How’s your week been? Well all I can say is thank GOD it’s Friday. That said, I also can’t believe it’s already Friday – far out, the weeks are flying by. Don’t you think? I’ve even noticed people posting memes on Facebook like “only 15 Fridays until Christmas” and that kind of thing that always manage to FREAK ME OUT! Not that I don’t like Christmas or anything, but please? I’m not ready to think about it. I’m still trying to get through this year thank you very much!
This week, for the first time ever, I have felt incredibly out of my depth trying to help my youngest son with his maths homework. It has literally done my head in all week. Year 9 maths, specifically Linear Equations, can go jump off a cliff. Can you relate? After whinging about it to friends, I’ve come to the conclusion that the vast majority of us parents who try to help their kids out with maths once they’re in high school (unless you’re an engineer or a maths teacher, or some other professional that actually uses this stuff) finds this really hard. I don’t even think I learned it myself at high school, or if I did I surely didn’t need to learn it because I’ve forgotten it and clearly have never used it in my life!
I didn’t want to try to help out without making sure I knew I was getting the answers right myself so I worked though the maths book all week, trying to learn each concept. But wow, some of it just didn’t make any sense to me. I never thought of myself as mathematically challenged, but this is like another language to me. Like, I was convinced I was doing it correctly only to find out I hadn’t, then I couldn’t figure out what I was doing wrong. I ended up having to take pictures of the work with my phone and send them to my older son (who is at university studying engineering, so yeah, HE gets it!) to ask him to show me how to do it. Now THAT’S a turn around! Being shown maths by my own son, I could just imagine him rolling his eyes. What was I doing wrong? Apparently I wasn’t following ‘common’ algebra rules. Well of course I don’t know these rules, nor do I really want to (again, not something I’ve used all my life), so more frustration!
Seriously, I have always felt pride in the fact that I can be there for my kids, I work from home so I can be there to help with homework and have always taken an interest in whatever they’re studying (although come to think of it where was I when my eldest son was doing this math in year 9?). But honestly, this is hard. Really hard. And I don’t like admitting something is too difficult for me, so I pushed through that y+mx +c rubbish until I could get my head around it. It has been the most frustrating thing I’ve done in a long time. Not to mention the butting of heads as I sat down with my son to go over this together each night. How do I answer his “but why will I ever need this” questions when I don’t get it myself? Never used it myself? I could only say “because you need to pass your test”. Done!
Anyhow, when I’m frustrated and busy, the last thing I want to do is spend hours cooking a meal. Even grocery shopping gets pushed aside, so when I’m still sitting at the table drowning in equations trying to be calm as I help my son complete his homework (while ready to implode internally) the last thing on my mind is cooking dinner, or even wondering what we’re going to eat! On those days, it’s up to the pantry to provide – and thankfully there is always pasta sitting on the shelf.
This recipe came about because I had nothing planned, and hadn’t been shopping for a while. I didn’t have any meat out of the freezer, and I just had to go with what was lurking in the fridge. I would normally toss spinach through pasta to bulk up the veg content, but on this day all I had was a wedge of cabbage, so I thought ‘what the heck’ and in it went. But wow, what a revelation! I have never put cabbage in a pasta dish before, but it was delicious! Sautéing the cabbage first slightly caramelises it, which gives it an earthy, kinda burnt, flavour. Delish!!!!
All I had ‘meat-wise’ was some finely sliced salami (the kind you would put in a sandwich), which I just tore in half and added to the pan. I love the salty contrast to the cabbage, and the sweet tomatoes, blistered from the heat in the pan, just bring it all together. There isn’t a real ‘sauce’ here, it is an olive oil based sauce, where all the ingredients play their individual part to bring the dish together. That’s why it’s important to scoop out roughly half a cup full of the starchy pasta water before you drain the rest away as this makes all the difference to how everything binds together. It’s a trick to keep up your sleeve for any pasta dish.
The addition of broccoli is purely to make this a one pot balanced meal full of veg goodness. You can substitute with whatever you’ve got, and by all means use cooked chicken or other cooked leftover meat in place of the salami if you have some. The whole idea of this dish is to throw in what you’ve got, it’s how it came together in the first place.
Friday is the perfect day to make something like this, it’s the end of the week, pour yourself a glass of wine and throw this simple no fuss pasta dish together. It’s economical, quick, leaves hardly any washing up, and you can spend the rest of the night with your feet up, thankful it’s the weekend (and NO HOMEWORK)!!!
- ½ cabbage, finely sliced
- olive oil
- 2 garlic cloves, peeled, finely sliced
- ½ punnet (250g) cherry tomatoes
- 400g penne pasta
- ¾ cup broccoli florets
- 100g finely sliced salami, torn in half
- freshly grated parmesan
- chilli flakes, to serve (if desired
- Put the olive oil and cabbage into a large frypan and cook over moderate heat, stirring, for 2 minutes. Add the garlic and tomatoes and cook, stirring, until tomatoes are starting to colour and collapse and cabbage is starting to caramelise. Add the salami a cook, stirring for a further minute. Remove from heat.
- Meanwhile cook the penne in plenty of boiling salted water until al dente. When the pasta is halfway cooked, add the broccoli florets. Once cooked, drain, reserving ½ a cup of pasta cooking water.
- Put the frypan back onto high heat and add the drained pasta and broccoli. Add half the reserved cooking water and toss everything together as everything emulsifies and forms a sauce. If it is a little dry add more cooking water and a drizzle of olive oil. Season with salt and pepper and grate over parmesan cheese (to your liking). Toss and serve with extra parmesan and chilli if desired.