Saturday, 3 November 2012

Mr C's Aglio Olio

It is day two of Mrs C's holiday, and, this evening, Mr C has done it again.

It was pure delight gobbling down this place of Aglio Olio, and this time, I had the delight of witnessing it being made in the kitchen! There was no fancy hocus-pocus involved, just mostly kitchen ingredients and, I guess, some special Italian instincts.

Aglio Olio (translates to 'Garlic Oil'. Mr C makes a point of telling us as much as he can about the food that's being made)
for 3 people


1. Faux Italian instinct:
This recipe is going to require a little italiano voice in your head going "a little bit more of this," "how about we add this in," "this should do" and some "mamma mia!" for good measure, as the quantities stated here are pretty much estimated and figured out. But don't back away now, it's your chance to feel like an actual chef instead of using recipes like textbooks.

2. Oil
Mr C picked up different bottles of oil which were conveniently placed beside the stove as well as a mini jar of chilli pepper oil. I just went back to check, and they are a) extra virgin olive oil and b) sunflower oil. The chilli pepper oil was home-made – the Cs simply dunked a few hot chilli peppers into a jar of olive oil and apparently the taste spreads after four days. You also will need a bit of oil from a jar/bottle of anchovy fillets.

3. Three anchovy fillets
Bottle says: 19% extra virgin olive oil with garlic and... something. I've been down to the kitchen twice and I'm not going back a third time to find out what the last component is, because I'm simply lazy, but Google tells me that the anchovy fillets from Sainsbury's are in extra virgin olive oil with garlic and herb. I'm guessing that's the one. These anchovies will get mushed up in the process so they're there for the taste, really. You will hardly notice them.

4. Three cloves of garlic which are 'quite big'
Chopped, diced, blended, grated whatever you like, as long as they are little tiny pieces for sautéing.

5. Bacon

Sliced into little fingernail-sized squares, and not too much to make a salty, oily mess, but just enough to divide sparingly between three people.

6. Broccoli
This ingredient really helped out the recipe and the overall texture of the Aglio Olio, and I'll tell you why in a minute. A bit like the bacon, just get a fair amount to be divided between three people, but you can be a little bit more generous with this one.

7. 1/2 packet of spaghetti
Finally! An ingredient with actual, precise measurements! If I were you I wouldn't know exactly what defines the size of one "packet," but just take it as something slightly bigger than a dancer's forearm. This is as accurate as I can get – everybody's forearm is different. What if you happen to be a rugby player? Or an anorexic? Or a chubby person? Or a highly intelligent gorilla?

8. Mini eggplants, halved
This ingredient is a guess. I spotted some sort of sweet vegetable in the dish. It had a dark purple skin and soft, juicy brownish insides, and it was cut lengthwise. Just a few of these, not too many.

9. Grated parmesan cheese
A must for every pasta we have at the Cs'.

10. Salt
You probably need it.

11. Soya sauce
You need a little bit.

12. Anything else you fancy
Mushrooms, tomatoes, onions, gummy bears – I don't know.


1. Sautée the bacon, eggplant and garlic in olive oil in a normal frying pan. Be generous with the oil and add sunflower oil when you feel like it. Drizzle chilli pepper oil over it, as well as the oil from the anchovy jar. All these shouldn't be drowning the ingredients like in a deep-fry, but enough to cover the pan and coat the ingredients. Like a thick puddle. (I do hope these explanations aren't putting you in a fix. Calm down and let the Italian instinct take over.) Er, I think you have to add salt as well. Also, add about a teaspoon of soya sauce. After you are done, set this aside.

2. Fill a pot with water and put the spaghetti in, moving it around to let it soften and sink in. Once it's all in, throw in the broccoli and leave it for about 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. Oh, you have to add in some olive oil to prevent the spaghetti from sticking to each other or to the pan. I have a feeling that one of those doesn't actually happen, but I'm hoping that you are as clueless as I am. Add salt too, about two teaspoons.

To check whether the spaghetti is al dente, (firm but not hard) bite into a strand and make sure there is no whiteness in the noodle. And while you are chewing it you can probably tell as well. Don't worry if it's a teeny bit chewy, it will have a nice and crunchy (in the pasta sense and not the biscuit sense) texture once on the plate.

3. Drain the spaghetti and broccoli once they're ready.

4. Heat up the other stuff in the frying pan if you wish, and pour the stuff over the spaghetti. (Doesn't matter if it's in a serving bowl or the pot) Mr C used the spaghetti to swipe off the remaining oil in the pan to prevent wastage. Mix it well.

5. Serve it with grated parmesan cheese on the top.

If you completely skipped the recipe because you have no interest in cooking, here's where you should resume reading.

I have to tell you the interesting bit about the broccoli. First of all, I should let you know that I particularly like it when I can feel the mushy parmesan particles in my pasta instead of it all disappearing into the sauce. The little buds from the broccoli which disseminated into the spaghetti made this similar effect, and I thought it was a really great touch. And if all this doesn't make sense to you at all, I understand completely.

The end product is an extremely tasty and aromatic warm spaghetti Aglio Olio. The spaghetti is just right, and the different oils used make for a delightful taste spectrum, especially with the touch of anchovies. Mr C's estimation skills also ensured that the spaghetti was neither drowned in oil nor dry and sticky – at the end of the meal, there were no puddles of oil left on my plate, something that often happens with Aglio Olio.

I can't wait for the next dinner. With all this Italian food I'm probably going to turn half-Italian by the end of the week.

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