UPLIFTING CHILLI & LEMON SPAGHETTI
This is so simple and so beautiful, and is equally viable as a dinner-party dish (with a handful of prawns) or a late-night low-mood kitchen supper. I make this when I am very sad, and need something to do with my hands: you mince the garlic and shred the chilli — a continuous rocking movement with the knife that is deeply meditative, and thoroughly soothing; then you zest the lemon. At the end of it, you have a little white heap, and a little ruby heap, and a little yellow heap, and you shake them together into sizzling olive oil, and the scent that rises up is about the most uplifting thing I know. It’s bright and zingy and vivid, and everything about it is honestly good. I used to call this recipe Flatly Suicidal Spaghetti, because that was when I most often made it, but the name was too sad: it was me that was flatly suicidal, not the spaghetti. And so I thought again and called it Uplifting Spaghetti, because that was how it made me feel. To make this, and to eat it, is an entirely satisfying, soul-restoring experience.
4 garlic cloves
1 big fat red chilli or 1 tsp chilli flakes
About 2 tbsp olive oil
About 50ml white wine (a very small glass) 200g cooked and peeled prawns (optional) Thumb-sized nub of Parmesan (optional) Salt and black pepper
1. Take a big, deep pan, fill it with cold water and add a handful of salt. Taste the water: it should be as salty as the ocean. Set the pan over a high heat.
2. Find a chopping board and a big knife or cleaver, and take your garlic. You want to keep the part of the blade nearest the handle still against the board, and use it as a pivot, rocking the knife through the garlic over and over again, until you have a fine garlicky confetti. (You will need to concentrate on this, which is why it is good.) Take your fresh chilli, if using, and chop that, too, stripping out the seeds and fine white membranes, then dicing the flesh into a pinky heap. Next, your lemon. Take that, and finely grate the zest from about half of it, trying to get as little of the pith as possible.
3. Pour the olive oil into a frying pan, and set it over the lowest possible heat. Add your garlic, chilli and lemon zest, and stir constantly, watching it like a hawk so it doesn’t burn. 4. Yourwater should be coming to a good rolling boil now: fat bubbles coming up from the bottom to the top, and bursting, and slinking down again. Add a little splash of olive oil and your spaghetti and cook until al dente. 5. Meanwhile, keep stirring your garlic just until it’s the palest golden colour, then quickly pour in your white wine. Stir it, and keep stirring, letting the wine reduce until it’s thicker and a bit syrupy. (Add the chilli flakes here too, if you didn’t use fresh chilli.) If using prawns, add these now as well, and gently warm through. Grate the Parmesan, if you’re using it.
6. Using a big slotted spoon or tongs, take your spaghetti from the water, dripping wet, and fling it straight into the frying pan. Stir it through the winey sauce. (If you prefer, you can drain your pasta in the normal way, reserving about 2 tbsp of the pasta cooking water, and then add the pasta and water to the frying pan, but I am lazy and recommend the slotted-spoon approach.) Scatter over the Parmesan, if using, and a good grind of black pepper, and stir well.
7. Decant into bowls, pour the wine, sit at a table and eat with a fork and a spoon, because you deserve to sit at a table, and you deserve to have a nice supper and be looked after.