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Reader request: Spaghetti with anchovy sauce February 25, 2013

Posted by inspiredbywolfe in Fish, Wolfe recipe.

A recent email has reminded me to let everyone know: I am more than happy taking requests for specific Wolfe dishes, so if there is something in particular you want to see, please let me know!

This recipe, while appearing in a Nero Wolfe story (Poison a la Carte, part of the Three at Wolfe’s Door trilogy), does not appear in the Nero Wolfe Cookbook. My thought is that this is because the dish was not cooked in Wolfe’s house, and perhaps was not fine enough to be included in the areas on the dishes that others prepare – which lean towards feasts and luxurious dishes, not day to day fare.

In the book, this dish is used in a setup to identify a murderer; the location is a neighbourhood Italian restaurant. In the A&E series, the location is moved to Rusterman’s Restaurant, and the spaghetti is even more important to the plot.

This is a simple recipe, which can literally be pulled together in minutes – but it is very tasty and will be on high rotation in this household. I can definitely see this being a popular dish with Archie if he’s not able to eat at the Brownstone. Since the recipe is not in the Nero Wolfe Cookbook, I offer up my own humble recipe at the end of the post – but this is a very flexible dish and worthy of a Wolfe-like experimentation session.

These are the basic sauce ingredients: diced garlic, chilis and anchovies. I used about 12 anchovies – they melt away in the sauce and give a great flavour, but don’t taste fishy.

I cooked the garlic and chili in a generous amount of olive oil, until they were softened but not browned.

I then added the anchovies, and stirred them in until they started to melt in the sauce. then added some breadcrumbs. The breadcrumbs absorbed the oil and started to go crispy. The sauce was pretty much done.

I’d been boiling the spaghetti while the sauce was cooking, and now I drained it and reserved a bit of the cooking water. I added the pasta to the sauce, and added a few spoonfuls of the cooking water to loosen up the pasta.

To finish the spaghetti, I sprinkled it with chopped parsley and a few drops of lemon juice. I also added freshly grated parmesan cheese (can’t serve this spaghetti without parmesan!) and it was ready to serve.

This pasta is not going to give you lots of sloppy sauce but this does not mean it is short on flavour. The garlic and anchovy flavour came through well, with the breadcrumbs adding some crunch where they’d gone crispy. The pasta and lemon helped to give a freshness to the dish. I just hope that someone (even a police officer) managed to get a few bites of this spaghetti during Wolfe’s murder investigation as it would be a shame to waste this!

Spaghetti with anchovy sauce (good for catching murderers)
(Serves 2)

3-4 cloves garlic, diced
3 chilis, diced
10-15 anchovies, chopped fine
4 tablespoons breadcrumbs
5 tablespoons olive oil
Chopped parsley for garnish
Freshly grated parmesan cheese
Juice of 1/4-1/2 lemon
200g dried spaghetti or other pasta

Start by boiling your pasta in lightly salted water. Leave it to cook while you prepare the sauce.

Chop the garlic, chilis and anchovies. Heat the olive oil in a pan and add the garlic and chilis and cook until they soften, about 4 minutes.

Add the anchovies and stir, so they break down and mix into the sauce, where they will practically disappear.

Add the breadcrumbs and stir; some of them will start to fry and crisp up. Remove pan from the heat.

By now your pasta should be cooked. Reserve about 1/2 cup of the cooking water and drain the rest.

Add the pasta to the sauce. Turn to coat the pasta in the sauce. If needed, add a few spoonfuls of the cooking water to loosen the pasta as needed.

To serve, sprinkle on the chopped parsley, a few drops of the lemon juice, and then the parmesan. Serve immediately and hope that there are no murderers around to spoil your dinner.


  • Quantities of garlic, chilis and anchovies are up to you – add more if you like the flavour, less if you don’t. You could also add an onion along with the garlic.
  • You could also sprinkle more of the breadcrumbs on as a garnish if wished.
  • I’m convinced the sauce would make a fabulous addition to salads if you let the breadcrumbs fully absorb all the oil and cook them a bit longer so they all go quite crispy.

Fritz’s Watercress salad January 28, 2013

Posted by inspiredbywolfe in Vegetables, Wolfe recipe.
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A confession: the watercress used in this salad would have probably been considered below par by Fritz and Nero Wolfe (“Poison a la Carte, part of the Three at Wolfe’s Door trilogy). It was generally fine, but had parts which were starting to turn yellow, a clear sign that it had been picked a few days before I used it. I know that Fritz would have been aghast at the quality (it must be perfect for Wolfe, of course), and Wolfe would have been appalled.

Nevertheless I decided that I’d continue making an imperfect watercress salad, with the thought that I’d at least get the general sense of the salad. This was actually a very easy salad to put together, with only a handful of ingredients. I started by chopping up avocados and walnuts, and mixing them together in a bowl with some salt and lemon juice.

Then it was simply a matter of arranging the watercress and adding the walnut and avocado mixture. I also added a tomato, to add some more colour.

While it was very simple, it was a very nice salad. The watercress was slightly spicy, and the avocado / walnut mix was very tasty and a great combination. We had this as a side salad with some pumpkin and cauliflower soup, and it was a very nice accompaniment.

Perhaps I missed out on the subtle nuances of perfect (as defined by Nero Wolfe) watercress, but I think I still managed to get along quite nicely.

Horrifying meal for Halloweeen (if you are Nero Wolfe) October 31, 2012

Posted by inspiredbywolfe in Game, Wolfe recipe.
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Readers, look away now. This post is absolutely shocking. I present to you: the horror that is Nero Wolfe’s Halloween dinner.

Well, horrifying if you’re Nero Wolfe, that is. Let me explain the true terror of this dish: We have lamb cooked with 10 (count them!) juniper berries, corn boiled in water, and perhaps worst of all – warm beer, not poured by Wolfe himself.

In case you are questioning why this meal is so shocking, let me explain. To start with, Nero Wolfe is very particular about the number of juniper berries used in the marinade for the lamb (confession: the original recipe is for venison, but I substituted lamb in this case). Any more than three, and they will impart far too much sweetness to the dish (The Doorbell Rang). Well, I went overboard, and added 10. The horror!

I made the marinade as per the recipe in the Nero Wolfe Cookbook – except with the addition of the 10 juniper berries. I left the meat to marinate and turned to the corn.

Readers of the Nero Wolfe books will know of his particular way of cooking corn – and his aversion to cooking it any other way. Corn plays a key role in the story Murder is Corny, and Wolfe explains his method of preparing it: “It must be nearly mature, but not quite, and it must be picked not more than three hours before it reaches me…Shucked and boiled in water, sweet corn is edible and nutritious; roasted in husk in the hottest possible oven for forty minutes, shucked at the table, and buttered and salted, nothing else, it is ambrosia…American women should themselves be boiled in water.”

Well. I’m afraid I must join those legions of people who should be boiled in water – because that’s what I did to the corn. Worst still, the corn had not been picked less than three hours previously. Just horrifying!

I’d like to point out I’m not a total barbarian. I did make a sauce for the meat by straining the marinade, adding more spices and boiling it until it thickened. And I had plenty of butter and salt for the corn. It was very edible! Lucky I’m not Nero Wolfe…

Perhaps the worst insult to Wolfe’s sensibilities, however, is the addition of beer which he has not opened himself and has not been kept at correct temperature. It does not matter how good the beer is – if it has not been kept to Wolfe’s specifications and opened by him personally, it’s no good.

I know this post will be terrifying and even shocking for some people. I hope it scared you good and proper in time for Halloween, and that you devise your own spooky horrors for your own Halloween!

Nero Wolfe’s Salmon Mousse September 23, 2012

Posted by inspiredbywolfe in Fish, Wolfe recipe.
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Readers, there’s something we need to discuss. While the recipes in The Nero Wolfe Cookbook are a little dated, on the whole they hold up – certainly in terms of flavour, but generally in terms of ingredients and technique too. However, some recipes are definitely products of their time, and while a passing reference in a story isn’t out of place, the recipe itself is of historical interest rather than contemporary appeal. By which I mean: salmon mousse has no place on a dining table outside of a Monty Python sketch.

I decided that if I was going to make a thing like salmon mousse, I might as well make as ‘of the era’ as I could. I contemplated making an entire salad in aspic, but thought that might be going a bit far. As with all Nero Wolfe recipes, this salmon mousse recipe called for good quality ingredients and plenty of time in the kitchen. To be perfectly honest, I would have preferred to eat the salmon without mushing it all up first, but I persisted.

I started by poaching some pieces of salmon in a court bullion of water, wine, onion, star anise, a bay leaf and some sprigs of thyme. When they were cooked, I removed the skin and bones, and flaked all the salmon into a bowl. I added lemon juice, bread crumbs, parsley and some capsicum and mixed it around again. I was essentially making a salmon meatloaf.

I should add, this still looked OK at this point. A bit mushed up, but separate pieces of salmon were still apparent. This did not last, however, as the next step was to take the liquid from cooking the salmon, strain it, reduce it, then thicken it by adding flour and butter. I then had to add this mixture to the salmon and then, in case it wasn’t goopy enough, add a couple of eggs.

There was no way to disguise how this looked. This was sad. Nevertheless I persisted and put the mixture into my bundt tin, figuring this would give me an appropriate shape for the mousse once cooked.

I put the bundt tin inside a larger oven tin and added warm water. I put the whole lot in the oven and baked it for about an hour. If you ever want to replicate this, I should note that while the recipe states that it takes 45 minutes-1 hour, it took at least an hour and even a bit more before it was firm to the touch.

While it was cooling, I made up a sauce to go with it, by mixing sour cream, dill, lemon juice, parsley and sauce. After the mousse was cool, I turned it out onto a plate, added the sauce in the middle and decorated it – appropriately…

It looked really depressing. It was really depressing – but also amusing. The thing is: despite appearances, it tasted really good. The salmon was nice and fresh, and was complimented by the herbs in the mousse as well as the dill sauce.

Honestly, this is probably not a Nero Wolfe recipe I’ll make again, but if you ever need a salmon mousse recipe, I’d certainly recommend it.

Nero Wolfe’s Lamb Loaf August 19, 2012

Posted by inspiredbywolfe in Lamb, Wolfe recipe.
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My first reaction when seeing this recipe was, “Nero Wolfe eats meatloaf?!”. While Wolfe is of course known as a gourmand and a lover of fine food, it should not be forgotten that this is the same Wolfe who also appreciates a fine chili and other forms of – shall we say less formal cooking. In making this meatloaf, I thought it best to celebrate the heyday of the meatloaf and make one in the style of the 1950s or 60s – indeed, when the book that refers to the lamb loaf (Plot it Yourself) was first published (1959).

To start, I minced up lamb meat and a bit of pork meat, and blended them together. To this I added eggs, breadcrumbs, chopped parsley, chopped shallots, basil, salt and pepper. Confession: I was meant to use green pepper, but had none and substituted red pepper instead – which I finely diced and also added. I added some white wine and then mixed it all together, before shaping the mixture into a delightful shape.

I then mixed Worcestershire sauce and some melted butter together, to form a sauce/glaze which I then brushed onto the meatloaf. I did a few layers to make sure it was well covered and then put the meatloaf in the oven.

While the meatloaf was cooking. I chopped and peeled potatoes, which I then boiled until they were soft. I mashed them until they were in fairly small chunks, then added what can only be described as a large amount of butter. I mashed the potatoes again until the butter had melted and combined, and then stirred in 2 eggs.

Once the meatloaf was done, it was time to decorate! I was instructed to add the potatoes to a piping bag, then pipe the potatoes around the loaf “being as decorative as [I] like”. Well, I like decorating cakes – surely the principle is the same…

If you are interested in replicating my fabulous potato design, I used a Wilton IM tip to pipe the ruffles around the base and over the top. I wanted to still be able to see the meatloaf – and of course keep it in the retro style.

I put the meatloaf back in the oven to brown the potatoes slightly, before it was ready to serve.

And the verdict – well, it was meatloaf. Delicious, Nero Wolfe-worthy meatloaf – but still meatloaf. The potatoes, on the other hand, were very very good. They were incredibly rich from the butter and eggs, and also very smooth.

I like to think of this recipe as something that Wolfe would primarily eat as a snack or a light lunch/late dinner rather than as a full sit-down, formal dinner. Archie, of course, would eat this late at night when he gets back from investigating a suspect – or maybe from one of his many stints in jail. If you’re going to eat a meatloaf this is certainly a great one to try, particularly if you make the mashed potatoes too.