First, the tomato sauce. It is rich and savoury.
Finely chop an onion, a celery stick if you have it, and a carrot. Melt some butter in a pan with some olive oil and half a tin of anchovies and a couple of bay leaves. Add the vegetables and stir around in the buttery oil and then add a good grating of a large clove of garlic. Don’t stir this in, otherwise it will caramelise, be bitter and stick. All at the same time. Just let it melt into the vegetables.
I rarely use a garlic press nowadays, instead I either give a clove of garlic a damned good slam with the heel of my hand and then work in some salt having transferred it to a little pestle and mortar (Alternatively use a fine microplane grater held over the pan).
Add a few chilli flakes to taste. Keep it gently burbling away without a lid, until the vegetables are soft – about 10 minutes The Italians call this sofrito. When it is soft, throw in a glass of good red wine (cheap wine = cheap tasting sauce), and reduce on a high heat to practically nothing. Then add two tins of chopped tomatoes and some chopped thyme or rosemary. Bubble away, stirring from time to time, for a good 20 minutes until the sauce reduces a bit more. Toward the end, add black pepper, a few black or green olives, maybe a little salt but you probably won’t need it because the anchovies will have seasoned it, and a flat dessert spoon of brown sugar. Taste, stir, taste, adjust seasoning, take out the bay leaves and set the sauce to one side.
Whilst the sauce is cooking, season two cod fillets with gremolata which always sits on my work surface beside the chopping board. If you are using frozen cod, make sure it is thoroughly defrosted.
What about the courgette and sweet potato, I hear you ask? If you have a spiraliser, then use it to spiralise one big courgette and a peeled medium sized sweet potato. If you don’t have a spiraliser (I don’t) then use the potato peeler or a sharp knife to cut strips off the vegetables about 0.25cm thick, then cut the big strips into smaller strips, lengthways. It really doesn’t take long. You now have lots of strips of courgette and sweet potato – not as long as spaghetti or spiralised but just as tasty.
Now put the fish onto the tomato sauce and keep it bubbling gently for no more than 10 minutes (depending on the thickness of your cod). The idea is to just-cook the fish, not massacre it!
Put a wide, shallow pan on the hob with a glug of olive oil and about 75ml water. Turn the hob to very hot. When it is steaming, add the courgettini and the potatotini. Clamp on the lid and cook fast, shaking it about to distribute the oil and water. The reason for using the shallow wide pan is to increase the surface area on which the spaghettini cooks so that it cooks quickly and evenly in the water, oil and eventually, steam. Eventually after 5 minutes or so – no more – they should be cooked (al-dente) and with very little – if any – liquid left in the pan. If there is any, just drain it off. You are ready to serve. Throw in a good knob of butter and season with a bit more gremolata and some chopped basil if you have it.
Either serve straight onto a plate with the vegetables serving as ‘spaghettini’ with the sauce and its friend the cod on top, or straight into a serving dish. Finish with a little more basil and a grind of black pepper. Have a little parmesan to hand to sprinkle on top if you wish.
Hope you enjoy it Claudia and Malc.