Sunday, 27 November 2011

Homemade black fettuccine with lemon buttered clams and tiger prawns, and roasted fennel

Slinky, inky, glamorous...the shiny black fettuccine elevates what is a relatively simple fish dish to something altogether more special. Ideal for feeding guests you want to delight, like my parents who were visiting this weekend. 

Making your own pasta is easy enough to do, finding the ink to transform it isn't so simple. I generally now get all my fish from the excellent Evans in Didsbury (where I purchased the delicious and juicy carpet shell clams and giant black tiger prawns - the best I've ever tasted) but sometimes they don't have everything I'm after.

Luckily the ace Fish Society sell cuttlefish ink at a great price, so I took advantage and ordered a few sachets when I placed an order for some other more unusual bits last week.

I cooked the shellfish in a simple and heady mix of white wine, butter, parsley, garlic and lemon rind, and then speckled it with flecks of roasted red pepper before serving it poured over the pasta, accompanied by some golden roasted fennel bulbs. 

It's well worth remembering that if you're making your own pasta that you'll need somewhere for it to hang with the strands kept nice and separate so it doesn't form unpleasant clumps. I don't have a proper pasta airer, instead I use one of those white clothes airers. It may look amusing to see the pasta draped all over it but it does the trick perfectly!

The various flavours and textures of the finished dish married brilliantly - let me know what you think of this little fishy dishy and if you get inspired to recreate it or something like it. 

For four:
For the pasta - 
600g 00 flour
6 free range eggs
A little glug of extra virgin olive oil
A scrunch of sea salt
2 teaspoons (2 sachets of what I purchased) cuttlefish ink (or squid ink)
For the fish - 
1kg carpet shell clams - soaked for an hour in salted water before draining and rinsing - any that are damaged or open must be thrown away 
12 giant black tiger prawns (ie raw), deveined and shell off - so three big prawns each which is just enough 
3 fennel bulbs, quartered
300mls dry white wine
a handful of fresh parsley 
Rind of two unwaxed lemons
2 garlic cloves, peeled and crushed 
4 tablespoons unsalted butter
Black pepper
Olive oil for frying
Extra virgin olive oil
One red pepper, cut into strips
Sea salt and black pepper

- Preheat your oven to 180 degrees, place your pepper into a roasting tin and bake until soft and just beginning to char at the edges - you'll need to move them around during the cooking so they dont stick as you're baking them unoiled, this means they'll dry out and become more intensely flavoured. Cook for around an hour then remove and finely dice once cool enough to handle. Set aside
- Into the small compartment of a food processor with a blade, add 3 tablespoons of butter, the lemon rind (I use a grater for this rather than big strips), parsley, a scrunch of salt and blitz until together, remove and set aside
- Into the large compartment of a food processor place your pasta ingredients and blitz until its come together as much as it will, which will be a slightly sandy texture. If you don't have a food processor, pour your flour onto a clean work surface, make a well in the centre and add the whisked eggs with the ink to the centre and bring together with a fork.  Whichever method you use, once you have that sandy texture, it's time to bring the dough together and give it a good kneading. This will take around 5 minutes and once it's feeling silky and smooth to the touch rather than rough, you know it's done. Wrap it in clingfilm and place it into the fridge for half an hour
- Take your fennel bulbs, take the tops of them off so you have nice clean ends, then quarter them and brush with olive oil and place into the oven for an hour. You'll need to take them out a few times as you're cooking them to turn them over, ensuring all the edges get nice and golden
- Attach your pasta machine to your work top and once it's ready to use, take it out of the fridge and cut it into 4 segments, this makes it easier to work with. You'll need some help with this so the pasta doesn't get overly stretched as it goes through the machine, but it doesn't take long to do. As you're rolling it through the settings getting finer and finer, if the dough gets slightly wet or tacky feeling you'll need to lightly dust it with some more 00 flour - this will stop it dragging and tearing as it goes through the machine. I don't go to the finest setting that rolls out the dough into sheets as it's too fragile, I leave it one before that and then put it through the fettuccine blades, before draping (elegantly, if I do say so myself) on a clean clothes airer
Time to cook the dish...
- When you think your fennel have around 20 minutes to go, bring a large saucepan of water with some salt in it to a rolling boil
- Whilst it's coming to temperature take a large sauté pan (needs a lid) add a tablespoon of butter, glug of olive oil and heat on a high heat, once the butter starts foaming add the clams and prawns to the pan - stir for a minute then add the garlic, stir for another few seconds as you mix the garlic through the fish, when you can smell the aroma rising out of the pan add the wine and give the pan a shake, put the lid on it now (the fish will take around 6 minutes to cook)
- Take the fennel from the oven and set aside
- Place the pasta into the rolling boiling water and stir gently with a fork. If your water stops boiling place the lid on the pan
- Shake the seafood pan and lift the lid, now add the diced pepper and lemon parsley butter mix, lid back on you need to shake the pan gently so the butter melts into the fish
- As soon as your clam shells have opened up (this will happen after the prawns turn pink) and all the butter and herbs have mixed through the wine and fish juices, take it off the heat and leave the lid on to keep it hot
- Test your pasta and once al dente drain it
Time to plate the dish...
- Move it straight from the colander into four bowls
- Divide the fennel bulb quarters between the bowls, placing them in the centre of the dish. Now ladle over the prawns and clams, and once that's done spoon the liquor over the dishes, using it all up. Give a little glug of your finest extra virgin olive oil and serve. Don't forget you mustn't eat any that don't open, and you'll need a bowl at the table to put the empty shells 

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