Tag Archives: italy

Trullo Pastas

Peter bought me the Trullo cookbook as a pre-Christmas gift and we decided to celebrate the New Year with an Italian themed dinner.

Trullo is a very popular Italian restaurant in Highbury – North London – its always busy, gets great reviews and serves delicious unfussy Italian food.

Our starter was Burrata with anchovy paste and broad beans – this is the sort of dish i always order when im out for dinner and it was surprisingly easy to make – blitzing anchovies, garlic, olive oil and lemon juice in the nutri-bullet, and simply topping with the burrata and scattering broad beans on top.

Anyway – on to the main courses which i will write up here – both very simple and tasty and again, the sorts of dishes I would always order in an Italian restaurant.

Firstly for the Orecchiette with Broccoli, Anchovy and Chilli

Serves 2
500g Tenderstem or Purple Sprouting Broccoli
2 Garlic Cloves – finely diced
Sprinkle of dried Chilli flakes
1/2 tin Anchovies
200g Orecchiette Pasta (Farfalle is recommended if you cant source the “little ears”)
Olive Oil
Salt & Pepper
Parmesan – for seasoning at the end

Boil the broccoli for 7 minutes and leave to one side.
Boil the pasta according to instructions – ours took around 10minutes which is exactly how long the sauce took to cook!
In a shallow frying pan gently fry the garlic and chilli in some olive oil until the garlic starts to colour. Add the anchovies to melt for 3 minutes. Add the broccoli and a dash of water and pop a lid on the pan for 8-10 minutes. Remove the lid, season and add more olive oil for a little extra richness. Mix together with the pasta and serve with parmesan shavings on top.

The second dish was Linguine with Crab – this used both white and brown crab meat and was a completely new but easy and super tasty way of cooking a crab and pasta dish.

Serves 2
1 tin White crab meat
80g Brown crab meat
200g Linguine
1/2 Red Chilli – diced
20g Butter
Olive Oil
Lemon Juice
Salt & Pepper
1tbsp Parsley – chopped

Cook the linguine in boiling water for 10 minutes – again this is roughly how long the crab takes to prepare.
In a bowl, mix together the brown and white crab, chilli, parsley, lemon juice, salt and pepper and leave to one side.
In a large shallow frying pan, gently fry the butter and add the crab mixture – mix well, adding a splash of pasta water to seperate if needed. Once the pasta is cooked and drained – add this to the crab and mix thoroughly – adding more pasta water if needed. The sauce will emulsify as it coats the linguine.
Serve with a little extra black pepper to taste.

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Tuscan Ragu & Polenta

It’s been a New Year’s resolution of mine for a few years to make polenta – i always enjoy it in restaurants yet have never cooked it myself. Yesterday was the day!

My dear friend Laura who lives in Florence sent me a wonderful Tuscan cookbook for my birthday and after a long 3 days completing the 3 Peaks Challenge the Tuscan Ragu recipe provided inspiration for a comforting, warming, tasty dish that kept me happy in the kitchen yesterday afternoon.

Serves 4
For the Ragu
1 Carrott – diced
2 sticks Celery – diced
1 Onion – diced
2 Cloves Garlic – finely chopped
Sprinkle dried Chilli and Oregano
20g Pancetta Cubes
300g Minced Pork
2 Sausages – remove the skin and mash the meat
Handful Chestnut Mushrooms – chopped
Handful dried Porcini Mushrooms – chopped (save the soaking liquid)
3/4 Pint Sangiovese Wine (or any Italian Red)
1 tin Chopped Tomatoes
1 tin Plum Tomatoes
3/4 Pint Beef stock
Nutmeg
Handful Basil leaves – torn
For the Polenta
5tbsp Extra Fine Polenta (Cornmeal)
2 Bay Leaves
2 handfuls Grated Parmesan
Pepper

In a large saucepan, gently fry the celery, onion and carrott in some olive oil until softened. This is a classic trilogy of ingredients called a Mirepoix or Soffritto and provides the flavour base for the dish. After 15 minutes or so, add the pancetta , garlic and the dried herbs and continue to sautee for another 10 minutes.
Add in the pork mince and sausage meat – mix thoroughly and mash together. Stir in the mushrooms and a sprinkle of ground nutmeg and leave to simmer for 10 minutes. Pour the wine in – don’t be surprised by how red the dish turns, allow the wine to reduce and once the mixture is dry, add in the stock, porcini liquid and tomatoes. Bring to the boil and leave to simmer for at least an hour – add more stock if the dish starts to dry out.
Meanwhile, make the polenta. Boil the bay leaves in a pan on a medium heat in 3/4 pint of water with some salt and olive oil. Add the polenta and whisk to avoid lumps. Turn the heat down and continue to whisk – add more water if needed. After 20-30 minutes the mixture should thicken up – you want it the consistency of a very creamy mash potato. At this point stir in the parmesan and add black pepper to taste.
To serve, scatter the basil leaves into the ragu and amend any seasoning.
Place the polenta at the base of the bowl with the ragu on top. Enjoy this warming, autumnal dish with some kale, tenderstem broccoli and sauteed sprouts.

Bologna – La Grossa

After a lovely long weekend in Bologna with Elix, I now understand why one of Bologna’s nicknames is “La Grossa” meaning The Fat One. The food is incredible and I could not stop eating! 

Bolognese food is simple, authentic, delicious and oh so fresh. It is the home of tagliatelle, tortellini, mortadella and ragu (the Bolognese never have Spaghetti Bolognese!). On every street corner is the freshest, most colourful selection of fruit amd vegetables I have ever seen including bright purple raddichio, beautiful artichokes, juicy tomatoes and lovely pears.


Elix and I spent the weekend trying lots of new and traditional dishes and whilst I wont be sharing any recipes in this blog, I wanted to share the experience as it as so fantastic!

The first traditional Bolognese dish I ate was Tortellini in Brodo – simply – tiny tortellini in a broth. The first registration of a tortellini recipe was im Bologna – thin, light pasta encasing pork loin and prosciutto and a little cheese. A common dish in Bologna simply serves these tiny pillows of delight in a clear, rich chicken broth. Serving in such a way enhances the taste of the tortellini and is a perfect winter’s lunch. 

I also tried pumpkin tortelli with ragu. The tortellini were sweet and when paired with rich ragu sauce made for a very tasty meal at a restaurant called Al Voltone. I will definitely be trying this dish at home.

 

Now to talk about the ragu – this is as Bolognese as you will get – always served with tagliatelle (the Bolognese don’t eat spaghetti with ragu) – the silkier sheets of tagliatelli pasta provide a better vessel for the sauce to cling to ensuring you get a tasty mouthful with every bite. Whilst I need to try out my own recipes for traditional Bolognese ragu, the sauce generally uses just tomato paste (no chopped tomatoes), carrots, celery, onion, pancetta and minced beef along with wine, stock and olive oil. This is to be cooked very slowly – upto 3-4 hours until a rich, tasty sauce has developed. The sauce is less red than we get at home and tastes less sweet but really is delicious with some (proper)  Parmigiano-Reggiano scattered on top. The one below was the best, eaten at Osteria dell’Orsa – a tiny, very busy restaurant in the Jewish quarter.


A dish we tried and loved was Cotoletta alla Bolognese and is the Bolognese equivalent of a Chicken Milanese. Here in Bologna – a thin pork or veal cutlet is covered in breadcrumbs and lightly fried adding local parma ham and parmesan to melt on top and serving with a light creamy sauce.  We ate at Il Tinello – a friendly, cosy yet lively restaurant with delicious food and wine and lovely traditional decor.


As I always do on any trip abroad I tracked down a good market where we could eat a traditional lunch. Piadina it was! A piadina is a warm sandwich of thin Italian flatbread encasing the filling. We had ours with mortadella (a Bolognese staple – pork sausage flavoured with whole peppercorns, pistachios and nutmeg) and pecorino – a salty sheep’s cheese. At the stall in the Mercato di Mezzo there were dozens of flavours to choose from – all showcasing the best of Bolognese and Italian produce.

Finally, we ate the best gelato I have ever eaten at a small Gelataria, south west of the centre. One of Elix’s friends had recommended La Sorbetteria and when I heard their signature flavour was bitter dark chocolate I couldn’t be stopped from marching through the rain to get there. The place didnt disappoint and my two scoops of Bitter Chocolate and Espresso, Mascarpone and Cacao made me a very happy lady! 

A final bit of news about the trip is that I tried my first espresso! We spent our first day of the trip with my dear friend Laura and her huaband Johannes. They live in Florence and came to meet us and experience Bologna too. After a lovely lunch of antipasti, pasta and Sangiovese we stopped for a coffee and a cake. Johannes explained to me how the Italians treat the espresso as a quick social drink – always to be consumed in the cafe (never takeaway!) in the afternoons (no milk in coffee after lunchtime is the Italian rule) and with a little sweet on the side. And so i came to enjoy my first espresso with a little bombolino (fried choux pastry filled with custard) on the side. I think I’m a convert – the coffee was rich and silky, not at all bitter and a lovely pick me up on the chilly afternoon! 

I would highly recommend Bologna it really lives up to its nicknames – La Grossa – the fat one, La Rossa – the red one and La Dotta the learned one – so much to eat, see and do!