New year new adventures…

It seems like yesterday that we were looking up to Christmas… and once again I am guilty as charged from not blogging for a long time! December turned out to be a tough month, with 2 bouts of various bugs which netted me half a stone and generally made me feel pretty dreary… so much so that I missed the fabulous TFGE Christmas do at Locanda dei Gusti… 😦 what a shame, but I was still under the influence of the dreaded norovirus!
Christmas was what was needed though… spending a bit less than a fortnight with family in Rome, enjoying walks and exhibition with lovely husband recharged my batteries.
As ever, we rekindled our family traditions for the Eve–our thin dinner!–and for the Day–our big dinner! 🙂
I made my fritto alla Romana and this year it came out very well, light and fluffy. Don’t ask me how, making the batter has no rime or reason for me, I use the same method and yet every time it is different. So, cauliflower florets and apples enjoyed the batter treatment whereas sliced artichokes were just dipped in egg and flour… ok, frying for an hour and half is a bit of a chore, but then the results are rather amazing! The Eve also saw my Mum back at the helm of pasta al tonno, roasted fish in the oven and a casserole of various seafood and crustaceans!
The Day was well, traditional… fettuccine al pomodoro were followed by roast lamb and roast veal loaf, potato roasties and steamed greens–broccoli from our kitchen garden and also steamed carrots and various salads!
Capodanno was spent with good friends–and I contributed la lenticchia, i.e. lentils stewed with garlic, celery and tomato, a traditional dish for New Year’s Eve, as it symbolises money and good luck. I enjoyed these on their own, but they are traditionally served with cotechino! Look here for an idea:
We got back refreshed and ready for more adventures… see the next posts for what I have been up to. I promise more regular kitchen and garden updates but watch out for my pics on twitter too!


Christmas in Rome…

Eventually we got away, yay! We are in  Rome enjoying some good family time… It was great making Christmas Eve “thin” dinner… Pasta al tonno (you will find the recipe on an earlier post!), sea bream fillets in potato crust, salad and, of course, il fritto di Natale! Once again I spend two good hours in front of big pots on e stove, frying away cauliflower florets, artichoke slices and apple wedges.

It all came put incredibly well, so I was able to leave for Midnight Mass really happy! So, how do you make the fritto?? First of all, just to give some context… In Rome it is a tradition to fry for the Eve, to counterbalance the fact that there is no meat on the menu, I think… In my family we fry the above plus ricotta cubes, but my Mum decided against it and who am I to question? 🙂

First, make the batter… In a bowl pour in about 800g plain 00 flour, the add pinch of salt and a couple of spoonfuls olive oil, mixing well. THen start pouring some warm water, keeping stirring and if needed helping yourselves with a whisk to eliminate lumps, til you get a smooth and runny, but not watery consistency–ideally if you lift the spoon it should run off slowly from it.

Cover and leave the batter to rest for at least 45 min. meanwhile, cut the cauliflower in florets and peel the apples and cut them in wedges. Separately trim the artichokes of the harder leaves, cut the top off and cut in slices, throwing them in a bowl filled with water and lemon juice as you go.

Heat abundant vegetable oil in a large frying pan, til boiling. drop the florets in the batter,then lift and fry til well golden. do the same with the apple wedges.  The artichokes instead should be dipped in beaten egg and then coated in flour and fried til golden.

If you decide to fry ricotta cubes, 2 tips: buy ricotta the day before, wrap in a clean linen cloth and leave in a plate in the fridge. Then, the day after, cut in cubes (about 2cm side) and fry in egg and flour.

Before going… Frying is hard work but rather rewarding… The only thing is, especially for the ladies out there… Wash and comb your hair for the evening after finishing, otherwise you’ll have all the cats of the neighbourhood behind you!

🙂 🙂

Early Christmassy offerings…

Yes, I know, it is more than a week away, but with my hubby we always have a wee Christmas lunch in advance.  It is an old habit from when we were going off to our respective families… evn though we’re both going to Roma I thought I’d do it this year! Yes, you heard me, I made Brussels Sprouts and broccoli, steamed and accompanied by special Grab Your Spoon Red, Red, Red chutney, roasted parsnips and for hubby, a supreme of chicken wrapped in pancetta and roasted in the oven with garlic, sage and parsley. For me, I had a baked aubergine stuffed with chopped pepper and tomato seasoned with garlic, parsley and chilli, really good! 🙂 For starters I made pinwheels of shortcrust pastry filled with onion and tomato relish and thinly cut green olives and for pudding apple and raisin parcels… It does not, granted, qualify as 100% tradition, but this is the nicest I could get within our eating preferences, believe me! I mean, have you ever found a turkey for one? 😀

So, if you ever fancy trying this…

For one

1 supreme of chicken

2 slices (about 40g) pancetta

1 tbsp olive oil,

1 tsp each, sage and parsley

1 pinch mild paprika

1 clove garlic

Preheat the oven at 200C; in a tin place the supreme of chicken and wrap the pancetta around it (I found it easier by starting from under the wing, it keeps them steady!), season with the herbs and roast for 45min til well cooked and tender.

For the pinwheels, nothing easier and yet tasty and scenic… I made shortcrust pastry by rubbing 1/3 of the weight of the flour into plain flour and adding enough cold water to bind to an elastic dough… remember to chill it for at least 15 min before using!  Roll out on a floured surface and stretch it a few times before rolling it out finally; spread chutney or relish or whatever filling you like in the pinwheels, then fold the edges carefully til you get a fat sausage shape.  Cut in thick slices, then place them lenghtwise on an oiled baking sheet. Bake at 200C for 15 min.


Early Christmas gifts…

Yes, I know… less than 2 weeks to Christmas and we’re still hard at work. However, for me Christmas has come early in a way… in the shape of my sister, my brother in law and my nephew Adriano Marcello! They gave me the best present ever in coming to visit us in Edinburgh!  We had a fantastic time going around the Christmas Fayre at St Andrew’s Square, playing with the great machines in the National Museum of Scotland (we could not get Adriano out of those rooms, they’re great) and driving around the city and the coast!!

Hendersons’ was the best place ever for dinner on Friday night–the Bistro was very welcoming and Adriano among all enjoyed his burger the most!

Hula at the bottom of Victoria Street treated us delightfully–Susan and her staff do an amazing job even when they are very busy… my guests commented a lot about how good the food was, how attentive the staff were and so on… Susan, your place is amazing, let’s have a proper hello next time I stop by for my evening warm juice! 🙂

Saturday night? Oh well, it could not be anything but al Dente!  Graziano and his people offered us a real treat–Adriano got stuck in a mansize plate of spaghetti al ragu’. We shared starters–the new addition of vellutata di fave (smooth cream of fava beans) topped with caramelised onions being a great addition!  :)–and then had tasty mains… I had not had orecchiette in ages, thanks Graziano!  Al Dente is my favourite by far here in Edinburgh when it comes to a special treat like this.

And finally, well… Sunday lunch was had in our home.  I made roast lamb in the oven with potatoes and we also had tomato and oregano pasta… finished with salad and for pudding… well, mince pies!! All in all, I must say–if Christmas is the season for family and for giving, I have received lots of both already, for which I am truly grateful and happy… now on, to the wait til our family celebrations with my folks. Roll on!!