Social Life and a Quick Lunch

 

This blog has been much neglected in recent weeks.  Sometimes life simply doesn’t offer up the moments of calm needed to sit down and concentrate on writing.  For one thing, I’ve been totally absorbed in the political upheaval this country has been undergoing since the EU referendum result was announced on 24 June; and then we’ve also been busy (!) catching up with old friends at a couple of wonderful events.  First was Henley Royal Regatta two weeks ago; we try to attend most years.  My husband and I are both from that part of the world and I used to watch him row there when we first met.  In recent years our son W has been a competitor and it’s been wonderful to go along and support his crew.  We usually meet up with old friends and make a day of it and this year was no different.  The weather was absolutely awful: windy, cool and pouring with rain much of the time.  Only in Britain would you choose to put on a summer dress and spend the day in a field by the river in such atrocious conditions!  Hope the photos above give you a flavour.  There was respite to be found, of course, in the Pimms tent first and later in the lunch marquee.  We sat in the grandstand after lunch to watch some of the races and then at last, at ten past seven in the evening, it was time to watch our son’s race.  It had stopped raining by then and the sky had brightened slightly.  I broadcast the latter part of the race on Periscope but, luckily for you, I haven’t yet set up my blog to play videos so you can’t watch it and hear me screaming as his crew overtook their opponents and won.

The weekend after that we met up with the same friends at mutual friends’ daughter’s 21st birthday party, which was amazing.  We danced the night away, literally.  When dawn broke at about 4.30am we decided it was time for bed but our hosts kept going until 7.30.

So, back to cooking.  Unusually for me on a weekday, I cooked lunch on a Wednesday recently.

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It was Jamie Oliver’s spaghetti with sun-dried tomatoes, red onion, balsamic and basil and brilliantly quick and easy to make.  I needed to use up the tomatoes in a jar I’d opened a few weeks earlier.  It says to consume them within 7 days of opening but I rarely achieve this and don’t think I’ve poisoned anyone yet.

Anyway, here is what you do:

Jamie Oliver’s Spaghetti with Red Onions, Sun-Dried Tomatoes, Balsamic Vinegar and Basil

Ingredients

(serves 4)

  • 450g dried spaghetti
  • 1 red onion, peeled and finely chopped or sliced
  • extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 handfuls of sun-dried tomatoes in oil, chopped
  • 3 tbsps balsamic vinegar
  • salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 handfuls of basil, torn
  • Parmesan or pecorino cheese, grated, to serve

Method

  • Cook the spaghetti in salted boiling water until al dente
  • While doing this, slowly fry the onion in a couple of lugs (Jamie’s word) for a few minutes (in the simmering oven if you like) until soft and tender
  • Stir in the tomatoes and balsamic and throw in your drained pasta
  • Season and toss together with the basil
  • Serve with the grated cheese

I adore fresh basil and at this time of year I keep a pot of it, bought from the supermarket, on my kitchen window sill and it does very well, as long as I keep it watered.

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Pasta Salad

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Salad can be many different things: a side dish or a main meal; vegetarian or containing meat; cold or warm.  This delicious pasta salad works both as a (vegetarian) meal in itself and as an accompaniment to barbecued meats.  Youngest son and I had it for supper the other night when my husband was at a meeting.  We nearly didn’t have any supper at all.  Just as we were sitting down to eat I dropped my glass of water on the granite work surface and it shattered into millions of pieces.  I was still finding tiny shards of glass the next day, including in my sandal, even though I had vacuumed and swept very thoroughly.  Fortunately though, I’d moved the bowl of salad to the table before dropping the glass so we were able to eat our supper without tearing our insides to shreds.

We ate this with some roasted asparagus spears.  At this time of year, my kitchen is hardly ever without British asparagus.  You have to make the most of the short season.

Pasta Salad with Tomatoes, Basil and Black Olives

Ingredients

  • 175g dried pasta
  • 1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • 4 sun-dried tomatoes in oil, drained and sliced
  • 225g cherry tomatoes, halved
  • 4-6 spring onions, sliced
  • 8-12 black olives, pitted and halved
  • 8-12 fresh basil leaves, torn

Dressing

  • 2 sun-dried tomatoes in oil, drained
  • 2 tbsp oil (from the sun-dried tomato jar)
  • 2 tbsp red wine vinegar
  • 1 garlic clove, peeled
  • 1 tbsp sun-dried tomato paste
  • pinch of sugar
  • sea salt and black pepper
  • 2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • Basil leaves to garnish

Method

  • Cook pasta until al dente, drain and refresh with cold water.  Turn into a large bowl and toss with the oil
  • Add sun-dried tomatoes, cherry tomatoes, spring onions, olives and basil.  Toss
  • Make dressing: put sun-dried tomatoes, oils, vinegar, garlic and tomato paste in a blender (I used my mini food processor) with the sugar, salt and pepper and blitz until fairly smooth

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    Mini food processor

  • Pour dressing over the pasta and toss well.  Ideally leave it for 1-2 hours for the flavours to infuse
  • Garnish with basil

 

 

 

 

 

 

To roast asparagus:

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Snap off the bottoms and lay the spears in rows on a roasting tray.  Drizzle over some extra virgin olive oil and sprinkle on some sea salt.  Put the tray in a hot oven (near the top of the Aga roasting oven) for 10 minutes, giving it a bit of a wiggle after 5 to move the spears around a little.  You can eat them hot like this, or let them cool then add a little lemon juice and black pepper, and maybe some shavings of parmesan to make another delicious salad.