This is an adaptation of a Rick Stein recipe in his Long Weekends book. I’m particularly attached to this book (and the accompanying DVD of the TV series) at the moment, not only for its great and reliable recipes, but its subject: Long Weekends. Pre-Lockdown I’d become well practised at making the most of a ‘long weekend’ away as it was my most usual form of travel. If I could choose an ideal job, it would be travelling to cities like Rick Stein and writing about it. However, there’s no travelling for me at the moment, but I took a virtual gastronomic journey to Sicily with Rick this evening. He calls this recipe ‘Sicilian Pasta’, due to eating it in Palermo on one of his long weekends. The addition of spices, pine nuts and currants (or raisins) is typical of the cuisine due to its heavy influence from various invaders over the centuries and its proximity to North Africa.
It was a considerable adaptation in the end, partly by design and partly by necessity. Despite some efforts, I couldn’t find currants so opted for the raisins already sitting in my store cupboard; I didn’t have spaghetti so used linguine instead; at the last minute, I discovered I didn’t have any tins of anchovies even though I was convinced this was an ingredient I always had to hand. The main adaptation by design was the way I cooked the cauliflower. Rick boils the florets and then mashes them into a thick sauce; I decided to leave my florets whole.
The recipe is very similar to one of my favourite cauliflower recipes – Cavolfiore Affogato (Drowned Cauliflower) – which also comes from Sicily. My cauliflower was rather a small affair (delivered by Waitrose on Saturday), which meant that my original plan of making this cauliflower pasta with half the vegetable and having cauliflower steaks another night, went pear shaped. In the end, I cooked all the cauliflower Rick style and kept some back before adding the pasta to have cold as a salad for lunch tomorrow. The smaller cauliflower meant I adjusted the ingredients to a bit more than half (my florets weighed 230g rather than Rick’s 350g).
Pasta with Cauliflower, Saffron, Chilli, Pine Nuts & Raisins – Serves One
- about 230g cauliflower florets (cut big ones in half)
- 20g pine nuts
- extra virgin olive oil
- pinch of chilli flakes
- 30g fresh breadcrumbs
- 30g currants or raisins
- pinch of saffron, steeped in 100ml warm water
- 1 small or ½ medium onion, finely chopped
- sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
- handful of flat-leaf parsley, roughly chopped
- 100g spaghetti or linguine
It’s a good idea to get all the ingredients prepared before you start cooking. Break the cauliflower into florets and cut large ones into two or three to make them all a uniform size.
Warm a large frying pan and dry roast the pine nuts until they start to turn golden brown. Remove to a dish. Add a couple of tablespoons of olive oil to the pan and when it’s hot, tip in the breadcrumbs. Fry, turning all the time, until crisp and golden. Remove to a dish.
Wipe the pan clean and add about another couple of tablespoons of olive oil. Add the onion and fry over a medium heat until softening (but not coloured). Add a pinch of dried chilli. Tip in the cauliflower florets and stir round, mixing it all together. Fry for about 5 minutes until the florets start to colour on the edges.
Tip in the saffron and water and the currants. Fry gently until the cauliflower starts to soften (check with a small sharp knife). Add a little more hot water if the mixture starts to dry out.
Meanwhile, cook the pasta according to the packet instructions (about 10 minutes) until al dente and then drain.
When the florets are starting to soften add the pine nuts. Cook for a little longer until the florets are just tender.
Add the pasta and most of the parsley and breadcrumbs (keeping some of each back for garnish). Mix well.
Transfer to a serving dish and scatter over the rest of the parsley and breadcrumbs. Drizzle over a little olive oil. Eat straight away!
It was so delicious; absolutely wonderful. I like cauliflower a lot and this is a recipe that truly celebrates it and highlights its versatility and how tasty it is. I like that it looked pretty gorgeous too! What a fabulous pasta dish and a very enjoyable supper.