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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WWW: Wonderful world of weaning

 

We’ve gone for baby-led weaning* in a big way in our house. Good food, one meal for everyone with as little effort as possible. Yes please!

HOLIDAY FUN!

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On a recent trip to Italy Elena caused quite a stir. She became known as, ‘The baby that eats everything!’ and ‘The baby that feeds herself!’ Baby-led weaning hasn’t quite hit remote towns in Southern Italy. As she picked up strips of frittata, I was met with a few ‘Madonna! Madonna’s!’ and looks of utter horror but, to my relief, it changed throughout the two weeks to amazement, and utter pride from Nonna. Elena even started to get an audience. She didn’t seem to mind (or should I say notice – she was too busy eating!).

RECIPE

I can’t get enough of Gill Rapley & Tracey Murkett’s The Baby-Led Weaning Cookbook . The recipes are fantastic but it’s also great if you’re creating your own and want to check if a certain ingredient is ok.

Here’s their Simple broccoli quiche.

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1 medium head broccoli (florets only)
250g shortcrust pastry (see Cook’s Tip)/ or use a readymade pastry case
1 small onion
3 grilled rashers of bacon, chopped (optional)
50-100g grated cheese (according to taste)
3 eggs
115ml (4floz) milk
Pinch freshly ground black pepper

1 Preheat the oven to 190ºC/375ºF/Gas Mark 5. Cut the broccoli into small florets and steam or boil for 2 minutes until just tender and drain.

2 To prepare your pastry case, either line a 23cm (9in) lightly greased pie/tart tin with pastry (or use a readymade pastry case). Spread the onion in the bottom of the pastry case. Add the broccoli (and bacon, if using) and sprinkle half of the cheese over it.

3 Beat together the eggs and milk and add the black pepper. Pour the egg mixture over the onion, broccoli and cheese, then sprinkle the remaining cheese on top. (The egg mixture should come at least 3 quarters of the way up the pastry case. If it doesn’t add another egg, beaten with 2tbsp milk)

4 Bake in the oven for 40-50 minutes, until the egg is cooked through (test with a skewer) and the pastry is golden brown. Serve warm, sliced or in fingers, with new potatoes and either salad, green beans or asparagus for a main meal, or eat it cold for a light lunch.

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Cook’s Tip

I also like to use ready-rolled pastry for this too. To make the pastry from scratch use 85g diced butter, 165g plain flour. Use your fingertips to rub the butter into the flour until it looks like fine breadcrumbs. Using a cold blunt knife, stir in 1-2 tbsp water a few drops at a time with a criss-cross cutting motion. Stop when the mixture starts to clump together. Gather into one lump and knead it lightly for a few seconds, until it forms a dough.

*Here’s a PDF from the NHS website about weaning – it includes a small paragraph on baby-led weaning. There’s a little more detailed info about it here on the NCT website.

 

 

#32 FOOD NEWS: ‘Apple’ apple pies!

Every monday

Ferrero Rocher, Kinder Bueno and nutella…. the hazelnut is somewhat of a hero in Italy, so I’ve decided to take a piece of inspiration from Mr Ferrero and hidden a fruity hazelnut filling in the centre of these pies. With honey from Pollino National Park dotted throughout, I’ve hopefully given this British fave a little kiss from Italy. AND they’re shaped like an APPLE!

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300g plain flour, sifted
Pinch salt
180g butter
3tbsp caster sugar
3tbsp runny honey
6 Granny Smith apples
100g Pre-soaked mixed fruit
40g roasted chopped hazelnuts
milk, for brushing
softly whipped cream, to serve (optional)

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1 Place the flour, salt and butter in a bowl, rub between your fingertips until the mixture resembles breadcrumbs. Stir through 1 tbsp of the honey, the sugar and 4-5 tbsp cold water. Turn out onto a work surface and knead quickly to form a smooth dough. Wrap in cling film and chill for 20 mins.

pastry strip

2 Meanwhile peel the apples.

Peeled apples

3 Slice off the bottom to create a flat surface, then remove the core using an apple corer.

stuffing apples strip
4 Heat the remaining honey in the microwave for 10 seconds to loosen. Mix the dried fruit with the nuts and 1 tbsp of the honey. Set aside.

5 Divide the dough into 6 x approx 90g pieces. Roll out the first piece on a lightly floured work surface, large enough to wrap around an apple.

Stuffing apples

6 Place the apple in the centre with the top of the apple facing down. Fill with the dried fruit mix. Brush the outside of the apple with the remaining honey.

7 Pull up the sides of the pastry, folding to follow the shape of the apple. The folds will mean there will be excess pastry at the bottom of the apple, slice off the excess and reserve.

Trimming pastry
8 Turn over, so the apple is the right way up and shape in your hands, smoothing out the folds as best you can. Repeat with the remaining apples, place on a baking tray lined with baking parchment.

leaf trimmings

9 Roll out the reserved trimmings and use to cut out leaf shapes, brush the undersides with a little water and stick to the tops of the apples. Pierce the top with a skewer to allow the steam to escape. Chill for 10 mins.

Ready for oven
10 Preheat the oven to 200ºC, 180ºC fan, gas 6. Brush the apples with the milk and bake for 30 mins (checking after 20 mins – if they are already a nice golden colour cover with a layer of foil for the final 10 mins). Serve with softly whipped cream, if liked.

#22 FOOD NEWS: Pasta special; Step-by-step tagliatelle, Essential kit & Top 3 tips

Every monday

 

Tagliatelle

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Fancy making your own pasta? Mamma Romeo gave me a lesson in making tagliatelle, one of the most instantly satisfying pasta shapes to make  -no pasta machines needed here!

To serve 4

400g Tipo ’00’ flour
3 eggs (see Top tips)

1 Tip the flour into a large bowl or onto a large board, create a well in the centre and break the eggs into the well. Bring together with your fingertips or a wooden spatula, don’t be afraid – just really go for it! It will come together, once it resembles breadcrumbs, tip onto a wooden board or work surface (if you are using a bowl otherwise leave it where it is on the wooden board).

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2  Knead well, as you would with a bread dough, add a little water if necessary –  a couple of teaspoons at a time, keep the dough moving and turning, until it turns silky and smooth and not rough and floury, or as Mamma Romeo said, with a slap on the dough, ‘smooth like a bambino’s bottom!’

pasta crop

3 Flour the board, then using a large rolling pin, roll out the dough to the largest thinnest circle you can get, keep turning your circle and add more flour to prevent sticking if needed, use the rolling pin to help you lift the pasta if neccessary (if you don’t a have a huge Italian Mamma-style rolling pin, you can roll out lots of smaller pieces, your tagliatelle will just be shorter).

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4 Dust a little flour over the surface of your pasta (here’s the best bit). Fold the pasta over like you would a Swiss roll, then simply cut 1cm slices from the shorter end. Gently raise and pull apart.

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5 Scatter the tagliatelle over a board covered with a clean T towel, dust with a little flour and leave to rest for 15-30 mins. Cook in salted boiling water for a few minutes. Serve simply with steaming hot passata and freshly grated Parmesan.

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Britalian Kitchen TOP 3 TIPS

1 Allow approx 100g flour per person, but if upping the flour for more people, Mamma  Romeo’s secret is not to increase the eggs to more than 3 instead add water until you have the right consistency.

2 To avoid a sticky mess, clean your pasta board with a metal scraper instead of using water (a new wallpaper scraper works perfectly! See below).

3 If you want to make life a little easier, you can whizz the flour and eggs in a food processor to get to the breadcrumb stage in step 1.

ESSENTIAL KIT

Brilliant board

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This eco friendly wooden pastry board made from sustainable acacia wood  makes a good pasta board, at 56cm long it’s not quite as big as Mamma Romeo’s but it’s big enough to get some decent pasta out of it! £23.00 from www.woolworths.co.uk

Scraper secrets

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Perfect for not only cutting smaller pasta shapes but also great for cleaning down your pasta board.  £1.09 from www.toolbox.co.uk

The right rolling pin

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In Italy it’s a wooden rolling pin all the way but in the UK it’s a little more tricky to find a wooden rolling pin long enough, but as we have been cake crazy for a good few years polythene pins (ideal for rollling out sugar paste) are much easier to find. This 60cm one is great value at £12.52 from www.russums-shop.co.uk

#20 FOOD NEWS: Inglese cake in Italia!

Every monday

Inglese cake

We’ve just arrived in Herculaneum, we’ll soon be sightseeing but at the moment I’m still recovering from the 10 hour feast that was the Italian August bank holiday. What a celebration – almost like a summer Christmas! The Romeo’s asked me to make a cake, I hope I did us Brits proud with a version of my cake for the cover of the Sainsbury’s Cake book. We travelled out to find a huge Conad supermarket where to my surprise most of my cakey needs were met. I couldn’t quite get the subtle colours of sugar paste that Sainsbury’s stock but the more carnival feel to my new Britalian version received claps and cheers so I need not of worried about the hue of pink!

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The biggest compliment of all was Gabriella (who I consider the queen of dolce) asked me for the recipe!

And the bambini adored the little cakes and sweets on top – they even kept sneaking back to grab one when they didn’t think anyone was looking… of course I caught them on camera!

Wish you were here!

A & G

#19 FOOD NEWS: Postcard from Italia!

KEEPING AN EYE ON ALL THINGS BRITALIAN…

Every monday

 

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Dear lovely blog follwers!

We’re in Italy! Eating lots of pasta and pizza. The weather is beautiful and everyone is as welcoming as ever. The town is getting ready for the event of the year: The 2014 Donkey Race! It’s going to be one huge Street party. Uncle Vincenzo is busy making 150 kilo’s of sausages and everyone is getting their home-brewed vino at the ready (!)

I just can’t get enough of this place!

Thinking of you!

A & G

Ps Already seen a tomato the size of Mamma Romeo’s head!

Pps Top secret pasta making tips from Mamma Romeo to come….

POST TO: BRITALIAN KITCHEN FOLLOWERS – WORLD WIDE WEB -THE WORLD

 

#15 FOOD NEWS: Britalian semifreddo, coffee Vs tea: ice wars & a touch of culture

KEEPING AN EYE ON ALL THINGS BRITALIAN…

Every monday

 

Britalian semifreddo

Nigella brought this amazingly quick base for ice-cream to my attention with her oh-so simple and oh-so delicious no churn coffee ice-cream. Let’s just say I’ve taken that idea and ran [sprinkled, drizzled, chopped, shaken and stirred] with it!

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100ml Marsala wine
1tbsp caster sugar
1/2 x 397g can condensed milk
300g double cream
3 x 35g snack packs Whitworths tropical mix
75g glacé cherries, roughly chopped
1 x 300g readymade cherry cake

You will also need

1L freezer-proof mould/ loaf tin

1 Heat the Marsala wine and caster sugar in a small saucepan, until the sugar dissolves. Simmer for 1 minute, then leave to cool.

Marsala

2 Whisk together the cream, condensed milk and 2 tbsp of the sweetened Marsala until soft peaks form.  Stir through the through the tropical fruit and glace cherries.

Cream steps

3 Slice the cherry cake into triangles and strips if you are using a rounded mould or cut into rectangular slices if you are using a straight sided mould such as a loaf tin.

cake steps

4 Spoon a layer of the cream mix into the bottom of the mould (See Britalian Tip), dip the cake pieces in the Marsala and layer on top of the cream. Repeat the layers until all the ingredients are used up, finishing with a layer of the cream mixture.

5 Freeze for 4 hours or overnight. When ready to serve dip into a bowl of hot water for 2-3 mins and invert onto a serving plate, dip in hot water again if it needs freeing-up a little more.

Britalian Tip

I must admit I had some fun and games getting this out of the mould – I needed to dip it into the hot water a few times (step 5). To make life a little easier you could line your mould with clingfilm or make life even easier and serve in scoops – just as delicious!

Iced coffee Vs cold tea

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We love an iced-coffee in the UK – the sun merely needs to poke out of the clouds and we’ll be running for an iced frappe-frapaccino with extra ice. And who couldn’t resist with condensation-laden images lurking around every corner, from newspapers to bus stops to huge billboards [to food blogs!], these images are everywhere, but now it looks like it might just be time for tea:

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For beautifully cold brewed tea simply spoon 5-7 teaspoons of your chosen tea leaves into the Green Cold Brew T glass bottle, fill up with cold water, put in the silicone filter stopper and refrigerate for 3-6 hours. £20 www.whittard.co.uk

Gerardo Dottori: The Futurist view (& a lovely lunch!)

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Discover Dottori in style at the Estorick Collection of Modern Italian Art. His bright, bold aeropaintings really stand out, reflecting the excitement in the 1930s for new technology and flight – a source of  inspiration for exploring perspectives of the land from above.

Estorick Cafe Photo

Top off your visit in the landscaped garden cafe; there’s not many galleries in London where you can walk into the cafe and order an authentic Antipasto all’Italiana of Mozzarella di bufala, Parma ham, roasted vegetables, cheeses, olives and salame Milano! Gerardo Dottori: The Futurist View 9th July – 7th September, £5 per adult. www.estorickcollection.com

Words & recipe photos: Angela Romeo. Coffee photo: Yeko Photo Studio/Shutterstock

#12 FOOD NEWS: Breakfast special

Every monday

Full English or a continental pastry? I’m a massive fan of the English breakfast but it occurred to me that it could be taken to dizzy heights with a few Italian twists!

WEEKEND WONDER: The Embellished English

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Garlic and balsamic roast tomatoes

Oliveoil and balsamaic tomatoes

Place 3 halved plum tomatoes and 2 whole garlic cloves in a baking tray, drizzle with olive oil and balsamic vinegar. Sprinkle with dried oregano and season to taste. Roast at 190’C, 170’C fan, gas 5 for 30 mins. Serves 2 (double for 4).

The sausage

Place Sicilian Inspired Pork Sausages (Sainsbury’s Taste The Difference, £2.50 for 6) in a baking tray above the tomatoes and cook to pack instructions at 190’C, 170’C fan, gas 5 for 30 mins. If you’re lucky enough to have an Italian deli nearby or if you’re self-catering or camping in Southern Italy seek out pappagnotta – the ultimate Italian sausage.

Dreamy creamy scrambled eggs

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Whisk 4 large eggs, 6 tbsp whole milk and 50g mascarpone. Season to taste. Heat 1 tbsp of olive oil over a medium heat in a non-stick frying pan, add the egg mixture and allow to sit for 20 secs then gently fold and stir with a wooden spatula. Allow to sit for a further 10 secs and fold and stir again. Repeat until the eggs are soft softly set. Serves 2.

Crispy pancetta

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Place the pancetta in a dry non-stick frying or griddle pan over a medium heat for 3-5 mins, turning once, until crispy.

Britalian Tip

Add some courgette flower fritters if you have the rest of the day to walk (or sleep!) it all off!

WHEN YOU NEED TO BE UP-AND-OUT:

4 weekday 5 minute breakfasts…

Superfood smoothie

Whizz and go!

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Beetroot & blueberry smoothie

Place 125g cooked beetroot (half a pack of cooked beetroot in natural juices),  100g blueberries, 25g goji  berries, 60ml pomegranate juice, 1tsp honey and a squeeze of lemon juice in a blender. Blend for 1 minute and serve. Serves 1

My Calabrian breakfast
Although I’m never in a hurry when in Italy, breakfast is a quick affair – just a little entree to LUNCH.

My Italian breakfast

Lipton English breakfast tea (Mama Romeo likes to make me feel at home!), Pan di Stelle biscuits (good Italian deli’s sell these in the UK or you can even buy them from Amazon.co.uk, from £2.95) and a fresh peach. A seemingly odd little mix that I’ve grown to love.

Mummy ‘E’s’ mega cereal breakfast
Setting her up for a day of teaching 11-15 year olds. No wonder it’s quite hefty.

Super cereal crop

Top your favourite ready mixed granola with milk, a large spoonful of Greek natural yogurt, a small handful of berries and a few slices of kiwi fruit (or top with any fruit that needs using up!).

Slow release energy fast! 

 Perkier porridge pots

These little pots of joy from Perkier are perfect for busy days, pop one in your bag on the way to work and simply top up with boiling water.  Perkier was set-up by Anne Perkins and her partner Steve; fed up with the lack of choice and the price of gluten free products, Anne decided to do something about it. Perkier porridge pots are available at large supermarkets for around £1.50 each. For full product range visit http://www.perkier.co.uk

GREAT GADGET

Running out of cupboard space? These stackable Leaning Tower of Pisa espresso cups are perfect to keep on the worktop – making it even easier to reach for that morning coffee. Fab and functional! £19.99 www.menkind.co.uk

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