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Wednesday, 12 June 2013

Comfort Food part 4: Creamy smoked mackerel spaghetti

I don't really know why, but for the past two weeks my energy levels have just completely disappeared, and I have been feeling a bit low and sorry for myself. I really am not asking for any sympathy - I'm not that kind of attention-seeker. Sometimes I just feel a bit rubbish, for no real reason in particular. You might be the same, you might not.

I know that smoked mackerel isn't particularly sustainable these days, but as a comforting treat once in a while I think it is ok. This sauce is creamy and not too rich, lightened up with lemon and capers. And it really is my favourite thing when I need a bit of comforting (except, maybe, for my Mum's chicken pie).

The sauce probably makes enough for 2 servings, scale up as needed

For the sauce:

1 peppered smoked mackerel fillet, flaked up (if you are vegetarian, or fancy an alternative, try this with courgette slices instead)
1/2 onion or 1 large shallot, diced quite fine
1 clove of garlic, crushed
Olive oil
1 dessert spoon capers, rinsed and roughly chopped if they are massive
A big splash (roughly 1/3 a small glass) of wine wine (or vermouth or something, I have actually used cooking sake for this before)
1 tbsp cream cheese (low fat is fine)
1 blob crème fraîche (optional)
Chopped parsley, fresh or frozen, but not dried
Lemon juice
Extra salt and black pepper if you like

Spaghetti, or any other pasta you like (I am going through a whole-wheat spaghetti phase)
1 cup frozen peas per serving - because you need some vegetables

Sauté the onions in a glug of olive oil on a low heat until translucent but not coloured, and then add the garlic. After a few more minutes add the capers and wine and turn up the heat and let it bubble. When the liquid has reduced by about half, add the cream cheese, and give it a swirl with a cooking spoon to melt. Add the crème fraîche too if using, and the mackerel and parsley, and turn the heat down to very low. Don't worry if it looks a bit solid, you will be adding more liquid later.

At this point put the water on for the pasta. Boil the pasta in plenty of salted water (I tend to do it for 1 minute less than packet instructions), and add the peas when you have about 1 and a half minutes of cooking time remaining. When the pasta is ready, just before you drain it add about half a ladle-full of the cooking water into the sauce, and stir - you may want to add a bit more liquid to get the sauce to the consistency you want it.

Add the drained pasta and peas to the sauce and stir everything well to coat. Add a squeeze of lemon and taste to see if you want more salt or pepper.

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