Today, I am excited to share a story and delicious recipe from my dear friend Sodoulla in Cyprus. This story is actually about the both of us during my first stint on the island from 1993-1997 as a teenager. (I lived in Cyprus a second time from 2005-2007 after Grad school- yes it can be confusing!) We were both Greek- Cypriot kids who were born in London and whose parents had returned to live in Cyprus for various reasons. We were instant friends when we met in high school, sharing a common misunderstood dark British humour and dry wit as well as many other things. Needless to say she is still one of my best friends to this day even though there are so many miles between us and life is very different from those early days. I was absolutely thrilled when she wanted to contribute to The Grumbling Belly and I am sure you will enjoy this trip down memory lane with us.
Happy Mondays Pasta for Mr. Darcy
When Leia started her family and friends posts I couldn’t resist reminding her about our Monday night get togethers back in 1996. We were just out of school and I had moved from my parents house on the beach town of Larnaca to the central city of Nicosia for college. This meant I was closer to all my high school friends and in particular, Leia. Although she and I had our fair share of parties and going-out nights, Mondays were strictly reserved for our other two passions: English classics and food.
Much to mine and Leia’s delight the not-so-wonderful Cypriot Broadcast Corporation decided by some miracle (or perhaps someone on the board actually had good taste) to show the BBC’s six part series of Pride and Prejudice every Monday night, starring the original Mr. Darcy, Colin Firth, and the under acclaimed Jennifer Ehle as Elizabeth Bennet.
So I’d get over to Leia’s house a good couple of hours before the show would start and we would raise havoc in her mum’s huge kitchen (has she ever mentioned that her parent’s house in Cyprus is a parsonage that used to be a school? Thus you can imagine the size of each room, not to mention there are separate guest toilets for men and women!) We would chop up the garlic, mushrooms and onions while telling each other our sad love-life updates (or lack thereof!) and of course we’ll never know if we cried because of the onions or because of our tales. Then we would get out the pots and pans and cook up our amazing signature dish that we were so proud of at the time. For us back then, diets started on Tuesdays…
Finally, we would sit glued to the television and eat until bursting point while watching the courageous Elizabeth sticking to her guns and the quiet Mr Darcy falling frustratingly in love with her. If I remember correctly, (I did say this was back in 1996) we would finish off the evening with a quick game of scrabble.
Needless to say the series finished after six weeks but we continued Monday evening pasta for quite a while. I can safely say that it was probably the only time in my life when I actually really looked forward to Mondays and I have my best friend Leia and, of course Mr Darcy, to thank for that.
Now to be totally honest, the recipe for our spinach pasta is a bit foggy (again, 1996) we were young and never really thought about writing it down. Being Cypriots we kind of just “played by ear” (my mum is an excellent Cypriot cook and she doesn’t have a single recipe written down, which I now find extremely frustrating, but I guess I’m like her in a lot of ways).
However the other day knowing I was going to write about it, I tested out our Monday Pasta and this is what I came up with:
Garlic Pesto Cream Pasta
200g pasta (we used to use cheese tortellini or tagliatelle but use your favourite)
1 bunch of fresh spinach, chopped
1 medium onion (or half a Spanish one), chopped
chopped fresh mushrooms (optional but strongly recommended, quantity is up to you)
2 cloves garlic, chopped or mashed
2 (ok, maybe 3!) heaped tablespoons of good pesto (I now would use homemade as my husband does the best pesto but back then we used store bought)
a drizzle of good olive oil (please don’t substitute with another oil)
250ml fresh cream
half a glass of white wine
salt and pepper to taste
Parmesan to grate on top
Gently sweat the onion in a hot pan drizzled with olive oil and then add the mushrooms and garlic. Sauté for a couple of minutes, making sure the mushrooms don’t produce too much water.
Add the spinach and wine stir until all the spinach is hot and starts to cook down, cover the pan and let the spinach cook until its tender and reduced.
Add the pesto, season with salt and pepper; stir well so that everything is covered in pesto. Finally, when the wine is reduced to a thick sauce,
add the fresh cream and stir again, let it cook and thicken.
Cook the pasta to your desired tendency and mix well into the sauce, grate cheese on top and serve with garlic bread.
We strongly recommend sharing this pasta dish with your best friend for added comfort.