I was VERY excited when I found a pack of this pasta. In fact, I think I terrified the guy running the stall with my enthusiasm. But, how could I not be happy? I love squid and I love pasta so it was pretty obvious I was going to like this. Also the wonderful colour would let me play with the presentation and make a really dramatic looking dish.
Oddly, after my initial burst of excitement I found myself totally stuck on what to do with this strange looking ingredient. I’d heard that the squid flavour was quite prominent, so it would have to be paired with fish. I thought about getting some red mullet for a while, but never found any. Then, the next week, I spontaneously decided to buy some little clams at Borough. They would be perfect although, at their price, I couldn’t afford enough for two whole portions.
I also had a vague memory of reading about a dish with clams, pernod and tomato. The sound of anise with shellfish sounded really good to me, although I wasn’t really taken by the tomato idea. I preferred the idea of a creme fraiche based sauce with lemon, pernod and maybe some ground anise.I also had half a fennel bulb in the fridge, which was starting to look quite sad, so that would have to go in too. I decided to go the whole hog then and throw in fennel seed.
I chopped and sauteed the fennel with some onion, fennel seed and garlic until it was tender, then added creme fraiche, the grated zest of a lemon, a touch of ground anise and a generous splash of pernod. I let this bubble down a little then used it to cook my clams. Finally I stirred in some fresh king prawns (to bulk out the dish) and let them cook.
At the end I was happy with the flavour and the consistency of the sauce. What I wasn’t happy about was the colour. The pernod had given the sauce a really disturbing yellow-green colour which was not at all attractive. There was no way in hell I was going to have a squid ink spaghetti dish that didn’t show off the fantastic colour of the pasta.
My solution was to layer the sauce with the pasta. I put down a clump of spaghetti strands, spread them out, topped them with a few clams and prawns, then drizzled over some sauce. I repeated this, finishing with a layer of pasta and a couple of prawns and clams, so that the sauce was completely hidden.
Goon and I totally loved this. The pasta, despite looking like a bunch of black worms when it was cooking, tasted really good with the lemon oil I dressed it in. On it’s own it smelled and tasted very much like seaweed. The anise flavour was very prominent but was delicate enough to balance the seafood without overpowering it. The only problem with the dish was that I managed to overcook the prawns a little. Silly me .
This dish looked so good garnished with lemon and with a colourful salad of rocket and cherry tomoatoes. I’m going to keep it in mind for entertaining my more adventurous friends or maybe even scaring my parents.
I recently was made aware of a blogging event that is entirely devoted to pasta. It’s called Presto Pasta Night and it is run by Ruth at Once Upon a Feast. I feel silly for having entered before since I really do love pasta, but this seems as good a time as any to join in. Check out all the entries here.