Wednesday, 2 May 2012

Olive Magazine Spaghetti Puttanesca

The last two days have been yet another two very busy days in the crazy life that is mine.  I met two new and very different groups of people - both sets of whom got bored to tears with the story of how my blog came about (and my tendency to waffle endlessly when writing - also demonstrated verbally whilst describing the blog!)

Freestanding fork
First set of people were work colleagues who were on a Presentation Skills course.  I've been on several variations of this course over the years with my previous history as a trainer so for me it was a refresher more than anything.  I did, however, learn two new things which are kind of food related and will hopefully stick.  The first is that apparently there is an onion-related theme running throughout the Shrek films.  I've only seen Shrek 1 twice and Shrek 2 once.  I didn't notice this so I know what Miss A and I will be doing this weekend.

Second thing was SUMO.  Food related, because I am becoming rather sumo-shaped from all this over-indulgence and a lack of running thanks to the hacking cough that's still plaguing me.  More appropriate than the fat-bloke reference however (and no, I don't wear black nappies!), was the meaning of the acronym.  Shut Up and Move On.  I'm sure you're thinking that right now!

On to the second group of people.  The Bath Clandestine Cake Club.  What a lovely bunch of people!  Held in a secret location near Bath, with people whose names I can't reveal because I'd have to kill myself, the first meeting of cake club was a great event.  Of course, what's not to like about people that like cake?  Everyone was really friendly.  I felt a bit bad with my over-showy raspberry and lime cake with Swiss meringue buttercream (I got carried away - see yesterday's blog for the proof) and that was why I bored them all to tears about my blog in an attempt to justify getting carried away.

Aside from meeting lovely people, I also ate some fantastic cake.  Most memorable for me were a blueberry cake with cream cheese frosting and a malt vinegar cake (yep, that's right!).  I was also in awe of a beautiful cherry and almond cake where the cherries had been dusted in gold glitter - that one's still in my cake tin, awaiting consumption.

Note the cut off head to preserve Clandestine-ness
The meeting was held in a public place (hopefully I won't get shot at dawn for revealing this) and some people who happened to be nearby came to see what we were up to.  We gave one lovely gent some cake to take home to his wife of 48 years and he very generously made a donation to charity after he wouldn't take the cake away as a gift from the bakers.

A huge thanks to SJ for organising this and I'm really looking forward to the next one!

On the downside, I spent most of yesterday mainlining coffee (I don't know why I do this when I'm on a course) and then after no tea last night, I consumed an exponential amount of sugar.  Consequently, with a 20-woodbines-a-day smokers cough, I was still awake at 3am worrying about the Victoria sponge I'd planned to bake at 5.30am to cover the blog and the subject of my final presentation.

By 4am I'd managed to replan my final presentation to be about how I justify things economically (see the following post where I've talked about this before), thus ensuring that Short and Sweet made an appearance as a visual aid.  I then hit BBC Good Food to find a store cupboard recipe and came back with this one.

I bought a tin of anchovies three years ago to make some salsa verde to go with steak and homemade chips.  I can't remember why I didn't make the sauce, but that tin of hairy little fish has been staring me in the face every time I open my cupboard ever since.  Tonight it was opened, and I finally braved eating the little blighters.

While the sauce was cooking, I honestly didn't think I'd like it.  The flavour just seemed completely wrong and I couldn't work out what was missing.  There was saltiness from the very finely chopped anchovies, a little more from the olives.  A weird tang from the capers. Heat from the chilli flakes.  But I couldn't put my finger on what was missing.  So I soldiered on, fearing I'd end up with a rubbish tea after a long sleepless night and an even longer day.  The final step was to mix in parsley with the spaghetti and sauce.  And bang.  There was the missing ingredient.

I still continue to be amazed by how much just one element can make or break a dish.  Sometimes you can leave something out and it doesn't make much difference.  But for me, the parsley was an absolute must.

Bringing me nicely back to another point I picked up about planning.  Must, Could, Should.  I think it has a life application and definitely relates to cookery.  I was going with that theme for my presentation on the Vicky Sponge.  You must use equal weights of eggs, butter, self raising flour and sugar.  You must use jam to sandwich it together.  You should use vanilla to lift the flavour of the sponge.  You could use fresh cream or butter cream.  But it's not essential (and frowned on by the WI).

So my Must, Could, Should for the next week is as follows.  I must eat more healthily.  I should keep my promise to bake my mentor a banana cake - seeing as how he asked so nicely about three weeks ago.  I could try to make two or less Dan Lepard recipes.  But I'm not making any promises.

In the meantime, I'm loving the puttanesca and will be using this as a quick tea for me on many an occasion in the future.  You can find the recipe here.

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