Posts Tagged ‘grape’

An Italian feast – the vegetarian version

I must apologise in advance as I forgot to take photos of the antipasti before we dug in and devoured it all… Oops!

After my last post about food, which was posted to Facebook, a friend I haven’t seen in a while read it and jokingly asked to come to dinner in a “You-can-invite-me-to-dinner-anytime,” kind of way. Spotting an opportunity to prepare another feast, I responded with a genuine invitation. Another friend was invited and the date was fixed. I had a day off so scheduled my day around preparing the food.

We decided to go vegetarian as one of the party doesn’t eat meat and I couldn’t be bothered to do two sets of food.

And so the fun began.

I started by making the tiramisu slightly wrong by whisking the sugar with the egg whites instead of the yolks. I just kind of put it all together and fridged it and hoped it would taste fine. Then I made little things called Esse biscuits, which are quite specific to Venice, although why a biscuit shaped like an S should be Venetian is beyond me.

Then I ploughed on through the grissini, the music paper, the pesto, the gnocchi, the soup, the lentil dish and some salads. It was 3.30pm, two and a half hours before my guests would arrive. So I did what any reasonable person would do at that point. I had a nap.

I woke up about 5pm and dived back into the kitchen, spearing mozzarella and basil, toasting (burning) bread and taking the truffle butter out of the fridge.

After a little help with directions, my friends arrived, one of them taking charge of toasting new bread as I couldn’t seem to stop burning things.

So the antipasti was grissini, music paper, truffle butter, pesto, bruscette with ricotta, broad bean and mint, more bruscette with roasted grape and thyme, roasted walnuts, and goat’s cheese. O, and a white bean houmous-type thing, which was unexpectedly delicious. I just used some tinned cannellini beans and heated them gently in a pan with a bit of water, an onion, some bay leaves and a bit of olive oil. Then I removed a few beans, whizzed what was left and left it on a low heat to thicken. I put it in a bowl once finished and put the beans I had removed back on top with a little lemon and white truffle oil.

As mentioned earlier, I only afterward remembered to get a photograph of the antipasti. Here it is.

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Yep. That’s all that was left to photograph by the time I remembered…..

Next up was the mains.

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A panzanella, which was well received. In case you are unfamiliar with a panzanella, it’s a bread and tomato salad, basically. It’s one of those things that I’ve had a few times and it’s been pretty average. A nice homemade panzanella, though, is well worth the effort.

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Here we have; bottom left, a chickpea, fennel and leek soup; above that, the white bean houmous; front right, gnocchi in a cavolo nero sauce; top middle, a zucchini, basil and rocket salad.

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There was also this vegetable lentil dish dressed with basil oil and mozzarella.

Once we’d eaten all that, we were stuffed and couldn’t even think about dessert. No, honestly! I can’t fit a single thing in! I’m so full. I need a while to let it all go down. What’s that? You’re getting the dessert out? Just to look at? Ok. O… Well, maybe I’ll just have a little try….

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Baked figs on the left and tiramisu in the glasses on the right. We obviously scoffed them. I admitted my sugar-in-the-egg-whites mistake but it was generally agreed that we couldn’t tell. 

Next we had coffee and the Esse biscuits.

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A discussion about the film version of Roald Dahl’s The Witches then took up the remainder of the evening and I went to bed dreaming of being turned into a mouse….

J is for…

JAM!

Omygoodness. I love making jam. It’s so easy. But it appears to be such a skill. You essentially just get a load of fruit, add sugar and leave it for ages. I don’t even eat that much jam. Actually, I can’t remember the last time I had some, months ago. But I’ve made tons recently. Because it takes so long, it means I can loiter in the kitchen for ages, feeling nice and looking around at my favourite part of the house. With the time you spend loitering around, you can rustle up a batch of bread to have with your jam, should you wish. Jams and marmalades are fabulous homemade gifts. Don’t be intimidated. Just put a load of fruit and sugar in a pan and heat it. Plus, it makes you feel pretty Mastercheffy when you’ve got a batch done.

And to clarify, I’ve done some research, apparently the difference between jam and marmalade is that marmalade is bitter, presumably because it tends to be with citrus fruits and you use peel. But then there’s the added category of preserves. I think its something to do with whether the whole fruit is used and whether there is any pectin in it. Or just sugar. Hmm. It’s already got a bit too complicated for me.

Anyway, more importantly, what jam should I make today? There is normally some kind of discount or deal on at least one type of fruit in the supermarket so I’ll just let them decide for me. As an aside, if you were thinking of taking jam-making up, my most successful flavours have been fig and apricot. In terms of marmalade, I got my best feedback from a blood orange and cranberry mixture. Most unsuccessful flavour was grape, which would NOT set, no matter what I did to it. Good combinations of bread and jam are fig bread with apricot jam, apple bread with apricot jam and walnut bread with fig jam. Strawberry jam (soft set) goes amazingly well with homemade scones. I dare you to try jamming. Summer’s on its way so scones and jam are in order. Give it a go.