kitchen adventures in port douglas: seafood aglio olio

i’m a pasta kind of girl.

as far as i can remember, i’ve always loved pasta. bolognese, squid ink, tossed in pesto. spaghetti and pesto was my take on the humble instant noodle in my final year of university. it took awhile for me to like carbonara because as a child i was served a very bland creamy version that turned me off cream-based pastas until i moved to australia, and tried a particularly delicious version cooked by a dear friend.

but the one pasta (flavour? not sure if that’s the right word) i absolutely love is aglio olio. perhaps because it’s fuss-free, as there is no need for simmering a sauce or anything fancy. perhaps because noodles are, somehow, comfort food. to me anyway.

so i’m on holiday in port douglas, an hour’s drive from cairns (shall share more details in the next post), and i’ve got the loveliest kitchen here in the most beautiful serviced apartment. so instead of heading out for dinner, my mum decided to encourage my little endeavours in the kitchen.

unlike other beach destinations, port douglas isn’t overrun by zealous store owners hoping for tourists to purchase their wares. the few stores here stock beachwear reminiscent of those available in bali and phuket, so shopping isn’t great – which is fine by me, since i’m not here to fill my suitcase, haha. my best friends here are seafood house (a little store selling the freshest seafood, no kidding) and a fairly well-stocked coles.

mum decides the menu, and so tonight’s dinner was a quick and easy seafood aglio olio.

we found cheap-as scallops ($5 for 6!) and a small tray of bugs (no, not insects) for $11.70. after spending an afternoon journalling by the beach, i headed back to the apartment and started cooking.

this is the other kind of bug that’s edible (and quite yummy too). photo: thomas quine, via flickr

i do realise this probably isn’t a traditional aglio olio recipe, but it’s one that i rely on regularly for a quick, comforting meal (: hope you enjoy making and eating it!

homecooked goodness.

seafood aglio olio
serves 2

ingredients:
250g pasta (i usually use spaghetti, but linguini, parpadelle, or any other long pastas also work well)
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 bulbs garlic, chopped
any seafood you can lay your hands upon
zest of one lemon (optional)
chilli flakes (optional, can be substituted with fresh chillies)
1 lemon, cut into wedges (optional)
knob of butter (optional)
salt and pepper to taste

method:
1. in a large pot, boil water. add salt when water comes to a boil. add pasta and cook according to packet instructions.

traditionally, pasta is cooked in water that’s as salty as the mediterranean, so i like to add copious amounts of salt when cooking pasta – but it’s up to you (:

2. in the meantime, put some olive oil in a pan and cook seafood, taking care not to overcook them. set aside.

with the scallops, i took them off their shells and seared them for 30 seconds on each side.

3. put some olive oil in a pan. add garlic and lemon zest, taking care not to burn the garlic.

you don’t need to wait for the pan to heat up before adding the garlic – which saves time (yes, i’m a lazy cook)! i also like to add some salt to this garlic, olive oil and lemon zest mixture. the lemon zest is optional as i realise not everyone owns a zester, or likes lemon. but it imparts a very slight citrusy flavour to the pasta that mere lemon juice cannot achieve somehow.

4. at this stage, the pasta should be cooked. drain pasta, reserving a ladleful of pasta water in a bowl for later use.

5. chuck pasta in the pan and stir!

i usually never manage to evenly distribute the garlic in pasta, so i don’t even try. haha. after mixing, have a taste to see if you’d like to add salt and pepper. you can also throw in chilli flakes/fresh chillies at this stage, as well as your seafood. if you find the pasta is quite dry, add the ladleful of pasta water you reserved earlier. the pasta water helps moisten and develop the flavours in the dish (:

for added richness, stir in a knob of butter before serving.

i like to squeeze a wedge of lemon over the pasta just before eating. i’m not sure why, although mum reminds me that i do have a penchant for acidic flavours. she thinks it’s a pretty cool idea though, since us singaporeans are accustomed to squeezing a lime on our hokkien mee (a singaporean stir-fried noodle dish that’s simmered in prawn stock) anyhow.

i’m sure some of you out there have other aglio recipes/tricks to share. comment awayyyyy!

bon appetit!

lots of love,
diane

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