Nigella’s Cook, Eat, Repeat episode 4: Nigella champions the much-maligned bacon of the sea, the anchovy, which she uses to create an elixir to accompany seared steak or crisp, red chicory.
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Delving into an old cookbook inspires Nigella to champion the much-maligned bacon of the sea, the anchovy – an ingredient she loves and which she uses to create an elixir to accompany seared steak or crisp, red chicory.
From her twinkling cocktail trolley, Nigella shakes up a lemon blossom cocktail using lemon juice and elderflower – a combination which inspired her lemon and elderflower pudding. Finishing with a final night-time love letter to the anchovy, Nigella creates a pasta dish of spaghetti with colourful chard and chilli.
Nigella’s Cook, Eat, Repeat episode 4 recipes:
Spaghetti with chard, chilli and anchovies
I first ate this at a lovely restaurant in Fowey in Cornwall, and knew that, once home, I had to make it myself. And I pretty much haven’t stopped since.
- Put a large saucepan of water on for the pasta and put a kettle on to boil at the same time.
- Strip the leaves from the stalks of chard. Roll them up and slice finely, then leave to one side. Cut the stalks into 1–2cm/½–¾in pieces.
- Put the olive oil and anchovies into a large pan and warm slowly, stirring until the anchovies seem to melt into the oil. Take off the heat and stir in the garlic and chilli flakes, then put back on the heat, turned up to medium, and add the chopped chard stalks. Turn the stalks around in the oil for a minute or so to soak up the flavour. Pour in the 125ml/4fl oz hot water from the kettle, stir again, and bring to a bubble. Put the lid on the pan and cook at a fast simmer until the stalks are tender; this will take 5–7 minutes. If you’re cooking with larger-stemmed chard, they may need 10 minutes.
- When the pasta water has come to the boil, add salt, then drop in your spaghetti and cook according to the packet instructions, but start checking a couple of minutes before it says.
Method part 2
- Add the shredded chard leaves to the stalks, give a good stir, replace the lid, and leave them to wilt for 2–4 minutes. Once they’re ready, turn the heat off under the pan, keeping the lid on, while you wait for the pasta.
- Use a pasta fork or tongs to add the cooked spaghetti to the pan of chard. It doesn’t matter if the pasta is dripping with water, as that starchy liquid will help thicken your sauce. Turn the spaghetti well in the chard and anchovy mixture; you may need to add up to 4 tablespoons of cooking water but go slowly, and stop when the sauce cleaves to the strands of spaghetti.
- Grate over about 2 tablespoons’ worth of cheese and stir, then add a generous pour of olive oil and stir again. Taste to see if you want more cheese or oil, then turn into a warmed bowl or bowls, and bring the cheese, a grater and the bottle of olive oil to the table.
Lemon and elderflower drizzle pudding
This makes one of the best Sunday-lunch puddings you will ever eat. If by any chance you have any leftovers, they microwave most satisfactorily.
- Preheat the oven to 180C/160C Fan/Gas 4. Grease an ovenproof dish (mine measures 26x17x5cm, though any ovenproof dish of the same depth, with a 1.5 litre/2⅔ pints capacity would be fine) with butter.
- Put the butter, yoghurt, sugar, rice flour, ground almonds, salt, baking powder and eggs into a food processor. Finely grate in the zest of the lemon and blitz until you have a thick batter. Pour the elderflower cordial through the funnel of the processor, with the motor still going, until combined.
- If you don’t have a processor, cream the butter, sugar and lemon zest together until smooth, light and airy, then beat in the yoghurt. Mix the flour, ground almonds and salt together, and add just 1 teaspoon of the baking powder. Beat 1 egg into the butter mixture, and then beat in a third of your dry ingredients, and carry on until you’ve added all the eggs and dry ingredients. Finally, beat in the elderflower cordial.
- Pour and scrape the batter into your prepared dish and bake for about 25 minutes, or until the top of the pudding is a deep golden brown. Check after 20 minutes and loosely cover with foil if it’s getting too dark.
- While the pudding is in the oven, prepare the drizzle. Mix the elderflower cordial with 3 tablespoons of lemon juice (from the zested lemon) in a jug.
- When the pudding is cooked, prick the sponge using a cake tester or a piece of uncooked spaghetti and drizzle with the elderflower lemon syrup. Eat warm with double cream.
This extraordinary elixir is for me the very apogee of anchovydom; for the anchovy lover, there can be no purer celebration of its qualities. It’s a dip to be eaten with crudités, drink in hand, before you sit down to dinner, but this is equally a sauce – for steak, roast beef, lamb, whatever you feel like pouring it on or eating it with, and I could pour it over almost anything.
- It might be wisest to follow the preparation instructions on your packet of anchovies, but what I do is soak them in a dish of cold water for 5 minutes, then throw the water out, fill up again, and leave to soak for a further 5 minutes. Then rinse each anchovy under the cold tap, tearing away and discarding the tails. If you want to remove the bones, too, be my guest; you will thereby gain huge respect for those who fillet anchovies for a living.
- If using a bullet or other high-speed blender, put the drained anchovies, garlic, lemon juice, olive oil and the water into the blender and blitz until you have a smooth sauce.
- If using a stick blender, put the anchovies into a bowl with the garlic and lemon juice and blitz to a paste. Still blitzing, gradually pour in a third of the oil, and when that’s absorbed, a third of the water, and carry on in this vein until both are used up.
- Decant into individual dipping bowls and arrange your chicory leaves or raw vegetables around it.
- Alternatively, fry your steak in a cast-iron frying pan over a high heat for 3 minutes on each side. Rest in kitchen foil for 5 minutes. Slice the steak thinly against the grain, transfer to a plate, dribble the elixir over it and scatter a few finely chopped chives on top. Dollop more sauce on your plate as you eat.