In the run-up to Valentine’s Day, we’re focusing on dining for two with a competition to win a signed copy of Bre Graham’s new cookbook Table for Two and one of our tablecloths. Table for Two is food writer Bre’s first cookbook, showcasing recipes to cook for the people you love. Part I offers uncomplicated but outstanding recipes, while Part II focuses on cooking that is over-the-top-but-no-stress. The book contains 80 recipes, six essays and six menus focused on cooking for someone that you love. Enter our competition (closing midnight Thursday 9th February 2023) to win a copy or order the book here.
To celebrate the release of Table for Two, we are delighted to share two of Bre’s recipes below. This pasta dish and panna cotta dessert are perfect for a cosy dinner for two.
Smoked Chilli and Vodka Rigatoni
If you have a bottle of vodka, a tube of tomato purée (tomato paste) and some cream, you’re very close to creating a plate of pasta akin to pure bliss. This is the sort of meal you want to eat after one too many glasses of wine. It’s carby, creamy and super spicy. The sauce is greater than the sum of its parts and comes together in the time it takes to boil the pasta. The classic combination of garlic and onion is the root of many sauces, but here they’re finely grated to add a base note to the intensity of the sweet tomato purée and richness of the cream. The vodka mellows any hint of acidity to create a real star of a sauce. The best part though is the smoked chilli – just a teaspoon shifts this to the sort of dish you want to cook 5 nights a week, and continuously crave.
250g (9oz) dried rigatoni
15g (1 tbsp) unsalted butter
½ white onion, finely grated
A pinch of sea salt, plus extra to cook the pasta
4 garlic cloves, finely grated
3 tbsp tomato purée (tomato paste)
1 tsp smoked dried chilli (chile) flakes
75ml (5 tbsp) vodka
100ml (6½ tbsp) double (heavy) cream
1 handful of basil leaves, finely sliced, plus extra leaves to serve
1 handful of freshly grated Parmesan cheese, plus extra to serve
Cook the rigatoni in a big pot of boiling salted water following the packet instructions. While the pasta is cooking, melt the butter in a deep sauté pan over a medium heat. Add the onion and sauté with a pinch of salt for about 5 minutes, until softened. Add the garlic and cook, stirring, until fragrant, then add the tomato purée and smoked chilli flakes. Turn the heat down a little, stir and cook gently for 2 minutes. As the tomato paste caramelises and starts to darken in colour and stick to the bottom, pour in the vodka and stir to deglaze the pan. Let the vodka cook off and reduce before stirring in the cream. The sauce should be smooth, creamy and deep orange in colour. Stir in the basil and Parmesan. Drain the rigatoni, reserving 4 tablespoons of the pasta cooking water. Add the pasta and cooking water to the sauce and toss to combine. Serve the pasta topped with extra basil leaves and grated Parmesan or, for a total delight, a ball of burrata. Eat immediately and enjoy.
Smoked chilli flakes - If you can’t find smoked chilli or chipotle flakes, use regular dried chilli (crushed red pepper flakes) and add a tiny pinch of sweet smoked paprika instead to give that gorgeous smoky flavour.
Perfumed Panna Cotta
Delicate and divine, perfumed with vanilla and rose, these little panna cotta are utterly irresistible. They have a luxurious, voluptuous wobble, and are equally lovely served by themselves as they are with the roasted rhubarb on the side. If you can’t get your hands on a vanilla pod, a good-quality paste will work too. These panna cotta are super simple to make, but do start to prepare them either the night before, or the morning of serving to allow them time to chill and set.
200ml (scant 1 cup) double (heavy) cream
3½ tbsp whole milk
1 vanilla pod, split and seeds scraped out, or 1 tsp vanilla paste
60g (4 tbsp) caster (superfine) sugar
1½ sheets of gelatine
½ tsp rosewater
2 rhubarb stalks, trimmed and chopped into equal-sized pieces
A little finely grated orange zest
Juice of 1 orange
Crystallized rose petals, to decorate (optional)
In a small pan, gently warm the cream, milk, vanilla and 3 tablespoons of the sugar on the lowest heat for 10 minutes, until infused. Stir occasionally to ensure the sugar dissolves and does not stick to the bottom of the pan. Take the pan off the heat. Add the gelatine to a large bowl of cold water and let it soak for a few minutes until soft. Remove the gelatine from the water and stir it into the warm milk mixture with the rosewater until dissolved. Pour the mix into 2 x 125ml (½ cup) moulds or small glasses. Pop them in the fridge where they’ll need about 6 hours or so to fully set. Heat the oven to 160°C fan (350°F/Gas 4). Place the rhubarb in a baking dish and sprinkle over the remaining sugar, the orange zest and juice. Roast the rhubarb for 15 minutes, until tender but it still holds its shape. Set aside to cool completely. To serve, gently dip the moulds or glasses into warm water to help ease the panna cotta out onto serving plates. Serve with the rhubarb and, if you’re feeling fancy, a single crystallized rose petal placed on top.
To enjoy more of Bre’s recipes, order a copy of Table for Two.
Images by Issy Crocker.