The task of cooking a dish that features just five ingredients is both a challenge and an opportunity for me. A challenge for obvious reasons – I’ve been known to reach for the herbs and spices, after all – and an opportunity to focus on just one or two delicious things. It also encourages a sort of mindfulness when cooking, and affords the space really to notice taste and texture. It feels like a good resolution generally for the year ahead, too. And, no: salt, pepper, oil and garlic (and possibly a lemon or lime) don’t count, OK?
Charred prawns with lime coconut dressing and crisp lime leaves (pictured top)
A chunk of bread or some sticky rice to soak up the sauce is all you need to make a meal out of these fragrant prawns. If you prefer, swap the lime leaves for curry leaves or some basil.
Prep 15 min
Cook 25 min
500g prawns, deveined, head and shell left on, or raw jumbo prawns
60g coconut oil, melted
Salt and black pepper
5 fresh makrut lime leaves, stems removed, leaves thinly sliced
6 garlic cloves, peeled and finely chopped
150ml coconut cream
1 lime, skinned and pith removed, flesh finely chopped
Toss the prawns in a large bowl with a tablespoon of the oil and a quarter-teaspoon of salt. Set a frying pan on a high heat and, once it starts smoking, char the prawns in two or three batches, so you don’t overcrowd the pan, for two minutes on each side. Set aside the prawns and rinse out the pan if there are any charred bits stuck to the bottom.
Return the pan to a medium-high heat. Add the remaining coconut oil and, once it’s hot, add the lime leaves and fry, stirring frequently, for three minutes, until crisp. Tip into a sieve set over a bowl.
Put the pan back on the heat, add the sieved oil and the garlic and fry for three or four minutes, until fragrant and lightly coloured. Stir in the prawns, 120ml coconut cream, a quarter-teaspoon of salt and a good grind of pepper, and cook, stirring, for four to five minutes, until the prawns are cooked through and the cream has thickened slightly.
To make the dressing, mix the chopped lime with the remaining 30ml coconut cream and a pinch of salt in a small bowl.
Arrange the prawns on a lipped platter, then spoon over the sauce from the pan followed by the dressing. Scatter over the crisp lime leaves and serve hot.
Charred cabbage with ras el hanout and pistachio butter
Charring is one of my favourite ways to cook cabbage because it caramelises the outsides while still retaining this versatile vegetable’s bite. Serve this as a snack or starter, or alongside some fluffy couscous for a full meal.
Prep 10 min
Cook 35 min
1 medium white cabbage (900g), cut into 8 wedges through the core
Salt and black pepper
110ml olive oil
300g Greek-style yoghurt
100g unsalted butter
2½ tsp ras el hanout – I like the Bart brand
80g shelled pistachios, roughly chopped
1 lemon, zest finely grated, to get 1½ tsp, then cut into 4 wedges, to serve
In a large bowl, toss the cabbage wedges in a tablespoon of oil and half a teaspoon of salt, using your fingers gently to work the salt between the leaves.
Put three tablespoons of oil in a large frying pan on a medium-high heat, lay in four cabbage wedges cut side down and leave to cook for six or seven minutes, until deeply browned. Turn over to the other cut side and repeat. Turn down the heat to medium if the cabbage wedges colour too quickly; you want them to soften slightly but still keep a bite. Transfer to a large bowl and repeat with three more tablespoons of oil and the remaining four cabbage wedges. Rinse and wipe out the pan.
Meanwhile, in a medium bowl mix the yoghurt, the final teaspoon of oil, a quarter-teaspoon of salt and a generous grind of pepper.
Return the pan to a medium heat, add the butter and, once it’s melted and foaming, stir in the ras el hanout, pistachios, a quarter-teaspoon of salt and a good grind of pepper, and cook, stirring often, for about a minute, until fragrant and the pistachios are lightly toasted. Pour this mix all over the cabbage and toss gently to coat.
Spread the yoghurt on a large lipped platter. Arrange the cabbage wedges on top of the yoghurt, drizzle over any remaining butter mixture from the cabbage bowl, then sprinkle on the lemon zest. Squeeze over one of the lemon wedges and serve with the rest alongside.
Caramelised onion orecchiette with hazelnuts and sage
This is a great pasta dish for when you don’t have much in the pantry. Like cacio e pepe, it’s one of those dishes that feels so much more than the sum of its parts. Other nuts will also work well (walnuts or almonds are particularly good), if that’s all you have.
Prep 15 min
Cook 50 min
105ml olive oil
20g sage leaves
2 onions, peeled and thinly sliced (320g)
250g orecchiette (or casarecce or small conchiglie)
Salt and freshly cracked black pepper
1½ tbsp lemon juice
50g hazelnuts, coarsely chopped
Put the oil in a large saute pan for which you have lid, and place on a medium-high heat. Once hot, add the sage leaves and fry, stirring often, for about four minutes, until dark green and crisp, then tip into a sieve set over a small bowl. Spoon two tablespoons of the sage oil into a small frying pan and set aside.
Return the saute pan to a medium-high heat, pour in the rest of the sage oil from the bowl and, once hot, add the onions and sweat, stirring regularly, for 25 minutes, until golden but not dark. Tip the pasta into the pan, add 700ml room-temperature water, a teaspoon and a quarter of salt and a quarter-teaspoon of cracked black pepper, and stir to combine. Cover the pan, turn down the heat to medium and leave to simmer gently for 20 minutes, until the liquid has been absorbed and the pasta is al dente. Drizzle over the lemon juice and sprinkle on another quarter-teaspoon of cracked pepper, cover again and set aside.
Put the small frying pan with the reserved sage oil on a medium heat, add the hazelnuts and fry gently until golden. Spoon the nuts and the oil all over the pasta, sprinkle on the crisp fried sage leaves and serve hot straight from the pan.