Monday, 14 August 2017

Mackerel and Roasted Tomato Fettuccine

The amount of pasta I'm eating at the moment is ridiculous. It's always been one of my favourite foods, but I've been having a bit of a love affair with it again recently. So much so that I've half-considered renaming this blog "The Pasta Diaries", though I'm sure followers would fall away thick and fast if I offered nothing but pasta.

When I first started this blog, the ethos behind it was (mostly) quick and easy meals that you could make after work. Pasta definitely fits this bill, and this recipe is ready in the time it takes to roast the tomatoes. Not quite a Jamie's 15 minute meal, but nearly.

If like me, you always keep frozen chopped shallots and frozen parsley in stock (don't judge, they're a lifesaver when strapped for time), you can almost entirely make this as part of a fridge/cupboard raid. I nearly always have cherry tomatoes in the house, and you can easily substitute fresh smoked mackerel for tinned, leaving off the spinach. Fresh is always nicer, but sometimes needs must.

Ingredients (serves 2):
1 shallot, finely chopped
1 mild red chilli, sliced
1 tbsp nonpareille capers
1 tbsp dry black olives, destoned and roughly chopped
2 cloves garlic, crushed
250g baby vine tomatoes, sliced in half lengthways
75g baby spinach
10g flat leaf parsley, chopped
2 smoked mackerel fillets
100ml white wine
1 tbsp olive oil
150g fettuccine
Salt and pepper to taste

Let's cook!

First, pre-heat the oven to 180 degrees and roast the tomatoes on a baking tray for 20-25 minutes, then put a pot of salted water on to boil. While the tomatoes are roasting, sauté the chopped shallots in the olive oil alongside of the chillies until soft. Add the crushed garlic and cook for a further couple of minutes. Add the wine, capers and olives, turn down the heat and reduce the sauce by about 50%.

Once the tomatoes are done, add the fettuccine to the boiling water (I used the posh DeCecco egg stuff which takes 4 minutes) then wilt the spinach into the sauce. Add another glug of extra virgin olive oil, flake in the mackerel fillets (discarding the skin) then carefully stir in the tomatoes so they don't break up.

When the pasta is ready, drain and divide between two bowls. Spoon the sauce on top and scatter over the lemon zest before finishing off with a good squeeze of lemon over each bowl. Garnish with chopped parsley and then gobble down this super quick and easy dish while hot.

Sunday, 18 June 2017

Crab Tagliatelle

Why do we cook? Ostensibly because we need to eat to stay alive, but I think for many it goes deeper than that. We cook to show we love someone. We cook because we want to create and experiment. We cook to nurture, to heal.

There's something innately comforting about the act of cooking, all attention diverted towards slicing, stirring, tasting. I like to think you can taste the difference when something has been cooked with love. When time calls for comfort food - soft, delicious, easy to eat - for me there is nothing better than a good bowl of pasta. Dressed down and smothered in gooey, melted cheese it's a reassuring comfort blanket, but importantly it also scrubs up pretty well and is an altogether different beast.

This is somewhere between the two. Delicious and a little creamy but fancy enough to impress friends for a weeknight supper. It's also quick and easy enough to make when you need the edible equivalent of a hug as it's on the table in 35 minutes at most.

Best made with a glass of wine in hand and great company, as this is made with comparatively few ingredients it helps if you use the best you can get your paws on. Full-flavoured tomatoes will really bring it to life, and try to get your hands on good quality egg pasta (I used tagliatelle from Rummo). Better still, go the whole hog and make it yourself!

Ingredients (Serves 3, or 2 greedy people):
250g egg tagliatelle
250g baby vine tomatoes
100g mixed brown and white crab meat
2 anchovy fillets
1 red chilli
1 clove garlic
1 spring onion
1 tbsp nonparaille capers
2 tbsp olive oil
1 small glass of white wine
Squeeze of lemon juice
1 tbsp finely chopped parsley
Salt and pepper to taste

Let's cook:
Pre-heat the oven to 180° and put a large saucepan of salted water on to boil for the pasta

Place the vine tomatoes on a baking tray and drizzle with 1tbsp olive oil and a little salt and pepper. Roast in the oven for 20-30 minutes, until the skins start to split and the tomatoes are soft. 

While the tomatoes are roasting, finely slice the chilli, garlic and spring onion, then gently heat a large frying pan or saut√©. With the remaining olive oil, melt the anchovies with the red chilli for about 5 mins, then add the garlic and spring onion. Cook for a further minute, then add the capers and turn the heat down as low as it will go. 

Once the tomatoes are roasted, add to the pan minus their vines and smoosh them down a little so they spill their gorgeous juices. I also added the olive oil from the roasting dish as it had been infused with tomatoes juices as they roasted. Add the wine, bring to the boil then reduce the heat and stir in the crab meat. The brown meat means it will take on a lovely, creamy consistency. Season to taste with salt and pepper, and your sauce is pretty much ready to go.

Add the tagliatelle to the boiling water, and cook as per the instructions. Stir the parsley into the sauce and add a squeeze of lemon. I also chucked about a tablespoon of the pasta water into the crab sauce to thin it a bit. Drain the pasta, then divide up between the plates. 

Serve with an extra sprinkle of parsley, a glass of chilled wine and good company.