I didn’t get to read Richmal Crompton’s “Just William” books until my mid twenties and that was upon the recommendation of an office colleague who continued to enjoy re-reading them as an adult and who, now that I think about it, probably saw quite a bit of William in me and my attitude to work in general.
Anyway, in one of the stories whose title escapes me, William is very taken by the thrilling possibilities illustrated in a book called “Things a Boy can Do” or equivalent. As he goes about dismantling clocks and other household gadgets and equipment of the time, he not-unnaturally-for-him ends up wrecking them beyond recomposition or repair. Upon being sharply reprimanded for his wayward ways by his long-suffering mother, instead of being shamefaced, the poor boy is crushed by the unspeakable treachery and untrustworthiness of the book. His indignance knows no bounds as he indicts the book: “you’d expect a book to tell the truth, now, wouldn’t you? You’d EXPECT the book to know what it was talking about!” sadly shaking his head as he vows never to trust a book again.
Well, that’s a little how I felt upon tasting the result of a chef”s recipe that is the subject of my post today.
The recipe sounded so enticing and summery as I read it, just the business for a hot evening’s dinner. My children happen to like egg pasta in a lemon sauce, which is one of the hallmark dishes of the Amalfi Coast where the lemons are beyond compare both for their beauty and fragrance, not to mention taste. Adding red mullet and shrimps to the traditional lemon sauce sounded like a very interesting combination and so, full of enthusiasm à la William, I rushed off to buy the ingredients.
I was chirping merrily and happily sipping my wine as I cooked the dish in eager anticipation. So picture my utter dismay when the proof of the pudding resulted in a mouth-puckering one. Ooo, ooo and more oooo …. ‘lemony’ doesn’t come close to describing the increase in saliva and grimacing that ensued.
And, just like William, I was outraged and couldn’t believe that a chef would be so base as to provide the ‘wrong’ instructions! “That’s it!”, quoth I darkly, “I’ll never trust a recipe again! I should have trusted my instincts and added less lemon juice. I knew it, I just knew it! … you’d think a recipe would give you the correct amounts!” In the end, I managed to salvage the situation by adding more butter and cream, and heroically rendering it edible at least, if not delectable. Sigh. You do see what I mean, don’t you?
So … caveat emptor. I shall try this recipe again but will follow my instincts next time and add just the right amount of lemon juice.
Here are the ingredients: red mullet and prawns, egg pasta, olive oil, some chilli … and the lethal lemons. Also required: some flat-leaf parsley, about 100ml of cream and 20g of freshly grated parmesan per person.
Add the lemon zest and simmer, with the lid on, for about 10 minutes while you get on with the rest of the recipe. N.B. This is the beginning of the recipe’s ‘sins’ as I see it, in that I put the zest of two lemons in the water …. whereas I think half of one would have been enough.
I shudder now as I look at this photo …. brrr. Too much lemon juice … next time, add the juice of only 1 lemon to the fish stock.
Now add two hefty dollops of butter to the stock.
Sauté the prawns … adding them only when the oil has been heated up again. Again, the prawns will cook in very little time (don’t overcook). When ready, set aside.
Everything by way of prepping is ready … and we can now start to put the dish together!
When it comes to the boil, add the tagliolini and cook according to the packet’s instructions (usually about 4 minutes) or until the tagliolini have absorbed all the liquid. Keep the flame high and use a wooden spoon to stir now and then.
Fyi: this is when I tasted and shuddered and almost burst into tears. It was at this point that I added more butter, more parmesan and a touch more cream to abate the fierce predominance of the lemon uber flavour. Dinner was saved …