Food writer Ed Smith shares three recipes from his new cookbook Crave – all of which are perfect for days when you’re hankering after something spicy.
Question: how do you decide what to cook?
Sometimes you might be inspired to use a seasonal ingredient, or experiment with a cuisine you’ve never tried to recreate before. Special occasions or dinner parties might motivate you to track down showstopping recipes to impress your guests. But usually, when cooking for yourself, you’re probably guided by nothing more or less than a general… craving.
On an unseasonably chilly spring evening, for example, you might suddenly find yourself hankering after a rich and savoury stew. Hot, sunny weekends can prompt longings for fresh, fragrant salads – while you might get through a long, stressful day by imagining the mac ‘n’ cheese you’ll rustle up once it’s over. These yearnings are often unpredictable and vague, but once we notice them, they become our gastronomic guiding stars.
This simple premise is the inspiration behind Crave: Recipes Arranged By Flavour, To Suit Your Mood And Appetite, the new cookbook by chef and food writer Ed Smith. Rather than being organised by course, season or ingredient, Crave is divided into chapters such as ‘tart and sour’, ‘spiced and curried’ and ‘cheesy and creamy’.
“Sometimes you’ll simply crave a particular flavour, and you don’t need to think about or justify that,” Smith writes in the introduction to the cookbook.
Below, Smith shares three recipes from the ‘chilli and heat’ chapter of Crave – all of which are ideal for when you’re in the mood for something spicy. At the milder end of the spectrum is his sriracha and lemon linguine, an Italian-Thai fusion dish sprinkled with chilli pangrattato breadcrumbs.
Somewhere on the middle of the heat spectrum is Smith’s many chilli pepper squid, which features Aleppo pepper flakes, fresh red chillies, Padrón peppers, jarred roasted red peppers and sweet smoked paprika for a richly complex – but not overwhelming – hit of heat.
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Spiciest of all is the brilliantly-named fiery chicken laab with extinguishing salad. Inspired by the cuisine of northern Thailand and Laos, this ultra-hot minced chicken dish is served with a cooling, crunchy salad and a scattering of roasted rice.
Ultimately, Smith hopes that Crave will “facilitate the intuitive pleasure of cooking and eating what you fancy, whatever the reason you fancy it”. Now that’s a food philosophy we can get on board with.
Sriracha and lemon linguine with chilli pangrattato
Ed says: “Cross-fertilization of cuisines might not be to everyone’s taste, but this tangle of classic Italian chilli, lemon and garlic spaghetti with pangrattato, power-splurged by south-east Asian sriracha, does work well. Indeed the addition of a pre-made, moreish hot sauce is an incredibly efficient way of layering pasta and breadcrumbs, not just with heat, but a sweet, garlicky, sticky tang that neither fresh nor dried chillies can add on their own. It’s an excellent way to quickly quench a heat craving.
“As a relatively important aside: your sriracha could be hotter than mine (I use Flying Goose or Tabasco versions), and indeed our tolerance to chilli may well differ too. So give these quantities a go, but maybe make a note as to whether you need more or less fire the next time.”
- 200g dried spaghetti
- 3 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
- 2 cloves garlic, very finely sliced
- 15g fresh parsley, stalks and leaves separated, both very finely chopped
- 5 tbsp sriracha
- juice ½ lemon
For the chilli pangrattato:
- 50g thick sliced bread (ideally something springy like sourdough, ciabatta or focaccia)
- 3 tbsp light olive oil
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 heaped tbsp sriracha
- ½ tbsp dried chilli flakes
- heavy pinch flaky sea salt
Make the chilli pangrattato first. Tear and pick the bread into little fingernail-size pieces (including the crusts – don’t discard those).
Put a small, heavy-bottomed frying pan over a medium heat and add the oil. Allow this to heat up a little, then fry the breadcrumbs for 3–4 minutes so they begin to turn golden at the edges.
Add the garlic, stir and cook for 20 seconds, then drop in the sriracha before the garlic browns.
Stir and shuffle the pan, cook for an additional 30 seconds, sprinkle over the chilli flakes, stir one more time, sprinkle generously with salt, then transfer to a cool plate until needed. The crumbs should be a rust colour, crisp but also still a little bouncy.
Cook the spaghetti in well-salted, boiling water as per the packet instructions (likely to take around 10 minutes).
Pour the extra virgin olive oil into a wide, heavy-bottomed sauté pan or saucepan and place this over a low–medium heat. Add the garlic slices and let these warm through for 3-4 minutes, to soften, mellow and flavour the oil, but not to fry or colour.
Add the parsley stalks and cook for 1 minute more, then add the sriracha and remove the pan from the heat. Shake the pan to mingle the hot sauce and oil, then after 30 seconds squeeze in the lemon juice.
Around now your spaghetti will be ready. Drain, reserving the cooking water, and transfer the pasta to the saucepan with the sriracha and co.
Return this to the stove and place over a low heat. Add four to five tablespoons of cooking water and toss the pasta through the sauce.
Add the chopped parsley leaves, a touch more cooking water, maybe a little bit more water, and mix one last time before decanting onto two plates or into bowls, and scattering over the sticky and spicy breadcrumbs.
Many chilli pepper squid
Ed says: “This is a messy pile of mouth-tingling deliciousness, with pieces of charred squid interspersed with a loose sauce and roast peppers – like a bad Jackson Pollock in 3D form.
“In one bite you might get a pleasingly pure, acid-licked piece of cephalopod that’s been caught only by lemon juice. In the next there’s a fiery burst of roast chilli, the tickle of pul biber flakes, lashings of the sweet quick romesco and, perhaps, another jolt of heat from a one-in-ten chance of a fiery Padrón pepper. The fruity and mild to hot characteristics of each of the different peppers jostle for power; I like the Russian roulette nature of it all.
“The instructions below assume you are in your kitchen. But it’s ideal, too, cooked outside over flames; indeed, barbecue weather could well prompt a craving for something like this. Serve either on its own, with new potatoes and a green salad, or atop warmed flatbreads.”
Serves 4 as a communal starter, or as part of a bigger meal
- 1kg whole squid, cleaned
- 1 tsp pul biber (Aleppo pepper flakes)
- 1 lemon, cut into wedges
- 2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
- 1 tsp caster sugar
- leaves picked from 20g flat-leaf parsley, roughly chopped
- 3–4 long mild red chillies
- 130g Padrón peppers
- flaky sea salt
For the romesco sauce:
- 150g jarred roasted red peppers, plus 2 tbsp liquid from the jar
- 1 tsp caster sugar
- ½ tsp sweet smoked paprika
- 1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
- 1 tsp sherry vinegar or red wine vinegar
- 40g blanched unsalted almonds
- ½ tsp flaky sea salt
Put all of the ingredients for the romesco sauce in a blender and pulse until not completely smooth – a few gritty pieces of nuts provide a pleasing textural contrast.
Taste and stir in an extra drop of vinegar or an additional pinch of salt if required.
Decant and set to one side to be spooned over the squid at the last minute.
If the fishmonger hasn’t already cleaned the squid, pull the wings and any grey outer membrane away, discarding the membrane, but keeping the wings. Pull out the quill.
Trim the tentacles away then locate the line running up the length of the body and cut along that to open the squid up. Scrape any excess gunge away, then use a table knife to score the inside of the squid in a close cross-hatch.
Cut the squid into just two or three large pieces – to fit your griddle and or grill surface. Sprinkle and rub with the pul biber and set to one side on a plate or similar.
Prepare a large mixing bowl with a dressing for the squid and chillies to go in once cooked.
Combine the lemon juice from two to three of the wedges with the olive oil, sugar, some salt, and two thirds of the chopped parsley.
Char the red chillies and Padrón peppers on a hot griddle pan or over an outdoor grill, so that they are blackened but still juicy.
Quickly cut the red chillies down the middle lengthways and scrape the seeds away. If the blackened skin comes off in your hand, pull that away too. Otherwise don’t worry, chop roughly and add these along with the (whole) Padrón peppers to the dressing bowl.
Lay the squid pieces on the still smoking-hot griddle or grill, scored-side down. Press to encourage charring, then after 60 seconds turn the squid pieces over, and with your tongs or a fork prompt the squid to roll into pleasing cylinders.
Remove and immediately chop into rings, then add to the dressing bowl and mix.
Let the squid rest for a minute, then decant everything onto a platter. Add the remaining parsley and a few more squeezes of lemon.
Fiery chicken laab with extinguishing salad
Ed says: “‘Just to warn you, the laab is very hot.’ If advice like this from a waiter serves as attraction rather than a repellent, then this is for you. I love a northern Thai or Laos-style laab; the minced meat or fish cooked relatively dry, fragrant with garlic and lemongrass, plus fresh mint and holy basil… and enough chilli to make your eyeballs sweat. This is the addictive kind of heat that can seemingly only be cooled by eating more of the same.
“Sticky rice and a glass of milk would be one way of putting out the fire. But a laab is technically a salad, and pairing it with cooling cucumber, more of that Thai basil, and a crunchy lettuce is a good way to temper the heat. Wedges of unfashionable iceberg lettuce are perfect here. Gem, cos or romaine all work too. The ground roasted rice is essential, both texturally and to bind the flavours.”
- 400g chicken thigh, skin off and boneless
- 1 clove garlic, chopped
- 25g ginger, peeled and finely chopped
- 1 coriander root or the bottom 3cm of 8 coriander stems (optional)
- 4 bird’s eye chillies, finely chopped
- 1 tbsp golden caster sugar
- juice 1 ½ limes
- 2 tbsp fish sauce
- 2 tbsp vegetable or sunflower oil
- ½ tsp chilli powder
- 3 tbsp water
- 1 stick lemongrass, finely chopped
- 1 small banana shallot or ½ small red onion, finely sliced
- leaves from 3–4 sprigs Thai holy basil
- leaves from 1–2 sprigs mint, finely shredded
- 2 tbsp ground roasted rice (see below)
- flaky sea salt
- ½ iceberg lettuce, cut into wedges
- 1 cucumber, peeled, halved lengthways and cut at an angle
- handful Thai holy basil sprigs
- handful mint sprigs
- ½ lime, quartered
Use a heavy and sharp knife to first chop and then repeatedly run the knife through the chicken thigh meat so as to mince it.
Put the garlic, ginger, coriander root or stems (if using), two of the chopped bird’s eye chillies and a pinch of flaky sea salt in a pestle and mortar. Pound into a smooth paste.
In a cup or small bowl, mix the sugar, lime juice and fish sauce together.
Arrange the accompanying salad items on a platter or plates at this point, as the cooking stage takes no time at all.
Place a wok on a very high heat. Pour in the oil and wait for 30 seconds for that to warm up, before adding the paste.
Push that around for 20 seconds, then add the minced chicken and chilli powder and cook for 90 seconds, stirring regularly.
Now add the water, lemongrass and the remaining fresh chillies, cooking for 2 minutes more, and again, stirring frequently.
Finally, add the chopped shallot or onion, and the basil leaves, along with the lime and fish sauce dressing, give it one final stir and remove from the heat.
Transfer the laab onto one or two plates, sprinkle with fresh mint and add a heavy dusting of ground roasted rice.
Ground roasted rice
Ed says: “This recipe makes far more than you need for the chicken laab. However, the excess can be stored in an airtight container for quick use in future meals.”
- 100g white rice (glutinous, jasmine or basmati)
Heat the oven to 200°C/180°C fan. Spread the rice over a baking sheet so that it fits in one layer. Bake in the middle of the oven for 35–40 minutes until golden, shuffling the tray after 25 minutes.
Grind to a grit (rather than a dusty flour) using a pestle and mortar or by pulsing in a spice grinder.
To avoid much of it becoming dust-like you will need to do this in three or four batches, depending on the size of your mortar/grinder.
Crave: Recipes Arranged By Flavour, To Suit Your Mood And Appetite by Ed Smith (£25, Quadrille) is out 27 May
Buy between now and publication on 27 May and Stylist readers can also claim an exclusive e-book of bonus recipes by simply emailing firstname.lastname@example.org with your proof of purchase
Photography: Sam A Harris