AT PLAY

For the home enhancers, the foodies, the wanderers

In honour…

Been thinking about what this day means for us all as we commemorate the fallen today, my mind drifting back to the time my travel buddy and I visited the war fields in France in 2013. I wrote about that day in honour of our ANZACs in 2015. The memory still tears at my heart. Here’s my story:

I hadn’t wanted to come. It was bone chillingly cold, drizzle fell from burgeoning grey skies and a biting wind whipped mercilessly at my inadequate jeans and jacket. Feet, wet and cold, were screaming chilblains, a dread I’d endured during long NZ winters, and I’d used my last tissue on a streaming red nose.

Bloody marvellous! A fine way to start a holiday in France I muttered as I wandered across the lush manicured lawns striated with row upon row of headstones.

Many of the headstones bore names, still more were marked ‘Unknown Soldier’. The 1918 battlefields at Villers-Bretonneux. An imposing Memorial commemorating nearly 11,000 Australians who died in France but have no known grave, formidable against bleak skies. I ran frozen fingers across the names etched into chilled marble. Andrew, Horatio, James, Clive, so many innocents.

Eric Hill from Boston, MA, USA - Poppies in the Sunset on Lake Geneva Uploaded by PDTillmanFrom there to Pozières, then the Thiepval ‘Memorial to the Missing’ honouring over 72,000 British and South African men, followed by Beaumont-Hamel and the Newfoundland Memorial Park where zig zag trenches can still be seen almost a century on. In the distance, the yellow rapeseed covered tracts of land soldiers had been fighting relentlessly to retain. A weak sun caressed my icy cheeks as I took stock of the surrounds. So peaceful. Once so bloodied.

Meandering through the trenches behind our guide as she described the unimaginable conditions the soldiers experienced there –  the stench of the dead atop, dysentery, lack of food, fresh water or shelter, month upon month exposed to extreme weather conditions, from searing sun to death rattle snow – I struggled to remain composed. Choking on a crust of humble pie will do that. Wet feet and a sniffle indeed.

Each site respectfully tended regardless of nationality interred, the Germans distinguished by grey crosses within a quiet field of their own. They too were just young men sent into the same bloody battles. All of them heartbreakingly young; seeing, experiencing and succumbing to horrors we can’t begin to imagine. But you probably know that anyway, a part of our ANZAC history…a raw, gut wrenching sacrifice of human life. Today, 100 years on, we honour that sacrifice.

(Image – Eric Hill from Boston, MA, USA – Poppies in the Sunset on Lake Geneva)

 

Super Slutty Spaghetti alla Puttanesca


Good news folks! My urge to play in the kitchen has returned, and, given the blog needs a top up of tasty coupled with a spot of scintillation, here's the perfect combo - Spaghetti alla Puttanesca. It's my 'when' dish. When there's a chill in the air, when time is poor, when a robust red deserves a tasty counterpart, when loved ones suddenly lob and need feeding. Been a number of 'when's lately. Wins too. A friend recently exclaiming 'this recipe's going straight to the blog'! Right said I, for who can resist a quick and tasty, easy on the waistline dish that can be knocked up in 10 minutes from mere pantry staples when one's too lazy to trawl the supermarket?

'Slut's Spaghetti', 'Working Girl's Pasta', 'Prostitute's Pasta' - so what's in a name?

Puttanesca has a sauce base of capers, olives and tomatoes and is usually served with spaghetti in a dish known as 'whore-style pasta'. Nigella calls her version 'Slut's Spaghetti', Jamie's recipe titled 'Working Girl's Pasta'. 'The name 'Prostitute's Pasta' originating from folk-law claiming the savvy Puttanas (prostitute in Italian) made the quick and easy pasta sauce to minimise down time between clients. Others say the robust aromas of the dish were designed to entice clients into the house of ill repute. A less audacious version indicating the sauce was created by a chef who had a volume of guests arrive at his restaurant late one night just as he was about to close and, not having enough of any one ingredient to make a meal for them all, pulled everything from the kitchen together to make this legendary Italian pasta sauce.

My favourite theory? Tongue in cheek, LV Anderson (Prostitutes have nothing to do with it) says Italians use puttana (and related words) almost the way we use shit, as an all-purpose profanity, so pasta alla puttanesca might just have originated with someone saying, “I just threw a bunch of shit from the cupboard into a pan.”

The origins of its name might be debatable but one thing's for certain - it really does make an easy, quick, cheap and delicious pasta sauce! And seriously, who can resist a dish with such a shady title? Here's my version. Enjoy!

Need:

  • 400 g dried spaghetti (or linguini)
  • olive oil
  • 4 garlic cloves, peeled and finely sliced (avoid using a garlic crusher for finely crushed garlic will burn before absorbing the aromatics)
  • 3 anchovy fillets, roughly chopped
  • 1 small Chorizo sausage, roughly chopped (optional)
  • tablespoon tomato puree
  • a small handful of salted capers, rinsed and drained; or brine version, drained
  • 1-2 fresh red chillies, sliced (seeds in if you like it hot, hot, hot, out if you like it mild)
  • a small handful of black and/or green Sicilian olives, de-stoned
  • 2 handfuls very ripe cherry tomatoes, halved
  • a small bunch of fresh basil, leaves picked
  • Parmesan cheese, to serve

 Do:

  1. Bring a large pan of salted water to the boil, then add the spaghetti and cook according to packet instructions.
  2. Meanwhile, place a large frying pan over a medium–high heat. Add a good lug of olive oil, followed by the garlic, anchovy, chorizo, capers, chilli and tomato puree. Tear in the olives and stir for 2 minutes, or until the garlic starts to turn golden and the anchovies start melting.
  3. Add the cherry tomatoes, a good splash of pasta water and cover with a lid. Cook for 3 to 4 minutes, or until the cherry tomatoes start to cook down slightly.
  4. Drain the pasta, reserving a cupful of the cooking water.
  5. Add the basil to the sauce along with the pasta and a splash of the reserved cooking water, to loosen.
  6. Taste and season if needed.
  7. Transfer to a serving platter and top with a good shaving of fresh Parmesan and Basil leaves.
  8. Reap accolades while smiling to self 'prostitutes be damned'
Recipe based on Jamie Oliver's Gennaro's Spaghetti Alla Puttnesca

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