Food Photography

From foe to friend: Spaghetti Carbonara with Poached Egg, Shiitake and Button Mushrooms

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The last time I had a spaghetti carbonara was at the Sheraton in Bangkok after a long day at work. The thought of a hearty bowl of piping hot spaghetti with eggs, bacon and cheese was rather comforting. As it arrived, I looked longingly at that beautiful bowl. It seemed to have the right colour. I could see the flakes of crispy bacon. I had the server crack some black pepper over it. It looked perfect. But as the first fork full reached my waiting mouth, I was suddenly reminded of every bad run in with the carbonara. While most had been either too runny, smelly or gloopy; this one was drippy and had the distinct taste of raw eggs.

Since then, the carbonara and I have been foes. And thats a sad thing for me because I love eggs; the runnier and eggier the better. I love bacon (who doesn’t). I love cheese. And only a few things are more satisfying to me than a bowl of warm spaghetti.

Now, having started this blog and having declared my love for food, it just didn’t feel right to have a food foe. So with some inspiration and a little thought for my belly I extended a hand of friendship.  I made a spaghetti carbonara with shiitake and button mushrooms instead of bacon or pancetta and I substituted raw eggs with a poached egg to get that same creaminess but without the scare of tasting runny, raw eggs.

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Poached Egg Spaghetti Carbonara with Shiitake and Button Mushrooms

Serves 2

Ingredients:
2 eggs
6 large to medium button mushrooms
a small fist full of dried shiitake (soak them in a cup of boiling hot water for 15 mins. keep the resultant broth. we will use it to pump up the umami taste)
spaghetti, cooked as per the instructions on the packet
1/2 cup of grated parmesan cheese
a few sprigs of thyme
olive oil
salt and pepper to taste

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Directions:

Step 1: Chop the button mushrooms and the rehydrated shiitake into thin slices.  saute them.

Step 2: In a hot pan, put some olive oil. Add the shiitake and saute it in the pan for 2-3 minutes. Then add the button mushrooms and continue to saute the 2 for another 5-8mins on medium-high heat. The idea is to let the mushroom lose their moisture and have a few crispy bits.

Step 3: Add half a cup of the shiitake broth into the mushroom mixture and let it reduce for about 2-3 minutes. This is a good time to add the thyme. I love mushrooms and thyme together.

Step 4: Add the grated parmesan cheese to the mix. It will almost immediately melt into the mushroom broth.

Step 5: Now add the spaghetti. Add salt and freshly cracked pepper to taste. Toss well making sure the spaghetti is nicely coated and the mushrooms are evenly distributed.

Step 6: For the poached eggs, boil a large quantity of water with salt. As soon as the water comes to a boil reduce the heat and let the water simmer. Crack an egg into a oiled heatproof bowl. If you have the silicon egg poachers, nothing like it. Now carefully lower the blow into the simmering water. The idea is to let the bowl be submerged in the hot water. Don’t worry, the egg will be fine. Just make sure you don’t let the water boil or disturb the water too much otherwise the egg will come out of the bowl and spread in the water. Let the egg poach in the hot water for about 3 minutes. Now carefully pull out the bowl from the water and let the water drain out out of the bowl over a slotted spoon. Be gentle while handling the egg. As the water pours out of the bowl the poached egg will slip into the slotted spoon. Let it drain some more. Now do the same with the other egg.

Step 7: Make yourself 2 bowls of spaghetti. Place the poached egg over  the bed of spaghetti. Sprinkle some grated parmesan over the top and serve.

Break the egg and let the yoke spill into the spaghetti. Mix it in and enjoy!

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I. Love. Food.

Cooking it. Learning about it. Experimenting with it. Exploring people and cultures through it. And relishing every bite and taste of every morsel that enters my mouth.

For me it is a love like no other. My first memory is of me as a 2 year old feeling happy about my bottle of vanilla favoured eggnog, virgin of course. My mum thought it was nutritious and I supposedly thought it was yummy. Growing up, no amount of bribing could get me to read the Famous Fives or Hardy Boys lining the shelves. But my mum’s copy of Tarla Dala’s cookbook got me to read my first book cover to cover. I made Hakka noodles when I was 12. I baked a pound cake in my grandfather’s vintage Wee Baby Belling when I was 13. Every inch of my expanding waistline, at that time, was testament to my love of food.

But at 17, when I had an opportunity to do something more with this love, I gave it up. I gave up on an opportunity to study at a premier culinary school, because I thought I needed to study something more substantive. Do an MBA and get that great job.

I did all of that and a little more. I lost the pounds and food, cooking and everything around it was relegated to an on-off weekend hobby.

But now, many years later, I find myself wanting to connect back with that original love of food. That love that had me so consumed during my growing years. So this blog is my action towards that. I have much to catch up on, so I would love for you to share your views with me as I share my food journey with you.

Cheers!