Category Archives: Italy

Winter minestrone

This is a tasty dish out of peasant veggies.

2 tb olive oil
2 large carrots, chopped
1 large red onion, chopped
1 head celery, chopped, reserving the leaves
1 head garlic, cloves peeled
1 kg swiss chard or silverbeet, leaves shredded, stalked chopped
small bunch parsley, finely chopped
1 tin tomatoes
1 kg cavolo nero (spinach can be used), stalks removed, leaves shredded
125 g cooked cannellini beans
500 ml chicken stock, boiling
sprigs of thyme & sage, chopped
parmesan, grated

First make the soffitto. Slowly fry the carrot, onion and celery uncovered in the oil until soft and dark – a long time. Add garlic, chard stalks, half the parsley and cook. Add tomatoes and cook for 10 minutes.

Add half the chard leaves and half the calvalo nero, 3/4 of the beans and the stock. Bring to the boil, simmer for 30 minutes. The soup should be very thick. Add remaining leaves, blanch briefly, season. The leaves should be crisp and green.

Puree remaining beans and add. Add herbs, parmesan and olive oil to taste.

From: The River Cafe Cookbook

Osso buco with gremolata (serves 6)

I don’t have much experience of osso buco, but this was simple, light and tasty, and could well benefit from further recipe enhancement. It shows how far you can get with just the essential Mediterranean flavour base of garlic, onion, carrot and celery. The onions dissolve into the sauce.

2 hind shins of veal (or beef or venison) cut into 5 cm lengths
plain flour, seasoned with pepper and salt
50 g butter
1 tb olive oil
2 garlic cloves, 2 onions, 2 celery sticks, 1 carrot, all finely chopped
1 large glass of white wine
450 ml light stock
finely grated zest of 1 organic lemon
1 small clove garlic, minced
1 tb chopped parsley

Dust the meat in the flour. Heat butter and oil in a generous shallow casserole and brown the meat pieces, remove. All the vegetables and cook until softened, return meat pieces and arrange in a single layer cut side down. Pour in the wine and reduce by half, add stock and simmer gently, covered, for 2 hours until the meat is coming away from the bone, either on the hob or in a very low oven. Turn the meat once or twice.

Mix together the remaining ingredients to make the gremolata and sprinkle over the meat once served.

Source: The River Cottage Meat Book (Hugh Fernley-Whittingstall)

marsala chicken

A classic Italian dish, fast, easy and very satisfying.

2 chicken breasts
a handful of mushrooms (optional)
150 ml marsala (sicilian desert wine)
100 ml full fat cream
butter for frying
salt & white pepper
a few sage leaves for garnishing

Butterfly the chicken, wrap in cling-film, flatten with a meat mallet or rolling pin. Salt and dust with flour. In a non-stick pan, heat a large knob of butter, fry the chicken breasts for 2-3 minutes on each side, set aside on a warm plate. (If using the mushrooms, slice them and fry with the chicken.) Tip most of the butter out of the pan, deglaze with the marsala and simmer until reduced to half of the original amount. Add cream, let thicken a little bit more and season with salt and white pepper. Fry sage leaves in a bit of olive oil, drain on kitchen paper. Serve with fettuccine, rice, new potatoes or mash, garnish with the fried sage leaves.

sauteed mushrooms (serves 6 as a side)

Otherwise ordinary mushrooms turbocharged with an admix of garlic and porcini.

100 g dried porcini, reconstituted in water in microwave for 1 min, strained and squeezed, chopped, soaking water reserved

675 g field mushrooms, thinly sliced
5 tb olive oil
3 cloves garlic, peeled and sliced
salt and pepper
2 tb basil/parsley, chopped
juice of 1 lemon
Heat 4 tb oil until hot, add fresh mushrooms and sautee for c 15 mins until dark and soft, set aside. Heat remaining oil and fry garlic and porcini until garlic begins to colour. Add porcini water, reduce, add cooked mushroom, season. Add herbs and lemon juice to taste (carefully).
?try shallots with garlic
?add red wine with porcini water
Creamy variation: before herbs and lemon juice, add 100 ml white wine, cook until evapourated, pour in 150 ml double cream, finish cooking as before.
Source: The River Cookbook