This is one of those recipes you have kicking around for months that you always mean to make but never quite get round to. Well as it turns out that would be a huge mistake! It’s from the Zuni Café Cookbook which is defiantly one of my top few cookbooks – their carbonara is the best I’ve tried and the way they cook a roast chicken is now my fall back recipe. In fact when you consider this recipes credentials I have no idea why I even hesitated. It was the completely different way of cooking pasta that first drew me in – the toasting of small pieces of pasta, combining it with a slow cooked flavourful ‘jam-esk’ base and then cooking it like a risotto, something I would never even of considered doing with pasta.
The flavour that results is deep, complex and like a risotto very luxurious. However unlike risotto it isn’t full of butter and cheese so offers a much lighter option. It’s also a great recipe for adaptation – the sky’s the limit in terms of vegetable choice! While I loved the mushroom and green bean combination my mind is already whirling with other possibilities, aubergine would be great here, or maybe a chorizo and mushroom version. Also worth noting is vegetarian food isn’t something that gets much of a look in in our house, J however barely even commented on the lack of meat over the appreciative noises he was making ! I have to say though next time I make it the one thing that would improve it would be a couple of pieces of really crispy smoked bacon on the top, for both texture and flavour.
I’ve stayed pretty true to the Zuni Café with this recipe – the only thing I’ve really changed is I’ve used chestnut mushrooms instead of fresh porcini (you try finding fresh porcini mushrooms in Darlington!) and instead of shucked peas I used pieces of Green and French beans as they were fresh out of the garden. The recipe also called for cappellini for the pasta which I couldn’t find so instead I’ve used linguini broken into pieces about a thumbs width in length. If you don’t fancy standing around snapping pasta into tiny pieces for half an hour feel free to use orzo or some other small straight pasta if you can find it! It’s also a good make ahead recipe – the onion base and the toasted pasta can be made well ahead and kept in reserve until needed.
Mushroom and Green Bean Fideus (Serves 2-3)
For the onion base:
2 Medium White Onions – Diced
3 Tbsp Olive Oil
Pinch Saffron Threads
3 Tbsp Canned Chopped Tomatoes
1 Large Garlic Clove – Roughly Chopped
1 Dried Chilli – Chopped in Half
For the Toasted Pasta:
150g Linguini (broken into small pieces)
1 tsp Olive Oil
200g Chestnut Mushrooms – Cut into chunks
2 Garlic Cloves – Minced
3 Cups Chicken Stock
A Good Handful of Chopped Green Beans ( or French or mixed!)
1Tbsp Parsley – Chopped
Parmesan – For Grating on top to finish
2 Eggs (For Frying)
For The Onions Base:
Put the onions and the oil in a medium saucepan over a medium high heat and stir to combine. Let the onions colour a little the turn down the heat. Continue cooking on a low heat, stirring occasionally until they are reduced by about half and uniformly golden, about 15 minutes. Add salt to taste.
Stir in the tomatoes, saffron threads, garlic and chilli and cook stirring often for an hour on the lowest heat. Keep and eye on them to check they don’t catch – if it starts to dry out or look oily add a little water. The mixture should be jammy and not at all acidic when done. It will keep for a week or so covered in the fridge.
For The Pasta:
Oven 170C/325F/Gas 3
Mix the oil with the pasta and spread it out on a baking sheet. Toast in the oven for about 10 minutes – keep moving the pasta around so it toasts evenly until it is the colour of cornflakes. Set Aside until needed.
Oven 220C/475F/Gas 7
Heat a tbsp. olive oil in a large saucepan over a medium heat. Add the mushrooms and salt and pepper to taste. Stir well and sauté until slightly golden the stir in the garlic. Taste the mushrooms – they should be delicious and not at all bland. If the are bland add more garlic or salt and pepper and cook a little longer.
Add the onion base, the pasta, green beans and a good few ladleful’s od stock. Bring the a simmer and stir. Keep simmering and stirring until the stock has been absorbed . Add another ladleful and repeat – keep stirring often and adding the stock a little at a time. Taste the pasta – it should be chewy with the just a little bite. Once the pasta has reached this stage add another small ladleful of stock and the parsley and check for seasoning. Pour the fideus into an oven dish and put in the oven uncovered for 10 minutes (If you don’t want to finish it in the oven you can just finish it on the stove top but simmering until the last bit of stock has been absorbed then serving – however I like the slight texture variation the oven finishing produces).
While the fideus is finishing in the oven, Heat a saucepan over a high heat and fry your eggs – I usually put the eggs in pan then turn down the heat and cover the pan with a lid so the eggs cook evenly (there’s nothing worse than runny egg whites!) – Make sure you still have a runny yolk though!
Plate up your pasta, grate over a good amount of parmesan and top with your fried eggs and a good grinding of black pepper! Repeat many times with many variations yes?!