Monthly Archives: May 2013

stir fry pork


This is a favourite. Sometimes I make it just with meat, sometimes with added vegetables. We often eat it just with bread, or with some rice or noodles on the side. Today, we had the meat and vegetable version.

I finely slice some thin pork steaks and marinate them with salt, 5-spice powder and a little flour. I finely slice pepper, courgettes and onion. (Carrot is good too.) I colour the meat quickly in a little olive oil in a large non-stick pan, then I add the vegetables and stir fry over a fierce flame.  I add a splash of soy sauce mixed with the same quantity of water and continue cooking until almost all the liquid has been absorbed. It’s ready in under 5 minutes.

We’re off to the mountains this afternoon. The weather’s atrocious, so we’ll have to cook something nice there to keep our spirits up!

rice salad


There was meatloaf left over from yesterday, but not enough for three, so I made a rice salad to go with it.

I boil 200 gm of long grain rice in salted water for 8 to 10 minutes, drain it well and dress with a little extra-virgin olive oil and the juice of a lemon. While it cools, I get on with the vegetables. I slice an aubergine , a pepper and two courgettes lengthways and cook them in the “grill” pan of the microwave, which is on the combined grill/wave function. I sprinkle salt and a little olive oil over them and cook for 12 minutes  turning the vegetables once. With this quantity I do two batches. I halve a few tomatoes and cook them in the same way for about 3-4 minutes, turning once. If the microwave scares you, or you don’t have the specially coated grill pan, you can oven roast the vegetables at 200°C for 45minutes.

I cut the grilled vegetables and add them to the rice with some chopped mint. I check the seasoning and arrange the tomato halves on top. Augusta said a few black olives would have been a good addition too.

custard tart

Immagine I like sweet pastry to be crisp and not too sweet. So, I make it in the Magimix with 200gm flour, 100 gm butter, 80 gm sugar and two egg yolks. Sometimes you need a little extra cold water to bind it together. I wrap the dough in cling film and rest it in the fridge while I make the custard filling.

I beat three egg yolks with 80gm sugar and then mix in 60 gm flour. I heat 500ml milk with a strip of lemon peel, pour the hot milk onto the eggs, mix well and return the custard to the pan to thicken over a medium flame. I pour it into a bowl to cool. When it’s completely cold, I can assemble the tart and cook.

I put oven paper into the base of a buttered cake tin. I roll out two thirds of the dough for the base and almost all the rest for the sides. I fill the case with the cold custard and lay a few strips of dough across the top. I sometimes dot the surface with little balls of dough or a make cut-out star shapes!

I cook the tart in a pre-heated oven at 180°C for about an hour. I check after 30 minutes and cover the tin with aluminium paper if the top and sides are burning. I turn out the tart and leave it to cool on a wire rack.

We had this yesterday and there’s none left today.

stuffed pork fillet

Immagine My mother would make a similar dish on special occasions. Today William and Chiara came for lunch,so I had an excuse to make an occasion of it!

I make the stuffing by whizzing a slice of white bread with two handfuls of herbs ( parsley, sage, rosemary, oregano and thyme),parmesan cheese, nutmeg, salt and pepper and an egg. I open the fillet and batter it with a meat hammer. I season the meat, spread the stuffing and roll up. I smear the roll with Dijon mustard, put it in a roasting tin, dribble some olive oil on top and cook at 200°C for 40 minutes. After 10 minutes I add a half glass of white wine. During the cooking time, I baste the meat a few times with juices from the pan.

Today we had some sautéed potatoes with it. I also made a tart, but that’s tomorrow’s tale!

farro spezzato/cracked spelt

Immagine We learned about “farro spezzato” many years ago on a family trip to Umbria. I think you could probably use cracked wheat (bulgar) instead.

I cover 100-120 gms of cracked spelt with cold water, bring to the boil, add a teaspoon of vegetable stock in granules and simmer for about 30 minutes. I top up with water from time to time; the final result should be thick but soupy. In the meantime I chop 2 small carrots, 2 sticks of celery,  an onion and a chilli and sweat them in extra-virgin olive oil. I add two plum tomatoes from a tin and cook a little longer.  I add the “soffrito” of vegetables to the farro towards the end of its cooking time. I add salt and pepper to taste.

This soupy “risotto” is perfect for a cold evening, just like last night. When is summer coming? It’s the end of May, for goodness sake!

chicken and peppers

Immagine Augusta made up a new dish for lunch today. It’s a work-in-progress, but very promising.

First she sautéed some chopped red pepper in extra-virgin olive oil, with a clove of garlic. She removed the vegetable from the pan and discarded the garlic. Then, she sautéed pieces of chicken breast with  some fresh chill, sage and rosemary. She seasoned the meat and added a glass of white wine. When the wine had almost all bubbled away, she returned the peppers to the pan and heated through.

We think it might be an idea to flour the chicken pieces in future, which would create a better sauce. The final result is a quick version of “pollo in potacchio”, a classic of central italian cuisine.

paprika potatoes

potat 001


We had some meatballs left over from yesterday, so I made some sautéed potatoes to go with them. Paprika adds an extra something.

I peel and cube potatoes and start to sauté them in extra-virgin olive oil in a frying pan. I find the new ceramic pans are good for potatoes. I add salt, lots of pepper and a good teaspoon of paprika, and continue to sauté over a medium flame for about 15 minutes. They are a nice addition to any meat dish, but I like them for supper too with a slab of cheese or some ham.

I don’t need to stir them constantly, but I do need to keep an eye on them! Today’s serving dish is from Augusta’s collection.

octopus salad

octo 001


Octopus is expensive, but bulked out with potatoes this dish will serve four easily.

I put a large octopus in a pan of cold water, bring it to the boil and simmer for an hour. I leave it to cool in the water. I rub the octopus with kitchen paper to remove as much skin as possible. I cut it up into small pieces, removing eyes and cartilege.

I  chop 4 four sticks of celery, stone a handful of black olives and steam some potatoes. I mix everything together and dress with lemon juice, extra-virgin olive oil , salt and pepper, and parsley.

The octopus I buy has been frozen, which tenderises the flesh. If you buy it fresh, either put it in the freezer for a few days or bash it on a hard surface.



The simpler the better with fish. We often treat ourselves to a large dish of simply boiled prawns.

I peel and de-vein the prawns and tip them into lightly salted, boiling water for 30 -40 seconds. I drain them and dress with lemon juice, extra-virgin olive oil and fresh coriander(or parsley). Sometimes I add some chopped fresh chilli. On Sunday night I had  harissa dressing  left over from the couscous dish, so I used that instead with coriander. Very good!

The pretty bowl is Moroccan, a gift from Marina.

greek-style baked pasta

Immagine It was cold and wet on Sunday morning, so we had this  hearty dish at lunchtime.

First I make the meat sauce: I sauté half an onion in a little olive oil, brown the meat and then season well with salt, pepper and cinnamon. When it’s well browned I add a glass of white wine and continue cooking gently for 20 minutes. I make a litre of white sauce (bechamel) and put a large pan of salted water on for the pasta. When the sauce is ready, off the heat I add a good handful of parmesan, two beaten egg yolks, salt and pepper. I cook the macaroni 7 minutes, drain them well and mix with the sauce. I then put a layer of pasta in a buttered oven dish, add the meat and cover with the rest of the pasta. I sprinkle some extra parmesan on top and cook in the oven for 25 minutes at 200°C.

The cinnamon is what gives the dish its distinctive flavour, so use a good teaspoon! I used  500 gm of mince meat and a whole packet of macaroni, so I had enough to make two dishes. The second one went into the freezer.