Seafood with saffron fregola

Fregola is a kind of mini pasta that’s very popular in Sardinia. It comes in the shape of beads and looks more like couscous than pasta. This was a great favourite of our director and producer Dick Sharman and it is really good cooking. If you can’t get fregola you could use jumbo couscous.

Serves 4

200g mussels, cleaned
200g clams, cleaned
600g shell-on prawns
4 tbsp olive oil
300ml fish stock
500g fregola
1 onion, finely chopped
2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
1 red chilli, finely chopped, or ½ tsp chilli flakes
1 sprig of thyme
1 tsp dried oregano
Pinch of saffron, ground
100ml white wine or vermouth
4 medium tomatoes, peeled and roughly chopped
12 small scallops
Salt

To serve

Small handful of chopped basil and parsley
Lemon wedges

Wash the mussels and clams well and discard any with broken shells or any that are open and don’t close when given a sharp tap. Take the heads and shells off the prawns and de-vein them – remove the little black line along the back of each one.

Set the prawns and the shells and heads aside. Heat a tablespoon of the oil in a large, lidded frying pan and add the prawn shells and heads. Fry them for a minute or so until they’ve turned pink, then pour in the stock. Allow it to bubble up, while stirring vigorously, then leave it to simmer for 5 minutes. Remove the pan from the heat, then strain the stock into a jug and set it aside. Discard the prawn shells and heads.

Bring a large saucepan of water to the boil and add plenty of salt and the fregola. Simmer the fregola for about 10 minutes until it is just al dente, then drain it and set it aside.

While you are cooking the fregola, heat 2 tablespoons of the oil in the frying pan. Add the onion and fry it until softened, then add the garlic, chilli, herbs and saffron. Pour in the wine or vermouth and allow the liquid to reduce for a couple of minutes, then add the reserved stock and the tomatoes. Simmer for 5 minutes, then stir in the cooked fregola. Put the clams and mussels on top, cover the pan and cook for another 2-3 minutes or until the shellfish have opened. Discard any clams and mussels that don’t open.

In a separate frying pan heat the remaining olive oil. Sear the prawns on both sides very quickly, then add them to the fregola. Repeat with the scallops. Stir in the basil and parsley and serve immediately with lemon wedges on the side.

 

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Cialledda salad – Tomato and bread salad

This is a traditional salad in Puglia, southern Italy, and is similar to the Tuscan panzanella. Both are a great way of using up stale bread, which soaks up the delicious juices of the tomatoes and dressing, but this one is even more frugal, and we reckon, better. Use the best oil you can afford, as you really notice the difference in this salad.

Serves 4

About 200g stale ciabatta or good sourdough-type bread
1 small red onion, very finely sliced
500g very ripe tomatoes
1 garlic clove, crushed
½ tsp dried oregano
2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
Handful of black olives
Small bunch of basil
Salt and black pepper

Tear or cut the bread into chunks of about 3-4cm. Sprinkle them with a little water – just enough to moisten the surface. You don’t want the bread to get too sodden as it will also soak up some of the tomato juices.

Sprinkle the red onion slices with salt and put them in a bowl of cold water for half an hour – this reduces the bitterness. Drain the slices and set them aside. Roughly chop the tomatoes and put them in a serving bowl, together with any juices released when you’re chopping. Add the garlic and oregano and season well with salt and pepper.

Drizzle over the olive oil, then add the bread, drained onion, olives and basil. Leave the salad to stand for half an hour at room temperature before serving.

 

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White gazpacho

Gazpacho isn’t only cold tomato soup. This Moorish version is amazing – creamy and fragrant without too strong a hit of garlic. Peeling the grapes really does make a difference so think of Mae West and get to it!

Serves 4-6

200g whole blanched almonds
75g white bread, crusts removed
600ml iced water
2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
½ cucumber, peeled and deseeded, roughly chopped
75ml olive oil
1-2 tbsp sherry vinegar or white wine vinegar
Salt and black or white pepper

To garnish

1 tbsp flaked almonds
24 seedless green grapes, peeled and halved
2 tbsp olive oil

Put the almonds in a dry frying pan and toast them over a medium heat. Shake the pan regularly and watch it very closely. Remove the pan from the heat as soon as you can smell the almonds and they are just starting to take on some colour. Toast the flaked almonds for the garnish in the same way and set them aside.

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Cover the bread with some of the iced water and soak it for 10 minutes until softened. Drain and squeeze out the excess water. Put the whole almonds in a food processor or a blender. Add the soaked bread and process until the almonds are fairly finely ground. Add the garlic and cucumber and continue to blitz, then drizzle in the rest of the iced water, the oil and half the vinegar. Taste, season with salt and pepper, then drizzle in a little more vinegar if you think it needs it. The soup should be very smooth but if it seems grainy, push it through a fine sieve. Transfer it to a bowl or jug, cover and chill for 2 hours.

To serve, ladle the soup into bowls and top with peeled grapes, toasted flaked almonds and a drizzle of olive oil.

The Hairy Bikers’ Mediterranean Adventure: 150 easy and tasty recipes to cook at home by the Si King and Dave Myers. Published by Orion Books (£25)




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