This is a slight, small recipe, willfully simplistic. But also oddly fancy. I make this a lot, since it’s not very much effort, but is also just the kind of thing I want to eat following a Sunday afternoon of book group, mainlining candy (specifically: Nerds, fizzy Spongebob Squarepants lollies) and drinking just enough cider to feel pleasantly fuzzy. Seriously, we had so many good snacks – kumara chips, hummus that I’d made myself with brown chickpeas and harissa, Turkish bread, manuka smoked butter. I just felt like sugar. Until I didn’t – you know that wall you hit? Well, this is the perfect antidote. It’s intensely savoury, with rich oiliness, sharp saltiness, bursts of citrus and pinchings of smoky heat. Not the slightest bit sweet at all. And you can make it post-cider times, without hurting yourself. At least, I did, and I am so clumsy-prone that it’s a pretty decent test of what the rest of the world is capable of.
The other nice thing about this is that all you need is one pot and one or two small bowls. If you want to make even less dishes, you could soak the dried chili first, then use that same emptied bowl to put the olive oil in. I just used lots of fancy little bowls because sometimes my “how will this look on the blog” aesthetics override my already skewed logic. Also since moving into a house with a dishwasher for the first time, I like casually using as many dishes as I can, safe in the knowledge that some machine is going to do all the work for Tim and me. Hooray for dystopian futures!
spaghetti with chili, lemon, capers and olive oil
1 large dried red chili
1 tablespoon of capers, rinsed of any salt if they’re salt-packed
extra virgin olive oil
Bring a large pot of salted water to the boil, and cook the pasta according to packet instructions – usually takes between 9-12 minutes. While it’s cooking, put the chili in a small bowl and cover with boiling water for five minutes to allow it to rehydrate. In another small bowl, pour several tablespoons of olive oil – two to three is probably fine, though I go for four-ish mostly – and either grate or use a lemon zester to remove as many curling golden strands of lemon peel that you can. Tip the lemon zest and capers into the olive oil, retrieve the chili carefully from its water bath and roughly chop (removing seeds and stem as you please – and I do, a lot of the burn is in those seeds) into small pieces, adding that to the oil too. Finally, drain the cooked pasta, tip in the oil and all the bits and pieces in it, stir carefully and divide between two plates. I often cut the lemon in half and squeeze its juice over the pasta too, at this point. Pour over more olive oil if you like, sprinkle over more salt if you need it, and eat. Obviously.
Chilis can seem intimidating if you’re not used to them, if at the most you eat sticky, syrupy sweet chili sauce, if all your references are all cartoonishly exaggerated pop culture. Or in fact literally cartoons in pop culture, like Homer Simpson’s viaje mysterioso. Despite seeming that way, chilis are not simply a straightforward delivery method of a burning sensation. They have a whole spectrum of flavour, from smoky like, well, smoke, to fruity like the darkest dried plums, to sweet and lemony…kick the seeds and internal spine out and you might find you can handle a lot more than you thought. The chili I used for this was long, leathery and with a rich wine-dark colour and flavour and just a little prickling heat here and there. Together with the salt of the capers and the bright lemon zest, it’s really something. Even though it sorta looks like nothing.
Now that it’s suddenly July – cue my obligatory yet sincere incredulity at the passing of time, as always – Tim and I are entering crunch time on planning our engagement party, which is partway through this month. Lots of things about it are making us nervous, mostly around disparite groups of people in one room, but we have been having so much fun looking through old photos of ourselves to get printed for a photoboard. The pre-us-getting-together “whoa that chemistry” moments caught on film. Tim’s fluctuatingly enormous hair. The entirety of 2006 when we were each as much of a hipster scene kid as we could muster. Our utterly squalid flats. The six months in 2008 when a neighbourhood cat decided to adopt us (cue some obligatory but deeply sincere howling from my direction at the sorrow of it all now, in that we can’t have a cat.) Our first holiday, finally, to Europe in 2011. All that tequila. “Oh, that’s the time I wore a singlet as a dress”; “Why did I have a permanent spot on my chin for three years”; “ah, the night where everyone had to wear hats and dance to Fall Out Boy”; “why were we obsessed with taking photos of our feet?”; “how on earth did I pass that photography paper?” and so on, and so on. It’s making me want to stop and be a bit more grateful and aware of the good things we have going on right now. Like insulation and personal space and the aforementioned dishwasher. And no photos of our feet. And new-old friends but also old friends from the moment we first lived together (Ange! That’s you!) And each other, still.
In case this was getting all too sentimental, I got another tattoo! Ain’t nothing sentimental about being stabbed with needles for an hour and a half. It’s at the aren’t-bodies-fascinating scabbed healing stage right now, but once it’s fully there I’ll take a photo, in case you’re interested. In the meantime, here’s me excitedly pointing at it. The super great Nursey at Dr Morse did the design, and also the stabbing itself. Which was oddly enjoyable – it burned, but there’s something about sitting through that pain and knowing you can just do it and you’ll get something you adore forever is kinda powerful. Or at least do-able.
It’s a crescent moon with clouds drifting over it and the lupus (wolf) constellation over the top. It’s very soft and dreamy and a little ancient. And it’s forty centimetres long! Kidding, it’s a couple of inches. I’m very, very happy with it. In a week where people have fought so hard for other people’s rights to simply have autonomy over their own bodies (particularly the brave Senator Wendy Davis who filibustered into the night, on her feet, without water or food, for this very idea) it’s – and not to tenuously link between myself and Davis, because seriously – but it’s nice to be able to make this small decision.
title via: Feist, My Moon My Man. It’s grand. I love the sneaky Tainted Love-esque beat.
Lorde, Tennis Court. Yeah Lorde! Still being astonishing!
Blur, Beetlebum. Oh, sexy sexy Damon Albarn.
Connie Converse, How Sad How Lovely. Occasionally I return to this sorrowful, beautiful song from the mysterious Converse. I should return to it more.
Next time: I Should Tell You is back, with Delaney Davidson, which is really exciting. For me. And hopefully you too. His music is excellent.