I made this dish the evening Linda and George arrived to stay, a week or so ago. They’d driven from Paris that day and this was the kind of dish that would be quite special yet easily put together once they arrived. I’ve often made linguine with just prawns (click here) but I saw some gorgeous little baby squid in Sandy’s fishmongers in Twickenham recently and thought, I must cook something with those! Cooked well, squid is tender and delicious. But it is easily overcooked – it’s just a few seconds from great to tough and chewy. So I decided to griddle them and lay them across the dish at the end for both a little caramelised touch but also that quick, hot heat that would cook them quickly but retain moisture and taste.
I’ve always loved seafood. When I was a child, I’d often be taken to Wheeler’s in Old Compton Street, Soho, for a fish meal. On long summers’ evenings we might drive across Essex from north Kent to sit on the beach at Leigh-on-Sea with pots of fresh prawns, whelks and cockles. Last year in Deauville-Trouville I delighted in the easy availability of wonderful oysters, letting those soft jewels slip down my throat leaving a glorious tang of the salty sea.
Five months pregnant with my now 33-year-old daughter, I spent some time in France. My dad had a boat at the time that he moved from its moorings in Poole to Cherbourg where it stayed for a few weeks over the summer for different members of the family to use as a holiday base. Mums-to-be weren’t told of the possible dangers of eating seafood and unpasteurized cheese in those days; we just tucked in! Oysters, mussels, lobsters and crab; huge platters of fruit de mer; large slices of runny unpasteurized local Camembert. I’ve always teased my lovely daughter that her brilliant brains (she’s a university lecturer) are the product of that summer. Seafood is full of minerals great for our brains; prawns an excellent source of selenium and zinc; oysters high in brain-feeding ‘B’ vitamins and zinc. One of the last holidays Nicola and I had with my parents was in Brittany in 2005 where we ate some of the best oysters you can get anywhere in Cancale at my parents’ favourite restaurant there, after first walking through the oyster market on the beach.
Back in Twickenham 10 days ago, I bought a pot of cooked tiger prawns to mix into my sauce at the end of cooking; some raw large Tiger Prawns to griddle along with the baby squids to go on top of the pasta right at the end.
I made a fresh tomato sauce: gently frying two sliced shallots in some olive oil until softening, then adding a good pinch of dried chilli flakes and some skinned and deseeded tomatoes. How many tomatoes you use is really going to depend on how many you are cooking for – but I guess around 2-3 medium-sized one per person. Let the tomatoes cook gently until softening and break them up a bit with a wooden spoon. When getting a bit mushy add a good glug of white wine and let it all bubble for a bit. Season to taste with salt and freshly ground black pepper. Add a good handful of chopped fresh parsley.
At this stage you just need to stir in some cooked prawns as you don’t want to ‘cook’ them or they’ll go tough. I let them warm in the hot sauce with the heat turned off and a lid on while I cooked the raw prawns and squid; also cook your pasta according to instructions on the packet and drain, retaining a little of the cooking water. I coated the prawns and squid in a little oil but nothing else and just popped on to a sizzling griddle.
The colour of the prawns quickly changes from grey to pink and then they’re done! Transfer to a plate and then cook your squid in the same way.
When all is ready, put everything together. Fold the drained pasta into the prawn and tomato sauce, adding a little of the reserved cooking water if the sauce needs thinning a bit. Carefully lift spoonfuls onto serving dishes. Now lay the griddle prawns across with the squid – which you’ve first sliced.
It was all so delicious – almost instant food with fabulous tasting prawns and squid. I thought it looked quite special too to welcome my special and good friends to my home for a few days!
It’s Father’s Day in UK so I’m dedicating this post to my late Dad who died 5 years ago.
He was the loveliest, gentlest and most generous of men and always able to put a smile on your face. He and my mum introduced me to a love of food from toddlerhood – as soon as I could sit up at a table and hold a knife and fork they’d take me with them to eat in restaurants and shop in Italian delis in Soho. Dad loved seafood, such as this dish. He especially liked scallops which he’d fry in a pan with chopped bacon for a quick and gorgeous lunch. Without such gourmet learning this blog might never have been!!