked too slowly.
  • Why do we need to make the sauce at the end?
    The varieties of rice which can absorb the taste of the stock will go mushy if they are cooked with too much water. Adding the sauce after the rice is cooked is the best way to ensure the rice is fluffy and yet moist. 
  • Many recipes I have come across use equal parts of water and rice. Not sure what kind of rice they are using (instant?) but I find more water is required than rice.
  • Add more cayenne pepper if you like your jambalaya spicy.
  • I have made some substitutions. I used Chorizo as Andouille it is not easily found in many parts of the world. I also swapped scallops in for calamari as squid gets very hard when it is over cooked. If you can’t find smoked pork belly, use a brined ham hock or cubed pancetta (but not sliced bacon). 
  • I usually use capsicums of 2 different colours for a better visual impact.
 
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Posted by on August 25, 2014 in Main Courses, Poultry, Recipe, Seafood

 

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Claypot Chicken Rice – Rice Cooker version


(serves 3)
Claypot Chicken Rice is Cantonese comfort food classic where rice is flavoured with sausage and sweet soya sauce. Traditionally, Claypot Chicken Rice is cooked in a claypot as the name implies but in modern times it is very often cooked in a rice cooker at home so it is done perfectly every time. The recipe is somewhat special in that the rice and chicken are cooked separately, and then again together. Additional items used to flavour the rice are fragrant Chinese sausages and Shiitake mushrooms. The chicken is tenderized with bicarbonate of soda, making it super tender and juicy. 
 
Ingredients Claypot-style Chicken Rice
  1. Chicken Thigh & Leg (1)
  2. Red Chinese Sausage (2)
  3. Brown Chinese Sausage (2)
  4. Dried Shiitake Mushrooms (4)
  5. Raw Jasmine Rice (1.5 cups)
  6. Minced Ginger (2t)
  7. Dark Soya Sauce
  8. Chinese Wine
  9. Vinegar
  10. Sesame Oil
  11. Golden Syrup
  12. Coriander Seed Powder
  13. Corn Starch
  14. Bicarbonate of Soda

Preparation

  1. Soak 4 dried shiitake mushrooms in 1 cup of cold water plus 1T soya sauce and 1t sugar for 2 hours. After the first hour snip off the stems and discard them, then cut each mushroom in half and continue soaking. Soaking overnight is the best.
  2. Debone the chicken leg and cut it into bite sized chunks, trim off all the loose skin and fat. Mix 2T soya sauce with 1t golden syrup and 1T each of sesame oil and Chinese wine in a big bowl and marinate the chicken with this. Separately mix 1t corn starch and a pinch of sodium bicarbonate with 1/3 cup of cold water and add this to the marinating chicken.
  3. Cut off the tip of the sausages with the string attached and slice them into 1/3 inch pieces.
  4. Rinse the raw rice a few times in the detachable rice cooker pot. Use Jasmine Rice or any other type of long grained rice. Mix the sausage pieces into the rice evenly and pour in the mushroom water (but not the mushrooms). Top up with water until the water level is half a finger over the rice (i.e. less than the amount of water you would normally use) and set the rice cooker to ‘cook’. As soon as the rice cooker has gone to ‘keep warm’ mode open the lid to let the rice dry out a bit.
  5. After an hour or more has passed since step 2 add 1T of vinegar to the marinating chicken to neutralize the bicarbonate and mix well. Wait 10 minutes and then strain the marinade into a separate container.
  6. Coarsely mince 2t of ginger. Fry the ginger in 3T of vegetable oil in a pan on high heat. When the ginger begins to brown and the oil is really hot, add the chicken. Stir fry the chicken until no visible part of the meat is raw.
  7. Next, add the marinade and mushrooms to the pan. Bring to a simmer briefly and sprinkle in 1t white pepper and 1t coriander seed powder.
  8. Arrange the contents of the pan on top of the (now cooked) rice inside the rice cooker (see picture below). Sprinkle all the left over liquid from the pan over the chicken in the rice cooker evenly.
  9. Set the rice cooker to cook a second time. When it returns to ‘keep warm’ mode again, your chicken rice will be done.

Notes CP Chicken Cook

  • Chinese sausages should be easy to find in any Chinatown. If you really hate liver, use 4 red sausages instead. If you can’t find any Chinese sausages, use braunschweiger (i.e. liverwurst) instead. They will be different in size to the Chinese sausages, so adjust the quantity accordingly. For reference, a Chinese sausage is 6 inches long and 3/4 inch in diameter.
  • If you have one of those rice cookers with fuzzy logic and all kinds of settings, just use the simplest one- usually labelled as ‘quick cook’ or something similar.
  • You can make your claypot chicken rice well ahead of time and reheat with the ‘keep warm’ function of your rice cooker.
  • If you want to skip the bicarbonate for a natural chicken texture, remember to skip the vinegar as well.
  • If you don’t have a rice cooker, you will need a clay pot. It will be very difficult to cook this in a metal pot so I suggest you don’t try. The rice gets burnt very easily.
  • If you like this recipe, have a look at my Oyakodon recipe, which is the Japanese version of chicken rice. 
 
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Posted by on July 23, 2013 in Main Courses, Oriental, Poultry, Recipe

 

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Split-Pea and Ham Soup


(serves 8-10)
Have you heard the phrase ‘fog as thick as pea soup’? This is that soup. Split-pea and Ham Soup is a wholesome soup that has been on the menu in Northern Europe for centuries, if not longer. The Germans, Dutch and Scandinavians all have their own versions where split-peas are simmered till they disintegrate completely, leaving a gorgeous emulsion of peas suspended in ham flavoured stock. Kobi’s version doesn’t require a ham hock, so its particularly easy to make.  
 

Ingredients

  1. Dried Spit Peas (240g)
  2. Cubed Ham (150g)
  3. Pork Sausages (150g)
  4. Onion (1)
  5. Butter (25g)
  6. Cream (1/4 cup)
  7. Pork Stock Cubes (2)
  8. Nutmeg
  9. Mint Leaves

Preparation 

  1. Rinse the split peas briefly and then soak them in 2 cups of room temperature water.
  2. In a seperate cup of hot water, dissolve 2 pork stock cubes.
  3. Cut the onion into 1/4 inch bits.
  4. Slice each sausage down the middle and open them like a book face down to remove the sausage skin. Stir 1/4 cup of water into the sausage filling to loosen it up.
  5. In a large pot, fry the onion on low heat with a half inch thick slab of butter. When the onion begins to soften after about five minutes, turn the heat up and then add the wet sausage filling. Stir fry till the sausage begins to brown slightly – which means its fat has melted, then add the cubed ham and fry for another minute.
  6. Add the pork stock to the pot, followed by 3 cups of plain water, and then the peas including the water they were soaked in. Add 2t chopped mint leaves, 1t nutmeg, 1t sugar and 1t black pepper.
  7. Bring back up to a simmer again and maintain this for 90 minutes or so, at which time the peas would have disappeared. You’ll need to stir once in a while to prevent anything from sticking to the bottom. You’ll also need to add water from time to time as it evaporates.
  8. Before serving, reboil and stir in 1/4 cup of cream. Add salt incrementally (about 2t by my experience) till you are satisfied with the taste. Pea soup turns into a sludge when it cools down so always serve it piping hot.

Notes

  • If you are wondering why I’m using such and odd amount of split peas, its because 240g is half a pound and split peas more often than not come in half pound packs. It also happens to be 3 cups if you want to go by volume. 
  • One of the age-old problems with split-pea soup is: the amount of ham required to make a proper stock is 10x more than the amount of ham that should be in the soup when it gets to the table. The traditional way of resolving this is to use a whole ham hock for the stock, with a small part of the hock diced for the final soup itself. When I initially experimented with pork stock cubes, I found them to be too lean and eventually I discovered that adding pork sausage to the mix was the ticket. The sausage contains fat (and other pork parts that I don’t want to discuss) and this with the pork cubes simulates a ham hock stock nicely.
  • Pork stock cubes are popular in Asia and you should find them easily in a gourmet supermarket or Thai/Asian food store. If you really can’t find pork cubes, use chicken stock cubes boiled with spam instead. You’ll need to discard the spam before using the stock, but that’s still better than using a ham hock.
  • If you can’t find pre-cubed ham, ask for ham from the deli counter that is sliced 1/3 inch thick and criss cross that to get your cubes.
 
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Posted by on November 23, 2011 in Recipe, Soups

 

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Pork Sausage Pasta


(serves 3-4)
This is my own creation, a hybrid pasta dish I concocted on one day when one person wanted to eat Szechuan food and another Italian cuisine. The key ingredients of its ragut sauce are minced pork, aubergine(eggplant) and paprika. It is living proof you don’t need anything more than normal everyday ingredients to make fantastic tasting food.
 
Ingredients
  1. Pork Sausages (350g)
  2. Aubergine a.k.a. Eggplant (1)
  3. Chardonnay (1 cup)
  4. Penne (2.5 cups)
  5. Garlic crushed (3t)
  6. Corn Flour
  7. Paprika
  8. Cognac

Preparation

  1. Deskin your sausages by cutting them in half lengthwise and peeling off the membranes. Soak the filling in 1 cup of white wine.  If you are using fresh sausages, you should also sprinkle on 1t of corn flour before adding the wine but if you’re using frozen (but defrosted) breakfast pork sausages they should have enough flour in them already. Knead to break up the clumps and allow to sit while you proceed with the next steps.
  2. Put a pot of water with a pinch of salt and dash of olive oil to boil for the pasta and crush 3t of garlic.
  3. In the meanwhile, cut the auberine into one inch cylinders. Slice each cylinder further into about 10 segments, leaving some of the skin attached to each piece.
  4. In a pan, stir fry the auberine on high heat  in 2T of olive oil. When the auberine starts to brown, add the crushed garlic. After a further minute pour in the pork cum wine.
  5. Continue to smash clumps of meat while the wine boils down.  At half volume, reduce heat and sprinkle in 3t of paprika and 1t of sugar. Then spoon out 8T of the sauce into a bowl. Add 1t cognac to the reserved sauce if you want an extra punch.
  6. Continue to apply low heat to the meat sauce until the pan is almost dry. In the meantime place your penne into the pot of boiling water.
  7. When the pasta is semi-soft, drain and mix the pasta with the meat in the pan. Drizzle on 4T of olive oil and turn the heat to high again. Stir fry for two minutes or so until the penne is al dente.
  8. After removing from heat but while still in the pan, pour in the reserved sauce and toss. Try for taste. You shouldn’t need to add salt as sausages are usually well salted, but that depends on the make.
  9. On the plates garnish with black pepper, chilli flakes and/or a sprinkle of more paprika.

Notes

  • If you are not into pork, this recipe works very well using bratwurst sausages.
  • If you absolutely cannot have even a bit of spicyness, use 3t of oregano instead of 3t parika. Then it’ll be fully Italian instead of part-Szechuan.
  • I would advise against noodle type pasta as the clumpy pork is best eaten with a spoon. Besides penne, the better pasta options are conchiglie, farfalle and rotini.
 
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Posted by on July 23, 2010 in Italian, Main Courses, Pasta, Recipe

 

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