Occasional recipes: Fennel and feta linguine

This is a naughty and nifty little recipe from Nigel Slater, very quick and easy to make: you can do all the preparing while the pasta cooks in its pan. Done carefully, the fennel and the onion together sizzle away into something just hard enough to put up a token resistance in your mouth while giving you a hit of caramelised liquorice; meanwhile the feta hits you with a salty blast that stops the whole thing just being too darn sweet.

He says linguine, we use tagliatelle. Either way, do not let it overcook: if it goes slithering out of the holes in the colander, you know you should have taken it off the heat earlier. However, I have recently discovered that food with pasta tastes far nicer if you don’t drain the pasta, but instead use tongs or a slotted spoon to lift it out of the boiling water and drop it into the rest. This brings with it a good quantity of pasta-flavoured water which adds a delicacy to the whole melange of flavours.

The recipe is here. Mostly what he says, except:

He says I say
1 fennel bulb for 2 people It actually serves 3 quite nicely.
1 banana shallot 1 banana, 2 banana, 3 banana, 4 … I have actually never heard of a banana shallot, and any kind of onion is fine.
200g linguine Maybe it’s because we use tagliatelle instead, but 75g per head is fine.
Tear the basil over the fennel and shallot and crumble in the feta. Well, you could … I however would mix the pasta in to the onion + fennel mix, then let it simmer on a diffuser over a low flame while you enjoy a preprandial G&T. To preserve the distinctiveness of their contribution to the mix, only mix in the basil and feta just before serving.

Occasional recipes: sardine and anchovy traybake

An entirely made-up recipe this week, though based heavily on last week’s roast sea bass & vegetable traybake. See if you can spot the similarities.

Serves 2, but can scale up infinitely by adjusting quantities.


  • 1 jar anchovies
  • 1 tin sardines
  • red potatoes
  • cherry tomatoes
  • olives
  • beans

Pre-heat oven to 160 degrees (fan) / 180 degrees otherwise. Slice potatoes as thin as you can – half a centimetre or less for maximum effect. As noted last week, this makes the body perfectly tender and the skin around the edges exactly crisp enough.

Line tray with potatoes; scatter on the tomatoes; sprinkle with olive oil like there’s no tomorrow; season with salt and pepper; mix it all together; bake for 25 minutes, turning halfway through.

Add the fish, olives and beans; sprinkle with a little more oil; mix it up again; give it another 10-15 minutes while you enjoy your G&T.

The result is a delicious fishy blend of flavours and also extremely rich, so don’t go fooling yourself that the potatoes don’t look like much. Believe me, they are plenty.

Occasional recipes: roast sea bass & vegetable traybake

This was a Mary Poppins recipe, practically perfect in every way. Minimal energy or supervision required from the chef; the most arduous part is slicing the potatoes thin enough and minding your fingers while you do it to avoid adding extra animal iron-rich protein to the mix. I could get them safely down to about 3mm, which roasted perfectly in the time allowed, giving each slice a nicely tender and tasty whatever-you-call-the-bit-inside-the-skin and a thin, crunchy layer of skin itself.

The recipe: https://www.bbcgoodfood.com/recipes/roast-sea-bass-vegetable-traybake

We did however add a handful of asparagus spears at the stage where you also add the fish. I only noticed afterwards that it also says half the olives – but you know what? Stuff that. I’d already sliced the potatoes, so what more did they want?

And the timing for the last stage – “a further 7-8 mins” – might be a bit optimistic. We could comfortably give it >10mins to allow time for a proper savouring of the pre-prandial G&T and it turned out fine.