Terry and Lesley are arriving this evening, so I don’t want last minute cooking. What better than lasagne?
First I’ll sauté six chopped up artichokes in a little garlic flavoured oil, adding a little water to aid the cooking process. Then I’ll soften the shop bought pasta sheets in salted water and drain on clean tea towels. Finally, the white sauce which I make the all-in-one way (thanks Delia Smith) by puttting a litre of milk, 50 gm flour and 80 gm butter in a pan and whisking until thickened. The sauce then simmers 10 minutes, occasionally stirred with a wooden spoon. Nutmeg , grated parmesan, salt and papper are added off the heat.
I butter the dish, put a little white sauce on the bottom, then a layer of pasta sheets, a layer of vegetable, a sprinkling of parmesan and white sauce, another layer of pasta and so on. I’ll finish with white sauce. Before it goes into the oven (180 C), I’ll sprinkle some parmesan on top with a few flecks of butter. It should take about 30 minutes.
On Saturday we’ll all travel down to Tuscany to spend Easter with our cousins and celebrate Uncle Walter, who would have been 80 on the 31st.
I’ve taken on board suggestions made by Alice Virani and today the fish crumble worked! Here’s what I did…
I whizzed a thick slice of day-old white bread in the magimix with a few black olives, capers, an anchovy, herbs and extra virgin olive oil. I placed seasoned plaice fillets in an oiled dish, arranged some slices of tomato (without seeds) on the fish, covered with the crumble and sprinkled some parmesan on top. it went into the oven at 240 C (full whack) for 15-20 minutes. Moist fish, crunchy crumble.
I made coleslaw this morning before going out to work. We’ll have it for lunch with an escalope of pork. Of course, I prefer coleslaw made with mayonnaise, but this is a lighter version (and more importantly there wasn’t any mayo in the fridge and there were no eggs to make it either!)
First I made the dressing: a small amount of chopped onion, the juice of half a lemon, a spoon of white wine vinegar, 2 spoons of plain yoghurt, 4 spoons of extra virgin olive oil , salt and pepper. Then I grated half a cabbage and two carrots and mixed them into the dressing.
From the quanity, it looks like we’ll be eating this tomorrow too!
My Mama was Swiss, so of course I like rosti, both the more traditional dish made with cooked potatoes and the more modern one with raw. I’m making the modern one today.
I grate potatoes in the Magimix and leave them to soak in cold water for a while. Then when I’m ready to cook, I drain them, put them in a clean tea towel and squeeze out as much water as possible.
I tip them into a non stick pan with olive oil, salt and pepper and firm down with the back of a spoon. I cook on a moderate flame until crisp on one side, then turn over (with the aid of a large plate) and cook the other side. Sometimes I add a little chopped onion to the potato mixture. Sometimes I make them individual size.
Today we’ll have the rosti with a smoked pork chop, which just needs a couple of minutes in boiling water. I’ll put a good dollop of Dijon mustard on the plate too!
Rain and snow today, so comforting food is called for. Anyway, I like meatloaf because it’s so good cold the next day with Dijon mustard.
For the ketchup, I whizzed a can of tomatoes and put them in a pan with a spoon of vinegar, a small spoon of sugar, a dash of Worcestershire, a little English mustard powder, a crumbled dried chilli and salt. This I simmered for about 10 minutes (with a spatter guard) until well thickened. Then into a pretty bowl to become cold. It’s not really ketchup but it is good with meats and sausages.
To make the meatloaf I used 500 gm of top quality beef mince, a good handful of dried breadcrumbs, a handful of parmesan, an egg, dried oregano (fresh herbs are good too), lemon zest, salt and pepper. I mixed it well with my hands and formed a long loaf shape. I placed it on a sheet of oven paper in a roasting tin, dribbled a little olive oil on top and cooked it for 20 minutes at 180 C. Then, I poured in a little white wine and covered with dampened oven paper. It went back into the oven for another 20 minutes.
William came for lunch at the last minute. So, there was none left over for tomorrow!
What an amazing vegetable, the artichoke! We like it baked in the oven with potato so that it retains a distinct bite. In this part of Italy it’s often cooked to a dull mush.
This is how I prepared the dish last night. I trimmed the stalks and removed a few circles of outer leaves and the tops of 5 artichokes. I halved them to check if there was any choke (none!) and finely sliced them lengthways into a mixing bowl. I added 2 potatoes which I finely sliced on a mandolin. I mixed them together with salt, pepper and a tiny amount of extra virgin olive oil. I then diced a little provolone cheese. (I use whatever hard cheese there is in the fridge).
So, into a lightly oiled oven dish went half the mixture followed by the layer of cheese and then the rest of the vegetables. I sprinkled the top with dried breadcrumbs, parmesan and a dribble of oil. I covered the dish with a dampened sheet of greaseproof paper and it went into the oven for 25 minutes at 200 C. I gave it a further 5 minutes uncovered.
I like oven dishes like this because it means that you don’t have pots and pans lying around while you eat!
“With a culinary history as rich and varied as the landscape itself, the superb food of Britain has too long been underestimated.” So goes the blurb to the”Great Country Cookbook” a beautifully illustrated book which my friend Chris gave me as a wedding present in 1979. And from here comes “hot cross buns”, a must for Easter breakfasts and teatimes. The cinnamon I used today is from a stash bought by Hannah two summers ago in a very rainy Connemara when she made us all the best ever apple crumble.
I made the dough by whizzing together (using the plastic blade) 500 gm flour, 50 gm butter, 50 gm sugar, salt, cinnamon, nutmeg, mixed spice, 100 gm raisins, a packet of yeast, 200 cc of warm milk and a beaten egg I kneaded the dough for a few minutes and left it to rise in a covered bowl near the radiator.
An hour or so later, I re-worked the dough briefly and divided it into 12 buns. These I placed on a sheet of baking paper and made a deep cross on the top of each. Again I covered the tray and left it near the radiator for 30 minutes to rise again.
Then into the oven at 200 C for 15-20 minutes. I prepared a glaze by boiling together 3 spoons of sugar with 4 spoons of water and brushed this over the buns while still hot.
I had the smallest one after lunch and put the rest in the freezer for Good Friday.
Augusta suggested a new recipe she’d seen on TV. So, ever ready to please…
I whizzed a thick slice of white bread with an anchovy, a handful of capers, some black olives, a few small cherry tomatoes, herbs from the terrace and a little salt and pepper. I put some seasoned cod fillets into a lightly oiled dish, covered with the “crumble” topping and baked for 10-15 minutes at 180 C.
Next time I try this dish, and there will be a next time because it certainly has promise, I need to find a a way of giving the crumble more crunch. maybe by increasing the oven temperature?
Marina brought me a beautifully coloured dish from Marocco and this is where I always put hummus, the Middle Eastern chickpea dip. I start by rubbing a clove of garlic around the bowl to give perfume without too strong a flavour ( and bad breath!). The rest is all done by the mixer.
So, into the mixer goes a can of chickpeas, a large spoon of tahini, the juice of a lemon, salt and pepper. After a quick whizz, I taste. Today was fine, but sometimes you need some extra lemon. Then I add a spoon or so of water and whizz to form a smoothly consistent paste. I tip it into the beautiful bowl, dribble a little extra virgin olive oil on top and add a sprinkling of paprika.
Today we’ll have it with toasted bread as a starter, followed by a repeat of the orange, fennel and chicken salad (I had some orange sauce left over). William is coming around for lunch and the chicken wasn’t enough for the three of us.
OK, if you soak chickpeas overnight and boil them for one to two hours the next day, you may feel virtuously authentic, but believe me a can works just as well!
Today is going to be quick Chinese style pork. Augusta and I will just have a salad with this and I’ll fill it out with a thick slice of bread. Augusta is watching her weight. If I’m making this for friends I would add egg noodles (Chinese or fine Italian) and red pepper and courgette.
I cut slices of pork steak into thin strips. (if the pork steak is thick, give it a bash with a meat tenderiser first). These go into a bowl with a teaspoon of salt, five spice powder (lots!) and a spoon of flour to marinate while I prepare the vegetables. I thinly slice some onion and ginger (if I have it) and julienne some carrot. ( I sometimes do red pepper and cougette too). Ready now to cook in a large non stick frying pan. ( I need two if I’m doing this for 4-6 people.)
I stir fry the meat in olive oil (sorry, I’m sort of Italian and use extra virgin olive oil for everything) for a minute, add the veg and continue for another minute or two, then I mix a good dash of soy sauce and a few spoons of water and add it to the pan. When the liquid is mostly absorbed, it’s ready. If I’m doing noodles, I’ll boil them 1 minute less than packet instructions and add them to the pan when I pour in the liquid, pushing the meat and veg to one side and letting the noodles absorb most of the soy sauce.
When William comes round for lunch, this is one of his favourites. Or at least, he makes the right noises. But he’s always very kind and wouldn’t hurt my feelings by saying it was horrible. So, who knows? Anyway, I like it and so does Augusta, who has no qualms in giving her honest opinion.