1 July 2011

Creamy Ham & Mushroom Pasta Bake

Anybody fancy any comfort food?

I've had this recipe in my "sounds nice" folder, just waiting for a moment when a) I fancied cooking it, and b) I thought everyone else might like it.  It would seem as though today was that day.

I start by assembling the ingredients.  I get them all out to begin with, to avoid having to walk around the kitchen, wearing myself out.  Because my particular disability causes me problems with standing for any length of time, I have what is called a "perching stool" which I drag around the kitchen.  This enables me to "perch" rather than sit and so makes standing back up to go and fetch something a lot easier.  So I carry the tray of ingredients  to my preparation space, where I chop everything that needs chopping.  Anything left over goes back into the fridge.

From there, I move to the cooker and start the cooking.  Fortunately, our cooker is very close to the sink, so I can move between the two without having to do much more than adjust the angle of the stool.

So here I am, The Incredible Bulk, on my stool, cooking  *sigh*

As a consequence, any recipe that involves "chop this : cook that : fry this : boil that : mix this in a bowl : fry this in another pan.. and so on" is not my best friend.  Hence I try to find recipes that I can do all the chopping in one go, that use the least amount of pots and pans - or at least, have a gap between the pots & pans - possibly while something oven bakes.  I can then do the washing up in the gap, which helps with clearing up afterwards.

Some recipes, however, I feel as though I've run a marathon by the time they're on the plate.  Cooking a dessert for eating immediately after the main course is like that.  By the time I've cooked the main course, I've had it where a dessert is concerned.  So any dessert I make has to be able to be produced in advance.

So this creamy ham & mushroom pasta bake was one of the easier ones.  It was a simple matter of dicing up the gammon, spring onions and mushrooms.  Then, while the bacon was cooking, grate the cheese for the sauce.  After that, it was all based in front of the cooker - with the requisite gap for washing up, while the bake did it's thing in the oven.  It didn't stop me from looking like a beetroot by the time it was baked, though!  Well, it was hot in that kitchen!

It's very definitely a comfort food option, in that the creamy cheese sauce goes so well with the gammon, mushrooms and pasta.  The spinach adds the impression that it's a little bit good for you, while the sweetcorn adds a little bit of crunch and interest.  Everyone enjoyed it - and everyone would have it again.  I served it with some dough balls, as I found them in the freezer - which I'm trying to empty a bit, prior to defrosting.  It'd be even nicer with a side salad, though.


Ingredients :

300g wholemeal fusilli pasta
30g butter
140g thickly cut gammon, diced  
4-5 chestnut mushrooms, halved
bunch spring onions, finely sliced
handful of baby spinach leaves, washed & drained
3 tbsp sweetcorn niblets
2 tbsp plain flour
500ml milk - have some more handy, just in case you need it
100g mature cheddar, grated
20g parmesan, plus extra for sprinkling
sea salt & freshly ground black pepper.

Method :  

1.  Prepare a large pan of salted boiling water and cook the pasta according to pack instructions, then drain and set aside.

2.  Heat oven to 200C/fan 180C/gas 6, then melt a little butter in a deep frying pan and add the gammon.  Cook until beginning to brown, then decant into a large flat ovenproof dish.

3.  Add another small knob of butter and fry the mushrooms & spring onions for a couple of minutes, then scoop out and add to the gammon.

4.  Add the spinach and the sweetcorn to the oven dish and mix them through, to achieve a happy jumble.

5.  Melt the remaining butter in the frying pan, then add the flour.  Stir and cook for a minute, then gradually stir in the milk until you have a lump-free sauce. Increase the heat and bubble the sauce, stirring for a few minutes to thicken. Turn off the heat, stir in most of the cheese, then season to taste.

6.  Tip the pasta onto the happy mixture in the ovenproof dish, then pour over the sauce and mix well in the dish. Scatter over the remaining cheese then bake for 10-20 minutes until golden.

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