Thursday 25 June 2009

Quote of the week...

Nothing whatsoever to do with food, but probably the reason why I end up having so many arguments with the security morons at the airport:

"However good a law is, it is invariably clumsy. This is why its application should be disputed or questioned. And the practice of doing this corrects its clumsiness and serves justice."

It comes from John Berger's excellent novel 'From A to X' - a perfect gem, which I've just finished.

And the other book which rates highly on my list, currently, is Raymond Blanc's 'Blanc Vite', which forms the underpinning to our ongoing weight-loss regime. I've had a copy for many years, and a number of recipes from it have been regulars on my list for some time. It was written after Blanc had had a mild heart attack, I think, and focuses significantly on healthy eating. In practice - and if you can ignore the tedious pontifications of his attendant dietician which pepper the text - it works excellently within a low-carb diet. Where he uses fructose, I substitute Splenda, and in place of marscapone or crème fraiche I use double cream. The recipes are good and interesting, and it means being able to eat well even as the pounds fall off - which they appear to be doing. He's a little one-noted when it comes to desserts in this book - many variations on stewed fruit, in practice - but it's easy enough to vary them in menu planning by the inclusion of dietarily sound things like soufflés and phyllo tarts and mousses. So highly do I think of the book that I've bought a second copy to take with me back to Italy next week - amazingly, the going rate for a second-hand copy (of the paperback!) was £104 on both Amazon and Abe, so I was pleased to be able to snaffle a copy on ebay for a tenner!

All the indications are that Massimo has indeed worked magic re the contract for the fourteenth century farmhouse in Pisa - although the situation was much more complicated than we'd realised, and has involved a convocation of the church curia, and the demise of Pisa Football Team (with much wailing and gnashing of teeth from its loyal fan base). All being well, we can sign a lease next week, once a few final legalities have been dealt with...

Tonight's dinner:

Sweet & sour salad of Cucumber and Prawns, with toasted Sesame seeds.

Blanquette of Lamb
. Cavolo Nero, sautéed with Garlic.

Strawberry Soufflé.

Monday 22 June 2009

Recipe: Peppers, with Rosemary & Balsamic Vinegar

Another one from the master, Bruno Loubet. Originally, he paired this dish with his splendid recipe for Cod wrapped in Parma Ham - but in fact, it will work just as well with any fleshy white fish fillet, or even with something like a plain grilled chicken breast or a piece of roast pork. Although a great deal less work than ratatouille, this is more than just a poor man's version of that; the flavours here of rosemary, basil, and balsamic vinegar are beguiling, and give to the finished dish a first class status all of its own.

For four.

Ingredients: 4 Peppers (Capsicums) of assorted colours; 1 tablespoon Olive Oil; 2 cloves Garlic, minced; 1 teaspoon capers (cut up, if large); the needles from 1 sprig Rosemary, finely chopped; Salt, to taste; 4 large, fresh Basil leaves; 2 tablespoons Balsamic Vinegar.


1. Heat the oven to 200 degrees C. Halve the Peppers, discarding cores and seeds, and place cut-side down in a roasting dish; brush the skin of the Peppers with Olive Oil and roast in the oven for twenty minutes or so, until they begin to blacken and the skins are visibly swelling.

2. Put the Pepper halves in a bowl, along with all of the juices in the bottom of the roasting dish, and cover with clingfilm. Leave for twenty minutes or so, then remove the skins from the Peppers and cut each one into four slices.

3. Put the sliced Peppers into a saucepan, along with their cooking juices. Add all of the remaining ingredients apart from the Basil and the Vinegar. Cover the pan and cook over a medium heat, stirring from time to time for about thirty minutes. Just before serving, stir in the Balsamic Vinegar, and the Basil leaves, finely sliced.