I was very, very lucky to be sent a copy of Nigella Lawson's brand new book Kitchen which I've finally been able to spend some quality time with. The book fell open on the page with a recipe for Spaghetti with Marmite. I know it sounds like a kinda weird combination but as soon as I saw it, I was reminded of the million marmite and cheese sandwiches I must have eaten as a kid before ballet classes. Well, it was either that, or a Big Ben pie, or a 2-minute noodle or one of those dusty pasta snacks - if it could be microwaved, I would eat it. My specialty was stacking up about four pieces of white, heavily buttered toast bread, all spread with marmite and layered with slices of cheese, then microwaving it till the cheese was melted and bubbling fiercely in places. Marmite was my staple but sometimes I'd swap it for tomato sauce to make a kind of low-rent lasagne. With that in mind, the idea of stirring Marmite into pasta doesn't scare me. Not much could, after that kind of after-school snack.
Anyway, Nigella attributes this recipe to Anna Del Conte and compares it to the Italian practice of spaghetti tossed with butter and a stock cube, so with that in mind this dish is practically high-class cuisine.
Spaghetti with Marmite
From Nigella Lawson's Kitchen
375g dried spaghetti
50g unsalted butter
1 teaspoon Marmite, or more, to taste
Freshly grated parmesan cheese
Cook the spaghetti in plenty of boiling, salted water. When it's nearly done, melt the butter in a small pan and add the Marmite and a tablespoon of the pasta cooking water, mixing well. I don't know if NZ Marmite is a bit special but it didn't blend too easily - I had to use a mini whisk and stir hard to get it mixing. Although I'm sure it doesn't really matter too much. Drain the pasta, reserving a little of the water, and pour the Marmite mixture over the top, stirring carefully to mix it through and adding a little of the reserved water if needed. Serve topped with plenty of parmesan.
Parmesan is too expensive - or at least, it's one of those things that I always set out to buy, but then can't bring myself to pay upwards of $7 for a tiny triangle of yellow matter. So I just grated regular cheese using the smaller holes to make it look fancier.
Tim reckoned I was too cautious with the Marmite but once it's done it's done - it's not like I could smear more on the cooked pasta once the sauce was distributed. So with that in mind, don't be too nervous with the "antipodean ointment" as Nigella typically and charmingly over-names it.
It tastes fantastic - but then buttery, slightly salty pasta will, right? It was admittedly a bit unusual on the tastebuds but overall fantastic. That savoury, salty-sweetness of Marmite is a perfect match with salty, rich butter (as years of experience have taught me) which is absorbed by the starchy pasta and only enhanced by the topping of cheese. Of course, you're welcome to use Vegemite in this recipe - I hate the stuff but when you take a step back they're both pretty freaky, and I can see how it's just a case of personal taste.
For what seems like the first time, in Kitchen Nigella acknowledges that not everyone sweats money like her. She talks of cheaper cuts and substitutions and of her luxury of choice. She also seems a little defensive of any sugar content in places, but I think people just like to look for what they want to see - she has a huge variety of recipes in her books. So, it's interesting charting the development of Nigella through her books, but this one is just as exciting as any of her others - the sort of thing where I flick through and think "I want to cook EVERYTHING! I love you Nigella!" Like the more grown-up equivalent of listening to Mariah Carey and wondering how she manages to put your feelings into song form.
So as I said, it's been a busy time. Cool for me, this busyness included seeing two musicals and flying home to catch up with my family. Last Tuesday I saw the Toi Whakaari second year students' production of Stephen Sondheim's Company. I've been listening to this musical on high rotation recently so it was an awesomely awesome coincidence that I suddenly got to see it in real life. Overall, the performance was polished, sharp, clever and beautifully acted and sung - I absolutely loved it and wished they'd had a longer run.
On Saturday morning Tim and I flew up to Auckland to see 42nd Street with my family. Tim and I caught the shuttle into Queen Street then walked to Ponsonby Road to observe. Unfortunately, when Mum, Dad and my brother met up with us we somehow intuitively picked what had to be the worst cafe on the whole road for lunch, but that aside it was awesome to see everyone again, considering I hadn't been up since RENT in April. 42nd Street was brilliant - although - the plot is definitely not as sharp as it seemed to me when I saw it nearly 20 years ago...the tap dancing and the singing was wonderful though, and it was great to see Derek Metzeger as Julian Marsh when I'd seen him about 15 years ago in Me and My Girl. The music is amazing and has so many brilliant lyrics that it makes me wonder how the dialogue got to be so bad. Fortunately it wasn't long between tap dances.
It was an awesome 24 hours at home - five seconds in the local supermarket and I'd run into half the whanau, found out that my aunty had got the most votes and was elected to the local council, and had my plans rejigged to take in a dinner quickly organised at my Nana's. The next day we took my cousin (age 7) round visiting even more people, before zooming back to the airport. I'd been up in Auckland already that week for meetings so I was pretty zonked by the time I got back to Wellington - but nothing that some spaghetti with Marmite can't fix...
Title from: The musical Hair's title song. Amazing as revival-star Gavin Creel is in so many ways, I do seriously love the way James Rado says "gimme" in the original Broadway cast recording with such conviction. Thinking about Hair has reminded me of something else I hate about the film adaptation - they cast Annie Golden, who has such a sweet voice, and didn't get her to sing by herself once.
Southside of Bombay, What's The Time Mr Wolf? Last week news came that Ian Morris had died. His was one of those names I'd seen and heard around a lot but it was admittedly not until people began to share their thoughts that I became fully aware of his contribution to New Zealand music. Originally a member of Th'Dudes, he went on to produce some of our best music, including this song by Southside of Bombay, a band with a name that I've always liked because of its geographic relatability to where I grew up. A sunny tune with a questioning chorus that gets stuck in the mind....
Lullaby of Broadway from 42nd Street. Jerry Orbach (aka the dad in Dirty Dancing and the old guy in Law and Order) is typically fantastic originating the role of Julian Marsh on Broadway - this song is the first chance he gets to sing in the musical, at the start of Act 2, and he's given plenty to work with, till it builds into yet another enormous song-and-dance number.
Next time: Definitely more of the same Nigella book - hard to tear myself away from it.