Tagliatelle, tuna and spinach

  • Time: 45 minutes
  • Serves: 2
  • Level: easy

‘…With so much goodness this the perfect mid-week meal. Iron, protein, carbohydrates, greens, flavour and taste… you’ll be ready to tackle anything. A smaller helping makes a perfect dinner party first course too.’

Pete
'Dad walks around a grocers and picks out some tasty looking strong spinach. A few hours later he's home and this is on the table. Yum...'

What you need

Approximately 200g of dried tagliatelle

1 x 160g tin of tuna in oil

500g of fresh, robust spinach leaves

1 large shallot, chopped

1 small clove of garlic, chopped

4 anchovy fillets

Half a chilli (to taste), chopped

Splash of white wine (optional)

250ml chicken or vegetable stock

1 large handful of fresh basil leaves

1 large handful of fresh parsley leaves

Zest of half a lemon

1tbs butter

Olive oil for cooking and finishing



Dad's Recipe Tales

A unique market place

Behind Waterloo Station, is Lower Marsh, a road I have been visiting for many years. I was walking down the road recently with Mrs WDC researching the subject of the next WDC Time Out blog. Once you get past the bravura of the Cubana restaurant the road quickly becomes plain and unassuming, but don’t let this put you off – it is full of hidden treasures. We ventured into one such treasure: Greensmiths – a small, but surprisingly expansive food emporium. The concept is a clever and unique response to the pressures of the competitive food retail sector. Operating under the umbrella of Greensmiths, is the renowned Ginger Pig butchers, Solstice the greengrocers, The Old Post Office Bakery, Caffe Antica, and The Waterloo Wine Company. All are partners of founding company Greensmiths; who themselves provide the ‘in-house’ cheese monger, general groceries and a kitchen providing takeaway meals using the produce from the shop.

Greensmiths should be on any foodie’s list of favourite destinations around Waterloo.

A cornucopia of produce

Greensmiths overflows with high quality produce – yet despite the up-market impression, costs are very reasonable. This makes it a practical and handy one-stop shop for local residents and visitors to the area. We were only in the store to have a look around, but I decided that I would stay to shop there for our dinner. Given that it was a Friday and WDC tends to operate a ‘Fish Friday’ policy, I bypassed the tempting Ginger Pig, and set out to find the ingredients…

Setting my own ‘invention test’

Greensmiths has everything – except for fresh fish (understandable in such a small-scale enterprise). So, the choice was frozen prawns or tinned tuna. I opted for tuna. The remainder of the task was easier – Solstice put on a breath-taking display of fruit and vegetables. The spinach caught my eye. Voluminous bunches of firm green leaves begged to be taken home – bouquets of fragrant basil and parsley asked if they could come too. I obliged them all. A large box of neat nests of dried tagliatelle completed the shop for dinner. But, having set my own ‘invention test’, I had no idea what to make.

Dinner à la Greensmiths

I thought I might try spinach or tuna balls to go with the pasta. But the spinach was too good to see whizzed into a puree and the tuna too tricky to mix into balls. Somehow I needed to put the spinach and tuna into the pasta without creating an emergency ‘SOS’ meal. I eventually settled on a robust green ‘sauce’. The idea was to keep the spinach chunky and combine it with chopped fresh basil and parsley – and tuna.

The result was brilliant. A delicious pasta intertwined with rich green spinach and herbs. The whole dish was so light and easy to eat – we kept going back for more.

Going back for more is something I intend to do at Greensmiths.

How Dad Cooked It

This dish was devised with a more robust spinach in mind. It’s grown in the garden as ‘perpetual’, or sold in markets in bundles tied by their long sturdy stalks. One supermarket defines a suitable type as ‘chunky chopped full flavour spinach for cooking’. If you can only get the delicate type precook the spinach until just wilted, drain and chop then add to the sauce at the very end of cooking. Otherwise, I cook my spinach in the sauce. This takes a little leap of faith as it seems rather counter intuitive. But persevere, just make sure you have enough liquid left in the sauce to steam and cook the spinach. The spinach is the star of the dish, so don’t overcook or or hold back on quantity.

  1. Boil the pasta water. Use a large pan and fill with 2l-3l of water, add a large pinch of salt and put on a high heat. Prepare the vegetables and sauce whilst the water comes to a boil. Simmer slowly until ready to use.
  2. Prepare the spinach and herbs. Wash the spinach and remove the stalks. (These can be discarded, but I chopped and fried them in oil and butter for 5 minutes and then blitzed in a processor and added to my sauce toward the end of cooking.) Shake off as much of the water from the spinach leaves as possible, chop roughly and set aside in a colander and drain well. Wash and dry the herbs and set aside.
  3. Make the sauce. Using a large non-stick pan or wok (with lid) on a medium-high heat, fry the shallot, garlic and chilli in a tablespoon of olive oil until sweated. Add the anchovies and cook until dissolved. Add the splash of wine if using and let it bubble for a minute. Then add the stock and bring to a simmer. Let this cook gently for about 10 minutes – it will then need about another 5 minutes to finish the sauce as in step 5 below. The sauce and pasta should be finished at the same time, so overlap the cooking of each.
  4. Cook the pasta.  Cook until al dente – follow guidelines on the packet. Whilst the pasta is cooking, start to finish the sauce. When the pasta is cooked, drain retaining a cup of the pasta cooking liquid. Providing the pasta is al dente, it will keep in the pan for several minutes if the sauce is not ready. Keep it moistened with the pasta cooking liquid.
  5. Finish the ‘sauce’. Turn the heat up on the sauce and add the tuna. Break it up gently. (The tuna is added at the end – we want to distinguish and taste the actual tuna rather than turning it into fish seasoning.) Add the butter and then add the spinach and put on the lid for a minute. (NB: butter helps soften the chemical reaction of spinach in the mouth.) Take off the lid and stir gently and cook until it is wilted, using the lid again if necessary. My preference is to under-cook the spinach, if a softer texture is desired continue cooking (but please don’t overcook). Meanwhile, chop the herbs finely. When the spinach is cooked to your liking, add the herbs and tagliatelle, tossing and turning the pasta to combine and warm through. Season with the lemon zest and salt and pepper to taste. If the pasta is too dry, use some of the retained pasta cooking liquid to moisten.
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These were trending a while back, but they were made famous long ago by Peter Gordon at Kopapa in Covent Garden London (now closed). I had them there and thought them a bit gloopy (sorry Peter/Turkey). My version is a Turkish-style poached egg on toast. Absolutely my favourite way to eat eggs at the moment.
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