If there is one single recipe which I have made the most often – my Prawn Linguine with Chilli Pesto (freshly made – of course!) is the one. This has featured as a regular working week evening meal for the past two years yet somehow never made it to Love the Kitchen. The reason? It tends to get gobbled up far too quickly, and is long gone before I have even has time to take the lens cap off. Secondly, this should really be enjoyed hot as soon as it is served and is never as good tepid. Finally, (and this is a running theme since we relocated to our home in Lincolnshire) – I do not have the same natural light I was previously accustomed to, making food photography all the more challenging.
My aim for 2024 is to find a working and repeatable set up and try to do a better job at giving my culinary output the pictures they deserve.
You might be thinking… ‘can I just buy a jar of ready-made pesto, lob in some prawns and… job done‘? The answer is ‘of course’. For me, cooking is not a chore. Food is not just fuel. Working with fresh ingredients, and creating dishes with ingredients I have chosen verses mass-produced in a factory – produces far more satisfying results. Cooking is an enjoyable distraction which gets me away from my sedentary working life, gives me the opportunity to be creative, and use the excellent kitchen kit and caboodle which we have accumulated over the years. We have far more than we need, but I am sure we are not alone… It is also ‘me time’, away from the constant flurry of emails, chat notification and other distractions, and gives me some much-needed headspace to reflect on things which otherwise get bypassed.
Freshly made pesto or store bought?
Making fresh pesto from scratch will not be significantly cheaper than a store bought jar. A 100g bag of fresh basil leaves will set you back £1.60, the combination of cashew nuts, Grana Padana cheese, fresh chilli, garlic and olive oil a further £1.25 or so, but you are not getting sunflower oil, glucose, potato flakes, lactic acid, or garlic flavour which is typically found in commercial products. Add quality raw Tiger King prawns, and quality pasta brings this to ~ £4.00 a head which is ready meal territory in terms of price but something completely unique which has been whipped up in less than 30 mins or so.
Even though I have made this dish over seventy times (and I may be conservative here), it always comes out slightly different in flavour, which really adds to its charm. The heat of the dish will vary significantly, as no two chillis ever seem to be the same. If chilli isn’t for you, then omit, however this is never an option with Marlini as my dining companion ;o) I would also urge you to experiment. When I originally made pesto, I would choose pine nuts until I discovered that cashews were more commonly found in commercial versions. For the cost conscious, it does make a difference. Secondly, I used to use Parmigiano Reggiano but replaced with Grana Padano as the latter is softer, butterier and has a more delicate (less salty flavour) and lower fat than Parmigiano Reggiano. If interested in the difference between these two Italian hard cheeses, this article is well worth a read.…