Saturday 22 January 2011


We have fire!

Giancarlo emerged from his year-end hiatus, a couple of days ago, and neatly and efficiently installed the wood stove in the barn (where it has been idly waiting for the past few months, looking pristine and splendid...but not actually attached to a chimney). It works wonderfully, and although primarily intended for use during the shoulder months of the year...drinks in front of the fire in November, for instance, or afternoon tea in March...we resolutely lit it each afternoon this week and sat before it being very British and 'outdoors' in the middle of winter, hugging steaming mugs of tea and commenting to each other on quite how warm we really were.

The four-footeds were less impressed, and ignored the fire entirely...but they raced around anyway, on the basis that anything 'al fresco' seems like cause for a celebration.

Tonight's Dinner:

Raie au beurre noire; new potatoes (yes, we are in London for the weekend, and I have been down to Les the Fish, in Bute Street)

Raspberry Tarts.

Tuesday 18 January 2011

Recipe: Pasta Sauce with Mascarpone, Gruyère & Cinnamon

Yes, Cinnamon. When divorced from sugar (and I freely admit, I have a weakness for desserts which include generous quantities of both cinnamon and brown sugar), this is a spice with a beguiling bitterness, which, used carefully, can also be a splendid addition to savoury dishes. Here, it is a mere sprinkling over the dish at the point of serving...but the aroma is unmistakable as the plates of steaming pasta are set down - and the bitterness of cinnamon works well both with the sharpness of the gruyère, and as a foil to the creaminess of the mascarpone and egg in the sauce.

Stevie Parle published a distinctly iffy piece on pasta in The Telegraph recently  - where, amongst other sillinesses, he gave the Southern Italian recipe for eggless pasta, as he waxed lyrical about the tuscan countryside around Radicondoli, where you wouldn't find eggless pasta in a million years, intended as it is for piquant southern sauces such as arrabiata and puttanesca, and not for the unctuous coating sauces of Northern Italy. One bit he did get right - although hardly a revelation - is the fact that different sauces are better suited to particular kinds of pasta. And a creamy sauce such as this one is best served with any of the flat-strip kinds of pasta, such as fettucine, tagliatelle, papardelle...any of those. 

This is definitely a sauce for fresh, rather than boxed pasta (which doesn't mean it will be awful with boxed pasta...just that you won't be doing it full justice). Quick and simple, as well as elegant, this dish works equally well for an informal supper as for the pasta course of a grander dinner.

For four:
Ingredients: Pasta dough, made with 1 cup '00' flour, 1 cup semolina flour, 3 medium eggs, generous pinch of salt, and 1 tsp olive oil; 250g Mascarpone; 50g Gruyère (or similar cheese); 1 tbs Butter; 1 Egg yolk; 1 tsp ground Cinnamon; Salt.


1. Roll the pasta dough into eight strips, following the usual rolling method, lightly flour the surface, and leave to dry for twenty minutes or so; either cut by hand, for broader strips of pasta, or put through the fettucine cutter on the pasta machine.

2. Grate the Gruyère and mix it thoroughly with the Mascarpone and a large pinch of Salt.

3. Cook the pasta in salted water until it is al dente, then drain it, but reserving a cup of cooking water from the pasta.

4. Place the pasta pan back on the stove, and heat the reserved water in it, along with the Butter. Once the Butter has all melted, return the pasta to the pan and cook, stirring , for a couple of minutes. Remove the pan from the heat, and tip over the pasta the Mascarpone mixture, along with the Egg yolk. Stir to mix well, and then serve in four heated dishes.

5. Sprinkle a dusting of ground Cinnamon over the top of each dish, and serve.

Monday 17 January 2011

Allan Bay - A Discovery.

One of this year's parcels under the Christmas tree was a slim volume by an italian food writer by the name of Allan Bay. The book is called 'Cuochi si diventa 2' (which loosely translates as 'Cooks are made, not born'), and is pretty good. The man himself has an interesting history - having spent much of his adult life selling machinery to manufacture light bulbs, in his mid-forties he decided to become a food journalist, rapidly gained a foothold in a number of reputable italian publications, and before he knew it, had been appointed as Professor of cooking at the University of Pavia. Which is presumably a lot more fun than spending one's days pondering the vicissitudes of light-bulb-making machines.

 His style is irreverent and enthusiastic, and he has a curiosity about food which leads to a number of worthwhile culinary departures, all of which are based on a solid foundation of traditional recipes and techniques. The book is mostly a list of actual dishes, but is interspersed, generally amusingly, with sections of 'rants' (I approve...he calls these items 'Political incorrectness') and  'raves', which are his personal culinary weaknesses... He also has a series of one-pagers which he calls ' Si fa, ma non si dice', which means ' It's done, but not talked about' -  which are commercial ingredients which come in bottles and tins and which most self-respecting cook would never admit to having on their pantry shelves...but, of course, we all do. Things like stock cubes, and Worcester sauce, and Colmans Mustard. Allan Bay's list includes things like Campbells tinned soup, and Nestlé sweetened condensed milk. I thoroughly approve - although, I'm immediately reminded of the disapproval at Belforte that met my admission last Christmas that the rosemary sauce I'd just served for fettucine included a teaspoon of chicken stock powder (Knorr); sometimes, it's better just to lie!

Tonight's dinner:

 Tart of Celeriac, Gruyère & Pancetta.

Salsiccie with garlic-roast tomatoes.

Lemon Curd ice-cream.

Sunday 16 January 2011

Technical Glitch...

Still, I can't sort out the problem I've been having with uploading pictures to this blog. A short description on Google of the problem I was having quickly identified that it was nothing to do with my camera-computer interface (so, no need to waste any more time fruitlessly trying to find the camera manual), but that the problem is actually with Google's Blogger programme....and that many, many other  people have been experiencing this problem with their blogs over the past year and more. Uploading images I've copied from elsewhere on the web isn't a problem, but whenever I try to upload a picture of my own I get a 'server rejected' message....and that's as far as I can go.

Hours spent upgrading things, and downloading other things, and cleaning out things, and checking various different settings has proved completely useless. Various dark mutterings from other 'victims' suggest that this might be Google trying to force bloggers to pay in order to use Google's online Picasa function in order to store their images....I can't comment on that....but if I can't sort the problem out p.d.q, then I suppose I'll just have to stop using Google's blog hosting facility and move Pomiane to a different hosting platform. Which will be tedious...but I'm not sure I have any choice.

Watch this space.