Results tagged “italy”

Hubbub Cooks Italian dinner, Tues 17th May 2011

HUBBUB_STRAP_red.png‘Hubbub Cooks’ is a series of cooking classes I am running in collaboration with Hubbub - a fantastic little company that delivers top quality food from my local independent shops - butcher, fishmonger, cheesemonger, deli and more.  The classes are open to anyone, and will be for just eight people at a time so everyone will get plenty of action.  10% off if you book three classes!

Mediterranean series
We'll be cooking up delicious meals using the distinctive flavours and traditional techniques from countries around the Mediterranean where I have spent time on my travels researching the local culinary culture:  Morocco on 15th Feb, Turkey on 15th March and Italy on 17th May.  We'll use the best seasonal produce from my local shops, and classes will end in a convivial meal around the table with wine.

smbiscotti0001.jpgSample Italian menu:
(the final menu will depend on ingredient availability and guests' preferences)

Spring minestrone with pesto
Grilled rib eye ‘tagliata’ with rocket
Vanilla pod panna cotta with rhubarb
Almond & anise biscotti with espresso

Date:  Tuesday 17th May 2011

Time:  10am - 2pm, repeated 6pm - 10pm

Location:  London N5 (Arsenal tube 2 mins walk)

Price:  £60 per person per class. 
10% off when you book three or more Hubbub Cooks classes. 

To book:  Email Hubbub
, call them on 020 7354 5511 or book online on their website

Italy part 2: right to left

Smparmesancap0001.jpgOne moment we were admiring Roman soldiers parading through the palace in Split; one fast ferry ride later, and we were negotiating one-way systems around Ancona.  Tricky, but worth it - we were soon happily tucking into excellent pasta, fish and verdicchio at the Villa Amalia, and pretty sure we were back in Italy.  On the first part of our Italian trip, we'd had some wonderful experiences, but felt as though we'd barely scratched the surface.  So this time, we were determined to get to the bottom of things.  Just what does make Italian food different?  Why is the prosciutto here different to the pršut we'd just been learning about in Croatia?  And you can call it "balsamic" if you like, but isn't it just vinegar?

Italy part 1: bottom to top

Smsignoria0001.JPGAs we rolled off the overnight ferry, we were temporarily unsure what country we'd got to now.  One look at the customs official, though - his designer shades, his artfully designer-crumpled shirt, and his lack of interest in messing either of them up by checking through the chaos in the back of the car - and we remembered: at last we'd got to Italy.

We'd been looking forward to this from a culinary perspective - who doesn't like Italian food? - but pretty soon came to realise that our broad concepts of what Italian food really consists of were at best simplistic, and more often than not, just wrong.  Our first meal brought this home to us, as we discovered the Puglian cucina povera classic ciceri e tria in Lecce.  It's pasta, but not as you know it: with chickpeas adding an Arabic touch, and fried pasta strips seeming almost Chinese.  A good start ...

Dinner with the cinta senese

Smcintasenese0001.jpgThere's a lot of interesting things about staying at Spannocchia, but one of the most interesting (for us, at least) was meeting the pigs.  They have a herd of rare breed Cinta Senese pigs, which they use to make their extremely tasty cured sausages and meats.  The pigs themselves have a happy life, rooting around in the woods and fields, and eating pretty much whatever they can find with great gusto.

Click here to listen.

Click here for more audio samples.

Having an offal day

Smbarnabysandwich0001.JPGToday Barnaby went for lunch at the Nerbone food stand in the covered market in Florence.  He thought he should order something typically Florentine, so he ordered what he saw lots of the market traders were having - a lampredotto sandwich.

He wasn't actually sure what lampredotto was, but expected it would be something nice.  Sounds a bit like lamb, he thought.  He likes lamb.  Or maybe risotto.  He likes risotto too.

Smbarnabyhorror0001.JPGBut then he took a look inside ...

Prosciutto with melon and figs

So, I've managed to reach Week 52, which means I must have left London a whole year ago.  To show off my new skills after a year of culinary studies in the Bay Area, I find myself now sending you a recipe that basically says, 'get some prosciutto, melon and figs and put them together on a plate.'  I have learnt more complicated stuff, honest, like boning out and stuffing whole ducks, but thought that as delicious as the ducky ballotine is, you'd be more likely to spend 20 mins throwing these three gorgeous ingredients together. 

Smmelonprosciuttofig0009.JPGFigs and melons are classic Italian pairings for prosciutto.  This dish beautifully combines the three.  It is served as an appetiser at the Chez Panisse Café during the summer when figs and melons are at the peak of their season.  For best results prepare everything at the last minute (but make sure the ingredients are at room temperature first).


california, italy
Matt and I are in a champagne kind of mood this week, so here's a summery cocktail, suitable for garden parties, weddings, Thursday nights when you happen to have a melon on hand, etc.  It's nice, promise.

Smmelonprosecco0008.JPGThis recipe comes from David Tanis, head chef of Chez Panisse, for whom I recently made a large batch of melon puree for the restaurant guests’ aperitifs.  He didn’t call them ‘mellinis’, but that’s what they are to me.  Just make sure you get a perfectly ripe melon with sweet, juicy and fragrant orange flesh.

Carlo's Florentine apple cake

Well, I've had complaints that there hasn't been enough butter or cream in the last couple of recipes, so this week you're getting cake and next week you'll get the ice cream to go with it.  Has anyone attempted the (very healthy) pot stickers or gravlax yet??

This is the first recipe I've sent you that I learnt at culinary school in San Francisco.  We're getting a little more advanced now.  Having done stocks and soups we're now on to oysters and profiteroles (tricky).  Let me know if there's something you want a recipe for and I'll see if I can help..

Carlo's apple cake.jpgI was taught how to make this cake by Carlo Middione, who learnt it from his father, who lived and trained in Italy.  Carlo himself has 50 years of culinary experience and now runs an excellent Italian restaurant in San Francisco called Vivande.  I think the cake is delicious.  If possible, serve it while still warm, with coffee, vin santo, cold zabaglione or ice cream.  I think it goes well with wildflower honey ice cream.  It will keep well in the fridge for a week.


Ricotta is an Italian cheese made from the whey resulting from the production of mozzarella, provolone and other cheeses.  The name means 're-cooked', because the whey is processed for a second time when it is used to make the ricotta.

Ricotta is a good source of calcium.  This is because most of the calcium in milk is contained in the watery whey ('buttermilk') part, rather than the creamy 'butterfat' component.

Ricotta can be preserved through salting, baking or smoking.  For the Amarone-poached figs recipe it is essential to use fresh ricotta, which should be soft, bright white and mild in flavour.  It goes off easily so eat within a week of purchasing.

You can make ricotta yourself using nothing but whole milk, white distilled vinegar and salt...

Amarone-poached figs with ricotta

Figs have been in season here in San Francisco recently, so I have been experimenting with them.  You'll either love this or hate it I reckon.  Let me know how it goes if you try it.  If nothing else, it provides a good excuse to open a bottle of Amarone.

Traditionally in Italy this dish is made with Sambuca instead of Amarone.  I tried it with both and much prefer it with Amarone.  You could try any anise-flavoured spirit, or perhaps Marsala, port or brandy... 

What makes the dish work is the contrasting combination of the salty, crunchy pine nuts, the soft, cool ricotta and the warm, sweet figs and syrup.

Amarone figs.jpg


Gorgonzola is a blue/green-veined Italian cheese made from unskimmed cows' milk in Piedmont and Lombardy.  It has Protected Designated Origin.  To verify your cheese, find the 'g' symbol impression on the inside of its foil wrapper.

It has a distinctive flavour which is both creamy and piquant.  There are two types - sweet and piquant.  The former is smoother and more mellow, and the latter is firmer and more pungent.  The consistency and flavour are determined by the length of ageing:  2+ months for sweet Gorgonzola and 3+ months for piquant Gorgonzola.


smradicchio0002.JPGRadicchio has a bitter and spicy taste which mellows when cooked.  Try simply grilling or roasting it with extra virgin olive oil, lemon and salt.

Pliny the Elder thought it was a blood purifier and aid for insomniacs.  In fact it contains intybin, a blood and liver tonic, so he was right. 

Red wine risotto with radicchio and Gorgonzola


Risotto made with red wine and/or radicchio is a classic Italian dish.  This version is an attempt to recreate the one I had at La Badia restaurant outside Orvieto, Umbria, with my friends Libby and Tim the week before their wedding.  It is rich, savoury and melts in the mouth.  Go easy on the cheese and herbs - it's always tempting to be generous but they can overpower the dish.



Culinary Anthropologist