London is probably the capital of the restaurant world, along with Paris, but I was surprised that I had to pound the streets of fancy Mayfair and adjoining Oxford Street and Bond Street looking for a place still serving dinner on a Saturday at 9 pm.

Finally I settled on a not-so-so-expensive Italian restaurant still welcoming customers past nine on a rainy night. My bill was close to £20 and the pasta was way below par and they were so miserly with the Parmesan, dishing out little kanjus pinches.

My perpetual hankering for eating a special tasting pasta in London remained unfulfilled.

So the next day I decided to try to find some pasta through a more tried-and-tested route and headed to Knightsbridge to the popular Pasta Evangelists counter at Harrods.

It was summer and the Summer After Two Years of COVID-19 and travel-starved tourists packed Harrods’ food hall browsing for the their fave variety of baklava or caviar or creme brulee or macarons or truffles or…

This food hall is a Good Food paradise where not only do you find the delectable you had been dreaming about all your life, but five varieties of it and it is often not so unaffordable as you would expect.

Harrods’ food hall doesn’t permit you to eat inside and you pack your lunch and head to the open air food court outside, or if you are desperate, like some I saw, you sit on the curb.

I chose cooked-in-front-of-you buttery papparadelle teamed with a wild mushroom sauce (£10.50 totally) topped with shavings of fresh Parmesan cheese and some excellent creme brulee for dessert and had it packed.

It was a gloriously sunny but not overwarm early July day and I took my loot and headed to Hyde Park and had a heavenly afternoon to remember.

This recipe is a close approximation of the pasta I ate that day.

Harrods’ Wild Mushroom Papparadelle

Serves: 2-3

  • 300 gm uncooked papparadelle (a few brands of papparadelle are available online)
  • 2 tbsp butter + 1 tbsp to butter the pasta
  • 1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • Generous handful cheese, grated
  • 150 gm wild mushrooms or any interesting fresh and/or dry mushroom medley
  • ½ carrot, peeled, grated
  • 1 onion, chopped fine
  • 1 stalk celery, chopped fine
  • 1 tomato, ground to a puree
  • 1 sprig fresh rosemary
  • 1 tbsp maida or all-purpose flour
  • 1 large tej patta or bay leaf
  • Salt to taste
  • 1 tsp black pepper powder
  • 6 pods garlic, chopped fine or crushed
  • 1 cup pasta water
  • ½ cup milk
  • Dash cream
  • 2 tbsp chopped fresh parsley, for serving
  • Generous sprinklings per serving grated fresh Parmesan cheese, for serving

Method

  • If using dried mushrooms, wash them and soak them in about 2 cups hot water for 2 hours. Drain and chop into bite-size pieces.
    Cut the fresh mushrooms, you may be using too, into bite-size pieces.
    Fry the mushrooms in a frying pan over medium heat in 1 tbsp butter for 5 minutes.
    Then add the garlic and fry for 2-3 minutes more.
    Empty into a bowl and keep aside.
  • In the same frying pan fry the onion, carrot and celery in the olive oil and 1 tbsp butter till quite soft.
    Then add the the tomato puree, bay leaf, salt, pepper, rosemary.
  • While the vegetables are frying boil the papparadelle till exactly al dente (please see the note below).
    Drain but preserve a cup of the pasta water (in which the pasta was boiled) and keep aside.
    Add 1 tbsp butter to the drained pasta.
    Keep aside.
  • Add 1 tbsp flour to the frying onions, carrots etc and saute a little further so the onion-carrot-celery mixture is evenly coated with flour.
    Then add the ½ cup milk and the ½ cup reserve pasta water or more.
    As the sauce thickens use a whisk to smoothen the sauce.
    Add the mushrooms.
    Add the dash of cream.
    And the handful of grated cheese.
    Remove the bay leaf.
    Allow the sauce to thicken and add a little more of the reserve pasta water to get the right consistency.
    It should not be too thick — a little thicker than soup consistency.
  • To serve divide the pasta between 2-3 plates or pasta bowls and pour 3-4 tbsp of the mushroom sauce, or more, on top of papparadelle and sprinkle some grated fresh parmesan and a little finely chopped parsley.
    Serve with garlic bread on the side and close, if possible, with a sumptuous dessert 🙂

Note: Meat lovers may like to substitute the mushroom with 200 gm curry-sized pieces of lamb or mutton that should be sauteed like the mushroom was in this recipe, till it browns evenly on the outside.

The meat will need to cook eventually with the onions and vegetables, 2 cups water and, if you prefer, ½ cup red wine for a long time to form a sauce, 5-8 whistles over medium heat in a pressure cooker till well done.

This pasta main course also pairs well with a preceding course of cold meats and bread, or a salad. Pasta is usually served as a course by itself.

If unable to locate papparadelle pasta, use tagliatelle pasta instead, which is easily available online or in grocery stores.

Al dente means ‘to the tooth’ or pasta that has a bite to it. Packets of pasta usually have their cooking time listed on them. To make a pasta al dente, subtract one minute or 1½ minutes from the regular cooking time.

This is a fairly rich pasta, but to make it slightly healthier opt for a whole wheat pasta, use only extra virgin olive oil instead of butter and skip the cream. And go slow on the cheese.

For a vegan version, use vegan cheese, skip the cream and substitute the milk with almond milk, the butter with cashew butter.

For a Jain version skip the garlic and substitute the onions with the chopped greens of leeks.

  • REDIFF RECIPES

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