Look in the Cupboard You Idiots!

Tuesday 6/12/2005

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Diary and Notes

I haven't written anything for a while and was getting the crazies from not ranting enough so I thought I should have a stab again (metaphorically of course). Plus, today's dinner has become something of a talking point amongst me and some of my chums and I promised I'd put it on my blog if I ever made it and here it is.

I can't really think why I didn't make this during my challenge year - it would certainly have been different.

So what delight am I whittering on about today eh?

No less than my greatest culinary invention ever - that most fabled of creations, Pastralloni.

"Pastrawhatsit?" you may ask

Pastralloni I reply. A strange chimera of a dish, neither this nor that, something over dressed and by the sound of it quite unpleasant.

It was originally conceived many years ago during a drunken debate about what great dishes had never been cooked before. I believe I had originally promised to cook it for my old chum Dr Phileus Algenon Welshegg (of the Salisbury Welsheggs) but never did, in fact the dish has only ever been cooked once before today and has so far remained unknown to the rest of mankind.

So what is this mythical dish, this Charybdis of the kitchen?

Surely the name is enough to negate the need for description.

I can more easily describe the dish by comparing it to the film me and my chums watched after eating dinner - Steven Spielberg's War of the Worlds, which is worth a word or two.

What a great classic War of the Worlds is, quite one of the truly marvelous books of all time. I am also particularly fond of Jeff Wayne's rock opera version which had me spooked over and over again as a wee nipper and was really looking forwards to seeing giant tripods marching across America melting people with their heat rays. I knew the story well and was determined to give the film a fair viewing.

What a massive disappointment.

If it were possible to make a more vanilla version of a great classic I would be surprised. Bland would be too inane a word. New words need to be invented to describe the banality of this production - and the stupidity of the central characters had me fuming.

Imagine you had just run from a big city having been chased by giant fire spitting monsters to a quiet and safe house in the country (owned by your clichéd ex-wife and her perfect husband of course). With you are your two children who are frightened, in shock and hungry. All you have brought with you is a box of things from your cupboards at home which turns out to be some ketchup, bread and peanut butter. What do you feed the poor mites? Peanut butter sandwiches of course.

No you don't. What big house in the country doesn't have some food in the cupboards? Even if the inhabitants had emptied out the freezer and fridge (which I doubt they would have) there would still have been a can of soup or beans left. But stupid old Mr idiot doesn't even look in the cupboards to see if there's any food. And his even stupider kids (one of whom is killed and then brought back to life for the most saccharine ending to any film I can remember - who actually live in this house and should know where things are) don't say "Hey Dad, Mum keeps the canned foods in this cupboard here."

What utter toss.

The aliens aren't frightening at all (and that's when you get to see them) and the inconsistencies are just jaw droppingly obvious.

And I have to come back to the ending.

All through the film the army have been destroyed. Wiped out by zapping and crushing and maiming (this bit I liked) but in the end they suddenly appear again, all well organised and happy, all on the ball and saving America. I was almost sick.

Ok so I'm not doing the thing justice. By comparing my pastralloni the the film I have done myself a great dis-service. The food wasn't that bad at all.

Sadly it wasn't as good as it could have been. It is a bit like the War of the Worlds in that the last time I had it, it seemed much better. I think there wasn't enough meat sauce for the amount of pasta and it turned out a bit bland.

But it wasn't a complete disaster and nobody complained. The photo doesn't do it justice really - a bit like Steven Spielberg's version of H.G.Well's book. So like my recommendation for this science fiction classic I am advising people to stick to the original and have some rigatoni bolognese instead. Oh, and don't watch this film.


  • Pastralloni
  • Salad (lettuce, cherry tomatoes, cucumber, French dressing)
  • Crusty Bread and Butter

  • Irish Cream Roulade (from Iceland - this was really quite excellent and deserved a photo but I didn't take one sorry).


    Meat Sauce
    1 Tbsp Olive Oil
    ¼ tsp Fennel Seeds
    ½ tsp Chilli Flakes
    2 Medium Onions
    3 Cloves Garlic
    1 Carrot
    1 Stick Celery
    250g Minced Steak
    125g Minced Pork
    ¼ tsp Nutmeg
    1 Tube Tomato Puree
    Dollop Tomato Ketchup
    1 Can Cherry Tomatoes
    2 tsp Capers
    Black Pepper
    1 tsp Oregano
    Cheese Sauce
    1 tsp Olive Oil
    50g Butter
    1 Tbsp Flour
    1 Pint Milk
    100g Strong Cheddar Cheese
    Black Pepper
    ¼ tsp Nutmeg
    Meat Sauce
    Cheese Sauce
    500g Rigatoni
    500g Puff Pastry


  • Make the sauce well in advance. The longer and slower you cook it the better it will be. If you don't have at least two hours to let it simmer away, have something else for dinner. Warm the olive oil in a large pan and add a few fennel seeds and chilli flakes (not much chilli it's not supposed to be hot). Finely dice the onion and celery. Grate the carrot and mince the garlic. Cook in the flavoured olive oil until the onion is soft Add the minced steak and pork. Keep the meat moving in the pan so as to allow it to brown evenly. Squirt in a dollop of ketchup, a can of tomatoes, some tomato puree, some nutmeg, some minced capers, loads of black pepper and some dried oregano. Mix and add just enough water to make a thick sauce. Turn the heat down really low and simmer for as long as you can.
  • Cheese Sauce: Warm a little olive oil in a pan and add the butter (the olive oil stops the butter burning) and heat. Put some milk on to warm (or if you have a microwave that's easier). Add some flour to the butter and stir, keep stirring and ensure the flour forms into a roux. Now add the warm milk all at once (if its warm, you shouldn't get a single lump). Keep stirring, it should thicken to a sauce, if its too thick add some more milk. Grate in the cheese, some nutmeg and pepper and cook gently until everything has melted together.
  • To assemble this great classic of international cuisine simmer the rigatoni for a few minutes just to soften it. Mix it into the meat sauce and pour into a big oven-proof dish. Pour over the cheese sauce, roll out the pastry and cover the dish. Bake for 20 minutes at about 200c until the pastry is brown.


    *All quantities are very approximate and for four people