Hello, hi! It's been a while, hasn't it? I can't say why it's been this long - life got in the way, maybe? Except even when I was working full time and writing a cookbook and testing recipes in my 'spare time' I still managed to write blog posts, so that's not it.
I just neglected this poor little blog. Instagram is huge now, and thousands and thousands of pictures make for good scrolling. I scroll and scroll and scroll and 'like' them and see what restaurants are cooking up what and I suddenly put my phone down and I realise that I don't know anything about them really. Sure, it looks nice but what's the story? How does it taste? What's in it? I've received press releases introducing their new 'Instagrammable' dishes (kill them with fire), heard fellow diners snapping away enthusiastically for their followers even though they didn't enjoy it much, seen plenty of pictures of comped meals with hearty compliments and no indication of said comping. I'm guilty of this too, but I'm fixing it. In short, too much eye candy and not enough opinion. I like words; I've always liked words. If you say a colour to me I don't picture the colour, I picture the word written down. That is how much I like words. (Though if you like pictures my Instagram account is @hollow_legs...)
Anyway, my attention span was shot and my eyes boggled from staring at a mass of scrolling image and I realised I haven't read anything vaguely long-form in a million years. I also assumed that everyone was the same as me - food blogs are so 2009! - and then I remembered that I once made a promise to myself that I would keep writing this blog as long as I enjoy it, and entirely without regard for reader numbers. I also got an email from a Peter Roddy (hello!) who asked me when I was posting again in the subject, and the body contained just a picture of some prawns and a few tomatoes, 'an October harvest in Alaska'. If that doesn't get you going again I don't know what will. Thanks Peter for the motivation!
So it's January and we're all punishing ourselves for the wonderful time we had in December, where we danced around in fountains of mulled wine and went to parties that ended far too late for any of us to be useful at work the next day, while slightly reeking of stale regret. I'm embracing January's frugality and restriction and I'll show you how - by cooking pasta with a sausage and cream sauce.
What? Isn't that what detox means? Truth be told, I've been meaning to do this recipe for a while. I find that creamy pasta sauces can be overly rich, too heavy, just all a bit too much. Too thick and it gets claggy, too thin and you have a very sad pasta soup. I went to a vegan restaurant a while ago and had the 'macaroni cheese' and a lightbulb went off. They made it with cashew nuts, blitzed for long enough to make a creamy sauce and even though theirs was a little granular, you got the consistency without the overwhelming richness. They also use something called 'nutritional yeast' but since I'm not an actual vegan and I'm free to get nutrition however I please and I'd rather not use something that sounds like a pharmacy product I've left it out.
This came out far, far better than I ever dreamed it would for a cream subsitute. It was so delicious, and I doubt I'll ever go back to the dairy sauce again. Big talk there.
Leave out the sausage meat and the shavings of parmesan that I just couldn't resist to make it fully vegan. You need a really strong food processor or a nutribullet, otherwise you'll need to soak the cashew nuts for 3 hours in water, then drain before use.
Sicilian Sausage, Spinach & Cashew Cream Bucatini
90gr bucatini, dry weight
130gr Sicilian sausage flavoured with fennel (or just 1/2 tsp fennel seeds if meat-less), released from the skin and broken up
2 large handfuls of baby spinach, washed
1 small onion, diced
4 cloves of garlic, minced
A hefty pinch of salt
A big ol' grind of pepper
220ml vegetable stock cold
60gr raw cashew nuts
1 tsp cooking oil
1 tbsp minced flatleaf parsley
Half a lemon, zested and juiced
In a small saucepan, add the onion and the water and bring to a simmer. Simmer for 6 minutes, then add the garlic and simmer again. There should be a little liquid left here, and you need to simmer it until it evaporates but doesn't catch, so keep watching it. Maybe 10 minutes in total.
Add the cashews to your blender / nutribullet / food processor and then add the onions and garlic mixture. Add the salt, pepper and the cold vegetable stock. Add the lemon juice and process until very very smooth. It should be the consistency of ...paint? Pancake batter?
Cook the bucatini in a saucepan of boiling water that has been salted with at least 1 tbsp salt. Meanwhile, in a frying pan, add the cooking oil and the sausage meat. Fry until browned, and leave on a low heat. When the bucatini is the hard side of al dente, reserve 1 mug of the cooking liquid and drain. Add a couple tbsp of the pasta water to the sausage meat and scrape anything off the bottom of the pan, then add the pasta and the cashew cream and bring to a low-medium heat. Add a slosh of the pasta water and using tongs, start tossing. Add the spinach and keep tossing for about 3 minutes, adding more pasta water if it gets too thick or claggy. It shouldn't need any more time than that but check to see if the pasta is to your liking.
Take off the heat and stir in the parsley and lemon zest, giving it another toss for luck before plating up and potentially adding parmesan, though I don't think it really needs it. Can't hurt though.