Article from The Herald
Small businesses thrive because of the people in and around them. From the chefs to those behind the counter and the customers, it’s people that truly make a business what it is. There is an authenticity that goes beyond the purchase with family businesses. Our deli in the East End was no different. It felt more like an extension of our living room than a place of commerce.
There was rarely ever a ‘normal’ day at the Shettleston deli, that’s what made it so special. Every now and then a film crew would pitch up, predictably filming the darker side of the Glasgow’s East End. I remember my Father having none of it. Just when he had almost convinced the journalists of the virtues of the great ‘Eastenders’, on queue a harmless, local down and out would make his grand entrance. The local swaggered up to the counter and eyed the strangers from head to toe saying, “what do you do then?” to the traumatised looking gent. In his BBC broadcasting voice he replied, “I’m the producer”. “Well gonnae produce us a fag then” was the quick-witted response from the passer-by. My Dad threw his hands in the air despairingly and rolled his eyes. The Glasgow patter and wit went over the heads of the TV crew, but that was their loss.
In 2008, the East End was the focus of crucial political by-election and so we saw an influx of journalists. It was an ordinary day in the deli and my son Nico was behind the counter with me. At the time he was eight and I had made him a Dalek costume from an old cardboard box along with a makeshift antenna from a loo roll that I had strapped to his forehead. As he navigated the counter shouting, “exterminate” a group of journalists appeared in the doorway. Two of them were regulars and covered stories for The Times. The third introduced himself as Adrian from London. He looked younger than his years, his sun kissed skin was smooth and his eyes were piercing blue. He was drop dead handsome, he looked as if he had just stepped of the Giorgio Armani catwalk. I offered them an espresso and a bite to eat. As ever, I was wax lyrical about the fresh delivery of San Marzano tomatoes and cheeses that had arrived that morning. He opted for a sandwich with Sardinian pecorino cheese and San Marzano tomatoes. He thanked me graciously, and we chatted all things Italian. With that, he patted Nico’s head, shook my hand and left.
The next day I opened The Times, the headline read “Welcome to Glasgow East: the hardest, poorest place in Britain”. The journalist pulled no punches but the piece was dotted with wicked anecdotes. He described Shettleston as, “making the rough margins of Liverpool look like the Chelsea Flower Show”. He spoke of visiting a local card shop and picking up a ‘Happy 100th’ greeting card and asking the girl behind the counter if she has ever sold one. “She gives me a f*** off look and says no” he wrote candidly. Predictable journalism maybe but the journalist was certainly noteworthy – it had been written by AA Gill, or as he had introduced himself to me, Adrian.
Scottish Seafood Linguine with Pangrattato
Since we opened the West End restaurant, this pasta dish has always been our most popular with the regulars. It’s a classic summer recipe that you will see on the menu in most seaside Italian towns. Often Italian flavours are hard to replicate outside of Italy. However, this is one recipe that defies the odds! With some of the best seafood in the world found on our Scottish shores, this dish is the perfect fushion of Italian love and Scottish produce. Don’t be afraid to change the types of seafood according to market availability or your families favourites – just be sure to buy the freshest and best seafood that you can. Pangrattato is a resourceful way to use up stale bread. My Nonna wouldn’t throw anything away and breadcrumbs were often substuted on many pasta dishes instead of expensive parmesan.
150g stale bread
2 cloves of garlic
Pinch of dried chilli
50ml white wine
Handful of small sweet tomatoes
250g linguine pasta
200g mussels, cleaned
200g clams, washed
150g prawns, peeled
Flat leaf parsley, finely chopped
1. To make the pangrattato, remove the crust from the bread and blitz to coarse breadcrumbs. Heat 2 tablespoons of olive oil with a clove of garlic and add the breadcrumbs. Fry till golden brown and then drain on kitchen paper and set aside.
2. For the pasta, cook in a pot of salted boiling water until al dente.
3. For the seafood, heat 50ml of olive oil in a pan. Add a garlic clove for one minute to aromatise the oil and then remove. Add the langoustines and cook, turning several times for approximately one minute before adding the clams, mussels and chilli. Squeeze the tomatoes lightly in your hand before adding to the pan. Pour in the wine and cover the pan with a lid to allow the steam to cook the shellfish. Just as the shellfish are opening, add the peeled prawns and a small ladlelful of the pasta water. Allow to cook for a further minute.
4. Drain the linguine and toss through the seafood. Finish with a sprinkle of pangrattato and parsley before serving.