Friday, 13 November 2009

The 21st Century Housewife's© Crab Linguini with Pink Peppercorns

Many years ago I had a delicious brandy and pink peppercorn sauce at a restaurant called Horniman’s in South London (which is sadly no longer open). The sauce had a lovely flavour - ever so slightly peppery, but also sweet and gorgeous. Ever since then I have been fascinated with this very intriguing ingredient. You see, despite being called ‘peppercorns’ these bright pink spheres are not peppercorns at all. Their flavour is similar to pepper and when crushed, they do give off a peppery smell, however they are actually the fruit of a small tree native to South America. It is called the Baies Rose plant and is now cultivated in many places, including Madagascar. It used to be really difficult to find pink peppercorns, but now even my local grocery store stocks them. You can buy them preserved in brine or dried. (I prefer the dried ones as you have to rinse the ones that are preserved in brine before use.) If your grocery store does not stock them, most speciality cooking stores do and you can also source them on the internet.

This recipe is a really nice mid-week treat for two, although it will stretch to three if you use a bit more pasta (about 100 grams more) and add a bit more stock and cream. (You could add a few extra peas as well.)

It is a very easy recipe and just that little bit extra-special. Of course, neither crab meat nor pink peppercorns are exactly budget-friendly ingredients. If this is a problem, this recipe does taste very nice even without the addition of the curious little pink spheres. (Although of course in this case, you might want to call it simply Crab Linguini.) You can also use canned (tinned) crab meat, which tends to be slightly less expensive than fresh.

In the Italian style this pasta does not have a lot of sauce; the pasta and crab are the stars of this dish. However what sauce there is does cling nicely to the pasta and give it a lovely texture. Feel free to use a bit more cream if you prefer a bit more sauce. (Remember to add only a little bit at a time - it’s hard to take cream away once you’ve added it!)

225 grams dried linguini
100 grams fresh crabmeat
(or canned white crab meat, rinsed and drained)
150 ml vegetable stock
(made from a cube is fine, although store bought chilled fresh stock is lovely)
about 200 ml single cream
a handful of frozen peas
1 scant teaspoon pink peppercorns

Cook the linguini according to package directions. Meanwhile, heat 200 ml stock in a small saucepan over low heat.

Crush the pink peppercorns - you can use a mortar and pestle or very carefully crush them on a bread board using the flat of a knife. Set aside.

When the pasta is nearly done, add the frozen peas and 100 ml cream to the stock. Turn the heat up to medium and let it bubble away so that the sauce reduces slightly. Now turn the heat back to low and stir in the crab meat and crushed pink peppercorns. Heat through.

Drain the pasta and return to the pan. Pour the sauce over and lightly toss to mix. If it is not quite moist enough add a bit more cream and heat through. Serve and enjoy.