Wednesday, July 04, 2007

Spaghetti or spaghettini and sardines

This -- simply a variation on the sardines and rice I made recently -- is a store-cupboard dish. (Of course, it would be even nicer with fresh sardines, grilled or roasted.) Tinned sardines want only gentle warming. If you cook them, they melt, as do anchovies. The dried fruit/pine kernels/chilli theme is one I return to often: of North African origin, it is a feature of the food of Sicily. Parmesan is inappropriate with seafood pasta and rice dishes, the books insist.

These quantities are for each person.

1 slice white bread, whizzed into crumbs
Olive oil
125 g spaghetti or spaghettini
1 tin sardines
1 handful raisins
1 handful pine kernels
1 handful flat-leaf parsley, chopped
1 dried chilli, whizzed (I use more)

Put a thin layer of olive oil into a saucepan, warm it, and fry the breadcrumbs over a low heat until golden. You need to keep stirring them. Set aside. (The pan will carry on cooking them for a while after the heat goes off, so if you are worried about burning, tip the breadcrumbs into a bowl.)

In a small, dry saucepan, toast the pine kernels over a low heat, again stirring watchfully. Set these aside too.

Bring a pan of water to the boil. Pour a ladleful of the boiling water over the raisins in a bowl. Add a generous portion of salt (about a tsp for each litre of water) to the pan, and stir in the pasta. Use the packet instructions as a guide, but start testing the pasta for doneness at least a minute before the packet suggests it should be ready. Drain it when it is edible but retains some firmness at the centre. Remember that it will retain enough heat to carry on cooking for a while.

Meanwhile, drain the sardines of their oil, and warm them through in a saucepan over a very low heat with a dstsp or so of your own oil (which will be nicer than the stuff in the tin). Throw in the drained raisins (soaked for about 10 minutes), pine kernels, parsley and chilli. Toss this sauce with the spaghetti, breaking up the sardines. Serve with the breadcrumbs scattered on top.

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