It was lovely to have my daughter Nicola with me for the night, en route from Birmingham to a week-long course in Tunbridge Wells starting this morning. Birmingham to Tunbridge Wells for a 9.00am start isn’t great; Birmingham to Mum’s in Twickenham for a night and supper and on to Tunbridge Wells the next morning is a much better option. We both love fish and so fish would be on the menu but first I wanted to recreate – well, kind of – the starter I had at the Union Street Cafe on Monday: roasted red peppers with anchovies and wild garlic.
I bought some Romano red peppers and roasted them – no oil or anything else, just straight into a hot (220C/190 Fan) oven, on a baking tray, for about 15-20 minutes, until I could see they were browning and the skin starting to peel away from the flesh. Even at this early stage the smell was wonderful. I lifted them straight into a large freezer bag with a reclosable seal and sealed them tightly.
Once they were cool enough to handle, I took them out of the bag and the skin peeled away really easily. I find this method so much easier than try to char them on an open flame to get the skin off. I guess they don’t have a ‘charred’ flavour but then I’m not a great fan of smokey charred food, and this way their gorgeous sweet flavour shines through in a perfect way. I carefully removed the stalk and seeds and sliced each pepper into 4 pieces lengthways and laid them on two plates.
Salsa verde is simply ‘green sauce’ – but it sounds so much nicer in Italian! There are endless variations but basically it’s generally made from a base of green herbs and olive oil. Nigel Slater uses parsley, garlic, capers and olive oil in his ‘classic salsa verde’. With Union Street Cafe’s anchovies in mind, I substituted the capers with anchovies. I always keep a can of anchovies in my store cupboard. They’re used a lot in Italian food to add saltiness and depth, for instance in Pasta alla Puttanesca. I also added some pine nuts, as I would in pesto. So first of all I roasted a good handful of pine nuts till lightly brown in a dry pan. I saved some for decoration at the end and put about 1 rounded tablespoon in my mortar and pestle. I added a small clove of garlic and 1 anchovy fillet and pounded into a paste. You don’t need any salt because the anchovies are very salty. I only added one because they have a very strong flavour, but experiment if you like. Next I added lots of flat leaf parsley leaves, bit by bit, with some olive oil, and pounded away until I had a good sauce. At this point I was so busy talking to Nicola I forgot to take photos of the process so there’s a gap between the nutty paste and the finished product!
I didn’t put the finished plates together until we were ready to eat. I then dribbled some of the salsa verde over the peppers, scattered over the reserved roasted pine nuts and decorated with just one anchovy in the middle. Finally I drizzled over a little extra olive oil. I served it with some of Ruben’s Bakehouse‘s fantastic sourdough bread that I’d bought in the morning so it was still very fresh, to soak up the juices as we ate. It was so delicious: the lovely sweet, soft peppers, the salty salsa verde, the crunchy pine nuts.
For our main course I’d made some Linguine with Prawns, Fresh Tomato & Chilli. When I stopped to buy linguine at Sapori TW1 they’d run out of plain but had some linguine al nero di seppia – linguine flavoured with squid ink. It seemed a happy alternative since I was cooking prawns to go with it. To see my recipe for this dish click here. I’d bought 4 extra, large tiger prawns to cook separately to top it at the end. It was gorgeous. The pasta was really good; quite expensive as it was a posh artisan kind but so delicious I’ll definitely buy more.
Keeping with the Italian theme, I’d bought some little courgette, lemon & walnut cakes from Carluccio’s in the morning and made some espresso to have with them.
Sometimes even the Single Gourmet Traveller doesn’t want to cook everything and I’ve had these cakes before and they are very very good. It was a lovely meal and a great evening with my lovely daughter.