Spring is sprung

The weather is FINALLY getting more springlike over here 🙂 The clocks have gone forward too, which always messes with my rhythm for a couple of days…

The upshot of that: this week’s culinary thing was almost identical to last week — pasta with home-made tomato sauce out of the freezer. The only differences were that this week I used whole-wheat fusilli, and that I added the rest of the frozen prawn from a couple of weeks ago.

There was about 5/6 of the block left, frozen pretty solid, and I was a bit reluctant to let it thaw overnight in the fridge because I was worried about the packaging slumping or splitting and sending melted prawn-water everywhere. My solution was to put the block in a sieve supported over the sink in the morning and let things defrost at room temperature. This certainly worked on the thinner outer layers of ice, but the main block was still frozen solid.

To deal with this, I boiled about 1 litre of water in the kettle, poured it into a saucepan and carefully placed the block of prawns into the water (this specific order of operations was intended to minimize the risk of damaging the saucepan from thermal shock). I’d intended to maintain the heat of the water on the hob, but this proved unnecessary — the outer layer of prawns was released almost immediately and I was able to work them off with a wooden spoon and set them aside in a bowl. The ice block, obviously, had a significant cooling effect on the water, but this only brought the temperature down to between blood heat and room temperature. This was sufficient warmth to gently thaw off further prawn layers, which I was able to extract with my (clean) hands. The result was a sizeable bowl of prawns which had been thawed but, for the most part, were still raw and hence would not be overcooked in the finished dish.

The procedure from there was pretty much the same as last week — cook pasta, drain, add sauce, heat through. I added the prawns at the same time and cooked and stirred until I was sure they were properly cooked (one can’t take too many chances with seafood). The end result was just as good as I’d anticipated, and went deliciously well with a few pieces of extra-mature cheddar melted over the top 🙂


The first day of spring — Diane Seed

Today is the official beginning of spring, Palm Sunday and Greek Independence Day. It seems an auspicious moment to return to my blog and newsletter after a silence of nearly a year. A ruptured Achilles tendon, misdiagnosed in Italy, and subsequent poor medical care, led to several months in a wheelchair, following a successful operation […]

via The first day of spring — Diane Seed

Improvising with onions

This week’s thing is actually connected to something I did a few weeks ago, but which didn’t come into play until now.

A few weeks ago, my dad did a batch of home-made red onion chutney and gave me half, which amounted to three jars’ worth. It needed to be eaten fairly quickly and I knew I wouldn’t be able to do that if I used bits here and there in sandwiches and so on, so I hit upon the idea of making a batch of pasta sauce and freezing it in portions.

I decided to make a tomato sauce — the onion chutney was quite sweet, which would complement the sour/sharp flavour of tomatoes rather well, and I had half a tube of tomato purée sitting in my fridge waiting to be used. I opted to use a ratio of one can of plum tomatoes per jar of chutney, counting the tube of purée as being equivalent to one jar.

While the onions in the chutney were technically already sautéed, I started things off by heating some oil and cooking the chutney with it anyway, just to get things heated up properly. I then added two lamb stock cubes, generous quantities of basil and oregano, a good pinch of paprika, black pepper, the tomatoes and tomato purée, and the rinsings of the chutney jars and tomato cans. I then brought the mixture to the boil, stirred well and let it simmer with the lid off for about twenty minutes so as to reduce it a bit.

I got two large tubs (each worth three meals) and one small tub (one portion) out of this experiment, which filled out my frozen food emergency stash nicely.

I was a bit stumped for what to make for this week’s big cooking thing, so I fished out one of the large tubs of tomato sauce and cooked it up with some spare pasta. Delicious! Lots of umami and subtle flavours — the sweetness from the onion chutney was quite noticeable, but not overwhelming. It certainly went well with the extra-mature cheddar I melted over the top!

All in all, I think, a successful experiment ^^ I’ll definitely keep a note of this for future occasions.

Adventures in prawn-wrangling

Conchigle alla crema di scampi this week — and it was an interesting ride…

You see, I’d covered the king prawn component of the ingredients by buying a 900g box of them from the freezer section of my local Asian food shop. Excellent value for money — way better than Sainsbury’s £4 for 225g — but the packaging once I’d opened the box caught me a bit off-guard. The prawns were all frozen into one big block and I’m slightly embarrassed to admit that it took me at least ten minutes of fruitlessly attacking the block with a carving knife to work out that I could simply boil a kettle and pour the water over one end of the block to separate off the 12 prawns I needed that way.

It worked, I’m happy to say — I managed to get about 10 or 11 prawns by dint of careful pouring and peeling them out with my bare hands, then carved the rest of the softened/partially thawed bit off the end of the block with the knife I’d been using earlier. The resulting pile of seafood-y goodness looked to be about the right size, and the recipe worked out ok, so I’m treating this as a useful learning experience.

I made sure to cook the prawns extra well, even though they’d been partially cooked already from my boiling-water trick, just to be on the safe side (can’t take too many chances with seafood!). The final dish tasted really good and I didn’t get food poisoning from undercooked prawn, so I think that counts as a win! 🙂

Back to normal

Back to pasta-y experimentation this week 🙂 A simple sauce of walnuts, garlic and mascarpone — delicious!

Not much to say about it, to be honest — crushing walnuts in a pestle and mortar, chopping garlic, sautéing them in butter, stirring mascarpone into the nut mixture and parmesan into the just-drained pasta before combining the two and portioning out… Simple, elegant and delicious!