First of all I am going to have to say lots of “sorries” to people. Sorry for not having posted for a while, sorry for not visiting you all so often, and a very, very big sorry to all the lovely folk who have nominated me for awards over the last few months and who I have not thanked properly. My excuses are many – the house renovations, a dreadful cold and my old laptop almost dying and having bought a new one which I’m trying to get to grips with (but not always successfully). The technical problems mean that the e-mails with the lovely award nominations are no more…along with some photos and documents. My fault entirely. So sorry. Again.
We’ve had some snow here, which was actually quite fun as there wasn’t enough to turn our little world upside down.
We bought another place to do up – but this time it’s for us to use as our UK holiday place. Er yes, you did hear that right. Last one, I promise. But it was so sad and sorry looking and is part of an Edwardian House that needs to be loved again, we couldn’t just leave it there to get sadder could we? And when it’s done we may even let loved ones come and stay…so if you’re ever in the area…
But we’ve eaten too. Hearty dishes to keep out the cold, and glamorous dishes to celebrate the sea. I did cook an amazing monkfish tail with prawns and a champagne sauce. But guess what? The photos seem to have been lost in transit from one laptop to another. Too much renovating and not enough backing up I hear you say.
Not a recipe as such for you today, but a bowl of hearty pasta and broth to chase away the snow, winter colds and house renovation madness.
For the two of us, I took one leek and finely sliced it, stir fried it with some finely chopped bacon (but you could use mushrooms if you wanted a veggie version), added in a packet of ricotta and spinach tortellini (or you could be fabulous like my pal ChgoJohn and make some ravioli) and covered with broth (stock). I used the broth from boiling a gammon but chicken or vegetable stock would also be good. Then I just simmered for a few minutes until the tortellini were cooked, and voila, a speedy supper. Be healthy and eat it as it is, or do like me and smother it in grated parmesan. Buon appetito!
I have a rather too close relationship with potatoes. Damn Christopher Columbus or whoever it was who bought them back from the Americas. I particularly like them smothered in butter if they are baked in their jackets, or cooked in olive oil when roasted. Or how about butter, cream and cheese if they are mashed? Oh dear, I can´t always have naughty potatoes and sometimes plain boiled with a drizzle of olive oil just doesn´t do it for me.
Boulangère Potatoes are a good option if you are trying to be a little sensible with the calories, or if you just want to go mad with the dessert. They´re also wonderful when you are entertaining, as apart from tasting fantastic, they can sit quite happily in a warm oven for quite a while and come to no significant harm. Boulangère is the French word for Baker. Many families in the past did not have ovens in their own homes. They would take a dish of these down to the village baker who would kindly pop them in to cook in his still warm oven when the bread baking was done. What nice people bakers are.
To serve four people you´ll need about 1kg of potatoes peeled and thinly sliced (I used a mandolin slicer but you can also do this by hand or in a food processor), 2 medium onions thinly sliced, olive oil, seasoning and about half a litre of vegetable or chicken stock. If you have it, some fresh thyme is also good but right now I´m in a bit of a huff with Big Man as he dug all mine up a while back thinking it was a weed! Rosemary also works well with this dish.
Lightly oil the base of an oven proof dish and start making layers of potato, onion, herbs and seasoning. Finish with a layer of potatoes, season and then pour over stock to completely cover.
Cover the dish with foil and bake in a at 200ºC/Gas 6 for about 45 minutes, then take off the foil. The potatoes and onion will be soft now and most of the liquid will have disappeared. Continue to cook for another 15 minutes or until the liquid has all gone and the potatoes have browned. If you find it has cooked through but the potatoes are still a little pale, put under the grill for a few minutes.
Either serve immediately or leave at the bottom of a low oven until you are ready to eat.
Not so much a recipe as a prescription. After the excesses of Christmas coupled with a bad stomach virus, it was time for a cleansing soup.
Like all the best soups it was made from whatever the fridge had available. Having said that, we had some beautiful stock made from the carcass of one of our home bred chickens, a cabbage given to us by one of Big Man´s family and the star of the show, a beautiful Green Striped Cushaw Squash grown by Big Man´s lovely cousin Raphael.
Now, I´m not usually so knowledgeable about Squash (or should that be Squashes?) as I have even called it a pumpkin in the recipe title. It just so happened that Claire over at Promenade Plantings posted a gorgeous Winter Panzanella Salad recipe recently, and there showing off in a fabulous photo was MY pumpkin. Or squash.
I used about 400g of chopped squash, 2 medium potatoes peeled and cubed, 3 large carrots peeled and diced, an onion peeled and sliced, half a red pepper cut into chunks, 2 cloves of garlic peeled and thinly sliced and four large savoy cabbage leaves which I shredded finely. Along with the broth I also added a cup of tomato conserva. For a vegetarian version, use water or vegetable stock.
I sautéed the squash, carrots, pepper, onions and garlic for a few minutes in a little olive oil then seasoned with salt and pepper and poured stock and tomato over to cover. I bought it all to the boil and then reduced the heat to a simmer. After about 10 minutes I added the potatoes and when the vegetables were all tender, I added the cabbage which I only cooked for a few minutes.
Instead of cheese or croutons, we served it with freshly squeezed lemon juice which gave it all a lovely lift. Filling but comforting. Perfect for a post Christmas detox. With a glass of wine of course!
So in 2016 I turned 50. I was in Italy for my 21st, 30th and 40th. To keep this birthday tradition going I always knew I'd be in Italy for my 50! This blog starts with my 5 week adventure in Puglia but my love affair with Italy continues.....