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We cooked this fantastic recipe for Easter, avoiding the temptation of Spring lamb which is ridiculously expensive at present. Plus we think lamb is tastier later in the season when they are a bit older. This is the sort of recipe that Jono would choose, but I decide it looks too fiddly and we opt for something else. Something this weekend made me relent and give this a go … probably the prospect of a long weekend and nothing much to do!

Make friends with your butcher and ask them to debone the rabbit for you. The stuffing and rolling seems a bit tricky when you’re doing it and ours looked far from pretty but if you tie it tightly with string, wrap in some cling film and leave in the fridge for an hour, it will all stay together nicely and looks great when you cut it out. Be brave.

Wine Suggestion: Good with a Chianti Classico from a better producer and, if possible, a little age for some of the tertiary bottle development characters to emerge. For us we had a bottle of the Tenuta Sant’Alfonso, a single vineyard wine made by Rocca delle Macie from our cellar.

Stuffed rabbit – serves 4 to 6

  • 1kg deboned rabbit (about 1.2kg unboned)
  • 1 small red onion, finely diced
  • 1 tomato, chopped
  • 3 tbsp olive oil, plus a bit extra
  • 1 tbsp tomato purée
  • 30g pine nuts
  • 30g currants or sultanas
  • 200ml white wine
  • about 100g soft breadcrumbs
  • 10-12 slices streaky bacon or pancetta

Spread the deboned rabbit out over a work surface. Rub with olive oil and season with salt and pepper.

Heat the olive oil in a frying pan, add the onion and cook until soft, then add the tomatoes and fry for 2 minutes. Add the tomato purée, pine nuts and currants and cook for another minute. Add 100ml white wine and bubble until most of it has disappeared. Start adding the breadcrumbs, a handful at a time, until you have a stuffing that is neither too wet or too dry. It should clump in your hands and stay together but not feel too sticky. Season.

Make a pile of the stuffing, shaping with your hands, about 7cm from the less fat end of the rabbit. You need to leave a generous margin near the edges so the stuffing doesn’t squeeze out. Roll the rabbit into a fat log shape, tucking in the sides as you go. Wrap the joint in the bacon or pancetta and tie firmly widthways and lengthways with kitchen string. You can set it aside in the fridge for a while now if you need, we found this useful to firm it up a bit.

Preheat the oven to 200C/180C/Gas 6.

Heat some more oil in a frying pan, then brown the rabbit on all sides. Transfer to a deepish roasting tin, not too much bigger than the rabbit. Add rest of the wine to the frying pan, scraping the meaty bits on the pan with a wooden spoon, then pour this over the rabbit. Roast for 45 minutes until nice and golden on the outside. Allow to rest for 20 minutes before serving in thick slices.

(Original recipe from Two Kitchens: Family Recipes from Sicily and Rome by Rachel Roddy, Headline Home, 2017.)

 

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For many years we didn’t buy Polpo by Russell Norman. It has a fancy binding and was always wrapped in plastic in the bookshop, so there was no way to have a flick. We can’t remember now what made us take the plunge, but we’re so glad we did. We’ve cooked many of the recipes and recently took this book off the shelf again and cooked a few more, finishing with this steak dish. You probably don’t need Italian roast potatoes with rosemary as a side but we couldn’t resist.

Wine Suggestion: A kind birthday gift from our friends Nicola and Dave was a wine we knew nothing about, the Iuli Umberta and opening it to try with this dish was a revelation. From the Monferrato hills east of Turin, this Barbera is so full of energy and layered with subtle flavours and gentle spice; so easy and refreshing.

Flank steak with portobello mushrooms – serves 4

  • 800g flank steak, about 5cm thick
  • 4 handfuls of rocket leaves
  • 8 large Portobello mushrooms, sliced
  • 2 cloves of garlic, very finely chopped
  • 1 small handful of flat parsley leaves, chopped

Season the meat with plenty of salt and pepper.

We cooked ours on a hot barbecue but if you prefer you can oil a griddle pan and heat until hot, then grill the steak on both sides. 10-12 minutes in total should give you a medium-cooked steak. Leave it to rest in a warm place for 15 minutes.

Meanwhile, dress the rocket leaves in some good olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Divide the rocket between the serving plates or you can put it onto one large platter.

Heat 2 tbsp of olive oil in a large frying pan with the garlic and most of the parsley. Add the mushrooms and fry until soft and glossy, then set aside. We like to season these a little too.

When the meat has rested, sliced it thinly. Lay the steak on top of the rocket, then scatter with the mushrooms and serve with a drizzle of good olive oil and the rest of the parsley.

(Original recipe from Polpo by Russell Norman, Bloomsbury, 2012.)

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Somewhere along the line we forgot about spaghetti carbonara, but remembered it again last night. This really is a store-cupboard dish. We’re never without pasta, eggs or Parmesan and more often than not there’s a half packet of pancetta or bacon lardons in the fridge needing used. Thursday night might turn into carbonara night!

Wine Suggestion: An open bottle of Edetaria via Terra red, made from Garnache Tinta grown in Terra Alta south of Barcelona was a joyful accompaniment. Fresh with refined spices and tannins; a gourmand wine. We don’t know whether it was the night or the wine but we had the chats all night after this food and wine.

Spaghetti Carbonara – serves 2 – though you can of course double to serve 4

  • 200g spaghetti
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 100g pancetta cubes or bacon lardons
  • 1 clove of garlic, crushed
  • 25ml vermouth or white wine
  • 1 large egg
  • 50g grated pecorino or Parmesan
  • 1 tbsp chopped flat-leaf parsley

Cook the spaghetti in lots of very salty water according to the timings on the pack.

Meanwhile, heat the olive oil in a large frying pan and fry the pancetta over a medium heat until crispy. Add the garlic and cook gently for a couple of minutes before the vermouth or white wine and bubble until well reduced. Remove from the heat and set aside.

Put the egg into a large bowl and beat it with a fork. Add a little salt and plenty of black pepper, then add the cheese and stir to combine.

Drain the pasta in a colander and immediately transfer to the bowl with the egg and cheese, don’t be too fussy when you’re draining as a little of the pasta cooking water will help make a silky sauce. Stir together until the spaghetti is coated in a glossy sauce, then add the pancetta and stir again.

Serve in warmed bowls and sprinkle with the parsley.

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This handy Italian chicken dish is great for a Friday night and kids love it! Serve with a green salad, lemon wedges and mayonnaise. If you have eggs leftover you can pop them in the fridge to scramble the next morning.

Wine Suggestion: keep it simple with an easy, dry white of your choice: Chardonnay, Verdicchio, Chenin … or tonights choice the Flying Solo Grenache Blanc – Viognier blend from Domaine Gayda. Easy, friendly citrus and apple flavours with hints of heather and a slight nuttiness, finishing clean and dry.

Chicken Cotoletta – serves 4

  • 2 chicken breasts, sliced lengthways with your knife parallel to the board to give 4 thin fillets (your butcher will do this for you if you ask)
  • juice of ½ lemon
  • 1 handful of Italian 00 flour
  • 3 medium free-range eggs, lightly beaten
  • about 300g panko breadcrumbs

Put each piece of chicken between sheets of clingfilm, then beat them gently with a rolling pin until nice and thin. Season and sprinkle with the lemon juice.

Get 3 plates out and put the flour on one, the eggs on the next, and finally the breadcrumbs. Dip the chicken into the flour, shaking off any excess, then gently into the egg and finally into the breadcrumbs.

Heat a large frying pan with plenty of olive oil and fry the chicken until golden and crispy, a couple of minutes on each side. You can do this in batches if easier.

(Original recipe from Polpo by Russell Norman, Bloomsbury, 2012.)

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A recipe from Southern Italian Cooking by Valentina Harris. There is no better vehicle to showcase purple sprouting broccoli, which is in season right now. You need top quality ingredients as they will shine in this simple dish. The sausages were Italian with fennel and the PSB our friends at McNally Family Farm.

Wine Suggestion: There’s a certain honest rusticity to this dish which we think suits Nebbiolo or similar, but not the heady heights of Barolo, look for a lesser known area. We went for the lesser known Freisa grape, also from Piedmont. A bottle of the Olim Bauda Freisa and it tasted of roses and raspberry’s with a decent whack of smooth, honest tannins; satisfying and generous alongside the food.

Salsicce con Broccoletti – serves 4

  • 1 tbsp lard (we used a mix of olive oil and butter)
  • 2 cloves of garlic, crushed
  • 1 dried red chilli pepper
  • 500g Italian sausages (you need top quality Italian sausages which have a much coarser texture than regular butchers sausages)
  • 750g purple sprouting broccoli, rinsed and trimmed

A large shallow casserole dish works well for this. Melt the lard and fry the garlic and chilli pepper over a gentle heat for 5 minutes. Add the sausages and brown all over (you might want to do this in a frying pan so you don’t burn the garlic, if you do, make sure that the tip all the oil that comes out of the sausages back into the pan).

Once browned all over, turn the heat down and cook the sausages gently for 5 minutes. Add the broccoli and season with a little salt. Stir everything to coat in the fat.

Cover the pan and simmer for 20 minutes, a splash of water will help steam the broccoli and stop the dish drying out.

(Original recipe from Southern Italian Cooking by Valentina Harris, Pavilion Books Limited, 1993.)

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This is a simple tomato sauce for pasta with a bit of magic from Marcella Hazan that makes it taste special. The sauce is intensely mushroomy and absolutely delicious. We don’t often cook from Marcella’s The Essentials of Italian Cooking but we are never disappointed when we do.

Wine Suggestion: This needs a simple red, but with a vibrant core and a new favourite for this brief is the Umani Ronchi Rosso Conero “Serrano”. Mostly Montepulciano but with a touch of Sangiovese this is engagingly easy to drink with ripe cherry flavours and a round and juicy core of fruit; very pleasurable without being too weighty.

Tomato sauce with porcini mushrooms – serves 4

  • 2 tbsp finely chopped shallot or onion
  • 35g butter
  • 1 tbsp vegetable oil
  • 2 tbsp pancetta/prosciutto cut in strips, we used cubed pancetta
  • 400g top quality plum tomatoes, cut up, with their juice
  • 25g dried porcini mushrooms, reconstituted (see below)
  • 450g pasta, we used penne, cooked to serve
  • freshly grated Parmesan, to serve

To reconstitute the mushrooms: soak the mushrooms in 500ml of barely warm for at least 30 minutes. Lift the mushrooms out of the water and squeeze out as much water as possible, do this over the bowl to catch the liquid. Rinse the mushrooms if needed to get rid of any soil, then pat dry with kitchen paper. Reserve the liquid.

Put the shallot into a saucepan with the butter and oil, over a medium heat. Cook until the shallot turns pale golden, then add the pancetta and cook for a couple of minutes.

Add the tomatoes, the reconstituted mushrooms, the reserved mushroom liquid, salt and plenty of black pepper. Let the sauce bubble at a steady simmer for about 40 minutes, you want the fat and the tomato to separate and the sauce to reduce to a nice consistency. Turn it up and bubble a bit faster to reduce if you need.

Toss the pasta with the sauce and serve with grated Parmesan.

(Original recipe from The Essentials of Italian Cooking by Marcella Hazan, Macmillan London Limited, 1992.)

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Game season comes and goes every year and sometimes we don’t get around to cooking any before it’s over, which is a shame as we love the flavours. This year, however, we got ourselves organised and made this rich and full-flavoured pheasant ragu for pasta. Your butcher should be able to order a pheasant for you if it’s not something they usually stock.

Wine Suggestion: Find yourself a good Nebbiolo with a little bit of age on it. Sitting in our cellar was a Pira Luigi Barolo Marenca from 2012. A combination of fresh, dried and morello cherry flavours with classic rose and tar aromas; massive, under-stated power, elegantly refined and opening up beautifully over a number of hours. At eight years old this is still evolving nicely and has a good life ahead of it … wish we had a few more!

Pheasant ragu for pasta – serves 4

  • 250ml chicken stock
  • a handful of dried porcini mushrooms
  • 1 pheasant
  • 80g pancetta cubes
  • 2 shallots, sliced
  • 2 cloves of garlic, crushed
  • a bay leaf
  • 125ml white wine
  • 2 tbsp chopped parsley
  • ½ lemon
  • 400g tagliatelle, cooked to serve
  • Parmesan, to serve

Bring the chicken stock to a simmer, then add the mushrooms and leave them in the hot stock while you brown the pheasant.

Brown the pheasant in a heavy-based casserole dish in a little olive oil, you want it to be nicely coloured on all sides. When the pheasant is browned, add the pancetta cubes and allow to brown. Add the shallots and garlic and stir for a minute before adding the bay leaf. Pour in the white wine and bubble for a minute. Add the stock and the mushrooms, leave any gritty bits behind in the pan. Season well and bring to a simmer, then cover with a tight lid and cook gently for about an hour or until the meat starts to fall off the bones.

Remove the pheasant from the pan and discard the bay leaf. Let the pheasant cook for a bit, then strip the meat off the bones and tear into pieces. Meanwhile, simmer the sauce to thicken it a little and cook the tagliatelle in lots of salty water.

Return the shredded pheasant to the sauce with the chopped parsley and a squeeze of lemon juice. Toss with the tagliatelle and serve with Parmesan.

(Original recipe by Lulu Grimes in Olive Magazine, October 2014.)

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We grew borlotti beans in our little city garden this year. We didn’t get a huge crop but satisfying nonetheless. As we had a load of things going on when we picked these, we froze them for a couple of weeks until we were ready. It made this lovely pasta and bean dish by Joe Trivelli and it felt a bit like late summer again for a moment.

Wine Suggestion: A crisp, dry White or Rosé would be our first choice with a seafood pasta like this. As it’s full flavoured we avoided a lighter style and went for Graziano Pra’s Soave “Otto”, vibrantly full of crisp apples and pears, impressive length and a nutty, saline finish

Pasta with Beans & Mussels – serves 4

  • 1kg mussels
  • 300g fresh borlotti beans
  • 5 cloves of garlic
  • 1 celery stick, peeled and cut into pieces
  • 1 ripe tomato, halved
  • 75ml dry white wine
  • a small bunch of parsley, chopped
  • 1 dried chilli
  • 2 anchovy fillets
  • 200g tubetti pasta

Put the beans into a large pan with 4 of the garlic cloves, the celery and tomato. Cover with 6cm of water and a splash of olive oil, then bring to the boil. Simmer until cooked, about 40 minutes.

Meanwhile, heat a large pan until hot, then add the mussels with a tablespoon of oil and the wine. Cover and keep over a hight heat, shaking, until the mussels have just opened. then drain into a colander over a bowl to catch the juice. Don’t be tempted to cook them for any longer. Pick the mussels from the shells.

When the beans are cooked, chop the last clove of garlic. Heat 2 tbsp of olive oil in a large saucepan, then add the garlic, most of the parsley and the chilli and fry for  a minute before adding the anchovies. As soon as they have melted, pour over the mussel juice (leave any grit behind) and bring to the boil. Add the borlotti beans with their liquid and the pasta.

Cook until the pasta is al dente, stirring often so the pasta doesn’t stick. You can add more hot water if you need. When the pasta is cooked, turn off the heat, add the rest of the parsley, the mussels and seasoning. Cover and leave to sit off the heat for 5 minutes before serving.

(Original recipe from The Modern Italian Cook by Joe Trivelli, Seven Dials, 2018.)

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Vitello Tonnato

Well it’s the last day of summer on this side of the world but we’re still hanging on for a while longer. Vitello tonnato is a true holiday dish and one we can never resist when we see it on a menu – forever summer!

You need to cook the veal and make the mayonnaise the night before you wish to serve.

Wine suggestion: naturally this goes with a range of Italian wines, either white or youthful reds. Make sure they aren’t too lush though and keep a bit of acidity or else the caprrs will work against you and you’ll lose the delicate flavour balance. To push out of this comfort zone though we headed east to Greece and a new found favourite: Thymiopoulos’ Xinomavro Jeunes-Vignes from Naoussa. With hints of youthful Burgundy and Piedmont, touches of crunchiness, delightful earthy red fruits and plenty of class to match the dish.

Vitello tonnato – serves 6

  • 2 banana shallots, halved lengthways
  • 1 carrot, halved
  • 1 celery stick, halved
  • 1 bay leaf
  • small bunch of thyme
  • 6 peppercorns
  • 200ml white wine
  • 500ml chicken stock
  • 600g rose veal fillet, trimmed of any fatty bits and sinew

FOR THE MAYONNAISE:

  • 2 large egg yolks
  • 198g tin tuna in sunflower oil, drained
  • 1 tbsp baby capers, drained
  • 1½ tbsp lemon juice
  • 2 tsp Dijon mustard
  • ½ tsp caster sugar
  • ¼ tsp sea salt, plus extra to season
  • 100ml sunflower oil
  • 50ml olive oil

TO GARNISH:

  • 2 tbsp baby capers, drained
  • roughly chopped parsley
  • 12 caper berries
  • lemon wedges

Put the shallots, carrot, celery, bay leaf, thyme, peppercorns, wine and chicken stock into a large saucepan. Add 1 tsp of salt and bring to a simmer, then cover and cook for 30 minutes.

Place the veal into the stock, then turn down to a bare simmer and poach for 15 minutes, turning regularly. Remove from the liquid and set aside to cool. Keep 100ml of the cooking liquid for the mayonnaise.

When the veal has cooled, season it generously with black pepper and wrap tightly in clingfilm. Put in the fridge and chill overnight.

To make the mayonnaise, put the egg yolks, tuna, capers, 1 tbsp of the lemon juice, mustard and sugar into a food processor. Season with salt and black pepper. Whizz until well combined, then gradually add both the oils and blend until smooth and thickened.

Add 2 tbsp of the reserved cooking liquid and blend again to give a soft consistency, add a bit more if you need. Spoon the mayonnaise into a bowl, then season again and add some more lemon juice if needed. Cover the surface with clingfilm and chill in the fridge overnight.

When ready to serve, slice the veal very thinly and arrange in overlapping slices on a platter and top with spoons of the tuna mayonnaise. Garnish with baby capers, parsley and caper berries, then season again with black pepper and a little salt. Serve with lemon wedges on the side.

(Recipe from the Hairy Bikers’ Meat Feasts by Si King and Dave Myers, Weidenfeld & Nicolson, 2015.)

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Tuna cooked in lentils

This really is the perfect dish by Joe Trivelli. Chunky pieces of tuna, earthy lentils and sweet tomatoes. We really recommend this one.

Wine Suggestion: Chill down a Grignolino, a red from Piedmont, and you’ve got a joyful  match. A friend brings in Olim Bauda’s version which is excellent, but we’re conscious this is a hard grape to find so if you can’t find one try a chilled, youthful Beaujolais or a Dolcetto.

Tuna Cooked in Lentils – serves 4

  • 200g dried lentils
  • 3 tbsp olive oil
  • 2 cloves of garlic, peeled
  • 1 tbsp plain flour
  • 1 tsp coriander seeds, crushed
  • 350g thick tuna steak, cut into 3 cm chunks
  • 200g cherry tomatoes, halved
  • small bunch of basil leaves
  • 40g butter
  • 1 lemon
  • best extra virgin olive oil

Rinse the lentils and cook in water until tender, about 20 minutes, then drain.

Season the flour with salt and stir in the crushed coriander seeds. Lightly dust the tuna in the flour mixture.

Heat the olive oil in a wide pan and fry the garlic until golden. Remove the garlic from the pan and add the tuna. Turn quickly, then add the tomatoes and basil, followed by the lentils. Toss a few times, then turn off the heat. Put the butter on top and leave in the pan for 8 minutes, basting the tuna with the lentils. Squeeze over some lemon juice, season with salt and pepper and drizzle with olive oil.

(Original recipe from The Modern Italian Cook by Joe Trivelli, Seven Dials, 2018.)

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Caprese pasta salad

We regularly have a caprese salad (tomatoes, mozzarella & basil) for lunch in the summer months. This pasta version is a good one and makes it a bit more substantial.

Caprese pasta salad – serves 4

  • 200g orecchiette, cooked and rinsed under cold water, then drained again
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 tbsp red wine vinegar
  • 150g baby plum or cherry tomatoes, halved
  • 1 avocado, diced
  • 150g bocconcini (mini mozzarella) or a ball of mozzarella, torn into small pieces
  • a bunch of basil, shredded

Put the cooked pasta into a serving bowl with the olive oil, red wine vinegar and tomatoes, then season and toss.

Add the avocado, bocconcini and basil. Toss again gently and serve.

(Original recipe by Janine Ratcliffe in Olive Magazine, July 2018.)

 

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Risotto Primavera

This risotto isn’t laden with cheese and butter like so many other recipes and so a good option for a weeknight and full of Spring flavours. We left out the chives and rocket as we didn’t have them but we’ve kept them in the recipe as they would make nice additions.

Wine Suggestion: this was delightful with a young white Muscadet from Domaine de la Chauviniere, but we can see it working with youthful Sauvignon Blanc or Grüner Veltliner as well.

Risotto Primavera – serves 4 (easily halved)

  • 350g asparagus, snap of the woody ends and cut into 5cm lengths on the diagonal
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 bunch scallions, sliced
  • 175g frozen peas
  • 250g frozen broad beans
  • 2 tbsp shredded basil
  • 2 tbsp snipped chives
  • 1 tbsp finely chopped mint
  • finely grated zest of 1 lemon
  • 1.7 litres vegetable stock (we used Marigold vegetable bouillon)
  • 4 shallots, finely chopped
  • 3 fat garlic cloves, finely chopped
  • 300g carnaroli or arborio rice
  • 150ml dry white wine
  • 25g Parmesan, grated
  • 25g rocket leaves, to garnish

Heat half the oil in a large, deep frying pan. Stir-fry the asparagus over a medium-high heat for about 4 minutes or until browned all over. Add the scallions and fry for another minute or two until browned. Remove these with a slotted spoon, season with pepper, and set aside.

Cook the peas and broad beans in separate pans of boiling water for a few minutes, then drain. Pop the broad beans out of their skins and set both aside.

Mix the basil, chives, mint and lemon zest together in a small bowl and season with pepper.

Pour the stock into a saucepan and keep over a very low heat.

Pour the rest of the oil into the pan that you used to cook the asparagus. Add the shallots and garlic and fry for 3-4 minutes or until soft and slightly browned. Stir in the rice and cook for a minute or two over a medium-high heat or until it starts to sizzle.

Add the wine and stir until it has been absorbed. Now start gradually adding the stock, a ladleful at a time, stirring until absorbed before adding more. Keep adding stock for about 20 minutes or until the rice is al dente. Season with pepper.

Remove the pan from the heat. Add an extra ladle of stock, then scatter over the vegetables, some pepper, half the herb & lemon mixture and half the cheese. Cover with a lid and leave to rest for a few minutes. Gently stir to combine, then serve in warmed bowls some rocket and the rest of the herbs and cheese sprinkled over.

(Original recipe from BBC Good Food)

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Monkfish Stew with Tomatoes, Garlic, Chilli & Black Olives

This is delicious served on some toasted sourdough and drizzled with your best olive oil.

Wine Suggestion: The dish is from the Marche and from near the region’s capital, Ancona s grown some of the best Verdicchio and we’re lucky to be friends with the Sartarelli family who make some of the best. Our regular is their Tralivio made from the oldest vineyards in the property, though if you push to the Balciana you’ll get one of the best Verdicchio’s in Italy and something quite special. Both work with this dish.

Monkfish stew with tomatoes, garlic, chilli & black olives – serves 6

  • 3 cloves of garlic, finely chopped
  • 1 mild red chilli, finely chopped
  • 3 sprigs of rosemary
  • 1 tbsp finely chopped rosemary leaves
  • 4 tbsp black olives, stones removed
  • 1.5kg monkfish fillet, cut into chunks (make sure the fishmonger removes the grey membrane for you)
  • 70ml white wine
  • 500ml good fish stock
  • 4 tbsp tomato passata
  • 15 cherry tomatoes, halved

To serve:

  • 6 large slices of good bread, toasted
  • 3 tbsp extra virgin olive oil

Heat a splash of olive oil in a large deep sauté pan with a lid. Add the garlic, chilli, rosemary sprigs and chopped rosemary, and sauté for a minute.

Add the olives, then the fish and season. Sauté for about 5 minutes, stirring.

Add the wine and bubble to burn off the alcohol, then add the fish stock, tomato passata and tomatoes. Cover with the lid and cook for 10 minutes or until the fish is tender. Discard the rosemary sprigs and  transfer to a large serving dish.

Our monkfish threw heaps of watery liquid. If this happens to you, just scoop the fish out with a slotted spoon and reduce the sauce, then return the fish to the stew and continue to cook as above.

Serve the fish on top of the toasted bread, drizzled with your best olive oil.

(Original recipe from Made at Home by Giorgio Locatelli, HarperCollinsPublishers, 2017.)

 

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Pasta with Cauliflower, Anchovies, Saffron, Pine Nuts & Raisins

We halved this recipe and made it for 2 with a tiny but perfect, new-season cauliflower. You might have everything else in the cupboard already.

Wine Suggestion: Keep it Italian, given the origin of the dish, southern and white. Fiano, Greco, Falanghina … all good as long as the one you have isn’t too heavy. Our Macchialupa Falanghina was a delightful choice.

Pasta with cauliflower, anchovies, saffron, pine nuts & raisins (Pasta chi vrocculi arriminati) – serves 4

  • 1 head of cauliflower, about 1 kg, cut into florets
  • 1 small onion, thinly sliced
  • 50g raisins, softened in a little hot water
  • 6 tbsp of good olive oil
  • a pinch of red chilli flakes
  • 6 anchovy fillets in oil (we like Ortiz)
  • 50g pine nuts
  • a pinch of saffron
  • 500g dried pasta e.g. bucatini, casarecce or penne

Bring a large pan of water to the boil and season well with salt. Add the cauliflower and cook until tender, about 6 minutes but do check as you don’t want to overcook it.

Warm the olive oil in a large, deep frying pan over a low heat. Add the onion and fry gently until soft, then add the chilli and anchovies. Keep frying until the anchovies have dissolved.

Lift the cauliflower from the water with a slotted spoon and add to the onion pan, stir and cook for another couple of minutes to let the flavours combine.

Drain the raisins, squeeze out any excess water, and add to the pan with the pine nuts and saffron. Taste and season with salt if needed, then remove from the heat.

Bring the cauliflower-cooking water back to the boil and use it to cook the pasta until al dente. Lift the pasta out with a slotted spoon and add to the frying pan. Return the cauliflower and pasta pan to the heat and cook for another minute or two, then serve.

(Original recipe from Two Kitchens: Family Recipes from Sicily and Rome by Rachel Roddy, Headline Home, 2017.)

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Pasta with Cime di Rapa

So clearly this is not orecchiette but trofie is all we could get and we’re not fussy. We’re very excited to get cime di rapa, also known as broccoli rabe, and very similar to turnip tops. These delicious greens are grown in Ireland – who knew? You need to trim any of the thicker stalks as they tend to be a bit stringy and unpleasant, the rest however is delicious. Cheese is apparently not traditional on this dish but we like it.

Wine suggestion: Italian inspired and from the south we found a bottle of the Gulfi Vulcanzjria, a Chardonnay, Carricante, Albinello blend grown on Mt Etna. Fresh, full and intense with a stoney core. Good alternatives would have been Greco di Tufo, Falanghina, or some more serious, but not too hot Vermentinos.

Orecchiette with Greens – serves 4

  • 400g orecchette or whatever short pasta you’ve got
  • 500g cime di rapa (you could also use sprouting broccoli, kale or cavalo nero), discard the thicker stalks, leave the broccoli looking bit whole and shred the finer stalks and leaves into 3cm pieces
  • 3 tbsp olive oil
  • 4 garlic cloves, finely chopped
  • 1 tsp chilli flakes
  • zest of ½ lemon
  • Parmesan or Pecorino cheese, grated, to serve

Boil the pasta in load of salty water according to the timings on the pack.

Meanwhile, put the cime di rapa into a large pot and pour in about 3 cm depth of water and season with salt. Bring the water to the boil, then cover and cook for 5 minutes or until tender and wilted. Drain.

Heat the oil in a large frying pan and gently fry the garlic for a minute or so, don’t let it brown. Add the drained greens, chilli flakes and lemon zest. Season well with salt and pepper.

Reserve a mug of the cooking water before draining the pasta. Add a few tbsp of the water to the greens if they need moistening, then tip in the pasta. Toss everything together in the pan for a minute, then serve in warm bowls with the cheese sprinkled over.

(Original recipe from The Hairy Bikers’ Mediterranean Adventure by Si King & Dave Myers, Seven Dials, 2017.)

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Mozzarella with salami, cannellini beans & olives

If you can find a ball of buffalo mozzarella, then lucky you. There is none to be had in our vicinity at the moment, but it will return. This is a super simple idea from the River Café which makes a lovely lunch or a starter for sharing – for when we can share stuff again. We will share stuff again.

Salami with Cannellini Beans & Olives

  • 1 x 400 tin of cannellini beans, drained & rinsed
  • a squeeze of lemon juice
  • small black olives, we like the wrinkly ones, pitted
  • finely sliced fennel salami – of course any salami or other cured meat will do, and there are loads of brilliant Irish producers to choose from
  • a ball of buffalo mozzarella

Gently heat the beans with a squeeze of fresh lemon juice and some olive oil. Season and purée – a stick blender does the job here.

Toss the olives in a little of your special bottle of olive oil.

Put the salami on a plate with the mozzarella and serve with the bean purée alongside and the olives scattered over.

Simple and delicious.

(Original idea from Italian Two Easy by Rose Gray and Ruth Rogers, Clarkson Potter, 2006.)

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Chicken Cacciatore

We were missing all the family and friends we were supposed to be with on Easter Sunday but had fun with an Easter egg hunt, Quiche Lorraine for lunch and this for dinner, which was truly delicious. Served with Italian-style roast potatoes, plus we pulled the rest of the chicken off the bones and stirred into the sauce for pasta another day. Our little bunny has already claimed the leftovers for her dinner for the rest of the week.

Wine Suggestion: As it was Easter and we wanted to have something special with dinner … off to the small cellar of hoarded wines we went. The first Italian we came across was chosen, and though we knew it wasn’t cheap, we’d purchased it many years ago at a very good price. We very much enjoyed the Sassicaia 2008. A classic wine of the world, made from Cabernet Sauvignon and Cabernet Franc, and drinking truly fabulously now. Interestingly it was the vintage that had no “signature” head winemaker at the winery; well done those cellar hands and winery workers who just made the wine as it should be! Ignore the price if you have one and just enjoy this wine as a special event like we did. Lucky us, and pity we only had a single bottle.

Chicken cacciatore – serves 4

  • 1 large chicken jointed into 8, we used 8 chicken thighs
  • 1 onion, finely chopped
  • 2 cloves of garlic, sliced
  • 70g pancetta cubes – didn’t have these so cut some thick-cut back bacon into strips
  • a glass of red wine, about 200ml
  • 2 x 400g tins of cherry tomatoes or tins of chopped tomatoes
  • 2 tbsp capers, rinsed and drained
  • 10 black olives, pitted and halved
  • a handful of basil leaves

When you get your chicken home, remove all the packaging and season it generously with salt, then put back into the fridge until ready to cook. If, like us, you had the chicken in the freezer and forgot to season, take it out of the fridge and season with salt, then leave out of the fridge for 30 minutes before you start cooking.

Before you start to cook, season the chicken all over with some black pepper.

Heat 2 tbsp of olive oil in a large frying pan and fry the chicken until golden all over. You will probably need to do this in two batches. Remove the chicken from the pan and set aside.

Add the onions and garlic and cook gently until soft. Add the pancetta (or bacon substitute) and continue to cook for another few minutes.

Add the glass of wine to the pan and simmer until almost evaporated, then add the tomatoes and plenty of seasoning. Simmer for 15 minutes or until the sauce is thickened. Stir in the capers and olives.

Heat the oven to 190C/fan 170C/gas 5.

Tip the sauce into an ovenproof dish that can fit the chicken in a single layer. Lay the chicken pieces into the sauce, leaving the skin exposed. Cook in the oven for 30-40 minutes or until cooked through. Stir in the basil and serve.

(Original recipe by Lulu Grimes & Janine Ratcliffe in Olive Magazine, April 2012)

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Spaghetti with Roasted Red Mullet

It feels a bit weird posting recipes like this but at the same time we think its important to remember that there are no food shortages. The fish shops are open and fishermen continue to fish and while this continues, we’re going to make the most of it.

Wine Suggestion: a good rule of thumb when matching wines is to look at the source of the food and see what is being grown nearby. Today, an Italian seafood pasta drags us to the Poggio ai Ginepri Vermentino, grown on the Tuscan coast; both floral and salty in equal amounts with a good dollop of tasty fruit in the middle.

Spaghetti with roasted red mullet – serves 2

  • 4 small fillets of red mullet – ask the fish shop to fillet them for you and make sure you check them over for tiny bones
  • a handful of black olives, pitted
  • a dried chilli or half a tsp of dried chilli flakes
  • 200g cherry tomatoes
  • your best extra virgin olive oil
  • some fresh thyme, leaves stripped
  • 200g spaghetti

Preheat your oven to 200C/400F.

Prick the cherry tomatoes with a fork, then toss with a little olive oil, season and spread over a baking tray. Roast in the oven for 20 minutes.

Put the fillets of red mullet in a single layer in a shallow baking dish, sprinkle with thyme and the dried chilli, then season. Drizzle with oil and roast in the oven for 5 minutes.

Cook the spaghetti in loads of salty water until al dente. Drain and return to the pan.

Add the olives and tomatoes to the pasta with 1 tbsp of olive oil and season. Add the red mullet and toss gently, then serve.

(Original recipe from Italian Two Easy: Simple Recipes form the London River Cafe by Rose Gray and Ruth Rogers, Clarkson Potter, 2006)

 

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Genoese Squid with Potatoes

Mothers Day dinner 2020. Not a huge roast or a barbecue with the rest of the family but a glorious sunny day and this Diana Henry recipe, which was perfect! Great for all of us on a budget now too, squid is cheap, and not everyone realises that you can slow cook it. The sauce this dish has is so vibrant and rich and when we reheated the leftovers in the oven two days later it was still amazing.

Wine Suggestion: we chose a classic wine for seafood and an explemary winery, the  Pazo de Señorans Albariño 2018 which is a wine we love both in youth and as it ages and gains texture and complexity. The salty sea air ideas you get from Albariño just seem to work so well.

Genoese squid with potatoes – serves 4

  • 750g squid, cleaned (look up online how to do it if you need, we used some pre-cleaned squid tubes from the fish shop)
  • 550g waxy potatoes
  • 5 tbsp olive oil
  • 4 cloves of garlic
  • 350ml white wine
  • leaves from 2 oregano/marjoram sprigs
  • 2½ tbsp chopped flat leaf parsley
  • 400g tin cherry tomatoes
  • extra virgin olive oil, to finish

Wash the squid and remove any gunge from the inside the tubes. Cut the tubes into thick rings. Cut the hard bit from the end of each tentacle and slice the wings into 2 or 3. Cut the tentacles too if they’re big. Rinse everything in a sieve, then dry well with kitchen roll.

Wash the potatoes (you can peel or not) and cut into 4cm thick slices.

Heat the olive oil in a large sauté pan. When the oil is really hot, tip in the squid and garlic and toss around for a minute. Add the white wine, oregano, 1½ tbsp of the parsley, tomatoes and plenty of seasoning. Cover, reduce the heat, and simmer for 30 minutes.

Add the potatoes, then season again, cover and cook for a further 30 minutes or until the potatoes are tender. Taste again for seasoning, you might need to add a bit of extra salt to make the sauce sing, sprinkle over the rest of the parsley and serve with your best olive oil drizzled on top.

(Original recipe from Food from Plenty by Diana Henry, Mitchell Beazley, 2010)

 

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Ditali Pasta with Cauliflower, Saffron and Tomato Cream Sauce

We made this Sicilian pasta dish by Rick Stein on Valentine’s Day and it was lovely.

Wine Suggestion: this dish needs a rich white wine to match the cream and saffron and a vibrancy for the anchovies. We opened a Gulfi Carjcanti, a Sicilian white made from the local carricante grape. Complex and refreshing with apples, blossom and hints of sea breezes on the nose and vibrant, juicy and mineral on the palate.

Ditali pasta with cauliflower, saffron and tomato cream sauce – serves 4 (easily halved)

  • 25g anchovy fillets in olive oil, drained
  • 5 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • 50g fresh white breadcrumbs
  • 1 large cauliflower, broken into small florets (discard the core) – about 750g
  • 5 garlic cloves, finely chopped
  • 1 medium-hot red chilli, seeded and finely chopped or ½ tsp crushed dried chilli flakes
  • 3 tbsp sun-dried tomato paste
  • a large pinch of saffron strands
  • 450g ditali or other small tubular pasta
  • 5 plum tomatoes from a tin
  • 2 tbsp double cream
  • 2 tbsp chopped flat-leaf parsley
  • finely grated Parmesan, to serve

Melt the anchovies in a small frying pan over a lowish heat, then set aside.

Heat 1 tbsp of the olive oil in a large, deep frying pan, add the breadcrumbs and stir over a medium heat until golden and crispy. Season with salt and pepper, then tip onto a plate lined with kitchen paper.

Heat the remaining 4 tbsp of oil in the same pan, add the cauliflower and cook over a medium heat for about 5 minutes without colouring, until starting to soften. Add the garlic, chilli, season and cook for another minutes.

Mix the sun-dried tomato paste with 120ml of water and stir this into the cauliflower. Cover with a lid and cook over a low heat for 15 minutes or until just tender.

Meanwhile, pour 50ml of warm water over the saffron strands and leave to soak.

Bring a large saucepan of water to the boil and add lots of salt (Rick suggests 8 tsp – we just add a load). Cook the pasta according to the timings on the pack.

Add the saffron water, tomatoes and anchovies to the cauliflower and season. Increase the heat slightly and cook uncovered until the cauliflower is very soft. You might need to break it up a bit with a wooden spoon to help it along. When the cauliflower is completely soft add the cream and the parsley.

Drain the pasta and return to the pan. Add the cauliflower mixture and toss everything together well and spoon into warm bowls. Sprinkle with the breadcrumbs and cheese.

(Original recipe from Rick Stein’s Mediterranean Escapes, BBC Books, 2007.)

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