Monthly Archives: December 2013



I had two celeriac roots over the holiday period. One went into the roast vegetable tray for Christmas Day lunch and the other has been at the bottom of the fridge until today alongside a few carrots, orange and red.

So I cut them up and sautèed them in a little olive oil for a minute or so, added salt and pepper and a little water. I covered the pan and cooked gently for 10 minutes, uncovered the pan and caramellised slightly. The taste was good but red carrots are not a good idea… they bleed! A sprinkling of parsley would have been nice too, but this is fridge clearing day!

We ate the vegetables with rather sad meat balls. Off to London for a week. Hope the New Year  brings culinary inspiration:



My mother often served peperonata with fish! I like it with eggs, either scrambled or fried on toast. However it’s served, I think it’s important to cook peppers and tomatoes separately. If they’re cooked together it becomes mushy.

I sautè half a large sliced onion with two or three finely sliced peppers in olive oil for 5 minutes, season well and cover the pan for 5 minutes. I uncover and sautè briskly for a few minutes more. Meanwhile, in another pan I infuse a clove of garlic in a little olive oil and then add  a tin of plum tomatoes and salt and pepper.  I reduce the tomatoes to a thick sauce over a high heat.  I add the cooked sauce (without the garlic clove) to the cooked peppers and gently heat through for 2 minutes. A sprinkling of chopped parsley adds a fresh touch.

Tomorrow is Christmas Day and I have a traditional roast turkey dinner planned.  Fingers crossed it all goes well! Watch this space.


pasta ring


This is good for a dinner party as it can be prepared ahead and put in the oven when everyone arrives. It also looks good though is easy to make!

I cook a packet of capellini (angel hair pasta) for 3 minutes in a litre and a half of lightly salted boiling milk. The pasta will absorb all the liquid. I put the pasta in a mixing bowl and add a generous knob of butter, a very generous handful or two of parmesan and two beaten eggs. I taste for salt and pepper. I put the pasta in a buttered and breadcrumbed ring mould and press down well with the back of a spoon. I sprinkle breadcrumbs on top and dot with butter. It cooks 30 minutes at 180°C.

I serve the ring with peas in the centre and tomato sauce around. Alternatives could be ragout or mushrooms. A grander version would be to layer mozzarella and diced cooked ham in the ring. Whatever, make sure you turn it out onto your best dish! 

mince pies


Christmas isn’t complete without mince pies.

The filling for the pies needs to be made a few weeks in advance. I combine two or three handfuls of raisins with some chopped peel and some chopped almonds. I add the juice  and zest of a clementine and a lemon, a spoon of brown sugar, cinnamon, nutmeg, mixed spice and a slug or two of brandy. I pack it into a  jar, close the lid and keep in the fridge till needed. On the day I make the pies, I add half a finely chopped apple to the mixture.

I make the shortcrust pastry in the Magimix with 200 gm flour, a pinch of salt and 100 gm butter, adding enough cold water until I get a ball of pastry, which rests 30 minutes in the fridge. I roll it out and cut  12 rounds with a biscuit cutter  to line a  buttered muffin tin. I put a teaspoon of filling in each case and place a cut-out star of pastry on top. I brush the stars with milk and sprinkle a little caster sugar on top. They cook in the oven at 180°C for 15 to 20 minutes.

I freeze them and take out on Christmas morning to re-warm after lunch. Brandy butter goes well with the pies, as does a dollop of whipped cream.

escalopes of chicken


The simplest of recipes, this never fails to please…

First I dredge thin slices of chicken breast (or veal on grander occasions) in flour and cook over a moderate heat in olive oil and butter. I season the meat and remove it to a plate. I pour a glass of white wine into the pan, turn up the heat and reduce by a third. I return the meat to the pan with chopped herbs (parsley or thyme) and coat well in the sauce. Five minutes, start to finish!

I serve this with a salad and bread. Plain rice and spinach would be good too.

macaroni cheese


For the final of X Factor we had a small group of fans round for a TV dinner! This oven baked pasta is handy, as it can be made in advance and heated when needed.

I put on the water for the pasta and then make a white sauce: to a litre of full milk I add 80 gm butter and 50gm flour and, strirring constantly with a balloon whisk, I bring it to the boil, turn down the heat and simmer for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. Off the heat I season the sauce with salt, pepper, nutmeg and a generous amount of parmesan. I cook 600 to 700 gm pasta very al dente, mix with the sauce and put in a lightly buttered oven dish. I sprinkle breadcrumbs on top, dot with butter and cook 20-25 minutes at 200°C.

Very satisfying…but can’t say the same for the standard of the singing in this year’s contest!

baked fennel


Many years ago we had lunch in an osteria in Venice called  il Milione. We had this simple fennel dish, liked it, got the recipe from the cook and…have been making it ever since!

First I slice three  fennel on the mandolin and cook gently in a little olive oil for 5-10 minutes. When cool, I add a good handful of breadcrumbs, parmesan and an egg. I season well and add chopped parsley. It goes into a lightly oiled oven dish with flecks of butter on top. It cooks 20 minutes at 180°C.

A nice supper dish for the winter.



Zelten is a speciality from SouthTyrol. This is my mother-in-law’s (Lea De Poli) recipe, which is always warmly welcomed at the Christmas table. I cook it now and freeze until Christmas morning.

I mix the dried fruits: 200 gm chopped figs, 200 gm chopped walnuts, 100 gm raisins and 100 gm chopped almonds. Then I melt 100 gm butter and, when cool, add 150 gm sugar, 2 eggs, 500gm plain flour, a pinch of salt, a glass of milk and  a packet of baking powder. I incorporate the dried fruits and fill a lightly greased baking tray. I arrange some extra almonds on top and brush with beaten egg.  It cooks in the oven at 180°C for 30-40 minutes.

I serve the cake cut into small squares and piled on a festive plate with a sprig or two of holly. I love kitsch!




These make a nice supper dish, or, cut into small pieces, a good accompaniment to drinks. I sometimes cheat and use shop-bought flour tortillas, but home-made are (as always) best.

To make four tortillas I put 180 gm white flour, a teaspoon of salt and 40 ml olive oil in the mixer with up to 125 ml warm water to form a soft dough, which I rest in a covered bowl for an hour. I then divide it into four balls which I roll out into a rough circle. I cook these a minute each side in a hot dry non-stick frying pan, pressing down with a spatula should bubbles appear. I grate 60 gm of Asiago cheese per person and crumble some dried chilli on top. To make the quesadillas, I brush one side of a tortilla with olive oil and place it oil side down in the hot dry pan. I spread the cheese-chilli mix on top and cover with a second tortilla. I cook for a minute, brush the top tortilla with olive oil and turn over to cook a further minute. I repeat the process with the second quesadilla. 

A salad, a glass of chilled white wine…

roast pumpkin


I don’t often find butternut squash in Italy. It’s so much easier to peel than traditional pumpkins. However, this recipe works with all kinds (and if you’re lazy you can just buy ready-cubed pumpkin!).

I  peel and cube a butternut squash and put it on a baking tray lined with oven paper. I season with salt and pepper and add a clove of garlic (I leave it whole just to perfume the vegetable or you can chop for a stronger taste). I dribble olive oil all over and cook in the oven (200°C) until tender. (30 to 40 minutes). A sprinkling of parsley before serving is nice.

I like this as a supper dish with cheese and bread, but it goes well with roast meats