Posts Tagged ‘cracker’

The big 200 and an Italian feast

So it’s my 200th post! Very exciting. I haven’t been swimming in a little while as I’ve had a cold so I’m going to try, from next week, to swim 200 lengths in honour of it. Not all at once. I’ll try a bit each day. I need to do 30 each day, right? Wish me luck!

I’ve got lots of birthdays and excitement this week so am going to give it til Monday to start the challenge. Thanks for staying with me or joining me along the way. It has been lots and lots of fun. To celebrate this milestone and to embrace my recent trip to Italy and in honour of seeing a friend for the first time in ages, I prepared an Italian feast!

I got a beautiful cookbook the other day. The most beautiful cookbook I’ve ever seen.

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It’s full of Venetian recipes and the antipasti section is amazing. In an effort to impress, I insisted on making one of everything!

I finished work at 3pm and had timetabled in when to start everything so that I’d be ready by 7pm. I suddenly realised, at 3.35pm, that I didn’t have almonds for the cantuccini biscuits. I set my white wine and white wine vinegar and juniper berries to boil (for the pickled chicory) then I quickly grabbed my purse and ran down to the shop. I got the almonds and ran back to the house…. When I said ‘I quickly grabbed my purse’, that’s exactly what happened. I grabbed my purse AND NOTHING ELSE! I was locked out. There was no-one else with keys who would be back before 6pm. We had taken the spare key from the next door neighbour because it didn’t work anymore, it was always getting stuck. We kept meaning to get another cut, but didn’t. O no! The next door neighbour walked by and I explained my predicament. We went in her garden to see if I could climb over her fence into my garden and try and figure a way to get in. It’s not really a climb-over-able fence so I was stuck outside, pan boiling inside, on a tight schedule for preparing dinner, with no way into the house.

We eventually got in but another neighbour played a very risky game of almost falling through a roof to do so and it all took about an hour. I was VERY behind schedule.

When I was back in the kitchen, I pickled my chicory, made my duck stock, grilled my aubergines and dressed my rocket. I was back on track. As I was whizzing the almonds in my food processor for the cantuccini, it popped and stopped working! This was NOT on my schedule! It wouldn’t have been a very big deal had I not needed to whizz the duck breast fillets for my duck and porcini mushroom meatballs. My only option was my handheld whizzer thing. You know the type that you stick in a pot of soup to whizz all the lumps out?

So there I was, with a handheld whizzer thing, trying to whizz duck breasts. I got it done in the end but it wasn’t easy and bits of mashed up raw duck kept flying about and sticking to my face and arms.

I threw together an apparently Italian drink, minus the alcohol – elderflower cordial with mint, lemon and ice, then topped up with ginger beer.

I was nervous about attempting the Carta di Musica (music paper) as it needed to be rolled really really thin. It’s basically a paper thin cracker made with semolina. It went surprisingly well. I had some rocket and walnut pesto I had made that morning and after grilling some aubergines with parmesan, mozzarella and basil then rolling them up, I was almost ready to go. I just wrapped the end of a few grissini sticks in salami and pickled chicory and stuck them in a glass, put some dressed rocket into the braesola and rolled it up and put some truffle butter in a dish and we sat down and dug in. (Yes, you heard me right, truffle butter! I finally got some! And it was totally worth it.)

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At this point, I noticed that the caster sugar was on the side, unopened and realised that in my panic over the food processor breaking while I was making cantuccini, I had forgotten to put the sugar in! What I had was a savory almond dough! I whipped the biscuits out of the oven and binned them then mixed some sugar into my remaining dough. It didn’t really mix in very well though. I just wrapped the dough in clingfilm, fridged it and hoped for the best.

Next was the main course. We had a parmigiana, a roast tomato risotto, a duck and porcini meatball in a duck stock and tomato sauce, and scallops and pancetta on a bed of minty pea stuff.

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The parmigiana looks quite large and intimidating, I didn’t realise that when I cut it!

After eating everything and having a bit of chitchat and sneaking another meatball or two, it was time to address the cantuccini disaster. I cut my dough into six pieces and put it in the oven. It did not go well. Because there wasn’t enough dry stuff in the mixture, it didn’t bake hard enough. It also wasn’t sweet enough. I made us espressos in a percolator, which were really strong, and we dipped our biscuits in.

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I felt a bit feeble, with my savory, slightly soft almond thingys. So I implemented a back up plan. There was ice cream in the freezer! Mascapone, cherry and pistachio. Score! The dinner was rescued and we tucked in.

All in all, a success, I think.

Happy 200th post to me! What a fabulous way to celebrate.

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GIVE ME THAT TRUFFLE!

On Tuesday, my manager and I spent the morning at the Speciality Fine Food Fair. It was fabulous. There were tons and tons and tons of stands where producers had little tasters of their product and you could chat to them about the possibility of stocking their product in your shop.

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It was in Kensington Olympia, which is massive. It took us about four hours to walk all the way around it and see every stand. There were these fabulous chocolate sculptures at one end…

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… And beautifully crafted Italian pasta at the other…

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…and Brie in the shape of the Eiffel Tower…

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We went up and down the rows, up and down, up and down, nibbling on anything which was held out to us. The order that we nibbled was something like this:

Pannetone
Pasta
Chocolate
Truffle honey
Crackers
Ice cream

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More ice cream
Salmon
Cheese biscuit
Parma ham
Bread dipped into truffle oil
Chocolate
Biltong
Granola
Brie
Chocolate
Cracker with chutney
Walnut and apricot bread
Strawberry yoghurt sweets
Freshly made pumpkin ravioli

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Italian pastry with ricotta cream
Ice cream
Parma ham
Black truffle butter
White truffle butter
White truffle butter
Black truffle butter
White truffle butter…..

After this point, my memory becomes blurry because this truffle butter was A. MAY. ZING.

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Let me explain my position on truffles, prior to this day: “Truffles are ok but if anything, they’re not that tasty. They don’t taste of much.” I had had truffles a few times in restaurants, where they were just shaved onto things that didn’t really do anything to showcase its fantasticness. “What’s all the fuss about?” was my general opinion of truffles.

And then I went to the Fine Food Fair. And everything changed. There were SO many truffle stands so I tasted eveything that it is possible to do with a truffle. And I have to say, I am definitely on the Truffle Bandwagon. This truffle butter…. I can’t even explain. It was phenomenal. I was spreading it onto the plainest cracker in the world. A Jacobs water cracker thing. Boring. But with this black truffle butter spread on it, it was the food of the gods! I bet that Jacobs cracker couldn’t believe its luck when it got to sit on the truffle stand.

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After a point (when I’d been munching crackers and truffle butter for a tad too long and the people on the stand were looking over at me warily), we had to walk away…. And suddenly I knew that if I had any children and the truffle butter producers asked for one in exchange for a stick of the truffle butter, I would make the swap without a second’s thought.

“Push that child in front of the bus,” say the truffle men.
“Yes, truffle men,” I say, salivating at the truffle butter in their hands. I push the child in front of the bus and hold my hands out for my prize.

“Give us your house,” the truffle men say. “Go and live under a bridge somewhere.”
“Yes, truffle men,” I say, handing over the keys and taking the stick of butter. That night, I am found in the exact same spot, hugging my truffle butter while it slowly melts and smiling to myself as I lick my fingers.

“We want all your money,” the truffle men say.
“Yes, truffle men,” and I hand over my bank cards and pin numbers.

I’ve thought about going online to look up the company and do a bulk order of truffle butter, to see me through the next few months but I’m worried about opening that Pandora’s Box. I already have quite an obsessive nature. It could get silly. I’d be putting it with everything. Cereal, cups of tea, ice cream, fruit. I daydream about eating crackers full of it but am worried about the reality.

What should I do? I’m having a truffle dilemma here! I so want the truffles, but it could be a dangerous road to start down….