Tomato update!

Elena crop

So back in May while Elena got more cuddles than the most cuddled person ever. I jumped to work to help Uncle Mario plant the tomato seedlings. I have no idea why, but this caused  much amusement amongst Giuseppe’s family (probably something along the lines of….’crazy English woman – she’s meant to be relaxing’).

Tomato plants

I pushed in the holes using a homemade wooden planter tool-thingy. I don’t know a lot about gardening (as you may have guessed) but he must have turned the earth religiously as it was really easy – super satisfying work.

I was thinking I was doing him a massive favour, when I was called for, ‘Latte! Latte!’ – unfortunately not as in the Costa-type but as in to feed the bambino. I told him I’d be back in 10 minutes. I came running back to find he’d finished. Not sure he really needed any of my ‘help’.

Anyway we’ve had an update! I think it means the plants are doing well!

Check out Mama Romeo’s recipe for Simple Italian tomato salad

 

 

 

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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.

 

 

#26 FOOD NEWS: Curry week meets chocolate week!

Every monday
We’re not only celebrating one of the nation’s favourite cuisines this week (besides Italian!) with National Curry Week but Chocolate Week also now joins this mid-October party! Here’s my 3-step Britalian guide to making this the hybrid week of all weeks.

1. THE RECIPE

Fruity chocolate ‘pizza’

pizza crop

Pizza gets a chocolate make-over! A delicate chocolate shortbread base, topped with sweetened mascarpone and piled high with fruit will guarantee smiles all round.

strip ingred

125g butter, softened
4 tbsp clear honey
50g caster sugar
150g plain flour
3 tbsp cocoa powder
250g tub mascarpone
142ml double cream
500g chopped and sliced mixed fruit (such as strawberries, kiwi, nectarines, banana – tossed in lemon juice and blackberries).
50g dark chocolate, melted

1 Preheat the oven to 180’C, 160’C fan, gas 4. For the base, beat together the butter and 2tbsp of the honey and the sugar until creamy. Sift over the flour and cocoa powder.

strip 1

2 Stir with a fork until the mixture starts to stick together. Gather the mixture together with your fingertips to form a ball of dough.

dough

3 Place the dough on a large sheet of baking parchment. Roll out to a 30 cm circle. Prick the dough all over with a fork, cut into 6 segments. Lift the baking parchment on to a baking sheet. Bake for 15-20 mins until just firm to the touch; cool.

4 For the topping, place the mascarpone, cream and honey in a bowl; stir until smooth. Spread the mixture over the base. Arrange the prepared fruit on top; drizzle with melted chocolate. Serve within 2 hours.

2. THE BOOK

Cover

Whenever I’m with Southern Italians there’s always chilli oil, dried chilli or chilli powder to hand to sprinkle over anything and everything in front of you. So it wasn’t a surprise when I introduced Giuseppe to the great British tradition of an Indian take-away 9 years ago, you could see a spark of delight and hungry discovery in his eyes.

curry book

The beautiful book; Curry recipe collection by Sainsbury’s, is now firmly one of my favourite cookery books (although as the food editor I might be a teeny weeny bit biased!). Next time the Italians are over I’ll be making the chicken jalfrezi followed by the tropical pannacotta with coconut snaps. I will still, of course, have extra chilli to hand! Available in Sainsbury’s stores for £5.

3. WEAR THE T-SHIRT (Or couture dress!)

CHOCOLATE FASHION SHOW

Love chocolate? Now you can wear it! Stunning couture outfits inspired by chocolatiers such as Lindt, Paul A Young and Fruitful Blooms will be on the runway for the gala evening of  The Chocolate Show on the 16th October.

From the 17th-19th garments will be on display at the Olympia show in a dedicated exhibition from 5pm.

http://www.salonduchocolat.co.uk

CREDITS: Curry book photography; Jonathan Kennedy. I can’t claim the pizza recipe as my own, I tore the original version from Bella mag years ago – it’s an oldie but a goodie!

#21 FOOD NEWS: Mamma Romeo’s tomatoes, Chicken & chips – Italian style! And learning the lingo

Every monday

Terrific tomatoes

Tomato story banner 1

An outstanding crop. The tomato season is in full-swing at Mamma Romeo’s house. Mummy ‘E’ came to Italy to view the competition this year…. oops sorry… to ‘visit’ this year.  Like me, she was completely in ore of how Mamma Romeo’s plants were all beautifully tied to canes and supports and dripping with ruby-red tomatoes. With the stunning back-drop of Pollino National Park – the whole sight is breathtaking.

Top tomato tip

Mamma Romeo says be careful not to over-water your plants, it’s fine for the ground to go a bit dry and let the leaves go a little droopy before you water them.

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Simple Italian tomato salad 

For this Italian classic, make sure you get the best ingredients you possibly can to really taste the sunshine!

Sprinkle a pinch of coarsely ground salt over thickly sliced tomatoes, scatter over thinly sliced garlic and dried oregano. Drizzle with extra virgin olive oil just before serving.

For Italian Tomato in London posts visit:

# 1 Food News
# 4 Food News
# 14 Food News
# 18 Food News

Chicken & chips – Italian style!

Chicken & chips banner

I obviously adore Italian food but when we went to a restaurant with Giuseppe’s mum and sister and I saw good ol’ chicken and chips on the menu, I couldn’t resist. I happily ordered, but then the owner came over with a sad look on his face – I knew what he was going to say…. ‘no chicken’. Instead I ordered the Wild boar pasta, which as a ‘foodie’ I probably should have ordered in the first place – it was divine – super rich and super delicious. What I didn’t realise was Mamma Romeo had her eye on the whole thing. The next day she cooked me chicken and chips her way. I thought I’d died and gone to heaven:

Britalian chicken & chips

Serves 4
Prep: 20 mins
Cook: Approx 40 mins

7-8tbsp olive oil
4 Italian sweet green peppers (or 2 x green capsicum), halved and deseeded
4 large (beef or plum) tomatoes
2 cloves garlic
2tsp dried oregano
4 potatoes, peeled and roughly chopped
4 chicken escalopes
Juice from half a lemon (remaining half thickly sliced)
Mixed olives, to serve

1 Preheat the oven to 180’C/ 160’C fan/ gas 4. Drizzle the peppers with 1tbsp of the olive oil and roast for 30 mins until lightly charred. Remove and roughly chop.

2 Meanwhile prepare the tomato salad (as above) using 1tbsp of the olive oil. Set aside.

3 When the peppers are nearly ready, place the potatoes in a pan of water and bring to the boil for 5 mins. Drain well. Heat 4-5tbsp of the olive oil in a large, deep, non-stick frying pan, add the potatoes and chopped peppers and pan-fry, stirring occasionally, for 10 mins until the potatoes are lightly golden and cooked through.

4 Meanwhile heat 1tbsp of the olive oil in a large frying pan. Season the chicken escalopes and pan-fry with the lemon juice, for 2-3 mins each side, until cooked through (you may need to do this in batches). Add the lemon slices 2 mins before the end of cooking time. Serve with the potatoes, tomato salad and olives. Serve with crusty bread, if liked.

Alternative language lessons

Speak Italian

After our visit this year, I finally feel my understanding of Italian has improved. But what I now realise is that my numerous ‘Learn Italian’ books, CD’s, phone apps, online courses and DVDs aren’t quite giving me the conversational Italian I need when seeing the family. ‘Can I book a hotel room for one?’ really isn’t cutting it. So every now-and-then I’m going to post a really useful phrase that should help for my next visit. Please feel free to comment and post me your ‘alternative’ helpful phrases!

The real Italian phrase book: 

Entry 1:

How is it going with your tomatoes this year?

Come va’ con i tuoi pomodori quest’anno?

Photo: Cover of Speak Italian: The Fine Art of the Gesture (A great place to start when learning Italian). Available at Amazon.com