One of the reasons I’m fond of this book is its commitment to the central concept. There are a lot of Quick Cooking books out there which, in the manner of a schoolchild who has made an overzealous claim and instantly regretted it, rashly promise to put a lavish three course meal on the table thirty minutes after you’ve hung your coat in the hallway. There’s a Particular Book (by a Particular Chef with a Particular Style of delivery who is Particularly World Famous) which I’ve seen discussed a great deal, literally only in the context of complaints about the fact that the meals take more than thirty minutes to prepare (and frequently create ninety minutes’ worth of washing up to do afterwards, but that’s another story), which rather makes one question why the Particular Chef didn’t add another 15 minutes to the titular promise and save himself a headache. Anyway, there is no such issue (bar possibly the Risotto, which I still don’t totally believe is advisable to attempt in 30 minutes) with Real Fast Food which, rather than thinking about what people would like to eat, and reverse engineering it into a half-hour process, has taken the time-frame, and thought about what processes and techniques lend themselves to expedition. Some recipes are small, some big, some simple and a very, very few are a little knotty, but they work, and for that, I’m grateful.
Today’s recipe seems the perfect example of the quick-dinner form: It contains preserved ingredients you’re either likely to already have in the cupboard, or can easily pick up from the most modestly stocked of grocers (or even your local garage, in all probability), and is finished in the time it takes to boil some dried pasta. The fact it’s also delicious, in that context, almost feels like a bonus, but delicious it is.
First, I weighed out 50g of black olives, and chopped them finely along with four rinsed anchovy fillets. To this mixture I added a tablespoonful of rinsed capers, and two sundried tomatoes, which I’d sliced finely into strips. I added all this to a generously oiled pan, sitting on a gentle heat. The object is partly to warm the ingredients through, rather than cook anything, these ingredients all being ready-to-eat as it is, and partly to infuse the oil, which will coat the pasta, with all the beautiful flavours contained within.
As that lot gently heated, I boiled 100g of Fusilli in a large pan of salted water, drained it when done, and tossed the whole lot together, making sure the pasta was well coated with the infused oil and the chopped ingredients evenly distributed.
Being a meal of preparatory ingredients, you get the feeling that, if you had the luck or foresight to visit a good deli and get really good-quality tomatoes, olives, anchovies and capers, you could make something quite special, but even with the bog-standard supermarket stuff I had in the cupboard, the inherent logic of the flavours, working together as they do, was clear and enjoyable.
We ate it with a salad, yesterday’s bread and a light grating of parmesan. It did feel rather like the kind of thing you might eat in the garden on an early summer’s evening, but the bold, salty punchiness of the flavours made their own sense in the close-cosiness of the dark, Swedish winter too.
Buy your own copy of Nigel Slater’s ‘Real Fast Food’ HERE.