You have to be yourself. But you have to know who you are.
~ Sonia Rykiel
Sometimes, hunger leads you to the kitchen. If the dairy/supermarket/fast food restaurant doesn’t claim you first. You know what I mean about mad hunger? – the kind that causes temporary blindness and acute clumsiness in your haste to cram something… anything… into your mouth. Into your tummy. So you can think again. By the time you sink gratefully into your plushy couch, you have butter smeared across your favourite top and egg clinging to your hair, but you don’t care. You are in love with life, with domesticity, and with the world.
Sometimes, your loved ones lead you to the kitchen. You know what I mean again, no? When you love, you want to make something with your hands and feed the objects of your affection – whether they be friends, family or lovers. Cakes; seafood dishes; wine-drizzled medleys; chocolate surprises – all of that.
All sorts of things lead us to the kitchen. Insomnia. Happiness. Curiosity. Boredom. Excitement. Most of the time, it’s hunger or hunger + something else which propel us, inevitably, into the kitchen. To create, to love, to eat.
Of late, I don’t know what has led me to the kitchen. I’ve been out a lot, and in the times I’ve been home, I feel like I’ve wandered around in a daze a lot. I guess I’ve had a few Long Days – at the end of which I’ve come home with a tired brain, ready to fall into bed. I’ve showered mindlessly, cooked thoughtlessly, and it was only yesterday when a poached egg slipped and fell on the kitchen mat that I began to awake from my cloudy reverie.
This evening, while I was walking home nursing a headache, whatever it was really snapped – it’s hard to explain. It was like a brisk shower of hail fell upon my head – and I realised with a start that I wasn’t hungry at all. And that I hadn’t been properly, happily hungry in a while. (By this, I mean I haven’t recently felt that kind of hunger that leads to happy creating/self-nourishing/joyous dinner parties rather than the dull signal to the brain to eat or sighing at having to cook).
So I came home, sat on the floor and caught up on emails and all the other things you find to do online, a little puzzled by my uncharacteristic unhungry-ness.
A phrase (from an ad on the side, I think?) slipped past my eyes – “lamb and anchovies”.
Yuck, I thought. Then, restless, I shut my laptop, went downstairs, opened the fridge, flung open the pantry door. And I saw… a pack of diced lamb and – when I pushed a few things out of the way – a forsaken (but still healthy) jar of anchovies!
So I took out the forsaken (but still healthy) jar of anchovies, the pack of diced lamb, a bottle of leftover red, half a bag of spinach, and some rosemary. I fished around in the pantry – a lemon. Two cloves of garlic. Muscovado. Salt, pepper, chilli flakes. A random bag of almonds. Angel hair pasta.
I took out a knife, not really expecting much. But, you know, as my fingers touched everything and my nose was surprised by how nice everything smelled, it felt like a missing piece of my heart came back and slid right back in where it belonged. And I was properly hungry again by 8pm.
This was a spontaneous dish, so I didn’t record measurements – but I have attempted to be as accurate as possible below.
- Lamb, lemon and anchovy pasta
2 cloves garlic, peeled, smashed and chopped
2 tsp anchovy oil
4 anchovy strips, chopped (I used bottled anchovies)
1 tsp muscovado sugar
~ 130g diced lamb
1/4 lemon – zest and juice
1 sprig rosemary, leaves stripped and roughly chopped
Handful of spinach, washed and chopped
Handful of raw almonds
Angel hair pasta (or spaghetti)
- Method to my madness:
Place the lamb in a small bowl. Add in the chopped garlic, lemon zest, sugar, chilli flakes, rosemary, anchovy oil, anchovy bits and salt and pepper to taste. Mix with your hands, massaging the anchovy bits into the lamb, and set aside. (You will want to wash your hands well at this stage!)
- Roughly chop the almonds. Throw them into a skillet; briefly dry fry on medium high heat till they are fragrant. Take them out and set aside.
- Replace the skillet on the stove, add a tablespoon of butter, watch it melt and swirl it around – then add the lamb and pour in a dribble of red wine (I probably used about 1/4 cup tonight). Inhale. Let it cook for a minute or two, then stir occasionally so the lamb doesn’t burn. Add in more wine or water if it gets too dry.
- When the lamb is cooked, pour it all into a clean bowl – then add the spinach to the skillet and cook for approximately two minutes till they are just wilted (you can use a separate skillet if you prefer). Simultaneously, fill a saucepan with water (I boiled the water in a kettle and poured it into the saucepan to save time), throw in some salt and let it comes to a rolling boil before adding the angel hair pasta in. Allow to cook for two minutes, then drain it and toss with a drizzle of olive oil to separate the strands.
- Ladle the angel hair on to a plate, then add the spinach, the lamb and chopped almonds on top. Squeeze the wedge of lemon over the plate. Sit and eat.
Lamb and anchovies, together – you may be pleasantly surprised.
What is your Inspiration Dish?