Tag Archives: Seafood

PASTA FANTASIA CON FRUTTI DI MARE, Multicolored Pasta with Seafood

IMG_2411-800x598

This is a very small serve of pasta with seafood, but we all had seconds. In Italy less seafood would be used – it is pasta with a condiment (seafood sauce) and not seafood with pasta.

The packet of dry pasta was bought in Amalfi where my friends were holidaying recently. The packet was packed in a suitcase and arrived in Broadbeach on the Gold Coast in Queensland where they live.

IMG_2397-800x598

Last week I visited these two friends who had purchased the pasta for me and were waiting for my comingl to cook it. All four of us who were eating the pasta love seafood and this is what we did.

Fresh prawns and squid are prolific on the Gold Coast and the idea of using the broth left over from steaming some mussels open appealed to us. Also there was plenty of basil and fresh thyme in the fridge, left over from the meal of the night before. White wine is always on hand as are garlic and onions.

IMG_2398-800x598

The colours for the pasta are all derived from vegetables and spices: spinach is used for the green, beetroot is used for the magenta, sepia (ink from ink fish or squid) for the brown, paprika for orange and the yellow is derived from turmeric.

The makers call it Pasta Fantasia Multicolore – it is easy to guess what these words mean and the mixture of shapes and colours and stripes are truly very appealing visually. Unfortunately the flavours of the vegetables and spices were not at all evident and if they had been, the pasta would have been truly fantastic (in the true sense of the word).

IMG_2406-800x598

We cooked the pasta at the same time as we cooked the seafood.

500g pasta
½ cup extra-virgin olive oil
4 cloves garlic, minced
2 onions, cut small
½ teaspoon red pepper flakes
salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
500g mussels, debearded
500g squid cut into slices
500g green prawns, cleaned
1 cup white wine
½ cup fresh thyme and ½ cup shredded basil, leave some leaves whole for serving

IMG_2394-800x598

Clean the mussels and place them into a pan with a little water. Cook for 5 minutes or longer, making sure all the shells have opened. If some don’t, cook the unopened ones for longer and they will open. Remove mussels from their shells, but save a few for decoration and save the broth. The broth will be quite salty because the mussels would have released their juices and sea water. Filter it before using in case there is grit. Some of the broth will be used to flavour the seafood part of the cooking and the rest can be used with the boiling water to cook the pasta. we ended up with about 1 and 1/2 cups of broth.

IMG_2408-800x598

In a large, heavy based pan heat the olive oil over medium heat. Add the onion, garlic, red pepper flakes and sauté for 3-5 minutes until golden. Add the squid and cook for 3- 5 minutes, then add the prawns, a pinch of salt and pepper and stir them around in the heat until they colour. Add the wine and about 1/3 cup of the mussel broth and the herbs. Evaporate some of the wine. Add the mussels and cover contents with a lid – cook for 3-4 minutes.

Bring a large pot of water mixed with the left over mussel broth to the boil over high heat. Adjust by adding salt if it needs it. Add the pasta and cook it till al-dente and stirring occasionally. The packet states cooking time is about 9-11 minutes. Drain pasta and add the seafood mixture. Toss to combine.
Add more basil if you wish and either transfer it to a a serving platter or serve it from the pan. We are very good friends and we served it from the pan.

IMG_2410-800x598

INSALATA RUSSA (Party time – Russian salad)

Helping my mother to make Insalata Russa was my job throughout my childhood and teenage years. It was a legacy from Trieste and a reliable antipasto served on special occasions. She kept making it well into the 80s and then it would re-appear intermittently throughout the years. She would present it before we would sit at a table for a meal, as a nibble…  she would pass around a spoonful of Insalata Russa on a slice of bread from a French stick.

Those of you who are of a certain age may remember Rosso Antico (a red aperitif) or a Cinzano (vermouth) or a martini. Sometimes it would be a straight gin with a twist of lemon.  Today you may prefer a different aperitif like Aperol or a glass of Prosecco or a Campari  you get the idea!

It keeps well in the fridge and is an easy accompaniment for drinks – I am thinking of those unexpected guests who may pop in …. a drink, a small plate of Insalata Russa and some good bread. If my mother was still alive she would probably be making it on Christmas eve or Christmas day.

Insalata Russa is made with cooked vegetables: peas, green beans, carrots and potatoes cut into small cubes and smothered with homemade egg mayonnaise. She always decorated the top with slices of hard-boiled eggs and  slices of stuffed green olives. Sometimes she also placed on top small cooked prawns or canned tuna.

***** Modern Times…..Try it sprinkled with Yarra Valley caviar (fish roe) instead.

yarra-valley-banner2-compressor

Ensaladilla rusa is the Spanish version of this salad and it is a very common tapas dish; It was certainly still popular as a Tapas in Madrid and Barcelona when I was there last year.

The Spaniards make it the same way, but the canned tuna is often mixed in the salad rather than being placed on top. Some versions have olives, roasted red peppers or asparagus spears arranged on top in an attractive design or just plain with boiled eggs around the edge of the bowl.

Making it with my mother, we never weighed our ingredients, but the following combination and ratios should please anyone’s palate.

IMG_0457

This recipe (and the photos of the pages in the book) are from my second book – Small Fishy Bites.

2-3 medium sized potatoes, waxy are best
1 cup of shelled peas
3 carrots
3 hard-boiled eggs
3/4 -1 cup of green beans cut into 1cm pieces
1/2 cup of Italian giardinieria (mixed garden pickles in vinegar) or cetriolini (small pickled gherkins)
1 and 1/2 cups of homemade egg mayonnaise

Cook potatoes and carrots in their skins in separate pans; cool, peel and cut them into small cubes.
Cook the peas and beans separately; drain and cool. 
Hard boil the eggs; peel them and cube 2 of them.
Cut the giardiniera into small pieces (carrots, turnips, cauliflower, gherkins).
Mix all of these ingredients together with a cup of home made egg mayonnaise.
Level out the Russian salad either on a flat plate or in a bowl and leave in the fridge for at least an hour before decorating it by covering it with the remaining mayonnaise.
Have a good old time placing on the top slices of hard-boiled eggs, drained tuna or small cooked prawns and caviar. Bits of giardiniera will also add colour.

Maionese (Mayonnaise)

My mum made maionese with a wooden spoon. I use a food processor or an electric wand to make mayonnaise:

Mix 1 egg with a little salt in the blender food processor, or in a clean jar (if using the wand).
Slowly add 1–1 ½ cups of extra virgin olive oil in a thin, steady stream through the feed tube while the blender or processor is running, Before adding additional oil, ensure that the oil, which has previously been added has been incorporated completely.
Add a tablespoon of fresh lemon juice when the mayonnaise is creamy. If you are not making the traditional Italian version, it is common to add vinegar instead of lemon juice and a teaspoon of Dijon mustard.
As an alternative, the Spaniards like to add a little saffron (pre-softened in a little warm water). Add this once the mayonnaise is made.
 IMG_0832