It used to be that food was not a reason to go to England. That’s so different now in London. We had an easy time of that dangerous-to-travelers early evening period, when hunger sets in along with restaurant uncertainty. By happenstance, we twice ate at restaurants belonging to the chef Jamie Oliver.
Near the flat we rented in Notting Hill, Oliver’s Recipease is a cook’s store and a restaurant where chefs teach partygoer groups how to make a dish. We sat at a big wooden table, watched the chef and his students, and ate the best guacamole ever, along with other delicious things.
But my favorite Oliver night came in Covent Garden. We approached Oliver’s Italian restaurant to find a huge line at 5 p.m. We stood in it – more out of indecision and fatigue than anything – and were rewarded as people as people quickly disappeared into a surprisingly commodious, bustling place smelling like garlic and fresh bread.
The special board listed spaghetti alla puttanesca and it was terrific. A Jamie Oliver recipe for Gennaro’s spaghetti alla puttanesca is (here), and I was surprised to read that it contained anchovies!
I came home reminded of that favorite and so easy dish, and will make it this weekend for company. I’ll leave the anchovies out, so it won’t be the same, but capers and olives seem the trademark ingredients. I’ll sauté onions in olive oil, add garlic, red chilies or our Rome spices, and canned tomatoes. Then toss in olives, capers, and cherry tomatoes.
It will be fun to spoon it over strozzapreti, serve it with crusty bread and wine, and talk to friends about trips. For sure we’ll have London weather – wet and very dark – but the memories will be bright!