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This works really well as a starter portion for 6 people. Make sure you use top quality fresh extra virgin olive oil from the most recent vintage. We buy fresh olive oil made by the Tuscan wineries Capezzana and Selvepiana. They’re not cheap but they taste fabulous when only the best olive oil will do.

Wine Suggestion: The iron rich Cavolo Nero requires something minerally and iron rich too, but you need to avoid wines with too much weight. We’d suggest trying the Gulfi Cerasuolo di Vittoria, a red from Sicily that is a blend of Frappatto and Nero d’Avola which combines an earthiness and power with a joyful fruit and fresh acidity giving the wine personality and depth without excess weight.

Farfalle al Cavolo Nero con Olio Nuovo – serves 6

  • 1.1kg cavolo nero leaves
  • sea salt and black pepper
  • 4 garlic cloves, peeled
  • 250ml extra virgin olive oil (see comment above)
  • 250g farfalle
  • Parmesan

Remove the stalks from the cavolo nero but keep the leaves whole. Blanch the leaves in a generous amount of boiling salted water along with 2 of the garlic cloves for just a few minutes. Put the blanched garlic and cavolo nero in a food processor and pulse to a coarse purée. In the last few seconds, pour in around 75ml of the oil to make a fairly liquid purée.

Crush the rest of the garlic with 1 tsp sea salt and stir into the purée with another 75ml of oil. Season to taste.

Cook the the farfalle in plenty of salted water, then drain. Add the pasta to the purée and stir until evenly coated. Pour in the remaining olive oil and serve with some grated Parmesan.

(Original recipe from The River Café by Rose Gray and Ruth Rogers, Ebury Press, 1995.)

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We got a surprise call from our great friend Ben who had some live lobsters which he was terrified of. He’s now got over this and is an expert lobster stabber and we got the benefit of two live lobsters too. I made this years ago before I met Jules and have always promised to cook it if two live lobsters arrive on our doorstep, so happy Friday night Jules! This recipe feeds 4 people – we had no problem finding 2 volunteers to help us eat it.

Il miglior brodo siciliano di aragosta – the best Sicilian  lobster broth – to serve 4

  • 150g dried lasagne sheets, smashed up
  • 2 x 1kg live lobsters
  • extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 large white onion, finely chopped
  • 6 cloves of garlic, peeled and finely chopped
  • 1 large carrot, peeled and finely chopped
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • 1 tsp chilli flakes or 1 or 2 small dried red chillies, crumbled
  • 1 tsp fennel seeds, smashed
  • 1/2 a bottle of Sicilian white wine – you can substitute any white wine
  • 850ml passata or 3 x 400g tins plum tomatoes, liquidized
  • a large handful of whole almonds, skins on
  • a small handful of fresh basil leaves
First you’re going to have to kill the lobsters. The best way to do this – and the fairest way for the lobster – is to get a large sharp knife, place the tip on the little crown on the head and chop straight down between its eyes. Be brave! Once you’ve killed your lobsters you need to twist and pull the head away from the tail. Put the tails and claws aside for now. Open the heads and discard the little grey stomach sack which will be near the eyes. Then just cut the head up into little pieces, keeping all the brown meat and other stuff.

Put a large pot on a very gentle heat. When hot, pour a good glug of olive oil in along with all the head pieces and lobster legs. You can turn the heat up a bit now. Add your onions, garlic, carrots, cinnamon stick, chillies and fennel seeds. Continue frying this for about 15 minutes – keep moving it around in the pot – so the onions take on a bit of colour but careful they don’t burn. If the pan gets too hot just splash in a bit of water.

Add your white wine and boil hard for 5 minutes before adding the passata and the same quantity of water. Bring back to the boil, then reduce the heat and simmer for about 20 or 30 minutes. Now put a colander on top of another large pot and pass the soup through it. Press down on the shells with the back of a ladle and let them drip for 5 minutes to make sure you get all the flavour out of them. You can now throw the shells away. Put the soup back on the heat to simmer. It should look like tomato soup – if you think it looks to thick you can add a little water.

Slice the lobster tails across, through the shell and the meat, into 2.5cm slices and put these into the broth. Crack open the claws and pick out all the meat and add this to the broth too. Continue to simmer for 8 more minutes. Meanwhile, cook the pasta in salted boiling water, then drain and toss into the soup for 4-5 minutes.

Chop the almonds very finely and stir into the soup. Taste and season if needed. Divide between 4 bowls, tear over some basil leaves and drizzle with some extra virgin olive oil.

Wine Suggestions: as this is such a rich dish you need to pair it with a wine that is a little more robust and full-bodied. For whites there are a couple of options: stay local and choose Sicilian wines like Inzolia or Grillo which have weight and a herbal minerality. The other option is to look at a classic Chardonnay with a bit of oak for structure. Try to pick one that has a little bit of acidity for freshness too. This was the option we went for and it worked a treat. For red, do the opposite and look for a fruity, but lighter style of wine like an easy and inexpensive Pinot Noir or Grenache – you want to avoid too much tannin and weight which would overwhelm the sweet, delicate lobster.

(Original recipe by Jamie Oliver in Jamie’s Italy)

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