But this long gap doesn't mean I haven't been cooking - quite the opposite. What I tend to do quite often these days is get an idea, look up several different recipes related to it, then pick and choose bits of them and assemble my own version to suit the ingredients I have on hand, the amount of effort I want to put in and my own judgement about what will work best.
Earlier this month I had a (not very significant) birthday. There have been a series of delightful lunches and other outings with friends, with at least one more to come. But generally the evenings have been spent at home, sometimes cooking for friends. On my actual birthday, though, I was home alone, so I made the most of it.
Harvey loved oysters, and so do I. But he wanted to eat them in only two forms: completely au naturel, with lemon, pepper and thin bread and butter, or battered and deep fried. (Sent up the road to get a parcel of fish and chips for dinner, he was very good at turning it into something much more sexy by throwing in a dozen oysters.) So when I saw a $10.95 oyster special at Countdown, I decided I would break out and do something different with them.
The pottle turned out to contain six very large oysters. I ate two all by themselves as a starter, then set about turning the rest into a sauce for pasta. I looked at half a dozen recipes and came up with my own super-simple version.
Pasta with oysters for one
(Just size it up for more servings - hungry people may well eat 100g of pasta each. The quantities for the wine and cream are only approximate, since it depends on the amount of oyster liquor, the size of the oysters, and how oystery you want it to taste.)
75g linguine, preferably bronze die cut (see here)
tender white and green parts of one small leek, chopped into fine rings
2 small rashers streaky bacon, cut into small pieces
4 large or 6 smaller oysters, with their liquor
approx. 250ml dry vermouth or dry white wine (I prefer vermouth)
juice from half a small lemon
freshly ground black pepper
75ml cream (or more to taste - if you like a blander sauce, use more cream)
Cook the pasta in a large pan of boiling salted water. When it is al dente, remove 2 tablespoons of the cooking liquid and reserve. Drain the pasta, return to pan, stir in a small piece of the butter, and keep warm.
In a shallow non-stick pan, gently cook the bacon pieces in their own fat, remove, and set aside.
Melt the butter and gently saute the leeks. Remove and set aside with the bacon.
Drain the oyster liquor into the pan and add the vermouth or wine and the lemon juice. Bring to the boil, turn down to a simmer and put in the oysters, cut into pieces if they are large ones. Poach the oysters for 2 minutes, remove and set aside.
Warm a wide shallow pasta plate.
Increase the heat under the pan, add the 2 Tbsp saved pasta water, and boil gently until the liquid is reduced to about 1/2 cm in depth in the pan.
Turn the heat down to low. Put in the bacon, leeks and oysters. Stir in the cream and heat gently through. Check seasoning.
Put pasta in plate and pour over the sauce. Grind more pepper on top to taste.
Eat immediately with a glass of your favourite dry white. (Gruner veltliner is my favourite with oysters, but there are plenty of other good choices.)