Cooking with Mark

SMOKED HAMOUR WITH FRESH PESTO LINGUINI & CAPERS

The cheap and convenient dish can be turned into a hearty meal that gives you all the feels

Who doesn’t like a great big bowl of steaming pasta? I certainly do, pasta dishes have been a staple in my food repertoire for years. As a design student, it was a cheap and convenient meal to cook. Tins of tuna combined with sweetcorn and pesto were considered a meal worthy of serving to my fellow student guests.
In all its shape and sizes, I pretty much cook pasta on a weekly basis. I now use the flour-based ingredient in all kinds of recipes.
Long gone are the days when my we as students would attempt to cook pasta in an electric kettle, or flinging strands of spaghetti at the kitchen wall to see if it’s cooked. Yes, that was a tip I was told many years ago if the pasta sticks to a wall then it’s cooked. As design students, our pasta art installations were part of our daily creative lives.

I NOW PREFER A MORE REFINED PASTA BOWL; NOTHING IS BETTER THAN HOMEMADE PESTO SPAGHETTI TOPPED WITH CRISP ROCKET LEAVES

I now prefer a more refined pasta bowl; nothing is better than homemade pesto spaghetti topped with crisp rocket leaves, shaved parmesan and toasted pine nuts. It’s a dish I love to prepare for friends. By all means, store-bought pesto is excellent and convenient, but it’s so easy to make fresh. Just place two tablespoons of pine nuts with a large bunch of basil, three tablespoons of olive oil, two tablespoons of grated parmesan, a chopped garlic clove, pinch of salt and zest of a 1/2 lemon into a food processor and blitz for a minute. You can store fresh pesto in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to three months. Follow my pasta cooking tips and try two my favourite dishes, one includes that fresh pesto you’ve just prepared.

MY TIPS FOR PERFECT PASTA

Always add salt to the water before cooking. A low-sodium diet is we all know is far healthier; however, the pasta doesn’t soak up that much salt during the cooking process. Salt also helps keep the texture of the pasta rough and not slimy, so the sauce sticks when served.
> Cook the pasta in a deep pan with plenty of water, when the pasta expands it may boil over. If the water becomes too low adding cold water brings down the temperature, increasing the cooking time, which will make the pasta soggy.
> Don’t add the pasta to the water too soon; the water should be gently boiling. Adding pasta to hot, but not boiling water will make it sticky and gloopy.>Do stir that pasta, give it a minute after adding it to water then stir to break up. This ensures all the pasta is exposed to the heat from the water.
>Store the pasta in the original packaging, it may look great displayed in storage jars on the counter but cooking times vary from brand-to-brand. Don’t mix pasta, as they all have different cooking times.
> Check that pasta server you may have, the hole in the middle isn’t just there to drain the water, it’s a measure. One serving of spaghetti will fit into the hole.

Recipes, food styling and photography by Mark Setchfield

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