I’m just back from two weeks in Tuscany, slap bang in the middle of Chiantishire. Before you hit command-W and wish me the pox in a fit of schadenfreude, it rained every single day. In fact, it’s rained pretty much every day there for five weeks, proving utterly true those proverbs that seem to exist in every language about how rain on just one unassuming day in May can completely bugger up your tan.
So what’s a girl and her mum to do? Well, close the kitchen door, put the telly on with the particularly italian programming blend of boobs and gastronomy – and cook!
This recipe is adapted from a wonderful book called “Ricette di Osterie d’Italia – I Dolci” published by the Slow Food guys. It’s a real insight into the way Italians cook their desserts – very simple ingredients mostly based on nuts, lemons and dried fruits, combined in perfectly honed ways to create subtle but delicious flavours, never overly sweet.
The crostata that follows (a really rich pastry topped with an easy creme patisserie and fresh peaches) was a doddle but was so impressive that we kept eating just to make sure we’d tasted it right. Continue reading
Filed under Cakes, Recipe
I adore peas, probably because they’re one of the few foods that one can feel totally non-guilty about eating frozen. (I’m sure I could google a study showing that, in fact, frozen peas are bad for you and/or the work of the devil but I prefer to remain in ignorance, thanks very much.)
When my sister-in-law cooks a roast lunch, this is how she makes them:
Finely chop an onion and stick of celery, and sauté slowly in a glug of olive oil until soft. Now add some diced pancetta (since they’re frozen peas, I’m sure you’re allowed to use those handy packets of lardons) and fry that too until cooked. Then add in your peas straight from the freezer with a very small amount of water, just so they have a little steam to breathe in. You can cook these as gently or fiercely as the timing for the rest of the roast dictates (and you can reheat in the microwave), so it’s a zero-stress vegetable.
Firstly, a salsa verde, a simple and fresh accompaniment to grilled meats. Put 2 anchovies, a tiny bit of garlic (no more than 1/4 of a clove) and 4 small gherkins in a food processor, and whiz until finely chopped (or of course, do it the old-fashioned way with a knife!). Then add in a small bunch of flat-leaf parsley, basil and mint, and pulse sparingly until just chopped. Doing the processing in two stages avoids the harder ingredients being under-chopped and the herbs dissolving into a nasty puree. Tip the mixture into a bowl, and bring together with a tablespoon of wine vinegar and some good glugs of olive oil. Season to taste. We ate last night with grilled lamb chops, a perfect spring evening meal.
Second, an idea picked up today from one of my favourite restaurants, Trattoria dei Cacciatori, just outside Milan. We ate a plate of culatello served with a pear poached it in water with white wine and just a little aniseed (no sugar, it wasn’t sweet). It would be delicious with prosciutto or speck too.
No, really! This easy combination of carrots, beetroot and herbs is the only way I’ve ever managed to get them down. I used pre-cooked beetroot from the supermarket, which I’m fairly sure falls on the “sensible shortcut” spectrum of prepared food use (as opposed to the “New Delia” lunatic side. Seriously, tinned minced lamb!?).
I’ve got a really atrocious reputation for making scones. The one time I presented my husband with a batch his description was something like “plutonium-filled depth charges”. So, not great then.
But today, I tried a new recipe and they came out brilliantly – my better half could only come up with “crumbly” as a criticism (I can live with that!), and he had to go back for seconds just to be sure. They were light, delicious and golden, and the secret, according to Nigella, is the Cream of Tartar. I’ve no idea what’s in this mysterious substance, but as soon as the scones go into a really hot oven they immediately start billowing up. The best thing about scones? Only 10 minutes in the oven and by the time you’ve split them open and covered them in jam they’re ready to eat.