random tip #1: if you can't beat them...

the first weeks in the UK were quite frustrating, cappuccino-wise: I find no comfort in dipping my nose into cupfuls of froth with the faintest trace of liquid, topped with the most unlikely substances.
now I know what to do to enjoy a nice italian-style cappuccino:
I order a latte.


friends.. what are they for?

the true essence of Italian cooking is making the most of whatever ingredients the place where you live offers you, in a simple, imaginative way. i happen to live in Brighton now, which means that my favourite butcher is 1067 km away.
On the other hand, the freshest, juiciest mackerels are just a short walk to the fishermen's hut on Hove seafront.
i have also developed an enthusiastic curiosity for thai food...
my cooking has changed since I moved here, i like to experiment more, to put two and two together and come up with a big, tasty, five.

I prepared this black soup for four hungry friends who one day volunteered to be fed the results of one of my experiments. I used:

a few courgettes, the smaller the better
some asparagus (is there a plural?), the thinner the better
one tin of coconut milk, the thicker the better
one kilo of mussels
the ink of two squids (or three sachets of squid ink)

a litre of endless chicken stock*
whole garlic cloves
grated ginger
crushed chili pepper
olive oil

*it is sort of acceptable to use vegetarian stock powder provided that is flavoured with galangal, bay leaves, lemon grass etc.. before using it for the soup.

after the tedious but rewarding cleaning of the mussels i briefly steam the asparagus until tender but still "al dente". Ginger, garlic ad chili pepper are flavouring the oil in the cast iron pot . i add the vegs and let them soak up all the nice flavours. i try to be patient here because i want my vegetables to really soak up the flavours. now the coconut milk for a little extra soaking. now the stock. whille i wait for the concoction to boil, i open the mussels in a separate pan. i don't want the courgettes to overcook (do i?) so i doublecheck the soup: as soon as it starts boiling i reduce it to a simmer, and add the shelled mussels and the squid ink.
two more minutes and it's ready.
black steamy fishy, silky...

my friends tell me they like it a lot.

that's what friends are for.


the endless chicken pts 2,3&4

after the feast of the day before i'm still left with 800g of top quality free-range-organic-not-necessarily-corn-fed-rare-breed chicken meat and a nice well scraped carcass.
i eat all the brown bits from the bottom of the carcass on the spot, and a bit of skin too, sprinkled with sea salt flakes... is there anything better?? the answer is yes but not now.
so, after the feast of the day before i'm still left with 730g of... well, you know what.

half the meat goes into a salad with a grated carrot and two grated courgettes. i had bought the courgettes for isabella but even if organic, they are so out of season that i decide against feeding her those. lunch is sorted with a bit of cous cous on the side.

the carcass, with all the bones saved from the night before, goes into my beloved le creuset oval cast iron pot to which i add the following:
- a large onion, peeled and cut in half;
- a root of galangal, cut in half lenghtways;
- several bay leaves;
- a generous handful of sze-chuan peppercorns;
- three stalks of lemongrass, cut in half lenghtways;
- enough cold water to fill the pot.

i clarify the stock then use it to make a wrong zuppa pavese.
a zuppa pavese (soup from the city of Pavia) is very easy to get right, if you only break a fresh egg on top a slice of toasted bread (farmhouse, not prepackaged loaf!!) which sits at the bottom of a deep bowl, top it with grated parmesan and pour hot good stock on the lot.
i have no bread left and decide against parmesan this time so to give it some extra substance i add a bit of the chicken meat and some thinly sliced courgettes.

right or wrong, when the stock is good - and boy, this is amazing! -a zuppa pavese is at the top of the comfort food list.

there's still more than half of a brest left. i'll have it tomorrow in a sandwich (but i have to remember to go and buy some decent bread... not easy in brighton).

bottom line: four great meals from a chicken and i still have a couple of liters of stock to flavour my cooking.

endless or what?


the endless chicken pt.1

lesson i learned: do not trust chicken that comes without qualifiers.

believe me, i want nothing to do with what is sold as "chicken" in this country.

the previous statement is obviously untrue: when i feel lazy i am keen to buy a dubious chicken provided that somebody spit-roasted it for me. when i feel dirty i treat myself to a kebab.

i don't let these slight incongruences distract me from the right way, so in my household chicken is a rare treat because good free-range-organic -not-necessarily-corn-fed-rare-breed chicken --(ehi! a LOT of qualifiers)-- is expensive.

let's say £6 to £8 per kilo --(imperial measures are banned in this blog)-- or £12 to £16 per bird.

money well spent: i won't fill our bodies with unwanted antibiotics and those two kilos will go a loooong way.

day one:
the oven is getting hot, the chicken is out, potatoes are cut. everything is well coated with olive oil and two halves of a nice lemon sit snugly in the birds' bum. a few garlic cloves.
in goes the roast tin and i'm off to play with isabella while zoe is having one of her long baths.

after 90 minutes isabella is sleeping in her cot --(bless!)--, zoe is almost out of the tub and the chicken is ready.

a nice green salad, a glass of wine... i am happy.

coming up: the endless chicken parts two, three and four (!!!)
also coming up: the accidental vegan.


home cooking is my thing

this is the first line of my first blog.
this isn't.

no, my sense of humour is not what urged me to move to the UK.

some reasons: my partner being from brighton, the sad demise of the italian music industry, a poisonous cultural climate and the fact I'm allergic to berlu***ni.

more about me here.

home cooking is my thing.

so i have decided to keep track of what i cook at home and for my clients for a series of reasons including:

- why not?
- i have some time to spare
- it won't hurt anybody
- it might be useful one day
- it might be interesting for someone somewhere sometime.

can't wait...