Linguine al Nero di Seppia

052 1

***I was much interested, on several occasions, by watching the habits of an Octopus or cuttle-fish … they darted tail first, with the rapidity of an arrow, from one side of the pool to the other, at the same instant discolouring the water with a dark chestnut-brown ink.***
Charles Darwin

Basics needed: How to cook pasta

Cuttlefish is a mollusc (and not a fish like the English would suggest) that belongs to the class Cephalopoda, order Sepiidae (which has a common root with the Italian name, Seppia).

The class Cephalopoda includes also octopus and squid, and these molluscs all share an escape mechanism they use when they are attacked: they release a black pigment from their ink sack, which makes the water cloudy, confusing the predator and giving them enough time to jet away.

Of the three Cephalopoda I mentioned, cuttlefish is the one with the largest ink sack, and this is something with very interesting applications in cooking, as it can be used as a food colouring, like in this recipe.
Nero di Seppia, in fact, means cuttlefish ink (‘cuttlefish black’ would actually be the literal translation), and it is used as the main ingredient of a pasta sauce in coastal areas of Italy; it can also be used for Risotto, which is similar to the Spanish Arroz Negro (which means, literally, ‘Black Rice’)

————————————————————-
INGREDIENTS (serves four)
500 g cuttlefish (1 large or 2 small), cleaned, keeping the ink sac
1 tbsp white onion, finely chopped
1 garlic clove, minced
2 tbsp. olive oil
3 anchovy fillets

1 tbsp tomato paste
100 ml (1/2 glass) dry white wine
2 tbsp. Nam Pla (Thai fish sauce)*
1 tsp. white sugar
Cayenne pepper, to taste (optional but recommended)
Parsley, finely chopped

*: Optional (if not using, adjust the seasoning accordingly)
———————————————————–

  1. Clean the cuttlefish (or have the fishmonger do it for you): remove the cuttlebone, skin and internal organs, making sure you keep the ink sac (see below), then remove the eyes and mouth
    072
  2. Using a sharp knife score the head of the cuttlefish on the diagonal and then at 90 degrees, to create a criss-cross patter (score the inside as it is softer and easier). NOTE: this is not strictly necessary but will give a better result
    035
  3. 071
  4. Cut the cuttlefish in fairly small peaces as below:
    073
  5. Sweat the onion in olive oil for 5 minutes, then add the garlic and the anchovies, and the chilli if using it
  6. When the anchovies have dissolved into the oil, add the cuttlefish; it will start releasing its water: cook on a gentle heat until the water has almost completely evaporated
    043
  7. Mix the tomato paste, white wine, sugar and Nam Pla with 250 ml water and add to the pan
  8. Bring to the boil and add the ink sac, then simmer until it is reduced by half
  9. Cook your spaghetti till al dente (see How to cook pasta )

Shirataki & prawns stir fry

011

This is a very simple way to make noodles; in this recipe I use Shirataki for a low-calorie, low-carb dish, but it will work perfectly with other types of noodles, as long as you follow the proper cooking instructions.

I love stir-frying, I’ve always been fascinated by this technique; in my area there is an Oriental restaurant with an open plan kitchen, and when I go there I enjoy watching the cooks using their woks to produce excellent dishes at an incredible speed.
If you are not able to do the proper stir fry (it requires some skill), you can simply stir the ingredients using a spoon. There are only two tips that I would like to give you:
First, the sides of the wok will get hotter than the bottom, so try to make the food slide on the sides as well to cook it more quickly and enhance the flavours
Second: when you stir fry you will need to add some liquid. When you do it, add it little by little, not all at once. This is a fried dish, you don’t want boiled vegetables!

————————————————————————-
INGREDIENTS (serves 4)
600 g shirataki noodles
100 g baby corn
100 g mange-tout
1/2 medium red onion
1 carrot
200 g bean sprouts
16 prawn tails, deveined
Rapeseed oil

For the sauce:
1 tbsp. Nam Pla (Thai fish sauce)
1 tbsp. Dark soy sauce
2 tsp. white sugar
2 tsp. tomato paste
150 ml vegetable stock (or slightly salted hot water if good quality stock is not available)
———————————————————————————–

  1. Cut the vegetables:
    Cut the mange-tout in half, lengthwise
    Quarter the baby corn lengthwise
    Cut the carrot a julienne
    Finely slice the onion
    The bean sprouts do not need any cutting
    004
  2. Heat the oil in the wok on high heat and, when hot, add the veggies
    006
  3. Stir-fry for 2-3 minutes on high heat, adding the liquid little by little as indicate above
    007
  4. As the veggies start softening up, add the shirataki and the prawns and cook for 3 minutes, still adding the liquid a little at a time
    009

Obviously, you can use any type of noodles for this recipe, just follow the instructions on the packaging

Spaghetti alle vongole

096 0

——————————————————————————–

INGREDIENTS (4 people)

360g spaghetti (or linguine)
1 kg clams
16 cherry tomatoes
3 anchovy fillets
100 ml dry white wine (optional)
3 garlic cloves, minced
Finely chopped parsley

———————————————————————————————————-

Basic Techniques needed:
Clams
How to cook pasta

Spaghetti alle Vongole is a very simple dish that will definitely impress your guests.
Follow this process and you will get the true taste of the sea:

  1.  Mince the garlic and chop the parsley
  2. Steam the clams (see Clams for details):
    Thoroughly wash the shells, discarding any broken ones
    Steam in a pan, lid on, until they open up
    Discard the shells that didn’t open
    Filter the liquid
  3. Shell about half of the clams, leaving the other half in the shell
  4. Peel the tomatoes: prick their skin with the tip of a knife and plunge them into the bolilng water in the pot you will use for the pasta, then put them in a bowl filled with cold (better iced) water;
  5. In 2 tbsp. olive oil, shallow fry the minced garlic on very low heat, being very careful it doesn’t get brown (burnt garlic will ruin your dish), about 1 minute, then add the anchovy fillets
  6. When the anchovy fillets have dissolved into the oil, add the liquid from the clams and 100 ml water or white wine if using it;
  7. Peel the tomatoes, quarter them and add them to the sauce; cook on low heat
    115
  8. When the liquid has reduced to 1/3, add the clams, including the shelled ones
    117
  9. Cook the pasta in plenty of salty water (see How to cook pasta)
  10. Add the sauce to the cooked pasta, sprinkle with finely chopped parsley and serve
    TIP: instead of cooking the pasta completely, drain it a couple of minutes before the cooking time indicated on the packaging and finish it off with the sauce, adding a few tbsp. of its cooking water to prevent it form becoming too dry; the pasta will absorb all the flavours. NOTE: in this case, add the clams at the very end to avoid overcooking them

Swordfish & Samphire tagliatelle (Tagliatelle al pasce spada e asparago di mare)

009 011

Samphire is a plant that leaves in salt marshes and is in season, in the UK, roughly speaking, from May to September.
It’s got a bright green colour and an intense, salty flavour, and, used in moderation (because of its high salt content), can give an interesting twist to fish & seafood dishes.
Here I use it with swordfish and fresh tomato in a pasta dish, and it works beautifully in terms of colour, flavour and texture.
As usual, the most important advice with fish and seafood is that it requires minimal cooking, and this dish is no exception: your goal here will be to keep your swordfish moist and your samphire crunchy

—————————————————————————————————–

INGREDIENTS (4 people)

360g tagliatelle
200g swordfish
16 cherry tomatoes
3 anchovy fillets
200 ml dry white wine (optional, you can simply use water instead)
1 tbsp. finely chopped onion
2 garlic cloves, minced
Finely chopped parsley
Samphire, cut in 1-inch pieces, a handful
Salt

———————————————————————————————————-

Basic Techniques needed:
How to cook pasta

  1. Bring a large pan of water to the boil
  2. Dice the swordfish steaks, you will need fairly small bits
  3. Chop the onion (see How to chop an onion in Basics), mince the garlic and chop the parsley
  4. Wash the tomatoes, prick their skin with the tip of a knife and plunge them into the boiling water in the pot you will use for the pasta, then put them in a bowl filled with cold (better iced) water;
  5. Sweat the onion in 2 tbsp. olive oil for 5 minutes
  6. In the meantime, peel the tomatoes and quarter them
  7. Add the garlic and the anchovy fillets and cook on low heat
  8. When the anchovy fillets have dissolved into the oil, add the tomatoes and the wine (or water if not using it)
  9. When the liquid has reduced to 1/2, add the samphire
  10. When the liquid has reduced to 1/3, add the swordfish and cook for 1 minute, till the pieces turn white on all sides
  11. Cook the pasta in plenty of salty water (see How to cook pasta)
  12. Add the sauce to the cooked pasta, sprinkle with finely chopped parsley and serve TIP: instead of cooking the pasta completely, drain it a couple of minutes before the cooking time indicated on the packaging and finish it off with the sauce, adding a few tbsp. of its cooking water to prevent it form becoming too dry; the pasta will absorb all the flavours NOTE: in this case you might want to add the swordfish when the pasta is almost ready to avoid overcooking it

Spaghetti ai Cannolicchi (Spaghetti with Razor Clams)

189

—————————————————————————————————–

INGREDIENTS (4 people)

360g spaghetti (or linguine)
12 razor clams
16 cherry tomatoes
3 anchovy fillets
100 ml dry white wine (optional)
1 tbsp. finely chopped onion
2 garlic cloves, minced
Finely chopped parsley
———————————————————————————————————-

Basic Techniques needed:
Razor Clams
How to cook pastaIf you are able to find razor clams (you will need to ask a real fishmonger, it’s not something you will find in a UK supermarket), this is a very quick and simply seafood pasta recipe that will not fail to impress your guests.

First, get organised:
Chop the onion (see How to chop an onion in Basics), mince the garlic and chop the parsley

When everything is ready, you can start cooking:

  1. Prepare the razor clams as below (see Razor Clams for details):
    Rinse them in running water
  2. Put them in a pan with a splash of water and cover
    Cook on medium heat for 2-3 minutes until the shells open up
    Once opened, discard the dark sac you will find in the middle of the clam
    Filter the liquid they have released as you will use it in your recipe
    Cut them in 1-inch pieces and then lengthwise
  3. Peel the tomatoes: prick their skin with the tip of a knife and plunge them into the bolilng water in the pot you will use for the pasta, then put them in a bowl filled with cold (better iced) water;
  4. Sweat the onion in 2 tbsp. olive oil for 4 minutes
  5. Add the garlic and the anchovy fillets and keep cooking on low heat
  6. When the anchovy fillets have dissolved into the oil, add the liquid from the clams and 100 ml water or white wine if using it;
  7. Peel the tomatoes, quarter them and add them to the sauce; cook on low heat
  8. When the liquid has reduced to 1/3, add the razor clams
  9. Cook the pasta in plenty of salty water (see How to cook pasta)
  10. Add the sauce to the cooked pasta, sprinkle with finely chopped parsley and serve
    TIP: instead of cooking the pasta completely, drain it a couple of minutes before the cooking time indicated on the packaging and finish it off with the sauce, adding a few tbsp. of its cooking water to prevent it form becoming too dry; the pasta will absorb all the flavours