Tomatoes are splendid, aren’t they? I think they’re probably at their best used fresh and sparingly, so a little of the acidity comes through. Oh, they’re great cooked down, rich and deep, too. But there’s something about dicing them fine and throwing them in with something as it fries that just works.
That’s what this is.
Fennel sausage, taken out of its skin and fried in lumps with a fine-diced onion, then thin slivers of mushroom, chilli, and garlic, with the tomato in at the end. A glug of sherry as it cooks down for 5 minutes, then toss it over pasta and you’re done.
This is so simple it barely counts as cooking, and you’re hard-pressed to make it take more than 20 minutes. But it’s tasty. The sausage is dense and rich, with the fennel coming through nicely. One large tomato seems to do the trick, in a nicely understated way, but it would take more.
The sausages are actually from Asda. I’m not massively proud of that; but, credit where it’s due: their weird regional range is not bad. The cooking chorizo is the weakest. The fennel sausages the best, and the bratwurst are far from poor.
It seems you basically can just bung any old spare vegetables over pasta with a handful of soft cheese and get a good result. This has rarely been more obvious in my cooking than earlier this week when I decided top roast some garlic and toss messicani in the pulp, along with whatever came to hand. In this case it was blanched green beans, black olives, and mozzarella.
I’d do it again – the garlic settled into the background and wasn’t overpowering, and the beans worked just fine. The olives didn’t really add anything, so they need to be swapped for something. But the mozzarella is a definite keeper. Half melting as it tosses through and blending for a creamy flavour with the garlic, it made for an excellent pairing.
This could definitely be the basis for something, and I’ll do it again at some point and work out quite what.
Update: I’ve flagged a version of this one for the putative book.
I should probably have two categories on this blog: one for recipes that are safe to follow straight-up, and one for those that need anything between a light spot of tinkering and a full-on rewrite. This is one of the milder of the second category.
It’s not that this didn’t work, exactly, but the balance is way off, and the intended freshness of the tomatoes was present but too muted. Chorizo and tomato more or less always works, though, so this remains a basic win.
The TL;DR version: the broad beans get lost, omit them and fuck around with the tomato quantities.
Some time ago at Restaurant22, I had a rather excellent dish of gnocchi with feta, wilted bitter leaves, and various kind of bean. My suspicion is that copying it would be harder than it sounds, but yesterday I was in the mood for similar flavours.
A quick Google yields a number of extemporizations around the theme of orecchiette with feta. There are recipes that simply add rocket, or spinach, there were those with roasted peppers, and a couple with shrimp or chicken. It seems to be some kind of combinatorial matrix: pick a leaf, pick a main vegetable, pick an optional supporting veg. There’s nothing wrong with that, it’s what Silver Spoon makes most of Italian cooking feel like.
So I chose courgettes. Because I love them, and I am sceptical of shrimp.
On Thursday night, feeling lazy, I shoved a bunch of tomatoes in the oven with some onions and a few cloves of garlic, roasted it, and dumped it over pasta. It worked broadly, but didn’t quite cohere. The presentation was pleasingly caricature-rustic, and the roasted garlic flavour gave the whole thing a rich backbone. There was a faint smokiness from the slightly-singed tomato skins, the garlic, and the onions (which also retained some crunch). But it wasn’t there yet.
The obvious thing to add would probably be peppers. Courgettes would work, too. Throw it all in the oven, maybe add some wine at the end and mush up the tomatoes a bit. But again, that doesn’t feel quite right to me.
So here’s the plan: switch out the pappardelle for orecchiette, I was just using up leftovers anyway. That changes the texture breakdown, and opens up different structures of sauce, and size and shape of ingredients. Keep the roasted tomatoes, garlic, and onion pieces – the garlic can be peeled and fine-chopped back into the sauce at the end. Go with the wine to let it out a bit. To make it richer and more substantial, throw in baby aubergines and Merguez sausages. I’m keeping an open mind on the peppers. I’ll see what I impulse buy at Al-Amin.
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.