My husband is a man of simple tastes – when it comes to food, that is. (When it comes to women his tastes are downright complicated and impossible, as he often reminds me ) Give him a choice of what he wants for dinner and nine times out of ten he will ask for pasta.
Now when he says pasta, he refers to a very specific combination of ingredients that he always puts together when I am out for dinner: pasta (boiled without salt because he always forgets), sauteed onions, a tin of chopped tomatoes, nearly-raw chopped garlic (because he always forgets to put them in early with the onions), all liberally doused with Tabasco. When I walk through the door, I can always smell what he’s been up to because the entire house smells like a pot of gently sweating onions being stirred with a dirty garlic crusher. Tasty. The end result is surprisingly OK though (bar the litre of Tabasco), but not something I would ever make for myself.
No, my tastes usually run to the more exotic and less healthy. Paola’s pasta primavera, gooey with mascarpone; a creamy timmed salmon and tomato sauce; chicken, sun-dried tomato and mustard cream sauce; or my favourite bacon, chicken liver and tomato cream sauce. Notice a cream theme here?! But every once in a while, I come across a pasta sauce that is relatively low fat, but still tasty enough to hold my attention. One of those is a wonderful aubergine and anchovy sauce, and the other is the dish you see pictured above.
I love prawns. Tiny shrimps, big king prawns, giant LM prawns – bring ‘em on! I love their firm texture and sweet flesh; I love their pink colour; and I love their versatility. So when I see an easy prawn dish, I sit up and take notice, and when that dish also involves sake, I get out the pots and pans and start cooking. This particular recipe is adapted slightly from my trusty Australian Women’s Weekly Pasta cookbook and is probably the least creamy pasta sauce that I have made in a long time. It’s also one of those recipes that you can play around with: if you don’t have sake, you can substitute vodka; or swap the original sugar snap peas for mange tout; or use cooked, shelled prawns to speed things up. Because of it’s un-creaminess, I’m submitting it as my entry into this month’s Heart of the Matter event hosted by the lovely and talented Ilva, with a theme of waterlife. Yes, I know that the sticking point here is that the sauce contains butter… but here’s how I see it:
- I got away with using considerably less butter than they suggested – probably closer to 70g, and divided by 4 that means less than 20g of butter per person;
- once you’ve tasted it, you will see that it’s worth foregoing fat for the rest of the day and using up your fat allocation on this dish; or
- you could substitute margarine for the butter, provided you understand that the taste will be affected. Just make sure it’s soft margarine without nasty trans fats.
And how does it taste? Marvellous. I love the textures – the crunchy peas, the meaty, sweet prawns, the decadence of butter and the sake to counter-act the richness. It’s also very pretty and takes all of 10 minutes to put together.
And the house smells a lot better than with Nick’s pasta
GINGERED PRAWN, MANGE TOUT AND SAKE PASTA (serves 4)
750g uncooked medium prawns (or 500g frozen cooked prawns)
2 stems fresh lemon grass, finely chopped
1 tsp ground coriander
2 tsp ground ginger
200g sugar snaps or mange tout
2 tsp peanut oil
For the sauce:
1 tsp cornflour
2.5 Tbsp water
1/3 cup sake or vodka
2 Tbsp lemon juice
1 tsp grated fresh ginger
70g butter (or margarine – see above)
If you are using uncooked prawns, shell and devein them, but leave the tails intact. If using frozen prawns, defrost thoroughly and blot with paper towels to remove as muich moisture as possible.
Combine the prawns, lemon grass, coriander and ginger in a bowl. Cover and refrigerate for an hour or two.
Cook the pasta according to the package instructions and steam the peas till just tender. (You may want to cut them in half as I did, to make eating easier.)
To make the butter sauce, combine the cornflour (which you have already blended with the water), sake, lemon juice and grated ginger in a small saucepan. Stir continuously until the sauce boils and thickens. Remove from the heat and stir in the butter/marge until it is melted. Keep warm.
Heat the oil a wok or large frying pan. Add the prawn mixture and stir-fry until the prawns are cooked (or heated, in the case of frozen prawns) through. Add the peas, pasta and butter sauce and heat through, mixing thoroughly. Serve immediately.