When we went into lockdown, the prospect of having to adopt wartime rationing had a certain grim romance to it. I pictured eating SPAM out of the tin whilst smoking Lucky Strikes and talking like Celia Johnson. After two weeks of social isolation the idea was beginning to wear thin. Bad zoom connections and over-exposure to Dominic Raab’s hairline had put me in a fragile state. Suddenly minor food disappointments seemed irreconcilable. A Temporarily Out Of Stock sign where the mint should’ve been almost sent me into hysterics in the middle of ASDA. By week three I wondered if I’d ever see an asparagus spear again. A friend pointed out that it was crass to fret over asparagus at a time like this and I agreed. The impending Swiss chard harvest is a much bigger worry.
There was only so much time I could spend leafing through my tearstained copy of Nigellissima whilst I sang along to Edith Piaf, so I decided to embrace the world of store cupboard foraging. I started by looking for inventive ways to use up my tins of anchovies. Some experiments were more successful than others. Parmesan and tuna tapenade definitely had potential but anchovy oil martinis are a creation best left in quarantine. This culinary research – or breakdown as my boyfriend calls it – reminded me of two pasta sauces I used to make with anchovies and white wine. The first one is great lockdown fodder if you’re short of fresh ingredients and both are a good excuse to open a bottle of wine at lunch.
Anchovy spaghetti #1
1 50g tin of anchovies, drained and finely chopped
4 cloves of garlic, crushed
½ tsp dried sage
¼ tsp chilli flakes
2 glasses of white wine
zest of half a lemon, finely grated
lemon juice, to taste
- Cook the pasta in plenty of salted boiling water. Meanwhile make the sauce.
- Heat a generous lug of oil in a wide pan and add the anchovies. Cook on a medium-low heat until they have dissolved into the oil then add the crushed garlic. Cook for about a minute, stirring frequently to make sure the garlic doesn’t brown.
- Add the dried sage and chilli flakes, cook for 30 seconds, then add the wine. Turn up the heat to burn off the alcohol, then reduce it to a low simmer and let it reduce whilst the pasta finishes cooking.
- Drain the pasta, reserving some of the cooking water.
- Add the pasta to the anchovy sauce, along with a splash of the cooking water. Add the lemon zest and a squeeze of lemon juice, then turn the pasta to coat it in the sauce. Season with black pepper.
Anchovy spaghetti #2
For the herb and chilli sauce:
a handful of coriander
a handful of parsley
1 birdseye chilli, roughly chopped
2 cloves of garlic, minced
½ tsp ground cumin
¼ tsp ground fennel
a tiny pinch of caster sugar
1 tsp finely grated lemon zest
1½ tbsp olive oil
a splash of water
8 anchovies, finely chopped
a glass of white wine
- To make the herb and chilli sauce, put all of the ingredients in a food processor and blitz into a rough paste (or pound them together in a pestle and mortar). Loosen with a bit more olive oil if necessary, then set to one side.
- Cook the pasta in plenty of salted water.
- Heat a lug of olive oil in a wide pan and add the anchovies. Cook them over a medium-low heat until they start to dissolve, then add the wine. Bring to the boil then reduce to a gentle simmer.
- Tip the drained pasta into the pan with the anchovies and white wine. Add the herb and chilli mixture to the pan and toss the pasta until it is evenly coated in the sauce. Season with black pepper.