Once upon a time, I featured a recipe in these columns which had been contributed by a friend.
It was 2007 (I checked in the archives – I’ve been writing this for a long time) and it was, ‘Steve’s Tunafish and Tomato Pasta.’
Pasta with tuna and tomato (as the name suggests), it was and periodically has been, a quick supper for a weekday evening when the weight of the world is crushing my spirit and I need something on the table faster than you could say, “To hell with dinner, I’m going to the pub.”
Steve first made me the dish during a weekend break in London. I’d gone to visit him there (also in 2007 – I’ve been acting the wag for a long time), when he was at uni and he had been keen to knock up the dish, which he claimed was his own invention.
Prior to arrival however – the flights and time off work had long been booked – Steve let me into a secret that he had hitherto declined to divulge. He had eventually decided to run this past me in the off-chance that I’d hit the roof when he made the big reveal after I’d stepped off the plane at Gatwick.
His plan was this: Without telling me, Steve had toyed with the idea of booking and paying for flights to Amsterdam for the both of us. Subsequently, after I’d disembarked from the Belfast flight, he’d have a beer and a packet of crisps waiting ahead of a connecting flight to the ‘Dam. His thinking was: He wasn’t going to tell me about the Amsterdam leg of the holiday seeing as how I might persuade him it would be a bad idea. His further thinking was: He would just book and pay for the flights, say nothing and then I’d HAVE to go through with the plan, or he’d lose the money he’d paid for the flights.
Ultimately though, I was glad he divulged his wayward plan ahead of me landing in London.
“We can’t go to Amsterdam, Steve,” I remember telling him with as much patience as I could muster. “We’d either be killed or deported or we’d lose our passports in a game of high stakes poker and then I’d have to ring home and come clean and then, I’d be killed and/or deported.”
“Imagine the craic we’d have, though.”
“It’s not happening.”
Ultimately again, I vetoed the Amster-plan, it didn’t happen and Steve saved his money. But that doesn’t stop him bringing it up when he comes to visit.
However, I digress… this being a column about Steve’s Tunafish Pasta.
Chatting to the man himself last week, he remarked that after such a long time enjoying his original recipe for the tunafish pasta, he had updated the recipe.
“You’re not going to like the idea of this but you’ll have to trust me,” he said.
“Does it involve secret flights to Amsterdam, high stakes adventures and a certain type of cafe?”
“No, but that could be arranged.”
Steve went on to explain that in a moment of madness, he had added two new ingredients to his original recipe which had elevated it beyond recognition and onto a celestial realm.
“You’re not going to like the idea of this but you’ll have to trust me,” he repeated.
“What are the two new ingredients?”
“Sriracha mayo and spring onions.”
“Hmmm, spring onions I can see but I’m not sure the sriracha is overly traditional.”
“OK, so sriracha is from Thailand – or somewhere in Asia – and pasta is Italian. But don’t forget that the Thais have their own version of pasta: Noodles. You’re going to have to trust me on this.”
So that’s what I did.
On Friday night of last week, I made Steve’s Updated Tunafish Pasta and although no-one else in the house opted for the updated version, I have to admit, I was smitten.
The freshness of the spring onions, which are added at the end and with the spice coming from the sriarcha, made for the most uplifting and wonderful experience. So I rang Steve back immediately.
“What about this trip to Amsterdam?” I asked.
“Sorry, pal. That window of opportunity is closed.”
“In other news, the new pasta dish is top drawer.”
So here goes…
(serves 4 – or two if it’s just me and Steve)
400g of the pasta shape of your choice
olive oil, a goodly glug
2 garlic cloves, finely sliced
1 tin of chopped tomatoes
2 or 3 (or 4 – it depends on the size) fresh tomatoes, quartered
1 tsp of sugar
1 tsp of oregano
1 tbsp of either crème fraiche or a soft cheese like Philadelphia
1 tin of tuna (Steve likes the one in spring water but I prefer sunflower oil)
salt and freshly ground black pepper
three spring onions, chopped
lots of sriracha mayo
a squeeze of lemon juice
Star off by pulling the water on to boil for the pasta. The whole thing takes as long as the pasta take to cook.
Add a glug of olive oil to a saucepan and add the garlic. You just want to show the garlic to the heat, so after 20 or 30 seconds of gentle frying, add in the tinned tomatoes and fresh tomatoes; the sugar, oregano and a bit of seasoning – but not too much.
Bring it to a gentle simmer and let it bubble away until the pasta is al dente.
Check the seasoning of the sauce. It will certainly take lots of black pepper.
Drain the pasta and then mix through the tomato sauce and the crème fraiche.
When mixed, add in the tuna and fold through.
Check the seasoning again and adjust: I give another full-scale bombardment of freshly ground black pepper.
Divvy up into bowls and top with the spring onions, parmesan and sriracha mayo. The lemon juice isn’t in Steve’s recipe but I think a few drops helps lift everything a little. And that’s it.
An Amster-plan is optional but according to Steve, recommended.
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