Sunday, 19 March 2023

Mascarpone Pie

I've never rated Nigel Slater. He writes good food - that's how come I've been seduced on occasion into buying his books - but so often the words on the page don't translate to anything exciting on the plate. I suspect that sometimes it's because in his enthusiasm for a 'fast' result, he omits important steps because they would take too much time (cooking the plums before mixing them with blackberries and brandy, for instance, so that the end-result is melt-in-the-mouth...instead of which, in his uncooked-plum version, everything remains chewy and individual, and nothing blends together at all), and sometimes, it's just because he gets it wrong - no, Nigel, when Mascarpone is grilled, it doesn't 'melt' unctuously, it merely consolidates into a claggy lump. Nice idea, but in practice it just doesn't work. 

However. I fell across a version of this recipe several months ago in his '30 Minute Cook' and because it suited an immediate need, I tried it. And, it is splendid! I've served it at supper on a number of occasions now, and always to critical acclaim - the combination of chocolate and orange, alone, is particularly beguiling. I've added sugar (or sucralose) to his version, and only used sultanas, instead of a combination of sultanas and raisins ( we can't get the latter here, for some reason; same with currants. Non ci sono.) The recipe itself is a first cousin to Budino alla Toscana, in its combination of cheese and ground almonds and dried fruit, but since it is encased in Phyllo, there's no need for the egg which Budino uses, and there are some other differences too in the flavouring elements which are included. In this house, we've taken to calling this Bougaza, in memory of the sweet-cheese phyllo slabs (there was no other word for them) which we used to get in the seventies from the baker behind the Old House, in Greece. There are elements in this dish which seem as old as time... 

 For two individual pies: 

1 sheet phyllo, approx 12" x 18"; 1 tbs melted butter; 110g mascarpone; 25g ground almonds; 1 tbs sugar; 40g sultanas; 15g chocolate (calletes, or else roughly chopped); grated zest of one orange. 

 1. Heat oven to 200 degees C. 

2. Brush the phyllo with melted butter, and cut the sheet into four. Use two of the pieces to line each of two 10 cm flan tins (I ease the pastry sheets into the greased tins at right angles to each other, and then, once the filling is in place, fold the overhanging pastry over the filling to enclose it fully). 

3. Combine all remaining ingredients thoroughlyl, and divide the mixture between the two pastry shells. Close the pastry shells, brush the top with any remaining butter, and bake for about twenty minutes or so, until golden brown. 

 Allow the pies to cool slightly before serving.

Saturday, 4 February 2023


 After nearly six weeks, I've finished clearing out the ruin! To the extent that I'm going to, at any rate. It's now at the stage where the geometra can take his photographs and finalise his re-structure plan, for filing with the Comune - after which, we just wait (and wait, and wait, and wait, as I understand it. Six months seems to be the norm to get any kind of approval). Having excavated down to the original floors, and carted away fallen beams, and boulders, and broken ceiling and roof tiles, and countless loads of soil, I then cut away as much of the creeper as I dared, without risking the walls coming down around my ears (and even that was a close-run thing, as at one point a boulder twice the size of my head crashed down without warning onto the scaffolding I was standing on, about six inches to my left, and very nearly finished me and the scaffolding tower off, in one go! It gave pause for thought.)

Tomorrow, I'll do some basic housekeeping, in terms of clearing away the spoil-heaps which have sprung up in the course of the clearing project, and then I'll have an investigatory poke at the other ruin, which is a little further to the east, and in much more ruinous state; if we can uncover some decent floors, then we have in mind re-cycling them for use as the base for pond(s) and greenhouse, and the like. 

So far, so good. 

Tonight's dinner:

Sformatino of fennel, with gorgonzola sauce.

Baked Sea Bass, with colatura di alici; braised cucumber.

Fried crepes, stuffed with apples, served with orange-marsala mascarpone.

Monday, 23 January 2023

Chicken with Lemon and Walnuts


The latest addition to the chicken repertoire. There are some surprising elements here - not least, the additions of ginger and black treacle, neither of which is obvious in the finished dish, but where both give greater depth to the overall flavour, and the use of beef rather than chicken stock is not entirely expected either. The end result, however, is delicious. 

As with all stews, this is even better if left to sit for a day or two, and then reheated to serve.


1 chicken, cut into quarters; salt and pepper; 40g butter; 2 tbs chopped onion; 1 tsp ground ginger; 1 tbs flour; 450 ml beef stock; 1 tbs black treacle; juice and grated rind of 1 lemon; 50g (approx 8) walnuts.


1. Heat oven to 180 degrees C.

2. Heat butter in a large frying pan, season the chicken pieces and then brown them all over in the hot butter, for about five minutes. Remove the chicken pieces to a casserole.

3. Use the butter to soften the onion, again about five minutes, then stir in the flour and ginger, add the stock and bring it to the boil.

4. Add treacle, and lemon juice and rind, and walnut pieces; stir to mix together thoroughly.

5. Pour the contents of the pan over the chicken pieces, then cover and cook in the pre-heated oven for an hour.


Tuesday, 3 January 2023



The hearth, now fully uncovered,
and the 'fornello' which has been released from the roots of the tree
which was
growing on top of it

The doorway into 'the hidden room' , now almost fully re-opened
The east wall of the ruin; creeper now more under control.

Tonight's dinner:

French Onion Soup

Chicken Breasts in mushroom sauce; salsify

Fresh Pineapple, with Mascarpone

Monday, 2 January 2023


 For starters, on 1 January:

Andibo No Abokado, Kani, Ikura Nose
Toriniku Kenchin-Mushi
Soroname No Ama Tofu

Followed by leftover Oden stew, and rice. The four-footed couldn't have been happier!

Tonight's dinner:

(Back to normal)

Ham & Mushroom crepes

Fennel-seed Hamburgers; buttered spinach

Budino Toscano

Sunday, 1 January 2023

New Year's Eve Dinner...

 And the menu was:

Aperitif was sake on-the-rocks, with a stick of fresh cucumber, served with crunchy, deep-fried fave beans. 

To confuse matters, two swedish wines were served with the first seven courses (the swedes make wine? Who knew?) Immalan 2020, followed by Aniara Renessans 2020. And then, because the Pauli had brought a splendid 2003 Barolo, we abandoned the warmed sake we'd intended to go with the Oden Stew, and defaulted instead to Italian vintage. For dessert, I'd lost my nerve anyway (I don't actually like Japanese desserts - to my mind, the mouth-feel tends to the 'woolly', and flavour ranges are too chestnuty for my liking...) and so, we had ginger ice-cream, which was light and rich and creamy, with just enough bite.

I'd worried that we might not last until midnight, but in fact we were still ploughing through Oden Nabe (stew, in other words, of  beef, chicken, potato, fried fish balls of shrimp and merluzzo, fried tofu, salsify - because I couldn't source any Konnyaku, and salsify seemed a good substitute - and hard-boiled eggs, all cooked in a complicated broth) when the fireworks began to explode in the distance. This four-footed, unlike her two predecessors, was spooked by the noise, and she ran around being alarmed for a good five minutes, until she was corralled again, under the table. And we could then wind down into the final course, and try not to worry too much about what 2023 might bring!

Tonight's dinner:

Da capo. The fridge is stuffed with leftovers, and we'll be dining 'alla Nonna' for at least several days to come.