To me, there is little greater than the combination of carbs and red sauce.
Big Red Sauce is one of my oldest friends. It’s seen me through some tough times.
It’s the edible equivalent of ugh boots. Squishy. Comforting. Accepting. A little daggy.
But not really something I’ll pull out for company.
It was the first base recipe I learned to cook. At 12 I discovered how easy it was to combine a diced onion with some garlic and olive oil. Then in went some white wine (Yalumba’s Columbard chardonnay from the box in the fridge). Then some tomatoes- usually from a can. From there I’d stir in some herbs (often from a jar). Then I’d dump it over pasta.
Sometimes I’d add bacon. Later I branched out to chilli. Later still to seafood- occasionally prawns and sometimes a mish mash marinara mix from the fish markets.
It’s served me well. But lately I’ve felt us growing apart. Man can not live on carbs forever.
I’ve been cheating on carbs for a while; looking elsewhere for night time options that don’t involve wheat, gluten or too much stodge (potatoes, I’m looking at you). Plenty of salads, soups and stews have been getting a twirl around the dance floor.
There are also plenty of nights when I turn to the white bean and artichoke puree.
And sometimes I’ll find myself craving squish and turn to an alternate pulse.
I’ve become quite fond of a bed of chickpeas, rinsed, warmed and smushed as a base for sauces and stews. It’s like the meek step sister of hummus. Without the tahini and lemon it’s not as strident. It’s sticker too. Sometimes I don’t puree it completely, so there’s still a bit of texture to it. It’s best served warm (cold it’s a little too close to spackle). A little bit of warm water, stock or milk helps give it the right texture.
I’ve discovered along the way that makes a reliably sturdy base for a tomato sauce.
And as I’ve been branching away from my standard carbs, I’ve also found myself wandering further away from virgin Big Red.
So this is a sexier version of Big Red. It’s as if its pulled its hair out of a bun. It’s taken off its slippers. It’s got dressed for company.
It’s still made up of the holy trinity of onion, garlic and tomatoes. But it’s also circles of a good spicy chorizo.
Like Big Red this version can be made hours ahead and left to sit on the hob and potter about while you have a siesta. To continue the Spanish thrust I’ll dump in some uncooked green prawns and chunks of a firm flesh white fish, like monkfish just before I serve it. The prawns and the fish gently poach in the sauce. The chorizo gives it a kick along. Sometimes if it’s not lively enough I’ll add some extra red chilli.
I spoon it over some chickpea mush and top it with parsley and lemon juice.
Depending on who’s coming I’ll serve it with a green salad – and sometimes some hot bread on the side.
Man can’t live on carbs alone. But I also can’t turn my back on them forever.
That’s just no way to treat your first love.
Chickpea puree with red sauce with prawn, chorizo and monkfish
1 brown onion
3 cloves of garlic
1 chorizo (or half of a loop)
1 punnet of cherry tomatoes
2 tins of tinned cherry tomatoes, or pureed whole tomatoes
1/2 cup of white wine
600 grams of seafood (I like to do 300 grams of raw green prawns -shelled and without their heads- and 300 grams of monkfish, skinned and cut into 2 cm cubes)
Bunch of fresh parsley
2 tablespoons of olive oil
2 cans of chickpeas, rinsed
1/4 cup of milk, vegetable stock or hot water to thin slightly
1 tablespoon of olive oil
1 large dutch oven/le creuset. 1 stick blender or foot processor to make the chickpea puree.
Here’s how we roll
1. Heat the olive oil in the dutch oven/ le creuset. Add one diced onion and the sliced or crushed garlic. Gently cook for 5 minutes until the onion is translucent. Don’t let the garlic burn.
2. Add the chorizo, cut into coins that are 5 mm thick. Once the chorizo has started to brown and is leaching some oil add the cherry tomatoes. Stir for a minute or so, so the skins can soften. Then add the white wine. Stir for 2 minutes.
3. Add the two tins of tomatoes. Stir. Let it cook on a medium heat for at least 20 minutes for the flavours to mingle. Feel free to turn the heat off and let it sit together for an hour or so.
4. To make the chickpea puree rinse and drain the chickpeas and whizz them together with the liquids in a bowl with a stick blender or in a food processor. Before serving heat the puree up in a saucepan or in the microwave. Add a little more liquid before heating it up in a saucepan so it doesn’t stick to the bottom.
5. To cook the seafood, 10 minutes before serving add the cubes of fish and the prawns to the red sauce. Don’t let the sauce boil, just pop the lid on and let them gently poach until the prawns are pink and the fish is opaque.
7. Serve the seafood, chorizo and red sauce over a base of chickpea puree. Top with extra chilli if you like, chopped parsley, salt, pepper. Give everyone a wedge of lemon to spike it to their own taste.
8. Put a green salad, dressed with lemon and olive oil and some warm bread in the centre of the table to mop up the extra sauce. You know you want to.