Pasta with Prawns and Pernod

Back in March I posted a recipe for Chicken with Pernod, given to me by my cousin Mary Beth. Pernod adds a wonderful depth to any sauce. Once you’ve made it you will understand why this chicken dish was the most popular in Renés restaurant.

Today’s recipe is a loose interpretation of one by British food writer Simon Hopkinson. In his version he keeps the heads and tails from the prawns and makes a bisque-like, smooth sauce to go with the pasta, by pushing everything except the prawns through a sieve. This is my chunky version. French in style, with lots of butter and cream, this recipe is not on the Weight Watchers diet, but it is absolutely delicious and perfect for a special occasion. We had it to celebrate a birthday in Covid lockdown.

400g raw shell-on prawns, fresh or thawed from frozen (see note)
50g butter
2 shallots or a small onion, finely chopped
1 clove garlic, peeled and chopped
1 Tbs Pernod
¾ cup white wine
2 ripe tomatoes or 8 cocktail tomatoes, chopped
150 ml cream
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
150g dried long pasta (linguine, tagliatelle, fettuccine)
Grated rind and juice of ½ a lemon
1 Tbs chopped dill

Peel prawns and put the pasta on to cook in plenty of boiling, salted water until al dente. Heat the butter in a large frying pan and gently cook the onion and garlic until soft and translucent, stirring from time to time. Add the prawns and cook, stirring, for a minute or two, until they change colour. Add the Pernod and wine and cook on a moderate to high heat to reduce by half. Add the tomatoes, cream, lemon rind and juice and cook, stirring, for 3-4 minutes, until the sauce has thickened a bit. Season to taste.

Mix cooked pasta into the sauce with the chopped dill, saving a few sprigs to garnish.

Serves 2

Note: if you only have cooked prawns, add them to the pan a bit later, with the tomatoes and cream. If you are making the recipe with peeled prawns, either cooked or raw, you will need about 200g.

Pasta with Chicken, Bacon, Artichokes & Spinach

Roast chickens were half price when I did my supermarket shopping this week. They are always handy to have in the fridge to whip up one or two quick meals.

I used one drumstick and one thigh to fill a couple of wraps for lunch. Onto the wraps I spread some home-made mayonnaise, then topped with the chicken, a few roasted pumpkin cubes with pesto (leftover from the previous night’s dinner), some lettuce leaves, grated carrot and a little Tomato Kasaundi – a delicious curried chutney which isn’t on Café Cat yet, but will be in due course. You could use another chutney. Invented on the spur of the moment, this wrap filling was a winning combination.

In an attempt to follow a fairly low carb diet we don’t eat a lot of pasta – maybe once or twice a month. When we do, I like to make something tasty with lots of additions, so it’s not all pasta. The only thing I had to nip to the corner shop for was the spinach, everything else was in the fridge or pantry. If you don’t have a cooked chicken in the fridge you could pan-fry one chicken breast instead.

250g pasta of your choice
80-100g chunky bacon bits (lardons)
2 Tbs olive oil
1 onion, chopped
1 cooked chicken breast, shredded or chopped
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
3 cloves garlic, crushed
1 cup artichoke hearts (from a jar or can), sliced
2 cups baby spinach leaves, firmly packed
1/3 cup cream
To serve:
Freshly grated Parmesan cheese

Cook pasta in boiling salted water until al dente. Drain, keeping 1 cup of the cooking water, then put back into the pan with the reserved liquid.

Meanwhile cook the chunky bacon bits in a non-stick frying pan until browned and crispy. Remove from the pan. If you like discard the bacon fat but I usually keep it. Add the oil and onion to the pan and cook, stirring often, until soft and starting to brown. Add the onions to the pasta with the bacon, chicken, garlic, artichokes, spinach and cream. Turn on the heat just long enough to heat everything through, stirring. Season to taste.

Serve the pasta topped with grated Parmesan and freshly ground black pepper.

Serves 2-3

 

Chicken in a Pot with Pasta

This delicious one pot recipe comes from one of my favourite no-nonsense cooks, Nigella Lawson. As the chicken, leeks and carrots cook they create a delicious stock which soaks into the pasta. Nigella uses a very small pasta called Orzo or Risoni, which looks a bit like grains of rice. I only had a small amount of Risoni at the bottom of a packet, so I made up the difference with another small pasta.

The recipe will serve at least six. We had it on its own, but you could always add a crusty loaf and a green salad to feed more people. Choose a large heavy pot with a lid which will hold the chicken, with room around it for the vegetables and pasta. Mine is an oval Le Creuset casserole (from the 1970s, when orange was a very popular colour!) which can be used on the stove top as well as in the oven. Nigella uses dried tarragon, but as I have fresh in the garden at the moment I used that.


1 Tbs olive oil
1 whole chicken (1.5 – 1.7 kg)
3 large cloves garlic, finely chopped
2 leeks (the white part and some of the green) sliced
2 large carrots, cut into sticks
Finely grated rind and juice of 1 large lemon
2 Tbs fresh tarragon, chopped (or 2 tsp dried)
2 tsp salt
½ tsp dried chilli flakes (optional)
1L to 1.5L cold water
300g Risoni or other small pasta
6 Tbs chopped parsley
To serve:
Freshly grated Parmesan

Preheat oven to 180°C and prepare the vegetables. Heat the oil in a large heavy-based casserole with a lid. Dry chicken with paper towels and place in the pan, breast side down, for 3-5 minutes, or until nicely browned. Turn the chicken over and then add the garlic, lemon rind and juice, tarragon, salt and chilli flakes, if using, filling the space around the chicken. Add enough water to cover the vegetables, but not the browned chicken breast which should be left sticking out of the liquid. Turn up the heat to bring the liquid to the boil, then cover the casserole and place in the oven for an hour to an hour and a quarter, by which time the chicken will be cooked. Add the pasta, pushing it under the liquid and stirring it as best you can.

Cover and return to the oven for 15 minutes or until the pasta is cooked. Remove from the oven and leave to stand for 15 minutes before serving. Mix in some of the parsley and scatter the rest on top. Serve a bowl of grated Parmesan on the side.

Serves 6-8

Note: if you don’t have a casserole dish which can be used on the stove top, brown the chicken breast in a frying pan, then put it into the casserole with the remaining ingredients and add boiling water instead of cold.

Brussels Sprouts with Black Garlic & Pasta

Black garlic is sweet and pungent. Ottolenghi calls it “licorice meets balsamic meets essence of garlic.” I have heard it called  Poor Man’s Truffles.

Like all vegetables, Brussels sprouts, which our mothers and grandmothers loved to boil to death, are completely transformed by roasting in a hot oven. This is a delicious recipe from Yotam Ottolenghi which I have adapted with the addition of pasta and a couple of tweaks to turn it from a vegetable side dish into a vegetarian main course for four. By the way, I used Orecchiette pasta shapes which look a bit like mushrooms in the photo!

A friend lent us a black garlic-making machine. It looks a bit like a rice cooker and you just put the garlic heads in for 270 hours on a very low heat. We had to banish it to the garage because it was stinking the house out, but now we have plenty of black garlic. You should be able to find black garlic at your local farmer’s market.

500g brussels sprouts, trimmed and halved lengthways
3 Tbs olive oil
Salt and pepper to taste
1 tsp cumin seeds
12 black garlic cloves
2 Tbs fresh thyme leaves or 1 Tbs dried
30g butter
2 Tbs pumpkin seeds
1 Tbs lemon juice
1 Tbs Tahini
250g pasta of your choice, cooked al dente
Sesame seeds, toasted, to garnish

Preheat oven to 200°C and put the water on to boil for the pasta.

Place sprouts in a bowl with 1 Tbs of the oil and salt and pepper to taste. Mix well then spread out in one layer on a baking sheet lined with baking paper. Bake for 10-15 mins until golden brown but still crunchy.

Meanwhile lightly crush the cumin seeds in a pestle and mortar, then place in food processor with the black garlic, thyme and the remaining 2 Tbs of olive oil. Blitz to form a paste.

Cook pasta according to package instructions. In a large wok or frying pan heat the butter until it turns a nutty brown. Add the black garlic paste, sprouts, pumpkin seeds, lemon juice and tahini. Cook, stirring, for 2-3 mins, then add the cooked pasta and a little of the cooking liquid. Check seasoning.

Serve in 4 individual bowls sprinkled with the sesame seeds.

Serves 4

Pasta with Pesto and Avocado

After all the rich food of the festive season you’re probably ready for some simple but satisfying recipes to please the whole family. This pasta dish hits the spot.

500g pasta (shell or penne)
2 ripe avocados, roughly mashed
1 cup pesto (preferably homemade)
Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
To serve:
Grated parmesan cheese
Extra virgin olive oil

Cook pasta until al dente. Drain then mix in the avocados, the pesto and salt and pepper to taste. Serve topped with parmesan cheese and a drizzle of oil.

Serve with a simple green salad.

Serves 3-4

Pasta with Prawns and Pepperoni or Chorizo

This recipe comes from my friend Ferne. She’s made it for me twice, once in Canberra and once in Brisbane where she now lives. Both times it was delicious.

Any kind of pasta will work, but my preference is to use fresh fettuccine, sold in most Australian supermarkets in 375g packets.

With a mixed salad and some fresh crusty bread, this recipe will serve 4.

375g fresh fettuccine
20g butter
250-300g pepperoni or chorizo, sliced
350g peeled raw prawns (weight after peeling)
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 cloves garlic, crushed
1 cup dry white wine
Juice and zest of 1 lemon
½ a fresh diced chilli, seeds removed, finely chopped
Handful chopped parsley
½ cup cream
Extra virgin olive oil to garnish

Cook pasta according to packet instructions then drain. Meanwhile heat butter in a large frying pan and cook pepperoni or chorizo for a few minutes, until starting to brown. Add prawns and garlic and continue to cook, stirring, until prawns turn pink. Add wine and lemon juice and cook over moderately high heat for 3-5 mins, to reduce the sauce by half. Add chilli and seasoning to taste. Mix in the cooked pasta, the parsley and cream. Divide between 4 bowls. Top with extra chopped parsley and drizzle a little oil around each serving.

Makes 4 servings

 

Pasta with Prawns and Capsicum

This recipe is adapted from one by Matteo Zamboni, who owns a restaurant in Sydney called Zambo. The recipe uses yabbies, a freshwater crustacean found in some parts of Australia. They’re not easy to buy in Canberra, so I used prawns instead. Zamboni uses Casarecce pasta, a shape I had never bought before, so I decided to try it and it was delicious. Use any shaped pasta that takes your fancy.

What makes this recipe special is the stock, made from the heads and tails of the prawns. It uses the same idea as this recipe for Prawn Bisque which I have been making for years. The heads and tails of prawns are packed with flavour, so why throw them away? It’s a little more time-consuming than most pasta dishes, but worth it.

400g Casarecce pasta (or another shape)
500g large green (raw) prawns
1 large red capsicum, cut into small dice
2 cloves garlic, halved
2 or 3 tomatoes, chopped
Handful of parsley
2 Tbs toasted skinned hazelnuts, roughly chopped (or toasted pine nuts)
Grated zest of 1 lemon
4 Tbs olive oil
4 Tbs brandy
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

Peel prawns and cut them into two or three pieces. Keep prawn heads and shells. Heat 2 Tbs of the olive oil in a large heavy-based saucepan. Add garlic and cook for a minute or two then add the tomatoes, prawn shells (not the actual prawns) and the stalks from the parsley. Cook, stirring for 3-5 minutes, then add the brandy and set alight. Finely chop the parsley leaves and keep aside.

Add a little salt and just enough water to cover the prawn shells, then simmer gently for half an hour. While the stock is cooking, press down on the solids from time to time with a potato masher in order to extract as much flavour as possible from the prawn heads. Leave to cool a bit.

Pour stock through a sieve, pushing down on the solids to get all the juices. Cook pasta according to packet directions in boiling salted water. In a frying pan heat the remaining 2 Tbs olive oil and cook the red capsicum, stirring, until softened. Add the prawn meat and cook, stirring for 2-3 minutes.

When pasta is cooked, drain it then put it back in the pan with the capsicum and prawns and the prawn stock. Heat, stirring, until the stock has mostly evaporated. Add the chopped parsley and lemon zest and season to taste.

Serve pasta topped with the toasted hazelnuts and a drizzle of Extra Virgin Olive Oil.

Serves 4

Pasta with Cabbage and Anchovies

Don’t like anchovies? I have to admit I’m not mad about them either when they’re whole. But crushed into a sauce they add a unique depth of flavour which has been known to win over quite a few anchovy haters. A traditional Caesar Salad dressing wouldn’t be the same without them – but a lot of people wouldn’t even know they’re there.

I found this recipe on the New York Times recipe site which said “Just don’t mention the anchovies, tell people it’s pasta, cabbage and umami”.

This recipe is tasty on its own or as a side dish with grilled meat.

Pasta with Cabbage and Anchovies

500g dry pasta such as penne
5 cloves garlic, crushed
2 Tbs butter
4 anchovy fillets
½ cup coarse breadcrumbs or Panko breadcrumbs
1 Tbs finely chopped fresh sage
Salt and freshly ground black pepper. To taste
1/3 cup Extra Virgin Olive oil
½ tsp dried red chilli flakes, or finely diced fresh chilli to taste
8 cups shredded cabbage
2/3 cup grated Parmesan cheese

Bring a large pot of salted water to the boil and cook pasta according to package instructions until al dente. Drain.

While pasta is cooking, melt butter in a small frying pan and add half the garlic and the anchovies, mashing with a spatula until they dissolve into the butter. Add breadcrumbs and sage and cook, stirring, for about 2 mins or until golden brown. Turn off the heat and season with pepper.

Heat oil in a large frying pan over medium to high heat. Add remaining garlic and chilli and cook for a minute or so, until fragrant. Add the cabbage and cook, stirring from time to time, for 15-20 mins or until it begins to caramelise. Mix with the pasta and breadcrumb mixture, saving some of the breadcrumbs to garnish. Check for salt and pepper and serve immediately, garnished with the remaining crumb mixture and the Parmesan.

Serves 4

 

Sicilian Pasta with Eggplant, Pine Nuts and Raisins

I’m always on the lookout for tasty new ways to serve pasta.

As we discovered when we spent a week there last year, Sicilian cuisine uses a lot of eggplant, one of my favourite vegetables. In this traditional Sicilian recipe it’s combined with tomatoes, raisins, pine nuts and capers. Two photos this week – one in the pan and one on the plate.

Sicilian Pasta with Eggplant, Pine Nuts and Raisins

3 Tbs olive oil
1 onion, chopped
1 clove garlic, crushed
½ small red chilli, seeds removed, finely chopped
2 Tbs fresh marjoram or oregano, chopped (or 1 Tbs dried)
1 large eggplant (aubergine) cut into 2cm cubes
2 Tbs raisins
2 large tomatoes, chopped
1 Tbs tomato paste
1 tsp sugar
1 Tbs capers, rinsed and roughly chopped
2 Tbs red wine vinegar or balsamic vinegar
½ cup water
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
250g pasta (e.g penne, fusilli, rigatoni)
To serve:
2 Tbs pine nuts, lightly toasted
2 Tbs fresh chopped mint (or parsley)
Grated Parmesan cheese
Extra virgin olive oil

Heat 1 Tbs of the oil in a large frying pan and cook the onion, garlic, chilli and marjoram until onion is soft, but not browned. Remove from pan. Add remaining 2 Tbs oil to the pan and cook the eggplant, stirring. When golden add raisins, tomatoes, tomato paste and sugar then return the onion mixture to the pan. Add the capers, vinegar and water, then simmer gently while you cook the pasta. If it gets too dry add a bit more water.

Cook pasta until al dente. Season the eggplant sauce, then mix into the pasta. Serve topped with the pine nuts, mint, grated cheese and a drizzle of oil.

Serves 2-3

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Beef Teriyaki

Beef Teriyaki is one of my favourite stir fry recipes. There are other stir fries I’ve made once or twice, but I’ve made this one dozens of times. It’s quick, easy and adaptable – just as delicious at room temperature as it is hot.

With the addition of lots of veggies, a small amount of beef goes a long way. Use Singapore noodles, Hokkien or similar. We find the amount of soy sauce is about right, but soy sauces do vary from brand to brand. If you find it’s a bit too salty make a note and next time use less soy sauce and make up the difference with water.

Beef Teriyaki500g beef – I use 2-3 thick rump or topside steaks
3 Tbs vegetable oil
1 clove garlic, crushed
1 large onion, halved and sliced
1 large red pepper, sliced
4 medium zucchini (courgettes) sliced or cut into sticks
2 medium carrots, cut into sticks
250g mushrooms, sliced
½ cup soy sauce
1 Tbs sugar
¼ cup dry sherry
450g packet of fresh, pre-cooked Chinese egg noodles (omit for a Low Carb meal)

Freeze steak a bit to make it easier to slice thinly. Slice downwards into paper thin strips. Dry well on paper towels. Heat oil in wok or large frying pan. Add meat and garlic and stir fry for 1-2 minutes over high heat or until browned. Remove meat from pan, leaving the oil behind. Add onion and stir fry 2 minutes, then add remaining vegetables except mushrooms and stir fry for 5 minutes or until al dente. Add soy sauce mixed with sugar and sherry. Meanwhile cook noodles in boiling salted water according to packet instructions. Return meat to pan with mushrooms and stir fry for 2-3 minutes. Fold through drained noodles and stir fry for about a minute.

Note: if using dried noodles you will need only 125g and they will take longer to cook. If liked you can always add a touch of fresh chilli and substitute other vegetables such as broccoli, green beans, cauliflower or asparagus.

Serves 4