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The thought of food shopping after the excesses of the festive season and when the weather is gloomy can feel a bit of an ordeal, so, thankfully, a rummage around my kitchen cupboards usually provides a quick, frugal dinner. Tinned foods aren’t just for hard times, though – they can be magnificent. Cans of fish are prized in Spain and Portugal for good reason, tinned tomatoes ensure you have good-quality ones on hand all year round, legumes and pulses are convenient and versatile, and condensed milk is an essential for so many puddings. So dust down that can opener: there’s treasure in your pantry.
Anchovy cacio e pepe with fried capers
The anchovies here bolster the classic pasta dish with a deeply savoury, saline flavour.
Prep 5 min
Cook 15 min
Serves 2 as a main, or 4 as a starter
200g dried spaghetti
4 tbsp olive oil
2 tbsp capers, rinsed and patted dry
2 garlic cloves, peeled and finely chopped
1 tsp pul biber, or a pinch of chilli flakes
30g anchovies in oil, drained
Zest of 1 lemon plus the juice of ½ lemon
100g grated pecorino romano, plus extra for serving
2 tbsp freshly ground pepper
Cook the spaghetti in well salted water according to the packet instructions, then drain and reserve the cooking water. Return the drained spaghetti to the cooking pot, then cover to keep it warm.
While the pasta is cooking, put the oil in a frying panon a medium heat, then add the capers and fry for five minutes, until golden brown and crisp. Scoop out the capers and drain on a plate lined with kitchen paper.
Turn down the heat under the pan, add the butter, garlic, chilli, anchovies and lemon zest, and cook, stirring, for about five minutes, until the garlic is just turning golden; use the back of a wooden spoon to break up the anchovies. Add 250ml of the reserved pasta cooking water to the pan and bring to a simmer on a medium heat. Add the cooked spaghetti and lemon juice, toss vigorously to coat, then take off the heat and add the cheese and pepper a little at a time, tossing all the while with tongs until the mix emulsifies into a glossy sauce.
Serve sprinkled with the fried capers and extra cheese.
Chickpea chaat nachos
The perfect movie-night nibble for those who take snacking seriously. Feel free to swap the nachos for poppadoms or pitta chips.
Prep 15 min
Cook 25 min
200g good-quality tortilla chips
For the chickpeas
1 tbsp rapeseed oil
1 tsp cumin seeds
1 black cardamom pod, bashed
1 red onion, peeled and sliced
2cm piece fresh ginger, peeled and finely grated
1 large garlic clove, peeled and finely chopped
1 green chilli, stalk discarded, flesh finely chopped
¾ tsp ground cinnamon
1 tbsp tomato puree
2 tbsp tamarind paste
1 heaped tbsp soft brown sugar
1 x 400g can chickpeas, drained
Sea salt and black pepper
1 handful picked coriander leaves, to finish
A pinch of chaat masala, to finish
For the tomato and tamarind salsa
2 tomatoes, skinned and roughly chopped
1 small carrot, peeled and roughly chopped
1 small Persian cucumber, roughly chopped
1 handful fresh coriander leaves, roughly chopped
1 tsp toasted cumin seeds, coarsely ground
1 tsp chaat masala1 tsp soft brown sugar or jaggery
2 tbsp tamarind paste
To make the salsa, put everything in a blender, blitz to a coarse salsa, then season to taste. Refrigerate until required.
Put the oil in a pan on a medium heat, add the cumin and the cardamom pod and, when they crackle, add the onion and fry until soft and translucent. Add the ginger, garlic and chilli, fry until aromatic then sprinkle in the cinnamon and fry for a few seconds. Stir in the tomato puree, tamarind, sugar and 50ml water and cook for five minutes more. Tip in the drained chickpeas, stir to coat, cook for another five minutes, then take off the heat, season to taste and leave to cool.
When you’re ready to serve, turn on the grill to high. Spread the tortilla chips on a baking tray in a single layer, spoon the chickpea mix and salsa evenly over the top, then sprinkle over the cheese. Grill for two to three minutes, until the cheese is bubbling, finish with the picked coriander and a sprinkling of chaat masala, and serve at once.
No-churn Vietnamese coffee chocolate ripple ice-cream
Luscious and rich, condensed milk is useful for everything from fudge to banoffee pie. Here it gives coffee ice-cream a velvety texture with no ice-cream machine required.
Prep 5 min
Cook 10 min
Freeze 5 hr+
1 x 397g tin condensed milk
3 tbsp instant espresso powder
1 tsp ground cinnamon
¼ tsp ground cardamom
284ml double cream
50g dark chocolate
In a large bowl, beat the condensed milk, espresso powder, cinnamon and cardamom until well combined. In a second bowl, lightly whip the cream until it holds its shape, then fold this into the coffee mixture.
Melt the chocolate in a heatproof bowl set over a pan of boiling water, making sure the water doesn’t touch the bottom of the bowl, stir until smooth, then set aside to cool slightly.
Transfer the milk and cream mixture to a tub, drizzle over the cooled melted chocolate, and use the tip of a knife or a skewer to swirl it into the ice-cream mix and create a ripple effect. Cover and freeze for at least five hours, until firm. Take out of the freezer and put in the fridge about 30 minutes before serving, to soften.