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Of popes and palms

by
22 March 2013

By Simon Walsh

iStock

APPARENTLY, Cardinal Bergoglio liked to cook his own food. Whether Pope Francis has enjoyed this particular dish is unknown, but Pasta alla puttanesca is a suitably piscine, Petrine, and piquant offering for a chilly Lent. It is easily assembled from store-cupboard ingredients, and this serves four people.

50g tin anchovy fillets in oil
2-3 dried chillies
2 garlic cloves
400g tin chopped tomatoes
1 tablespoon capers
2 tablespoon pitted black olives (chop down a little if whole)
400g (14 oz) dried pasta (any will do - rigatoni and penne work well)

In a large frying pan or wok, heat two tablespoons of olive oil; open the anchovies, and pour the oil into the pan also; roughly chop the fish into fingernail-size pieces, and add; crumble in the chillies; bash the garlic cloves with the heel of your hand, peel off the skin, roughly chop, and lightly fry together.

Pour in the tin of tomatoes with the capers and olives; mix together well, and cook over a low heat for about ten minutes. Bring a pan of salted water to the boil, and cook the pasta until soft to the bite. Using a slotted spoon, gradually add the pasta to the sauce with a little of the cooking water, and mix together; serve with black pepper and grated parmesan cheese.

PALMS were used to denote the triumph of the spirit over the flesh, and were often carved on the tombs of martyrs. As Palm Sunday approaches, here is a Sticky Toffee Pudding recipe using the palm tree's famous fruit: dates. Baking everything together, with the boiling water for the sauce, is Nigella Lawson's take, and works very well. If you prefer one sort of sugar, then go for dark.

1 egg
3 teaspoons instant coffee or Camp
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 tsp mixed spice
75g (3 oz) butter
200g (8 oz) dates, stoned and chopped
175g (7 oz) self-raising flour
100g (4 oz) dark brown muscovado sugar
200g (8 oz) light muscovado sugar
500ml (1 pt) boiling water

Set the oven at 190°/Gas 5 and grease a large 2-litre (3½pt) baking dish; if the dates are dried, then soak them in tea. Beat together the egg, coffee, vanilla, and 50g of the butter (melted). Pour this over the flour, dark sugar, and spice in a large bowl, and whisk together. Mix in the dates and scrape the whole lot into your buttered dish.

Sprinkle the lighter sugar on top, dot with the remaining butter, and pour on the boiling water. Bake on a tray in the oven for 45 minutes or so until the top is springy. Underneath will be a golden sauce. Serve with single cream.

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