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Monday, 31 May 2010

Aubergines Parmigiana (Melanzane alla Parmigiana)

Few dishes scream 'summer' to me like melanzane alla parmigiana. This is a proper mediterranean dish, its key ingredients being aubergines, tomatoes, basil, olive oil and of course, Parmesan cheese. It makes a great vegetarian main, or a tasty side. It is not exactly a light dish; you could grill the aubergines instead of frying them, however (at least in my opinion) the final result won't be as tasty. You also need to be generous with the cheese; a sprinkle just won't do, you need a good layer. If you are worried about your waistline, just eat a smaller portion or go for a long walk after lunch :-)

Sunday, 9 May 2010

Roasted Pumpkin Soup with Garlic Croutons

Today I have been to the 'Real Food Festival' at Earl's Court, here in London. It was brilliant! There were more than 400 stalls from small producers aiming to promote local, sustainable ingredients and traditional cooking, growing and breeding methods. I was just in my element and was jumping from a stall to another sampling the products and chatting to the producers, before buying a number of delicacies including Scottish Aberdeen Angus pastrami and sweet cured carpaccio, smoked bacon, Gloucestershire Old Spot sausages, Hundred Dram cheddar, Red Leicester and Mustard biscuits, lemon curd cookies, Somerset bread and a whole jar of sliced black truffle. Goodness me!
One of the things I enjoyed the most was meeting two young producers from Suffolk, who introduced me to the joys of rapeseed oil. Cold pressed and packed with omega 3, it was suggested as the British alternative to olive oil. While olive oil is a key ingredient to me, which I could never go without, I believe that it is often overrated here in the UK, in the sense that too often I see rubbish random, sourced 'god-knows-where-from' olive oils sold for a ridiculous amount of money in supermarkets. I get my olive from Italy, from producers my parents know personally and was therefore intrigued to try a different variety from two farmers whose love and care for their product was so clearly evident. So I bought a bottle, went home and tried immediately by using it in my roasted pumpkin soup. The result was delicious and the rapeseed oil gave the soup a nutty, uplifting edge. You really learn something every day!

PS - I really must mention another super-exciting fact: I watched Giorgio Locatelli making saltimbocca alla romana using English veal, accompanied by wild chanterelle mushrooms and melanzane alla parmigiana. And I got to be the first in line to taste the final dish! Needless to say, it was out of this world!!!

Saturday, 8 May 2010

Asparagus Risotto

Because last Monday it was a bank holiday, we decided to take a short break and spend the long week-end in North Devon. We were quite lucky with the weather and drove around visiting many different villages, stopping over for lunch, dinner and of course, cream tea. My food highlights were a mixed grilled seafood platter that comprised bass, scallops and tiger prawns in Bideford; spanking fresh fish & chips in Braunton; and a crab and lemon mayonnaise sandwich followed by cream tea (with proper clotted cream and jam) in Lynmouth. On the way back, we stopped over at a farm shop that had a sign promising 'Freshly Picked Asparagus'. How to resist? Asparagus are one of the great gifts of spring to us, alongside swallows and daffodils. So as soon as we got home, I honoured this superb vegetable by making it the star ingredient of a creamy risotto.