Friday, April 19, 2013

Jamie Oliver's Sicilian Prawn Pasta

I respect Jamie Oliver. He is creative and adventurous with food, travels to seek inspirations. He cares about people's health, started the Food Revolution to combat the serious trend of obesity in America yet faced numerous setbacks and criticisms from children who were only introduced to and used to fast foods and school caterers who recklessly believed that they had already fulfilled their obligation for promoting healthy-eating simply by including fries (reason: potatoes are vegetables) in the children's meal plans. Each year, Jamie also hires and trains young ex-cons and drop-outs at his restaurant Fifteen to help them see their own value and better integrate them into society.

So many reasons to like Jamie. He understands home-cooks like us too. Work nowadays makes home-cooking almost impossible or a luxury. When work becomes hard, it is especially important for you to eat healthy, stay healthy, and please yourself with delicious food instead of oily takeaways or pre-packed microwavable pizza with pathetically little toppings or rice that stick together and can only be broken down by a fork.

This recipe is taken from Jamie's 15-minute meal. With break-neck chopping skills and cool kitchen gadgets, Jamie can easily whip up this pasta dish AND a lemon fennel salad in well under 15 minutes. I am not a particularly fast cook, but hey, in just 15 minutes I can make this pasta too! So do try this if you are pressed with time!

This generously spiced Sicilian prawn pasta is extremely cool. Saffron and cinnamon adds to this dish the aromatic arabic twist. I quite like saffron but I can foresee that not everyone will like its taste, so do give it a try before adding it to the dish. The one element that gives this ordinary pasta the WOW effect is the crunchy garlicky breadcrumbs! They completely elevate the taste and mouth-feel of a regular pasta in tomato sauce, and transform the pasta into something much more fun, interesting and even addictive! I seriously cannot help adding more and more of the breadcrumbs into my pasta as I eat it, I even grab handfuls of them and eat them like peanuts while watching TV. I can already see how versatile these crunchy breadcrumbs can be, suitable for many other pastas including mac & cheese.

Jamie Oliver's Sicilian Prawn Pasta
(Servings: 2-3)
- 250g pasta (The one I used is shaped like a snail shell, I seriously don't know the name of it. For this recipe I would suggest using shaped pastas, macaroni or penne that have enough body to hold onto more sauce)
- 400g canned tomatoes, blended/ passata
- 2 slices of bread (baguette will do)
- 300g prawns (cleaned and pat dried)
- 4 cloves of garlic
- 1 small fresh red chili
- 3 anchovy fillets
- 1/2 tbs of ground cinnamon
- a small pinch of saffron
- a handful of fresh basil leaves
- a handful of grated Parmiggiano Reggiano
- salt, sugar, pepper and chicken powder(optional)

1. Break the bread into smaller pieces and put them into your blender. Pop in 2 cloves of garlic, around 2 tbs of olive oil and a pinch of salt. Blend until they become tiny pieces of bread crumbs. 
2. Once done, heat your pan over small-medium heat. No need to add any oil, just throw in the bread crumbs and toast them for 3-5 minutes. Give them a toss occasionally to avoid burning. The bread crumbs should be very crunchy by now. Set aside.
3. Boil pasta as instructed. Always remember to add some salt to it when boiling.
4. If you have passata, that's great. Otherwise, just whizz up your canned tomatoes (If fresh tomatoes, make sure you strain them afterwards to get rid of the skin and seeds).
5. Mince 2 cloves of garlic and and red chili. You may deseed the red chili, but keeping it will give your pasta a bit more heat. 
6. Heat a pan over small-medium fire. Drizzle some olive oil and throw in the minced garlic and chili, the anchovy fillets. Once the anchovy starts to melt, throw in the saffron and shrimps. Give it a toss and sautee them for a minute.
7. Pour in the blended tomato sauce and add in the cinnamon. Season the tomato sauce with salt, sugar, pepper and chicken powder(optional). Keep tasting until the sauce tastes perfect for you.
8. While your tomato sauce is bubbling away, drain your pasta. Throw the pasta into your tomato sauce and give them them a toss. Mix well and let them gently simmer for another 1-2 minutes.
9. Transfer your pasta to the serving plate. Sprinkle over the top 2 handfuls of bread crumbs and scatter sprigs of basil leaves. Leave the extra breadcrumbs by the side, you will need more of them as you eat your pasta. :)

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