|Tomato and anchovy olive hake-bake.|
Hake, tomato & anchovy-stuffed olive roast recipe - "The pimentón imparts a lovely wood-fired spiciness. Rather than Nocellara olives, my version of the recipe uses Spanish green Manzanilla olives stuffed with anchovy puree. This brings a wonderful, subtle seafood umami flavour to the dish but doesn't overpower the flavour balance at all."
When it comes to recipes, and cook books for that matter, I've always been a bit of a magpie. I love perusing and using them to discover how other enthusiastic cooks and foodies have combined familiar, and not so familiar, ingredients to make an enticing dish. I remember as a child thumbing through the volumes of my parents' Supercook magazine collection, reading in wonderment the instructions on how to prepare, what seemed in the 1970s, seemingly exotic meals. As a student, I used to snip recipes from the Sunday supplements and save them in scrapbooks for future reference. Nowadays, I can just as easily do such snipping online, of course. Yet I still love turning and gazing at the pages of cookbooks both new and old.
Now I'm not sure if it's down to my scientific background, but much as I savour a good recipe, it's not often I don't think about having a wee tinker with it. The thought "I wonder what it would taste like if..." frequently pops into my head. Usually my experimentation is subtle; I might substitute Rosemary with Thyme, or add a further - hopefully complimentary - spice or vegetable to the mix of ingredients. Sometimes things go well, sometimes they are not so successful, but I like to think my tinkering never produces any total disasters. And truth be known, I suppose it's through exactly this process that the multitude of variations in such standards as, say, pasta Bolognese, or fish pie, come into existence.
A successful example – at least to my taste buds – of my ‘freestyling’ involves a super, yet straightforward, recipe I happened across in this year’s Olive magazine calendar. It’s for a tray roast involving cod wrapped in Parma ham, and cooked with cherry tomatoes and Nocellara green olives. A cinch to cook and, as both JML and I agreed, delicious and quite healthy to boot. But when I thought about cooking it again a few days later, that little voice inside my head piped up “I wonder what it would taste like if it the emphasis was a bit more Spanish than Italian?”…