It was the day after my cousins wedding and I was tired. I had had an extraordinarily busy week and lots of rich food, and I found myself craving something fresh, comforting and healthy. My sister and I surveyed our options and thought – take away – as neither of us had the energy to cook. Thoughts of rich creamy Indian food quickly persuaded me that I should though. My tum couldn’t take anymore.
I love staying at my sisters house. It’s lovely to be home with family. They’re amazingly hospitable, even as I laze and graze, and it’s lovely to see my tiny 14 month old niece. There’s also her lovely garden with herbs and salad growing a plenty.
We agreed I’d cook and I surveyed the larder. Prawns, small juicy tomatoes, parsley & thyme from the garden, white wine and spaghetti. Fresh bright flavours, tastes of the sea and comfort. The deal was done.
I started with 8 small tomatoes, bigger than cherries but about half the size of normal tomatoes, they were full flavoured and juicy, a rarity these days. It seems a lot of effort but I skinned and desseded them, I hate spending time over food only to find myself picking tomato skins out of my teeth. Chopped into eighths, I put them to the side to await their fate.
I finely chopped a fat clove of garlic, sauteed for 30 seconds or so, taking care that it didn’t brown and turn bitter. I added the tomatoes and some thyme leaves from the garden, about a teaspoons worth and a small finely chopped red chilli to draw out the tomato flavour and add a little heat. Checking the flavours, it was clear that some balsamic vinegar would balance the sauce and draw out the tomatoes sweetness without it becoming too sweet.
I cooked them slowly over a very low heat for an hour, resulting in a jammy rich tomato sauce. A little too thick, I added a glass of Pinot Grigio from the fridge, unusually medium dry, I worried that it wouldn’t work, but it loosened the sauce and soothed the tomatoes intensity.
The tomato base was ready so I focussed my attention on the prawns and the pasta. I boiled the salted water and put the pasta on to cook. When there was just a few minutes left, I added the prawns, they take very little time, and overcooking them results in a rubbery slug which you don’t want luxuriating in your lovely laboured sauce.
A generous sprinkling of parsley lifted the sauce and added a freshness. The pasta was al dente and ready to be dressed. The sauce had thickened again and benefitted from a splash of the pasta water. A quick and thorough stir of the pasta and sauce and we were ready to eat.
It was everything that I wanted and needed. Comforting, fresh and healthy. I was happy as a clam as I nestled in front of the television and savoured every bite.
What do you turn to in the kitchen at times like this?