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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#17 FOOD NEWS: Jamie’s Involtini, pizza at Franco Manca & Save or Spree: Piccalilli

KEEPING AN EYE ON ALL THINGS BRITALIAN…

Every monday

Jamie’s  Involtini

Always up for sharing his love of Italian food, I found this little starlet in the latest issue of Jamie mag that had to be tried:

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Makes 12

3 long aubergines (straight ones work best)
2tbsp olive oil
6 sundried tomatoes in oil
15g basil leaves, plus extra handful, to serve
50g pine nuts, toasted
3 anchovy fillets in oil
1 1/2tbsp extra virgin olive oil
10 parma ham slices
2 x 125g balls of mozzarella, torn into bite-sized pieces

1 Slice the aubergines lengthways into 5mm-thick pieces, trimming the skin from the outer pieces to give you flat finishes on both sides, then brush them with oil.

2 Heat a griddle pan over a high heat and, once hot, griddle the aubergine slices for 3 minutes on each side, until char-marked and tender. Set aside.

3 In a food processor, blitz the sundried tomatoes, basil leaves, pine nuts, anchovies and extra virgin olive oil until you have a spreadable paste. Season with freshly ground black pepper and pulse again to combine.

involtini steps

4 Lay a slice of parma on top of each aubergine strip, tearing off the excess to use again, and spread on a little sundried tomato paste. Take a piece of mozzarella and basil leaf, place it at one end of the strip, then roll up and secure with a tooth pick. Serve immediately.

To get 6 copies of Jamie mag for £9.95 (half the recommended retail price) visit http://www.jamieolivermagazine.com

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Get pickled: Save or Spree!

When The Italians last came to stay,  our vast choice of dips and ‘Il pane morbido!’ (‘The soft bread’) got everyone in an arm-waving frenzy of appreciation. I love seeing Mamma Romeo’s reaction to some of our British favorites, so with our hols to Italy just around the corner I’ll be taking Piccalilli to see what she makes of this great British table-topper.

Save

Haywards Piccalilli

As a kid, I remember this being on our table and marveling at the colour! My mum knew her pickles! Haywards piccalilli always came out when there were cold meats on offer. As a youngster I don’t think I was even brave enough to try the ‘yellow stuff’, now as an adult I can’t get enough of it! This tangy piccalilli is the perfect partner for pork pies and pasties but don’t forget it at your next BBQ, the zingy gerkin flavour also works wonders with a burger. Priced around £1.89 for 460g www.haywardspickles.co.uk.

Spree!

F&M

Firstly I love the name: Piccadilly piccalilli. Fortnum and Mason’s version of this classic is a lovely mix of red peppers, silverskin onions and green beans. A fairly subtle flavour, the delicate mustard heat comes through. Top crostini with mortadella and a little dollop of this piccalilli for a delicious Britalian snack or canape. A pantry jar costs£7.95 for 575g www.fortnumandmason.com.

Must go: Franco Manca 

When Giuseppe told me he going Franca Manca with friends, I must admit, I didn’t pay much attention – I was out with the girls and that was that. However when he came back and said the pizzas were delicious, they only cost around £5 each, they’re ready in about 10 minutes flat and his part of the bill was £15, I suddenly found myself listening!

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This reasonable bill included a pizza and beer each (it seems an Italian boys outing is a little different to a group of English lads hitting a er… restaurant where the cost might rocket due to the amount of alcohol consumed, ‘extras’ were a pizza to share and a shared dessert – sounds like they had more of a girlie night than me).

Franca Manca prides itself on their slow-rising sourdough and blast cooking method in a ‘tufae’ – a wood burning brick oven. It sounds like a rustic no-frills kind of place – exactly how I like my Italian restaurants in London.  If you’re lucky enough to have one of the 9 branches near where you work, at £5.90 for Tomato, Mozzarella and basil pizza,  it also sounds perfect for a Friday lunchtime treat.

Pizza photos: http://www.francomanca.co.uk