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Memory is a strange thing; last night when I was cooking, I was certain that I was making this up as I went along with just a bare reference to something I read on E2. Having re-read it though, I have to be honest and admit that this dish is almost completely filched from The Debutante’s great Saluna recipe.

I have made the original before, as a starter and as part of a buffet meal, but I’ve never been able to integrate it into a simple weekday dinner, as it’s a little involved for a half comatose after-work cooking session. It also goes best with rice, which is a problem because I suffer from a severe rice disability: it is the one thing that I cannot, never have, and probably never will, get right.

So I kind of threw this together last night, and DEB will I’m sure forgive me for borrowing her feathers and posting it as a proper recipe. Or she can nuke this in a fit of rage – she’s got buttons!

To make an evening meal for two, you’ll need:

  • 2 fillets of strong white fish such as hake, haddock etc.
  • 1 can (250gr) peeled chopped tomatoes
  • 1 medium onion, diced
  • 2-3 garlic cloves, chopped finely
  • Juice of 1 lemon
  • 1 heaped tablespoon unrefined cane sugar
  • 1 red chilli, seeded and chopped
  • 2 tablespoons tomato paste
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • Salt, and pepper if you like it
  • 500gr fresh linguini

Now do this:

  1. Heat half the oil in a shallow pot or deep frying pan. Fry the onion until glassy, then add the garlic and fry for another 2-3 minutes.

  2. In quick succession, add the tomato paste, chilli, sugar and lemon juice and give everything a good stir to get a rich glossy paste. Then add the chopped tomatoes, stir again and leave. This sauce will need to reduce for approximately 20 minutes (more won’t hurt, any less is definitely not ideal).

  3. Heat a large, heavy frying pan and then pour the rest of the oil into it. When the oil is very hot, almost smoking, place the fish fillets in the pan and fry for 1-2 minutes each side.

  4. Check the seasoning of the tomato sauce; this is the time to add your salt, as well as adjust the spiciness by adding a little chilli powder to make it more or a little sugar to make it less. Reduce the heat under the fish to low, and pour the sauce over everything.

  5. Cook the linguini, but definitely not according to the instructions on the packet. That is a sure fire way of overcooking fresh pasta to mulch. It needs to be not so much cooked as blanched; a quick submersion in lots of salted boiling water, wait till it comes back to the boil, then out into a colander and give it a good rinse with some clean hot water. Shake the colander well to get rid of all excess water.

  6. Divide the pasta between two plates, then carefully place the fish fillets on top and spoon over lots of sauce. Add a little freshly ground pepper for fragrance, but don’t go wild unless you really like it hot. Incidentally, I do believe this could work just as well if not better with Asian noodles.

The whole thing took me less than half an hour and was surprisingly delicious. I had some reservations about what Italian pasta will taste like with sweet and sour, but it worked remarkably well. I do believe that the freshness of the pasta played a role here, though; dry pasta has a much stronger flavour and might not react as well to this slightly exotic take on sauce.

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