Toast, basically

What can be done with leftover bread? It’s very rare that we’re in this predicament, but very occasionally bread is left in our household until it gets a bit too stale to just eat as is. Generally, I whizz it up in the food processor to make breadcrumbs and keep it in the freezer to use whenever needed. I can’t remember where I saw the food processor/freezer tip, but it’s a very useful one. I usually then use the breadcrumbs to make chicken nuggets or something similar. This time around, I had some anchovies hanging out in the fridge that had been there so long I was desperate to get rid of them, when I saw this recipe for spaghetti with anchovy breadcrumbs on racheleats. I’ve come across this idea before, but always thought the bread-on-pasta thing was a bit odd. But then I cooked it. The first time around was ok but not great because I didn’t cook the breadcrumbs for long enough. The second time was brilliant. It’s plain, in the sense that there’s no rich sauce or anything, but there’s tons of flavour in it thanks to the anchovies. It also takes about ten minutes to cook, making it a perfect TV dinner or night-home-alone dinner, or there’s-nothing-in-the-cupboard dinner. The carb-on-carb thing turned out not to be a problem at all, and it was only after eating it that I remembered that that combination is actually pretty common in British food as well, particularly with pasta. Macaroni cheese at my grandfather’s house was served with bread and butter on the side, Heinz spaghetti hoops on toast are a typical kids’ tea in the UK, and in Scotland in particular there is macaroni pie – macaroni cheese inside a pastry case – a delicacy I’ve never tasted for fear it would be too much of a good thing.

A note on ingredients – the original recipe suggests using good bread to make the breadcrumbs, and although this would undoubtedly provide the best flavour, I used the end of a loaf of the cheapest white sliced available from our local corner shop because that’s what we had to use up, and it still tasted great.

This week I also used up a slightly stale pitta bread to make pitta crisps, by chopping it into crisp-sized pieces, brushing them with olive oil, sprinkling them with Old Bay seasoning (because I had some to use up) and baking them in the oven (recipe from The Student Cookbook by Beverley LeBlanc). The Old Bay was a good choice, providing the depth of paprika with a slight tang that was reminiscent of, but not quite as strong as, cayenne pepper.

Lighthouses!

The Lighthouse Stevensons, Bella Bathurst

This work is not quite a biography and not quite a history. It tells the story of the Stevenson family, the most famous member of which is Robert Louis Stevenson. This book focuses on the family business of engineering and, more specifically, lighthouse building, that Robert Louis rejected in favour of a literary career.

Oddly enough, this book reminded me of George Mackay Brown’s Beside the Ocean of Time, because it is very much tied to specific locations, although in this case those locations are Edinburgh and Scotland’s coasts. I had never really paid much attention to lighthouses before, but I really enjoyed this book. The drama and complexity of building a structure in some of the most treacherous conditions in the UK were well-represented, as was the family story played out relating to Robert Louis Stevenson’s ancestors. It also painted a fascinating picture of mid-nineteenth century Edinburgh society, describing certain aspects of the Scottish temperament that still exist in a more mellow form today. This book helped me understand more clearly the importance of engineering in Scotland’s history and gave me a deeper appreciation for those who worked to establish lighthouse building in Scotland.