I worked for a company in Cork a few years ago and I have to say, it was one of the best times of my life. The company was new to the city with a young & enthusiastic workforce some of which, I’ve the pleasure to say, have become very close friends of mine and I look forward to sharing many more happy times with them in the future. I threw myself into the move and got involved in a whole load of new sports & activities such as sugar craft, yoga, orienteering, kickboxing as well as really picking up my golf game (I befriended a few lady golfers my own age).
One person that really surprised me in my first year there, was my then boss. He was an unbelievably friendly & approachable guy who always made time for everyone and really looked after his staff. The day of our Christmas break-up, he pulled me aside and handed me a beautifully wrapped gift. I was intrigued as previous gifts from bosses were bottles of something or other but this was a book, and what a book – The Concise Gastronomy of Italy by Anna del Conte. I was blown away as he’d taken in every word uttered by his staff and chose a book to fit each of them; Jeremy Clarkson’s book for the car lover, a book on surfing for the chick from Bundoran, Mohammed Ali biography for the sports nut and the list went on. It was such a nice way to finish up and what was more, I didn’t even mind going back after the holidays!
The Concise Gastronomy of Italy is really excellent if you’re interested in Italian food and I probably wouldn’t have chosen it myself as it doesn’t have pictures. I know that’s pathetic but it’s nice to see what the end result should look like. The book is broken into three sections; regions, recipes & ingredients. The regions section gives a little culinary history and lists the local specialities of that area. Any time either I or a friend of mine is going to Italy, I refer to the book and find out what to try when there.
The recipes are great, they give the English translation to the recipe, a little tid-bit of information about the recipe and how to make it – Paulo will love this – authentically. The ingredients list gives the name and history of pretty much every food stuff that can be found and is traditional in Italy – the list is huge!
One dish that I go back to again and again is Spaghetti Alla Puttanesca. Anna informs us that ‘puttana’ is the Italian word for prostitute which makes me wonder how the dish got its name, but that’s another day’s googling! Anyway, back to puttanesca; it’s a spicy tomato based dish with real gutsy flavours, not really what you expect from an Italian dish but well worth the experiment. I’ve tried this with fresh anchovies in olive oil and tinned anchovies and I have to say, for this, stick with the tinned ones. The fresh ones are fabulous served as an anti-pasti but don’t work well in this dish.
Spaghetti alla Puttanesca
What You Need
Enough good dried spaghetti for two people
1 tin of chopped tomatoes (I used half a jar of Bunalun crushed tomatoes)
2 cloves of garlic finely chopped
1 red chilli chopped and de-seeded (I left some of the seeds in as I like it a bit spicy)
2 Tbsp capers
1 handful of black olives sliced
1 small tin of anchovy fillets chopped up small
2 Tbsp olive oil
1 large handful of flat leaf parsley finely chopped
Sea salt & pepper
What You Do
- Cook the spaghetti per the instructions on the packet until al dente.
- Heat the oil in a pan and add the anchovies and stir until almost dissolved.
- Add the garlic, chilli, olives & capers and stir for another minute.
- Add the tomatoes, parsley and pepper then check the seasoning.
- Add salt if you think it needs it (the anchovies, capers and maybe olives will be salty), add the parsley and cook on low until the spaghetti is done.
- Stir the sauce into the spaghetti and serve.