Pasta that refreshes the parts…
…Brits of a certain age fill in the rest! You know that after-Christmas feeling? When you long for something fresh and simple to eat? I’ve got it right now. Quite a few lovely invites have dropped into my in-box of late and some have been just too tempting to resist. Dubai has been choc-a-bloc with chefs (last weekend at the Festival of Literature and this weekend at Taste of Dubai), restaurant openings and new menus.
A while back, Ahlan Gourmet asked me to write about my favourite meal. I thought about some of the wonderful meals I’ve been lucky enough to experience especially since I’ve lived in Dubai and there have been plenty of luxurious foodstuffs and incredible culinary skills involved. They include a seafood banquet commencing with sushi, followed by several kinds of oysters, freshly nestled in their briny shells, both raw and ‘Rockefellered’ all accompanied by some excellent Champagne. Steak tartare with a quivering little poached quail’s egg poised on top, confit of duck with spiced, red cabbage, fresh Brixham scallops wrapped in pancetta with a spicy tomato sauce (at Jamie’s in Bath) – I’ve cleaned every morsel from my plate and longed for more.
Then there is food prepared with love which seems to have a special secret ingredient added through the care involved. For me, this starts with my Mother’s roast dinner with crispy potatoes, parsnips and Mum’s gravy. Then there are my Mother-in-law’s fabulous stuffed vegetables, her blackberry and apple pie and unctuous yellow home-made custard, thick with cream and free-range egg yolks. Or my friend Wasia’s fabulous courgettes in a tomato sauce and her delicious dhal – she’s given me the recipes, which are simple, but they don’t taste the same when I make them for myself.
My favourite meals of all are those spent at home with my family and here I want simple comfort food, the freshest ingredients which are local if possible. This is what I’m in need of right now as an antidote to eating out and fancy food. I find solace in the repetitive stirring action of a risotto, the chopping of herbs, the kneading of dough for bread. The comforting aromas in the kitchen are all part of the process. This bowl of pasta appeases my slight lemon addiction, refreshes with herbs and soothes with crème fraiche and cheese. A perfectly ripe mango or peach is all that is needed for dessert.
Lemon and herb pasta
- 400g spaghetti or linguine
- Small bunch flat-leaved parsley, leaves picked
- About 20 fresh mint leaves
- A handful of basil leaves
- 1 lemon, zest grated
- 1 small tub crème fraiche 200ml
- Parmesan cheese (Parmigiano-Reggiano)
- Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper.
Cook the pasta in a large amount of boiling water for the time stated on the packet (or until al dente). In the meantime wash, dry and chop the herbs finely and put into a large bowl with the juice of half the lemon, the finely grated lemon zest, crème fraiche, a handful of freshly grated parmesan and some black pepper. Stir to combine.
When the pasta is cooked drain it reserving a couple of tablespoons of the cooking water. Return the pasta to the pan, add the cooking water, give it a good stir to loosen the strands then pour into the bowl containing the other ingredients. Combine, adding some sea salt and extra lemon juice if necessary. Serve garnished with some basil leaves and provide additional grated parmesan at the table.
This is a revised version of an article that appeared in the first issue of Ahlan Gourmet magazine in October 2011
What do you crave when you’ve over-indulged?