Thursday 10 March 2011

Spaghettini alla Nursina...

It wouldn't happen in London. The San Lorenzo's dropped in for a cup of tea, a couple of days ago, and at the same time handed over some black truffles that somebody had given them, and which they thought we could put to good use. (Paolo seems to have grateful ex-patients the World over, and the S-L's generally have some exotic form of comestible blocking up their hallway - a case of verdelli just arrived from Sicily, for example, or  a cool-box with melt-in-the-mouth mozzarella sent from Naples, or a package of spicy 'nduja from Puglia...)

Best not mucked around with, the truffles went in their entirety into two servings of Spaghettini alla Nursina as a starter for dinner, last night - 40 grammes was just about enough. Sliced wafer-thin, and then cut crosswise into the most delicate of julienne, they were doused in olive oil, and left to sit, macerating gently along with two or three finely sliced basil leaves. Mixed with a light anchovy sauce just before being added to the al-dente spaghettini, the result was perfect! 
And not about to be repeated any time soon, either - not unless we win the jackpot, or the four-footeds suddenly become useful and discover truffles growing in the orchard!

Tonight's Dinner:

Funghi Porcini Tarts, in Polenta Crust.

Hamburgers, with braised Celery.

Apples baked in cream, with Brown Sugar and Cinnamon.

Monday 7 March 2011

Breadmaking - a tip....

I'm making bread again. I'd stopped, for years, on the basis that I wanted to avoid getting fat. But on the, probably spurious, basis that I can offset the effect by all the strenuous labour in the garden, I've thrown caution to the winds and got stuck back into bread dough. Which is wonderful stuff!

My problem, though, was for ages that I didn't know how best to create the right environment in which to leave the dough to rise. It wasn't a problem I'd ever encountered back in catering days, when the ambient temperature of the kitchen was always perfect for leaving bread to rise (but generally lousy for tempering chocolate). 'Leave it on a shelf in the airing cupboard'  suggest some books - I don't have one - or, 'it's best in the oven, with just the pilot light on', say others - fine, except I've never actually had a gas oven. Playing around with pre-heating the oven to a low temperature and then turning it off, in the hope that it would be about right, was very hit and miss...and I mean very.

And then, I thought to consult Elizabeth Luard, who is not only splendidly no-nonsense, but has loads of experience of cooking in kitchens of varying levels of lack-of-sophistication, as outlined in the period that went towards her masterwork on 'European Peasant Cooking'. She suggests putting a roasting pan of boiling water at the bottom of the oven at the start of the rising period, and then leaving the door closed (temperature off) until it's time to knock the dough back and get on with the next stage - and if you're following a method that has multiple risings, then replenish the boiling water in the pan at the start of each new rising period. It works. It's wonderful. I've tried it three times in succession, now, and had a perfect result each time...

Tonight's Dinner:

Pan-fried Foie Gras, with Wild Mushrooms and Rocket.

Limoncello Panna Cotta, with Fresh Raspberries.