Spaghetti or linguine vongole – a shellfish pasta dish for summer

June 15, 2016 § 1 Comment

We were out with friends at a local Italian restaurant on Friday and I ordered their spaghetti vongole to benchmark my own version against it. The restaurant version was competent but no more – the pasta hadn’t taken on the sweet flavour of the clams and there was too much pasta and not much else. I shall spare the restaurant kitchen’s blushes by not naming it here!

I’ve been experimenting at home recently with spaghetti vongole having seen a recipe demonstrated by chef Theo Randall on the BBC cooking show Saturday Kitchen back in April.

The Theo Randall version ups the shellfish flavour by partnering the clams with squid and prawns. White wine, garlic and sweet cherry tomatoes form a base for the sauce, strips of courgette are mingled with the pasta to lighten the dish and the whole whole thing is freshened up with lots of chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley.

The trick to boosting the flavour of the finished dish is to only part-cook the pasta in boiling and salted water and complete the cooking in the clam sauce so that the pasta really takes on the sweet shellfish flavour.

The recipe for spaghettini with squid, clam and prawns that the BBC give on the website (to accompany the Saturday Kitchen show) for is frankly pants. It misses out the wine from both the ingredients list and method, some of the cooking times are wrong – you really don’t want to boil the wafer-thin courgette strips for 7 minutes – and the weight of some of the ingredients is unbalanced. My version of the recipe corrects these errors and omissions.

It’s important to have everything prepped and ready to go before you start cooking, as once you begin cooking it’s all systems go and the dish is finished quickly and cooked pasta can’t be kept waiting. Doing all the prep is a little time consuming but the finished dish is worth the little bit of effort this takes.

The clams need to be fresh but the recipe works just fine with defrosted raw squid and prawns.

The courgette strips would probably most easily be created with a modish spiraliser but if you don’t have one (and I don’t as you can see from the pictures), the courgette can be fashioned into long thin strips using a vegetable peeler or mandolin and kitchen knife.

I experimented making this dish with different types of good quality dried pasta. You don’t need to use spaghetti – my favourite version was with fine flat linguine to which the sauce clung well.

Linguine with clams, squid and prawns

Serves 2

Ingredients

200g good quality dried linguine (or spaghetti or other long thin pasta of your choice)
1 medium courgette cut into thin strips using a vegetable peeler or mandolin (or spiralised)
3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
350g clams in their shells, cleaned (1 generous handful each)
1 medium squid, cleaned, cut into small pieces (0.0,75cm dice is about right)
150g raw peeled deveined prawns cut into small pieces (the same size as the squid pieces)
1 garlic clove, thinly sliced
pinch dried chilli flakes
10 baby plum or cherry tomatoes cut into quarters
large glass dry white wine
2 tablespoons chopped fresh flatleaf parsley

1. Prep all the ingredients, bring a large pan of salted water to the boil , lay the table and warm your serving bowls and have your guest at the ready before you start cooking as this dish is ready in the time it takes to cook the pasta and is at its best served and eaten as soon as it’s ready.

2. Cook the pasta in the pan of boiling salted water according to the packet instructions but reduce cooking time by 1 minute. It will finish cooking in the clam juices.

3. Meanwhile, heat the olive oil in a sauté pan or deep frying pan big enough to hold all the sauce and the cooked pasta. Add the prawn, clams and squid and stir fry for one minute.

4. Add the garlic, half the parsley, the dried chilli flakes and the quartered baby plum or cherry tomatoes and stir fry for a further minute. Add the glass of white wine and allow it to bubble away for a further minute or two until reduced by approximately half. Turn off the heat while the pasta cooks.

5. Once the pasta is about one minute away from being ready, drain in a colander but reserve a cupful of the starchy pasta water.

6. Straightaway, add the raw courgette strips and drained pasta to the frying pan containing the sauce, turn the heat back on and cook for a further minute or so, tossing the pasta and courgettes in the pan so that sauce emulsifies and the pasta and courgettes really take on the flavour of the sauce. You may need to add a little of the reserved cooking water if the contents of the pan seem too dry. Go easy on the liquid though as you don’t want to drown the pasta in water.

7. Add the reserved tablespoon of chopped parsley and mix well before dishing up into warmed bowls.

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Tardivo radicchio

April 17, 2013 § Leave a comment

I wrote about Castelfranco radicchio last year after saying I’d becoming obsessed with trying every radicchio variety I could lay my hands on. It’s high time I returned to radicchio, originating from the Veneto region of Italy, and this time it’s the turn of the striking radicchio Tardivo. As I’ve mentioned before, I sourced my radicchio from the Natoora range of speciality vegetables and salads stocked by online supermarket Ocado. Others may get their fix from buying expensive shoes or handbags. It’s a new vegetable that does it for me…

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Many varieties are named after local towns but this one bucks the trend, tardivo simply meaning “late” in Italian. It’s produced by starting with the more common Radicchio di Treviso (which is a town in Italy) which then undergoes ra complex growing-forcing method of cultivation. This somewhat akin to our own home-grown Yorkshire rhubarb and producing a similarly startlingly-coloured beautiful plant to brighten up late winter meals. Sorry, but the season ended in March so you’ll have to wait until, say, next November to try it. Looks like I’ve been somewhat tardiva myself.

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Don’t try and put tardivo into a salad – it’s best cooked either simply as a roast vegetable (see my recipe below) or used as an intriguing ingredient in other recipes.

I was searching around for more radicchio tardivo recipes and came across this one from on Italian recipe site Giallozafferano which in turn comes from the lovely blog La Salsa Aurora.

I’ve rather freely translated it and adapted it for flour we can easily buy in the UK. Be warned I haven’t tried the recipe myself yet so can’t vouch 100% for the quantities and timings. I really like the sound of a dark rolled-up pizza-style affair and think the inclusion of rye flour should work really well with the gutsy flavour of the radicchio.

Recipe for roast radicchio tardivo

This is my own tried and tested way of cooking radicchio more or less the way the Italians do it. It makes a good accompaniment to roast pork or veal. The slight bitterness of the roast leaves is very agreeable with rich-tasting fatty meats. Sadly the glorious magenta of the leaves turns to workaday brown when roasted.

Serves 4

Ingredients

4 good-sized heads of radicchio tardivo
4 tablespoons olive oil
Maldon salt and freshly ground black pepper

Preheat the oven to 180 degrees C (fan). Strip off any bruised outer leaves from the tardivo, rinse it under cold running water and shake/pat it to remove excess water. Cut in half lengthwise and cut out the bottom of the root by making a small V shaped notch in each half but keeping the half piece intact. Lay the halves on a baking tray, overlapping a little if necessary. Drizzle with 2-3 tbsp of the olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Bake for about 10 minutes, remove from the oven and drizzle with the remaining oil. Bake for 5 minutes’ more. It is done when the root is tender. The leaves will be thoroughly wilted and brown.

Recipe for savoury strudel with radicchio tardivo and mozzarella

Adapted from a recipe found on the Italian blog La Salsa Aurora.

Makes 2 strudels – serves 6 in total

Ingredients

150g rye flour
150g Allinson Seed and Grain bread flour
3/4 teaspoon instant dried yeast
3/4 teaspoon salt
160g water
a little extra virgin olive oil
150g approx of radicchio tardivo
3 mozzarella balls
salt and black pepper
2 tablespoons chopped parsley

Mix together the flours, salt and yeast. Add the water and mix with a wooden spoon. Leave for 10 minutes, covered, then knead in the bowl briefly and rest again for 10 minutes. Repeat twice more then lightly oil the dough, cover and leave to prove for 1 hour.

Whilst the dough is proving, prepare the filling. Drain the mozzarella balls and tear into rough pieces with your fingers. Set aside.

Wash, dry and trim the radicchio and separate it into individual leaves. Set aside.

Preheat the oven to 200 degrees C (fan).

Once the dough has proved, knock it back and divide it into two equal pieces. Roll out the first piece reasonably thinly into a rough rectangle (as if you were making a rectangular pizza) and transfer it onto a baking sheet, stretching it into shape. Scatter over half of the mozzarella and radicchio and drizzle liberally with olive oil. Season with salt and pepper and sprinkle over half the chopped parsley. Roll up and press the dough edges together, moistening the dough to achieve a good seal. Drizzle with more olive oil and scatter a little sea salt over the surface.

Repeat with the second piece of dough.

Bake for approximately 20 minutes.

Castelfranco radicchio

February 22, 2013 § Leave a comment

Since discovering the Natoora range of unusual vegetables and salads now supplied by Ocado I’ve become obsessed by trying every kind of radicchio on offer. Radicchio originates from the Veneto region of Italy and many of the varieties are named after local towns.

First up is the gorgeous Castelfranco radicchio with its cream and deep-red variegated leaves:

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It’s as pretty as an old-fashioned rose and you just have to admire it before adding it to your salad bowl:

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The delicately bitter leaves of Castelfranco are best suited to salads which brighten up the winter table. The leaves are not as delicate as they look either in flavour or texture so partner well with robust ingredients such as bacon, citrus fruits and nuts.

Here’s one of my recent slightly over-the-top lunchtime creations:

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Here are the recipes for two simpler salad recipes, the first from Italy’s legendary “Il Cucchaio d’Argento” cookbook, and the second inspired by a Skye Gyngell recipe published in 2011 in her Independent column. Finally, another “Il Cucchaio d’Argento” recipe, this time for ricotta and walnut stuffed Castelfranco leaves which are briefly blanched in boiling water before being used to encase the filling.

Recipe for Castelfranco radicchio and pancetta salad

Adapted from a recipe in Il Cucchaio d’Argento. Serves 4.

Ingredients

250g Castelfranco radicchio
200g cubed pancetta
Maldon salt and freshly ground black pepper
A few spritzes of white balsamic vinegar (optional)
Lightly toasted small slices of baguette/ciabatta/country bread to serve

Detach the leaves from the radicchio head and wash and dry them carefully. Arrange them attractively on a large salad plate.

Place the cubed pancetta in a frying pan and heat gently to render the fat. Once the fat is rendered increase the heat and cook until the pancetta is lightly browned.

Pour the pancetta and its rendered fat over the Castelfranco leaves, crumble over a flew flakes of Maldon salt and a few twists of black pepper and quickly toss the salad to distribute the pancetta and its fat evenly. If likes, spritz the leaves lightly with white balsamic vinegar (you can buy it in plastic bottles fitted with an atomiser top).

Serve with lightly toasted small slices of toasted bread alongside.

Recipe for Castelfranco radicchio, orange and hazelnut salad

Adapted from Skye Gyngell’s recipe published in the Independent on Sunday in January 2011. As the author says, it makes a refreshing winter salad, perfect as a light first course.

Serves 4

Ingredients

1 small to medium head Castelfranco radicchio
handful shelled blanched hazelnuts
2 oranges, preferably blood oranges
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
3-4 tablespoons hazelnut oil
Maldon salt and freshly ground black pepper

Remove the leaves of the radicchio from the head, wash, dry carefully and tear into large pieces. Arrange in a salad bowl or on a serving platter.

Lightly toast the hazelnuts in a dry frying pan being careful not to let the toast too much. Chop roughly and sprinkle over the salad leaves.

Cut the peel and pith off the oranges using a very sharp and/or serrated small knife. Slice the naked oranges into pinwheel shapes and arrange these over the salad.

Finally make the dressing by whisking together in a small bowl the mustard, red wine vinegar, 3 tablespoons hazelnut oil and a little salt and pepper. Taste and add more oil,salt and pepper if required to balance out the flavours. Spoon the dressing over the salad using just as much as required as the salad should not be overdressed.

Recipe for Castelfranco radicchio rolls stuffed with ricotta and walnut

Adapted from a recipe in Il Cucchaio d’Argento. Serves 4.

Ingredients

10 large handsome Castelfranco radicchio leaves
100g ricotta
2 tablepoons freshly grated parmesan cheese
20 walnut halves (I like Serr walnuts from Chile available from Sainsbury’s)
1 egg yolk
salt and pepper
butter for the baking dish

Preheat the oven to 180 degrees C.

Blanch the radicchio leaves a few at a time in a large pan of boiling salted water for 1 minute. Remove and set out to dry carefully on clean teatowels.

Roughly chop the walnuts and put them into a bowl along with the ricotta, a little freshly grated parmesan, salt, pepper and egg yolk. Mix thoroughly.

Put a tenth of the ricotta mixture onto each blanched radicchio leaf and roll to form a neat rolled bundle. Place each stuffed roll into a generously buttered baking dish, arranging neatly side by side.

Bake for 15 minutes and serve straight from the baking dish.

Comforting casseroles part 3: veal

December 15, 2012 § Leave a comment

The weather pre-Christmas is cold and wintry and thoughts turn to warming casseroles once again. I’ve previously shared my favourite pork (part 1) and beef (part 2) casserole recipes and now it’s veal’s turn. Don’t worry this isn’t pale Dutch veal reared in less than humane conditions, but the more robust English pink veal reared to high welfare standards, a tasty by-product of the UK dairy industry that frankly would be a waste NOT to eat.

Today’s dish is classic Milanese dish of braised veal shin on the bone, Osso Buco, served up with its traditional partner, saffron scented risotto milanese, one of the few instances in Italian cooking when risotto is served as an accompaniment rather than as a separate primo piatto course.

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I’ve read about this dish many times over the years but have never been able to try it as a) I had no inkling where I’d get hold of decent veal which hasn’t until recently been widely available in the UK and b) even if I could track down veal I didn’t think I’d find a butcher able to prepare the necessary shin slices complete with intact marrow bone, one of the highlights of the finished dish.

I was delighted to find that Ocado recently began offering slices of veal shin for osso buco alongside its other veal offerings (which include fantastic veal chops, veal rib joints and proper escalopes). They come two or occasionally three to a pack and a pack weighs a tad over 500g so you need two packs for the recipe below which serves four.

You begin by tying your veal into dinky packages with string. This serves to keep the star marrowbone intact during the long braising. You may need to tie around the piece of veal shin as well to keep it in a nice round piece. My pieces of veal looked perfectly well formed and butchered so I omitted this step and just did the package tied up with string thing:

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Once the trussed veal pieces have been coated in seasoned flour, the only other bit of prep required is to finely dice a small onion and stick of celery. Don’t worry if you’re iffy about celery – after 2 hours cooking the vegetables break down to produce a textured sauce and there’s no pronounced celery flavour, just a deep savouriness.

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The next step is to brown the floured veal slices in hot oil. The veal is then removed and set aside whilst the vegetables are sweated in some butter which you add to the pan. Then the vermouth or white wine is added and reduced a little before adding the stock and returning the meat to the pan for a long slow 2 hour braise.

A word about choice of stock. In a quest for meaty perfection I bought some rather expensive chilled beef stock from the supermarket and used this topped up with some stock from a “quality” reduced salt beef stock cube. I did the same thing with my accompanying risotto milanese. The end result, odd as it may sound was just too beefy and intense. The veal marrowbones and collagen-rich shin meat make a most wonderful sauce as the meat braises so I think there is really no need to start with a rich meaty stock. Next time I make this dish I’ll use a light stock made from a good quality reduced salt cube, making it up at a weaker strength than recommended on the packet. The meat and bones will do the rest for me.

This is how the veal looks before the long slow braise:

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And here it is once the cooking is complete, freshened up with its sprinkling of gremolada, a lively mix of chopped flatleaf parsley, grated lemon zest and a smidge of finely chopped garlic:

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Serve the meat with risotto alla milanese and a green vegetable. We chose roast courgette, as Anna del Conte does in the glorious photo accompanying the recipe in her book “Gastronomy of Italy”. I’ve largely drawn on this recipe in my version which I give below. The recipe is an authentic Milanese one and thus, unlike many published versions of the recipe, contains no tomato.

The risotto alla milanese recipe I give below is also adapted from Anna del Conte’s and is made in the usual way. If you’re familiar with making risotto you’ll have no trouble following it. If you haven’t made risotto before I’d suggest buying a good Italian cookbook and reading up in detail on risotto-making technique before attempting to follow my slightly sketchy instructions!

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One last word – be sure to scoop out the unctuous marrow from the centre of the ossi buci and mash it into your risotto – delicious.

Recipe for ossibuci alla milanese

Adapted from Anna del Conte’s recipe in “Gastronomy of Italy”.

Serves 4

Ingredients

4 decent sized ossibuci (slices of veal shin on the bone) each weighing about 250g)
seasoned flour
3 tablespoons light olive oil
25g butter
1 small onion, finely diced
1 small stick of celery, finely diced
175 ml white vermouth (I like Noilly Prat) or white wine
300 ml light stock (beef, chicken, vegetable – a qood quality stock cube is OK) or even water

For the gremolada

1 teaspoon grated lemon zest
1 very finely chopped small garlic clove
2 tablespoons chopped flatleaf parsley

Tie each osso buco with string as if you were wrapping a package. This is to retain the marrowbone in place during the long cooking and turning process. If, after looking at your pieces of veal, you think it advisable to tie a piece of string around the circumference of each slice to keep it all together then do this as well.

Coat the veal slices lightly in seasoned flour. I put about 6 tablespoons of flour into a deep bowl, then mix in a teaspoon of fine salt before dipping the veal pieces in the flour. Discard the excess flour afterwards.

Heat the 2 tablespoons of light olive oil over a medium heat in a heavy lidded shallow casserole that is big enough to hold the veal snugly in a single layer. Once the oil is hot, put the veal pieces into the pan and leave untouched for 4 or 5 minutes to brown. Turn the veal over using a pair of tongs and brown the other side. Once the browning is complete, turn the heat to low, remove the veal and set aside in a shallow dish.

Once the pan has cooled a litle, add the butter and once melted, add the diced onions and celery and fry gently without browning until soft and translucent, about 8 to 10 minutes’s cooking. Now add the vermouth or wine to the pan and let bubble for a minute or two to reduce a little. Now add the stock and return the veal slices plus any juices which have accumulated in the dish back to the pan. Turn up the heat to bring the contents to the boil then reduce the heat to a bare simmer, cover with the lid and leave to simmer for one and half to two hours until the meat is tender.

Turn the meat over delicately with tongs about every twenty minutes during the 2 hour cooking period to ensure an even braise and tender meat.

While the meat is cooking, prepare the gremolada by combining the chopped parsley, finely chopped garlic and grated lemon zest in a small bowl. Mix well, cover and set aside.

Once you judge that the meat is cooked, check the consistency of the sauce. If it is a little too thin, remove the lid and raise the heat a little and gently boil away some of the liquid until you have a chunky coating sauce consistency. Check the seasoning too. Because the stock you have used is likely to contain salt (especially if you’re using a stock cube) I’ve not specified any additional salt in the recipe other than a little salt in the seasoned flour.

Snip of the string from the meat, scatter over the gremolada and serve with risotto milanese and a green vegetable – roast courgette (still available as I write in December) or steamed broccoli would both work well.

Recipe for Risotto alla Milanese

Adapted from Anna del Conte’s recipe in “Gastronomy of Italy”.

Serves 4

Ingredients

900ml light chicken or beef stock (homemade or good quality stock cube)
1 small onion or medium shallot finely diced
40g unsalted butter
350g risotto rice (Carnaroli or Arborio)
90ml white vermouth (I like Noilly Prat)
big pinch saffron strands
sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
additional 20g unsalted butter
25g freshly grated parmesan

You need two medium heavy-based saucepans for this recipe. Bring the stock to simmering point in the first saucepan and melt 40g butter in the second. Add the chopped onion or shallot to the pan containing the butter and sauté gently until soft and translucent.

Add the rice to the butter and onions and stir over a low heat until the rice is thoroughly coated with the butter. Turn up the heat to medium and add the vermouth and boil for a minute or so, stirring all the time. Now add the hot stock a ladleful at a time, stirring until the rice has absorbed the stock before adding the next ladleful. Once two or three ladles of stock have been added, crumble the saffron strands into the risotto. It should be kept simmering, not too slowly and not too fast either and should be cooked in 15-20 minutes. Test the rice after it has cooked for 15 minutes by biting on a grain. When ready it should be cooked through to the al dente stage and and should no longer have a hard chalky centre but should not be soft and mushy. If it’s not ready, add a little more stock (or boiling water if you’ve used it all) and cook for a minute or so longer before testing again. Conversely, you may not need to add all the stock from the pan.

When the risotto is ready, remove from the heat, stir in seasoning and add the additional 20g butter and 25g grated parmesan, cover the pan and leave for a minute or two for all the elements to merge in a savoury manner.

Capri lemons, Vesuvius lemons, Sorrento lemons

October 28, 2011 § Leave a comment

Zingy, sunshine-yellow, mismatched, lumpy, bumpy, fragrant lemons will be the abiding memory of our recent half-term trip to Naples and the Sorrento peninsula in Italy. We found them everywhere adorning roadside granita stands:

ready to be turned into the most refreshing pick-me up ever – and I can’t abide the Americanised translation of a granita as “slush” which is just not right for something as elegant as this:

sipped overlooking a view like this one in Positano:

or maybe this one overlooking the Faraglioni rocks on Capri’s southern coast:

There were boxes of lemons stacked outside the humblest little cafés and restaurants like these spotted in Pompeii:

destined for a spremuta di limone, the Italian version of lemonade – fresh lemond juice and water in a tall glass with ice – add your own sugar and stir for the most refreshing drink imaginable, eye-wateringly, mouth-puckeringly sharp:

perfect for sipping on as you wait at Sorrento’s Marina Piccola harbour for the jetfoil across the bay to Naples:

Perhaps best of all spotting the lemons growing on trees in groves right in the heart of Sorrento town, in most cases still a slightly unripe green:

and we soon worked out that strolling through the Cataldi citrus groves was a much pleasanter way of reaching Sorrento’s frenetic Piazza Tasso than braving the Lambretta and Fiat crowded narrow streets:

Sorrento lemons are turned into all sorts of lemon products of varying quality and taste. Most famously there is the signature lemon liqueur Limoncello. At its best it can be rather good, aromatic, zesty with a touch of bitterness to cut through the sweetness. At worst, it’s like a chilled LemSip decanted from a dodgy cupid-shaped bottle.

How is it that the Italians have a reputation for being stylish when they produce some of the worst tat in the world? A country of many contradictions…

as a holiday souvenir, I left alone the lemon-flavoured bottles, packets, jams and soaps and contented myself with half a kilo of fresh lemons complete with fragrant green foliage from the local fruit and veg shop.

What to do with my precious cargo now we’re back home? I’ve collected together the following four lemon recipes I fancy having a go at in the next week or so. There’s a zesty lemon cake from Capri, a classic lemon granita, a simple pasta recipe and an unusual lemon salad. Having belatedly checked in one of my favourite cook books, Jane Grigson’s Fruit Book, I’m pleased to say that none of these recipes appear there – it would have been a bit of a downer to repeat what’s already been done! I’m sure they’ll bring a ray of Mediterranean sunshine into the approaching English autumnal gloom…

Recipe for Caprese al limone – Capri lemon cake

Caprese al limone

This cake along with its dark chocolate cousin, is served up all over the island of Capri. I’ve hunted down a number of different recipes and this one, adapted from Salvatore di Riso’s “I dolci del Sole” sounds the most workable whilst remaining authentic.

Serves 10 or more

Ingredients

100g extra virgin olive oil
120g icing sugar
200g blanched whole almonds
180g white chocolate, finely chopped
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
grated rind of 1 Amalfi lemon (or 2 medium or 3 small normal lemons)
5 medium eggs
60g caster sugar
50g cornflour
5g (1 teaspoon) baking powder

Line the base of a 22cm round cake tin (preferably springform or loose bottomed) with baking paper and butter and flour the interior.

In a food processor or liquidiser, grind the almonds to a coarse powder with the icing sugar. Set aside

Whisk together the eggs and sugar using an electric mixer for 10 minutes until you have a thick foam (as if making a génoise mixture).

In a large bowl, combine the ground almond and sugar mixture with the grated chocolate, the grated lemon rind, the cornflour and the baking powder. Mix together well.

Add the olive oil, vanilla extract and the beaten egg mixture to the bowl and mix well to combine not worrying unduly should the eggs collapse a little. This is a dense, moist cake rather than a light fluffy one.

Pour the mixture the prepared cake tin. Bake at 200 degrees C for 5 minutes then reduce the heat to 160 degrees C and bake for a further 45 minutes.

When the cake is done, cool in the tin. Turn out and serve sprinkled with icing sugar.

Recipe for lemon granita

Adapted from Marcella Hazan’s master granita recipe given in “The Classic Italian Cookbook” but incorporating the lemon water ice trick of infusing the lemon zest in the syrup for added zing. You’ll notice there’s much less sugar than in a classic water ice recipe.

Ingredients

8 tablespoons fresh lemon juice (maybe 4 lemons?)
peel of 4 lemons removed using a vegetable peeler, roughly chopped
325ml water
50g granulated sugar

Put the sugar and water into a small saucepan and bring to the boil stirring to dissolve the sugar. Once the mixture has come to the boil, turn off the heat, throw in the chopped lemon peel, cover and leave to infuse until the mixture is cold. Strain and stir in the lemon juice.

Pur the mixture into one or more shallow metal or plastic trays or boxes (a pair of old fashioned metal ice cube trays with the plastic dividers removed would be ideal). Put into the freezer and check after 15 minutes, stirring the mixture with a fork to break up the ice crystals, scraping them down from the sides and in the corners where they will form first. Repeat the process again after 15 minutes and thereafter every 8 minutes until the granita reaches the right texture. This may take 3 hours or so!

Serve in pretty glass goblets with a teaspoon, or more informally in a plastic tumbler with a strawer and spoon.

Recipe for fettucine al limone

Adapted from a recipe for “Danny’s Lemon Pasta” featured on the BBC Radio 4 programme “Woman’s Hour” aeons ago and which I’ve been storing in my recipe files for an age. The Danny in question is Danny Kaye and the chef one Ruth Reichl.

Ingredients

4oz best unsalted butter
10 fl oz double cream
2-3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
finely grated zest of 4 small lemons
freshly ground black pepper
1-2 oz freshly grated Parmesan cheese, plus more for the table

1lb fresh egg fettuccine

Serves 4

Melt the butter in a large, heavy bottomed frying pan or sauté pan. Add the cream, lemon juice and half the lemon zest and bring to the boil over a medium heat and reduce by one quarter. Remove from the heat and cover.

Cook the pasta in a large pan of salted boiling water until al dente (this will take only 2 to 3 minutes). Reserve a little of the pasta cooking liquid and drain the pasta in a colander.

Add the drained pasta to the frying pan containing the sauce along with the reserved lemon zest, 2 tablespoons of the pasta cooking water, the grated parmesan cheese and freshly ground black pepper. Toss well.

Recipe for lemon and cucumber salad

Not for the faint hearted! Inspired by the lemon salad served on the island of Ischia where chunks of peeled and thick-pithed local pane lemons are simply dressed with olive oil and flavoured with salt, pepper and aromatic mint and flat leaf parsley.
This would work well with simply grilled fish or a thick barbecued veal chops.

Serves 4

Ingredients

3 unwaxed lemons, peel left on, very thinly sliced
1/2 cucumber peel left on, very thinly sliced using a mandolin
1 tablespoon chopped fresh mint
1 tablespoon chopped fresh flatleaf parsley
1 small medium hot red chilli, halved, deseeded and finely shredded
sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil

Lay the lemon slices on a platter, sprinkle with a little salt and leave for half an hour. Once the half hour has elapsed, wipe off the salt and liquid drawn out with kitchen roll.

Arrange the salted lemon and cucumber slices attractively on a serving platter. Scatter over the chopped herbs and chilli, drizzle with olive oil and season with salt and pepper.

Comforting casseroles part 1: pork

January 9, 2010 § 2 Comments

I was vaguely thinking about preparing some Indian vegetarian food in the new year – cleansing, soothing and lightly spiced, but the arrival of snow has put paid to that idea and I find I am craving casseroles – something warming simmering away on the hob to keep out the winter chill.

Here are two of my favourite pork recipes. One is a modified version of a Delia Cheat recipe, Spanish influenced and incredibly easy to throw together.  The second comes from one of my favourite Italian cookery writers, Marcella Hazan, and is also quick and simple to put together. With its combination of juniper, bay and dried wild mushrooms, the pork becomes something special acquiring a gamey flavour a little like wild boar.

Both are just the ticket after returning from an outing on skis along the A56 main Manchester Road!

Here’s the mise en place for the Spanish pork stew with potatoes and chorizo – this is for a double quantity – half to serve now and half to go in the freezer.

Here’s the assembled dish before cooking:

And here is the end result!

I served the stew with some lightly steamed spinach and a chunk of home-made bread.  It is a one-pot dish complete with potatoes and vegetables but I do think it needs something green to go with it, be that salad or your favourite vegetable.


Recipe for Spanish pork stew with potatoes, beans and chorizo

Serves 4.  Adapted from recipe found on http://www.deliaonline.com.  My changes are to use ordinary canned tomatoes rather than the specified tomato frito and to use a mixture of cooked butterbeans and potatoes rather than just potatoes.  Also, I couldn’t find pork shoulder so I used pork fillet instead.  This is not an ideal cut for a casserole because it contains very little fat and doesn’t need long cooking to make it tender.  Accordingly, I reduced the cooking time to 45 minutes rather than the specified 1 and a half hours.

Ingredients

1lb (450g) piece trimmed shoulder of pork cut into 1 inch (2.5cm) chunks.
8 oz (225g) small salad potatoes, halved or quartered if necessary to make bite-sized chunks.  A variety such as Charlotte or Nicola is good – floury potatoes are not suitable for this recipe
1 standard tin or half a large jar of cooked, drained and rinsed butterbeans
4 oz (110g) chorizo sausage peeled if necessary and cut into bite sized chunks – either the cooked or raw kind is OK providing it’s a whole sausage – the ready sliced kind is not suitable for this recipe
1  350g jar roasted peppers on oil, drained but left whole (reserve the oil to add to the pot)
1 fat clove garlic, peeled and thinly sliced
1 large red onion, peeled and sliced (a normal onion is OK if you don’t have a red one)
6 sprigs fresh thyme (or 2 teaspoons dried thyme)
1 tablespoon olive oil (use the oil reserved from the jar of peppers if you like)
1/4 teaspoon saffron strands, crumbled into the pot between your fingertips
2 tablespoons white wine vinegar
5 fl oz dry white wine (I like to use dry Vermouth for cooking as I find it less acidic and with an aromatic herby background flavour which works well with food.  I like Noilly Prat or an American vermouth from Andrew Quady called Vya)
1 standard-sized can plum tomatoes, roughly chopped (to save time and washing up, I do this by opening the can and snipping the contents with pair of kitchen scissors)
1 oz (25g) pitted black olives, cut in half (you can use green if you prefer, in fact the anchovy or pimento stuffed kind might work pretty well in this recipe)
salt and freshly ground black pepper

Preheat the oven to 140 degrees C (275 degrees F or gas mark 1). Put all the ingredients into a  lidded, ovenproof casserole dish.  Give everything a good stir, then put the casserole on the hob and bring the contents up to simmering point.  Then transfer the casserole to the preheated oven for one and a half hours.  That’s it!  No browning etc – it practically cooks itself.

Recipe for braised pork with wild mushrooms and juniper berries -stufatino di maiale alla boscaiola

This recipe comes from Marcella Hazan’s Second Classic Italian Cookbook.  The pork becomes something really special given this treatment and I’ve served this dish at more than one dinner party as it is a good-natured main course that can be prepared in advance needing no last minute attention from the cook.  The hand of pork is the front leg equivalent to the back leg ham joint and thus lies just below the shoulder.  I’ve made this dish successfully with other cuts – leg and even fillet on occasion but you do need to be careful not to overcook leaner, more tender cuts.  Marcella Hazan suggests serving the pork with mounds of steaming polenta and braised leeks or fried broccoli florets.  I’ve noticed that a lot of people don’t like polenta – if you’re one of them, then try serving it with mash instead – an olive oil or parmesan flavoured mash would be good.

Serves 4

Ingredients

25-30g (3/4-1 oz) dried wild porcini mushrooms
1/2 small onion, chopped fine
350 ml (2/3 pint) water
6 tablespoons olive oil
680g (1 and 1/2 lb) boned hand of pork, cut into pieces about 2.5cm (1 inch) thick and 5cm (2 inches) square
8 tablespoons dry white wine (or vermouth such as Noilly Prat or Vya – see comments in preceding recipe)
2 tablespoons good wine vinegar (I use balsamic which gives a lovely dark colour to the sauce)
3 flat preserved anchovy fillets, chopped (these melt into the sauce imparting a savoury flavour)
1/4 teaspoon dried marjoram
2 dried bayleaves, crumbled (or chopped fresh ones)
20 juniper berries, lightly crushed in a pestle and mortar – aim for bruising rather than complete destruction
salt and freshly ground black pepper

Soak the mushrooms for at least 30 minutes in a small bowl with 350 ml (2/3 pint) lukewarm water.  When they have finished soaking, carefully lift out the mushrooms without disturbing the water.  Rinse them in several changes of cold water to rid them of any grit still clinging to them. Chop them into not too fine pieces, and set aside. Filter the water in which they have soaked through a fine wire strainer lined with kitchen paper and reserve.

Choose a sauté pan or flameproof casserole that can later contain all the meat in no more than two layers, put in the onion and oil, and cook over medium heat. When the onion becomes translucent, put in the pork. Turn the heat up to medium high and brown the meat all over. Put in the wine and the vinegar, raise the heat a little, and let them bubble away for a minute or two.

Put in the chopped mushrooms, their strained water, the chopped anchovies, the marjoram, the bayleaves and the crushed juniper berries. Stir all the contents of the pan, and turn the heat down to low. Put in two or three generous pinches of salt, a liberal grinding of pepper, stir again, and cover the pan tightly.

Cook at a very gentle simmer for 1 and 1/2 to 2 hours, or until the meat is tender when pricked with a fork. When the meat is done, if the juices in the pan are thin and runny, uncover, and turn up the heat  to medium high. Reduce the juices until the fat separates out from them and skim off any excess fat.  The pork is now ready to serve.

Do you have any good pork casserole recipes you’d care to share with me?  I would love to discover some new ones.

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