Feeding friends is one of the easiest things to do. On a school night, when the skies are dark and the tube is on strike, the fact that they’re willing to schlep their way south for a bowl of something at the kitchen table is truly valued. The small kitchen being easily filled by the arrival of just three people means things need to be kept simple. What I don’t want is to stand at the hob or bend to the oven repeatedly to check on the rise and fall of a soufflé. I want to sit down, drink red wine and get on with the conversation. Which is why it makes sense to limit the work and make food prepared from a few great quality ingredients, which in turn do the work themselves. In some way a homage to an Italian holiday shared by the four of us a couple of summers ago, last night’s supper used two boxes of dried egg pappardelle, half a jar of anchovies, a palmful of capers and just a little chilli and garlic. Juices were mopped with fresh bread and wild rocket and followed by a halva-topped affogato. A classy menu that leaves you to get on with things.
Egg pappardelle with anchovies and capers. Serves 4
To prepare, catch the tine of a fork on the tail end of an anchovy. Pull from the jar those that come with it, and repeat, laying them on a chopping board. There should be about 8 or 9 anchovies, and while it may look alot, the pasta loves them, so be generous. Cut them finely with a sharp knife and add 3 heaped teaspoons of capers, allowing their juices to combine. Finely cut a small clove of garlic and the bottom third of a red chilli, keeping or discarding as many seeds as suits you. (I added the smallest amount of seeds in this instance as it shouldn’t get in the way of fine pasta). Add the garlic and chilli to the capers and anchovies, and set a wide, deep, non-stick frying pan on a low heat with a generous glug of good olive oil and a splash of juice from the caper jar. When it’s warmed, add the anchovies, capers, garlic and chilli and stir to dissolve the anchovies into the oil. Keep an eye on the pan, and stir with a wooden spoon for 5 minutes.
Bring a large pot of salted and olive-oiled water up to a rolling boil and plunge between 4 and 8 rolls of pappardelle into it, depending on how large they are. Boil vigorously for 5 minutes, then remove with tongs and add directly to the frying pan. Stir to coat the ribbons of pasta and transfer to a large bowl. Tear over a handful of basil leaves, add a few turns from the pepper mill and drizzle with your best olive oil and parmesan.
Affogato with halva. Serves 4
Take a tub of good quality vanilla ice cream from the freezer 5 minutes before you want to eat it and brew a strong pot of fresh coffee on the hob. Scoop ice cream into small tumblers (Duralex Smaller Picardie, if not useful for much else, are great for this), and flake a spoonful of halva and toasted almonds on top. Pour a glug of hot coffee straight into the glass and serve immediately.