13:33 | Posted by Nim Headland | Category

Two Risottos



Risotto is brilliant. It's so easy but feels like proper cooking, with that self-satisfied glow that comes from placing a steaming bowl of something nutritious in front of someone in need. A little bit of gentle chopping, then relaxed stirring for 20 undisturbed minutes. Risotto will not be rushed, and it tastes better if you fuss over it, stirring gently and coaxing it lovingly into deliciousness. You will be rewarded with the most soul-affirming, comforting meal that requires no rushing, pan-banging or stress of any kind. Chuck everyone out of the kitchen, pour yourself a glass of wine, and stir the day's stresses away.

My very favorite is a roast chicken and mushroom risotto, for the perfect chill-out comfort dinner on a Monday night when you're tired. Hopefully you would have some leftover chicken in the fridge from yesterday's roast, but you could equally cook off a couple of chicken legs. In my dreams I would use 3 or four different mushroom varieties. A common chestnut or squeaky button, with a delicate oyster and earthy porcini for texture and flavour. In reality it is only ever chestnut mushrooms, as I cook this often for Steviant who is terribly mushroom-spooked and currently will only just put up with a very ordinary mushroom. I don't want to scare him off. I often steam a few smallest florets of broccoli for colour and freshness. Broccoli is lovely with chicken, but you could equally use a few petit pois from the freezer. The amounts here are rough, so change, taste and adapt as you see fit. I don't want to measure ingredients for this recipe, That's not what it's about.

Chicken and Mushroom Risotto.

For two you will need:
A chunk of unsalted butter, maybe 20g or something like that.
Half a white onion, finely chopped
2 cloves of garlic, crushed
Half a box of arborio risotto rice. The best I've tried is the Riso Gallo organic arborio.
A glass of dry white wine, and another for you to enjoy whilst cooking, essential!
A big handful of mushrooms
Leftover roast chicken, stripped into chunks
Some steamed broccoli florets, if you like. Or frozen petit pois.
A litre of chicken stock. Boil you chicken carcass in a large casserole of hot water with some bay, some chopped carrot, onion, celery and seasoning for 20 mins, the strain the broth to use as stock, or use a good commercial brand. I like knorr stock pots, they taste real and they aren't nearly as salty as cubes.
A few dried chili flakes
A rough teaspoon of italian herb seasoning
Ground black pepper. Don't put salt anywhere near this please, it will ruin it.

Heat your butter in a large saucepan, wok or risotto pan if you're flash. Cook the onions in the butter over a medium low heat, until soft and transparent, but not browned. Add your mushrooms and crushed garlic and cook until the garlic is fragrant and the mushrooms coated with the butter. Add the rice and stir through until it soaks up the last of the butter. Turn the heat up a little, and splash in your glass of wine and let it bubble, stirring until it is absorbed. While this is happening, add your italian herb seasoning and your chili flakes. Be careful here, this is not a spicy risotto, but a very few flakes will just enhance the flavours of everything else.

Once the wine has been absorbed, you can begin adding your stock, a ladle-full at a time. Stir until one ladle full has been absorbed, the repeat with the rest of your stocj until your risotto is done, about 18-20 minutes. In my opinion it should be soft to the tooth. Some argue for al-dente so if you prefer it that way, go for it. Either way, your loving stirring should have created a creamy, comforting sauce that coats the rice and all other ingredients. When you think one more ladle full of stock should do it, add your chicken and broccoli or peas with the last ladle stir to absorb, and then remove from the heat. I scatter basil over mine just before serving and stir through. It's not essential but it tastes great. Serve in warmed bowls with plenty of parmasan.


The picture above shows my slightly posher, dinner-party risotto, which is much more photogenic. It follows the same basic recipe, replacing chicken stock with fish or vegetable. Instead of chicken, broccoli and mushrooms, I add with the last of the stock: prawns fried briefly in butter and a little garlic, peas and the juice of one lemon. A big handful of rocket leaves scattered over the finished risotto looks and tastes fantastic. If I make either of these risotto in the next month or so, I will be making the most of the short English asparagus season, and replacing the peas with beautiful, fresh spears, lightly steamed.

17:30 | Posted by Nim Headland | Category

The Budget Gastronomer's Restaurant Guide: Tiandi, Bude




It was my Mum's birthday yesterday, so we took a rare outing to dinner. Chinese food is hard to come by in our little area in Devon. The takeaway nearest to us is very poor, and by the time we have got food home from the more further afield places, it is stone cold and unappetizing. So Mohammed went to the mountain, Mum's Chinese craving was placated, and another Chinese restaurant review pops up here!

Tiandi in Bude is in a bit of a different class to the good old Noodle House in Reading though. The food is really something else. We started with the "Heaven and Earth" Hors d'oeuvres platter (Tiandi like their superlatives) which was not like your average spring roll, seaweed, prawn toast, spare rib combo which tastes identical wherever you eat it. Ours contained spare ribs, yes, but in an unusual sticky sweet-sour sauce. It was heavy on the aniseed and there was definitely sour cherry in there. Spare ribs for grown ups. Salt and pepper chicken scattered with tiny rings of red and green chilli were new to me and absolutely delicious (Note: Do not eat with windburnt lips, Dad made this mistake. They are very hot, and very salty). Spring rolls of course but, joyfully, made on the premises and rustic looking, stuffed full and very crispy. Probably the best I've tasted outside of London. Then some mushrooms in a highly chillied version of a sweet and sour sauce. These were the high point. Little button mushrooms in a tempura batter that had softened in the sauce, they were beautiful and unusual. We ate all this with the thinest, crispest prawn crackers I've ever seen.

Next came the obligatory quarter duck. A little fatty but beautifully presented and served with the lightest pancakes, shredded spring onion, cucumber and, unusually, shredded carrot. It came with a hoi-sin sauce which was too rich, but then I don't like it anyway, and a pale orange sauce which we argued about. Peach, says I. Dad thinks it's apricot. Mum swears it is mango. We ask the waitress, who gives us a strange look and tells us it is plum. Just it always is with duck pancakes. Made with delectable yellow plums, it was lovely and fresh tasting cuting through the richness of the meat without the cloying sweetness you find in most commercial (concentrated) plum sauces.

Mains next and we were already approaching food coma. An enormous bowl of egg fried rice, perfect crispy beef and a sweet and sour chicken which was lighter and more elegant than I've tasted. Our prawn dish was ginger and spring onion and the prawns were the freshest I've tasted in a long time, but I would expect nothing less from a restaurant which is a 2 minute walk to the sea! The sauce wasn't good. It looked beautiful, but came with chunks of ginger in it which had failed to infuse the prawns with any flavour at all, and meant an uncomfortable hit of raw ginger if you failed to watch your chopsticks carefully. Shame.

This minor quibble aside it was a fantastic meal, a feast. This is really top quality Chinese food, and imaginative without being cheffy. It is similar dishes to your favourite takeaway, just better, fresher and with more subtlety of flavours.

The menu at Tiandi goes on and on about it's 'genuine antique screens' and very nice the are too. The decor aside from that is predictable. A few lanterns, some dodgy paintings from local artists, new-wood-to-look-old floor, black lacquered tables and leather chairs. It was scrupulously clean though. I was ready to bristle at the service as soon as we walked in, as our waitress was one I had seen before when we popped in for a takeway (35% off, well worth it!). She was boot-faced and sulky that day, so I sighed inwardly when she showed us to our table. To her credit, she was excellent. Clearly never going to be smily, she was extremely polite and efficient and I'm sure she must have watched old Asian films or something because she moved like a Geisha, all elegant wrist flicks when serving our dishes, and melting in and out of sight.

The price then. I thought this would be too expensive a restaurant to include in my Budget guide, but our final bill came to just under £70, which I think is outstanding considering the amount of food consumed! Included in this was a bottle of the house white wine, a Sauvignon Blanc (Joy!) which was very drinkable and under a tenner. Unheard of!

Tiandi is a great restaurant, and perfect for a birthday. The night we went there was one other birthday bash, a handful of couples and some girlfriends-catching-up. They all looked like they were having a fab time. The food is really outstanding, so it's worth a trip if you find yourself in Bude this summer and fancy a special dinner for a reasonable price. Just make sure you walk on the beach afterwards to burn a bit off, you will emerge uncomfortably stuffed!

17:10 | Posted by Nim Headland | Category

Nigel Slater's Roast Chicken with Basil and Lemon.



I am a little bit in love with Nigel Slater, his recipes are consistently brilliant and he writes like a dream. This is from his book Real Food, which is probably one of the best cook books ever written. This recipe is as he wrote it.


Serves 2 (it served three of us!)

6 free range chicken pieces, bone in.
Olive oil, good quality and fruity.
2 juicy cloves of garlic
A lemon
A large handful of basil, about 30 leaves.
A wine glass of white wine.

Season the chicken and out the pieces in a roasting tin. Pour over enough olive oil to moisten them and make a shallow pool in the tin. Squash the garlic in it's skin and tuck in with the chicken. Squeeze the lemon over the chicken and drop the empty shells in too. Roast for 30 mins in an oven preheated to 200oC/Gas 6, then tear up the basil leaves and toss them about a bit with the chicken. Return to the oven for 10 mins. Remove from the oven, pour the wine over the chicken, then put the roasting tin over a hot flame and let the wine bubble for a minute.


This was a lovely summery recipe, but next time I would use a little less olive oil and make sure it is really fine quality. My finished dish was very oily and a little cloying due to rubbishy supermarket oil, which covered up the lemon flavours instead of enhancing them like a really good, fruity oil would. I served this with a dark salad to mop up the pan juices (I served them in a jug as a gravy) and roast potatoes.

I have always been a bit intimidated by roast potatoes. I am VERY fussy about them. Both my parents make the perfect roasties. Soft, fluffy insides with a rough, crunchy, deeply satisfying golden outer. They are so perfect that I won't eat them anywhere else, I never order them in restuarants because they are always disappointing. For this reason, I have never attempted them myself, I'll occasionally saute a few in a pan as a (poor) subsitute. But on this occasion I bit the bullet and had a go. Hallelujah! They were perfect! I have the roast potato gene, blessed relief. Here's how I did it.

The first thing you need to think about is your potato. Not all spuds are created equal, oh no. The undisputed king of roasties is the Maris Piper. Accept no substitutes. In the summer months when Maris are unavaliable, eat only new potatoes, never roasts, unless you can get your hands on a new potato called Sharp's Express. These are usless as a new potato as they crumble to nothingness with only brief cooking. We had a whole bed of them in our veg garden, so in dispair, we roasted them. They were BEAUTIFUL. Right, here's the recipe finally.

I put a tin of olive oil in when I turned my oven to 200oC to preheat. While this was happening, I peeled and chopped 4 Maris Piper potatoes into odd, angular shapes, getting as many corners as I could. Then I put them in a saucepan of water and bought them to the boil, allowing them to par-boil for about 8 mins. I then drained them, returned them to the saucepan and shook the bejesus out of them to really rough up the edges. (Here's where your plan will fail if they are overcooked, you will have to start again!) I had a wooden board and some oven gloves ready so I could get my hot-oil roasting tin out and back in quickly. I tipped the potatoes into the tin, standing well back as they sizzled and spat. I returned them to the oven and shut the door as fast as possible. Half and hour to 40 mins later, I had perfect, crunchy, glorious roasties. And I am totally smug about it. Enjoy!

14:36 | Posted by Nim Headland | Category

My Dad's Fish and Chips.


My Dad is an awesome cook, but he is terrible at writing recipes down, so we often have one amazing, perfect meal that is eaten and rhapsodized about and then never seen again because he can't remember exactly which secret ingredient was responsible for it's perfection.
To prevent more such culinary disasters, I have taken to following him about with a camera and notebook every time he even thinks about picking up a saucepan. On Friday night he did his famous fish and chips, and what fish and chips they are.

According to my scribbled notes, this is what you'll need to serve three hungry people.

Corn oil or sunflower oil, enough to half-fill a medium-sized saucepan.
A piece of white fish, cut into three portions. Haddock is your best choice in my opinion, it's beautiful and a brilliant replacement for cod which we really shouldn't be eating anyway.
50g self raising flour, with a pinch of salt
500ml of a good IPA. We like Old Empire IPA which you can get from Morrisons.

Get a saucepan of your chosen oil on the heat and get it hot enough that the surface is just moving.
Sift the flour and salt into a bowl, and whisk in the beer to get a smooth, lump-free batter.
Shake a little more flour onto a clean work surface and flour your fish on both sides, then dip into your batter, covering well.
Check the oil is hot enough, and then drop in your fish pieces one at a time (you can keep them warm in a very low oven while you finish the other pieces and do your chips.) Fry the fish in the deep oil for 5-6 minutes or until golden brown. Remove to the oven or serving plate with a slotted spoon.

Serve with twice-fried chips and peas or salad, tartare sauce, ketchup and lemon wedges.

16:55 | Posted by Nim Headland | Category ,

Homemade Sardine Pate




Please excuse the uninspiring photo, pate is not the prettiest thing in world but I promise you, this one is gooood.
Sardine pate is one of a few really common 'petisco plates' or small bites served before a meal in Portugal, along with marinated olives and dense-textured bread. I love Portuguese food and think it's totally underrated, so expect a few Portugal-inspired recipes to pop up here from time to time.
This recipe for Sardine Pate is one I have adapted from a fantastic book on Portuguese cooking by Tessa Kiros. It's called Piri Piri Starfish and is beautiful, as are all her books.

To make about a ramekin of pate, you will need:

100g unsalted butter (best to get this out well in advance, it will process much better if it is soft)
1 teaspoon of sundried tomato paste. (Waitrose do an excellent one)
1 tin (about 120g) sardines in oil. It's really worth spending a few pence more and getting a tin of beautiful Portuguese sardines.
A splash of Scotch whisky. I often substitute Calvados. Both are lovely, but if you have neither don't rush out and buy a bottle, it won't do your pate much harm to be without it.
A pinch of ground piri-piri or dried chilli flakes.

Using a blender or food processor pulse together your butter, tomato paste and sardines to blend well. If you have neither blender nor processor (and I feel your pain) you can squish it all together in your hands (make sure the butter is very soft before attempting) and finish off with a pestle and mortar.
Add your splash of whisky, and sprinkle in the piri piri and a little salt, if you want. Blend or squish until smooth.

Cover and pop in the fridge for up to 4 days, taking it out well before serving so the butter is not rock hard.

This is fantastic in sandwiches with floppy lettuce leaves or cucumber, on rounds of textured country-style bread with some olives as a starter or snack. For a more English feel or a winter meal, serve as a starter with thin-sliced triangles of wholemeal toast or with melba toasts as a nibble with drinks.

17:09 | Posted by Nim Headland | Category ,

Chocolate.


My lovely friend Stef gave me a box of chocolates the other day. You know how sometimes someone will hand you a pretty box and thinking it's jewelry you get all excited and rip it open to discover it's just some crappy chocolates and you're really a bit disappointed? Well these are WAY better than jewelry.

They are from Chocoholics in Hurst, but you can order them from www.chocolates-for-chocoholics.co.uk

Stef gave me the Britain's Finest collection which comes in a beautiful box and contains THE prettiest chocolates I have seen outside of Michel Cluizel in Paris. The chocolate is great quality (I am fussy) and the flavours unusual. I haven't finished them yet, but the stand-outs so far are a gorgeous Amaretto truffle topped with a teeny Amaretti biscuit, and the white chocolate Marc de Champagne truffle studded with strawberry pieces. The salt caramel was an experience. I don't know if I am into the whole salt-caramel thing, but this one was certainly the way to try it. Thick, not-too-sweet caramel in milk chocolate, studded with rock salt.

I have been on the Chocoholics website for 20 minutes now and I want pretty much everything on there. They are far superior quality than any commercial chocolates I've tried, and about half the price. What's not to love?

Thank you, lovely friend Stef.

16:45 | Posted by Nim Headland | Category

Chicken Caesar Salad


I didn't do much cooking this weekend, but on Saturday night I did gather the energy to throw together a quick salad. I am totally in love with this salad actually, it was one of the first meals I ever prepared and my version has spawned lots Caesar-converts. I used to make it in the middle of the night after a pub session, creeping down to the veg patch to pick a lettuce.
My version will ruffle purist feathers. It is not at all authentic, I chuck a handful of cooled cooked pasta in because I always worry about it being 'just a salad' and people going hungry. You won't, you will be stuffed. I keep doing it though because pasta with Caesar dressing is bloody lovely. I don't even make my own dressing (I have a total aversion to anchovies). My favourite is the low-fat fresh version from Sainsburys, it has a yellow label, you'll find it with the bags of salad leaves, and, incidentally, the garlic and cheese croutons which I also don't make. I'll be honest, this is a lazy meal and the joy of it is through chucking everything in a bowl and getting it down your neck in 10 minutes flat. I make no apologies. This is fantastic on uncomfortably hot summer days, eaten in the garden with a massive glass of too-cold white wine. Steviant loves it, and that's good enough for me.

For two, you'll need:

1 large chicken breast, grilled and shredded (I use my George Forman, but you can use your oven-grill, BBQ or griddle pan)
2 Cos lettuce, chopped washed really well and spun dry.
A large handful of croutons, make your own or use your favourite
Parmesan cheese, shaved
A good commercial Caesar dressing
A handful of cooked penne pasta


Right. Chuck lettuce in your serving bowl. Add shredded chicken, pasta, croutons and parmesan. Anoint liberally with dressing. Toss. Eat. Got that?

15:26 | Posted by Nim Headland | Category

The Budget Gastronomer's Restaurant Guide.



I've been in Reading this weekend visiting Steviant, so not much blogging got done. Spending time in a city with hundreds of great little everyday restaurants did give me an idea though. Food critics write reviews about fancy and expensive London-based restaurants. Hundreds of them. Trouble is, most people might go to one of these eateries maybe once a year for a special occasion. Unless you have a huge time and cash budget, the majority of mainstream restaurant reviews are useless. So I'm going to join the independent internet reviewer masses and comment on my little corner of the world, or at least the great little everyday restaurants that inhabit it.
I don't eat out a lot in Devon, despite there being lots of great places to eat. Trouble is, they're all a journey away. Reading is another story. There are literally hundreds of restaurants in the city and surrounding area. Hardly any are obscenely expensive and lots of them are fantastic. When I visit I try to eat out as much as I can afford. I love the spontaneity of being able to dive into a place just cus you're passing, peckish and like the look of it.

Just before leaving for this trip, I was told that one of my favourite Reading restaurants had reopened following a fire that had kept it shut for nearly 18 months.

The Beijing Noodle House does not look like anyone's favourite restaurant, but if you mention it to 20-something Readingites you will be met with sighs of nostalgia. This is a restaurant were everybody's money is the same. It is one of the few places where a large group of half-drunk 18 year olds can spend two hours sharing a couple of starters and Mrs Chen will just smile indulgently and shovel a few extra prawn crackers in their direction. Apparently you can sleep in there. There are loads of stories about it here: http://www.facebook.com/group.php?gid=13066849857 which illustrate the unusual sentimentality the Noodle House's patron's have towards the odd little Chinese place at the arse-end of Reading. I'm putting mine here.

Since the revamp I was a bit worried that the Noodle House would lose some of it's endearing wierdness, but it hasn't at all. There are about 5 other Chinese places in this corner of town, and the quality of food is about the same in all of them. What sets the Noodle House apart is it's quirkiness and the price. It is super cheap. Steviant and I ate there this Saturday and enjoyed a shared starter, 2 mains and 2 cokes, and emerged about £20 lighter in pocket. The decor has got a little better, with wooden chairs and tables replacing the tatty plastic cafe style seating that it had pre-fire. In fact there is an awful lot of wood going on now. Wooden walls too. The decor is actually pretty horrendous, but I kind of like it. It makes a change from the ubiquitous red and yellow lanterns and dodgy art-prints in all the other value Chinese places locally. The new Noodle House has plastic place mats in varying styles of oddness. Ours had pictures of cartoon cups of steaming coffee on them. There are also place mats depicting chickens and french phrases, cartoon knives and forks, and country houses. I find them illogically hilarious. The food was completely unchanged which is a blessed relief. That's the real beauty of the Noodle House - consistently average and totally moreish. I've never had a bad meal there and while the food could never be described as brilliant it is consistent and exactly right for those days when you've drunk a little too much the night before and crave something fried, super spicy or sweet. There are a few dishes that are fantastic however, the singapore laksa is amazing and easily surpasses any I've eaten in fancier places.
Steviant and I started with a couple of spring rolls which were stuffed full of bits and bobs, super crispy and not at all greasy. They had slivers of red cabbage in them which turned everything a slightly purple colour which might have surprised Noodle House noobs, but not us. I followed with my usual; sweet and sour chicken and egg fried rice. Too much green pepper in this, but the sauce was perfect and the portion generous. My only complaint was the rice being slightly overcooked, but this is not a restaurant to get picky with. Steviant's singapore fried noodles were great. Less curry-spice than the version you get in a takeaway, they had a clean, almost Thai sort of heat and were generously studded with different meats and prawns, shredded veggies and spring onion.
The service was, as usual, the sort you would normally find in a much more expensive restaurant. The waiters are always the perfect mix of smily but silent, replacing dropped napkins (awful, one ply, like primary school loo paper) and topping up drinks rapidly and unobtrusively. The food arrived quickly but you feel so comfortable lingering over the last few grains of rice that it is not uncommon to arrive for a late lunch and not leave till it's dark.

I adore the Noodle House but am quite prepared to admit it's not for everyone. The usual clientele consists of 20 something groups and couples, Manly-man suited business lunches, and Chinese families (always a good sign). It's not a place I'd take someone on a special occasion, and I'd be unimpressed with it on a first date, but for a quick dinner before the pub, or a Saturday shopping-break lunch, it's great. Mostly this is a place for people that have known and loved its easy atmosphere and bizarre decor for years. Noodle House, good to have you back.

14:35 | Posted by Nim Headland | Category

Amaretto Strawberries





I'm keeping my fingers crossed for warm weather. I hear it's lovely in Superbia, Reading today, but it hasn't reached us in Devon yet. To cheer up grey days and make the most of the very first British strawberries that are gradually filtering into the supermarkets, you could have a go at this awesome recipe from Gino D'acampo's I Diet. I don't 'do' diet books, but there are so many amazing italian recipes in this that I couldn't resist it. I fattened my version up with Greek yoghurt instead of the suggested low-fat plain (booo!).

I first made this in the depths of winter with some poor sad strawberries from Timbuktu or somewhere. I shouldn't have bought them, but there you go. If you are also guilty of buying flavourless, overpriced strawberries out of season, this is the recipe to make them sing. I can't wait to try it with proper English strawberries in July. I think it would be perfect after a BBQ of punchy, smoky flavours.

This is a great friends-for-dinner pudding too, cus you can just chuck it all together in advance, and serve it in some pretty glasses. It looks beautiful. If you're serving lots of people, wack it in a big glass trifle bowl, it'll look just as pretty. You could even puree some extra strawberries with a little sugar and put a layer of that in first, then add crushed amaretti biscuits to the the yoghurt and you've got an easy trifle.

For four people, you'll need:

800g strawberries (that's two supermarket sized packs I think, but you can do it by eye if you're at the PYO, the food police are not going to get you if you have a couple too few or too many)
3 tablespoons amaretto liqueur (Make sure it's Disaronno, don't mess about!)
1 tablespoon runny honey
300g plain Greek yoghurt (or low-fat plain if you're boring, yawn)
A few fresh mint leaves to decorate.

Wash your strawberries and dry well with kitchen roll. Hull and halve them, then chuck in a big bowl. Drizzle over your amaretto and honey and mix well. Leave to marinade for 15 mins, not in the fridge though, you want it at room temperature.

Divide the yoghurt between dessert or large wine glasses (or your trifle bowl) and spoon over the strawberries. Drizzle with the remaining juice/nectar and scatter over your mint. I left mine whole, which looked prettier but was a mistake eating-wise. We all ended up with leaves in our teeth. Not good. I'd chop it next time. You can leave this in the fridge until you are ready for it, but I'd take it out 10 mins or so before you and your guests want their pudding as the cold dulls the flavours a bit.

16:00 | Posted by Nim Headland | Category

First Post


I've just spent two hours failing to construct a pithy, inviting "Hello World!" so I think I'm just going to jump straight in with a recipe and a picture or two, and hang the rule book.

Quick fire details:
I'm Nim, 23, from Berkshire (Superbia!) currently living in deepest, darkest, muddiest North Devon (affectionately known as Rural Hell). I like cooking. So here's a fab recipe for Linguine Gamberi.

I first ate this at a popular Italian chain restaurant of the sort that I frequent. It's a kind of arrabiata (angry) sauce only without the invasive red-pepper taste they sometimes have. It manages to be both warming and summery and lends itself to a really dry white wine. It's really easy and looks special on the plate, so is perfect for learner cooks like me.

For four people, you want to get yourself:
2 tbsp olive oil
A medium white onion, chopped
A couple of fat cloves of garlic, crushed. If this seems excessive, by all means just use the one. I am a garlic hound.
Two red chillis, very finely chopped. Remove the seeds and pith depending on your heat tolerance.
A tin of Italian chopped tomatoes
A splash of balsamic vinegar (not your best one)
500g linguine pasta
Some large prawns. You will know how many you want to eat, but about 6 prawns per person seems right. I used a bag of frozen tiger prawns, but this recipe is even better with super-fresh king prawns or even langoustines if you have the time to fiddle with them.
A handful fresh basil leaves, torn.

Heat your oil in a large pan. A wok is perfect, if unconventional. Fry your onion until golden, about four mins. Add the crushed garlic and chillis and stir until fragrant. Chuck in your tomatoes and balsamic vinegar, and turn down the heat to a low simmer. Simmer like this for 10 mins or so while the vinegar taste cooks out and the sauce thickens. While this is happening, put your linguine on. It takes a little less time than spaghetti, about 7-8 mins. Taste it.

Taste your sauce and adjust the seasoning. Mine wanted pepper. I wouldn't salt it, but lots would. A pinch of sugar could go in to lift the flavour of the tomatoes, but I think the balsamic does a good job of this. Add the prawns (defrosted, natch. If yours are raw, I would fry them separately in a little oil, garlic and a very few chilli flakes until pink and then add them to the sauce at this point) Stir said prawns through your simmering sauce until properly warmed through and then add your torn basil leaves, reserving a few small whole ones for decoration if that's your thing. Drain your cooked linguine and plate (invest in tongs!) adding a nice dollop of sauce on top. Artistically scatter with basil leaves, if you want. My final flourish was a whole dried red chilli, to look at rather than eat, but it did make me smile. I like parmasan on this, although the cheese/seafood debate is a controversial one amongst purists. Serve with a dark green salad, and some crusty bread for the juices if you're really hungry.