Jeevan moved quickly through the store while Hua spoke. Another case of water – Jeevan was under the impression that one can never have too much – and then cans and cans of food, all the tuna and beans and soup on the shelf, pasta, anything that looked like it might last a while.
Station Eleven, Emily St. John Mandel
I moved over the summer, into a place of my own for the first time. It was stressful, and overwhelming, and emotional, and also one of the best thing I have ever done. Once I had the keys in my hand, I moved slowly, infinitesimally, day by day. My new flat is barely ten minutes walk from my old place, so I was convinced I would be able to make the move happen without the aid of a van, or removalists. And I did, thanks to some invaluable help from my neighbours, box by box by box. It took close to a month, each trip down the hill bringing me closer to my last. Those final few days felt endless; I hauled cookbooks off shelves and filled a lifetime’s collection of tote bags with odds and ends, loading up multiple car loads with ‘last trips’.
In the evenings, in the new flat, I put together odd, bitty suppers. I wasn’t living there full time, and so a proper stock-the-fridge grocery shop was still weeks away. But, once I brought over the box that was filled with all my tins, I fell back on this old favourite - the simplest of suppers. It’s a dish that can be pulled together in minutes and eaten on the floor in front of Schitt’s Creek, before I returned to furniture assembly, or painting walls, or alphabetising books.
There is much to be said for a tin of fish. I turn to them often in the kitchen - to anchovies and to sardines particularly. Sardines are squashed onto toast, seasoned with sharp vinegar and white pepper and parsley leaves, or are stirred through this pasta, or are cooked into herb-laced fish cakes. Anchovies (and their oil) are employed to fry eggs and broccoli, or are blitzed into butter and spread thickly on toast, or are sandwiched between sage leaves and then dipped into batter and fried. Trusty and reliable, I can’t imagine my store cupboard without them. They’re the first thing I would grab in a last supermarket dash like Jeevan’s, as the world is falling apart around me.
Sardine, chilli, and breadcrumb pasta
80g/23/4oz dried spaghetti
120g/4oz tin sardines in olive oil
1 shallot, sliced
1 long red chilli, deseeded and finely sliced
1tbsp capers, rinsed and drained
1. Fill your biggest pot with water, and put it on to boil. I know it’s just you, but even a single serving of pasta needs room to move. Season the water – it should be as salty as the sea. When the water has reached a rolling boil, add the spaghetti, and cook until al dente.
2. Meanwhile, open the tin of sardines. Pour half of the oil into a frying pan, and warm through. Add the breadcrumbs (they’ll soak up all the oil), and stir until they are crunchy and golden. Tip into a bowl and set aside.
3. Tip the rest of the oil into the pan. Add the shallot, and cook until soft and translucent. Add the chilli, and stir.
4. Flake the sardines in the tin, and add them to the shallot and chilli. Stir through; keep a few fillets in larger chunks if you prefer. Stir in the capers.
5. Scoop out a mug of the pasta cooking water and set it aside. Drain the pasta, and then toss it into the pan of sardines. Add a splash of cooking water, and a squeeze of lemon juice, and stir over a low heat until combined.
6. Transfer to a bowl, and top with the breadcrumbs. Serve immediately.