It’s a week of birthdays: my sleek little Bella cat was 7 on the Wednesday, my brother Adam’s birthday followed on Thursday; my friend Rona’s birthday was yesterday and Annie’s is tomorrow. Meanwhile in the midst of all these celebrations the blog reached the grand blogging age of 3 yesterday. A proper celebration, maybe cooking something really special, had to be put on hold. I’ve had a busy two days helping Jonathan and Lyndsey move. Plans for cooking a meal on Thursday turned into a Tangawizi takeaway, but since Tangawizi is my favourite local Indian restaurant that was a kind of celebration. However, the move complete – at least stage one as Jonathan and Lyndsey will be staying with me for 4 weeks until they move into their new house – I finally got into the kitchen last night and cooked. OK so maybe it wasn’t a truly special meal for a birthday celebration, but it was quick, easy and wonderfully delicious. And in many ways it represented perfectly the kind of cooking I like best: a few simple ingredients of excellent quality bursting with flavour and a delight on the tastebuds.
When I wrote my first post 3 years ago – The Single Gourmet Traveller & Greek Aubergine Salad – it was all a bit of fun and I had no idea what would come of it. Now, it has branched out much further than being a blog about cooking for one and eating out or holidaying alone – although I sometimes still do that. It’s encouraged me to be much more adventurous in my cooking, try more new restaurants than I used to and extend my knowledge with more research into what I cook and where I travel to. I’ve met some wonderful people through the blog and have had a lot of support from some lovely people, most particularly Tim Healy at A Cena and Lawrence Hartley at Brula (and both now co-owners of the brilliant Joe Allen in Covent Garden!), not to mention my great friend Annie who has been my best supporter for trying out new restaurants, and Jonathan and Lyndsey for being my most frequent and willing guinea pigs when it comes to trying out new recipes! The blog has enjoyed 154,635 views in its 3-year history and has enriched my life so much, I find it slightly hard to think it’s only been three years.
Orecchiette, Broccoli & Tomato
It was quite late by the time the last box was unpacked yesterday evening; the day had been hot and humid turning into a slightly thundery night with flash showers of rain. It seemed best to stay put. My cupboard always has a pack of orecchiette (my favourite make being Carluccio’s); I always have tomatoes because frankly I can’t live without them; and there were a couple of nice heads of broccoli in the fridge, left over from Jonathan and Lyndsey’s Able & Cole organic vegetable delivery a couple of days ago. I have cooked a similar recipe for the blog before – a classic Puglian dish – but this time, followed a Gino d’Acampo idea and added tomato too.
First of all I prepared the sauce: I put about 4 tablespoons olive oil in a pan with 1 finely chopped clove of garlic, a finely chopped small red chilli and 4 anchovies. Cook fairly gently so you don’t burn the garlic and make it bitter. Crush the anchovies as they heat through so they melt into the oil.
When the anchovies are completely melted and the sauce coming together, add about 6 small tomatoes, quartered, and a handful of chopped fresh parsley. Cook until the tomatoes start to break apart and mash them down a little.
Now turn off until the pasta and broccoli are ready. Put the pasta into a big pan of boiling, salted water. You need about 100g per person. Orecchiette take about 15 minutes to cook; cook on a good fast boil in plenty of water so that the pasta doesn’t stick together. Meanwhile, cut a head of broccoli into florets and if they’re big, cut in half so they are quite small, bite-sized pieces that will cook quickly.
About 3 minutes before you expect the pasta to be ready, add the broccoli. It’s definitely nicer al dente: cooked through but still with a bite and its bright green colour. As the broccoli cooks, heat the sauce through again so it’s hot. Drain the pasta and broccoli when ready, reserving a little of the cooking liquid. Add to the hot sauce and stir it all together well. Add just a little of the cooking water to loosen a bit, if you like.
Now serve with some Parmesan or Pecorino (more traditionally served with the dish). I prefer to put the cheese on the table with a grater so people can grate over exactly how much they want.
It was a lovely supper: orecchiette had a wonderful texture, the anchovies had given depth to the sauce and the chilli a nice fiery touch. It was definitely the kind of dish I love best in its simplicity but with great ingredients. A big thank you to all my regular readers and followers who make the writing worthwhile and I hope you’ll stay with me into the blog’s fourth year.