In the Garden-Tomatoes in January 2011
The race is on ! Every summer it seems that people all decide to be the gardeners that they wish they were all year round and start the tomato race of the summer. The work place conversation goes from what are you eating to how big are your tomatoes?
I like that we live in a pretty reasonable climate to be able to pot up a few plants and actually have them bear fruit. This year we have gone for a mass of tomatoes-cherry, Roma, beefsteak and some oddities that have just sprung up out of the ground likely from last years harvest.
All in all a pretty healthy lot that have been helped along with some worm juice from Catherine (if you can bear the wriggling a worm farm is fantastic for your vegetables. If you have a keen gardening friend they may also be happy to part with some for you) and a little tomato food.
So after a number of weeks of close monitoring, watering and talking sweet nothings to them we finally had a harvest that was large enough to cook with. It seems only reasonable to make something so typically Italian and tomato focused so we settled on a classic Puttanesca.
The origins of Puttanesca are a little unclear but there are any number or tales as to why it is called what it is. There is evidence that suggests a chef created the dish when late night diners showed up demanding they be feed and all he had was a few basics that were thrown together. The Italian word for whore is puttana so I like to think of this as being something hot and fast-a dish that maybe can be thrown together quickly but with maximum taste in the same amount of time that a seasoned professional might take to get the job done.
What ever the origins I believe you need the best quality ingredients you can lay your hands on for this really fast dish. The purity of flavor is all important so no point I think wasting time on cheap quality anchovies, capers or olives. In winter I use the best quality tinned tomatoes I can find (I do really like using tinned cherry tomatoes for this) otherwise the ripest vine ripened tomatoes from your garden.
Some recipes call for garlic, some without, some add no onion, some add chilli....this is just my way.
3-4 cloves garlic peeled and crushed finely
10-12 large tomatoes, chopped or several handfuls of cherry tomatoes, halved
1 dried red chilli, finely sliced
6-7 black olives, stones removed and roughly chopped
2 teaspoons capers, washed
In a heavy based fry pan, heat a little oil and gently cook the garlic till aromatic on a medium heat-be careful not to burn
Add the anchovies and chilli and melt into the garlic
Add the tomatoes and any juice that has accumulated
Add the capers and olives and slowly cook for 5-8 minutes, stirring occasionally.
If you feel you don't have enough liquid, add a touch of water or white wine to keep things jammy.
Cook your spaghetti till al dente and remember that there is nothing like the softness of homemade pasta to win hands down over bought pasta
Drain reserving a touch of cooking water which can be added to the sauce
Check the sauce for seasoning and adjust as needed.The anchovies and olives add quite a good salty level so be careful not to over salt.
Lay spaghetti into bowls and pile on the sauce.
I particularly fond of this with a big handful of spicy rocket on top