Monthly Archives: April 2012

Culinary Treats from Chez Ronni: Shrimp Fra Diavolo

After eating little more than leftover baked gammon (see: ham) in one variation or another since Easter, I decided to cook something new for dinner last night.  In an effort to “change things up” a bit, I steered clear of chicken and salmon since those meats end up being our staples, going instead for a good shrimp recipe.  This one turned out to be fantastically delicious with the added perks of being exceptionally easy to make, extremely healthy, and also quite versatile.

Credit for this recipe goes to Food Network’s Giada De Laurentiis (who, by the way, I’ve yet to make a recipe from I didn’t like).  Shrimp Fra Diavolo, though, seems to be a pretty basic dish as the recipes for it didn’t vary greatly from one place to another.  I served this with wild rice and steamed broccoli, but it would be perfect over pasta and likely also pretty good with roasted or mashed potatoes.

Also, because of the nature of the recipe it would be very easy to substitute different meats in.  Chicken or some sort of Italian sausage would be wonderful in this recipe (or a combination of several types such as shrimp and sausage).  Likewise the sauce would probably do well baked over tilapia or another mild fish.  Jason was still raving about this recipe this morning and suggested that I cook up the sauce in advance to freeze for an even quicker dinner.

(Supposedly this also makes fantastic leftovers as the sauce and meat continue to flavour through.  When we eat the leftovers, I’ll let you know for sure.)

Shrimp Fra Diavolo

  • 1 pound large shrimp, peeled, deveined
  • 1 teaspoon salt, plus additional as needed
  • 1 teaspoon dried crushed red pepper flakes
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil, plus 1 to 2 tablespoons
  • 1 medium onion, sliced
  • 1 (14 1/2-ounce) can diced tomatoes (can use seasoned, fire roasted, etc.)
  • 1 cup dry white wine
  • 3 garlic cloves, chopped
  • 1/4 teaspoon dried oregano leaves
  • 3 tablespoon chopped fresh Italian parsley leaves (or 3tsp dried)
  • 3 tablespoon chopped fresh basil leaves (or 3tsp dried)
  1. Toss the shrimp in a medium bowl with 1 teaspoon of salt and red pepper flakes.
  2. Heat the 3 tablespoons oil in a heavy large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the shrimp and sauté for about a minute, toss, and continue cooking until just cooked through, about 1 to 2 minutes.
  3. Transfer the shrimp to a large plate; set aside.* Add the onion to the same skillet, adding 1 to 2 teaspoons of olive oil to the pan, if necessary, and sauté until translucent, about 5 minutes.
  4. Add the tomatoes with their juices, wine, garlic, and oregano. Simmer until the sauce thickens slightly, about 10 minutes.
  5. Return the shrimp and any accumulated juices to the tomato mixture; toss to coat, and cook for a few minutes so the flavours meld together.
  6. Stir in the parsley and basil.
  7. Season with more salt, to taste, and serve.

*As a point of interest, the shrimp was really tasty just plain like this.  Jason kept snitching pieces from the plate while I was cooking up the sauce.

  • I used seasoned canned tomatoes (in London they don’t have fire roasted tomatoes readily available, so I used tomatoes with pepper and chillies instead).  Incidentally this probably was unnecessary as I didn’t notice it added significantly to the flavour except perhaps to put a little extra heat in it.  If you like spicy, feel free to do this, but regular tomatoes should be fine.
  • I added a little bit of tomato paste to the sauce to thicken it up a bit, and also cooked it slightly longer than called for to allow it to flavour through well.
  • I used dried herbs, so rather than just stirring them in and immediately serving, I let the mixture simmer for a few minutes after adding the basil and parsley.
  • I didn’t need any extra salt for the sauce.  All I used was the teaspoon I tossed the shrimp with.
  • In London, they have two heat options for crushed red pepper (mild and hot).  I don’t know if this is the case in the States, but I happen to have the hot variety in my herb box.  This might make a difference as to how spicy the dish ultimately ends up.  Feel free to add or subtract the spice to your preference.  Jason commented (and complimented) that it was spicy in a flavourful way without just being blatantly hot, so it’s safe to use the hot variety.
  • I didn’t have a regular onion so I used several small shallots, and as Jason isn’t a huge fan of large pieces of onion I chopped mine up a bit more finely.  It didn’t seem to detract from the dish at all

I definitely recommend everyone trying this one out.  It literally took 15-20 minutes to cook (with a bit of extra time for chopping the garlic and onions), and is a nice change up from the average spaghetti or pasta meal.  Let me know what you think!!


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While the cat’s away…

And boy did the mice play!

When first Jason mentioned he’d be going Stateside for a full week, I was admittedly at a loss as to what I was possibly going to do with so much time alone.  With visions of long, luxurious bubble baths complete with wine, candles, and a smutty romance novel dancing playfully about in my head, I figured I could probably manage well enough.  In truth, I actually had rather ambitious plans to transform our little flat (which had been accumulating a rather alarming amount of muck) into a sparkling palace through a weekend of deep cleaning and minor renovations of both decorative and functional varieties.

Needless to say, most of that didn’t actually happen (though to my credit I did manage to vacuum, clean our bedroom, bathroom, and kitchen, and also do a bunch of laundry over the course of the week).   Instead I found myself “out and about” almost every day, gallivanting around London, an expedition complete with several nights of drinking, feeding the rodents of St. James’ Park…twice, shopping, visiting a horseback riding school, and having my hair dramatically dyed and cut (a decision made while completely sober, if slightly hungover).

I can’t in good faith claim full credit for my weekend deviance, though, as I had considerable help and encouragement from Katharine whose boyfriend, incidentally, was also away for a week.  Honestly, I had a great time if there was any question.  Everyday I’m becoming more and more intimately acquainted with London and feeling more and more settled.  Katharine is lovely company, and given our numerous similarities we certainly don’t lack for mutually enjoyable trouble to get into.

Having left mid-week, most of our shenanigans were relegated to the weekend, though Katharine and I did go to St. James’ Park to feed the critters nuts and bread and then out for dinner and drinks at a fantastic Irish pub called Waxy O’Connor’s Wednesday night.  Thursday remained uneventful, and Friday saw a reprise of St. James’ Park before I headed home to handle a bit of industrious cleaning.

Saturday began early with an appointment, after which I met Katharine at Borough Market for what seems to be a growing tradition of “Saturday Morning Coffee” and lunch before heading out on our mission for the day: assessing a riding school in Dulwich (pronounced: Duhl itch for anyone who cares).  Travelling to this little area in southeast London would ordinarily have been a relatively simple affair if it weren’t for all the engineering works being done on various rail lines throughout the city in preparation of the impending Olympics.  Inconveniently, both train lines we needed to take to get to the school were closed for the weekend so we had to do a bit of creative travelling by bus and foot to get there.  On the upside, this route turned out to be rather scenic, and Dulwich is a gorgeous area.

It was late afternoon by the time we arrived, though still quite light out.  The Dulwich Riding School (creative name not withstanding) was clean and quaint, greeting us at the gate with a pleasant and enthusiastically hand-painted sign on a slate of wood that said:

It’s hard to tell whether this is an offer to any runner passing by who might be in need or a call to emancipation!  In any case, I wasn’t in the market, but you never know when the need for horse dung will randomly pop up.

Having ridden at a few different schools in the States, all in the rural areas of South Carolina on great stretches of open land, I wasn’t entirely sure what to expect of a riding school in the middle of the city with little or no conceivable “countryside” to make use of, so it wasn’t too much of a surprise to notice that the school in terms of land space was quite small.  Set literally on the roadside, it appears to have carved a small acre (I’d be surprised if it was much more than that) out of the edge of Dulwich Park.  The school has presumably been there for 50 years, so it’s possible that the park was built around it rather than the other way around.  In any case, it boasts of a small stretch of stables housing perhaps 20 horses and ponies, an outdoor ring, an indoor training facility, and a small paddock all clumped together in a charmingly old-fashioned sort of way.

While there were a few cars parked in the lot, the stable area was largely deserted save for a handful of curious horses poking their heads over their stall doors and the most adorable little Rottweiler puppy sitting with its little puppy tail wagging  frantically and pink tongue lolling underneath a “Beware of Dog” sign.  Katharine and I couldn’t resist petting and playing with him/her (we didn’t check) for a few minutes while we waited for someone who looked reasonably official to come back into the front area of the school.

Eventually we wrangled a young woman out of a stall where she looked to be busily weighing and tying up bundles of hay to speak to us for a few minutes.   Lessons at this school are surprisingly inexpensive – only £22 for classes (up to 8 riders) and £27.50 for semi-private (2 to 3 people).  On top of the excellent price, the school is also rather conveniently located near to Clapham.  Katharine and I immediately scheduled a lesson for the next possible opening (April 14th at 11:30am) and can now hardly wait for it to get here!

By the time we made it back to the more central area of London, it was growing late.  Though we rushed to try to run a couple of quick errands, most of the shops were closing, and sure enough the store Katharine needed to go to was closed by the time we reached it.  Abandoning any remaining effort to be productive, we hopped on a train and headed west to the Baron’s Court area to meet up with a friend of Katharine’s, also from Trinidad.  A couple bottles of champagne and wine and several hours later the two of us were stumbling home in a cheerful haze.

Sunday started off slowly, and painfully – wine hangovers are the worst – but ended with the highlights of getting pampered at a hair salon followed by a Caribbean dinner and a gourmet French bakery for post meal coffee and dessert (amusingly the food and coffee here

were better than anywhere I ate at in Paris, and the wait staff was infinitely friendlier).  I had something called “Russian Honey Cake” with a honey and ginger latte.  It was really delicious.  The cake tasted like graham crackers and custard.  Katharine had Bailey’s cheesecake with a hazelnut and ginger latte.  We split both.

Work largely kept me out of trouble for the last two days before Jason got home, though I did manage to completely devastate my kitchen making homemade Swedish meatballs with mashed potatoes for supper Monday night.  The meatballs were actually quite delicious despite my forgetting to add one ingredient (2 egg yolks) and putting a bit too much nutmeg in the mixture, but the mess I made in the kitchen looked more like my refrigerator had exploded across the counters rather than a simple dinner for one.  I’ll say this though, cooking in a tiny, one-countered galley-style kitchen requires a special kind of talent (and patience) that I’ve evidently yet to master.  I honestly would have taken a picture if I hadn’t been either up to my elbows in raw meat or trying to mash potatoes and whisk gravy simultaneously.  God knows how I’m going to manage to cook a respectable Easter dinner for 8 or 10 people this weekend.

Interesting Tidbits:
  • Squirrels are adorable close up.  They’re also surprisingly polite when taking nuts out of your hands.  Very gentle.  Birds on the other hand are flat out obnoxious.
  • I’m in dire need of a puppy fix.  Rottweiler puppies are ridiculously cute.
  • Bank/Monument Station is quite possibly the most convoluted place I’ve ever had the misfortune to be in when in a hurry.  Allow at least 20 minutes to find your way out of the rat maze that is Bank station.  (It has three or four lines, 11 exits, and naturally, just as with airports, the line you arrive on is the furthest away from the exits when you’re in a hurry and requires you to travel through three other line platforms to just find your way into a common area.)
  • The Piccadilly Line is by far the best tube line.


P.S. Most of the images in this post don’t belong to me, as I have once again failed at photo logging my experiences.  One day before I die, I will adopt this habit.

P.P.S Check out the newest video uploaded to the “For Laughs” page here.

Categories: London | Tags: , , , , , | 1 Comment

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