Posts made in November, 2011

ragù alla cannella (cinnamon ragù)

Posted by on Nov 27, 2011 in main meal recipes | 4 comments

ragù alla cannella (cinnamon ragù)

This delicious recipe has completely transformed how my family eat the humble ragù. It’s all about using a familiar everyday meal to introduce exciting new flavours. Cinnamon marries the richness of meat and tomato sauce perfectly. It’s subtle, aromatic and not overpowering. I’ve adapted this recipe after interviewing a young chef originally from Rome who now works in a remote hillside restaurant in Sicily. He takes cooking for his young family very seriously. Aside from the fact he’s almost evangelical about cooking proper grown up grub for kids, he claims his wife is a hopeless cook. Of course she wasn’t there to defend this slur on her culinary expertise when we met. But given his passionate approach to feeding their child she may well have forgiven him this slander.

The key to this ragù is in the preparation of the meat before you cook it. I’ve found that it’s almost easier to prepare the night before and leave in the fridge so the flavours properly infuse. Then you’re ready to hit the ground running when cooking the next day. I know I usually adapt most recipes on my blog so they’re super quick, but I’m sorry to break it to you that I really can’t do the same with this one. I’ve done a taste test after 30 minutes cooking, after an hour and after 2 hours. And there’s no doubt. It really is a case of the longer the better. But it’s no hassle I promise.  Just leave it cooking over low heat and get on with other stuff around the house.  This  ragù will simmer away quietly for hours needing absolutely zero attention. How many members of your family can you say that about? 

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semolino al parmegiano (parmesan semolina)

Posted by on Nov 15, 2011 in main meal recipes | 1 comment

semolino al parmegiano (parmesan semolina)

This is uncomplicated comfort food from the woman who has been Silvio Berlusconi’s image consultant for the past 20 years and is now between jobs.  I first met her in Rome several years ago when she described how she has been instrumental in everything from the choice of his suits, to the presentation of his speeches. Presumably he didn’t always follow her advice and latterly her job became a rather stressful whirlwind of damage limitation. She told me that she often arrived home from the office exhausted with little time to cook but enjoyed the nostalgic ritual of making a bowl of this parmesan semolina. There’s no spin involved here, unless you count gentle stirring. It’s a simple recipe that her grandmother and mother cooked for her as a child. And when she makes it for her 4 year old niece she loves it just like this. In a bowl, with a spoon. This recipe is very versatile and can be frozen in little portions. It’s great for babies under a year (without the egg of course). For older children and adults it makes a delicious filling for a baked potato or a more sustaining alternative to traditional cheese sauce on cauliflower or broccoli. 

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Would you stay in a Sicilian Mafia boss’s farmhouse?

Posted by on Nov 15, 2011 in blog posts | 0 comments

Would you stay in a Sicilian Mafia boss’s farmhouse?

Combining a family holiday with a spot of journalism made for an unusual trip. Of course we enjoyed lazy breakfasts and late lunches overlooking the rugged hills near Corleone. We also went to meet some of my contacts involved in fighting the mafia, and visited businesses formerly owned by notorious gangsters.

You can read the finished article here http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/magazine-15726135

 

It’s rather different researching a story with a small person in tow. Spontaneous opportunities were sometimes abruptly, even rudely curtailed. I found myself declining an impromptu offer to chat with a local mayor. That crazed hungry stare in my daughter’s eyes meant we were 10 minutes away from meltdown. Sorry Mr Mayor, interesting as you are, you have to come second now. 

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polpette al limone (lemon flavoured meatballs)

Posted by on Nov 7, 2011 in main meal recipes | 4 comments

polpette al limone (lemon flavoured meatballs)

You might look at this picture, and think “where are the meatballs”? They’re there. I promise. More like little mini flat burgers just peeping out from between 2 thin courgette slices. The original recipe involves cooking the meat sandwiched between two glossy lemon leaves, leaving it infused with a delicate fresh taste of citrus. The lovely family who showed me exactly how to make this dish live in the fertile foothills of Mount Etna. They just pop out of their back door to gather the lemon leaves from their own trees.  Something I definitely can’t recreate at home, unless you’d like me to try it with some rather unappetising yellow leaves from my fig tree, or a brown curled up fern? Thought not.

After several attempts I found that thin slices of courgette sprinkled with lemon zest are the best alternative. It really works, even if it’s a bit less attractive. The meat inside is still lemony and very soft. It’s easy for small people to chew, a great way to introduce new flavours, and it also makes an original lunch or supper for the whole family. 

“But my kids don’t like courgette” might be your next thought. Don’t worry, it’s mainly there to hold the lemon flavour and to help recreate the fun of discovering the meatball hiding between two leaves. My daughter calls these ‘hide and seek meatballs’. She likes uncovering the meat, and then of course neatly discarding the courgette on the side of the plate. Of course, bravo to you if your children do snaffle up courgettes with gusto. You won’t need to cook extra vegetables like I do!

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