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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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.

cheesy pics

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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

#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!

#31 Food news: The best Italian deli in London

Forget gold rings – the real diamond of Hatton Gardens sits proudly at the top of Leather Lane like the crown jewels.

parma ham

Step out of the rain and into the sunshine! I used to work around the corner from Terroni & Son’s deli. In the heart of London’s Italian community – it was always a great place to have a browse, sometimes I’d even go in and get a coffee just for an excuse to stare at the Italian products and produce!

Shop

The perfect way to transport your mind to sunny, relaxing, Italian-Mamma-food-filled holidays in Italy: the rows of lemoncello, the hanging Parma ham (even if they are plastic – British health and safety at work I presume – rest assured the real McCoy are under the counter), the regional wine, steaming vats of pasta and the bowls of olives all help to give you that holiday feeling!

Open since 1878, London’s oldest delicatessen has just won the status as UK Parma Ham Specialist 2013, with Aldo Zilli presenting the award.

Aldo zilli

Of course this was celebrated in Italian style with more Parma ham canapés than you can imagine and some top-notch Prosecco!

Canapes

Go ‘ave a butchers! Terroni and Sons, 138-140 Clerkenwell Rd, EC1R 5DL  (great for those on engagement ring hunts, when it’s all too much drop in for a coffee or a bottle of Lemoncello – depending on how much you’ve spent!)

TOP 6 EASY PARMA HAM CANAPES 

1 Fig, Parmigiano and Parma ham wraps

Cut 12 slices of Parma ham in half lengthways. Wrap 12 fig halves in a strip of Parma ham. Top each with 1tbsp of grated Parmigiano cheese. Then wrap with the remaining Parma ham. Grill for 3-4 mins.

2 Parma prawns with mango salsa

Mix 1 ripe chopped mango, a small handful of finely chopped cucumber and 3 tbsp coriander. Fill 6 dessert spoons or ceramic soup spoons with the mixture. Top with prawns wrapped in Parma ham.

3 Tomato and Parma ham bruschetta

Drizzle 6 slices of lightly toasted ciabatta or French bread with olive oil. Top with sliced tomatoes. Grill for 1-2 mins. Serve topped with Parma ham

4 Parma ham, avocado and goats cheese

Drizzle 8 slices of lightly toasted ciabatta or French bread with olive oil. Top with a slice of avocado, crumbled goats cheese, basil and a slice of Parma ham

5 Melon and Parma ham sticks

Cut 1/2 honeydew melon into 2cm cubes, wrap the cubes in thin strips of Parma ham. Secure with a cocktail stick.

6 Ricotta, pesto and Parma ham blinis (pictured above)

Top 12 blinis with a little ricotta and pesto. Finish with basil leaves and Parma ham.

Visit prosciuttodiparma.com for lots of delicious Parma ham recipes (not just canapés!)

#23 FOOD NEWS: The Last Secret Supper Club & Italian tomatoes in London update

Every monday

 

The last secret supper club: what a night!

Last Secret Supper Club- 27th August

North west Londoners are a lucky bunch to have this little hidden gem on their door-step, for anyone else it’s well-worth the journey. A great idea from Lauren Mclean and Lottie Covell.

If you were allowed only one more meal what would it be? Nostaglic and retro? Fine dining? Italian comfort food? Far Eastern fusion? On booking you’ll be asked to submit your last supper -Go wild!

Strawberry Basil Grande & Prawn satay

Along with chef, Jesse Dunford Wood, the team pick the 3 courses for the night. You simply turn up, you’re handed a cocktail and the fun begins! First is the excitement to see if one of your courses has been chosen. Next you wait to see how Jesse has interpreted each suggestion. He remains true to each dish but  there’s always a touch of  creativity and magic that really adds to the theatre of it all. Don’t be saying, ‘he’ll never make it like my mum used to make’. He won’t. You’ll get a great big taste of nostalgia and a bang of 2014! Fab stuff .

Chicken kiev & Tart au citron with pistachio ice-cream

Amazing value at £35 for 3 courses and a cocktail (and the lucky people whose dishes are chosen each get £10 cash at the end of the night!) 

Hosted monthly at Parlour, NW10. For more info visit lastsecretsupperclub.com

The last supper club photography: laurenmclean.com

Italian tomatoes in London

tomatoes and ciabatta

From little Italian seeds, smuggled in my suitcase, they’re here, ripe and ready for the picking! We used the smaller ones in the most simplest of antipasti; mixed with  extra-virgin olive oil, dried oregano, garlic and a touch of salt. Served with some farmers-market ciabatta and olive bread – the perfect way to start a delicious meal in the weekend’s surprise sunshine!

Next time on Italian Tomato in London: Day trip to the sights!

 

#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.

ttomato story banner 2

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 

 

#19 FOOD NEWS: Postcard from Italia!

KEEPING AN EYE ON ALL THINGS BRITALIAN…

Every monday

 

IMG_2491

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

 

#14 FOOD NEWS: Dhruv Baker’s caponata, skint or spree! Italian tomatoes in London

KEEPING AN EYE ON ALL THINGS BRITALIAN

Every monday

 

Italian tomato in London update

Mums toms banner

Well mummy ‘E’ has done an amazing job nurturing the little Italian seedlings – some are standing up to a metre tall, standing proud and now seemingly happy to be in an English garden. Placed in every conceivable spot; some in tubs, some in shallow earth, in deep earth, in ‘rooty’ earth – they’re everywhere!

Inset banner strip

At the moment the soil of Staines looks to be bearing up to the rich soil of Pollino National Park, Italia. Little yellow flowers have even started appearing – a true sign tomatoes are on their way! But will they taste the same as their Italian brothers and sisters? To be continued…..

Previous Italian tomato in London posts Food News 1 and Food News 4

Skint or spree: Olive oil

Should you cook with it? Drizzle it? Dip into it? Well the truth is all 3! But save the best stuff for dipping and final drizzles.

Skint?

Extra virgin olive oil by Sainsbury’s
£1.85 for 500ml

Image for Sainsbury's Olive Oil, Extra Virgin 500ml from Sainsbury's

I was actually hoping it would be another supermarket, I wouldn’t want anyone thinking I was biased (!) but even Yottam Ottolengi agrees (GuardianWordofMouth). A fair price for a great product. Light enough to cook with, it makes a great healthier alternative when shallow or pan-frying.

Spree!

Emozioni Extra virgin olive oil
£15.50 for 15ml

Premium olive oil

An olive oil that looks more like a gorgeous A-list beauty product is certainly a treat. The olives are hand-picked at the premium moment and the oil extracted within a few hours to enhance nutritional properties and flavour. Liquid gold-literally. It’s enough to make a foodie weep but so might the price! www.emozionifood.co.uk

Dhruv Baker’s Caponata 

Caponata banner1

When MasterChef winner Dhruv Baker’s Spice: Layers of Flavour landed on my desk, it felt like I had access to a secret diary of spice. Full of classic recipes from around the world, each with a spicy twist – from chilli heat to more fragrant and complex flavours. You won’t be bogged down with lots of words – it’s the perfect way to learn about spice, simply make a recipe and eat it! Then turn the page and try the next one.

The cumin and fennel seeds add a lovely aromatic flavour to this Sicilian stew.

Caponata final1
Serves 4
4 tbsp light olive oil
2 large aubergines, cut into 4cm cubes
1/2 tsp cumin seeds
1 tsp fennel seeds
1 red onion, finely chopped
3 cloves garlic, finely chopped
20ml red wine vinegar
100g green olives (Dhruv recommends the ones stuffed with anchovy)
4 large tomatoes, roughly chopped
Small bunch flat-leaf parsley, roughly chopped
Salt and freshly ground black pepper

 

1 Heat a large frying pan and when hot add the olive oil and the aubergines. When the aubergines have started to colour, after about 10 mins, add the cumin and fennel seeds and cook for a further 5 mins.

step banner caponata

2 Add the onion and garlic and stir-fry for another 5 mins. Add the vinegar and olives and stir well; cook for another 5 mins then add the tomatoes. Leave to cook over a medium heat for 10 mins.

3 Scatter over the parsley and season with salt and pepper. Serve hot or cold (See Britalian Tip).

Spice: Layers of Flavour, Dhruv Baker, RRP £25. Available at http://www.amazon.co.uk for £23

Britalian Tip
Eat on its own with crusty bread or as an accompaniment, I served mine with grilled seabass fillets squeezed with a little lemon juice.

 

#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

britalian breakfast final1

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

eggs crop

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

sizzling pancetta

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!

superfood smoothie crop

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

leaning tower of pisa_In situation