Italian tuna dip

This is a lovely starter for lazy days when you’re eating outdoors. I like to dibble crudités (especially sweet batons of carrot) and good bread in this tuna dip. It’s also very good spread on toast or crostini, and, cold or warmed through, makes a good strong sauce to dollop on bland cooked fish.

Apologies for the horrendous photo – by the time I realised how rubbish this looked, the bowl had been licked clean, so there was nothing to photograph.

To serve two as a starter with crudités and bread, you’ll need:

1 small can tuna (in oil, brine or spring water), drained
2 anchovies
2 teaspoons Marsala
1 tablespoon sherry vinegar
1 heaped teaspoon grainy Dijon mustard
½ teaspoon fennel seed
1 tablespoon finely chopped oregano
½ teaspoon finely chopped rosemary
1 teaspoon finely chopped sage
1 teaspoon thyme
1 tablespoon finely chopped basil
1 tablespoon finely chopped flat-leaf parsley
1 tablespoon finely chopped mint
1 small clove of garlic, crushed
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
½ teaspoon honey

Bash the fennel seed lightly in a pestle and mortar, and chop the herbs. Chop the anchovies very finely. Put all the ingredients in a mixing bowl and mix well until the dip ingredients all come together to form a rough paste. Add a little more olive oil if you prefer a looser texture, and taste for seasoning. Serve chilled as a dip or crostini topping, or warm through in a small saucepan to use as a sauce.

Focaccia with onion and rosemary

My week was brightened no end yesterday when I discovered that Jean-Christophe Novelli was linking to one of the recipes on Gastronomy Domine. I’m cooking a lot of things like the aubergine caviar he mentions at the moment – it must be the weather. To make the most of the short English summer, it’s lovely to eat a cold al fresco supper with some good, home-made bread. This explains the bread-making binge I appear to be on at this week. Fresh bread tastes great, it makes the house smell fantastic, and there is something strangely soothing about pummelling the hell out of a wodge of dough as you knead it; not to mention the lovely feeling you get from poking your fingers into a baby-soft, freshly-risen batch to knock it down. Bread dough is deliciously tactile, but I shrink from describing the full puffy, silky, stretchy glory of it in case you all decide I’m some sort of dough pervert.

Focaccia is an Italian bread enriched with plenty of olive oil. The oil in the dough makes it a dream to work with, and although it has a long rising time to help it develop its lovely open texture, all you have to do is knead, then wait for the dough to rise a couple of times. I’ve flavoured this focaccia with rosemary and chillies stirred into the dough itself, and a caramelised onion topping slathered on top. It’s lovely cut into squares and served with some Mediterranean-style cold nibbles like caponata, aubergine caviar, hummus or panzanella, and a bowl of olive oil and balsamic vinegar to dip into.

To make one focaccia you’ll need:

Bread
500g strong white bread flour
1 packet instant yeast
275ml tepid water
1 teaspoon salt
4 tablespoons olive oil (plus extra for oiling bowl and dough)
5 tablespoons chopped fresh rosemary
2 teaspoons Italian chilli flakes

Caramelised onion topping
2 large onions
3 tablespoons olive oil
A few sprigs of rosemary to decorate
12 olives
Olive oil to drizzle and salt to sprinkle over

Put 250g of the flour in a large mixing bowl with the yeast, chopped rosemary and chillies, then pour in the tepid water – this should be around blood heat – and the olive oil. Beat with a wooden spoon until the mixture is smooth, then start to stir in the remaining flour, a handful at a time, until you have a soft dough. The dough should not be completely dry – a little stickiness is fine, and should have vanished by the time you have finished kneading because of the magical development of the gluten in the wheat. You may not find you need to add all the flour – the amount you use will depend on the flour you have bought and the humidity and temperature of your kitchen. (I had about 20g left to put back in the bag when I was done.) Knead the dough vigorously for at least ten minutes, until it is very smooth and stretchy. Oil the dough ball and put it inside an oiled mixing bowl, cover with a damp cloth and leave to rise for two hours in a warm place.

The dough should have more than doubled in size. Knock it down to its original size and knead again for five minutes, then spread it out in a baking tin (mine was 25cm x 35cm), making sure the dough is even and pushed well into the edges and corners. Cover with the damp cloth again and let the focaccia rise for 45 minutes, then push the dough flat again and let it rise for a further 45 minutes while you heat the oven to 220° C (425° F) and prepare the onions by sautéing them in the oil over a low heat until they are sweet and golden (about 20 minutes), then putting them aside to cool.

Push 12 olives into the surface of the risen focaccia in a pattern with some rosemary sprigs, and spread the onions gently over the top (don’t push too hard when you spread, so the bread does not deflate). Pour over some more olive oil to fill the olive holes, sprinkle with coarse-grained salt and bake for 20-25 minutes until golden on top, then place on a rack to cool.

Panzanella

PanzanellaSummer finally happened in Cambridge this weekend. It seems to have finished today, but I’m glad we made the most of it with a picnic on Sunday. I made a Spanish omelette and this easy and delicious tomato, cucumber and bread salad. Panzanella is a Tuscan salad which works really well as part of a summer lunch, and offers you a great way to use up extra bread you’ve got lying around – it’s traditionally made with stale bread, but any dry, open-textured bread like ciabatta will work very well here. Some recipes include tuna, onions, anchovies and other strong flavours, but when your tomatoes are good, this simpler preparation makes the most of them.

This is absolutely the best time of year for tomato recipes, and the English tomatoes you’ll find in the supermarket at the moment are at their sweetest and ripest. (My own are a bit of a disaster this year; it’s not been hot enough for them to ripen, so I’ve three vines of gorgeous big tomatoes in various exciting shades of vivid green.) This salad makes the most of them by macerating them overnight with salt, lots of olive oil and garlic, herbs and a glug of really, really good vinegar. The juice from the tomatoes leeches out and combines with the other ingredients, penetrating the crisp flesh of the cucumber, and pieces of bread are added just before serving to soak up the rest of the flavourful juices.

To serve six as part of a picnic, you’ll need:

10 large fresh plum tomatoes
½ large cucumber
100g small, mild olives (again, I heartily recommend Waitrose’s Spanish Couchillo olives)
100g Sunblush tomatoes and their oil (or 100g of your own home-made slow-roasted tomatoes)
1 tablespoon chopped oregano
1 tablespoon chopped basil
1 tablespoon chopped parsley
2 cloves of garlic, chopped finely
Zest of ½ a lemon
5 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons good balsamic vinegar
1 large pinch salt
1 pinch sugar
8 turns of the peppermill
½ a ciabatta, torn into pieces

Chop the tomatoes and cucumber roughly into 1cm cubes, and place in a large bowl. (If you’re going to be eating this at a picnic use a Tupperware box so you can transport it easily.) Stir in all the rest of the ingredients except the bread, and taste for seasoning – add some juice from the lemon if you want the salad to be more tart. Put in the fridge and leave, covered, overnight until you are ready to eat. The flavours will meld (there is something magical about what happens when you use this combination of herbs with raw tomatoes) and soften overnight.

Immediately before serving, tear the ciabatta into small pieces and stir it into the salad. This is great with a chilled glass of Prosecco and lots of sunshine.

Pasta with anchovy crumbs and gremolata

A great no-money recipe for the end of the month, when all the money has gone on beer and skittles. You probably have all these ingredients in the storecupboard already. This is a fiercely savoury dish, where the contrasting textures of crisply fried anchovy breadcrumbs and the soft pasta come together to make something really special.

Gremolata is a bit like a salsa verde – a finely-chopped Italian mixture of herbs, lemon zest and something sharp like capers. It’s delicious with meats, and I love it with this pasta, where its freshness lifts the richness of the crumbs and infused oil.

It’s important that you choose a good, well-flavoured olive oil for this recipe. Although it is tempting to use the oil you fried the crumbs in for infusing the garlic and chilli, it’s best to use fresh extra-virgin olive oil instead. The heat that the breadcrumbs oil is subject to over the cooking period will change its flavour slightly, and you’ll find you achieve a much fresher, more aromatic flavour from the infusing oil if you use a fresh batch and only allow it to warm gently.

To serve two you’ll need:

2 slices white bread
8 anchovy fillets
4 fat cloves garlic
4 dried chillies
1 small handful parsley
1 small handful basil
Zest of 1 lemon
2 teaspoons capers
2 servings of your favourite pasta
Parmesan cheese to taste
Salt and pepper
Plenty of olive oil

Put the bread in the food processor and whizz until you’ve got coarse breadcrumbs. In a large frying pan, fry the anchovies in about half a centimetre of olive oil until they ‘melt’ and come to pieces. Add the breadcrumbs to the pan, stir them well to combine them with the anchovies, and add more olive oil to the pan until the breadcrumbs are just covered. (Don’t worry; we’ll be draining this oil later.) At this point, the contents of the pan will look like a wet mess. Turn the heat to medium and leave, stirring every minute or so: gradually the wet mess will turn into golden, crisp, anchovy flavoured crumbs (10-15 minutes). Turn the oil and breadcrumbs into a sieve and leave the sieve over a bowl for ten minutes for as much oil to drain out as possible.

While the crumbs are cooking, prepare the infused oil by crushing the garlic and frying it gently in a little olive oil until it releases its scent (about thirty seconds). Remove from the heat and add half a wine glass of extra-virgin olive oil to the pan. Bash the chillies in a mortar and pestle until they are flaked and add them to the oil. Return the pan to the heat and warm the oil gently, then leave it in a warm place to infuse until the pasta is ready to be served.

To prepare the gremolata, chop the herbs finely, and mix with the lemon zest and chopped capers in a small bowl. This is one of the rare occasions where I prefer capers preserved in a briny vinegar to the salted kind – use whatever you have to hand.

Cook the pasta as usual, drain and return to the pan you cooked it in. Pour over the garlic and chilli oil, then spoon into serving bowls. Dress generously with the crumbs and gremolata, check for seasoning, and serve with lots of parmesan cheese to grate over.

Parmigiana di Melanzane

This is probably Dr Weasel’s favourite supper dish. Parmigiana di melanzane is a layered, baked dish of aubergines (eggplants for all the Americans out there), rich tomato sauce, parmesan and mozzarella. It’s a wonderfully savoury meal to brighten up an autumn evening.

This tomato sauce, simmered for ages until thick and unctuous, is unbelievably good – it’s also very simple, containing very few ingredients. It freezes well, so if you can face seeding and peeling even more tomatoes, make some extra and save it for the sort of snowy day when you need to eat something red. Try it with pasta, or over meatballs.

To serve four with some left over for lunch you’ll need:

2kg ripe tomatoes
4 medium aubergines
3 large onions
4 cloves of garlic
1 handful fresh basil
1 handful fresh oregano
1 mild red chilli
1 ½ tablespoons balsamic vinegar
2 teaspoons sugar
1 large knob butter, plus extra to taste
250 g mozzarella
Salt and pepper
Grated parmesan
Olive oil to fry

Begin by peeling and seeding the tomatoes. (Cut a shallow cross at the bottom of the tomatoes and pour over boiling water. Fish the tomatoes straight out of the water, which will have loosened their skin, and peel it off. Cut open and discard the seeds.) Cut into small dice.

Dice the onions and chop the garlic finely, and fry in a large knob of butter until translucent and fragrant. Add the tomatoes and finely chopped chilli to the saucepan and stir to combine everything. Bring to a very low simmer, and reduce (this will take more than an hour) to half its original volume or a little less. Bring the vinegar and sugar to the boil in a small pan and stir it into the sauce. Add the oregano and season with salt and pepper. Taste to check whether you need more salt or sugar. Add another knob of butter for a more mellow flavour if you like. Set the finished sauce aside.

While the sauce is reducing, prepare the aubergine. Slice it into rounds about 1 cm thick (salt to remove the juices if you like; with modern aubergines the bitter juices have been bred out, and you’ll probably find you don’t need to salt at all) and fry each round in very hot olive oil (the aubergine slices are like little sponges, so you’ll need plenty), until brown on each side. Drain on kitchen paper and season with salt and pepper.

Set out a layer of aubergine slices in the bottom of a baking dish. Place some basil leaves on top. Pour over a layer of sauce, layer over some mozzarella, then more aubergine, more basil, more sauce and so on. When you’ve used everything up, sprinkle over the parmesan and bake for 45 minutes at 180° C, until brown on top. Scatter over some fresh basil.

Serve with crusty bread to mop up the rich juices.

Caponata Siciliana

When I lived in London, I worked a few doors away from Antonio Carluccio’s Covent Garden delicatessen and restaurant. Between that delicatessen and the MAC cosmetics shop, I usually managed to relieve myself of most of my salary by the end of the month with astonishing ease. It is depressing to realise that all you’ve got to show for having edited half a book is four tubes of pink-coloured whale fat, a pot of something sparkly, a small bag of pine nuts and a stomach full of aubergines that somebody else has cooked.

Happy day. I now live in a house which is essentially in the middle of a field, four miles from the nearest shop. I work from home these days, being a freelance, so I’m not tempted to don wellies and hike out to the shops in my lunch hour. This means that I make my own caponata and get to spend more on sparkly things at the weekends.

Caponata is a Sicilian vegetable dish, and it’s brilliantly flexible; you can use it as a side dish, a salad, a kind of saucy base for cooked meat; it is good hot, cold from the fridge or (my favourite) at room temperature. It’s typical of Sicily in its Arab-influenced agrodolce, or sour/sweet flavouring, and is spiked with savoury olives, capers and pine nuts.

This is very similar to the caponata from Carluccio’s (which they used to serve in a gorgeously oily foccacia sandwich with a slice of Fontina cheese). It’s another good recipe for those with a glut of tomatoes – I used a sugo (tomato puree) I’d cooked and bottled last year. Those without their own can buy good sugo at an Italian delicatessen (I recommend Balzano’s in Cambridge for locals) – Sainsbury’s also carry a good, own-brand Italian sugo for a short period every summer. To make your own, just simmer whole tomatoes in a pan with a little butter, salt and sugar (no water) until the skins are bursting, then strain the lot through a sieve.

To make a large bowl of Caponata, sufficient for a side-dish for six, you’ll need:

4 large aubergines (eggplants)
2 large onions
Inner leaves and stalks of a large celery plant
400g Sugo (see above)
1 small handful salted nonpareil capers, rinsed well
1 small handful chopped black olives (stoned)
1 large handful pine nuts
1 large handful basil, plus more to garnish
Nutmeg
1 tablespoon caster sugar
60ml sherry vinegar (use white wine vinegar if you can’t get sherry)
Salt, pepper
Olive oil

Chop the aubergines into even dice. Heat a few tablespoons of olive oil in a large, thick-bottomed pan until it starts to give off its fragrance and tip the aubergines in. Fry, keeping everything on the move, until the aubergines are soft and turning brown. Remove them to a bowl.

Dice the onions roughly and fry them in some more oil in the same pan until soft. Add the chopped celery heart and stalks, the pine nuts, capers, olives and sugo, and stir until the celery is tender – about five minutes. (Make sure you don’t add too much sugo; this should be moist, not wet.) Add the cooked aubergines and shredded basil to the pan and cook, stirring gently, for another ten minutes. Add the vinegar and sugar, cook for another five minutes to take the edge off the vinegar, and season with nutmeg, salt and pepper.

Serve immediately or leave to cool. Mine is currently on the kitchen table, cooling for Fontina sandwiches later this evening. My stomach is growling.

Roast garlic and fresh tomato sauce for pasta

A quick and dirty recipe for gardeners with a glut of garlic and tomatoes. This pasta sauce makes the most of each ingredient – the garlic is roast for a sweet, fragrant mellow taste, and the tomatoes, fresh and juicy out of the garden. I am having unbelievable success this year with Tumbler tomatoes, which do very well in a pot.

If you’re cooking this for guests, you may want to seed and peel the tomatoes, but we enjoy the tomatoes in this just chopped into chunks. I used angel hair pasta – use whatever’s in your cupboard.

To serve two, you’ll need:

1 bulb garlic
1 large knob butter
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 small handful thyme
1 small handful oregano
1 large handful basil
1 lb tomatoes, chopped roughly
Salt and pepper

Roast the garlic whole with the thyme and oregano tucked around it, the butter and olive oil smeared and drizzled over it, for 40 minutes at 180° C. When the garlic comes out of the oven, set it aside to cool a little while you put the pasta on to cook and cut the tomatoes into large dice.

Squeeze the soft cloves of garlic out of their hard skins into a serving bowl. If your garlic is very fresh, you can leave the skins in to nibble on too. Mine was straight out of the ground, so the skins went into the bowl. Tear the basil roughly and put it in the bowl along with the herbs, butter and oil from the garlic dish and the tomatoes. Season with salt and pepper, and put the steaming hot pasta on top of everything. Mix gently and serve immediately.

Roast belly pork with fennel seeds

See this post for methods to get your pork crackling crisp and puffy.

I bought this belly pork from Sainsbury’s to see how successfully it would roast; I’m looking for belly pork to make Siu Yuk, a Chinese crispy belly pork with, and am roasting it in a European style until I find a successful joint which is fatty enough. This joint wasn’t fatty enough, but it made a rich and delicious supper roasted Italian-style with lemon, fennel and onions.

Update – about a year later, I did manage to track down some pork which was just right for Chinese crispy belly pork. You can see that recipe here.

The joint was really quite disturbingly lean and upsettingly tiny (this is what I get for supermarket shopping late at night in the middle of the week), but at least it was nice and dry. It’s not always easy to find belly pork on the bone in the first place; when roasted this only yielded about two tablespoons of fat. Amazing; this is where a pig stores its body fat, and I would expect to see nice, thick lines of white fat separating the layers of lean meat, with a soft layer beneath the skin to aid crackling. This pig had been working out (or had been bred for lean meat, but there’s a whole post on exactly what I think of modern farming methods waiting to be written one day when I’m in a bad mood). I had some lard in the fridge from a pork joint I cooked a while ago, and used that to annoint my anorexic pig-tum.

I’ve noticed fennel being used with pork in a lot of restaurants recently, and it’s a very good accompaniment. With lemon and onion it makes for a rich base of flavour. To serve two, you’ll need:

800g belly pork on the bone
1 onion, sliced thinly
1 lemon, sliced thinly
4 cloves garlic
1 tablespoon fennel seeds
1 tablespoon lard
Salt and pepper

Prepare the pork skin for crackling, being very sure on this small joint to keep your scoring close. Rub the surface with salt, pepper and half of the fennel, and place the whole joint in a roasting tin on top of the sliced onion and lemon (skin still on), sprinkled with the rest of the fennel, and the whole cloves of garlic. Roast at 220°C for half an hour, then bring the temperature down to 150°C for twenty minutes. Rub the skin with the lard, and finish the joint under a hot grill for around five minutes, watching it carefully to stop the crackling from catching.

I served this with mashed potato and sweet red and yellow, pointed peppers which I grilled in a griddle-pan on the top of the oven, mixing the juice from the peppers with the pork’s pan juices to make a kind of gravy. Rich and delicious.

Weekend herb blogging – Gnocchi alla Romana in a herbed butter

Everything in the garden is dead or hibernating. Even the slugs seem to have vanished for warmer climes. So today’s Weekend Herb Blogging post (thanks to Kalyn from Kalyn’s Kitchen for organising things again), although packed with herbs, is packed with herbs from the supermarket. I feel like I’m cheating. Roll on summer.

You might be used to gnocchi as little Italian dumplings made of potato, served in a sauce. Gnocchi alla Romana are the traditional form of dumpling from Rome, and they don’t contain potato; instead, they’re made with semolina, and they’re usually served with a flavoured butter. Clearly going to Prague didn’t manage to put me off dumplings.

Semolina is durum wheat, ground coarsely. In the UK you may find it in the same aisle as the ready-made custard, the jelly and the Angel Delight; it’s used in English cookery to make a sort of sloppy pudding. I’d recommend feigning Italian-ness for the day and using it to make these gnocchi; they’re light, fluffy and infinitely nicer than any doughy pudding. You’ll often see semolina gnocchi baked into sliced or cookie-cut shapes, but I prefer to make them into roughly-textured balls; this way you get a larger surface area, and therefore more delicious crusty bits.

The gnocchi are roasted in a garlic-flavoured butter which has been infused in a warm place with handfuls and handfuls of herbs. This time I used great gouts of flat-leaved parsley, basil and tarragon; use whatever comes to hand in yours. Chervil is excellent if you you can get your hands on any. Rosemary and sage are also very good in this.

To serve between four and six people (depends on levels of hunger; frankly, I’ve had three people finish a dish this size in about five minutes flat, making self-satisfied gargling noises), you’ll need:

Herbed butter
1 pack butter (1/2 lb)
1 glug olive oil (about a shot glass full)
5 cloves garlic, crushed and chopped
Around 4 large handfuls fresh herbs – I used parsley, tarragon and basil
Salt and pepper

Gnocchi
1 and a half pints milk
12 oz semolina
1/2 lb grated parmesan (plus some extra to sprinkle)
2 eggs
Freshly grated nutmeg
Salt and pepper

Start by melting the butter with the olive oil over a very, very gentle heat. (I realise this is an awful lot of fat. Personally, I don’t find this terribly upsetting, but if you are the sort to be upset by butter, please still try it; you can spend the week following your triumph eating rice cakes.) Stir in all the herbs and garlic until they’re coated with the butter and leave in a warm place for an hour or so.

While the butter is infusing, grate a little nutmeg into the milk, sprinkle in some salt and pepper, and bring the milk to a simmer. When it starts bubbling, keep it on a low heat and pour the semolina into it in a very thin stream, stirring all the time. Keep pouring and stirring until you have a thick paste that you can stand a spoon in. Take it off the heat, beat the eggs and the parmesan into the semolina mixture, and leave the pan until the mixture is cool enough to handle.

Form the mixture into little balls (try for something a bit smaller than a ping-pong ball) with your hands. Don’t make them too smooth; a rough surface is better for making the lovely crispy bits. Place them in one layer in a roasting tin, pour over the butter (which will now have infused with the gorgeous rich flavour of the herbs and garlic), sprinkle with parmesan cheese, and put in an oven at 200 C (390 F) for fifty minutes until everything is brown and bubbling. Serve to loud applause.

Pasta alla Medici

Now, while I might rail against Nigella Lawson’s approach to ham in cola, I am full of gratitude for her inclusion in Feast of a recipe for Pasta alla Medici, using any remaining ham you might have from the chunk you boiled the hell out of the day before. I’d last eaten it decades ago, and had been looking for a recipe ever since.

When I was twelve or so, a pamphlet was deposited on our school desks. It came from a company (pre-Internet, this) which would fix you up with a penfriend in a foreign country, depending on which boxes you ticked. (I don’t recall an ‘eating’ box to tick under the ‘hobbies’ heading; I think I ticked something typically precocious along the lines of ‘classical music’ and ‘visiting museums’. It is not surprising that girls on the school bus used to save pockets full of breakfast cereal to put in my hair every morning.)

There were also boxes to tick on the age, nationality and gender of your desired penfriend. Being newly possessed of all kinds of exciting hormones, and also possessed of a very overactive imagination, I decided that the thing every twelve-year-old English schoolgirl required for a full and satisfying life was a seventeen-year-old, Italian, male penfriend.

Fortunately, the penfriend company saw me coming, and allotted me a twelve-year-old girl. She was Italian, though, and she liked reading and music too, so we suited one another rather well, and wrote to each other (in English; my Italian remains limited to deciphering menus and asking the way to the museum) for years.

Eventually, Lisa and I had been writing to one another for such a long time that our parents decided we should visit each other. Her family lived in a beautiful flat in Genoa, where I went to school with her for a couple of weeks and discovered marron glace ice cream (my Mum had sent me to Italy saying sagely: ‘in Italy you can buy ice cream in every colour of the rainbow’, and I must have annoyed the hell out of Lisa’s family by obsessing about finding one in each colour).

Lisa’s Mum was a doctor, and didn’t have much time at home. When she was at home, she was not, in retrospect, a very engaged cook, and the Findus Crispy Pancake was my introduction to an Italian mother’s kitchen. Later that week we ate bollito misto (which translates roughly as ‘mixed boilings’, and was about as appetising as it sounds).

One thing, though, that Lisa’s mother cooked and cooked exceptionally well, was a really fabulous pasta dish, with sweet little peas, ham, and a creamy, buttery parmesan sauce. I asked her what it was called (although not for the recipe; my own mother didn’t like me cooking at home, since I did what I do now and sprayed the walls with food when cooking), and was delighted when she cooked it again twice before I left.

Pasta alla Medici is a very simple recipe, but is also, for some reason, a very hard one to find in books. I had to wait nearly twenty years before I came across Nigella Lawson’s recipe, and I am gushingly, pathetically grateful. She offers this three-person recipe as one which children will enjoy, and her portions are child-sized – make a larger amount if you’re feeding adults.

200g pasta
100g frozen petits pois
150ml double cream
150g diced ham
2 tablespoons grated Parmesan

Cook the pasta following the packet instructions, and after five minutes add the peas to the pasta water. When the peas and pasta are cooked, drain them. Warm the rest of the ingredients through in the pan you cooked the pasta in, then add the pasta and peas, toss to coat, and serve.

I added a few gratings of nutmeg to Nigella’s recipe. I also stripped some of the white fat off the ham I had cooked the day before and dry-fried it until crisp, adding a tablespoon of maple syrup and a pinch of cinnamon at the end, bubbling the syrup down to a caramel. I used this crisp, sweet crackling to dress the pasta. This is, however, mostly because I am greedy; you’ll probably be perfectly happy just eating the pasta on its own.