Peas and cheese please!

What! The tomato field is bare?! Usually a visit to Italy in balmy August or September means Mama Romeo’s and Uncle Mario’s tomatoes are deep red and ripe for the picking. We went in May this year and I was too busy counting nappies and packing porridge to think about the change of seasons.

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As tomatoes are the King of summer in Italy, peas are where it’s at in Spring. I would love to poetically say, we ate all the fresh flavours of Spring and nibbled on freshly podded raw peas and broad beans but the Italian’s know better than that, there was also an abundance of …. cheese, cheese, cheese and more cheese! Most likely because they think it’s bloody cold in May! (us Brits were in shorts and T-shirts – but that’s a whole other post).

So I slurped up broth-style pea soups, and gorged on omelettes – loaded with stringy mozzarella and hot deep-fried potato polpette – loaded with er… stringy mozzarella!

This was one of my favourite dishes  – so simple but oh so tasty (serve with plenty of Parmesan!)

Pasta e piselli

1tbsp olive oil
1 onion, peeled and finely chopped
350g fresh or frozen peas
Small bunch parsley, chopped
350g pasta shells (a few peas will fall into some of the shells – like they’re in a little pod of pasta! Little things…)
4 slices prosciutto
Grated Parmesan, to serve

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1 Heat the olive oil over a medium-low heat, add the onion and cook until softened. Stir through the peas and add 1 L of boiling water. Return to the boil, then add the pasta.

2 Simmer for 10 minutes or until the pasta is cooked to your liking. Stir occasionally (add a little more boiling water and loosely cover if the liquid is evaporating too quickly). One minute before the end of cooking time, stir through most of the parsley. Season well with salt and freshly ground black pepper.

3 Meanwhile, cook the prosciutto (in batches if necessary). Place a dry griddle-pan over a medium heat, add the prosciutto and cook for 3-5 minutes until darkened and crispy.

4 Ladle the pasta, peas and broth into 4 bowls, sprinkle generously with the Parmesan, top with the crispy prosciutto and garnish with the remaining parsley.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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#35 FOOD NEWS: Mum’s super 70’s savers!

shopping final I always remember loads of veg and good home cooking when I think of mealtimes as a kid. So, with a January budget to stick to and a new years resolution to eat more veg, me and mum grab a cuppa and chat through a typical weeks food from ‘the good ol’ days’ when anything that resembled granola was firmly meant for the budgie. I’m loving the retro shortcuts in this little lot! Make sure you stock up on them – recipes on links below.

SUNDAY – Roast chicken

Good sized chicken for a roast (this is going to make three meals), so spend out on a good quality free-range chicken. Serve with roast potatoes, carrots, Paxo stuffing balls, parsnips and Brussels sprouts (or the veg of your choice).

Retro shortcut: Paxo paxo final

MONDAY – Leftover chicken and leek pie

Fry leek, onion and mushroom, stir through the leftover chicken and Campbell’s condensed mushroom soup. Fill a homemade pastry case with the filling. Crimp the top to seal. Brush with milk and bake. Serve with cabbage and mash.

Retro shortcut: Campbell’s cream of mushroom soup campbells final

TUESDAY – Chicken broth

Boil the chicken carcass, with stock (made from 1 oxo stock cube) and veg, such as potatoes, parsnips, swede, carrots, onion (whatever veg you have – or possibly buy a stew pack) add a little Bisto for colour and cornflour paste to thicken (if necessary). This definitely sounds free-style: ‘add soup – packet or canned, until you have an appealing colour!’

Retro shortcut: Oxo stock cube oxo final

WEDNESDAY – 70s Spaghetti bolognese

(Italian In-Laws turn away now!) Make up a packet of (1 pint) Knorr minestrone soup with a little less water than stated on the packet. Fry off the mince with carrot and onion, drain off the excess fat. Stir through tomato purée. Add the minestrone soup, frozen peas (or sweetcorn) and mushrooms. Serve with spaghetti and grated cheddar.

Retro shortcut:  Knorr minestrone soup

THURSDAY – 3 bears pies Fry off mince with diced carrot and onion. Drain excess fat. Meanwhile make up a Bisto paste (!). Put 2-3 dessert spoons of Bisto in a cup and stir through a small amount of water until you have a paste, add to the mince, stirring. Cook for 3-4 mins. Roll out homemade shortcrust pastry. Cut out 7-8 circles (using a saucer as a template). Fill one half of each pastry circle with the mince, fold over and crimp to seal. Bush with milk and bake. Freeze any leftover pies. Serve with mash and veg.

Retro shortcut:  Bisto gravy granules bisto final 1

FRIDAY Grilled pork chops, tomatoes and chips (Friday treat).

SATURDAY Sausages with onion gravy, mash and cabbage.

Retro shortcut: Mum’s fave makes another appearance! Bisto gravy granules! bisto 2

The whole lot aside from store-cupboard staples, a packet of mince and a packet of sausages (which I already had) came to £33.10. I don’t think that’s bad! All meals will feed at least four – as there’s two of us I’ve included some freezer notes on some of the recipes. Very handy – I won’t need to cook hardly at all next week!

#25 FOOD NEWS: Cake & bake show, pork loin makeover and coffee machine mania!

Every monday
Top 3 Britalian finds: Cake & Bake show 2014

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1: Choco passion – made in Italy

chocolate tools

Looking more like the rusty contents of a tool box, but with the crisp, crack of superior chocolate – a winning combo that screams, ‘Christmas pressie for dad sorted!’ A small spanner costs £2.99. www.chocopassionuk.com

2: Pig in the middle

Sausage rolls

The ‘Mediterranean plait’ sitting next to an ‘All day breakfast’ sausage roll at the Pig in the middle stand was enough to send my Britalian radar into overdrive. A fab savoury stand – great for balancing out the sugar high!

3: Sweet as sugar cakes

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I fell totally head-over-heels for the Sweet as sugar cakes business cards – especially as there was one with a cakey-version of my favourite fictional Italian stallion (!), Rocky Balboa. With a Rocky-themed hen night to my name,  I’m now thinking my wedding cake could have been very different if I’d seen this a couple of years ago! Probably lucky I didn’t.

http://www.thecakeandbakeshow.co.uk/london/

Coffee machine mania

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So we’ve finally given in and bought a Magimix Nespresso machine but I wasn’t bargaining on along with the deal of £120 for the machine, 16 pods and a milk frother I would also get an obsession with coffee machines in general!

A must-see for…erm…other coffee machine lovers is the coffee machine at Cafe Vergnano 1882 on the Southbank. It looks like the Ferrari of coffee machines. I couldn’t stop taking pictures of it. A stylish coffee bar with a wonderfully welcoming atmosphere. And the coffee ain’t bad either! Well worth a visit.

Pork loin make-over: Pork valdostana

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Always up for a double whammy of pork – this recipe of pork loin wrapped in Parma ham, served with English garden runner beans (fresh from the freezer from Mummy ‘E’s’ summer crop) topped-off this Britalian feast.

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Serves: 4
Prep: 20 mins
Cook: 20-25 mins

1kg new potatoes, quartered
4 x 225g pork loins
8 slices Parma ham
Handful rosemary sprigs
4 thin slices of fontina cheese or Brie
2 tbsp seasoned plain flour
25g butter
2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
6 tbsp red wine
Runner beans, trimmed, sliced on the diagonal and steamed

1 Preheat the oven to 220’C, 200’C fan, gas 7.  Par-boil the potatoes for 7 mins until softened, drain and set aside. Meanwhile trim the loins of most of that fat. Flatten the meat slightly with a rolling pin.

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2 Place 2 pieces of Parma ham, slightly over-lapping on a work-surface or chopping board. Top with a small sprig of rosemary and a piece of fontina cheese or Brie. Place the chop on top and wrap the the Parma ham around the pork loin. Repeat with the remaining loins. Pick the the leaves from the remaining rosemary and set aside.

3 Dust the pork loins in the seasoned flour. Heat the butter and oil in a frying pan. Put the loins in the butter, cheese-side down and cook for 1 min. Turn over and cook for a further 2 mins, until browned.

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4 Pour the red wine over the loins and bring to the boil. Transfer the contents of the pan to a small baking dish and cook in the oven for 15-20 mins until the pork is cooked through.

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5 Ten mins before the end of cooking time shallow fry the potatoes with the reserved rosemary leaves until the potatoes are crisp, golden and cooked through. Serve with the steamed runner beans and the pork with the juices spooned over the top.