TThe task of cooking a dish that contains only five ingredients is both a challenge and an opportunity for me. A challenge for obvious reasons (after all, I am known for searching for herbs and spices) and an opportunity to focus on just one or two delicious things. It also encourages a kind of mindfulness when cooking and provides the space to really notice the flavor and texture. It also feels like an overall good resolution for next year. And no: salt, pepper, oil, and garlic (and possibly a lemon or lime) don’t count, okay?
Charred Prawns with Coconut Lime Dressing and Crunchy Lime Leaves (pictured above)
A piece of bread or some sticky rice to soak up the sauce is all you need to make a meal out of these fragrant prawns. If you prefer, swap the lime leaves for curry leaves or a little basil.
Duties 15 minutes
to cook 25 min
It serves 4
500g of prawns, deveined, headless and shelled, or raw jumbo prawns
60 g of coconut oil, Melted
Salt and black pepper
5 fresh makrut lime leaves, stems removed, thinly sliced leaves
6 cloves of garlic, peeled and finely chopped
150ml coconut cream
1 lime, skinless and marrowless, finely minced meat
Mix the prawns in a large bowl with a tablespoon of oil and a quarter teaspoon of salt. Put a skillet over high heat and, once it starts to smoke, cook the prawns in two or three batches, so as not to clutter the pan, for two minutes on each side. Set the prawns aside and rinse the pan if there are charred bits stuck to the bottom.
Return the skillet to medium-high heat. Add the remaining coconut oil and, once hot, add the lime leaves and sauté, stirring frequently, for three minutes, until crisp. Pour into a colander placed over a bowl.
Return the pan to the heat, add the sifted oil and garlic and fry for three to four minutes, until fragrant and slightly colored. Add the prawns, 120 ml of coconut cream, a quarter teaspoon of salt and a good grind of pepper and cook, stirring, for four to five minutes, until the prawns are cooked through and the cream has thickened a little.
To make the dressing, mix the chopped lime with the remaining 30 ml of coconut cream and a pinch of salt in a small bowl.
Place the prawns in a platter with lips, then pour the sauce from the pan, then the dressing. Sprinkle over the crunchy lime leaves and serve hot.
Charred cabbage with ras el hanout and pistachio butter
Charring is one of my favorite ways to cook cabbage because it caramelizes the exterior while still retaining the bite of this versatile vegetable. Serve this as a snack or entree, or alongside some fluffy couscous for a complete meal.
Duties 10 minutes
to cook 35 min
It serves 4
1 medium white cabbage (900g), cut into 8 wedges through the heart
Salt and black pepper
one10 ml olive oil
300 g of Greek yogurt
100 g unsalted butter
2½ teaspoons ras el hanout – I like the Bart brand
80g of shelled pistachios, chopped
1 lemon, finely grated, to make 1½ teaspoon, then cut into 4 wedges to serve
In a large bowl, toss the cabbage slices in one tablespoon of oil and half a teaspoon of salt, using your fingers gently to work the salt between the leaves.
Put three tablespoons of oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat, place four cabbage wedges, cut side down, and cook for six to seven minutes, until golden brown. Flip over to the other cut side and repeat. Lower heat to medium if cabbage wedges color too quickly; you want them to soften a bit but still hold a bite. Transfer to a large bowl and repeat with three more tablespoons of oil and the remaining four slices of cabbage. Rinse and clean the pan.
Meanwhile, in a medium bowl, combine the yogurt, the last teaspoon of oil, a quarter teaspoon of salt, and a generous grind of pepper.
Return the skillet to medium heat, add the butter and, once it is melted and frothy, add the ras el hanout, the pistachios, a quarter teaspoon of salt and a good grind of pepper, and cook, stirring frequently, for about a minute, until fragrant and pistachios are lightly toasted. Pour this mixture over the cabbage and toss gently to coat.
Spread the yogurt in a large lip dish. Place the cabbage slices on top of the yogurt, drizzle over any remaining butter mixture from the cabbage bowl, then sprinkle over the lemon zest. Squeeze one of the lemon wedges and serve with the rest on the side.
Caramelized Onion Orecchiette with Hazelnuts and Sage
This is a great pasta dish for when you don’t have much in the pantry. Like cacio e pepe, it is one of those dishes that feels much more than the sum of its parts. Other nuts will work well too (walnuts or almonds are particularly good), if that’s all you have.
Duties 15 minutes
to cook 50 min
It serves 4
105ml olive oil
20g sage leaves
2 onions, peeled and thinly sliced (320g)
250g orecchiette (or small shells or small shells)
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 ½ tablespoon lemon juice
50g hazelnuts, coarsely chopped
Put the oil in a large skillet with a lid and place over medium-high heat. Once hot, add the sage leaves and fry, stirring frequently, for about four minutes, until dark green and crisp, then pour into a colander set over a small bowl. Pour two tablespoons of sage oil into a small skillet and set aside.
Return the skillet to medium-high heat, pour in the rest of the sage oil from the bowl, and once hot, add the onions and sweat, stirring regularly, for 25 minutes, until golden brown but not dark. Pour the pasta into the skillet, add 700 ml of room temperature water, a teaspoon and a quarter of salt and a quarter teaspoon of ground black pepper, and stir to combine. Cover the pan, lower the heat to medium, and simmer for 20 minutes, until the liquid is absorbed and the pasta is al dente. Drizzle over the lemon juice and sprinkle another quarter teaspoon of ground pepper, cover again, and set aside.
Put the small skillet with the reserved sage oil over medium heat, add the hazelnuts and sauté until golden brown. Pour the walnuts and oil all over the pasta, sprinkle the crispy fried sage leaves, and serve hot straight from the skillet.
George is Digismak’s reported cum editor with 13 years of experience in Journalism