Tuesday, 19 July 2011

A pasta supper to reward tired walkers.

For the longest time, I've been desperate to undertake a long distance hike, and there's been one trail in particular that I've wanted to follow: the Southern Upland Way, which sets off from the Southwest coast of Scotland, and ends up 212 miles, or 341km away, on the East coast.

I don't have any hiking friends, though, and am not the kind of person that could be so completely alone for the length of time that it takes to complete a walk like that. I was incredibly lucky, therefore, that last summer I bumped into a hiker in the beautiful city of Dresden.

My darling friend David was mad enough to come with me to Scotland and hike with me. Thank God he did, because just a few days ago, aching, sore, sunburnt and bitten, we staggered into the sea at Cockburnspath, 16 days after setting off from the West coast. The walk was the best and most rewarding experience of my life.

It looked something like this.

I learnt a lot on the Southern Upland Way. I learnt about distances, and how far one kilometre is. I learnt that my body can do a lot more than I ever gave it credit for. I learnt that when ants bite, they really bite. I learnt that olive oil makes everything better, and I learnt that a broken Spork can be a disproportionately demoralising event.

Hiking certainly taught me to appreciate food. After 16 days of high calorie, lightweight dinners, everything tastes very strange. I'm craving salt and fats like mad, and upon my return I needed something really delicious, but very quick to prepare, (did I mention how much my ankles are hurting?).

This pasta dish is something else. It's so much more than the sum of its parts.  It's really cheap as well, try it.

Pasta with bacon and breadcrumbs.
Adapted from Nigel Slater's "Appetite"

Enough long pasta to feed you, (I used tagliatelle, but you could use spaghetti or similar too)
A glug of olive oil
A few slices of streaky bacon
A nice chunk of white bread, (I used a two inch piece of baguette, which was easy to prepare)
About 5 cherry tomatoes
2 cloves of garlic
Some mozzarella
A handful of fresh basil

First things first. Get some water boiling for your pasta and chuck it in. Cook it for as long as the packet says.

Meanwhile, cut the bacon into little pieces and fry them in a little olive oil, until they are beautiful and golden and delicious looking. While they're doing their thing, get out your cheese grater and grate your bread into breadcrumbs, honestly.

Try and aim for different sized crumbs. It's nicer that way. Once your bacon looks good, throw the breadcrumbs in the pan too and toss them until they're golden and toasty and crispy.

Halve your tomatoes and add them to the pan, also add the garlic; just crush it with the palm of your hand and remove the skin. Fry it all off, it'll start looking lovely now.

When your pasta's cooked, just toss it with the breadcrumb mixture and throw in your mozzarella, and your basil leaves, all torn up. Season with salt and pepper, add a glug of olive oil, and your dinner is ready!

This is a combination that just works. It's very good, I promise. Also, it costs around £2.30 to make the entire meal, which is perfect for when one is returning from a holiday that cost a bit more than one may have anticipated!