Posts Tagged ‘figs’

Another Italian feast

Yesterday, two of my favourite friends came over. One had just handed in two peices of work, which signalled the end of her dissertation. The other is half Italian. I therefore went crazy on the organising front and decided to make a feast of epic proportions, much like the last time someone came for dinner.

This time though, I was equipped with truffle oil…! The night before, I had prepared the delicate carta di musica – music paper – and made the pesto. Where last time I went for a rocket and walnut pesto, this time I was without food processor (it broke when I used it to whizz almonds for cantuccini) so I made the simpler traditional basil and pine nut pesto as it’s easier to bash together in a pestle and mortar. I lightly toasted the pine nuts first and it gave them a really creamy texture.

Then the morning of the big feast, I made walnut brittle, which I then bashed into breadcrumb-size peices and added to a delicate mixture of whipped cream, whipped egg white and whipped yolk and sugar. I froze the whole thing to make semifreddo, which means half-cold in Italian. It basically comes out like an ice cream but is different, somehow.

I also whisked a few eggs with sugar, 00 flour, crushed nuts and I forget what else, to make cantuccini. I fridged the whole thing first, to let it chill and set a little, to make the baking process easier later.

Then I went bread crazy for a bit, making my pizza dough and leaving it to rise and then tackling the grissini. I had just bought them at the shop last time and felt a bit like I’d let myself down. So this time, I made them from scratch. I melted a bit of butter in a pan then added milk. In a bowl, I put 00 flour, dried yeast, salt and a handful of parmesan. I added the butter and milk to this, kneaded it for a while, then left it in a warm place to rise. Although I was supposed to be using strong white flour, I couldn’t find any in my cupboard. So I used 00 flour and wholemeal flour mixed together and hoped it would be fine.

It was fine! Surprisingly. And I even thought it looked a bit more interesting than if I’d used totally white flour. Check them out.

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I love the uneven nature of the sticks, how some are a bit short and stubby and others are quite long and thin and smooth all around. They also got a great reaction from my guests, one of whom said it was their favourite thing out of everything we ate.

After making these, I rolled my pizza dough into twelve balls (used one to make myself a pizza for lunch, just to test it, you understand), put them on a tray covered in a damp towel and fridged until needed.

Finally, after a whole day of prep, I was ready for guests. And here it is in all its glory. The antipasti…

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Prosciutto, figs and mint.

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From the back, you can see truffle butter, pesto (in the glass), grilled aubergines with tomato sauce, mozzarella and basil (at the front) carta di musica (to the left) and in the centre, the homemade grissini wrapped in salami milano and pickled chicory. The little purple thing off to the right contains truffle oil and balsamic vinegar.

There was much dipping of grissini into truffle butter and eyes lighting up. The pesto was a firm favourite with my half Italian friend, who kept an eagle eye on it whenever anyone else took a slightly-too-large scoop on their breadstick.

We also had tomato, mozzarella, basil sticks as well but herein lies the problem with mozzarella. The better quality you use, the higher water content it has. Which means that it gets all over you when you’re touching it and all over whatever you’re trying to do with it. So my basil leaves and tomato wedges were covered in mozzarella water, making them unpretty for photographs. But they were there, honest.

Next up was the mains, for which I went traditional Italian…

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With a courgette, rocket and basil salad with a lemony-parmesany dressing…

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My half-Italian friend polished most of this off single-handedly.

For the pizzas, I just rolled them fairly small and topped them with whatever I felt like. Chicken, fennel, white asparagus, romano peppers, truffle oil, proscuitto, courgette, mushrooms, red onion, mozzarella, chilli flakes. And so we ate. And we ate. And we ate some more. The mains and the antipasti were all lingering around in front of us and we just kept nibbling. A mouthful of pizza. A bit of grissini dipped in truffle oil. A tomato, mozzarella stack. It just went on. And on. And on.

We waited maybe five minutes before I discreetly cleared the plates and got bowls out for everyone. Loud declarations of “O, I can’t eat dessert yet, no way!” were made.

“Don’t worry,” I said, calming their fears. “I’m just putting the bowls out. And the semifreddo needs to be out of the freezer to soften up for a bit.”

But, of course, I set up all the stuff on the table and our stomachs forgot about how full they were and we got started.

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Ok, from left to right. Slow-baked figs, then cantuccini. In front of the cantuccini is a little dish of walnut brittle, a jar of honey, then to the right is the walnut semifreddo. The order of things for the semifreddo is as follows – scoop some semifreddo out and put it in your bowl, drizzle with honey, top with walnut brittle. Add into the equation a few figs and try using the light  crumbly cantuccini to transport the last few bits of ice cream to your mouth and suddenly, you’re not full anymore. You’re back in the game. You’re ready for action! More semifreddo! More figs! More honey!

We sat, shell shocked and taken aback, viewing our destruction before leaving the scene of the crime to go and watch a program about plane crashes (don’t ask, I wasn’t in charge of the dinker).

And now I have leftovers for at least the next week. Well, I say ‘the next week’…. They’ll last me a day or two….

Diary of a desperate student

Now, I’m quite a strong willed person. I can put my mind to most things and can be strict with myself when necessary. The fact that I get up at 4.30am when I don’t need to attests to this fact. The following is a diary of what a law degree can do to a person in just one day.

07:40 – Woke up. Felt ok. Did twenty minutes of yoga and got ready for my day.

08:05 – Went to the deli in my pyjamas to collect some ripe bananas to make banana bread with. Decide to do it tomorrow. Today I will be focussed and will become the master of Land Law!

08:20 – Had some breakfast. Arranged my notes into a neat pile. Read over the notes I made yesterday.

09:00 – Did the dishes.

09:30 – Put the dishes away.

10:00 – Read over my notes again.

10:45 – Sat down with a question from last year’s exam paper about mortgages. Set myself an hour and got writing. Started out well. Felt good.

11:15 – Got disheartened when I didn’t really know how to move forward with the question. Got up to make a cup of tea. Checked Facebook. Ate a few Ryvita whilst in the kitchen.

11.30 – More Ryvita. More despair.

11.50 – Straightened my hair.

12:00 – More Ryvita.

12:20 – Finally finished all I could on the question on mortgages. The last bit had confused me so I didn’t attempt it. I thought I’d listen to the online lecture to see how to do it. Listened to the whole thing, only needing the end. Four minutes from the end, while finally addressing the bit I needed help on, it stopped, for no discernible reason. I became depressed and went to make tea. I found some hazelnuts and almonds whilst there and ate them all.

12:40 – Started a practise question on freehold covenants and felt overwhelmed just ten minutes in. Found the online lecture instead and figured I’d take extensive notes and try again later. I find the lecture and immediately tune out and start looking for things to buy on Amazon. Ate some dried figs and pecans from the kitchen.

13:00 – WHAT IS WRONG WITH ME! I HAVE EXAMS IN THREE DAYS! CONCENTRATE, LAURA!

13:01 – My concentration is broken by a large fly. I chase it around for ten minutes and eventually kill it with a study book. Also ate a yoghurt.

13:20 – I debate whether to get dressed.

13:21 – I decide against it. I eat a muffin instead.

13:30 – Finished the Ryvita. Found some walnuts and finished them too.

14:10 – Took up coffee drinking, which has never happened in my entire life.

14:25 – Made eggs and bacon and more coffee.

14:50 – Drew fake tattoos on my hands and legs for fun. Mostly pictures of catterponies galloping through forests. Ate some sunflower seeds and a muffin.

15:03 – Laughed because the lecturer said ‘argubably’ by mistake.

15:10 – Tuned in briefly to the online lecture which was running and heard him say something about ‘Prunella’s cows’ and realised, with amazement, that I hadn’t a clue what he was talking about.

15:30 – Something clicks, I sit down with some cases to read and a highlighter and suddenly my concentration arrives out of the blue and, with the help of two cups of coffee and nine cups of tea, stays with me for a few hours.

16:50 – My hand/eye co-ordination fails me as there isn’t room for it to continue operating whilst my brain is attempting to remember everything. I spill tea down my front and all over my leg and textbook.

17:25 – Still reading and highlighting. Have now eaten all the goji berries and pumpkin seeds.

18:00 – It was around this time that I lost the ability to spell or write legibly.

20:45 – Finally finished reading cases and had a barbecue to celebrate…

21:00 – Enjoyment guilt set in and I picked up my case book and kept reading til 22:45.

Vital stats from my day.

Amount of hot drinks I consumed = 21.

Amount of water I drank = approx. 2.5 litres.

Amount of ingredients I have left to put in cakes = 0

Amount of food left in the fridge = a few strawberries, blueberries and a jar of marmalade.

Amount of weight I estimate I put on = half a stone, easily.

Amount of times I checked Facebook = approx. 4000

Amount of times I checked my emails = approx 200

Percentage of time I spent despairing = 50%

Percentage of time I spent feeling ready for exams = 50%


POINTS TO NOTE –

1. I did not change out of my pyjamas all day.

2. I caught sight of myself in the mirror before I went to bed and I looked pretty rough.

3. I created 41 possible alternative careers for myself during this revision day.