Cucina Spaintastica – Risotto al Limone e Gamberetti

It’s been quite a busy autumn.

But quite good too in many ways.

And I definitely haven’t forgotten about cooking and Italy.

Even when travelling to Spain this October, I scrolled my archives and Mr. Google for all sorts of Italian recipes. I thought cooking in Spain would be a fantastic opportunity to obtain all sorts of fresh ingredients that are difficult to find for Cucina Fintastica in Helsinki.

I was partially right. We were very intrigued by the wide range of fish and seafood. Maybe even a bit too much. We often ended up scratching our heads at our flat trying to figure out what we had actually bought and – assuming it was edible – how to prepare it. On the other hand, some ingredients were notably absent from the supermarkets. E.g. it was nearly impossible to find fresh chilli peppers and the assortment of herbs was very limited. I suppose that the absence of herbs is somewhat understandable when you think about the hot and dry terrain of Spain compared to many areas of Italy. I never did realise though that the Spaniards love their peppers red and sweet but not hot – unlike e.g. the Mexicans and Italians.

This Italian seafood risotto didn’t fortunately suffer from either of these supermarket limitations but instead flourished with the availability of fabulous fresh prawns. And you can certainly never go wrong with the culinary pairing of lemon and seafood!

Lemon and Prawn Risotto

Serves 4

juice of 1 lemon

zest of ½ lemon

1 onion

400 g shelled prawns

1 litre vegetable stock

350 g risotto rice (e.g. carnaroli)

40 g butter

½ glass white wine

salt, pepper, chives to your taste

Cook the prawns in boiling, salted water for 3-4 minutes and drain them. Peel and chop the onion. In a pan, melt 20 g butter and add the chopped onion. Gently fry it for some minutes until soft. Add the rice and toast it for a few minutes. Pour the wine into the pan and let it evaporate and be absorbed by the rice. Add the lemon juice. Start pouring the vegetable stock to the pan – one ladle at a time and (almost) continuously stirring the rice on a medium heat until the stock has been absorbed by the rice. Repeat until the rice is almost cooked. Add the lemon zest and the cooked prawns (a few minutes before the rice is completely cooked). Continue cooking with the vegetable stock until the rice is ready. Remove the pan from the heat and stir in the remaining butter. Season with salt and pepper and serve immediately with chopped chives.

The Seafoodie – Linguine con le Seppie

If I had to name my favourite dish in the entire world, an Italian seafood pasta would certainly be among the top 3 candidates. Our love affair dates back to the 90s when I visited Lake Garda and had the most perfect plate of spaghetti ai frutti di mare.

I have tried to imitate the experience in my kitchen over the years. During the pre-Italian skills but post Lake Garda period, I fine-tuned my own version of spaghetti ai frutti di mare to a fairly pleasant one. Now that I am able to read the authentic recipes, I think I can safely say that Italians should not be deeply insulted by my interpretation either! Obviously I would need my own aquarium for an equally fantastic dish as in Italy since the amount of fresh seafood available in Finland is as limited as my baking skills at best. However, the frozen substitutes do serve as decent(ish) first aids for the most acute frutti di mare cravings – and as a bonus, are slightly cheaper than catching a flight to Milan.

I have usually used a frozen seafood mix but this time wanted to try squid. I found this recipe with fresh squid. It sounded quite fast and easy to make – yet the package of my frozen squid advised me to cook the squids for more than hour. As I get enough extreme experiences in my kitchen when baking, I did not feel I needed the additional excitement of potential food poisoning. Hence I decided to follow the instructions of my package. Googling this now, it seems that this contradiction wasn’t actually a case of stomach security but rather due to the fact that “Squid must either be cooked very quickly or for a very long time, otherwise it will be tough.” (BBC Food). Time is also a good friend of tomatoes which are cooked with the squid for the entire time.

All in all, this dish did a fantastic job at keeping this seafoodie satisfied for some time. However, I’m afraid it was less successful at keeping my dreams about those Milan flights at bay..!

Linguine with Squid

Serves 4

1 package of frozen squid

1-2 garlic cloves, crushed and chopped

1 small onion, chopped

fresh parsley, chopped

1 glass of dry white wine

400 g chopped tomatoes (1 tin)

olive oil

salt, pepper

320 g linguine

Thaw the squid, and rinse them with water, dry and finally slice them.

Heat some olive oil in a pan. Add the onion, garlic and parsley and cook for a few minutes. Add the squid and stir and cook for 5 minutes  Pour the white wine into the mixture and let it evaporate a bit. Add the tomatoes and season with salt and pepper to your taste. Cover the pan with a lid and let the sauce cook slowly at a low heat for 75 minutes.

Cook the linguine in boiling salted water until al dente. Drain and combine them with the sauce and add some fresh parsley. Serve immediately.