The thread of Nigella is strong here.
There’s a slight web of inspiration happening with this recipe that meets somewhere in between Nigella’s Italian inspired cookbook, Nigellissima (2012) and Simply Nigella (2015) with a little added layover in Jack Monroe’s Tin Can Cook (2019) which, in true culinary respect, is the definition of a fusion of inspirations.
Simply Nigella was the first Nigella book I bought as a ‘fan’. This meaning, I came to both Nigella, and cooking, very late in my life so at 23, when I moved into my first apartment and fell headfirst into Nigella obsession when I read Kitchen (2010) I had to go back through all of Nigella’s past books and get up to speed.
So when Simply Nigella was released 2 years later, it was the first book I bought as a ‘new book’ – if that makes sense? And as a result, Simply Nigella remains to this day, my favourite Nigella book.
Just some of the recipes from Simply Nigella that I feel I have running through my veins, and would highly recommend, are the Salmon, Avocado, Watercress & Pumpkin Seed Salad (which I have featured on my website and shamelessly nowadays add sliced fennel to), the Slow-cooker Beef & Guinness Stew with Prunes & Black Treacle, and the vegan-friendly the Dark & Sumptuous Chocolate Cake.
However, there is one method in this book for baking whole garlic bulbs in foil that I just cannot be without. I can’t fathom a kitchen of mine without it. Basically, and there is much more detail in the recipe below, you bake a whole garlic bulb in a hot oven so that the garlic gets caramelised, rich and jammy – meaning you can squeeze it directly from the bulb into whatever you are cooking.
Anybody who has a fascination with pimple popping videos will understand the delight I take in squeezing the soft pureed garlic from it’s bulb.
The caramelised garlic has all of the acrid burn removed from the garlic, which means you are left with nothing but intense, sweet yet smoky garlic – perfect to squeeze into stews, soups, curries, on to jacket potatoes or hell, even just spread on some toast with some butter as I do often. Or, for it’s intended purpose that Nigella suggests, in a hummus!
But for this recipe, I am combining it with some foamy, melted butter and sharp, lemony sumac to create a silky sauce for pasta.
For the addition from the sea, I took inspiration from Nigella’s Pasta with Mackerel, Marsala & Pine Nuts, lacing this pasta dish with the smoky, meaty morsels of mackerel however, something both Nigella and Jack Monroe’s writing have taught me is to never be afraid of what I enjoy in the kitchen and to not have shame over my preferences. So dear reader, it is with no shame I say, this is made with tinned mackerel.
Yes, there I said. TINNED. Deal with it.
I see this recipe as a development on top of the disgusting meal I lived on in University, which was basically a can of tuna dumped on top of cooked pasta and then mayonnaise squirted all over it. I’d even have the nerve to garnish it with black pepper as if I was in a fancy restaurant or something.
My mam’s friend Kevin would laugh at me for years to come, because here goes Mikey with a food website, yet all he lived on in University was pasta, tinned tuna and mayonnaise. The pasta mayonnaise may be behind me, but while I live, I learn, I evolve I will, still shamelessly, continue to use tinned fish with pasta.
Sure you could get fresh mackerel and it would taste fantastic, even better than mine, highly likely. However, I don’t like not having mackerel on standby, so if I have to have absurdly yellow tins of the stuff within arms reach of the stove, then so be it.
1 large bulb garlic, unpeeled
50g unsalted butter
1 teaspoon olive oil
1 teaspoon sumac + extra pinch for sprinkling
1 x 125g tin mackerel in olive oil (drained)
A handful of chopped fresh parsley
- Preheat the oven to 220C
- Cut off the top of the garlic bulb so that you can still see the tops of the garlic cloves. Wrap the bulb tightly, but baggily in some foil and pop in the hot oven for 45 – 50 minutes. Once the time is up, remove the foil parcel from the oven and allow to cool slightly while you get on with the pasta.
- Put a big pan of water on to boil for the pasta, and once it’s boiling, add the linguine and salt the water generously. Cook the linguine to package instruction (maybe a minute or so less) and just before you drain the pasta, remove a small cupful of the starchy cooking water and leave to one side. Drain the pasta in a colander and leave to sit just for a few mere moments while you make the ‘sauce’ (not that it’s really a sauce…)
- Put the now empty pasta pan on a medium heat and add the butter and olive oil. Fry until the butter is bubbling gently, and then carefully remove the garlic bulb from it’s foil parcel.
- Squeeze the soft, caramelly garlic from it’s bulb into the foaming garlic. Pour in a small drop of the pasta cooking liquid, just enough to loosen the garlic and stir to combine.
- Add the sumac, drained mackerel fillets and a little salt and pepper to the pan and using your spoon, gently break up the mackerel fillets into small bite size chunks in the pan.
- Add in the drained pasta, stirring everything in the pan to combine.
- Spoon the linguine into serving bowls, and scatter with the fresh parsley, and a further sprinkling of sumac to serve.