Tuesday, 28 February 2012

Candian candy update

So I've been trying a few more tasty, tasty Canadian chocolate bars in my continued culinary exploration since I got here....

Butterfingers (as shown above) - are, I'm not gonna lie, a little gross. They definitely only get a measley 3/10 as they're way too sweet and sickly, and there isn't an awful lot (aside from the vague peanuty taste) to recommend them.

 But, in better and more delicious news, these guys are FANTASTIC:

Lindt Lindor truffles - amazing at the best of times - are, apparently even better when filled with peanut butter. They get a resounding 9/10 - and they are utterly fabby.

So, um....can you spot a decidedly peanuty theme here?! Yes, all kinds of peanut butter candy are, for sure, my favourite sweet things to eat and so this post might be a bit samey but yes, more of the same:

So basically Reese's peanut butter cups, in a chocolate bar. A very, very good idea - somehow the choccie to filling ratio works much better than in the cups and I will certainly be getting this again. The only problem? It's dangerously massive (we had to split it between three!!) 7.5/10

And then there are these wee guys - peanut butter M&Ms. Again, very good idea and I pretty much loved these. They certainly get 8.5/10 and, since I only grabbed a few in a pick-and-mix selection of goodies, I'll definitely be going for them again.

Last but not least - Dark chocolate caramilk, coming in at a respectable 7/10, is much better than its milk chocolated brother. I wasn't at all sure I even wanted to try this after disliking the original version so much, but I'm glad I did.

Friday, 24 February 2012

Multiple hometowns (2)

Before we headed out on the Canadian leg of this year's adventure, I took my other half to Edinburgh, the city we moved to when I was a tiny baby and where we stayed for the next nine years.

There is probably always something about the places we grew up that keeps them forever magical in our head, especially if we leave them and all that romance and magic behind, forever caught in memory.

As a result, the beauty and utter charm of this city has never faded for me in the way that it might have done if I'd carried on growing up there and started to see Edinburgh just as another place where I happened to be living.
As it is, I love this place and I would jump a hundred times over at the chance to live there again. We visited for an only slightly damp, even a little pleasantly snowy 10 days or so in the crossover between November and December last year. And what a wonderous holiday it was - full of exploring old, half-remembered streets and following my normally appauling sense of direction, of introducing my other half to the house I grew up in, the school I attended for the first five years of my life, and even fed him some of my favorite, stereotypical Scottish foods (haggis, iru bru bars etc.)

I can't say enough in support of Edinburgh as a travel destination at any time of year - in fact, if you want to be able to see a lot more of the city and the surrounding area (we went as far as the Highlands and Inverness) I would say don't 

And for sure - walk everywhere. Edinburgh is simply the best city for walking - get out there and see the big stuff and the small stuff, just make sure you do it on foot.

Wednesday, 22 February 2012

What I miss: Japan

 I have spent three out of the last four and a half years living in Japan. I found myself in two very different areas during my time there, and despite having now studied and spoken Japanese for over six years, it was the experience of actually living there which probably truly fomented Japan, my relationships with Japanese friends and colleagues, and the Japanese language itself as a very large, important part of my life.

And my oh my are there ever things I miss about Japan!! They are many and various but these are a few selected highlights or whatever....maybe they can serve to encourage some of you to go to Japan, or to remind those of you who are there how lucky you are!

onsen ~ the naturally occuring hot springs which you can find just about anywhere and everywhere, especially in the more mountainous regions of Japan and sit inside or outside, naked, in a bath with friends and watch the world go by. Nothing beats that feeling in winter and nothing beats some of the views I've experienced from mountainside or lakeside onsen.

wet rooms in every house ~ a bit like the above, I really miss having a whole bathroom that is essentially just a shower and bath and which heats up and steams up so nicely and is totally my favorite part of any Japanese house

outrageous seasons

Need I say more?!

multiple adoptive families ~ both periods of time I have spent living in Japan have been characterised by the warmth and welcome that was extended to me by the Japanese people around me every day. This ranged from meeting new friends in all manner of odd places following chance first conversations, to being fully adopted (once in Tokyo by a family who fed me, gave me a wealth of knowledge about "real" life in Japan and once in Hokkaido by a second mum who fed me, gave me books, helped me with problems and introduced me to "Desperate  Housewives"!) My life in Japan would not have been what it was without each and every single friend I made there and the obvious sentiments of openheartedness and friendship which I encountered from people everywhere I went. 

being able to speak, read and write Japanese every day ~ might be an obvious one but my brain works so very much slower now in my second language than it did a mere 5-6months ago when I was reading, writing, listening to and speaking in Japanese every single day. It isn't that it's difficult to motivate myself not to use a language I desperately want to practise but more that nothing can really compare with such full immersion.

daifuku ~ these are a traditional type of Japanese sweets made from soft, squishy rice cakes, surrounding something (usually red bean paste or fruit). For me, I love these ones -

They are filled with lumpy bean paste and have beans in the rice cake on the outside, too. PERFECT.

And, ok, I admit it big time. I also really miss 7/11's super delish, pre-packed, not-even-kept-in-the-fridge "custard donuts". I loved those little guys.

everything being "cute" ~ like, everything! From your socks to your underwear, from you pencils, bag, food, letter writing paper, paper clips, you name it. I miss Hello Kitty plastered all over everything I own especially...although she's never far from me, thanks to some awesome friends still in Japan!!

purikura ~ also known as "print club" (or at least that's where the Japanese name came from!) is simply the most ridiculous hobby/use of money ever....pay a few yen each and take ridiculous pictures in a booth with friends. Like a passport photo, right?!
Not only can you choose your own background to pose in front of, but you can then edit all of your snaps....writing, drawing and adding random doodles over the top of them. THE BEST.

100 yen stores ~ so, for the equivalent of about $1 (or about 60p Brit-money) you can get pretty much anything small you want or need for any part of your house.....and the stuff isn't total shit. In fact, it's hardy, useful and if, like me, you are arriving in a new place for the first time, you can kit out your entire room, or house, for about $80 or 60 pounds. Pretty damn good.

the best public transport systems I have ever experienced ~ I've never been to Germany or Switzerland but when I eventually do, I'll let you know how the rankings are standing.

the ubiquitous konbini ~ clean, safe, (often) 24hr convenience stores which are cheap and also, conveniently sell everything. Also they are actually everywhere. The best for roadtrips, for emergency breakfast runs, for the walk home from work and for travellers like me. There's nowhere else I've been less worried about forgetting something everytime I leave home. In Japan it's no big deal - toothbrush, underwear (seriously), any food or drink, a pajama top, medications, nail varnish, reading material.....if you left it at home by mistake, just buy yourself a new one at the konbini.
futon ~ in the sleeping comfort Olympics, futon would kick bed's ass. Every. Time.

the best festivals you could hope for, all the time  ~ and not just the big, famous ones (although those are great, too) but also the small, local ones where you seem to be able to join in every activity, from the sublime to the ridiculous and where the sights, smells, sounds and energy just draw you in and help to create some of the best memories you could hope to have in a country as diverse and multi-faceted as Japan.
 Choco-banana, the silliest classic festival food of them all.
 At a daruma (the red guy) festival near Tokyo, 2008.
 Numata lantern festival, Hokkaido, summer 2009.
The famous Nebuta matsuri in Aomori prefecture - hundreds of floats line the streets are built ever year and parade through the city's streets.
 Me being dressed to dance in the Nebuta parade.
 He's made entirely of ice: the world famous Sapporo snow festival.
 Yosakoi dance festival - an event every single June in the city of Sapporo where teams travel from all over the country to dance with amazing passion and dedication (in full costumes in warm, warm weather!)
Obon - an important festival celebrated in one's hometown the length and breadth of the country. The dance is said to honour the dancer's ancestors. This is one of the first events I was ever invited to in my tiny, countryside town when I first arrived at my job in northern Japan.

There are also the obvious, big, things I miss about Japan - like the people I worked with everyday, the friends I spent the weekends with, having my own house (for the first time ever), the students I taught and the pretty sweet disposable income my job came with.

But it's the other, less obvious things, like those listed above, which surprise me and pop into my head every so often here. Just like I still find myself confused by not having to change or take off shoes to go inside, not separating trash "properly" and sometimes even by "r" and "l" sounds when spelling or speaking (I spent a lot of my life in Japan speaking Japanese, ok?!)

Saturday, 18 February 2012

A healthy dose of British comedy

 Let me be the first to admit I am not a Monty Python fan. I can’t help it….it really just isn’t my kind of humour and for whatever reason, I just can’t get into it even if I try.

Now that doesn’t mean that I can’t spot a ubiquitous Python quote a mile off but it does mean that I always seem to be on a subconscious mission to persuade non-Brit friends to watch some shows which I would consider to be absolute comedy classics, but which have never achieved much renown outside of the U.K.

I have a surprisingly large number of friends from a lot of other countries who are pretty into British comedy and who seem to be looking for new things to watch sometimes. So I guess this one is for you guys – a list of slightly more internationally obscure but just as awesome stuff I laugh over.

Blackadder – especially the fourth series, set during the First World War, which manages to be poignant, hilarious and very dark, all at once. Whenever I watch Blackadder, I find myself feeling that it hasn't yet aged in the way that so many other comedies seem to have, maybe because I still associate it with growing up and in my mind it has taken on some kind of totally timeless status.
The Good Life - is a little more dated now but is, nevertheless, a really gentle, "nice" sitcom about a couple who give up their jobs and a lot of their worldly commitments to try and become completely self-sufficient (way ahead of its time, this series started in 1975). They live next door to a far more conventional, rather upper middle class couple whose outlook on life couldn't be more different. It is the quite toughing friendship between the two couples and the marvellous character acting of all four actors - Richard Briers, Felicity Kendal, Penelope Keith and Paul Eddington - that really bring this simple premise alive. It probably helps that I had a massive girl-crush on 1970s Felicity Kendal as I was growing up!!
'Allo 'allo - Ahh, the old, classic British comedy era when so much mileage could come out of national stereotypes and ridiculous French/German accents. But, somehow, 'Allo 'allo is very much still worth watching

Green Wing - probably only good for those with a true absurdist (and sometimes a little vile) sense of humour. But super, super funny and certainly not "The U.K.'s Scrubs" - far sillier, far less poignant and significantly more slapstick.
Coupling - widely acknowledged to be better than the American version of the same show (hehe), it's funny, the episodes are short and light and it's generally just a bit of a giggle.
The I.T. Crowd - similar to above, kind of a light, airy comedy which is pretty good as silly late night/background viewing.
The Vicar of Dibley - especially for those who have never seen Dawn French in anything before because she is hilarious and this show is awesome sauce. Small village, female vicar, insane parishioners, random stuff doing down, and Alice the verger, questionably one of the best comic performances ever. Oh, and it's written by Richard Curtis.
Outnumbered - especially the first season. This show was kind of a revelation to me, mainly because it is is partly (and actually, so start with, was almost entirely) improvised. Including all the hilarious stuff the kids in it come out with. Proper comedy.
Black Books - the only comedy I have ever seen which is set in a second hand book shop. Also, I used to walk past the book shop where the shot all the exteriors every day on my way to school in London. I mean, this show is great, too, but that helps to keep it way up on my list as well.
Gavin and Stacey - is sooooo good!! And, if you're not from the U.K., you can just sit back and enjoy the most Welsh accents in one TV show for a long time. Superb characterisation, fresh-feeling humour and general outrageousness.
Miranda - probably the most quoted TV show ever in my house. And certainly my favorite recent comedy series. Miranda Hart, the main actress and writer of the show is just so funny and even though there can be moments watching this where it is impossible to avoid cringing, you really are rooting for her character every second to not screw up....again. Every single character and reference is just done so superbly, I always want to watch just one more once I start.....

Tuesday, 14 February 2012

Simply the fudgiest brownies you have ever, ever eaten. OH YEAH.

I like my brownies very, very fudgy and these are basically the best I've ever made. The following recipe will make about 24 very decent sized brownies (or there abouts....)

1 cup butter
225g quality, bitter chocolate
4 large eggs
1 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup light brown sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
1 cup plain flour
200g quality milk chocolate, chopped into sizable chunks which won't melt during baking

1. Preheat the oven to 350f and grease a 9-by-13-inch baking tin.
2. Melt the butter and all the bitter chocolate (only) together on the stove or in the mircowave, then put aside to cool.
3. Beat the eggs and both sugars together and add the salt,  vanilla and cooled chocolate/butter mixture (it must be cool enough not to start cooking the eggs).  
4. Beat in the flour (the batter will be nice and thick). Stir in the chopped, chunky chocolate.
5. Scrape the batter into the prepared pan and smooth the top. Bake for 23 - 25 minutes, until the top is set (but still soft) and the edges are just beginning to be a bit puffy and pull away from the sides of the pan. A toothpick inserted in the center will come out still gooey (take them out of the oven despite this....underbaking these brownies is one of the secrets to their amazing fudgy texture). 
6. Transfer the pan to a wire rack to cool completely.
7. These brownies will keep really nice and fresh for a good few days and should also be freezable once cooked (reheat in the microwave!) Happy munching!!!

Friday, 10 February 2012

Fish pie of awesome

And for my next great culinary trick....I made fish pie, a good old British classic and an excellent winter warmer. Also a really easy recipe and a good way of using up leftover mashed potato - serve the whole thing with a few veggies on the side - doesn't need much as there's so much contained within the pie itself. Job's a goodun!

 There are a few steps to this, but they all come together pretty easily.

Before anything else, make some mashed potato - add anything to it you normally would to make it extra tasty (for me this is usually a lot of seasoning, so cheese and some milk or even a little cream). Set it aside to use later. If you have leftover mash, just get it out of the fridge to thaw a little!
Now start with some fish. I think it's best to use one white fish fillet to every one smoked fish fillet (use anything you and your eaters like) and use less fish (by about 1/3) than you would need for the number of people you are serving as a main. 
Poach the fish, remove from the water or milk, and pull apart with a couple of forks. Leave that to one side. Boil eggs (I'd say the same number as fish fillets), cool, chop up and add to the fish pile.
Make a basic white sauce, but add parsley (fresh if possible) and maybe some spring/green onions.
So you need about half a stick of butter in the pan, then add one just over 1 tablespoon of flour and fry for a couple of mins. Then add in 1 and a quarter cups of milk and stir to thicken. This is a basic white sauce - you'll need to adapt it for the size of your pie. I did twice this quantity for three people.
Now, stir in the fish and eggs (try not to break them all up!) to your white sauce and lastly chuck in a whole load of frozen peas to thicken it/add some flavor and color. Season, then pour the whole lot into the bottom 2/3 or so of an ovenproof casserole dish.
Now cover the top 1/3 of the dish with mashed potato. Your fish pie can now go in the oven for about 30-45mins at 430f or 220c to cook through. Or you can just whack it in the fridge to stew until an hour before dinner time. 


Wednesday, 8 February 2012

Accidentally gluten free: a-little-goes-a-long-way chocolate cake

I should probably begin by saying that this is an amazing cake recipe which just happens to be gluten free. It isn't, as the post title may imply, something that was actually a mistake. From a bunch of my recipe/food trivia reading, I know that a whole host of the things we take for granted now as dishes come from an accident of the dropping/spilling/leaving out too long/omitting an ingredient/having to concoct something at the last minute from the cupboard.....

The only time I've ever actually seen an "accidentally gluten free" creation, it was pretty funny but not so tasty in the end.
During my stint teaching English at three different public schools in a small Japanese town, I got involved in the significantly active and even more significantly alcohol-enjoying PTA attached to my junior high school and had a goodly number of extra-curricular adventures with my students’ mothers as a result. In my second year in the job, I hosted my own PTA event night – teaching 50 something parents how to make and then compile the various different parts of a traditional English fruit trifle. 

Our only problem was how to make the cake part of the trifle without ovens (something not used as widely in Japanese cooking as in British, and very much not in evidence at my junior high school). With the help of the school’s home economics teacher, we settled on a very simple “steamed” cake recipe: mixture of flour, eggs and sugar with very little fat added, which was then cooked as a large, cakey pancake in a covered frying pan.

Problem solved….until one group got pretty distracted mid-cook and forgot to add the flour. The result? A rather sickly, pretty unpleasant-looking, sweet omelette. A genuine gluten-free accident. Luckily there was time to re-make and recover, and everyone's finished results looked a lot like this, in miniature form:

But I digress.

The following recipe is GOOD TIMES, whether you are gluten-free, wheat-free or a voracious eater of anything and everything normally. It is originally a Jennifer Patterson (of “Two fat ladies” fame) recipe which, for me, is a recommendation in itself.

The only things to pay real attention to in this recipe are:

Whisking the eggs to get enough air into them to give some volume without flour + rising agent.

You MUST wait until the chocolate/sugar mixture is cool before folding in the eggs or…yep, you guessed it….they will start to scramble in your cake mix.

The bain marie (wee water bath for you cake tin) is also to stop the mixture separating or streaks of egg cooking faster in the middle of the mixture because of the lack of flour. It is essential but even with it, you may find that the bottom of the cooked cake feels denser/wetter than they top – but usually in a good way.

So, without further ado –

8oz/225g good plain, dark, or semisweet chocolate
1 cup/2 sticks/225g butter
280g/1 and a half cups caster sugar
5 eggs

That's all folks.
1. Grease a 22cm cake pan and preheat the oven to 180c or 355f
2.. Melt the chocolate carefully, remove from the heat and stir in the butter until they are melted together.
3. Beat in all the sugar, making sure you blend it well.
4. Beat the eggs until they are good and frothy and then, when the choc/butter/sugar mixture is cool, add them in.
5. Pour the mixture into the cake pan and then put the cake pan in any kind of larger tray or roasting dish, filled with enough water to come 1-2 inches high up the side of the cake pan.
6. Cook for one hour at 180c or 355f. When done, let it cool in the pan and stick it in the fridge (overnight if possible) before serving.

This recipe can serve a good number of people as it's very rich and at a dinner party or a pot luck, it can probably easily be split 16 ways.

This cake does puff up and the top usually cracks, too, as you can see. Although it may end up looking a little unconventional as a result, it does give a nice harder texture right on top of a gooey, almost truffley softer one underneath.

It tastes pretty good, and it looks something like this:

Tuesday, 7 February 2012

Cooking spreeeeee.....

Recently I've had not only the super drive and inspiration to cook all the time, but I've also had time (and very willing tasters!!) on my side as well as three people to cook for (much better than one!) and a super well-stocked kitchen/generous ingredient buyer. And you know what that means.....recipes galore for the next few posts.

And I hope that when some of you try my recipes, too, you might pull faces like this:

A list for readers

 I am a very avid reader and one of the things I really appreciate about books is how sharable they are and how, through discussing a novel or non-fiction work, or poem with someone else who has read it, you can enjoy something that you have already finished once all over again.

However, despite all of this, when I asked recently what my favourite books are, I realised it was something I actually hadn’t thought to quantify recently. But since I always want others to recommend books of all kinds to me, I thought I’d at least try and scrawl down what I consider to be some of the greatest things I’ve ever read and why I loved them so very much. So keep your eyes peeled for all the posts about books coming after this one, too!!

Bleak House - Charles Dickens
Dickens always writes characters and settings that just pull me right in. Try this for a snapshot of atmosphere: smog-filled, Victorian London to set your imagination off in the very first few sentences.....

"LONDON. Michaelmas Term lately over, and the Lord Chancellor sitting in Lincoln’s Inn Hall. Implacable November weather. As much mud in the streets as if the waters had but newly retired from the face of the earth, and it would not be wonderful to meet a Megalosaurus, forty feet long or so, waddling like an elephantine lizard up Holborn Hill. Smoke lowering down from chimney-pots, making a soft black drizzle, with flakes of soot in it as big as full-grown snow-flakes — gone into mourning, one might imagine, for the death of the sun. Dogs, undistinguishable in mire. Horses, scarcely better; splashed to their very blinkers. Foot passengers, jostling one another’s umbrellas in a general infection of ill-temper, and losing their foot-hold at street-corners, where tens of thousands of other foot passengers have been slipping and sliding since the day broke (if the day ever broke), adding new deposits to the crust upon crust of mud, sticking at those points tenaciously to the pavement, and accumulating at compound interest.
Fog everywhere. Fog up the river, where it flows among green gaits and meadows; fog down the river, where it rolls defiled among the tiers of shipping and the waterside pollutions of a great (and dirty) city. Fog on the Essex marshes, fog on the Kentish heights. Fog creeping into the cabooses of collier-brigs; fog lying out on the yards, and hovering in the rigging of great ships; fog drooping on the gunwales of barges and small boats. Fog in the eyes and throats of ancient Greenwich pensioners, wheezing by the firesides of their wards; fog in the stem and bowl of the afternoon pipe of the wrathful skipper, down in his close cabin; fog cruelly pinching the toes and fingers of his shivering little ’prentice boy on deck. Chance people on the bridges peeping over the parapets into a nether sky of fog, with fog all round them, as if they were up in a balloon, and hanging in the misty clouds.
Gas looming through the fog in divers places in the streets, much as the sun may, from the spongey fields, be seen to loom by husbandman and ploughboy. Most of the shops lighted two hours before their time — as the gas seems to know, for it has a haggard and unwilling look."

There are so many interweaving tales, personalities and social commentaries woven into this novel that I just feel like I consumed it whole, in about 4 days one year on vacation. I've wanted to read it again many times but I've always felt like somehow, maybe, I couldn't recapture the magic of reading it for the first time ever and of following plot twists and beloved characters all the way to the end.

The Hours - Micheal Cunningham
Okay, I'll admit  that my love for this book in part comes from my love for Virginia Woolf, and particularly for "Mrs Dalloway". But it also comes from my big time appreciation of fragmented narratives and stories which only interweave loosely and can seem as disconnected yet abstractly linked as we do to one another in real life.
"The Hours" makes me at turns sad and deeply reflective but also really optimistic and inspired in a way that you might be surprised by.

"I remember one morning getting up at dawn, there was such a sense of possibility. You know, that feeling? And I remember thinking to myself this is the beginning of happiness. This is where it starts. And of course there will always be more. It never occurred to me it wasn’t the beginning. It was happiness. It was the moment. Right then."

V for Vendetta - Alan Moore

This was the first graphic novel I ever read and I probably cried in multiple places, far more than was really acceptable. But I pretty much loved everything about V....to the extent that, as I write this I realise quite how much I want to read it again.

I think I leafed through it in one afternoon and I'm also pretty sure that a lot of what spoke to me about it was the depiction of an institutionalised authoritarianism and suppression which is so historically familiar but also grounded in the very real fears of Moore based on what he was seeing during the Thatcher years.
It - Stephen King

Now, I'm gonna be the first to admit that I never really thought I would be a Stephen King reader and, even though I absolutely loved "It", I probably wouldn't read another of his novels again. My love for "It" came not from the fact that it was well-written, suspense filled and compulsive reading (although it is all of those things) but the subject matter it deals with. For me, it would be very difficult to argue that "It" is not about the power and strength of children and the power of childhood.

It probably helps that the novel ends with this very same sentiment that I so identified with throughout its 1000+ pages. I don't think it would have been possible for me to have sped my way through such a mammoth book in less than a week if I hadn't been rooting both for its protagonists, and for what they represent.

"You don’t have to look back to see those children; part of your mind will see them forever, live with them forever, love with them forever. They are not necessarily the best part of you but they were once the repository of all you could become............That stays, the bright cameo of all we were and all we believed as children, all that shone in our eyes even when we were lost and the wind blew in the night."
Honestly, I can't recommend most of these book I love enough...I'll keep writing blog posts like this, a few books at a time and if you've read any of them, please let me know what you thought and if you decide to read one or a few from now on, let me know when you've finished!
I think all the poetry will have to come in yet another post after all the other stuff: it deserves its own place.

For now, there are a good few books on my current "to read" list as well. I'm pretty excited to get through these (I'm hoping easily by the end of the year!):
Wise children - Angela Carter
Palestine - Joe Sacco
The Teahouse Fire - Ellis Avery
Extremely loud and incredibly close - Jonathan Safran Foer
The storyteller's daughter - Cameron Dokey
The Years - Virginia Woolf
A mercy - Toni Morrison
The inheritance of loss - Kiran Desai
Reading in the dark - Seamus Deane
Watchmen - Alan Moore
The Sister Brothers - Alan deWitt
Rivers of London - Ben Aaronovitch
Sexing the cherry - Jeanette Winterson
Naoko - Hagashino Keigo
The Line of Beauty - Alan Hollinghurst
The Night Circus - Erin Morgenstern
Dovekeepers - Alice Hoffman

So, I am going to join a library but if anyone (in Canada) has any of my "to read" books, feel free to lend them....I read pretty fast, I promise!!

Saturday, 4 February 2012

Prostitute’s pasta or slut’s spaghetti or tasty, tasty “puttanesca”

A dish first introduced to me by a good friend in university who fed me far better than anyone else I have ever known, this is a serious pasta sauce. There are three really strong (and each quite salty) flavours which, somehow, combine very well to make what I think might actually be my favourite ever coating for any kind of pasta.

It is chunky rather that wet, and tastes far better than the sum of its parts (Hello?! I don’t even like anchovies.) The following recipe will make enough for four people.

2 cloves of garlic
2 tsp diced chilli or dried chilli
1 tbsp dried oregano
a sprinkling of pepper
in a little olive oil then add in:
1 heaped tbsp capers
12 anchovies, chopped up
2 heaped tbsp black olives, chopped

add two large (400g) cans of DRAINED chopped tomatoes then stir it all together and add a handfull of ripped basil and some ground black pepper (to taste)

Leave the sauce to cook for about 20 mins, until the sauce has reduced slightly.

Meanwhile boil 1lb (450g) spaghetti until done.  
Once the sauce has reached a nice texture, add in the pasta and stir for a further 2-3 mins,