Spaghetti Gambas in Garlic Tomato Sauce
If you were planning on spending some of your summer in Paris, don’t. The weather is hormonal (it actually feels like a Mumbai Monsoon today with a torrential downpour that’s leaking onto my bed through the attic window), a lot of the restaurants (including where I work) and bakeries are closed and the bars aren’t as busy. On the plus side I was blessed with three whole weeks off so N&D and I flew down to Nice, hopped on a bus to the train station, then a train to Saint Raphael, and then a bus again, having no idea it would take us six hours to get to our destination, Saint Tropez.
I love Saint Tropez! Cobbled streets, slush puppies, beautiful boats, soft italian ice cream, what’s not to love? But I am peeved about not being able to spot any celebrities in Saint Tropez. They’re always prancing around on yachts and bathing in champagne at Club 55 according to the Daily Mail. Methinks the DM is fibbing. In any case, I’d heard the people are happier in the south since it’s sunny and breezy and all that. That’s a lie too. For one, a lot of the Parisians flock down there too, taking their miseries along with them. And then we have the PPPs, or Perma-Pout-Princesses – ladies with these ridiculous, perfectly lip-linered and glossed, rehearsed pout faces, and their men, at least two decades older than them, who were more engrossed in their smart phones than their glittery pouty partners.
Highlights: The Byblos Hotel has Spoon by Alain Ducasse, which dishes up a lighter mediterranean influenced cuisine and AWESOME focaccia and isn’t any more expensive than the other restaurants around the port. And since I was in my gladrags I wasn’t going to miss out on throwing some shapes at Les Caves du Roy – great music and good cosmos. And then we were poor.
Lowlights: Nioulargo Beach Club, or any other beach club on Pampelonne beach for that matter. The formula is the same for all – an arm for a sun lounger, a leg for some water, your nan for some tea. The clubs seem fun for rich and famous folk, who would know other rich and famous folk, or big groups. But it really wasn’t much fun being packed in on sun loungers like battery chickens on top of each other all day long. Taking a picnic along and parking my bottom on my beach mat right between the clubs in the beautiful sand would’ve been more enjoyable, and less painful on the pocket.
After the excesses of Saint Tropez, Cannes seemed rather pale in comparison. The yachts weren’t as nice, the people weren’t as pretty. And the beach was bizarre. One had no choice but to go into one of the aforementioned bogus beach clubs, as the only other option was to try to grab a spot at the crack of dawn at either of the very ends of the beach left for the public, only to be sweated on by others shortly after.
Highlights: Cafe Floriant serves light and fresh options if you’re feeling sluggish. Baoli is a great open-air restaurant nightclub (the restaurant wasn’t much to write home about, and the music was a bit too glow-sticky for me, but the open-air factor makes this a top spot in my books). And the fireworks festival was WOW-WEE!
Lowlights: Hotel 3:14 could’ve easily passed as a dingy brothel.
Monaco was just as glitzy and silly as Saint Tropez, but lacked the cobbled-street charm. It’s also a very confusing city to navigate around since it’s split in levels. The map showed us a fairly straightforward route to get to Les Jardins Exotiques, but I had my tongue hanging out going uphill for an hour in flip flops.
Highlights: Sailing fron Cannes to Monaco was one of the flairest things I’ve ever done and Alain Ducasse’ Louis XV at Hotel de Paris was legendary. It did suck that I had a nasty cold-flu-ey type thing so couldn’t taste much but the smile on N&D’s face throughout his birthday made up for the tissue burn.
Lowlights: Doing laundry in the bathtub to avoid paying a fiver for a pair of pants at the hotel’s laundry, and losing EUR40 at the casino. In hind-sight, I wish I’d given the hotel the undies instead of feeding the evil slot machines.
Tied with Saint Tropez, Calvi is my other fave. The beach stretched as far as my eyes could see, the water was so clear and the sand was silken golden. The food was less fancy, but authentic, fresh and delicious. It had a lot of Italian influence and was my favourite from the whole holiday.
Highlights: U Minellu serves scrumptious Corsican cuisine in a lovely backyard type setting. The spaghetti langoustines were so good that I had to recreate it at home with the langoustines’ less glamourous cousins, gambas. Scuba diving for the first time ever was bad @ss too!
Lowlights: Hotel staff refusing to fix my bed made me cry like a baby. N&D’s food poisoning from a bad paella on our last day made him cry like a baby.
Spaghetti Gambas in Garlic Tomato Sauce (for 4)
Okay, so this recipe isn’t the authentic Corsican deal. I also cheated using my mom’s masala mix, but it was so close and very morish. My stomach felt like a sack full of squidged up spaghetti. That’s a good feeling usually.
10 cloves of garlic, germe removed
3 onions (2 onions emincer, 1 onion chopped roughly)
2 shallots, emincer
1 big knob of ginger
500g chopped tomatoes
Handful of basil
500g raw tiger prawns (peeled, or not, but definitely raw)
Salt and pepper
1. Blitz five garlic cloves (with the germe removed), ginger, chillies and 1 onion together.
2. Bring a big pot of salted water to the boil and spread the spaghetti around from the centre evenly and bring it down to a simmer. Cook for 10-11 mins till al dente. Drain and reserve. Toss in some olive oil to prevent sticking.
3. In a giant pan or wok, heat some olive oil over medium heat. Fry the spice paste blitzed earlier till the oil splits out of the spices and add in the sliced onions. Stir fry till browned. Pour in the tomatoes and cook for 4 minutes. Season with salt and pepper.
4. Toss the prawns into the sauce and cook for 4 minutes till cooked through. Add in the spaghetti and coat evenly. If the spaghetti sticks, run some cold water through it prior to adding to the sauce and stir. Sprinkle with grated parmesan and roughly chopped basil. Serve piping hot.