This is me trying to make home-cooking sound like fine dining, using the ubiquitous posh restaurant lingo:
Squid ink linguine, seared fish, herb trio, caramelised onions, Turkish chilli flakes.
a.k.a. Pasta with fish, herbs and fried bits.
Will do again? YES.
- The best thing about this dish? Its versatility.
- It’s my original healthy pasta recipe. Adapt it to suit your larder and your dining preference.
- Make it vegetarian and it’ll still taste great.
- Heck, you can even forget about the squid ink and just use regular yellow pasta.
Make LOTS of the caramelised aromatics and the croutons.
~ Store the excess (separately) in airtight jars in the fridge for up to a week.
~ Use liberally to add punch to salads, steamed vegetables and soups.
~ How much better would broccoli taste when tossed with glistening caramelised garlic+onion, and topped with crunchy croutons? George W Bush should try it, eh.
This creation is the long, dark Italian cousin of the Black, Black KL Hokkien Mee. It’s the pasta to make when you don’t want:
- a white sauce, for being too rich, or
- a red sauce, for being too tomatoey. Don’t laugh. I personally know people who dislike cooked tomatoes and associated sauces.
- Use a non-stick pan on medium heat. Add a dessert spoon of olive oil. Fry onion and garlic with a pinch of salt.
- Caramelisation will take 5-10 minutes. Transfer to a bowl. Set aside.
- Leave the heat on to make croutons.
- Add a dessert spoon of olive oil to the non-stick pan.
- Add the cubed bread and toss it around until brown. Transfer to a bowl. Set aside.
- Turn off the heat. Don’t wash the pan.
TIP: Ensure you remove all crumbs from the pan, otherwise they’ll become bitter, charred bits as you fry the fish.
- Cook pasta according to packet instructions. While pasta is cooking, fry fish.
- Ideally, pasta and fish will be done at about the same time.
Peculiar observation: The water used to boil squid ink pasta didn’t turn black…or even grey!
TIP: Don’t throw away the pasta water – you’ll need it later – this starchy water brings the pasta together and makes it velvety.
- Heat the non-stick pan (medium to high heat). Tip in the fish. Don’t add oil – it’s already in the marinade.
- Once the fish is browned, add ¼ cup of water or white wine, stir quickly, then turn off the heat.
- Using tongs, transfer the pasta (without water) into the pan containing the fish.
- Mix in the vegetables – these will cook a little in the residual heat, retaining crunch.
- Toss through half the herbs, and half the caramelised garlic+onions. Reserve the other half for garnish.
- If the pasta is dry, add some pasta cooking water. If you have guests, add some gloss with olive oil. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
- Dish out the pasta.
- Add toppings of croutons, caramelised garlic and onions, herbs and (if using) chilli flakes, eg:
- Turkish chilli flakes (pictured) add heat and a tinge of sourness. I like them best.
- Korean chilli powder (gochukaru) adds intense heat – use sparingly.
- Sweet paprika adds colour and smokiness without the heat.
Healthy Pasta Recipe (with vegetarian and easy options)
Makes 4 generous main course servings.
- 2 medium onions, roughly diced
- 5 cloves of garlic, roughly chopped
- 6 slices of bread crusts, cut into little cubes
- 500g firm-fleshed fish (eg mahi mahi, kingfish, mackerel), cubed and marinated for at least 20 minutes in:
– 1 dessert spoon seeded mustard
– 1 dessert spoon olive oil
– ½ tsp salt
- ¼ cup of water or white wine, for cooking the fish
- Variation. Instead of using marinated fish, you could use:
– strips of smoked salmon (a faster alternative)
– cubed, fried haloumi (a vegetarian alternative)
– nothing (a vegetarian and faster alternative). The pasta will still be flavour-packed, thanks to the remaining ingredients.
- 375g dried pasta (any type – black, yellow, red, green, polka dotted…just whatever lurks in your pantry)
- 1½ cups of raw vegetables, eg:
– sliced snow peas, beans or capsicum
– corn kernels – great colour when used with red capsicum
– zucchini or carrot strips
– snow pea shoots
– baby rocket, spinach or cress
- 1 cup of loosely packed chopped herbs (I used basil, oregano and thyme simply because they grow in my garden. Mint, parsley and dill also work.)
- Olive oil
- Salt and pepper
- Chilli flakes or sweet paprika (optional)
…from the Waste-not-want-not Queen of Leftovers: Instead of binning bread crusts, make croutons!
- Don’t buy croutons. Use up those crusts – they’re cheaper and contain fewer additives than store-bought croutons.
- Straight after buying bread, put the crusts in a bag in the freezer.
- Keep adding new crusts to the bag.
- Make croutons when you have 6 or more crusts.
- Remove crusts from freezer. Put on a plate in a single layer at room temperature to defrost – within 15 minutes, they should be soft enough to cut easily.
Confession time. I used to be one of those people who dislikes cooked tomatoes and associated sauces. But not anymore!