Dairy-Free Creamy Pasta and…Leftovers

The day after the launch of Lorraine’s book was Carl’s birthday.  To celebrate, I organised a family dinner at a restaurant we have been to quite a few times and I have previously let you all know about.  We like it because it’s casual, great for children, is BYO and inexpensive.  Later that day, Arabella let me know she had just realised she had a shift at the Buena Vista Hotel where she works.

Dairy-free creamy pasta

Dairy-free creamy pasta

‘But it’s your father’s birthday.  And what about the family dinner?’

‘I know, I’m sorry.  I didn’t know I had to work tonight.  I’ve tried to swap but one girl’s twisted her ankle and another isn’t coming in because she’s vomiting’.  Who would employ teenage girls!

‘Well did you pick up the present?’

‘Yes, I’ve got the gift voucher’.  Arabella and Archie decided to each give Carl a gift voucher to his favourite menswear store.  Combining their pool of cash would mean Carl could buy more than one trouser leg.

Pasta with leg ham and mushrooms

Pasta with leg ham and mushrooms

So I phoned the restaurant and said there would only be four of us.  Then Archie phoned from uni and said he was bringing a mate home for dinner.  ‘But Archie, we’re going out for your father’s birthday’.

‘Oh, where are we going?’

‘To the Thai restaurant’.

‘Oh, good.  I’ll get Webb to meet us there.  What time?’

‘Six because otherwise it gets too late for Alfie.  Did you pick up the gift voucher?’

‘No, but I’ll get it on my way back from uni’.

A comforting budget family-friendly meal

A comforting budget family-friendly meal

So I phoned the restaurant and told them there would be five instead of four.  At 5.45pm Carl still wasn’t home and he should have been because he’d been to a conference that was finishing at five and it was only a half hour from home.  I called his mobile and he told me he was locked in the car park at The Star  where he’d attended the conference.  ‘How can you be locked in the car park?’

‘I was trying to get out but my ticket wouldn’t open the boom gate.  The machine’s stuffed.  Some voice spitting out of the machine told me to park and then walk to another level where I’d find their office and I’ve had to get my ticket validated and I’ve been locked in here for 40 minutes.’

‘Oh, okay, well we’ll go on ahead and meet you at the restaurant otherwise we’ll lose our booking’.  Archie and Webb were already at the restaurant.  I hurried there with Alfie.  When I arrived, Archie showed me he had bought the gift voucher.  I looked at it.  ‘Archie, you went to the wrong menswear store.  That’s not the one your father ever goes to’.

‘I thought that’s the one you said’.

‘No, you got it wrong.  You should have gone to the same store Arabella went to’.

‘Oh, well is that a problem?’

‘Of course not.  He can buy one trouser leg from this store and one trouser leg from Arabella’s store.  It’s perfect’.  Then Carl arrived and we had our family dinner minus our daughter and plus one of Archie’s mates.  When the bill arrived I said, ‘Come on, let’s go home and have some birthday cake’.  And Carl’s face lit up.

‘Did you make me a cake?’  Ahhh, not exactly.  Because the night before when I was leaving Lorraine’s launch, she kindly said I could take some cake home with me.  I didn’t want to cut into the actual ‘book cover’ so I sliced a wedge from the side of the cake and actually ended up with the book’s spine with the author’s name.

Carl's second-hand birthday cake

Carl’s second-hand birthday cake

I don’t think Carl could quite believe I was giving him a second-hand birthday cake with another person’s name on it.  I thought it was a fitting end to a lacklustre birthday.

Speaking of leftovers, as you know, I baked a ham on Mother’s Day.  As luck would have it, there’s a lot leftover.  I made this pasta that’s very creamy but has no cream!

My Mother's Day baked ham

My Mother’s Day baked ham

Dairy-Free Creamy Ham and Mushroom Pasta

Serves:  4

Degree of Difficulty:  2/5

Cost:  I didn’t need to buy any ham and the other ingredients cost me less than $10.00.

  • 1 tbspn olive oil and 1 more tbspn of olive oil
  • 2 garlic cloves, peeled and finely chopped (or crushed)
  • 400g can cannellini beans, rinsed and drained
  • 500mls chicken stock
  • 300g leg ham, thinly sliced (I cut mine into batons but sliced ham from the deli would be fine but look for off-cuts.  Sometimes delis have off-cuts of ham from the bone they are selling cheaply)
  • 300g button mushrooms, wiped with damp paper towel and sliced
  • 400g spaghetti (or penne would be good too)
  • a bunch of chives cut into desired lengths

In a small saucepan, heat the olive oil over medium heat.  Add the garlic and cannellini beans.  Heat-through then add chicken stock and bring to a boil.  Remove from heat and blitz with a stick blender until smooth and creamy.

In a frying pan over medium heat, add another tablespoon of olive oil.  Throw in the ham and mushrooms and shake about until heated through and the mushrooms have softened slightly.

Meanwhile, bring a large saucepan of water to the boil.  Add a tspn of salt and the pasta.  Cook until al dente, drain and return to the saucepan.  Pour over sauce and ham and mushroom mixture.  Add chives, season and stir until incorporated.

Plate up!  Serve with some crusty bread, a green salad and a glass of crisp white wine if desired.

Dinner is served!

Dinner is served!

And by the way, that second-hand cake was absolutely delicious.  It was made by Whimsical Cakes and was two layers of chocolate mud with a wicked chocolate cream in the centre, a chocolate ganache covering followed by rolled icing.  There were no leftovers.



  1. Just thinking of Carl wearing trousers with mismatching legs, eating a birthday cake with someone else’s name on it just makes me grin from ear to ear. You folks crack me up. I love you to bits.

  2. Happy birthday to Carl! I hope he somewhat enjoyed his birthday. I would love to see the trousers he gets with his money 🙂


  3. Charlie oh you are so funny!!! I had to run and tell hubby that you served Carl my name as his birthday cake. Was he mad? I can imagine him thinking “I don’t ever want to see the name Lorraine Elliott ever again!”

  4. Im sure he loved it. It was delicious and he could have a slice of fame for his birthday. Poor Carl!!

  5. The second hand cake was ridiculously good, so the fact it had Lorraine Elliott’s name on it wasn’t so bad. Quite funny really! It was a first. Thanks Lorraine.

  6. Happy birthday to Carl. I’d say his was quite a memorable birthday what with that cake and the parking issue and the one pant leg from this store, the other from another.

  7. Well, if nothing else the drama was very entertaining indeed! Happy Birthday to Carl.
    That pasta looks amazing, and I love that there is no cream in it; I’ve often used puréed beans to make creamy sauces and soups!

  8. This post is hysterical! I love the idea of mismatched trouser legs, and the second-hand birthday cake is priceless. Truly funny stuff – thanks so much.

  9. Hi Charlie, Great posting. I sure love your sense of humor. Your baked ham look awesome and pasta too look delicious. Well done.

    Have a nice week ahead,regards.

  10. Well you couldn’t well let that leftover cake go to waste!!

    That creamy pasta sounds so good. Can’t believe it’s dairy-free!!

  11. I’m still drooling over the original ham, though this recipe looks lovely. Once again, your kids make me smile…as do you!

  12. Happy Birthday to Carl.
    Never a dull moment hey Charlie. Fabulous idea for a pasta dish – my Pete would love it.
    🙂 Mandy xo

  13. This was hysterical! I couldn’t stop laughing! Happy Birthday to Carl! And this pasta recipe sounds delicious 🙂

  14. My eyes are watering because I am laughing so hard!!! I suppose the kids will make you sew the two separate trouser legs together 🙂 There never seems to be a dull moment in your household Charlie! Happy Birthday to Carl 🙂

  15. Let Carl know that I’ve had far, far worse birthdays. Probably the worst was spending all day at a conference for work called “Let’s Chat About Dying” then returning home to the empty house I was house-sitting for my parents while they were away, no presents, just the dog wanting to be fed, and crying. But I also spent my 21st alone in a hotel room, and was sick on my last birthday.

    I’d’ve given anything for a cake with Lorraine’s name on it.

  16. Charlie, that is HYSTERICALLY funny! I can’t believe you served up the slice with Lorraine’s name on it! Mind you, it was a divine cake! Figures Archie would get the wrong gift certificate – did the kids sort it out at all?

  17. Poor Carl … perhaps the two of you can go out together and ‘celebrate’ without the kids or kid’s mate. 🙂 It’s not the worst birthday I’ve ever heard of or experienced.

    I’m trying to picture the inside of the cake as for some reason I’ve had a recent chocolate fixation and not even the leg of lamb nor the 2 ducks in the freezer are tempting me to make anything as much as a chocolate and cherry sponge roll. With whipped cream and chocolate shavings.

  18. OMG I actually cry laughed on this post my friend! Haha happy birthday Carl 😀
    And love this recipe since I saw it on Facebook!

    Choc Chip Uru

  19. I love the idea of serving secondhand cake- but of course very good cake. What do Carl’s one legged trousers look like? Great story. GG x

  20. LOL! I can totally relate to Carl’s car park situation. That had to be particularly frustrating on a birthday of all days! At least dinner was good and the cake sounds as though it was fabulous. This pasta dish looks right up my alley. I love creamy pasta, and could use to go without the cream more often! 🙂

  21. So beautiful photographs, made me hungry and thirsty 🙂 Your service decoration is amazing. Thanks and Love, nia

  22. Happy Birthday Carl…love his cake 🙂
    Cheers! Joanne

  23. I think you should have stayed home altogether with that excellent creamy pasta dish and second hand cake. Much less stress.

  24. Happy belated birthday to Carl. What a fiasco..the birthday of blunders and quite funny but I know it wasn’t at the time but thanks for sharing as I needed a good laugh. Wow your ham looks gorgeous and this pasta looks stupendous. You should have stayed home and had this creamy delightful pasta instead. Take care, BAM

  25. I think of those posters: ‘Keep calm and carry on.’ It’s what you do, so heroically, despite all the family dramas.

  26. Happy birthday to Carl…and don’t you feel like most celebrations turn out like this? Hilarious in all its mishaps. Thank you for sharing both the story and this pasta. I’m all about pasta! I hope you have a wonderful week, my friend!

  27. Your stories make me laugh. I think I’d be honoured to have a piece of cake with Lorraine’s name on it – but maybe not if I was a guy! hope you let us know what happens with the tow gift vouchers…

  28. Poor Carl!!! A second hand birthday cake, imagine that!

    At least it was a delicious cake, but it is so funny you got the piece with
    Lorraine’s name on it 😉

  29. Poor Carl, I guess he didn’t have anyone who loved him enough to make him a gluten free dairy free Italian meringue frosting cake for his birthday. I guess you have to be pretty special to get that sort of treatment 🙂 xox

  30. Hilarious. I hope Carl has fun using his two half vouchers!

  31. As always, an interesting episode in your life. Trying to get your family to coordinate is quite a mission. I hope Carl is enjoying his cobbled together trousers.

  32. Well at least it was a Birthday to remember!
    Sounds a bit like Will’s Birthday last year. All he wanted was carbonara. I messed it up first time (don’t ask), second time wasn’t that good either and then I forgot that I’d made him an ice-cream cake. Will have to make up for it this year.

  33. What a fun family! I bet you never get bored 🙂

  34. What a birthday celebration! Will you be able to sew the two pants legs together? XO.

  35. OMggggosh,
    the second hand cake sounds FAB & Deeelish! How special Carl must be 🙂

    btw, that ham looks delectable. I want! X

  36. Too funny! Your family provides so much fodder for your blog…I guess mine does, too, but you share it so well 🙂

    PS…the pasta looks terrific and wish I could have sampled that cake!

  37. Carl’s birthday sounds like some I’ve tried to organize. I have said that when it comes to bringing my family all together for an event (my brother and family, in particular) it is like herding cats! It actually can’t be done, but somehow it comes together, just totally independent from what I either planned or envisioned. Family time is family time. I did laugh that his birthday cake had another person’s name on it. That is hilarious. But delicious, and that’s the main point! 🙂 Happy belated birthday, Carl.

  38. This is hilarious! Your stories always make me laugh Charlie! Serving second hand cake!

  39. Sometimes you crack me up, Charlie. The thought of Carl trying to match a trouser leg from one store to another’s is too much! And then the cake! Thank heavens it tasted great. Wish him a belated happy birthday for me. I hope the year ahead is a good one for him.

  40. Oh wow, that certainly made my night!! Hysterical!! Carl must be a good sort to mind the second hand cake, too funny!!

  41. JO BABY says:

    Happy birthday Lorraine Elliott – I mean Carl…. Hope you enjoy your trouser legs!

  42. Well at least you tried with the party and when you get to our age what’s the point of birthdays anyway? I ve never been big on them as an adult.

  43. You have an amazing way of telling stories! it’s a real talent! this pasta looks incredible!

  44. This looks like a cracker of a recipe! I need to give that creamy dairy free sauce a try 🙂 Thanks for sharing this one Charlie!

  45. Hi Charlie, great call on the beans for the “cream”. I never tried it as a sauce before, but had it as a dip and you’re right – it has all the right qualities to make a gorgeous pasta sauce. Still loving that baked ham – looks incredible!

  46. Charlie, this post was so fun! (Not to mention a great recipe.) Somehow you always save the day and everyone gets something yummy to eat (even second-hand!) 😉

  47. Hahhahaa poor Carl I really feel for him 🙁 It’s his birthday but his daugther wasn’t there and plus a friend of Archies and then got two different voucher but I’m sure he still felt love 🙂

    And I love the idea of a second hand CAKE hahhaa If it’s that amazing I totally wouldn’t mind getting a second hand one!

  48. Hahahahhahahahahahahhahahahaha:)

  49. Loved the segue! Oh how we plan and plan and only to change the plans at the last minute. Great story and I think I’ve been there. 🙂 Lovely use of leftover ham in that pasta dish! Can’t believe it’s dairy-free. Looks quite delicious!

  50. Oh, my gosh. I burst out laughing in the café a few times as I read this post. I hope that Carl did not mind his second-hand cake and his one-leg trousers. Ah, life. What a joy.

  51. I love everything about this post 🙂 That blue motif beautiful plate, flower vase, that cane thingy, outdoor table made your pictures sooooooooo dreamy ! Oh and the pasta asking me to bite my computer screen 🙂

  52. Ahahahaha!!! Well a belated happy birthday to Carl 😉

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