Madness, Mangoes and Marvellously Delicious Black Pasta

Can’t think what has possessed the EU to okay the addition of animal parts to animal feed! That’s what caused the salmonella outbreak in chickens and eggs a number of  years ago – feed from Holland contained feathers, combs and other bits … chickens are not carnivores. Insects are part of their diet because of pecking the ground. BSE happened because body parts – brains and other organs – from other animals were fed to cows. Cows are not carnivores, either, although they too digest insects because they graze.

Madness, or what?

On a more cheerful note, I found some excellent black pasta in a new greengrocers – nowhere near enough to visit regularly, but still … It isn’t fresh pasta but beggars and an’ all that. The resident barista encountered a new fish shop and bought some huge prawns. Able to resist everything except temptation, I bought some mangoes – they smell delicious.

In a previous life, we used to visit a tiny family-owned pavement café which served the thinnest, crispest pizzas with a terrific selection of imaginative toppings, and pasta dishes, equally creative. Luca made his own pasta and brought squid ink from Italy to make black pasta and a dish that still makes me drool. As near as I can make, his mother’s recipe is below.

Prawns, Mangoes, Chilli and Black Pasta

approximately 60g dried black pasta per person (fresh is best but …)

300-400g/10-14ozs prawns, shell on, per person (500g/1lb.2ozs per person if you really like prawns!) Shell on makes for juicier prawns.

or 4-6 jumbo prawns without the shell, per person, more if you can eat them.

I prefer to devein prawns; won’t harm you if you can’t be bothered. It’s a visual thing for me.

100g/4ozs butter (I prefer unsalted) – more if you need it, should be plenty to coat the pasta.

4 tablespoons olive oil. Ditto.

Fresh garlic, thinly sliced or grated – as much as you think you want. I think 2-4 (large) cloves should do it.

1-2 ripe mangoes, peeled and sliced.

1 red chilli, chopped, more if you like a belter of a kick.

Large handful of chopped coriander or parsley.

Freshly ground black pepper and sea salt.

Cook the pasta according to the instructions on the packet – I find they vary from manufacturer to manufacturer.

Melt the butter and oil (prevents burning) and add the chilli and garlic. Sauté till tender.

Add the prawns and cook while the pasta is cooking. The prawns should be a gorgeous pink on either side with flecks of chilli and garlic.

Drain the pasta, put in a heated serving bowl or plate, top with the prawns and sliced mango. Grind black pepper over them, some sea salt to taste and scatter the herbs on top.

Easy way to slice the mango: cut in half on the flat side of the stone. Slice lengthways or sideways in the first half, bend the skin back and cut away. Repeat with the other side of the stone. For the sides, peel skin off and slice away from the stone.

If you wish, you can drop some mange tout into the pasta when it is nearly cooked – the crisp and bright green peas add to the texture, taste and colour.

Serve with a green salad with everything in it except iceberg lettuce! Takes a long time to grow, a long time to digest and often the culprit for ‘marshy gases’, rather than cabbage. And I think it is tasteless – crunchy but tasteless.

A glass or two of wine will aid digestion, as will good company. Have a bowl of hot water to rinse your fingers – peeling the prawns is part of the pleasure. No lemon in the water – that is not comme il faut.





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Paul Watters

Chef and food columnist for various newspapers and magazines in the UK, Ireland, and the USA.

I am currently a chef with nearly 30 years of experience and have worked all over the world such as London, Sydney, Toronto. Even though I am a chef I have also gained experience in sales, tourism, business management, customer service.


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Legitimate Displacement Activity in the Time of Covid

Lockdown Lethargy – what a yawn. Right now, I am ignoring the siren call of the ironing board and the growing mountain of clothes begging for attention from me and my deft hand with an iron. Definitely not on today …

The weather is such that comfort food is necessary and provides a legitimate displacement activity. Especially the eating thereof. Last night, I resurrected a dish I made eons ago, not quite when I was a school with God and his friends and the nuns. It proved a great hit with That Man who declared I could ‘make that again, any time.’ Praise indeed.

Jocelyn Dimbleby, the first food writer (later everyone jumped on the bandwagon) to remind me of the watermelon salads I enjoyed in the Middle East as a child, produced a book entitled Marvellous Meals with Mince. Courtesy of her generosity, dear reader, I share this recipe which has nothing to do with watermelon.

I didn’t have the minced pork detailed and used minced veal. Minced chicken or fish (a flavoursome variety) would work well too.

Savoury Pudding with Red Peppers and Green Peppercorns – with thanks and  apologies to Jocelyn Dimbleby.

serves 4 -6 depending on appetites

400g /14oz. minced veal (or pork, beef, chicken, fish. The recipe calls for 500g/17 ozs/1lb but the pack in my freezer contained 400g …)

1 or 2 leeks, depending on size, (not in JD’s recipe, but I like them) sliced not too thinly. (Or ‘slicedly thin’, as I have been known to malaprop.)

2 good-sized red peppers, halved and grilled or oven roasted till charred

2 dessertspoons green peppercorns

2 large cloves of garlic (Not in the original recipe, but I like garlic, too.)

Handful breadcrumbs (Not in the original recipe, but I used sourdough crumbs)

2 large eggs

2 tablespoons red pesto (the recipe called for tomato purée. I didn’t have any. Your choice.)

Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

Greek yoghourt – full fat (essential fatty acids to feed the endocrine system which supports the hormone cascade.)

When the peppers are charred (what wouldn’t I give for a gas hob!), shove them into a bag or wrap in greaseproof paper and leave for a couple of minutes. (You can make this a faster job by using peppers in a jar … cheat by adding smoked paprika to achieve the smokiness of charred peppers.) Then skin the pieces and chop quite small. I got fed up chopping them last night, so I chopped two-thirds and then lined the bottom of the steaming bowl with the other pieces.)

Soften the leeks in butter or olive oil

Chuck the mince in a bowl, grate in the garlic (don’t mess around with garlic presses, you waste time and garlic) mix in the breadcrumbs, the green peppercorns, sea salt and black pepper. Mix in the chopped peppers, leeks and the eggs. Add more breadcrumbs if liked, to absorb some of the juices as it cooks.

Butter or (olive) oil a pudding basin –I lined the bottom of the bowl with red pepper pieces – tip in the veal mix, cover with greaseproof paper and then aluminium foil (note the correct spelling, USA readers!) Put on an upturned saucer or special stand so the pudding bowl doesn’t crack in the saucepan, pour in boiling water to seven-eighths of the way up the bowl. Cover with the lid.

Steam for one hour, making sure to top up with boiling water throughout. You may, of course, cook it in a loaf tin or round cake tin and bake for a similar time, in a medium to hot oven.

Upend into a flan dish or serving dish with sides, wider than the pudding – there will be juices – top with two or three dollops of Greek yoghourt and plenty of fresh coriander or parsley. (Jocelyn Dimbleby recommends green peppercorns but I had used them all in the pudding. Improvisation is all – and I love coriander.) The colours of the savoury pudding, red peppers, white yoghourt and green herbs look so appetizing.

Serve with jacket potatoes (make sure the skin is crunchy!), rice or bird’s eye pasta (orzo) or polenta. Spinach provides a good contrast, as does kale (kalettes are my latest fave green vegetable), cavolo nero, green beans, mange tout, courgettes or a salad.

Take care in these covid days – don’t ignore sensible precautions. I have friends who have been dangerously ill with it and two who have died. It’s worth the effort to stay well: it will annoy the hell out of your enemies.


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Leni Sorensen

“More and more my work as a foodways teacher and historian leads me deeper into the importance of food production, gardens, farming, issues of food justice, cooking, and rural life skills. I’ve named my Indigo House farmstead work ‘home provisioning’; by that I mean not only providing for oneself but visioning what it will take for everyone to have the security of food. It may be an urban myth but I once heard that the average family does not have three days’ worth of food in their homes should there be an emergency! That’s scary and I want what I do to help change that!”


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