Salad was my plan today, or something about how to build one with different elements. But oh my, the weather; if it rains much more I think the colour might be washed out of the sky for good. I’m sitting in my flat, windows closed, wearing a fleece. A fleece! On an August afternoon. So salad was not really inspiring me; warmth was required, and a bit of sunshine in the form of hot tomatoes and melted cheese. And nothing too faffy; there is something about unseasonal weather which makes me miserable and then I’m at risk of mucking up whatever I’m making and wishing I’d stuck to toast.
Peter Gordon’s Cook at Home came to the rescue, again. It really is an astonishing book; whilst cooking this I also started salivating over the black pudding and apple dish on the opposite page. And I like the way he writes; I feel like he’s not missing out loads of things that only a chef would know about and I’m not tempted to cut too many corners. Highly recommended. Think I might buy another one of his (does anyone have a particular favourite?).
This, then, is a) easy b) satisfying and c) very cheering on a wet summer’s day. He makes it with cherry tomatoes; I made it with normal round ones. His recipe is for six; I cut it down to two portions. I highly recommend M and S feta for this (or any other feta recipe); I’ve never tried it before because it’s usually a bit more expensive but it was on offer so I bought a load. It’s softer (less shiny, if that makes sense), sweeter and it seems to melt better than the usual Turkish shop stuff. As I polished this off the sun came out and, no, I wasn’t in the least bit upset.
For two portions you will need:
Cupboard (or things you may already have):
sea salt and black pepper
olive oil, 70ml
garlic cloves, 5
pasta or gnocchi (200g pasta or 300g gnocchi for two)
fresh cherry or round tomatoes, 160g (so about 2 big ones)
fresh basil leaves, 1/3 cup (about 15g)
1. Peel, top and tail and halve the garlic cloves, wipe the tomatoes and, if using the big ones, quarter them. Rinse the basil leaves if need be. Finally chop the feta into small cubes.
2. If cooking dried pasta (one that takes about ten minutes) start it off now.
3. Put the oil in a saucepan, heat it gently then add the garlic cloves and cook until the garlic has just softened and coloured (about five minutes).
3. Add the tomatoes and basil and cook until the tomato skins have split and the juices start to run (about three minutes). If cooking fresh pasta or gnocchi start cooking them at the end of this stage (they usually only take two to three minutes).
4. Finally stir in the feta cubes and let them melt down into the tomato sauce for a few minutes. Drain the pasta/gnocchi whilst this is happening and divide it between two bowl or plates. Season to taste with salt and pepper, pour the sauce over the gnocchi and serve.