Merry Christmas and Chilli Crab Linguine

Presents are wrapped, the Christmas cake made months ago, the tree decorated and the house smelling of pine trees and Christmas baking, all cardamom, nutmeg and cinnamon. Maybe you have done a spot of ice skating at the Natural History museum or seen some of the glorious window displays or lights in town.

Whilst not particularly festive we did love the carnival themed lights on Carnaby Street.

and the Karl Lagerfeld tree in Claridges Hotel was so impressive and rather original being turned on its head, reminiscent of a silver stalactite. It was rather magical, whimsical with a touch of Dr Seuss.

If however you are still searching for the ‘perfect’ Christmas gift, I can highly recommend the baking courses at Bread Ahead.

 There is a huge range of courses – even a donut making course – these are their donuts above: blueberry jam, hazelnut and almond praline, velvet chocolate caramel and caramel sea salt honeycomb. My father, brother and I have all done the sourdough, which we loved and would recommend, I’d definitely go back and do another course.

Over the Christmas period there is always lots of feasting and whilst all the traditional dishes are wonderful, it is refreshing to have the odd meal which is, lighter, zingy with a touch of chilli notes. As such I wanted to show you a super easy recipe, which is more a case of compiling than actual cooking but good to feed a crowd.

I adore crab, its definitely up there amongst my favourite things to eat. Not so long ago I devoured a whole crab over the course of an hour. I got really stuck in and was determined to get every last bit of crab out of its shell. A squeeze of fresh lemon and a cold crisp white wine, simple and yet heavenly. My kind of food.

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Now don’t worry this recipe does NOT require you to dissect a fresh crab. Its far simpler than that.

You need to buy two 170g  tins of white crab meat, which you can do at all supermarkets (it’s in the tinned tuna section).

chilli crab linguini

When you are ready to eat, boil the water for the linguine and finely chop the garlic, chilli, parsley or coriander and remove the crab from the tin/pot. When the pasta  is cooking, heat some chilli oil in a pan and place the garlic  and chilli in first and let it sizzle for 20 seconds before adding the crab bring the heat down and cook for a couple of minutes, stirring occasionally. As you bring the crab mixture off the heat squeeze the juice of one or two lemons and zest, depending on how much of a lemon kick you want to give the dish and a splash or two of olive oil along with either the parsley or coriander.

Once the linguine is cooked, drain thoroughly and immediately pour the crab mixture over the linguine. I tend to then mix it all together so that the crab is evenly spread through all the pasta.

Serve immediately and season with black pepper and rock salt and wait for the mmmmmmmm reaction. It will happen, trust me.

I have also tried this dish using chilli flakes instead of fresh chilli. Both are good, but I think the fresh chilli has the edge. I cook this dish for my children, but obviously omit the chilli and they love it.

I hope you do too.

Chilli Crab Linguine

serves 4

dried linguine (see packet for amount per person)

2 x 170g tinned white crab meat

2 large red chilli, finely chopped

5 cloves of garlic, finely chopped

1 large bunch of parsley, coriander/cilantro, chopped

juice of 1 or 2 lemons

zest of 1 lemon

1 tbsp of chilli oil

2 tbsp of olive oil

rock salt and black pepper

1. Finely chop the garlic and chilli and chop less finely the parsley or coriander.

2. Boil the water for the linguine and place in the pan. In a separate pan heat the chilli oil and then place the garlic and chilli in the oil for 20 seconds to sizzle away before adding the crab. Cook on a low heat for a couple of minutes, stirring occasionally.

3. As you take the crab mixture off the heat add the juice of one or two lemons, the zest and the olive oil.

4. Drain the linguine and then mix the crab mixture into the pasta thoroughly.

5. Serve and season with rock salt and black pepper

Enjoy.

Right I am going to check out now for a few weeks but I will be back on form in the New Year with some interesting posts and recipes from where I am heading. Follow my instagram @chilliandmint to find out more. Have a wonderful Christmas one and all and thank you so much for continuing to follow me on my blogging journey.


Wild Garlic Pesto Linguine with Sausage Crumb

IMG_0392Continuing with the same theme as last week’s post I decided to use up the remaining fresh wild garlic that my mother had given me by whizzing it up to create a pesto. It stores so easily in the fridge, for at least a week, and the whole family love it so its a win win.  Making pesto in general is easy and versatile. You can alternate the nuts from pine to walnut to pistachio and add a host of herbs and vegetables: basil, coriander spinach, wild garlic, tomatoes, peppers. I love the look of these varieties that Saveur has come up with.

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I thought the addition of a sausage crumb scattering would be a nice touch and balance well with the wild garlic. I used one sausage per person and then made a little incision into each sausage so that the outer ‘skin’ could be taken off. With the sausage meat I then broke it down and gently fried it, so that it crisped up.

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It took far less time than cooking a sausage normally would so again this whole meal was created in a very short space of time. I found I had lots of pesto leftover so popped it in the fridge in a sealed jar to use over the coming days.

If you are unsure about foraging wild garlic you might like to check out the Royal Horticultural Society guide on how to recognise it – see here.

Wild Garlic Pesto Linguine with Sausage Crumb

Pesto

200g wild garlic leaves washed and roughly chopped, flowers removed

100g parmesan cheese, finely grated

100g pine nuts/walnuts

150ml olive oil

squeeze of lemon juice

salt

pepper

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1 tsp ground nut oil

sausages (1 per person)

linguine

  1. First you need to wash the wild garlic leaves thoroughly and remove the flowers (these are edible but best put on as a garnish re my last blog post).
  2. Roughly chop the leaves and then place them into a food processor and blitz so that they are broken down.
  3. Next add the parmesan cheese and blitz again before adding the pine nuts.
  4. Gradually add the olive oil so that a paste forms. Add more or less olive oil depending on the thickness you require for your pesto.
  5. Season to taste and add a dash of lemon juice.
  6. Boil a pan of water and add the linguine and cook according to packet instructions – just under 10 minutes should be perfect.
  7. To make the sausage crumb all you need to do is remove the outer covering of the sausage and discard. With the sausage meat, break it down using your hands.
  8. Heat a frying pan and add the ground nut oil. Add the sausage meat and move around the pan until it browns and begins to crisp. This should be done within about 5 minutes.
  9. Strain the pasta and place back in the pan. Add a generous amount of pesto and stir into the pasta.
  10. Serve into bowls and scatter with sausage crumb.

You can store the remaining pesto in the fridge in a sealed jar for over a week. 

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Foraging for Cockles on the Welsh Coast

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There is something very rewarding about foraging for your own food, it’s like a treasure hunt for grown ups. I am no expert forager mind you and I would draw the line at foraging for mushrooms. I did a post a few years ago on foraging for samphire which you can read here.

This past week, however, I have been in a corner of Wales that even the locals requested I keep secret for fear that their corner of paradise will be overwhelmed by zealous visitors. The beaches are HUGE – think California expansive – stretching over a couple of miles long. This gives the treasure seeker a wonderful opportunity to forage for tasty goodies.

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We opted for cockles this time, but when I return to Wales I will also try for razor clams as the locals say they are also great to search for when there is a spring tide. Cockles are basically like small clams and you may have had them in southern Spain where they are referred to as ‘coquinas’. They also sell them in seaside towns in Britain, cold in little pots without their shells. That never particularly appealed, but hot with loads of garlic, parsley, lemon juice and zest and spaghetti certainly does.

The day we foraged was a little drizzly (the rest of the week was completely sunny, unlike the rain clouds over London I hear). The tide was a long way out and we searched between the shoreline and the sea. We looked for clues – cockle shells laying scattered on the beach surface and then would dig a hole about 1-2 inches deep and then feel around with our hands. Once you have found a couple you can normally find a whole group of around 10 or so. My daughters and I (Mr B had decided to take himself off for a walk along the 2.5 mile beach instead) lucked out and found over 250 in under an hour and a half. Result.

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We placed them in a pot (bucket is ideal) which we had filled with sea water. Overjoyed with our foraging success we went back to the cottage and let the cockles remain in the sea water overnight to get rid off the grit and sand.

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The following day we then cleaned each cockle and placed them in a bowl of salted water (below). At this point they are still alive and do stretch their limbs beyond the shell from time to time (you can see this happening in fact in the photo above). When you take them out of the water, gently knock the shell and they should close tight shut. If they do not then discard them. We found that there were only 10 or so that were a bit suspect, the remaining 250 were ready for our feast.

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This amount could  easily feed 6 people. We kind of over foraged but seeing as we had cooked them we decided it would be a shame to waste any so ate the lot between the four of us. Piggie I know! Both my daughters (6 and 9) adored them. I am a big believer that if you make a scene about shellfish or any particular kind of food in fact, then your children will too and not want to eat them. If you show them how delicious they are and get stuck in then invariably they will too and not want to be left out.

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We feasted royally and before you ask, we all felt on top form the next day. They are great fun to forage for so have a go when you are next on the British coast.

Cockles with Garlic, Lemon, Parsley and Spaghetti

Serves 4-6 easily

250 cockles (I did not weigh them but guess it is around 1-1.2kg)

1 tbsp butter

2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil

6 garlic, finely chopped

1 lemon, juice and zest

160ml white wine

2 large handfuls of flat leaf parsley

400g spaghetti

black pepper

  1. Leave the foraged (or not) cockles overnight in salted water – ideally sea water, to allow the sand and grit to be dispelled.
  2. Scrub them clean in the grooves of the shell under running cold water. Make sure they shut firmly. Place in a clean bowl of water with 1 tsp of salt.
  3. Place the spaghetti in a pan of boiling water and simmer for around 10 minutes, then leave in the boiling water until ready to add to the cockle pan (no9)
  4. Heat a large deep pan with the butter and olive oil and when it is hot add the garlic. Keep on a medium low heat.
  5. Once the garlic softens after a couple of minutes, add the lemon zest and stir.
  6. Turn the heat up high and add the cockles. Add the lemon juice, white white and then place the lid on the pan. Shake the pan gently from side to side.
  7. After a minute check to see if some of the shells are opening. Keep the pan moving with the lid on.
  8. After another minute the shells should be open.
  9. Add the spaghetti and the parsley and mix all the ingredients together for 30 seconds before plating up and adding a little black pepper.

Any shells that have not opened then discard – do not try to prize open.