Pasta Alla Puttanesca

Puttanesca (1)

Pasta Puttanesca. Pasta for ladies of easy virtue?

All you need: Olive oil (extra virgin), capers, olives, garlic and tomato. Another version of this also includes anchovies. Generally, black olives are used. I prefer green olives. Adding in a little basil or parsley does no harm.

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Dice everything up and thoroughly heat through in a pan with a good slug of virgin olive oil.

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When finished toss into pasta. This version uses diced smokey bacon (even better with prosciutto).

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How stupid simple is this? Fast, fresh and simple. Truly fantastic. Really fresh and really tasty and so versatile! For those who need something quick and easy to throw together on the hoof, on a busy work day, then this is a must have in the repertoire. It isn’t just good for pasta. How about using it to liven up a piece of fish.

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Maybe add in some smoked salmon.

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As an accompaniment to a piece of gammon maybe (this is really good).

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Or how about with prawns and garlic bread.

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Is there anything this can’t be used with? This sauce is so good and so clever it’s amazing. Seriously amazing.

Puttanesca Sauce
I first came across this brilliant little sauce many years ago in Claudia Rodens book on Mediterranean cookery where she says the source of the name is a mystery. More recently I saw this on Nigella Lawson’s website and featured in one of Rick Steins’ DVD’s. You will see it in many books on Italian food, although rarely labeled ‘Puttanesca’. Usually this is labeled as olive and caper sauce. The Italian word “puttana” literally translates to “whore” or “prostitute”. So literally, “pasta of the whores”. The idea being, according to some, that this is something quick and simple for “the generous ladies of Naples” to make on a busy work day between clients! Personally, I see this usage as a little bit of mischief. No doubt, for some, the name makes for fun dinner party conversation after a few glasses of wine! Another way to look at this name is simply as a graphic way to imply something cheap and easy. A sure thing. “even a Naples prostitute can make this!” (with due apologies and respect to the good ladies of Naples!).

In summary this great little sauce is cheap, easy and will pretty much go with anything.

Langoustines Vauclusienne

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Firstly, an admission. This is a straight steal from my food hero Keith Floyd. Do you realise that 2015 marks 30yrs since Floyd on Fish hit network television? Amazing.

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What you need: Langoustines, tomato sauce, onion, garlic, brandy, white wine, chilli sauce, olive oil, butter.

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Cook the langoustines in some olive oil with the onion and gently flambé.

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Add in the white wine and reduce for a minute or two. Then add in the rest.

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This is really good, really simple and so typical of Floyd. Here is the clip. Notice the philosophy on his approach. See what’s good, buy it and THEN decide how to cook it!

Vinaigrette – A Personal Note

Everyone knows the basic vinaigrette right? One part vinegar or lemon juice to three parts oil. Classic, simple, great. But here’s the thing. In this country (UK) that generally turns into a heavy, throat raking combination of balsamic vinegar and virgin olive oil. No, no, no. You might get away with that with a really strong piece of red meat or heavily smoked fish, but for everything else it is horrible. I don’t care what some pompous, over trained, self centered tv chef might do to look good on tv, it’s horrible. For a start most balsamic sold in supermarkets is rubbish. Unless it’s the very top quality stuff that has been properly matured and cared for it’s not even good enough for chips. You may just as well use the value brand malt vinegar and save some money. Similar story for virgin olive oil.

So, what should you do? You do this:

Spend time and effort finding a good vinegar. What your looking for is something that will impart a light fruity aroma and taste. What your trying to achieve is a nice yummy fruity taste and not that awful grating on the tongue and the back of the throat. It mustn’t overwhelm the item you put it on. Personally, I use rice wine vinegar or cider vinegar. The light, low acidity of cider vinegar from Burrow Hill is wonderful. Next, find an oil that acts as a complimentary vehicle to transport the flavour of your chosen vinegar. Personally, I use groundnut oil or the lightest olive oil I can find. Add in a little sugar and salt to taste. Experiment with the ratio. For, me 1:4 is normally just fine. Finally, don’t swamp your food in it (less is more).