Monday, 13 April 2009

prawn and tomato linguine (without the linguine)


this is the staple of N1 kitchen. it’s what we fall back on when the fridge is empty, or when we can’t be bothered to cook, or when we need cheering up (see previous entry on copious quantities of chilli (and booze) as a path to cheerfulness). it’s often a meal for sunday nights when you feel like you’re going back to school on monday, or a quick weekend lunch.

the ingredients are mainly store cupboard and freezer. the only thing you need fresh is parsley and even that you can get frozen from good supermarkets. it’s up to you what you eat it with – the choice is endless.

the recipe started off as your usual chilli and tomato linguine, a dish well known from many a bad italian restaurant. i think we used to make it with one tin of tomatoes and a single clove of garlic, with a little fresh chilli added.

over the years it has evolved into a monster that it is now: first came the second tin of tomatoes, then the extra three or more cloves of garlic. parsley too, stalks and all. don’t think of it is as a subtle seasoning in this dish, it is an essential part of it. in fact, on a few occasions we’re realised that we don’t have any, we’ve not bothered at all. parsley stalks might seem a weird addition but they are sweet and add a bit of extra flavour.

the early prototypes featured those cooked prawns you get in packets  from supermarkets. not bad – but fresh frozen prawns are much nicer. you can buy a big bag from your fishmonger, or smaller bags from supermarkets.

other ingredients have featured in the mix every now and again, some more successfully than others. mange tout, halved green beans, kale and spinach have all made guest appearances but none has made it into the final recipe.

we used to have the sauce with linguine but since we stopped eating pasta, we just eat it with vegetables though we still refer to it as ‘prawn linguine’. we have tried very thinly sliced courgette ribbons (raw is okay, or you can stir-fry them for a couple of minutes) and a variety of other green veg. at the moment, the favourites are steamed spinach and broccoli though this particular one has curly kale wilted in boiling water and some steamed broccoli hiding underneath all that sauce.

we have made this dish dozens of times over the years. when i say we, i ought to add that i am usually relegated to sous-chefing. i can chop the garlic and the chilli – in fact, i am actively encouraged to do so – but then r takes over. he claims he does a better job than me and who am i to argue.

finally, don’t be shy with the salt. if it tastes bland and you wonder why on earth i’ve devoted a whole page to it, you’ve not put enough salt in.

TOMATO AND PRAWN LINGUINE
for two

1 bag of frozen fresh prawns (300g or thereabouts), defrosted – easy way to do this quickly is to put the prawns in a bowl of cold water
2 tins of chopped tomatoes
4 large cloves of garlic, finely chopped
a bunch of parsley, including the stalks, finely chopped
1 red chilli, deseeded and finely chopped
salt and pepper
olive oil

heat a little oil in a frying pan and gently fry and garlic, the chilli and the parsley stalks. don’t burn the garlic or it will taste bitter. ditto with chilli. after a couple of minutes, add both tins of tomatoes and half of the chopped parsley.

add salt and pepper and simmer gently for around 15 to 20 minutes on low heat – you want to reduce the sauce but you don’t want it to be too thick or too watery. when you think it is almost right, add the prawns and cook for another couple of minutes – they will change colour to pink when cooked.

finally, add most of the leftover parsley, reserving a little for garnish. taste for seasoning – you may need to add more salt. spoon over the veg, garnish with parsley and serve.

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