Category: The food lover’s (9)

Our garden in Venice is filled with lemon trees. It’s a small garden – more of a courtyard, really, than a garden proper; but it is filled with leafy lemon trees in large terracotta pots. Year after year, round about this time, the trees begin to bear fruit: beautiful, eccentrically shaped citrus that somehow doesn’t look like the kind of lemons you buy in the shops. And it is round about now, as the fruit starts sprouting on the trees, that I know Summer is firmly on its way.

Tagliolini al Limone e Timo

Lemons are possibly one of the most versatile fruits. It’s the kind of fruit you eat with everything: a squeeze over grilled fish, another squeeze in a sharp salad dressing; made into granita, limoncello, sorbet, or whipped up into extravagant concoctions like lemon posset or lemon meringue pie. In this dish, lemon is the star: it’s a subtle, delicate flavour that somehow elevates this otherwise plain pasta into the realms of a sophisticated, summertime dinner affair.

Tagliolini al Limone e Timo
(Tagliolini with Lemon, Cream and Thyme Sauce)

Prep Time: 5 mins
Cook Time: 20 mins
Serves: 4

Ingredients

250g tagliolini
4 tbsps olive oil
3 lemons
220ml single cream
1 gee yolk
small bunch of fresh thyme

Tagliolini al Limone e Timo
Tagliolini al Limone e Timo

Method

Bring a large pan of water to the boil. Meanwhile, zest two of the lemons and toss the zest into a frying pan, then add the olive oil and set over a medium heat. Gently fry the zest for a few minutes until it begins to take on a deep, vibrant yellow colour. Now pour in the cream and the egg yolk, mix well with a wooden spoon, then lower the heat and leave to gently cook for 5-10mins, giving the sauce a stir every now and then. Add some salt to the water, and when it begins to gallop, add the tagliatelle and cook as per the instructions on the packet. Finely slice the third lemon ready to add to the pasta – half or a third should be enough, but add more to taste.

When the pasta is cooked, drain in a colander, taking care to reserve a little of the cooking water (roughly 1/4 cup). Squeeze the juice of two lemons into the sauce, add salt and pepper to taste, then toss the pasta into the saucepan. Add the cooking water, throw in the slices of lemon, and toss everything together so the pasta is well covered with sauce. Tear up the sprigs of thymes and sprinkle generously over the pasta.

Tagliolini al Limone e Timo
Tagliolini al Limone e Timo

Christmas for me is all about the food – and sharing it with those that I love. Our table at Christmas is always laden with sweets: panettone, pandoro, panforte – but also mince pies, pudding, chocolate dipped figs, candied peel, and a rich Christmas fruitcake. For me, it wouldn’t be Christmas without a chocolate yule log also. Something about it that is so frivolous and festive feeling – and, of course, it looks beautiful on the table.

Tronchetto di Natale Ripieno con Crema di Marroni
Tronchetto di Natale Ripieno con Crema di Marroni
Tronchetto di Natale Ripieno con Crema di Marroni

This recipe is a twist on the classic dish – I’ve added layers of sweet chestnut purée to the dark, soft chocolate sponge, and then smothered the whole thing in a meringue buttercream which is as light as air.

When it comes to the decoration, I like to use sprigs of fresh thyme, dust with with icing sugar, and dot with sugared or fresh edible flowers.

Tronchetto di Natale Ripieno con Crema di Marroni
(Chocolate Yule Log with a Sweet Chestnut Filling & Italian Meringue Buttercream)

Tronchetto di Natale Ripieno con Crema di Marroni

Tronchetto di Natale – or Yule Log – is a traditional French Christmas dessert that somehow has woven its way into the vocabulary of Italian cooking too. Growing up, we would always have a chocolate log at our Christmas table. And we still do now: it’s as much of a tradition for us as panettone. I like to fill mine with a sweet chestnut purée. Mostly because I love all things chestnut, but also because its rich and smooth tones really do go so very beautifully with the light chocolate sponge that makes the cake. Then I top it with meringue buttercream, which is – truly – as light as air. And sprinkle with snow white icing sugar.

This is such a simple dessert to make and so much fun to decorate – you can really let your imagination go wild. Use berries, sugar flowers,tiny mushrooms and fresh herbs, if you like. Otherwise, just a little dusting of icing sugar and a few pine cones for a more minimalist aesthetic.

Tronchetto di Natale Ripieno con Crema di Marroni

Serves: 6-8
Prep Time: 30 mins
Baking Time: 20 mins

 

Ingredients

6 eggs
150g caster sugar
50g cocoa
400g sweet chestnut purée
sugar mushrooms and fresh thyme for decoration
icing sugar for dusting

Method

Preheat the oven to 180 degrees. Grease and line a swiss roll tray with parchment paper, leaving a generous overhang of paper at the edges. Separate the eggs and beat the whites until they begin to peak, then slowly add 50g of the sugar, whisking constantly until they turn stiff and glossy.

In a large mixing bowl, add the yolks and the rest of the sugar, and beat until they become creamy and pale, then sift in the cocoa powder and beat again until well combined. Fold the whites into the chocolate mixture, taking care to keep as much of the air in as possible and pour into the tin. Set in the oven and bake for 20 minutes, until sort and springy too touch.

Leave the cake to cool a little when it comes out of the oven, then turn it out on to another sheet of greaseproof paper. Spread the chestnut purée over the top of the cake,taking care to cover it well into the corners. Then roll from the long edge nearest to you. Use the parchment paper to help you do this, pressing down on the paper to keep the roll as tight as you can. If the cake breaks a little, don’t worry too much – you will be able to cover up a fair amount of damage with the buttercream icing. Gently lift the roll onto the serving plate (or board – it looks very nice on a wooden board) and ice with the buttercream. Then decorate with sugar mushrooms or red currants, and fresh thyme. Dust lightly with icing sugar just before serving.

Pesche al Burro - Butter Roasted Peaches
Pesche al Burro - Butter Roasted Peaches
Pesche al Burro - Butter Roasted Peaches

One of the most magical things about this time of year is the deliciously sweet fruit. Stone fruit, in particular, I always associate with these summer months: plums – the golden ones, the ones of a deep, almost regal purple hue, and the tiny plums with a faint green tint to their translucent skins which here in Venice we call ‘zucchine’. Then, there are the apricots and the peaches.

Pesche al Burro - Butter Roasted Peaches

White peaches, juicy yellow peaches, and the flat Persian peaches – the kind that taste like sweet ambrosia.

Peaches are, I think, my favourite – I eat them by the punnet-ful as is for dessert with a glass of sweet wine; but I also use them a lot in cooking. I blend them and mix with prosecco to make bellinis; bake them in pies and cakes; or pan fry them and serve with a joint of roast veal. This way of cooking them, gently roasted in the oven with a knob of butter, is a go-to recipe of mine.

Exquisite served with a dollop of mascarpone cheese, or a scoop of creamy vanilla ice cream – and forever linked, in my mind, with long and lazy dinners, sitting under the fig tree in our garden, indulging in the balmy heat of late summer.

Pesche al Burro
(Butter Roasted Peaches)

Serves: 6-8

Prep Time: 10 mins
Cook Time: 35-40 mins

 

Ingredients

6 peaches
50g butter
3 tbsps demerara sugar

Method

Preheat the oven to 180 degrees centigrade. Halve and stone the peaches, then lay them skin side down into a baking dish. Spoon a little of the butter into each peach, then sprinkle with the sugar, before setting in the oven for 35-40 mins until softened. Serve with clotted cream or rich gelato.

Pesche al Burro - Butter Roasted Peaches

Long lazy summer days, eating out late into the evening with friends by a tranquil canal, or having a relaxed lunch on your own terrace overlooking a delightful campo. Where better to be inspired to cook than in Venice, with amazingly fresh fish from Rialto and locally grown ’nostrano’ vegetables to ’throw’ together, to delicious puddings and pasticcerie.

When I am Venice I think about food all the time… it’s all around you!  With so many specialist shops and those wonderful grocers where they will serve you 100 gms of prosciutto as if it were made of gold… it’s delightful… a true pleasure

Here Skye shows us how to make something which is both simple and spectacular… amazing!

This is one of my favourite ways to cook fish, as it is so simple and always looks utterly spectacular. It is my go-to dish for parties and special occasions.
Don’t be put off by the gargantuan amounts of salt used for baking the fish – you discard most of the salt when you take the dish out of the oven, so you will find that you barely taste it except for the gentlest hint of flavour.

But the salt crust in which you cook the bass gently steams the fish to tender perfection.

If you can find a wild sea bass, I find that the flesh is more flavoursome than the farmed variety – but otherwise, farmed is just fine too.
If you are cooking for a large group, I tend to bake two or three fish and serve them at the table whole. I like to serve this with a light tomato or fennel salad and a drizzle of olive oil – something light and delicate, and just what you feel like on a hot summer’s evening.

Insalata di Puntarella (Roman Chicory Salad with an Anchovy Dressing)

The grand charm of Italian cooking lies in its sheer, stunning simplicity. A few flavours – simple, fresh and always of the very highest quality, carefully paired together to make something utterly dreamy – is what Italy does quite like no where else. Think, mozzarella and tomato with basil, for example; figs with parma ham; burrata with a peppering of pomegranate seeds. All wonderfully decadent to eat, and blissfully simple to toss together. This puntarella salad is an impeccable example of this way of cooking, a way of cooking which I love. Puntarella is a spiky, bitter green that comes into season right about now – you will see it at the markets. The dressing that I like to serve with it is gloriously salty – a few anchovy fillets, lemon juice and a little oil whisked together. Though almost absurdly simple to make, you will find this dish deeply rewarding to eat – and just what you crave on a sunny Spring day.

Insalata di Puntarella
(Roman Chicory Salad with an Anchovy Dressing)

Puntarella is a kind of chicory, most commonly eaten in Rome and the Lazio region, though we have it in Venice too!  This is barely a recipe, just very fine slices of puntarella with a gorgeous anchovy dressing. If you struggle to source puntarella, you can substitute it for another kind of chicory and douse it in the dressing.

 

Serves: 6-8, as a side dish
Prep Time: 20 mins
Allow the 
puntarella to soak in cold water for a couple of hours

Ingredients

1 large head of puntarella
1 clove of garlic
5 anchovy fillets
1/2 lemon
4 tbsps olive oil

Insalata di Puntarella (Roman Chicory Salad with an Anchovy Dressing)

Method

The outer leaves of the puntarella are very bitter, so cut them away and discard. Take the inner leaves along with the core of the head and finely slice them into thin strips (roughly 3-4 mm thick). Fill a large bowl with cold water, toss the strips of chicory into the bowl and set in the fridge for 1-2 hours. You will find that the strips curl up, this gives a really nice texture to the salad. Meanwhile make the dressing: peel and crush the garlic, finely chop the anchovies and toss the two together into a small bowl; squeeze in the juice of the lemon and drizzle in the oil before mixing together with a fork. When you are ready to serve the salad, drain the water from the puntarella and pat the stalks dry with a tea towel, toss onto a serving dish and drizzle with the dressing. Eat straight away.

Insalata di Puntarella (Roman Chicory Salad with an Anchovy Dressing)

Insalata di Puntarella (Roman Chicory Salad with an Anchovy Dressing)
Insalata di Puntarella (Roman Chicory Salad with an Anchovy Dressing)

It is that time of the year: asparagus season. And with it, of course, come the beautiful long days, the sound of birds chirruping cheerily at dawn and bright, long walks in the Spring sunshine. Perhaps it is the very seasonality of asparagus that makes the greens taste so special – but I find their delicate, yet distinctive flavour, elevates anything from a simple frittata to an egg and asparagus sandwich into the echelons of unforgettable meals. Asparagus are wonderfully versatile: poached in a nice, buttery risotto; chargrilled (or, once the weather gets that little warmer, even cooked on the barbecue) with copious quantities of olive oil. Best of all, steamed, and then topped with an egg fried in butter so that its heavenly yolk oozes all over the greens.

Venetian cuisine: Asparagi con Zabaione (Asparagus with Zabaione Sauce)
Venetian cuisine: Asparagi con Zabaione (Asparagus with Zabaione Sauce)
Venetian cuisine: Asparagi con Zabaione (Asparagus with Zabaione Sauce)

Of course, egg and asparagus is a culinary match made in heaven: asparagus with homemade mayonnaise will always a classic, and with hollandaise, while the prerogative of the more confident chef, will always feel like a treat. But a favourite of mine is asparagus drenched in a light zabaione sauce. Essentially, egg yolks, a pinch of salt and a generous dousing of prosecco, cooked gently over a simmering pot of water and whipped into submission until they morph into a sauce so light, it most closely resembles air. I cannot imagine a more heavenly way to enjoy the start of Spring.

Asparagi con Zabaione
(Asparagus with Zabaione Sauce)

I like to steam my asparagus – it’s a simple way of cooking them, and I find that they keep their lovely, natural flavour. But if you prefer, you could just as well lightly blanche them in boiling water for 3-6 mins, until tender but not soft.

Serves: 4
Prep Time: 5 mins
Cook Time: 10 mins

Ingredients

600g asparagus
4 egg yolks
125ml prosecco
1 tsp sugar

Venetian cuisine: Asparagi con Zabaione (Asparagus with Zabaione Sauce)
Venetian cuisine: Asparagi con Zabaione (Asparagus with Zabaione Sauce)

Method

Fill the kettle with water and bring it to the boil. Trim the asparagus and discard the ends then spread the stalks out on an opened fan steamer and lower into a frying pan or saucepan. Pour in roughly 2-3cm of the boiling water from the kettle and put the lid on. Cook for 3-5 mins, depending on how thick the stalks are, and lay out on a serving plate.

Now turn to the sauce. Fill a saucepan up to a third with cold water and bring to the boil. Combine the egg yolks, prosecco, sugar and a pinch of salt into a heatproof mixing bowl that fits snugly over the saucepan. You want the heat of the simmering water to gently steam the egg sauce, just be careful that the hot water doesn’t touch the bottom of the bowl, as that will cause the eggs to curdle. As the water begins to boil, use a whisk to beat the mixture for 3-5 minutes until the sauce thickens – it should be light and frothy, and double in size. Drizzle the sauce generously over the asparagus, sprinkle liberally with salt and serve while still warm or at room temperature.

Venetian cuisine: Asparagi con Zabaione (Asparagus with Zabaione Sauce)

Venetian cuisine: Pappardelle with a White Wine Duck Ragù

@SkyeMcAlpine

These are the last breaths of winter. These final days of February and first few weeks of March. Winter is on the way out; Spring, with her cheery flowers and fresh greens, soon upon us. But though the skies are a crisp crystal clear, the days still feel cold – and I find myself craving the kind of nourishing comfort food that has been my culinary staple through these past months of cold weather: piping hot minestrone with loaves of crusty bread, baked pasta swimming in a satisfyingly thick, creamy sauce, and good, solid puddings. Food that warms the body and the soul. A current favourite at our dining table are tagliatelle tossed in a rich duck and white wine sauce.

Venetian cuisine: Pappardelle with a White Wine Duck Ragù

@SkyeMcAlpine

Venetian cuisine: Pappardelle with a White Wine Duck Ragù

@SkyeMcAlpine

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The sauce is one of those labours of love, as are all good ragú sauces: first you sear the meat gently on all sides to brown off any excess fat; then a soffritto – that mix of finely chopped onion, carrot and celery which pan fried in lashings of olive oil lies at the heart of all good, Italian homecoming. And finally the meat is left to simmer in a sauce of chicken broth, white wine, bay leaves, thyme, rosemary and sage until it is so tender it melts in your mouth. It is the kind of food that fills the kitchen with the irresistible lingering scent of wine and roasting meat, and the comforting hum of bubbling juices. One of those dishes that is as much a joy to cook, as it is to eat.

 

Pappardelle con Ragù di Anatra in Bianco

(Pappardelle with a White Wine Duck Ragù)

If you are making this ragù with with farmed duck, rather than wild duck you will find the meat to be a little fattier. To keep the sauce light, spoon off and discard the excess fat left in the pan after searing the legs and before adding the chopped vegetables. You can make this sauce ahead of time and freeze for up to three months, or just store in the fridge for a couple of days and reheat before serving.

Venetian cuisine: Pappardelle with a White Wine Duck Ragù

@SkyeMcAlpine

Serves: 4
Prep Time: 15 mins

Cook Time: 2 hours

Ingredients

1tbsp olive oil
4 duck legs
2 celery stalks
1 small onion
1 carrot
2 cloves of garlic
good sized bunch of sage
good sized bunch of rosemary
good sized bunch of thyme
2 bay leaves
250ml white wine
1.5l chicken broth
400g pappardelle

 

Method

Drizzle the oil into a large, heavy based casserole and set on a medium to high heat. Season the duck legs with a little salt and pepper, then arrange them in the dish skin side down. Cook for roughly 7 mins, until golden brown on the skin side, then turn them over for another 3-4 mins on the other side.

While the legs are searing, finely chop the celery, onion and carrot, and peel the garlic. When the duck legs are browned on both sides, lift them out of the pan and set them to one side on a dish. Toss the chopped vegetables and the whole cloves of garlic into the pan, and lower the heat. Roughly chop the herbs and add them to the pot also. Cook, stirring regularly, for 7-8 mins until the vegetables soften and the onion becomes translucent. Pour in the white wine and the broth, and turn the heat up to high to bring to the boil, then return the duck legs to the pot. Now lower the heat to keep on a gentle simmer, cover and cook for 1 1/2 – 2hrs, until the duck meat becomes mouthwateringly tender. Remove the duck from the pot and set to one side until it is cool enough to touch. Meanwhile, turn the heat up on the sauce and reduce until thick. Tear the skin off the duck and discard it, then shred the meat with a fork, and toss it back into the casserole dish, lower the heat and simmer gently for a further 15-20 mins, giving the sauce a good stir now and then.

Fill a medium sized saucepan with cold water, add a pinch of water and set on a medium to high heat until the water comes to a boil, add the pasta to the water and lower the heat a little so that the pot doesn’t boil over. Cook for 7-8 mins or as per the instructions on the box, drain, drizzle the pasta with a little oil and add to the sauce. Give it all a good toss and serve while still piping hot.

Venetian cuisine: Pappardelle with a White Wine Duck Ragù

Pomegranate, Meringue and Rosewater Semifreddo by Skye McAlpine

Venetian cuisine: Pomegranate, Meringue and Rosewater Semifreddo

@SkyeMcAlpine

There is something romantic about pomegranates. Perhaps it’s that they’re fruits steeped in ancient mythology. Or perhaps it’s as simple as the fact that their seeds sparkle and shimmer like perfectly formed jewels. At this time of year, I cook with them a lot, adding a spoonful of the seeds and a drizzle of the ruby red juices to everything from a red chicory salad, to a dish of couscous or a decadent chocolate cake. Somehow they make even the plainest of fare feel deeply and irresistibly festive.

This semifreddo is a favourite of mine. Partly because where there is cream and sugar and meringue, there is – in my view – always also great happiness. And partly because of its sheer simplicity to make. Whip together eggs and sugar over a pot of boiling water – and there, my only piece of advice is to take care not to let the water touch the bottom of the bowl as it will cause the eggs to scramble, rather than gently cook into a thick, heady custard. Then mix with cream, fruit, and meringue. The semifreddo freezes overnight and is ready to eat the next day – though of course you can make it well ahead of time and store it in the freezer for a good few weeks. As for the fruit and the meringue, you can mix and match as you like. Pomegranate and rosewater is a favourite pairing of mine – delicate, sweet-but-not-too-sweet and with a hint of the exotic about it. But you could just as well make this recipe with the fruit of your choosing – anything from swirls of persimmon purée to raisins soaked in grappa, and perhaps even replace the meringue with a smattering of crisp nuts or crumbled amaretti biscuits.

Ingredients

370ml double cream
2 eggs
4 egg yolks
75g sugar
1tsp rosewater
200g pomegranate seeds, and more for decoration
45g meringues

Method

Line a 20cm round cake tin with cling film, allowing a generous overhang on all sides and set to one side. Whisk the cream until stiff and set to one side while you make the custard. Crack the eggs and yolks into a heatproof bowl and pour in the sugar. Set the bowl over a pot of simmering water, and whisk the eggs vigorously for 4-5 mins until they become tick and creamy. Then take them off the heat and whisk for a further4-5 mins until cool. Gently fold in the whipped cream. Pour in the rosewater and the pomegranate seeds, and crumble in the meringues then fold gently through. Cover with cling film and freeze overnight or until firm.

Before serving, stand at room temperature for 5-10 minutes, then turn out on to a plate and decorate with pomegranate seeds.Venetian cuisine: Pomegranate, Meringue and Rosewater Semifreddo

 

We are delighted to present Skye McAlpine, an absolutely charming and highly practised expert on Venetian Cuisine — here Skye shows us how to create wonderful Venetian dishes using the freshest of ingredients and while making it all look so simple to do – her enthusiasm will inspire even the most reluctant of cooks to go the food markets and experiment