Saturday, 5 November 2011

Crab & Asparagus Tagliatelle

This is based on one of Anthony Worral Thompson’s low GI recipes that I’ve made a few times over the years. Last week I’d been staring at the fish section in Waitrose (having already done the same in Morrison to no avail) as I’d wanted to get some mackerel fillets and somehow walked out with a little tub of crab meat. Fresh crab meat isn’t especially cheap but I’m sure canned crab meat would still work fairly well in this.

In all honesty this is in fact better with a white / brown meat mix as brown meat I think adds a more intense depth of flavour. It can however sometimes be hard to get hold of mixed crabmeat (although not of course impossible as I have in the past made this with a mix) unless it is dressed.. and what you don’t want in this is bits of egg mayo!

Feel free to use normal thyme if you can’t get lemon thyme but as the former is a little stronger in aroma and taste perhaps just a little less. Similarly if you don’t have anchovy essence use an oil or salt preserved (and rinsed if the latter) anchovy, finely chopped instead and melted into the shallots as you soften them.

Sadly I ended up overcooking the asparagus so do be (more) careful - I think the timings I’ve given work well for fresh pasta but for dried I would actually suggest keeping the asparagus to one side after the cooking stage then add to the sauce at the same time as the crab.

Traditionally parmesan or pecorino is not grated over seafood or fish pasta dishes in Italy. Something that, if you do whilst there, you will almost certainly get sneered at (a bit like drinking a cappucino or cafe con latte after mid morning). Of course you can serve this with grated parmesan or pecorino if you so wish but I think the saltiness of cheeses really detracts from the delicate, sweet taste of the crab.

Crab & Asparagus Tagliatelle
Serves 2

2 tsp olive oil
1 shallot, finely chopped
1 red chilli, deseeded and deveined and finely chopped (optional)
2 tsp lemon thyme leaves
1 tsp anchovy essence
80ml dry white wine
80ml fish stock
100g asparagus, cut into 1in pieces
100-125g white crab meat
200g tagliatelle
5g unsalted butter
juice of ½ lemon
2 tbsp chopped parsley

Heat the oil in a heavy based frying or sauté pan and gently cook the shallots until softened and translucent but not browned.

Add the chilli, thyme, anchovy essence, wine and stock and bring to the boil before reducing to a simmer.

Meanwhile bring a large pan of water to the boil and cook the asparagus for 4 minutes or until just tender. Remove the asparagus from the water and add them to the shallot / stock liquid.

Then cook the tagliatelle in the asparagus water for just less than the package instructions indicate. About 3 minutes before the end of the pasta cooking time also add the crab to the shallot stock.

When the tagliatelle is cooked just under al dente, drain and add to the crab sauce with maybe a tablespoon of the cooking water.

In a small frying pan, heat the butter until foaming and golden, add the lemon juice and the parsely, swirl around and then pour over the pasta.

Toss through so everything well combined and serve seasoned well with black pepper.

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Thursday, 3 November 2011

Monkfish & Onion Squash Tagine

Oh. My. God! This was so much better than I’d expected, for reasons I can’t even really explain. Considering that everything recently (pork belly, roast chicken, sautéed kale to name a few - modesty prevailing clearly) has been quite special, that is going some but this really is very good.

I went to Morocco last year and gorged on tagines which are totally down with my way of cooking really. I’d not cooked one for a while and also had an idea to use some nice meaty monkfish and some sort of squash.

Now there is some debate, I should point out, on whether or not we should be eating monkfish at all - a good succinct piece on the issue can be found here. What is important is that you buy fish that has been responsibly sourced from sustainable fisheries. If you can’t get monkfish however, use another very firm fish (you can ask your fishmonger if in doubt), or even lobster, but that is a a bit decadent!

Anyway, in the end I stumbled across a Mark Hix recipe which I’ve adapted to suit my own palate, and devised a side of my own to use up some of the glut of carrots that came with my last vegbox delivery. Next time I will use at least double the amount of carrot as there was no where near enough and it was very good with the couscous.

Monkfish & Onion Squash Tagine with Sesame & Lemon Roasted Carrot Couscous
Serves 2

200g monkfish fillets, cut into 3cm chunks
salt and freshly ground pepper
a little flour
rapeseed oil
1½ tsp olive oil
1 medium onion, roughly chopped
1 garlic clove, crushed
1 red chilli, finely chopped
1tsp ginger, finely chopped
½ tsp ras el hanout
½ tsp ground cumin
¼ tsp paprika
¼ tsp crushed fennel seeds
good pinch of saffron strands
2 medium tomatoes, de-seeded and roughly diced
500ml fish stock
120g squash (I used onion squash but you could use butternut or munchkin etc), peeled, seeds removed and cut into rough 2cm chunks
60g kalamata olives (stone-in)
½ preserved lemon, halved
1tsp chopped coriander
For the carrot couscous
1 medium carrot, peeled and sliced on the diagonal into 1cm wide pieces
1 tbsp olive oil
juice of ½ lemon
¼ tsp red pepper flakes
½ tsp sesame seeds
100g couscous

Preheat the oven to 210C.

Season the fish pieces and dust lightly with flour then heat some rapeseed oil in frying pan and sauté the fish pieces on a high heat for 2-3 minutes on each side until lightly coloured. Remove from the pan and set aside.

Wipe the pan and then heat the olive oil in it. Over a low heat cook the onions, garlic, chilli, ginger and spices for about 5 minutes until the onions are soft.

Add the tomatoes and stock, season with salt and pepper, and simmer for 30 minutes, until the liquid has reduced by about half. Add the squash and simmer gently for a further 10 minutes.

When you add the squash to the sauce, toss the carrot chunks on a baking tray with the olive oil, lemon juice, red pepper flakes and sesame seeds and place in the oven.

Transfer the sauce to a tagine (or cast iron casserole with a lid if you don’t have a tagine), add the fish, preserved lemon, olives and coriander, stir gently then cover with the lid and place in the hot oven for about 20 minutes or until the fish is just cooked.

Mix the carrots through steamed couscous and serve alongside the tagine, with a little chopped coriander scattered over.

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