Dinner With The Omnivore

Posts Tagged ‘Italian

Mediterranean weather ....

Lulled into a false sense of security by a week on the Med in 30°C sunshine we stocked up on the old healthy salad options on the last shopping trip and looked forward to vitamin-packed summer-style nosh. Bad move. Our estival eating plans were promptly disrupted by rainfall, plummeting temperatures and snow above 1800m. Not that there’s any real reason why you can’t eat salad under those conditions, but it rather loses its appeal when the rain is hammering down outside and you’re seriously thinking of breaking out the heating again.

Still, having purchased the stuff we dutifully carried on eating it up until yesterday, when it got so parky I was reduced to lurking in a hot bath before hiding in the fleece I’ve been wearing all winter. It’s June, for God’s sake, what’s going on?

I refused to go out and spend more cash on extra food, so we were stuck with whatever was lying around the house, which as usual meant pasta and …….. something. Bit of a challenge, as there’s not much potential for pasta sauce in a load of lettuce and radishes. Apparently other people in this position generally just heat up a tin of tomatoes and stick them all over some spaghetti, but frankly I think salad would still sound more appealing even in the middle of January with a raging blizzard outside.

But fortunately my trusty Sainsbury pocket pasta book came to the rescue. I’ve recommended this tome before and I do so again. (Actually, looking at that post I discover that the weather played exactly the same trick on us last year. Doh.)

....... and spring in the Alps.

Basic tomato sauce

You will need: a can of chopped tomatoes; a carrot; an onion; a clove of garlic.

Chop the onion and garlic, and fry until soft. add the grated carrot, tinned tomatoes and a bit of water. Simmer until the onions and carrot are cooked through, then blitz with a hand blender.

And that’s it, tomato sauce. You can liven it up by using red wine rather than water, adding shredded fresh basil at the last minute, throwing in a handful of lardons or chopped mozzarella ……………. etc. Whatever sounds tasty. It also freezes very well, so you can have a supply of it hanging around for emergencies, and it’s even better with fresh tomatoes so it’s a good way of getting rid of a glut of those, should you find yourself with such a thing.

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Kitchen essential. Possibly without 'Smeg' written on it though.

Had you ever had the temerity to suggest to your granny that you couldn’t possibly manage your culinary affairs without the benefit of a freezer, she would probably have hooted with laughter, told you you didn’t know you were born and regaled you with tales of such antiquated habits as daily shopping and having all your milk delivered.

Undoubtedly it’s possible to live without a freezer, but when you live next door to a supermarket which knocks its meat down to half price just before it goes out of date (and manages its stock badly) and a load of chalet staff whose stock control likewise leaves things to be desired, the initial investment pays dividends in cheap food.

On the other hand, this sort of blatant pikey scrounging does backfire and leave you with random gluts, which is why I am currently suffering from a surfeit of sausage.

Now, I like a nice length of sausage as much as the next woman, but you can get bored with the same old thing all the time. Bangers and mash is always a good bet, though I favour an English style sausage for this one. Sausage and bean casserole goes down well, and the ever-reliable one-pot sausage pasta is a welcome winter staple. But new sausage suggestions are required.

Which brings me once again to the BBC’s Good Food website, a culinary treasure trove despite its celebrity chef obsession and rather annoying habit of telling you to buy things which you could much better make for yourself.

A brief trawl turns up several meatball suggestions. I believe these used to be called faggots, back in the day, but no doubt you get arrested for using that sort of language in these modern times, which is probably why the BBC calls them meatballs.

Easy meatballs

You will need: a kilo each of beef mince and sausagemeat; an onion, finely chopped; a load of chopped parsley: 100g breadcrumbs; two eggs.

Get all the ingredients together in a big bowl, stick your hands in there and squish it around until it’s thoroughly mixed together (I love a picky precise recipe, me). Roll it into bits about the size of golf balls, then roast them in olive oil for about half an hour at 200°C.

Auntie’s website suggests several possible meatball sauces, which means you can knock up a whole load of these and then use them for a series of different meals. And/or just whack them straight back into the freezer, obviously.

Italian ...

Italian style: fry off some garlic, then add a can of tomatoes, splosh of red wine, teaspoon of sugar, meatballs . Simmer until the sauce is reduced, add some shredded basil leaves, serve with spaghetti and parmesan.

Spanish style: as above, but add chopped chorizo along with the garlic, leave out the basil and add paprika. Serve with roast potatoes.

Moroccan style: heat the oil and add chopped apricots, a diced onion, a cinnamon stick, a can of tomatoes, bit of liquid and the meatballs. Simmer for about 15 minutes until the sauce has thickened. Serve with couscous and garnish with fresh coriander and flaked almonds.

.... and Moroccan

Eagle-eyed readers of the Beeb’s website will spot that their recipe is not precisely the same as mine – this is because I wanted a generic meatball, so I missed out the parmesan on the grounds that it was too Italian. I also did 50:50 beef to sausagemeat, because I have no idea how much meat there is in ‘eight good-quality pork sausages’. And I suspect Auntie hasn’t a clue either.

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Autumn. Very picturesque and all that, but it's still bloody June.

Well, summer came and went in the space of about four days sometime last week, and we find ourselves to all intents and purposes somewhere in the throes of late October. Were it actually autumn, I could be sitting at home in my slippers all day with my feet up drinking tea, which would compensate in some small measure for the Baltic temperatures and incessant rain.

However, since the calendar is under the impression that it is still sometime in June, I have spent the past several days standing at the bottom of a ski lift in rather fewer clothes than everyone else seems to have been issued with, for some reason. Clearly some kind of xenophobic plot if you ask me.

Even the most avid people-watcher would have to admit that there is a limit to the entertainment value to be derived from an endless procession of mud-encrusted mountain bikers, particularly when you’re expending all of your available energy on merely maintaining a viable body temperature. Top tip: if you wish to wring any sort of response out of the frozen cashier-cum-liftie at the bottom of the chairlift, forget the Francophone banter muffled by full face helmet and feed it a cheese sandwich.

Mud - cold and wet. Sorry, but you can keep it, frankly.

The result of all this unseasonally Arctic weather (global warming, innit) is that I have a fridge full of squishy salad ingredients because I absolutely refuse to eat all that healthy fruit and veg rubbish when my core temperature is hovering somewhere around absolute zero. I want lard. FEED ME LARD!!

Fortunately for the waistline, tartiflette takes rather more faff (and expense) than I was prepared for after working all day and then going shopping, so I went for the pasta with sausagemeat and carrot concoction. This is one of our standard winter staples, and is the ultimate cheap ‘n’ easy cold weather comfort food. It comes from a Sainsbury’s pasta cookbook by Patricia Lousada, which I assume is long out of print but is allegedly still available via Amazon marketplace at the thoroughly outrageous price of £8.40. I’d probably recommend biting the bullet and buying it even at that price, because it’s packed with all manner of tasty stuff, from basic student fare through to DIY stuffed fresh pasta, if you can be arsed. Which I really can’t, but it looks good.

Maccheroni con la salsiccia e le carote (Which I take to mean macaroni with sausagemeat and carrots – ever noticed how things sound much tastier in foreign?)

You will need: 225g sausagemeat; 3 grated carrots; 1 onion; can of tomatoes; chicken stock; bay leaf; oregano.

Fry off the onion then add the meat and brown it lightly, breaking it up with a fork. Add the carrot, tomatoes, stock, bay leaf and oregano, then simmer for 20 minutes. Top up with water so that there is enough to cook a load of pasta. Add said pasta (of whatever sort – I usually use penne, farfalle or macaroni) and cook until a) al dente and b) the sauce isn’t watery.

Patricia, being a proper cook, has you doing the pasta separately and measuring things properly, but I like a meal which fits into one pan, particularly when I’ve been freezing my tits off at the bottom of a ski lift all day and can’t be bothered with washing up.

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Food for thought

“Ask not what you can do for your country. Ask what’s for lunch.” ― Orson Welles

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