Friday, October 5, 2012

Happy birthdays

Among the people I've been friends with since I first came to Wellington, thirty-five years ago, are two couples, and one partner in each has a birthday in September, close to Harvey's. For years we've all got together for a joint celebration. This year it was last Sunday, and it took the form of a long Italian lunch, minus the pasta (we can never quite fit in that extra course). My role was to provide the antipasti. Some of it, of course, simply involved nicely arranging the excellent Napoletana salami I bought at Gamboni's, with some slices of cucumber for greenery. The next easiest thing was some bright little Pepperdew peppers, stuffed with well-seasoned cream cheese. But this time, in honour of the day, I also made two proper antipasti. Both came from Antonio Carluccio's An Invitation to Italian Cooking (1991). I chose them for taste, colour and variety - and being easy to make on a Sunday morning.
            The yellow and red roast pepper salad is, says Carluccio, an example of the way in which the flavour of peppers "can change completely according to whether they are fried or roasted: the removal of the skin alters the taste totally...This is without a doubt one of my favourite recipes." Mine, too, though I've adapted it a little - Carluccio doesn't mention the indispensable plastic bag, for example. It's best to make this at least an hour in advance, preferably longer - "it improves with standing and is excellent eaten the next day".  The second thing I made was stuffed eggs with tuna - "a favourite recipe of my mother's".

Insalata di pepperoni arrostiti
Serves 6

2 red and 2 yellow peppers (choose ones with a good even, matching shape, suitable for cutting into long strips lengthwise)
3 Tbsp good olive oil
1 Tbsp freshly chopped parsley (I needed all mine for the eggs, so I left this out)
2 (fat) cloves garlic, coarsely chopped (though I crushed mine, to keep the strength down a bit)

Roast the peppers either by using a fork to turn them over a gas flame until the skin blisters and turns black, or by cutting them in half, removing all the seeds and white pith, and placing them skin side up under a hot grill. When they are done, put them into a plastic bag, close it and leave until cool. Then remove and peel off the skin - it should come off quite easily. If you have left the peppers whole, halve and remove the seeds and pith. Cut lengthwise into narrow strips and place in a dish with the garlic. Dress with oil, parsley and salt.  

Uova ripiene di tonno
Serves 6

6 fresh eggs (I used the big ones that come in boxes of 10)
150g plain canned tuna in oil (I put in a few anchovies too)
1-2 Tbsp finely chopped parsley
2-3 Tbsp capers
2 Tbsp mayonnaise (either a good bought one or better, home-made, here)
freshly ground black pepper

Boil the eggs for about 15 minutes, then leave them to cool. Drain the tuna and chop it finely with the parsley and capers (but leave 12 capers whole for decoration). Mix with the mayonnaise. Shell the eggs and slice them lengthwise. Carefully remove the yolks, leaving the whites as containers for the filling. Mash the yolks and mix them with the tuna mayonnaise, adding the ground black pepper. Stir well to make a thick paste. Shape into neat ovals and place back into the whites. Put a whole caper on top of each one.

So here's my antipasti platter. There were only five of us, but we ate most of it, with foccacia bread. And we drank a toast to Harvey in Ripasso. He would have enjoyed it all so much.

Then came chicken cacciatore with a salad which came mainly from the host's garden...

.. and finally a fantastic orange and chocolate cake.

1 comment:

Sue @ FiveCourseGarden said...

That looks like one amazing joint birthday feast. I love the cucumber snuggled up with the salami... so comfortable.