This classic pasta with prawns is always a winner at any dinners. My plan was to make pasta with scampis just lightly tossed in olive oil and fresh herbs but as I couldn’t get scampis that day, I had to switch to prawn pasta, which wasn’t a disaster but less interesting than scampis. This is the last post about the weekend’s scampi night. (
Scampi Night Part 1 / Scampi Night Part 2) – (update: sorry, the posts seem to have disappeared when changing the blog address.) But you can still read the menu of the night to imagine what it was like. It’s strange to call it a scampi night when there isn’t any scampis on the menu, right?
What I realised from the last event was that I should have a chalk board menu. Why? I made the menu first and went to pick up groceries just to learn that I couldn’t find the things I had wanted to cook and wrote on the menu. That makes me think why I often like restaurants that don’t have a fixed menu with long lists. At my own dream restaurant, which I hope I will have one day, I will change menus according to the daily availability of fresh produce and read to the customers at the table with recommendations and advice on food and wine pairing.
Prawn pasta is so easy to make – I see you’re yawning. I will be short – and all you need is fresh tomatoes, garlic, olive oil, chili, fresh basil or parsley. The key factor is fresh ingredients and I prefer to use fresh tomatoes, preferably cherry tomatoes as Jamie Oliver does it, but I can’t believe he added tomato past in the linked recipe! Please ignore the part as gastronomy evolves with time.
There are two things Italians emphasize: one is to salt the pasta water, very briney but no olive oil, and tip some of the pasta water into the sauce and two is to cook the pasta to al dante. There is nothing worse than sloppy, overcooked pasta, and no matter how good the sauce tastes, if the pasta is not done al dante, it can’t be true Italian.
Sometimes, no, quite often, I prefer to make pasta with fresh tomatoes thrown in at the last minute and tossed in a generous amount of grated Parmesan cheese and fresh basil leaves. Especially, when I have anchovies, I can whip up pasta in just 5 mins, and that is why I’ve cooking pasta more often these days when time is precious and also the temperature is going down. Pasta is just a feel-good food except when you don’t have to worry about the carbs. On average, people cook pasta at least 2-3 times a week and probably everyday if they could!
I pre-cooked the prawns in a separate pan with white wine and add them into the sauce, but saved a few whole prawns for the look and the fun of peeling them to eat. However, not many people like to get their fingers messy so next time I will peel the body part and devein them and then grill them separately in a pan.
We had some episodes during the dinner but I won’t go into the gory details because they will just bore you but all I can say is that it was to do with the new alcohol regulations that ban selling alcohol after 10pm, which frustrates many people. However, guys managed to get some alcohol and we ended the night smoothly with this delicious cake.
As plums were right in season, I decided to make a cake with plums. Especially, purple plums, often known as Italian plums, are not sour so I wanted to add some zingy taste by adding mandarins, which were also in season. And I also wanted more exotic flavours for the cake instead of the typical cinnamon flavour. So came cardamom.
The cake turned out exactly the way I had wanted, so I was pleased except that I forgot to get fresh cream to go with it. Cardamom and vanilla…..hmmm…. and gorgeous. As the guests were not familiar with cardamom, they tasted it with curiosity. This is definitely a must-do-again recipe. You can make it with any seasonal stone fruit such as nectarines, peaches and apricots. Why not pears? Yes, they would be nice as well.
Well, it’s all for now and all. I will be in France again soon, just in time to catch the colourful French autumn. This time I will do more winery tours, which were left off from the last time such as to the Loire Valley, Jura, and perhaps Champaign if time allows me. I will come back with my taste for wine refreshed and my luggage stocked up with cheese and jambon. I am excited indeeeeeed.
Plum Cardamom Upside-Down Cake
Ingredients for Plum Topping:
6-8 purple plums, quartered
3 Tbsp unsalted butter
1/4 cup brown sugar
1 tsp ground cardamom
1/4 tsp freshly grated nutmeg
1 Tbsp mandarin peels
a squeeze of lemon juice (optional)
Ingredients for Cake:
1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour (or 11/2 cup flour+1/3 almond flour to lighten the cake)
125g(1stick) unsalted butter
2/3 cup white sugar
1/3 cup mandarin juice
2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp vanilla extract or 1 pod vanilla bean
1/2 tsp ground cardamom
1/4 tsp fine sea salt
1. Preheat the oven to 350’F and line a 9-10 inch cake pan with parchment paper.
2. Melt butter in a saucepan, slightly browned, and turn off the heat. Cover the sides of the pan with the butter with a brush or spatula.
3. Mix brown sugar and spices into the remaining butter, then cover the base of the cake pan evenly with the mixture.
4. Arrange the plums, staring from the outside and toward the centre, and sprinkle with mandarin peels and a squeeze of lemon juice.
5. Make the cake: In a mixing bowl, cream butter and sugar together until light – approx. 3 minutes. Add eggs one at a time and vanilla and whisk. Sift in flour, cardamom, baking powder, salt and mandarin juice, and mix gently till smooth.
6. Pour the batter over the plums and spread the batter evenly, and bake for 40-45 mins. or untill done.
7. Remove the cake from the oven and let it sit for 10 mins.
8. Flip the cake onto a plate and serve warm with whipped cream or vanilla ice cream.
NB: You can substitute mandarin or other fruit juice that you think will fit for orange juice.
- Pipe Dream #223: To Stop Impressing Myself with Myself – Dream Nectarine Brown Butter Upside Down Cake (pipingdreams.wordpress.com)