Black Truffle Linguine

An indulgent splurge on the man’s birthday left me with no choice but to smother butter coated Linguine with generous shavings of Black Truffle. A very simple recipe, no fuss allowed.

Boil the Linguine in salted water till al dente, saving a little of the starchy water back when draining.  Add a generous knob of  unsalted butter to a frying pan and allow to bubbly way till nutty and brown but not burnt.

Add the drained pasta to the frying pan and coat the Linguine with the butter, adding a little of the starchy water to loosen and provide a little more moisture. Season generously with salt, and transfer to a plate immediately. Top generously with shavings of freshly grated black truffle (or as generously as the wallet allows) and devour!

Carluccios @ Spitalfields

Antonio would not be pleased. 

Quick 2 course lunch at Carluccios and it was very disappointing indeed. I’ve been to Carluccios a handful of times before and from memory have always thought it to be averagely decent.  Not the kind of place to set your rockets alight but you’d eat what was on the plate without too much of a grumble.

Well today the standards seem to have dropped substantially. First course of Crostini al Funghi from the Specials menu at £5ish.  When it arrived it looked appetising enough – a mixture of sautéed mushrooms with heaps of red chili and a little parsley, served on a slice of toast and a splatter of rocket on the side. Eating was a little tougher, the crostini was brittle and shattered upon cutting.  The really underseasoned mushrooms tasted more of oil than anything else.  And the chili seemed ‘fake’ – from the amount of red on the plate I expected it to blow my head off but I didn’t detect even the faintest of kicks.

My friend had Calamari.  A rather large and unwieldy portion – the battered rings clung together to form a mass. For the first time in a long time, I declined on even trying.

Now for the mains, I opted for Spaghetti Vongole with clams, garlic, herbs and chili. I was given a knife and fork which was annoying. Any restaurant claiming to serve ‘authentic Italian food’ should not be giving a knife and fork to eat spaghetti with.  More fake chili, enough red colour on the plate to indicate I’d soon be reaching for the milk, but alas no heat or kick to be found.  Bring on the chili oil – drizzle drizzle – still no heat.  After eating a few mouthfulls I then discovered a rod of pasta on my plate – a clump of 20 or so strands of spaghetti clung together at one end.  Very unappetising.

My friend had the seafood Linguine, which also had large clumps of inedible hard pasta stuck together.

Not sure if its the overall standards that have dropped or the Spitalfields branch in particular that is letting the side down. We paid £17 each for 2 courses and tap water – a high price for a meal bearing little resemblance to authentic italian food. Shant be rushing back here in a hurry.

Tomato & Shallot Tarte Tatin

Ingredients
 
For the Filling
Tomatoes (1 per person)
Shallots (1/2 per person)
Thyme, destalked
Olive Oil
Balsamic Vinegar
2 tbsp sugar
Short Crust Pastry / Puff Pastry (ready made
Rocket Salad
Parmesan Shavings
Balsamic Reduction
Toasted Pine Nuts to serve
 
For the Short Crust Pastry
200g Plain Flour
100 Unsalted Butter – cold and cubed
1 Egg
Pinch of Salt
A little grated Parmesan (optional)
Splash of cold water
(this will be enough for at least 10 Tartes)
 

Method

Take the tomatoes and core the tops out of them.  Peel the tomatoes by blanching in boiling water and plunging into ice cold water.  Cut into Quarters (or thirds if large tomatoes) and place on a baking tray (seed side up).  Peel the shallots and blanch in hot water for 30 seconds and place on the baking tray.  Sprinkle with Thyme, Olive Oil, Balsamic, Salt and Pepper and a pinch of Sugar.  Roast in the oven for 35-40 minutes at 170°C.  Remove and leave to cool.   Keep an eye during the cooking, adding a splash of water to avoid the bottom catching if it looks a little dry.  Once cool slice the shallots in halves or quarters lengthways.

Meanwhile, make the savoury Short Crust Pastry.  Sift the flour into a bowl and add the salt and butter.  Rub the mixture together with your fingertips until it resembles fine breadcrumbs, keeping palms faced up to ensure the mix stays cool.  Add the parmesan.  Make a well in the centre and add 1 lightly beaten egg.  Using the handle end of a metal fork or spoon, roughly mix the egg in with the rest of the mixture (this avoids your fingers getting coated!).  Add a splash of cold water, and lightly knead to bring the mixture together into  a ball.  Only add a splash of water at a time as the pastry can become too wet quickly (a good tip is to dip your fingers into a little cold water to bring the final bits of the mix together).  Avoid kneading too much, as soon as the pastry comes together pack into a ball and wrap with cling film.  Once wrapped, roll the pastry into a fat sausage shape the same width as the ramekins for the tart and place in the fridge to rest for 30 minutes – doing this means you don’t have to roll the pastry and cut out before using, you can simply cut each slice off before it goes on the Tarte.

Make a caramel by melting sugar on a medium heat with a tiny splash of water until all the water has boiled out and you have a nice amber colour.  Pour a little of the caramel mixture into the bottom of each ramekin.  Arrange 4 tomato quarters on top of the caramel, seeds facing inside, followed by 3-4 slices of shallot placed in between the tomato and a few in the centre.  Sprinkle with parmesan shavings.  Unwrap the pastry and slice a thin disc (less than 1cm) and place on top of the ramekin, tucking in the edges a little.   Cook for 20-25 minutes at 180ºC until the pastry is golden.

To turn out the Tartes I quickly flip the ramekin upside-down onto a side plate (hold with a tea-towel), then slide the ramekin onto the serving plate before lifting the ramekin up.  If you do this whilst its still hot it comes out easily – don’t let it cool too much or the sugars will harden and stick to the ramekin.  Serve with dressed rocket salad and sprinkled with a little parmesan and some toasted pine nuts.