October 26, 2010 § 4 Comments
You know that game where you come up with your ideal dinner party? The one where people always choose Ghandi or the Kennedys or Emily Pankhurst? Well I am really really bad at it, paralyzed by indecision and the worry of getting stuck making chit chat with Nietzsche and it being my own fault. But if you were to ask me who I would want to cater such a dinner I can tell you without a shred of hesitation. Not such culinary luminaries as Rene Redzepi (prodigious and attractive though he may be) or Heston Blumenthal (ditto) or Ferran Adria. I would beg Nigel Slater to cook for us and I’d be confident that even the fussiest former statesman would have a blast. I should explain. I’m not claiming that the food would trump that of many chefs – this is food from a cook and gourmand rather than a chef – but it would be perfectly judged, unobtrusive and nurturing. The kind of food that sits back and lets the conversation flow. The kind that doesn’t beg for commentary and analysis throughout. The kind that makes you feel all warm and squidgy inside by the end of the evening.
I make no secret of how much I favour Nigel and his recipes and as the scrumptious Tender Volume 2 is my current bedtime reading you will no doubt be hearing more about him here soon enough. Nigel’s food is food for friends and that is the biggest compliment I can pay him. It’s also perfect mid-week eating, typically involving minimal fuss for maximum taste. And so with the nights drawing in and the air turning crisp and cool I wanted to share a recipe for one of my all time favourite weeknight suppers. This is a dish that oozes warmth and comfort, marrying the mild heat of sausage and mustard with the richness of cream and pasta. It’s amazingly quick to make, has an eminently manageable ingredients list, and will soothe away all the aches and pains and stresses of the day (I recommend it particularly for a wet Wednesday). It’s a big fat hug in a bowl. Eat it tucked up on the sofa wearing your favourite sweater and watching a marathon of your current TV obsession (i.e. in our household The Wire – we are soooo late to that party). Or, as you like, dole it out to friends and let the good times happen.
Sausage, Mustard and Basil Pasta
Adapted from Nigel Slater’s Real Food
For 2 hungry people
4 spicy Italian sausages
Approximately 250g/9oz orecchiette*
a glass of white wine or vermouth
a pinch or two of dried red chile flakes
a small handful of chopped fresh basil
a tbsp Dijon mustard
200ml heavy/double cream
*I love this dish with orecchiette but you can substitute other pasta shapes like penne or conchiglie. Simply reduce the cooking time for the pasta to the recommended al-dente time for the pasta shape you are using (probably 9-10 minutes instead of the 18-20 for the orecchiette)
Put a large pan of water to boil for the pasta. In the meantime, warm a tablespoon or so of oil in a frying pan or casserole, split open the sausage skins and crumble the meat into the hot pan. Fry until the meat is sizzling and cooked through and starting to stick to the bottom of the pan, about 5 minutes. Towards the end of this stage, salt the water and add the pasta.
Pour the wine or vermouth into the sausage meat and scrape at the bottom of the pan to deglaze. Stir in the chile flakes and chopped basil. Add the merest touch of salt and the Dijon mustard, pour in the cream and very gradually bring to a gentle simmer. Stir from time to time while the pasta finishes cooking, keeping the heat low to prevent the cream from over-boiling.
When the pasta is just cooked, about 18 minutes after coming to the boil if using orecchiette, drain and add to the creamy sauce, stirring to coat well. Serve piping hot, garnished with some basil leaves.