Saturday, 30 April 2016
Griddled langoustines with smashed cannellini beans, charred asparagus, chilli oil and mint
Four years ago today, I dusted off the saucepans and started Sam Cooks Food. Back then, as I rolled out that pasta sheet on the one serviceable clear worktop in my tiny North London kitchen, little did I know how much a little writing project would spiral to become a massive part of my life. I originally intended the blog to be somewhere where I could document my experiments with new ingredients, and more advanced cooking techniques; something that I’d found frustratingly little of elsewhere. After four years I can’t believe how much my cooking has developed and evolved, and more importantly, how much I’ve learned. And happily, I still get the same kick out of messing about in my kitchen as I did on day one. I always see cooking as a continuous learning cycle, and I’m definitely still just scratching the surface. That’s not to say that this blogging lark hasn’t royally pissed me off on occasions. On many occasions I’ve struggled to find the time or motivation to start typing. But it’s always a massive weight off my shoulders when I do.
Aside from all that self-indulgent cooking philosophy nonsense above, I was basically just dead chuffed with everything today and wanted to celebrate a little. This week has been truly knackering, but with inspiration from a heaving fish slab at work and the seduction that comes from a sunny springtime evening, I dashed home to cook myself a feast before the light faded.
At 5pm I turned the ‘Open’ sign on the door around was away, armed with three astonishingly lively Scottish langoustines in my bag. On the twenty minutes it took me to walk home, I managed to work out a quick recipe and source a few key ingredients. I always take for granted the excellent produce available so close to home. To accompany my langoustines from the West Coast of Scotland, I bought some Wye Valley asparagus, unwaxed lemons and a couple of bushy bunches of fresh herbs. That was me set, and within thirty seconds of getting in, the stoves were on.
I’ve certainly cooked more refined and prettier plates of food, but today the celebration was in the eating rather than the amount of elements needed to get there. So here’s to another four years and beyond!
6 live langoustines
12 asparagus spears, halved vertically
For the smashed cannellini beans:
400g cooked cannellini beans, drained
A handful of wild garlic leaves
Zest of 2 lemons and the juice of 1
1 bunch of mint
3 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil
For the chilli oil:
2 red chillies
5 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil
For the crispy mint leaves:
2-3 springs of mint, leaves picked
500ml of vegetable or olive oil, for frying
½ a lemon
A few grinds of black pepper
To make the chilli oil, roughly chop the red chilli and tip into a small food processor. Pour in the olive oil and add a sprinkle of salt. Turn the engine on and mix until very well combined. Pour into a bowl and set aside for at least 20 minutes. Once the oil has had a chance to infuse, strain through muslin into a clean bowl. Set aside while you prepare the rest of the dish.
Clean the food processor bowl and tip in the drained cannellini beans, the wild garlic, mint and lemon zest and juice. Blitz together until everything is smooth. With the motor still running, slowly drizzle in the olive oil. Taste for seasoning, and add more lemon, salt and pepper as required.
Pour the vegetable or olive oil for frying into a saucepan, and set onto a medium-high heat. When the oil is very hot, carefully fry the mint leaves in small batches. After 15-20 seconds, transfer them to a plate lined with kitchen roll to drain.
Heat a heavy griddle pan until smoking hot.
Quickly and carefully kill the langoustines by cutting vertically through their heads with a sharp, heavy knife. Make a second cut through the tail to split them in two. Remove the dark intestinal tract, and the small stomach sac from the head.
When the griddle is up to temperature, add a splash of oil. Cook the asparagus first, for 1-2 minutes on each side, until slightly charred. Remove to a side plate and keep warm.
Season the langoustines and coat all over with a little more oil. Griddle them (in batches if necessary) split-side down for a minute and a half. Turn them over for an additional minute, then use tongs to transfer them to the same plate as the asparagus. Squeeze the lemon half over the top.
To plate up, spoon a generous amount of the smashed cannellini beans onto each plate, and scatter some charred asparagus on top. Add three langoustine halves per plate. Finish with a few of the crispy mint leaves, a tablespoon of the chilli oil and a grind of black pepper.