In a slightly uncharacteristic show of impulsiveness, I bought myself a potted herb plant from the supermarket over the weekend. Potted basil only costs a few pence more than pre-packaged basil, so it’s quite a bargain as it’ll keep for longer and add a bit of green to the flat! One of my colleagues pointed out that the soil-to-plant ratio is a little too low though so it might be that I have to transfer Mr. Basil soon. In the meantime, here’s to fresh pizza toppings, lovely Thai-accented stir fry dishes, homemade pesto, pretty garnishes, and creative drinks. (Oh and about the name – it just stuck within a few hours; it looked like a Mister Basil from the get-go but now that I spell it out, it looks and sounds oddly sinister…)
So I decided to make use of the prawns in my freezer, and the leftover chilli and shallots I had from the Asian Mango Salad to cook a very quick meal: Red Pesto Linguine with Prawn and Basil.
This was really quite quick to make, partly because prawns cook very quickly in the pan, and partly because I had used red pesto paste. I think next time I’ll try making this with chicken breast! Having said that, I do love my seafood in tomato sauce, and I think the prawns went very well with the bits of red chilli and shallot. Anyone object to pesto and seafood by the way? On hindsight I realise that pesto paste often contains hints of cheese from the Parmesan, so perhaps seafood isn’t the most ideal of pairings? (But green pesto and something like squid… now that must still work?)
Linguine with Prawn and Basil
Ingredients, for two main portions
– linguine, approx. 180-200 grams. I measure dry pasta in a weird way: using index finger and thumb, I make a circle, which to my appetite, represents about 2 portions of pasta.
– prawns, 200-250 grams. Easily replaceable with chicken breast or ham!
– shallots 3x, sliced thinly
– garlic 2 cloves, sliced thinly
– red pesto paste, about 3 tablespoons
– basil leaves, as much or as little as you like. (Go for a bunch; it’ll lend some great colour to the reds and oranges of the dish)
– red chilli 1x, de-seeded and chopped
– 1 tablespoon vegetable/sunflower oil
– sea salt and black pepper, to taste
1. Prepare pot of salted boiling water, curling the linguine in.
2. Heat a large frying pan/skillet on medium-heat. Add oil to pan. I use an induction hob so the hob (the cooker ring) takes awhile longer to reach the desired temperature, which means I add in the oil a little later.
3. Fry shallots and garlic until fragrant. Add in pesto and red chilli.* Fry for one minute.
4. Tip in prawns. Cook until they turn orange. Add a little water at this point.
5. Add a little basil and sea salt, then turn down heat from medium to low.
6. When pasta is ready (linguine takes 11-13 minutes), drain pasta, keeping the pot or another bowl underneath to retain some of the hot starchy water.
7. Add pasta to frying pan, and still on low heat, mix well with the pesto sauce, adding hot pasta water throughout so that mixture is not dry.
8. Sprinkle a little salt and crack black pepper over the pasta, then garnish with basil leaves.
*If you like very spicy food, then add the red chilli at the start along with the shallots and garlic. I think this makes the dish spicier because the added heat releases the capsaicin (the chemicals that make something taste spicy) and distributes this throughout the dish…!
So that’s one use of basil. Suggestions for how I could put Mr Basil to further good culinary use much would be much welcomed!