UP­LIFT­ING CHILLI & LEMON SPAGHETTI

Irish Independent - Weekend Magazine - - Interview -

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.

For 2

IN­GRE­DI­ENTS

4 gar­lic cloves

1 big fat red chilli or 1 tsp chilli flakes

1 lemon

About 2 tbsp olive oil

200g spaghetti

About 50ml white wine (a very small glass) 200g cooked and peeled prawns (op­tional) Thumb-sized nub of Parme­san (op­tional) Salt and black pep­per

METHOD

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.

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