Tag Archives: linguine

Why the world gave us truffles

I haven’t had many relationships in my life and as a consequence, I’ve had few break ups. That said, apart from one of them, they all have one thing in common: a single moment when something changes from being ever-present to being non-existent. Few things in life are as abrupt or fundamental in how they alter your day to day existence (apart from those events far too sombre to cover on this blog).

It’s something I suspect none of us are really well equipped to deal with – shifting from having someone with whom you conduct a steady stream of communication with about your every day experiences and aspirations, to nothing. And the speed with which this change occurs is breathtaking – all it takes is a single conversation. Rather odd isn”t it?

Anyway, the good news is that the world is an expert in balancing life’s ups and downs, and that’s almost certainly the reason it gave us truffles, possibly the most exciting little cat-turd shaped foodstuff known to humanity. And so it was that on Christmas eve eve, I was in a department store in London looking for a gift for my father when I happened upon a counter selling Italian white alba truffles. I had to have one. And what better excuse than cooking dinner for my family on Christmas eve. So here it is – fifty quid’s worth of the most beautiful smelling ingredient you will ever use:

Trfulle

And here’s (in my opinion) the best way to cook it:

White Alba Truffle with Linguine

This could not be easier. And that’s the point. When you have something as special as this, you must keep it as simple as possible to ensure maximum enjoyment of its unique flavour.
(It will serve 6 people as a starter).

Take a pack of linguine and put it in a large pan of salted boiling water with a little olive oil. Then take another small pan and in it, very gently heat a finely chopped clove of garlic with lots of olive oil (the best you can get your hands on), a big knob of butter and about a fifth of the truffle, sliced very thinly and broken up into the pan, infusing the flavours into the oil. Now finely grate a couple of handfuls of parmesan (not too much – you don’t want it overpowering the truffle) and chop a handful of flat leaf parsley – set them aside for now.

Once the linguine is perfectly cooked, throw it into a warmed bowl, add the heated oil mixture, season with a little salt (not too much as you have the saltiness of the parmesan) and plenty of pepper. Add more oil if required and the chopped parsley then gently mix it all together. Finally throw over the parmesan and shave the rest of the truffle on the top of the pasta, finishing with a last splash of olive oil.

Serve it up and receive great praise. I think this is the most exciting meal I have cooked in years…

Truffles and Linguine

 

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Vegas and carbonara

(or strippers and pasta)

The two are entirely unrelated except for the fact that the day I got back from Las Vegas earlier this week, all I had the energy to cook was a carbonara – and that’s really the point – it’s a perfect quick and simple, yet amazingly tasty meal.

So what to say about Vegas? Not everything, is the first thought that springs to mind. Each of us who goes there experiences at least one incident (from a simple indiscreet glance, to a chemical-fuelled, alcohol-enhanced Romanesque orgy) that we are unable to bring home with us except in the form of a fond, guilty or terrifying memory, depending on situation and disposition.

As it turns out, I was there to work and as such, didn’t even register a blip on the hedonist’s wallchart of excess, but it was a blast nonetheless. There’s no denying that it is an ultimately shallow, plastic, materialistic and boob-crazed environment, but that’s probably why we love it.

Remember those old mechanical slot machines that would play out a little scene every time you shoved in a coin? Well that pretty much perfectly sums up Las Vegas. Pop in a coin and it dances for you. Once the money has run out, there’s nothing left.

And if you do go, just be careful who you buy breakfast for…

Carbonara

Fill a saucepan with boiling water, a dash of salt and a little oil. Pop in as much spaghetti or linguine as you feel you can handle.

Next, finely chop an onion, a couple of cloves of garlic, a little red chilli if you fancy and four or five strips of streaky smoked bacon. Start by frying the bacon in a little olive oil – I like to get some colour in there – and then add the onion, garlic and chilli and fry gently – you don’t want to burn the onion…

Once the pasta is cooked, drain and add the mixture from the frying pan. Every little bit of it. Now crack an egg into the pasta and stir vigorously allowing the egg to cook slightly from the residual heat of the pasta. Season to taste and serve with generous sprinklings of parmesan.

As ever, make sure you have some good bread and wine to go with it…

A lovely lunch

It’s August bank holiday weekend and the newspapers are trying to work out whether this was the hottest, wettest, windiest or coldest summer since records began. My bet’s on two of the above…

Anyway, as it turns out, the sun is out, there’s warmth in the air and I have a hankering for clams with linguine. Sadly the fishmonger is closed and Waitrose aren’t playing ball – but no worries, I decide to give it a go with mussels – here’s what to do:

Mussels with Linguine

Clean up your mussels, removing the beards and leave in water. They should all be pretty much closed – discard those that are not. Now get a saucepan with a few glugs of white wine and bring to the boil, then add the mussels and put on the lid. After a few minutes have a quick look – the mussels should now be open – take them off the heat and put to the side.

In the meantime, finely chop a couple of shallots, an inch of red chilli and a handful of parsley.

Fill a saucepan with boiling salty water and drop in the linguine.
Fry the shallots and chilli in a saucepan with butter and olive oil, salt and pepper. Pick the mussels from the shells (discard any that don’t fully open) and when the shallots are soft start to incorporate the liquid from the pan you cooked the mussels in and let it reduce.

When the linguine is ready, drain the linguine and throw in the mussels, chopped parsley and the reduced wine and shallot sauce. Mix it all together and serve with crusty bread (as always it seems) – Gorge!!

mussels

He’s on a roll

The shorts are running around like idiots and every screen in the house is on – two tvs, two pcs and an Xbox – it’s no surprise I rarely get to read the papers any more – today’s are still sitting by the front door in their wrapping getting increasingly nervous that I’ll fail to give them the attention they deserve…

I’m clearly on a roll as I manage to cook something noteworthy for the kids lunch today –

Lamb meatballs with linguine

Take half a kilo of lamb mince and mix it in a bowl with olive oil, ground cumin, finely chopped red chilli, plenty of salt and pepper and a good handful of chopped herbs – I used basil, rosemary, thyme and mint. Form the mince in balls the size of a small apricot, fry them and set aside in a saucepan, then fry an onion and two cloves of garlic, finely chopped, and add to the saucepan. Now add a tin of chopped tomatoes, a teaspoon of caraway seeds and sea salt and ground pepper to taste. Let it all simmer for about 30 minutes.

In the meantime, ten minutes before the meatballs are ready, boil a pan of linguine until al dente. Finally drain the linguine and add to the meatballs, along with another handful of chopped basil (you can also add tabasco at this stage if you like it spicy).

Serve all together with a big dollop of soured cream…