I think I may have inadvertently discovered my new favourite ingredient – Bottarga. On a recent trip visiting my family in Bristol my father handed me an intriguing grey block of what looked like butter. A Sardinian customer of ours had brought it into our restaurant as a gift. My puzzled face soon turned into one of pure pleasure when I found out what it was – an intense concentrated egg sack of a Tuna that had been massaged and then cured in sea salt.
OK, so it doesn’t sound that appetising. He did go on to say that it had a very powerful taste similar to anchovy, which for me equals heaven. I asked him how I should use it and he told me to grate it on top of spaghetti agli e olio, a bit like you would with truffle. That’s not its only similarity with the underground mushroom because it also comes with the same hefty price tag. Costing around £175 per kilo it’s a good job that a little goes a long way. It’s quite hard to get hold of here in England, but there are some good delis that stock it and you can buy it online here. Even though it’s expensive it will last in the fridge for, as my dad would say, Forrrrrever. Part of the process when making Bottarga is to cover it with some kind of wax, which preserves it nicely. It also keeps your fridge free of fishy smells.
So now for the first taste… After a conversation over a coffee about lateness, we were now running very late (how can this even happen?) for a friends birthday. I’d planned to make a caramelised onion tart with leftover pastry I had in the fridge, but then we might as well not even turn up. This called for emergency pasta. Aglio e olio, probably not the best thing to eat before going out to socalise, but needs must. When opening the fridge I remembered the bottarga hidden away on the top shelf – this pasta was about to get a whole lot better. I had planned to save this moment for a special day, particulary after reading so many rave reviews about this mystery ingredient and along with the expense and all…. How very British of me! Any Italian would not even question it – every meal is an occasion. I proceeded to grab it with both hands. I grated it over our pasta hastily and we guzzled it with lots of mmms and ahhs, before rushing out. My verdict, Bottarga is a must for anyone who likes anchovy and finding it in the back of your fridge is equivalent to finding treasure every time.
Ingredients Serves 2
1 -2cm Bottarga
1tsp Fresh parsley, chopped finely (optional)
1 Garlic clove
1 Chilli (deseeded, if you don’t want it too spicy)
Good quality olive oil
- Fill a saucepan with salted water and bring to the boil. Add spaghetti and boil for 8-10 mins.
- Pour a large glug of olive oil in a saucepan and heat, then add the chopped garlic and chilli and fry a little. Be careful not to burn the garlic. Take off the heat.
- Once the spaghetti is cooked, drain and add to the saucepan with the garlic, chilli and olive oil. If you’re using parsley then add that too.
- Finely grate half the bottarga into the saucepan with spaghetti and stir. Then grate the other half on top once served, just like Parmesan.