Cookbook road test: Spice at Home by Vivek Singh
I’ve been a fan of Vivek Singh for a long time. I’ve been to a magnificent wine dinner at his majestic London restaurant The Cinnamon Club, looked on in admiration watching the man himself alongside James Martin on Saturday Kitchen and now I’m cooking his recipes in my own kitchen.
Spice at Home is Vivek’s fifth book and concentrates on the importance of spice in home cooking; it’s a brilliant marriage between Indian spicing and Western culinary styles. There are recipes for fish fingers that have been given a spicy makeover, lamb shanks are spiced up with rogan josh flavours and a humble toastie is fit-to-bursting with chilli chicken.
One recipe that caught my eye was the Kerala-spiced seafood linguine (see below). Vivek says: “Yes, pasta isn’t native to Kerala but this sauce and its spicing are brilliant with pasta. The flavours are alive and kicking, and this is quite simply one of my favourite things to eat.” Pasta, spice and approval from Vivek? Count me in.
It was cold and blustery outside so I wanted something hearty and warming. This was just the ticket.I had most of the ingredients at home, including prawns in the freezer, but I imagine that if you don’t have a lot in the storecupboard it could be quite an expensive meal. Sadly I couldn’t find any fresh curry leaves, which I think would have given the dish more flavour, so had to make do with the dried ones.
The recipe was easy to follow and ready in just 30 minutes. It would be great to serve as a dinner party main but this recipe comes with a warning. I like hot, spicy food so the addition of fresh, flaked and ground chilli as well as mustard seeds and zingy ginger didn’t scare me, but, it isn’t a dish for the faint-hearted. It’s lip-tingly hot, hot, HOT!Here’s my attempt.
Here’s the recipe
Kerala-spiced seafood linguine
- 300g linguine pasta
- 200g sugar snap peas, trimmed
- 2 tablespoons corn or vegetable oil
- 1 teaspoon black mustard seeds
- 12–15 curry leaves
- 2 large garlic cloves, finely chopped
- 1 large red chilli, seeded and finely chopped
- 1 large onion, finely chopped
- 1 teaspoon salt
- ½ teaspoon sugar
- 1½ teaspoons red chilli powder
- 2 tomatoes, finely chopped
- 2.5cm piece of fresh ginger, finely chopped
- 1 tablespoon tamarind paste (optional)
- 60ml coconut milk
- 500g raw sustainably sourced king prawns, peeled (if peeling them yourself, you will need to start with approximately 750g)
- A handful of basil leaves
- ½ teaspoon cracked black pepper
- ½ teaspoon dried red chilli flakes
- sea salt flakes (optional)
- Cook the pasta in a pan of boiling water, according to the instructions on the pack. Add the sugar snap peas for the last minute or so of cooking time. Drain and reserve.
- Meanwhile, heat the oil in a wok or large frying pan, add the mustard seeds and curry leaves and allow to crackle and pop. Toss in the garlic and chopped red chilli and cook over a fairly high heat for about 30 seconds without letting the garlic brown. Once the garlic has softened, add the onion and sauté over a high heat for 5 minutes or so until the onions start to change colour.
- Add the salt, sugar and chilli powder, stir to mix well, then add the tomatoes and cook another 4–5 minutes until the moisture is absorbed and mixture starts to turn glossy. Add the ginger, tamarind paste, if using, and the coconut milk and mix well.
- Tip in the prawns and cook over a high heat, stirring frequently, for about 3–4 minutes until they turn translucent and pink. Toss the pasta and sugar snaps into the prawn mixture.
- Tear in the basil leaves, stir, and season with pepper and chilli flakes. Check the seasoning; if adding salt, use sea salt flakes.
Recipe taken from Spice at Home by Vivek Singh (£25; Absolute Press) Text © Vivek Singh 2014; Photography © Lara Holmes 2014.