Saturday 31 March 2007

The Archive.....

Do people still keep battered notebooks, containing motley collections of once and future favourite recipes? I consulted mine yesterday, to check the 'official' details for Poulet Antiboise, which I know for a fact was inscribed there sometime in 1979, sitting at a cafe table in a courtyard garden, fountain trickling, in a blisteringly hot Greek summer......

My notebook is a standard issue blue-covered school exercise book, bought from the Lykos general store, half way up Matogianni, on the right hand side of the street, with the eternally bad-tempered old woman on the cash desk and her bushily be-whiskered husband, the twinkle in whose eye clearly suggested a colourful past (and possibly explained her mood). The pages were quite soon filled, and the book then became a repository for handwritten notes, recipes on postcards from friends, and pages torn from long-vanished magazines - all of which spill out in a stream every time (rarely, these days) the archive is consulted. And they all come with memories: the ratatouille that accompanied roast pork loin at a candlelit dinner party for fifteen in the garden at Piero's old house, followed by a mountain of cold poached pears; Anne Willan's delicious recipe for Walnut Tart, from kitchen supper at 49, Bankside; the fax with Claudia Roden's Semifreddo alla Mandorle on it, which became so faded that I finally had to track down the book from which it originally came (but the illegible fax remains folded inside the exercise book, all the same....)

It must be ten years at least since I graduated to the greater efficiency of a computer-based recipe archive. Much easier to search, and much more efficient when it comes to passing on a recipe to somebody else. But, somehow, it lacks the dog-eared charm of the older method.....There's progress for you - I suppose!

The Mucco Pisano ravioli were very good. Quite 'edgy' in flavour - almost gamey, in fact. Worth watching out for.

Dining out tonight, so the menu is Ms Robinson's responsibility.

Friday 30 March 2007

Recipe: Poulet Antiboise

For Four.

Ingredients: 1 roasting Chicken, approx 4 lb weight; 2-3 lbs Onions (red, by preference; the flavour is 'meatier'); half a cup of Olive Oil; Salt & Cayenne Pepper; half a cup of Black Olives; 1 tablespoon Cream. Triangles of Fried Bread, for serving.


1. Thinly slice the Onions. Put in a heavy casserole, along with the Oil, Salt (to taste) and a generous pinch of Cayenne. Cook over medium-high heat, stirring frequently, until the onions have collapsed but not browned.

2. If you know how to make a neat job of it, remove the wishbone from the Chicken (this makes it much easier to carve, subsequently), then season the bird inside and out and bury it in the softened onions in the casserole. Cover, and continue to cook over medium heat until the Chicken is done - an hour or so should be fine. To test for done-ness, prick the fattest part of the thigh, and the juice which emerges should run clear.

3. Carefully remove the Chicken to a dish in a warming oven, add the Olives to the Onions, and increase heat to reduce the liquid. Stir in the Cream towards the end and reduce to thicken slightly.

Carve the bird and serve along with the Onion/Olive mixture and triangles of thinly sliced bread which have been fried in butter.

Wednesday 28 March 2007

Odd Uses for Yoghurt.......

Apparently, a liberal application of yoghurt is a sure-fire way of ageing terracotta pots. We have three gleamingly new ones in the garden, nestling amongst the undergrowth, and planted with incipient Coombland White trailing geraniums, which should look splendid later in the year. The pots are about to receive a facepack of frutta di bosco yoghurt, mixed generously with a little potting compost and some crumbled moss - and I am reliably informed that a carpet of lichen will follow, sure as eggs is eggs. Since we are departing for London this afternoon, and leaving the Brazilian builders in possession of the premises for the next two weeks, I shall put off the paint job until just before heading for the airport. The Brazilians can have the pleasure of looking upon purple-smeared pots in those rare moments when they down tools and take a breather.....

A discovery in the Pasta Shop this morning - ravioli of Mucco Pisano. It's a particular breed of beef, raised according to exacting standards and only available round here. Supposedly con piu di sapore than normal beef - comparable to the difference between cinta senese and normal pork, I was assured by Claudia. She then suggested some crema tartufato to go with it - which I can readily believe, as I can't think of anything that crema tartufato would not go with - but I had to decline on the grounds of the cretinous no-liquid in hand baggage rules, and I'm not about to deal with Gatwick baggage handling even for the sake of crema tartufato. I - along with many others - dream of the day when these idiotic rules are relaxed; I heard recently of somebody who was even prevented from carrying on board a slice of vacherin, on the grounds that it was so runny that it could be considered liquid! Words fail me.....

Tonight's picnic:

Ravioli of Mucco Pisano

Salsiccie Lunghe (from Maurizio), accompanied by Fennel cooked in butter with Raddichio di Treviso.

Fresh Raspberries and Double Cream.

Tuesday 27 March 2007

Recipe: Lamb Cutlets in Parmesan Batter

For three.

Ingredients: 6 Lamb Cutlets *; 2 Eggs; 1 cup freshly-grated Parmesan; 1 cup dry Breadcrumbs; Salt & Pepper; Oil (for frying).

* These should be thin to start with, and beaten even thinner. In Italy, Maurizio does it with a practiced hand - one blow with the carne-battuto and the cutlet is spread evenly; it is then folded in two, and a second blow, perfectly placed, melds the whole into one evenly tenderised
piece. In London I have to do it myself - and I have a lot less practice at it then Maurizio does! The pay-off is, I suppose, that British Lamb has much more flavour than Italian Lamb - no two ways about it.....


1. Beat the Eggs, and pour into a shallow dish. Place the grated cheese in a second dish, and the Breadcrumbs in a third.

2. Put the oil to heat in a frying pan which will be large enough to hold all of the cutlets at once.

3. Dip each cutlet first into the cheese, turning it to coat both sides, then into the beaten Egg, and finally into the Breadcrumbs, always turning to coat the cutlet thoroughly.

4. Fry the coated cutlets in the heated oil, until crisp and golden brown. It should take about three minutes on each side. Add seasoning to taste before serving - although the saltiness of the cheese should make anything other than a grinding of black pepper probably unnecessary.


Monday 26 March 2007

Bucking the Trend.....

As the rest of the World focuses ever more anxiously on possible remedies for Global Warming, what does the Commune di Pisa do, but cancel the eco-friendly garbage recycling system that it expensively introduced five years ago! Admittedly, they made it as complicated an arrangement as you could possibly imagine: 'Organico' goes out on Mondays, Wednesdays, Fridays and Sundays, and has to be in a brown plastic bag (giving off a slightly unpleasant, chemical odour); glass and plastic (blue bag) goes out on a Tuesday - the only-once-weekly collection of bottles causing a major problem in this household; Paper (in a paper sack - great if it's raining!) is on Thursday; 'indifferenziata' - i.e. everything else - goes out on Thursdays and Saturdays, in a grey bag. And if you can't be bothered to recycle, then just leave your rubbish in any old bag on the street, and it will be collected anyway! Bags are distributed in great quantities every six months, and if you need more, then you have to order them in person from the Geofor Office before the Wednesday of the week before the Wednesday of the week when you can go along and collect them. I hope everybody was concentrating on all of that - there will be a test at the end!
Two years after the scheme was introduced, RAI 5 ran an expose programme that secretly filmed the garbage collectors merely dumping all of the carefully sorted rubbish in the same dump, anyway, which caused much amusement at the time.........and suggests that maybe Pisa has been bucking the trend all along on the quiet.

Surprisingly, most people knuckled under and seemed to follow these complicated rules. Tullio - owner of Cagliostro Restaurant, renowned for the best food and the slowest service in town - was of the opinion that Italians are either wedded to chaos, or else demonstrate a surprising fondness for rigid regulation. Hence the support for the regime in power in the thirties, I suppose. Anyway, it is to be assumed that the recycling figures just don't add up, financially speaking, and so we're about to return to lugging rubbish to centrally located dumpsters.....

Maybe somebody should tell Al Gore.......?

Tonight's Menu:

Polpettone of Spinach and Tuna. (See below for the recipe)

Lamb Cutlets in a Parmesan Batter.

Crepes Suzettes

Sunday 25 March 2007

Recipe: Polpettone with Tuna and Spinach

For Six.

Ingredients: 675g Fresh Spinach, cooked and squeezed dry; 150g canned Tuna; 4 Anchovy Fillets; 2 eggs; one medium sized white bread roll; 12 fl oz Milk; 170g fresh Parmesan, grated; 25g fresh Breadcrumbs; Salt & Pepper; Olive Oil; Lemon Juice.


1. Chop Spinach briefly in a food processor, and turn into a large mixing bowl. Add grated Parmesan and mix thoroughly.

2. Chop Tuna and Anchovies together briefly in the food processor, and add these to the spinach/cheese mixture.

3. Dice the Bread Roll and leave to soak in the Milk in a shallow bowl.

4. Beat the Eggs and add to the Spinach mixture, along with the fresh Breadcrumbs. Incorporate thoroughly.

5. Squeeze the soaking liquid (to be discarded or used otherwise) from the diced Bread, and mix this into the Spinach mixture. Season generously with Salt & Pepper.

6. Soak a piece of cheesecloth or a dishcloth thoroughly and then wring out thoroughly. Lay the cloth on the work surface. Turn the Spinach mixture onto it, and form a large 'sausage' shape, 12 to 15 inches in length. Roll the 'sausage' tightly in the cloth, and secure well at each end with string.

7. Place the tied bundle in a fish kettle. Cover with water. Put the lid on, and place on the burner(s) of your hob. Heat until the water begins to boil, then reduce temperature and simmer for 35 minutes. Remove the bundle from the water, and let it rest for several minutes before you unwrap it, and leave it to cool completely to room temperature.

To serve, cut into slices approximately 1 cm thick, and drizzle with a little Olive Oil and Lemon juice.