Anchovies. Little bone ridden creatures, sea bound until on the plate, and all too similar to the feel and taste of a cat's fur ball.
Until recently, the word 'anchovy' was one of those which, along with 'custard' and 't-t-t-trifle', would make me shudder at the mere mention. I'm not fussy, but who can trust eating a hairy fish, something you can walk on without sinking, or cake mixed with jelly with said wobbly, yellow slide? Not me.
But since working at Books For Cooks, anchovies have miraculously - just like that - been wiped from the list. I see them no longer as a water vermin but as salty delights to be gobbled at every opportunity. They are too, as I am often persuaded, an almighty hangover cure.
So to show my new love for anchovies, here is a recipe inspired by a Sicilian dish I ate last year, where sardines replaced the anchovies, and by Clara's Mum's special anchovy and broccoli spaghetti. This dish is a great way to ease you in lightly; the anchovies are hidden, cleverly melted into the onions. If you're a hater, it'll turn you; if you're a lover...well, need I say more?
200g broccoli, stemmed
300g good spaghetti
100g pine nuts, roasted
1 tbsp olive oil
1 clove garlic, crushed
1/2 white onion, finely chopped
50-75g anchovy fillets in olive oil
handful of parsley leaves, roughly chopped
Boil a pan of water and throw the broccoli in for 3 minutes, or until it has a very slight bite. Add the spaghetti and cook for 8 minutes or as packet advises.
Meanwhile, toast the pine nuts in a frying pan until golden. Remove from the pan to a bowl to add to the sauce later on.
Using the same pan, heat up the olive oil and soften the onions and garlic on a low heat. Then add the anchovy fillets. With the end of a wooden spoon chop the fillets until they become a paste with the onion mix.
Add the raisins and the toasted pine nuts and mix. Blend half of the mixture with a hand blender or magi-mix. Drain the spaghetti and in a separate, warmed bowl, and fold in the blended sauce and broccoli. Serve on hot plates with the remaining, unblended sauce and a sprinkle of chopped fresh parsley.
I use no salt or pepper in this recipe as I think the anchovies give it enough seasoning, but do add to your own taste. Replace the pine nuts and raisins, Clara style, with oven roasted cherry tomatoes and chilli flakes for some-a-bit-o-spicy-time. (For anchovy novices, add more chilli. No need to plunge in with the ladle before the spoon).