Squash Soup and Veggie Frenzie

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If you’ve read my previous post, this (the above photo) is what I ended up making with the squash/pumpkin I had bought at the market.  I made soup.  The soup is utterly vegetarian and, if you eschew the grated parmigiano at the end, it is most definitely vegan too.  If you are interested in the recipe and want to skip my meanderings, please scroll straight down to where it says “Ingredients”.

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I defy anyone to have not reacted even in some minimal way to Megan and Harry’s bolt from the blue statement a few days ago.  I don’t usually watch the news much but even I found myself glued to various TV programmes prying into the story and trying to navigate what ‘really’ is going  with the couple and the British monarchy.   I did find it terribly rude of them to make the announcement without forewarning granny Elisabeth beforehand.  Then it turns out they actually did but only minutes before they went media public? What is at the bottom of wanting to dash off and do their own thing, with their own website ?(Sussexroyal.com doesn’t sound very royal at all to me, but it is catchy I suppose.)

Anyway, discussing the events with friends and family, what stood out for me in the end is that … the world is changing.  Has changed.  Will change.

If the only constant is indeed change, as hindu/buddhist traditions have been banging on about for centuries, with modern physics following in hot pursuit, how are we to accommodate constance and continuity, instead, without turning into paper cut-out doll versions of ourselves, stiff pinocchio-like wooden puppets, as opposed to heart-and-guts living, thinking, loving bodies and people/souls?  Let’s face it, not many people embrace change lock, stock and barrel and most of us rather fear it when it’s thrown in our face, even more so when it’s not our choice number one.  Very often because it means we have to reinvent ourselves, and that can be somewhat tedious when there are so many other important matters to be dealt with on a daily basis.  Like waking up in the morning, brushing our teeth,  looking after people, remembering to throw the rubbish/recycling out, dealing with a boring job, dealing with having to find a job,  dealing with a difficult partner, dealing with living solo after a broken relationship, dealing with people who have not had the benefit of good manners incorporated in their upbringing.  All that and more.

One of the reasons I love cooking and eating so much, I believe, is not just animal appetite and greediness or sensual satisfaction.   I think it is a quasi therapeutic exercise for me – my byline for this blog is “good food to put you in the mood”, remember?  In the mood for what? Well, that depends.  Sometimes we are upbeat, sometimes melancholy, sometimes melodramatic, sometimes quiet, sometimes musical, sometimes sexy, sometimes gossipy, on occasion silly  billy full of love – it’s easy to run the whole gamut and range of human moods via food and eating.  For food is indeed life.  There are no two ways about it.  No-food equals starvation equals diseased  bodies equals death.

And food can also equal fads.  Is it just me who sees the irony in how we all seem to be so preoccupied with our health in an era when the human lifespan is getting longer and longer thanks to better living conditions, access to food and improved medical health care.  It is sometimes nose-scrunchingly puzzling to understand just why, why?, these food fads continue to burst forth.  Fashion I suppose, maybe.  Refreshment?  Seasons are the refreshments of the world we live in, of our days, a reminder of change being unrelenting but reassuring too.  So it may well be that the same old food recipes can strike people as stagnant and very boring, same ol’, same ol’, same ol’.

My sister and I were talking along these lines a few days ago, nice glasses of Frascati wine to keep us going, as we took some of our reveries to task.  And since we both love cooking, and easy recipes in particular, the subject touched upon vegan recipes.  Neither of us is a vegan.  And I would be the world’s biggest fibber if I said that vegans hadn’t irritated me in the beginning.  Whilst the ethos of not hurting animals is obviously laudable, there was a lot of holier-than-thou preaching and even religious-like intensity in conversion that I found distasteful.  Dietary rectitude.  One of the more tiresome (for me) offshoots of veganism was the rebranding of recipes and dishes that had been around for ever as being ‘vegan’.  “Vegan lentils”, for instance. Since when had lentils not been vegan?  Don’t get me started on gluten- free commercial homogenising, either, with labels that are utter nonsense, such as “gluten free rice”.  Seriously?  “Vegan burgers” was another one. A burger is supposed to be made with meat otherwise it is a patty.  Why desire to keep the name of a food that you vociferously want to eschew from your diet on the grounds of ethics?

I continue to think that it is not a healthy way to eat (Vitamin B12, for instance, is hard enough for vegetarians to assimilate let alone vegans).  Veganism is so often presented as a dietary nostrum.   Not convinced.  I also believe that one cannot disregard biology and evolutionary history (https://www.straitstimes.com/lifestyle/food/debunking-a-few-myths-about-meat-eating-and-vegetarianism).

I do think that we should all be more mindful of how animals are treated from start to finish, from how they are raised to when and how they are slaughtered.  And if there are countless articles on how modern cattle rearing is cause for much of the world’s travails, it is also true that farm animals raised ‘properly’ really do contibute to the health of the soil which will then be able to produce lots of nice veggies and cereals for us.  Read the following The Guardian article:  “Intensively farmed meat and dairy are a blight, but so are fields of soya and maize. ”  Also: unless you’re sourcing your vegan products specifically from organic, “no-dig” systems, you are actively participating in the destruction of soil biota, promoting a system that deprives other species, including small mammals, birds and reptiles, of the conditions for life, and significantly contributing to climate change.” (https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2018/aug/25/veganism-intensively-farmed-meat-dairy-soya-maize)

This is, as we all know, a contentious subject and one that I don’t have time for within the context of this blog post, not in the detail it deserves.   Why?  Because it’s bloody complicated, that’s why.  There are too many considerations to take into account.  The bottom line, however, as far as I am concerned is the following one.  Would I be able to slaughter a cow, say, or a pig or a lamb?  And the answer is no.  So there you go … I have to admit that there is some kind of double-standard to my reasoning on food choices.  I have gone fishing and done that.  I come from a family that went hunting/shooting for little birds and remember my grandmother plucking their feathers, and their little dangling heads.  Still, even if I knew how to shoot, I don’t think I would enjoy killing lots of birds.   I am able to eat snails, and have bought them live.  I saw my grandmother kill a chicken when I was little.  It didn’t seem to bother me then.  But I don’t think I would be able to.  And yet I continue to eat chicken, and duck, and lamb, and pork, and beef.  All of which leads me to think that who knows? in the future? Change, as I wrote at the beginning of this post, is inexorably on its way.  I might indeed end up being vegetarian.  But not vegan.  I have no qualms over good quality milk, cheese, eggs and honey.

All this to say that … despite not being vegetarian or vegan … I am absolutely obsessed with vegetables.  It is the reason why I define myself as a vegetarian who eats a lot of meat.  I can easily skip meat or fish at a meal but I definitely cannot …. will not … skip vegetables.  “And by the way, I do think veganism is here to stay, ” my sister said the other night as we delved into some vegan recipes she was looking into.

Bring it on say I.  I live in a country where so many people, in the not so distant past, had to be vegans pretty much because there was little else for them to eat.  Meat was out of the question, only for the very rich.  Some fish maybe.  A little cheese too.  But for the rest, only vegetables and cereals.  The cuisines of the Middle East, Persia, the Indian Subcontinent and the Far East are chock-a-block full of vegan recipes.  I think that veganism, or at least a version of veganism,  has been around for a long time only perhaps we weren’t aware of this.

So … Happy New Year everyone.  Enjoy your vegetables and cereals!  And, say I, also your milk, cream, butter, cheeses and eggs.  Try and help the cause for the better treatment of animals.

Last, please remember that some animals are human animals.  There is a lot of human trafficking where vegetables are concerned.   Immigrant workers in Sicily,  is just an example, bringing us the joy of delicious tomato varieties at a terrible cost to them. K

Kindness for all.  The little we can do, let us do.

INGREDIENTS: squash, onion, garlic, olive oil, salt, peppercorns, nutmeg, parsely, freseh sage leaves, parmigiano/parmesan

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Squash or pumpkin.  Cut it up and remove the skin.

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Drizzle plenty of olive oil into the pot and brown a roughly chopped onion for a few minutes.  This happens to be a small pressure-cooker.  I think they are brilliant when it comes to soups.  I also included a few peppercorns and plenty of salt when I later added the cut up squash.

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Next it was time for parsely and sage leaves.

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A little bit of garlic, too, why not and a good twist of nutmeg.

16Pour in the amount of water that’s required.

17Pressure cook the soup for … oh gosh, sorry, I can’t remember.  I was busy with other stuff.  Ahem, er … let’s say twenty minutes?

18Once it’s safe for you to open the lid of the pressure cooker, do so and then blend all the ingredients.  It was a bit too thick at this stage, so I added a little more water.  I tasted it, and had to add a bit more salt too.

19A snowstorm of freshly grated parmesan/parmigiano and Bob’s your uncle.  No cheese and you are veganic.

Silver spoon optional.

Vegetables Va Va Voom

Hello there, how are you all getting over the recent festivities and what usually accompanies them?  You know what I mean – that extra pound or two as we weigh up the situation on the scales, the liver sensibly asking for some respite from tipple-mania, and the body aching to be involved in a modicum of movement and fitness.   Yes, it is very good to overindulge every now and then, to allow our hair to cascade down, to increment the variety of spices in our life and to let two of the Seven Cardinal Sins, gluttony and sloth, out of the moral no-no box in which we justly allocate them the rest of the year.  My mother-in-law Maria’s mental health is  fast degenerating on account of dementia/Alzheimers with all the sadness that that entails for all concerned, not least of which are the ‘missing’ wit and quips in her conversation.  If there were to be just one sentence I would love to hear her utter again then that would be, “Lord save us from the virtuous !”.

That said, one does have to be sensible.  I can’t stand the term ‘detox’ but I’m presuming a large swathe of post-holidays revellers are embracing it full on.

Last Saturday I went to Frascati’s weekly Slow Food (local) farmers’ market as well as to the town’s covered market which is open six days a week, and it was as if I couldn’t get enough of the vegetables on offer.  I went quite beserk, and came home laden like a mule with bags hanging from both shoulders and being carried in both hands.  It’s not a long walk from these markets to where I live but it was quite the haul, I assure you and not very comfortable.  As I took out the vegetables out of the bags, I could see that I had perhaps … ahem … erred on the side of vegetable excess (can’t think of the Cardinal Sins’ name for that one) ?  I made myself some squash soup for lunch and as I went about my way, I fell into a reverie of sorts.

We all know vegetables are healthy and good for us.  But really, I do love love love me veggies – there wasn’t a hint of ‘detox’ notion clouding my purchase – it was sheer lust (another Cardinal sin) that drove me.  Vegetables make me happy, you see.  As does wine.  And so my thoughts flitted about being  vegetarian and vegan in our contemporary times.  Again, I came to the conclusion I’ve had for a while, which is that I am an omnivore with a twist: I am a vegetarian who eats lots of meat, fish and dairy foods.  But I can easily eschew meat or fish at a meal whereas I simply cannot contemplate one without vegetables.  I started writing a post along these lines yesterday but it ‘degenerated’ and got to be so long that I am going to post it separately.

Here, in the meantime, just take a look at all my lovely vegetables from last Saturday’s morning shop.  The exercise included walking and weights so well done I.

6Radishes … mmm.  My sister made a herring based paté to serve with them (it included yogurt, thick Italian spreadable cheese, freshly grated horse radish, lemon juice and zest, parsely and olive oil.  We tweaked the recipe from one of Jamie Oliver’s TV ones that was made using smoked mackerel instead.

1Artichokes are coming into their own season-wise just now.  We had these three beauties for dinner last night, cooked the classic Roman way.  See link below.

https://myhomefoodthatsamore.wordpress.com/2011/03/02/edible-roses-the-seasonally-correct-artichoke-1/

7Spuds.  We got these for our mother.

IMG_6186Thinly cut, lots of olive oil, dried chilli flakes, and salt and pepper.  This is how we cooked them that evening.

4The garlic bulbs  (Italian, from the Abbruzzo region) were for my sister to take back to Blighty.  It’s hard to find good garlic in the UK.  The fennel is still in the fridge, as is the  bunch of spring onions.  That yellow thing is a bergamot.  I’d never seen one before. Smells heavenly.  Tasted the zest and it was overpowering, fwah.  The apple I ate after lunch.  The red pepper: we griddled it and had it for dinner with olive oil, parsely and thin slices of garlic.  Up top in the photo and hard to make out, is some lamb’s lettuce and a small bunch of rocket/arugula.

8These are what we call ‘broccoletti’ in and around Rome.  Broccoli Rabe or Rapini elsewhere.   I’d trimmed them of the bits that are not nice to eat and left them to soak in this cheerful yellow tub.  Later I boiled them in salted water until tender.  Once drained and cooled, they need to be pressed to remove the excess moisture.  They can be served either plain, with just a squirt of lemon juice and olive oil (which is how we enjoyed them).  Or else, they can be cooked a second time in a frying pan, tossed about and coated in olive oil, garlic and chilli flakes.  Here’s a link to a quick pasta recipe using broccoletti:

https://myhomefoodthatsamore.wordpress.com/2011/05/24/hurry-up-pasta/

10This is what we call cicoria – pronounced chee-corr-eee-ah in English.

11It’s a bit of a labour of love trimming cicoria.  It too needs soaking in plenty of water before cooking.  There is always some soil attached to it that needs removing.

The link below will show you what I did with this cicoria, after boiling it first.

https://myhomefoodthatsamore.wordpress.com/2010/11/25/cichorium-intybus/

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The above vegetable is “Cicoria catalogna”, another variety of cicoria.  During this time of year, this veggie gets trimmed and turned into a beautiful salad.  We call this “puntarelle”  here.  The dressing includes the ubiquitous olive oil, plus garlic, vinegar and anchovy fillets.  Quote from wikipedia: Puntarelle or cicoria di catalogna or cicoria asparago is a variant of chicory. The heads are characterized by an elongated shape (about 40–50 cm), light green stems and dandelion shaped leaves. ‘Puntarelle’ shoots have a pleasantly bitter taste.

Our Christmas Eve wouldn’t be the same without them.  Anyway, see a link on how to prepare them:

https://myhomefoodthatsamore.wordpress.com/2012/03/30/little-points-big-salad-puntarelle/

2This broccolo romano is still in the fridge.

3Ditto this cabbage.

12And last and definitely not least, here is some of othe squash I used to make myself some soup as already mentioned.

Here is wishing you all a happy vegetable-filled year.

Beloved Blini – Home Made!

It’s that time of year, festivities, end of calendar year.  And one way to celebrate is to make Blini.  By the time you read this it will probably be too late for you to make any in time for dinner tonight (and that’s if you’re staying in) but who knows? Maybe next year?

Next year is not only a new year, it is also a new decade.  May this decade bring peace, prosperity, emotional healing as well as good health, comfort and cheer, warm relationships and lots and lots of fun for everyone.

INGREDIENTS

100g – Buckwheat flour

200g – 00 Flour (with pinch of salt BUT add the salt later, when it has rested for 1 hour)

300ml milk with pinch of sugar in it

200 yogurt or sourcream

4 eggs – separate egg yolks from egg whites

Yeast: half a cube of fresh brewer’s yeast, about 12.5g

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GETTING STARTED

Warm the milk until it just about reaches boiling point, take it off the heat and then add the yeast. Whisk so that it dissolves in the milk.

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Below you will see the yogurt in one bowl, on the left, with the milk with the dissolved yeast in a pan on the right.  Top left, the bowl with the two flours and four egg yolks in it. Top right are the four egg whites.

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Start by adding the yogurt to the milk pan.

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And now you can pour this mixture into the bowl and use a whisk or a wooden spoon to combine all the ingredients.  You could, if you preferred, beat the egg yolks separately and include them in the wet ingredients.  You choose.

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Cover with a tea towel for about an hour.

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This is what it looks like after about one hour.

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Whisk the four egg whites.

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Add the beaten egg whites to the blini batter.

IMG_6008Add the salt only NOW.  If you add the salt too soon, it will hinder the raising agent work of the yeast.  Again, cover with a tea towel and let it rest for one hour, better two.

IMG_6009And here it is now … all light and fluffy and waiting to be cooked.

IMG_6010Melt a small amount of butter in a frying pan, maybe a non-stick one would be a good idea.  When the blini start to ‘bubble’ on the surface, turn them over.  It doesn’t take long to gook the blini.  They’re just lke pancakes after all.

IMG_6011IMG_6014They are very nice served with sour cream and smoked salmon.

IMG_6015Shame I can’t get fresh dill around here.  Aw well, never mind.  I used a bit of dried dill instead.

HAPPY NEW YEAR EVERYONE !!!

Pearl Barley instead of Risotto – Orzotto alla Mantovana

I hope people who celebrate Judeo-Christian festivities are holding up?   Hannukah and Christmas have a way of grinding us down as well as buoying as up.  So much preparation and craziness before the celebrations themselves, followed by …. so much eating and drinking (AND cleaning up afterwards, let’s not forget).  Anyway, it just dawned on me that a lot of squash and pumpkin is available this time of year and that one could put it to good use not just for a risotto but also for a …. for something similar, using barley instead of rice.  It’s called “orzotto” and is jolly good.  I made one a few years ago and am reposting the recipe because only three people read that post back then; who knows, maybe some of you might be interested in making one now?  Anyway, you know the drill by now.  I start off a post with a fair amount of bla bla.  So if you want to skip that by all means do.  Go straight to where it reads “ingredients”.

https://myhomefoodthatsamore.wordpress.com/2013/10/02/pumpkin-barley-orzotto-not-risotto-orzotto-alla-mantovana/

Pumpkin Barley Orzotto (not Risotto) – Orzotto alla Mantovana

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Invited to an inauguration for future cooking classes in a fine kitchen-ware shop called “Ottagoni” in  Rome’s Trastevere area last week …..

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I espied a lone-looking chef deep within the bowels of this snazzy showroom selling Cesar kitchens.  I would have made a beeline in his direction but the throng was such that I had to dart in and out of oncoming human traffic …

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And so it took me some time …

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His name is Andrea Trenta and he told me that he used to run a restaurant near Sacrofano. Bent as he was on preparing what he was preparing, I did not want to pester him by posing too many questions … but I could not stop myself from ooohing and aaahing over his inventive dish!

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IMG_1821What I was oohing and aahing over was … an Orzotto (made with pearl barley) that he was preparing using squash/pumpkin and mostarda essence, with amaretti bisuits and pecorino romano.  Clever thing!, I thought to myself … he has drawn on the tradition of Mantova by using squash and amaretto biscuits, he has made it seasonal (pumpkin) and he has made it ‘local’ by using products and produce that were sourced directly from the organic farm Ecofattorie Sabine (http://www.ecofattorie.it/).

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He explained the amounts he was playing with : 4kg of pearl barley, 6kg of pumpkin/squash, 1.5 kg of pecorino.  Not the sort of amounts I normally deal with in my own kitchen!

IMG_1834And here was my little stash … together with a very nice glass of beautifully cold Stajnbech Chardonnay.  And it was delicious.

INGREDIENTS

Pumpkin soup, onion, pear barley, amaretti biscuits, balsamic vinegar, olive oil, butter, pecrino romano cheese, fresh sage leaves

I made some carrot and pumpkin soup the other day and I had some left over … and so I thought I would follow Andrea Trenta’s suit … and here is my version then.

2Leftover soup … made with onion and garlic, carrots, pumpkin, lemonjuice and salt and pepper …

1The packet of pearl barley … (bought at a supermarket, note, not something I do often … and that’s because I didn’t do the shopping.  Helpful helper was asked to kindly do the food shopping and when I asked for pearl barley, said helper trotted off to the supermarket, tsk tsk).

3I didn’t have any ‘mostarda’ nor mostarda essence … so I opted for some good quality balsamic vinegar (in the background) instead … and in the front are the amaretti biscuits.

4I grated some pecorino romano cheese …

5I began to sauté a red onion in some olive oil on a fairly moderate heat.

6I turned on the heat to bring the soup to a simmer and also added some water — I could see it wasn’t going to be enough liquid otherwise.

7Once the onion had softened, I added the orzo … the pearl barley.

8I stirred it well so that it would get coated with the olive oil.

9And immediately added some of the soup.  Orzo is not rice … and even rice does not need constant stirring … so I just stirred when I fancied it.  I kept adding ladles of the soup by and by.

10I started off by wanting to add 5 amaretti biscuits.  I ended up using 8 altogether.  I poured the balsamico into the wooden spoon – that’s the amount I used altogether since it was quite potent.

11I crushed the amaretti first … and added them towards the end of the cooking time.  I added the balsamico immediately afterwards.  After stirring them in and tasting, I added a little salt and white pepper.

12When the orzotto was almost ready, I added the grated pecorino cheese.

13And then I added some butter too:

14I am positive that Andrea Trenta didn’t add butter … but I love butter so there you are.  It melted almost straight away.

And that was it!

15I grated a little more pecorino directly over the orzotto … added two sage leaves … and one amaretto biscuit as garnish.

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It was actually very very nice and I am going to make it again.  The only thing I hadn’t realised … is that barley takes between 30 and 40 minutes to cook, much longer than a risotto.

Thank you Andrea Trenta!

P.S.  For those who did not know, barley is one of those super foods:

http://www.oprah.com/health/Barley-Dr-Perricones-No-3-Superfood

PPS Here is another pearl barley orzotto recipe — there must be a “Great-Minds-Think-Alike as Regards Pearl Barley Syndrome” wending through our autumnal kitchens! –posted by peripatetic food lover and chef-on-the-move Kay Gale recently: http://thesinglegourmetandtraveller.wordpress.com/2013/09/12/mushroom-rocket-orzotto/

Winter Tureen of Blue Cheese and Mascarpone

I’m not saying this can’t be eaten the rest of the year.  I AM saying that it is especially eatable when it’s cold outside, and cheese does not melt on the table.  It is pretty to look at, jolly good to eat, and a nice thing to bring to a potluck supper or to place on a this-time-of-year buffet table.  Serve with crackers or toast or whatever you like to accompany your cheese.

I made it just minutes ago and I’m in a bit of a hurry.  It’s my mother’s 93rd  birthday today and we are popping round for drinks and canapés and other bits and bobs to celebrate in about an hour’s time.  She loves gorgonzola so I am hoping she will love this dish.

The photos are what they are but hopefully they’ll make sense.

INGREDIENTS: 200-250g blue cheese/gorgonzola, 200-250g mascarpone, 40g chopped dried apricots, 40g toasted hazelnuts, 2 teaspoons of honey, freshly  milled pepper, pistachio to garnish

IMG_5859I decided to use only the strong gorgonzola, instead of a mixture of the two.

IMG_5860Chop the apricots and toast the hazelnuts.

IMG_5861Place the mascarpone in a mixing bowl and whip it up with a fork.  Then add: apricots, hazelnuts, honey and black pepper.

IMG_5862Done.

IMG_5863Slice the gorgonzola and line the ceramic tureen with one layer.

IMG_5864Then add one layer of the mascarpone mix.

IMG_5865A second layer of gorgonzola. And then a second layer of mascarpone on top of that.

IMG_5866Final touch: a good scattering of pistachio.  Cover and place in the fridge for about an hour or so before serving.

IMG_5867You can make this dish a few days in advance, why not?

IMG_5868Okay, gotta go now …. oh I forgot, great for parties, thumbs up.

Frascati-style Sartù

HISTORICAL BACKGROUND

I would not blame purists from the Campania region if they wanted to throttle me for daring to refer to the rice concoction I am writing about as a ‘sartù’.  A sartù is an iconic conglomeration of a recipe, a precious pearl in the crown of posh recipes that were served to the noble families in the Campania region.  If you want to read more about it, check out my previous post.

Here in the Alban hills south east of Rome, an area known as the “Castelli Romani”, we too have posh antecedents.  We are famous for our baroque estates, sometimes built over the remains of ancient Roman villas (the popes’ summer residence at Castel Gandolfo, for instance, was built over Emperor Domitian’s villa).  Popes, cardinals and Rome’s noble families liked to spend part of their Summer here and enjoy all that it had to offer. If Rome were to be thought of as New York City, then our Castelli Romani could easily be regarded as its Hamptons.  And this all the way from pre-Roman times to just after the Second World War.  A lot changed after then.  And not just in Frascati, naturally, but all over the world.

These days, as far as current Romans are concerned, we people in the Castelli Romani are to be thought of as ‘rednecks’ or ‘hill-billies’ or something akin to a peasant whichever way you look at it.  Their word for us is “burino”.  We are country bumpkin ‘burini’ whereas they are city dwellers, with Rome being the centre of the world.  A lot of this is in jest of course but even so when I hear talk levelled at us burini, I put my hands on my hips and fight back.  I like to counter the view by letting THEM know that one cannot consider himself/herself a true Roman unless he or she has Roman relatives going back at least five generations (even seven).  So mneah, take that!  So many so-called Romans have parents who relocated from other counties just after the Second World War.  Including my husband, for instance. He was born of parents hailing from the Marche Region.  And though he was born and raised in Rome, in theory he couldn’t be considered a ‘true’ Roman.  At least we Castelli people are authentic burini, ha ha.  (Actually, even that wouldn’t be totally correct: so many labourers and workers, during the mid-century 1800s onwards all the way up to the 1950s, came to find a living in these parts.  They hailed mainly from Abbruzzo and the Marche regions, as well as southern Lazio but sssssh, don’t tell.)

PERSONAL BACKGROUND

Favourite son asked that I make polenta for him when he came to visit us last month.  Obliging Mamma of course makes some, double quick,  Favourite daughter loathes polenta and favourite husband isn’t overly keen either, so this request gave me the opportunity to finally make some and know it would be thoroughly appreciated and enjoyed.

I am so used to cooking for a fair amount of people that I ended up making too much sauce (the classic pork and sausage sauce) and thus put the remainder in the freezer.  Except I didn’t – put it in the freezer, I mean.  I thought I had but I hadn’t.  So days after my darling boy had left I discovered a large glass jar of the sauce at the back of the fridge. I tasted it and it was fine thank goodness.  What to do? what do do?  What to do?  I used the sauce to make a risotto.  And then I had one of those beautiful Aha moments and realised I could invent a Roman rendition of the Neapolitan sartù.  Another name for this could be “Timballo di Riso”, I suppose, but it isn’t half as catchy as Frascati-Style Sartù, do admit?

If there is one staple that is iconic to the Castelli Romani (over and above wine that is), then that would be the roast hog known as “porchetta”.  Instead of adding  meatballs and salami to my rice dish, I would substitute with porchetta.  Genius.

RECIPE

(1) The Sauce:

The sauce I made is the following one: https://myhomefoodthatsamore.wordpress.com/2012/12/19/sausage-and-spare-rib-stew-for-polenta-polenta-con-le-spuntature/

You don’t have to go all the trouble of making an identical one.  However, do include pork sausage in it whichever way you want to make it.  Pork sausage, garlic, tomato sauce and pecorino are a must.  The rest you can improvise or tweak.

(2) Bechamel

You will also need to make a bechamel: https://myhomefoodthatsamore.wordpress.com/2011/03/17/the-queen-of-sauces/

(3) Porchetta

https://frascaticookingthatsamore.wordpress.com/2018/06/05/my-home-made-porchetta-roast-hog/

(3a) Cotechino – explanation follows

(4) Other ingredients

Both parmesan and pecorino cheese, peas (frozen will do), red pepper kernels (optinonal), butter.

PRELUDE TO ACTION

Well, more of in-action to be honest.  Long story short,  I was unable to buy porchetta and had to do with cotechino.  Cotechino is another iconic item on the Italian table, and specifically towards the end of year, in order to celebrate the new year.  It is served traditionally with lentils.  Read all about it by fellow and much-loved blogger Frank Fariello (https://memoriediangelina.com/2010/01/01/cotechino-lentils/).  Cotechino and brother Zampone (another end-of-year sausage) are to be found in stores already towards the end of November.  I picked one up, just because.  And just as well I did.

ACTION

2

When the going gets tough, call upon a softie.  In this case, Rossella my sweet next-door neighbour.  We needed to catch up on some gossip and so I inveigled her into coming over for a much needed catch-up, and while we were at it, would she give me a hand in the kitchen?  “Ma certo!” was her gracious resopnse, but of course.  I got her started on the cotechino.  It needed to be cut into cube-like shapes, see above.

3

I had alread made the risotto with the leftover sauce and had placed it inside a biggish pyrex dish.  Rossella  spread a layer of cubed cotechino on the surface of the risotto, and then sprinkled another layer of previously cooked peas.

4 (1)

I call that quite pretty, huh.

5

And now, lots of fresh mint and parsely to add a bit of green.  And then much freshly grated parmigiano AND pecorino cheeses (equal parts of).

5aA snowstorm of parmigiano and pecorino with the herbs playing peekaboo.

8And now it’s time for the bechamel.

9Here is Rossella lovingly spreading the bechamel.  She has the patience of a saint.

9aLast-minute addition: red peppercorns. Not too many of course, but enough to get noticed.  I love red peppercorns – they make me feel happy.

10Butter, dollops of butter.

11

Ready to be placed in a previously heated oven, at 180°C.

Except that I didn’t bake it straight away.  I froze it.  So …. hip hip hurrah, this is the sort of dish that can be prepared in advance, frozen, and used when necessary.  Especially when a party is necessary.  You do all the hard work days or weeks before and little else on the actual night.

12And this is the only measely photo I have of the completed dish.  I know, I know.  What one does manage to discern doesn’t look very enticing, more like a dog’s dinner.  But I promise you it was very very good and all my guests complimented me.  You’ll just have to trust me.  (You’d think at least one of the guests, or my husband, would have taken a nice photo, no?  Too busy eating?)

Sartu – A Savoury Rice ‘Pudding’

A sartù is a labour of love.  And well worth the effort.  I wrote about it once, a few years ago.  I am reposting the sartu recipe (one that was inspired by a leftover sauce) because recently I made something very similar, only with different ingredients.  Let’s call it a Roman version of a very posh Campania Region dish.

Anyway, here is the link:

https://myhomefoodthatsamore.wordpress.com/2015/02/02/a-craving-for-sartu-using-leftovers-backwards/

sartu bello