Easy does it: Mark Hix conjures up quick and tasty supper dishes
Have a rummage through your store-cupboard...
There are a surprising amount of quick snacks or even proper meals that you can knock up in no time, as long as you exercise a little bit of forward planning when it comes to having some really good-quality, basic ingredients to hand in your fridge, freezer and larder. I love it when people say, "Oh, but I've got nothing in my fridge!" – and then after a few minutes of rummaging through their fridge and cupboards I can usually come up with something pretty damn good.
Sardines on toast with capers
You want to use tiny, tasty Spanish sardines for this dish – I particularly like the 'sardinillas' from Brindisa in London's Borough Market; otherwise any good sardines in olive oil will do.
1 small can of sardinillas
2 slices from a sourdough loaf
1tbsp capers, rinsed
Toast the bread on both sides, arrange the sardines on the bread with some of the oil from the can and scatter the capers on top.
Squid with olives and tomatoes
Squid freezes really well and it's a great idea to buy fresh squid, then cut it into 2cm pieces and freeze it on a tray, then keep it in a zip-lock freezer bag. You can then cook it from frozen, or pop it into a bowl of water for 10 minutes or so and dry it on some kitchen paper before cooking. There are some really good semi-dried cherry tomatoes and olives around at the moment from Belazu and Sacla which come preserved in olive oil and which are perfect for snacks like this.
70-80g squid, cut into rough 2cm chunks
8-10 semi-dried tomatoes in oil (if you can't find them then cherry tomatoes will do instead)
10-12 green or black stoned olives
1tbsp olive oil plus the oil from the semi-dried tomatoes
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
Season the squid, heat a little olive oil in a frying pan and cook it on a high heat for about 2-3 minutes.
Transfer the squid to a bowl with the tomatoes and olives and toss together with some of the oil from the tomatoes.
Serve with some crusty bread or salad leaves.
Tagliolini with ceps and bacon
There are some great quick-cook brands of pastas around. I love Cipriani, and I have also recently discovered Filotea (available at Waitrose). If I get a decent haul of ceps, I slice the firmest specimens and keep them in the freezer in a zip-lock bag. You can even keep pancetta cubes and chopped parsley in the freezer.
50g or so of good quick-cooking pasta
30-40g pancetta or bacon cubes
2tbsp olive oil
50-60g frozen sliced ceps
1tbsp chopped parsley
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
Bring a pan of salted water to the boil. Heat a tablespoon of the olive oil in a pan and gently cook the pancetta cubes for 2-3 minutes on a low heat; turn the heat up and add the ceps and cook for a minute or so; then add the parsley, the rest of the olive oil and butter and season. While the pancetta and ceps are cooking, cook the pasta according to the manufacturer's instructions and drain, then toss together with the bacon and ceps, adding a little of the pasta cooking water to correct the consistency if necessary.
Scrambled eggs with bottarga
Bottarga is the highly-prized dried roe from the grey mullet and I keep a stick or two of bottarga in my fridge for a quick pasta or scrambled-egg snack. You can buy it from most good Italian delis in its whole form or ready-grated in jars. You can serve this on toast if you wish; it makes a great breakfast dish.
4 Burford Brown eggs, beaten
2tbsp double cream
Salt and freshly ground white pepper
About a tablespoon of grated bottarga
Melt the butter in a non-stick saucepan, add the eggs and cream, season and stir on a medium heat for a few minutes until they are lightly scrambled, then spoon immediately on to warmed serving plates so the eggs don't over-cook; grate the bottarga over.
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