Tuna, Chilli and Lemon Pasta. My Comfort Food.
As I mentioned in my last post, I am working interstate this week. For the past five days, I have been hanging out in a fairly remote town, north of Canberra. While it is really pleasant, and oozes that typical country town charm, I do miss home. I long for my own bed. I do not enjoy layering heavy blankets and enclosing myself in a woollen jumper cocoon to stay warm at night. And I pine for internet access that doesn't demand you jump from corner to corner to gain a signal. I also miss my food...
I like to think that I am fairly flexible, and can make the most out of whatever situation I'm in - from all perspectives, not just in a culinary sense. However, it is getting a little frustrating not being able to make myself a nice bowl of hot porridge in the morning, or take my pick of toast topping from my ever expanding nut butter line-up, or mix up a smoothie in the afternoon.
On my first night here, some take-out noodle soup was fun. But it is now day five, and the novelty has officially worn off. I miss my kitchen. I miss my food. I'm itching to exercise my culinary skills. I want to slice and dice. I need to simmer and stir. I simply must season, sip and slurp.
Now I may seem a little dramatic, and it wouldn't be the first time ;) Yet I have only just been asked to return to this friendly little town next week, and so this yearning for home comforts is magnified - especially since it is my birthday next week. I don't particularly fancy turning 25 whilst having a party for one, singing "happy birthday to me" and blowing out my candles all on my lonesome (aha! my dramatic streak resurfaces…)
This weekend, my aim is to soak up a bit of TLC at home before returning interstate. In all honestly, it is nice working with the people in this town and spending time with some gorgeous elderly lovelies.
The first thing I want to do upon my return tomorrow night, is enter my kitchen and cook. I want to make some hardcore comfort food. I am craving food that makes me feel warm and loved, that leaves me glowing from the inside out. Food that will soothe my soul after a hectic week. Each slice of onion will cut through my concerns. Any worries I may have will be washed away with those obligatory, cutting onion induced tears.
And I know exactly what I want to cook…
I have fond memories of this meal. I created it shortly before Ben and I moved in together. During those 18months living in our first apartment, we would make this dish at least every fortnight. It involves so many of our most beloved ingredients. These days Ben or I will get a craving around once a month, and out it comes again. The sweetness of the onions, combined with the kick of chilli and lemon, along with the meaty tuna chunks and freshness of the spinach. Yum!
Cooking and eating this dish always leaves us feeling contented and cozy. This is our comfort food. I can't wait for it to work it's magic on me tomorrow night…
Tuna, Chilli and Lemon Pasta
220g dried Spaghetti*
185g tin Sirena** Tuna in Oil, drained of half of it's oil
1 brown onion, thinly sliced
2 cloves of garlic, crushed
2 tablespoons Extra Virgin Olive Oil
1 teaspoons dried chilli flakes***
2 big handfuls spinach, rocket or other easily wilted dark leafy green
2 juicy unwaxed Lemons
1 handful fresh flatleaf Parsley leaves
Sea salt and freshly cracked Black Pepper
* I feel like long, thin strands work best in this dish. it's to do with the twirling.
** As a rule, I try to use safcol, a more sustainably favourable brand than Sirena, but gosh darnit when I make this dish I treat myself to my favourite (flavour and texture wise) Sirena tuna in oil. *** Or as much/little as you can tolerate.
**** Meyer lemons are incomparable to others, particularly waxed lemons, so grab them if you can.
1. Bring a pot of water to the boil, then salt it generously. Cook your pasta according to packet instructions. Now, depending on how long your pasta takes (some brands take 8 minutes, others 10-15!), time your cooking accordingly. I like to start cooking my onions before the water reaches a boil and ideally have them cooked and resting before adding the pasta.
2. While waiting for the water to boil, heat a non-stick pan over low-medium heat with the olive oil. Add the onion and a generous sprinkle of sea salt and stir (adding the salt will help ensure the onions don't burn). Cook slowly and gently (turn own the heat as required) until they begin to soften and caramelise (~12 minutes). It can takes a while, but the longer you cook, the better the taste. This is why I like to start this way before adding the pasta, so you don't rush the onion cooking process. If the pan gets a bit dry, add some of the oil from the tin of tuna or a dash of water.
3. When the onions are cooked, add the pasta to the pot of salted boiling water and cook for the required time until al dente (I always cook mine for a minute or two less than instructed as I like more bite and we cook it further in the pan later on). Be sure to reserve a cup of starchy pasta cooking water before draining.
4. While the pasta is cooking, add the garlic and chilli flakes to the pan and cook for a minute or so until fragrant. Add the tuna (with half of the oil) and turn the heat up to medium, letting it to brown in the oniony, oily mixture for a minute or so. Add the greens and the juice of one lemon (add some lemon zest too, if you're super into lemon! I am, so I do) and cover with a big lid for a minute or so until the leaves are wilted.
5. Add the cooked, drained pasta to the pan, along with the parsley and a little drizzle of the starchy cooking water (work in 1/4 cups when adding the pasta cooking water to the pan so you don't add too much and make it soupy). Turn the heat up and use tongs to incorporate everything together, the pasta and the sauce, for about 30 seconds. Taste a pasta strand to ensure it's not undercooked (but also don't over cook it!) and add more lemon juice if you wish and season as desired. Serve up from the pan into bowls and enjoy! Add extra chilli flakes, lemon juice and a drizzle of etxra virgin olive oil if you wish.