Perrin loves the movement of cooking – the chopping of onions and other vegetables – feeling the sharp knife move swiftly; or with the flick of a wrist feeling the frying pan fly through a loosened grip to toss our breakfast or dinner; a grind of salt or pepper is sometimes a whole body movement combining a stride from one side of the kitchen to the other. Perrin moves in the kitchen with a calm but deliberate force. I like to watch him in the kitchen.
Earlier this week Perrin and I had a night off. I said let’s cook dinner. He replied, how about chicken salad, stir fry or a beef tomato stew? Or prawn pasta? I snapped on the prawn pasta – yes please! We walked through the streets on our way to the supermarket in the mid afternoon sun. It was almost hot and there was a calm in the wild winds we have been having. Tell me about this prawn pasta, I said.
Well, cook your fettuccine first, he said. Toss with oil when it’s cooked and then make the buttery prawn sauce. A little bit of oil just to get started and then cook – in quite a bit of butter – a small onion or shallot, garlic and chilli. He turned to look at me with a cheeky grin, I do love butter. Oh, so do I.
Back in Perrin’s kitchen (one devoid of natural light so excuse the yellow-tinged photographs), I sat with my laptop and a glass of wine and looked on, taking notes and asking questions. The meal is quick to prepare – snappy and intense – but there are things to notice here. The sizzle and spit of the pan; an undercurrant beneath the roaring of the extractor fan. As the prawns are flicked and tossed they pink with the heat and the chilli, while the onion and garlic, soft and translucent, is a buttery yellow in comparison. Once the lemon zest and white wine have been added the smell is rich and inviting – there is the sweetness of the prawns, the zing of lemon and crisp Sauvignon Blanc, and the warm scent of onions cooking in butter.
Tossing is important, says Perrin. You must allow everything to bind with the butter – the crux and muscles of the dish, I guess. The dish needs muscle to carry the chilli because heck it’s hot. I sat there enjoying every tendril of fettuccine slicked with butter, garlic and sweet onion and each succulent prawn I picked out of the nest of noodles and ate with my fingers but throughout the whole meal my eyes watered and my nose ran with the heat of the chilli. After I placed my knife and fork together I was out of breath and fanning my burning mouth. Perrin poured me a glass of milk. Romance was high during this meal, believe you me.
Spicy Prawn Fettuccine
Adjust heat to your liking. Maybe one red chilli would suffice. Saffron or smoked paprika could add to the sunset pink colour but lend more of a mild flavour. Serves 2.
200 grams fettuccine
1 tablespoon oil (plus extra for pasta)
a decent knob of butter – 20 or so grams
1 small onion or shallot
4-6 cloves of garlic, finely sliced
300 grams raw prawns
1 lemon – zest and juice
1 generous glass of white wine
salt and pepper
Cook the pasta until al dente. Strain and toss with a glug of oil to prevent sticking.
To a frying pan add the tablespoon of oil and butter. Once melted and slightly bubbling cook the onions and garlic and until soft. Add the chilli and cook for a further two minutes. Increase the heat then add the prawns, tossing for a couple of minutes to partially cook. Add the lemon zest and juice, the wine, salt and pepper then the cooked pasta continuing to toss for a further three or so minutes.
Once the pasta has heated through serve on to plates and scatter across finely chopped parsley, or another herb.