“Angela lifted the toast on to the table. “I got Antoinette to make anchovy toast for us,” she said. “It looks good, doesn’t it? Take a slice, Anne-Marie.”
Anne-Marie took the top slice. It seemed to have rather a peculiar smell. Anne-Marie looked rather doubtfully at it.
“It’s all right,” said Alison, seeing her look. “Anchovy always smells a bit funny I think.”
She and Anne-Marie took a good bite out of their toast at the same second. The shoe cream tasted abominable.”
This is one of my favourite-ever scenes in Enid Blyton’s St Clare’s boarding school series, which comes after “fun-loving French girl” Antoinette pays out the mean fifth-formers by spreading their toast with shoe polish instead of anchovy paste. To add insult to injury, she then tells Matron of her ‘mistake’ so the three girls end up getting a dose of Matron’s nasty medicine while Antoinette gets cosseted with chocolate by Mam’selle.
I’ve been thinking about this scene a lot recently after discovering what might be one of the loveliest cookbooks I’ve ever come across. It’s The Little Library Cookbook by Australian/Londoner Kate Young and it is utterly perfect.
As the name suggests, Kate’s book is a collection of recipes inspired by books old and new – from roasted pheasant inspired by Danny, Champion of the World, to spaghetti and meatballs inspired by The Godfather. There are lots of recipes from books I know and love (I Capture The Castle, The Goldfinch, Americanah, The Pursuit of Love) and lots from books I’m now desperate to read (How I Live Now, The Adventure of the Christmas Pudding, The End of the Affair). Each recipe deftly weaves together a little about the book, a little about Kate’s relationship to it, and a lot about the food. It’s such a good idea – and so beautifully executed – that part of me wants to force-feed Kate shoe polish on toast because I’m so jealous of her cleverness. But mostly, I just want this book to be a roaring success so she writes another one.
In the meantime, here’s my homage to Antoinette’s anchovy paste (a rather more palatable version that won’t send you running to Matron).
Anchovy and black garlic paste
Black garlic gives this its rich, shoe polish-y colour, but you can omit it if you don’t have any.
1 x 50g tin (or 80g jar) anchovies, drained of their oil and chopped
50g softened unsalted butter
2-3 cloves black garlic
2 tsp capers
2 tsp pink peppercorns
Put everything in a small bowl (or, the bowl of a blender, if you’re lazy) and mix together to form a smooth-ish paste. Scrape into a jar (add optional ‘shoe polish’ label for kicks) and store in the fridge. Best served on very thin and crisp hot toast.
If anchovy paste isn’t to your taste, you might like to watch Kate making ‘An Enormous Round Chocolate Cake’, inspired by the one the Trunchbull forces hapless Bruce Bogtrotter to eat in Matilda. I think this is in my future these school holidays…
This is definitely to my taste. There’s a serious hit of flavour there and the combination of black garlic and anchovies sounds seriously good. I’ve been inspired to create food after reading books in the past but I came across an Enid Blyton book when I was but a small thing and it seemed to be about life on a very alien planet and I’ve never felt able to repeat the experience.
Wonderful Lucy. I’ve been in crazy Facebook land too long. Missed your blog!
I remember when my better half got a new knee and we stayed home the whole summer. I read Under The Tuscan Sun. I’d leave the book, go out to the garden and pick warm ripe tomatoes and fresh basil and chop them up onto freshly baked bread for lunch and think, this is my Tuscany.
Friend Josie and I, both new widows a few years later, ate bread with chopped tomato and basil in San Gimgnano, Tuscany. A circle closed perfectly.
Food and books.
Perfect for this time of year. Ooh black garlic, I am thinking about how to make this suitable for vegetarians with an alternative for the anchovies,. I do love books around food and not necessarily cookbooks.