It truly looks as though it will be sunny today. Each morning I religiously look at the weather icons, displayed on my computer screen in glowing technicolour, from the multitude of regional weather forecasts available to me and I have come to the conclusion that drawing a symbol of the sun is easier, or quicker, than drawing mist, drizzle, rain or pestilence. Today the forecasting artist must be breathing a sigh of relief as his yellow circle appears to be accurate. It is little wonder that amongst the employees of any given television station there is a high proportion of weather forecasters as forecasting must be close to the ideal job. The reason for this is that it doesn’t matter if you’re wrong, in fact being wrong may well be of immeasurable career benefit. What other job turns a blind eye to hopelessly inept research and poor judgement, naturally leaving aside politics, the military, religion, banking, medicine and the law. Being wrong as an airline pilot is seen as bad because we count ourselves, or our loved ones, as being amongst the dead, but being badly wrong as a meteorologist just leads to celebrity status and hosting a quiz show (which, come to think of it, is a pretty dreadful punishment. I find it a bad enough punishment to mistakenly happen across such a show, let alone be part of it). Weather forecasting, which makes fairground clairvoyants appear as accurate as an MRI scan, has a strong affinity to the temperature setting on my oven which is about as accurate as the celebrated Michael Fish’s “all clear” forecast, which was closely followed by a tempest that laid waste most of Southern Britain, after which disaster his career blossomed a lot faster than the acres of woodland that are still struggling, some 12 years later, to replace their fallen brethren. Soufflés and other delicately balanced dishes tend not to be in my repertoire. I cook things that need a hot oven or a not hot oven. It’s this level of accuracy that allies me so closely to the weather game. This very simple, delicious and spectacular recipe only needs a hot oven for about 8 minutes.
Spaghetti with olives, tomato and basil al cartoccio : I always have some intense tomato sauce in the fridge, that I will have prepared earlier in the week. I make this by finely chopping shallots, celery and carrot and sweating them in olive oil until soft and aromatic. I then add some chilli flakes and a fat clove of crushed garlic which cooks in the mixture for a few minutes. Add tinned plum tomatoes and stir into the mixture. Season with salt and black pepper and add half a wineglass of good olive oil which makes the sauce glossy and silky. Let this gently cook down for an hour whilst watching carefully with a glass of wine in your hand. Back to the main recipe – warm some olive oil in a pan with some torn basil leaves. Add a few tablespoons of the tomato sauce and some stoned Nyons black olives. Meanwhile put the dried pasta into the pan of boiling, salted water that you had previously prepared and cook for half the recommended time. Drain the pasta and drop it into iced water to stop the cooking process. Drain again and turn a tablespoon of olive oil through the now cold pasta. Make an leak proof envelope/envelopes from aluminium foil or baking parchment and put the pasta and sauce into the bag/bags. Seal them carefully and put them in a hot oven for 8-10 minutes. The bag/bags will have puffed up ready to be opened at the table when you can throw on some fresh herbs.