GIRLFRIENDS' LEMON LINGUINE
So called because I always seem to cook this for my best girlfriends. It's at once simple and sophisticated: like the best dishes, it uses few ingredients, but the combination, clinging to the strands of pasta, is utterly delicious. It's also dead easy to make and can be knocked up very quickly for a mid-week supper. It would also make a great starter.
I first came across this pasta dish in 1990 when I worked for an eccentric and very bossy art and antiquarian bookseller who claimed to be related to the Viscount de Lisle. She had rather suspect people-skills and thought that giving her staff a slap-up supper once a month would keep us loyal: she was wrong. I lasted 14 months in that job (I got tired of her swearing at me and expecting me to organise her childcare), but she did introduce me to my next boss, for whom I worked very happily for seven years. One of the staff had spent some time in Italy, and lemon linguine was her "signature dish". It was so delicious that we all asked her for the recipe, but she very meanly refused to share it, and I wasted a lot of time, effort and ingredients trying to recreate it. I eventually found a recipe in Nigella Lawson's fantastic book How To Eat. It is made in a similar way to Spaghetti Carbonara, in that the sauce is cooked by the heat of the pasta.
This is my recipe, adapted from Nigella's, and serves two comfortably. It doubles up easily. The trick is not to use too much cream as this makes the sauce too slurpy.
150-200g linguine, dried or fresh (or use spaghetti)
1 egg, lightly beaten
Zest & juice of 1 lemon
1 tbsp creme fraiche
Approx 1 tbsp grated fresh parmesan cheese, plus extra for sprinkling.
A handful of fresh rocket per person (optional)
Freshly ground pepper
Mix the cream, lemon zest and juice, and parmesan with the egg. Meanwhile, cook the pasta according to the manufacturer's instructions. Drain, and immediately stir in the eggy lemony mixture until all the strands are coated with sauce. Serve, add more freshly grated parmesan and a generous handful of fresh rocket, if liked, and plenty of black pepper.
Sometimes I add jumbo prawns or strips of smoked salmon.