A mas­ter­class from the pasta blaster

A for­mer col­league’s new book showed me how to solve a prob­lem I’d al­ways had with a clas­sic dish

The Daily Telegraph - Saturday - - FOOD DRINK -

STEPHEN HAR­RIS

work­ing at the River Café. When I vis­ited the restau­rant he looked like a chef who had found his home.

Eigh­teen years later, Joe is the head chef at the River Café. He has a book out called The Mod­ern Ital­ian Cook which I thor­oughly rec­om­mend. It is filled with dishes Joe cooks at home for friends – while most chefs do their “what I cook at home” book as their fifth tome, Joe’s is the real deal. There is no need for fake pic­tures of friends around the din­ner ta­ble as there of­ten is in th­ese books.

I thought I would see if he could solve a prob­lem I had with pasta. I love the idea of spaghetti von­gole, pasta with clams or cock­les, but I don’t like the way it is of­ten served: a big pasta bowl with a thin, winey sauce, some pasta which has barely been in­tro­duced to the cook­ing liquor and a load of shells to fight through. When I looked at the pasta sec­tion in Joe’s book, two recipes stood out be­cause they sug­gested cook­ing pasta like risotto. Joe says that he is late to the idea but that he rec­om­mends it at all is good enough for me.

I or­dered some clams from my fish sup­plier (easy for me to do, but if you can’t get clams, use mus­sels) and cooked them in the usual way to open the shells. I re­moved the clams, and gave the lin­guine a blast in boil­ing wa­ter to soften it. I then fin­ished cook­ing the pasta by sub­merg­ing it in the cook­ing liquor from the clams and adding a bit more as it was ab­sorbed, just as you would for risotto.

The re­sult was spec­tac­u­lar. The pasta was swollen but had a soft bite, the sauce clung to the lin­guine with just enough starch and ev­ery taste – pars­ley, clam and lemon – queued up to be tasted. I can’t wait to try it with other sauces – maybe even bolog­nese.

All th­ese years later and Joe is still giv­ing me tips on how to cook Ital­ian food – al­beit via a book – and I couldn’t be hap­pier.

Stephen Har­ris is chef-pa­tron of The Sports­man in Seasalter, Kent, whose many awards in­clude the top spot at the 2018 Estrella Damm Best Gas­tropub Awards.

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