Sunday, October 30, 2011


"The trouble with eating Italian food is that five or six days later you're hungry again." George Miller

I usually try to post before the weekend, as I know that's when readers tend to look at this blog, but I had to wait until today to write about my friends' golden wedding anniversary. I think they're the only couple I know of my generation who've been married for fifty years. Of course they did start young, they were both just 20, but it's an impressive achievement all the same. To celebrate, they invited twelve friends to a long Italian lunch at La Bella Italia in Petone.

The antipasti were a meal in themselves.
Parma prosciutto, felino,
aged parmesan.
Buffalo mozzarella
with foccacia bread,
courgettes and peppers.

Then came the prima piatti, risotto and ravioli, followed by pork with prunes, hunter's chicken and salad.

I made a complete glutton of myself, but so did everyone else - and we did all take a long time, that was the whole point.

The crowning glory was the mimosa cake, covered in pretty yellow bobbles of sponge that looked exactly like mimosa. And on top was the bride and groom from their original wedding cake.

Friday, October 21, 2011

Green goodness

Asparagus time again. Such a simple thing to cook. This week I worked my happy way through three bunches (with a little help from my friends), and kept all the snapped-off ends and turned them into soup.    

Apart from gorgeous, incredibly calorific hollandaise, what I like to have with asparagus is another really simple green thing, salsa verde, deliciously sharp and tangy. Fortunately I've now got enough parsley in the garden to make it with - you need a lot.

Salsa verde (adapted from Claudia Roden's The Food of Italy)
Green sauce Emilian style

25g white breadcrumbs
1 large bunch Italian flat-leaved parsley, roughly chopped (she says 350g but I use about 200g)
2 cloves garlic, peeled and crushed
1 Tbsp shallots or onion
1 flat tin anchovies, including oil
2 Tbsp capers
3 Tbsp lemon juice
olive oil

If you don't already have fresh crumbs, make them by processing the bread in the food processor. Take them out and set aside.
Process garlic and shallots or onion uintil finely chopped.
Add parsley and process until finely chopped.
Add anchovies, capers and lemon juice and process to mix well. Then add breadcrumbs and process again.
Add olive oil in a thin stream while processor is running until you get the consistency you want - thick or thinner.
Taste to see if it needs more lemon juice or a little salt.
Spoon into a shallow bowl and serve with asparagus -
or grilled chicken, or steak, or stirred into pasta.
Or you can spread it thinly on slices of toasted ciabatta and put sliced tomatoes on top.

Rummaging round the web, I found this very odd ad for asparagus. Stalking the American life, indeed...

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Rhubarb rhubarb

I thought I'd written before about the wonders of rhubarb, but there's no label for it so I can't have. It's one of the best things to buy right now, and last weekend, when I got back from a trip to Auckland (where I had rhubarb crumble), I found a beautiful bunch of slender deep red sticks at my local. I had friends comiing to stay to see Sirocco (more about him coming up on Elsewoman), and I knew I'd seen a rhubarb cake recipe somewhere in my Lois Daish folder. I reckon it's the best cake I've made this year.

Rhubarb and ginger cake (Lois Daish, Listener, 10 October 1998)

450g rhubarb (I had a bit less so I put in pieces of firm fresh pear as well - it worked perfectly)
1 cup brown sugar, firmly packed
1 and 1/4 cups plain flour
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp ground ginger
1/2 cup cooking oil (sunflower, safflower - I used canola)
1 egg
1/2 cup roughly chopped crystallised ginger
icing sugar for dusting

>Preheat oven to 180C. Line base of a ring tin with baking paper and lightly oil the sides. (I used a square one - it doesn't rise a lot but it makes nice square slices.)
>Wash and trim rhubarb and cut into 1cm lengths. Mix with the brown sugar and let stand for 15 minutes.

>Sift flour, baking soda and ginger into a large bowl.
>In a small bowl, beat the egg with the oil to mix and pour into the rhubarb and sugar. Add the crystallised ginger and mix well.
>Tip rhubarb mixture into the bowl of flour and stir carefully to combine. (This mixture is quite wet, but don't worry, it's fine.)
>Spread mixture in the cake tin, smoothing the top with the back of a spoon. (At this point I placed some extra, thin square slices of ginger on top.)

>Bake for 60-75 minutes until top is well browned and springy to touch. Cool in the tin before turning out. Dust icing sugar thickly over the top before serving. (I forgot to do this, never mind.)

We ate it for afternoon tea, and again for a late dessert when we got back from seeing Sirocco. With it we had Clearwater cream-top yoghurt with honey. Oh yes.