Pappardelle with slow roasted tomatoes and salami

This is all about small tomatoes, slow-roasted on a low heat until they intensify. In the previous post, I got a little misty eyed about eating an excellent example of these in Italy, and when I got back, I just had to make some. They’re really extraordinarily simple – the ingredients are tomatoes, heat, and time. There’s an option on a dash of balsamic vinegar, of course.

You juggle these simple variables until the texture and piquancy comes right, then you throw them through pasta or whack them on bruschetta, or just eat them with your fingers as soon as they’re cool enough to handle. This is a recipe for the former, but I will not judge you for the latter even a little.

Pappardelle with slow roasted tomatoes and salami

The tomatoes take a while, but they’ll keep, so you can prepare them in advance. That makes this a great weeknight, zero effort supper. Spend a lazy Sunday afternoon roasting tomatoes, and bung them in a jar. Then you can make dinner with them in about fifteen minutes.

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Braised red cabbage with chorizo

braisedcabbage (3)Cabbage is great. Not your soggy schooldays slop, mind – wilted to hell and smelling of damp flatulence and disappointment. No, We’re talking fresh, crisp, savoury cabbage, cooked with a bit of respect for texture rather than a thinly-repressed loathing for children.

Ok, so there’s sauerkraut – that’s soggy and awesome, but the point stands. Cabbage rocks. It is particularly good when shredded fine and cooked in the run-off fat and juices of a joint of ham.

Yesterday, I had a powerful craving for the stuff, and decided to just throw some together with other flavours I liked.

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Pappardelle with green beans and pesto

I spent February vegetarian. There – I said it. I’m not ashamed, either, although I’m not exactly proud of the fact that I called it “Veguary”.

Given my near-sexual ecstasy at the prospect of rillettes and cassoulet, “why?” is a perfectly valid question.

It was largely an experiment, to be honest. But I do feel a bit iffy about the macroeconomics and ecology around the contemporary Western diet, and eating less meat (along with one or two other dietary shifts) seems like a decent enough first step. Mostly though, it was to make cooking more interesting.

I’ll write more about Veguary in future, I’m sure. But armed with the River Cottage Veg everyday book and a fair quantity of enthusiasm, I set about it, and I survived, and I learned a lot.

One of the main things I learned was how to make things I genuinely enjoy eating that take less than half an hour to cook. The less healthy lesson I picked up was that many of these dishes are basically just pasta with some kind of vegetable, and a metric fuck-tonne of goats’ cheese dumped over the whole thing.

One of the things I regret is not writing it down at the time. So I’m going to do it now – cook my way through the bits I remember, take pictures, and tell you about it. Continue reading Pappardelle with green beans and pesto

The End of the Anchovy

Another of those Sundays. Flounce around, tidy the kitchen, watch old episodes of Buffy, good things. I get up at about midday, having spent most of the night finishing Scarlett Thomas’ The End of Mr Y, and by the time I realise we’ve bugger all food in the house, I’m still chewing over whether or not it’s actually any good.

It’s got the book-about-books shtick, more in the lightly gothic mould of Shadow of the Wind than anything, with spades of Philip Pullman-esque cod Quantum, over emphasised, not quite so well executed, and worst of all, dragged wailing into view via Derrida. But it does have one or two rather lovely sentences. There’s Lovecraftian dream-walking in the nebulous beyonds, a light excess of mercifully underwritten sex, and a mouse god on a moped. I think, on balance, it all stands up, even if it does all wind up just a bit pat at the end – the writers own epilogue worries over it being read as a “Shaggy God story”. I take the point, and think she probably should have too, but it otherwise makes a fair stab at living up to its rather eye-catching binding.

All this, of course, brings us no closer to tacking the problem of dinner, or explaining exactly what did become of all those carrots. The first part’s easy. Tapenade is good. Once you’ve got that far, there’s really only so much more you need to know between now and the eventual utter depletion of global anchovy stocks. Less fatuously, I hastily made some Pappardelle, and dressed it with some onions, peppers, and mushrooms, fried and let simmer for half an hour in a Tapenade-light tomato sauce. Actually, the sauce has the beginnings of a promising soup. It’s just a puree of tomatoes, salt, pepper, garlic, a tin of anchovies, and a few handfuls of black olives. Good stuff.

Soup, of course, brings us to the fate of the carrots. My father used, on tipsy occasion, to talk about one day making a chocolate pizza, and it is that simple fact that I turn to for security and perspective whenever I fear that I may have gone too far. Carrot and Pig soup seems fairly sensible when “Capers and Marshmallow! Together at last.” Looms on the horizon.

Oddly enough, do try this at home. It’s just the Mexican-ish stock thing taken to an extreme. Sauté the carrots in chunks with some onions, allowing to brown a little. Toast some dried chillies and garlic, rehydrating the blackened chillies in a little vegetable stock. Add cumin seeds, black pepper, and allspice to the mix, frying a little, then a load of water and plenty of salt. So far, so soupy. Throw in the chopped stalks of the handful of fresh coriander you’ll need later, a chopped potato or two, most of the garlic, the chilli broth and chopped chillies, and a few large bits of pork. After an hour or so of simmering, the pork comes out to cool and eventually shred. Crank up the heat and reduce a little if it’s still all watery, otherwise, blend until smooth, cram it full of coriander and some extra cumin, and serve scattered with shreds of pork. Actually, I’d be tempted to include crumbled feta, too.

It is, I freely own, a freak of prodigious mutancy, but the spicy-sweet kick worked quite well, and all that generic-Mex spice puts in the much-needed savoury that a lot of carrot soups lack. Plain old carrot and coriander has its charms, and all, but it doesn’t push those big, deep, earthy buttons. To do that, make sure the chillies are Chipotle, and really get some brown on the carrots.

Tomorrow, the queer film backlog, and possibly some real pizza to flush out the memory.