A common man marvels at uncommon things. A wise man marvels at the commonplace. CONFUCIUS

Sunday, 26 February 2012

Food Interlude

I don't know about you, but I'm crazy about cooking and mad about French and Italian cuisine (not to mention Thai, Chinese, Indian, Moroccan and Lebanese). I have to restrain myself from writing about food and drink on this blog; otherwise, I fear, it would take over. However, I do talk about cookery, and recommend recipes, from time to time. (Click here if you want to read more!)

We've been into cooking a lot lately. Luckily we both enjoy it. We've made winter soups and stews, and steaks with boulangère potatoes. I made a cherry sponge cake ...

... and on Shrove Tuesday Carmen made pancakes — thin, light as a feather, and sharp with lemon juice. Last night I created an Italian supper dish which was quick and easy to make and — though I say it myself — absolutely delicious! Let me share it with you.

I cooked tiny meat balls in olive oil in a frying pan for five minutes, then added two chopped onions for five minutes, then added some thyme and sliced mushrooms for a further five minutes. I seasoned the dish. (While all this was going on I drank a glass of wine — this isn't an obligatory part of the recipe but, hey, you may as well enjoy life — and boiled some dried pasta in salted water. I chose pennoni rigate, because you want quite a big and chunky pasta so that the sauce can stick nicely to it. The main thing, however, is to make sure your pasta is of good quality — the packet stuff does vary enormously.) I turned up the heat and splashed in a generous slug of white wine (essential!) and waited till it had all but evaporated, then added the cooked pasta plus a dollop of mustard, some grated nutmeg, a pinch of cayenne pepper and a good handful of parmesan cheese. With the pan off the heat, I stirred in some single cream, and served with a little more parmesan and a scattering of chopped parsley on top. Naturally, we drank the rest of the bottle of wine with the food (it was an Italian Orvieto). The great thing about this dish is that it really does taste like top notch, Italian restaurant fare. If you close your eyes when eating it you almost feel you're right there in Tuscany or Umbria ... and that can never be a bad thing!

I haven't suggested any quantities for the above recipe as I think it's one of those recipes where weighing scrupulously exact amounts of this or that is tedious and unnecessary. A lot of it's down to common sense and personal taste.


Dominic Rivron said...

Every since I first ate at your house I've thought you should blog about food more!

How about a recipe for pitta bread?

The Cranky Crone, she lives alone! said...

Sounds tasty, above all you sound as if you really enjoyed the process, and if i may say a little Floyd sounding, jolly good, get that camera right in there! he was such character, i enjoy seeing bits of him on Sunday mornings. oOh! today infact.

The Solitary Walker said...

Sorry, but I can't recall which recipe I used that time, Dominic... but there seem to be lots of good recipes via Google... The key is a very hot oven.

Jolly good, CC, I'll just top up my glass, damn it, I'll swig from the bottle, slurp, slurp, do you want a snifter too?

George said...

I knew you were a man of many talents, Robert, but this takes the cherry sponge cake. When may I come to dinner?

A wonderful post. I'm one who enjoys reading about the delights of food as much as anything else. Bon appetit!

The Solitary Walker said...

When you're next in England, George, do pop in for tea and cherry cake. You would be most welcome!

Anonymous said...

Oh thanks for this Food Interlude SW, it's like I'm in Tuscany. Yes, cooking with a glass of wine and enjoy life sounds pretty good ! I never thought put white wine in Pasta, have I good understood you ?? Must try this receipt soon...Mike

am said...

I love food, love this post and love seeing your older posts about food! My Richard was a good cook. I have sweet memories of us cooking together!

"Call me for dinner, honey, I'll be there."
(Bob Dylan)

Pacific Northwest/Asian dish:

This is delicious warm or eaten cold as leftovers:

8 oz. firm tofu, cubed
3 cups carrots, grated
1 oz. ginger root
1 tablespoon olive oil

Heat olive oil in a large iron skillet. Add tofu, carrots, ginger root. Stir fry for about a minute.

Add to that:

2 cups cooked brown rice
3/4 pound chopped collards (previously steamed 50 minutes)
1/2 cup salmon, fresh cooked or canned.
1/4 cup cooked cranberries

Add to that:

Generous amounts of thyme, cinnamon, anise seeds, dill seeds, fennel seeds and salt to taste.

Add anything else you'd like. It's that kind of recipe!

The Solitary Walker said...

Thanks for your comment, Mike. Yes, right at the end you add the cooked pasta to the meatball/onion/mushroom/herby/white wine sauce. (My understanding is that, Italian-style, the pasta is always added at the end like this — rather than the sauce being poured onto the pasta.)

am — Hey, thanks for this! And for that recipe. This sounds very exotic and unusual to an English ear, and I can't wait to try it (when I've looked up what collards are!)

The Solitary Walker said...

Oh, I now see what you mean, Mike, my hurriedly written description was a little unclear! I meant add the wine to the meatball/onion mix not the pasta water...

Rubye Jack said...

That's funny. I made Italian last night also, and to my mind that glass of red is indeed obligatory while cooking. We have a very nice Italian deli not too far from where I live and I stopped off there for some home-made Tomato/Basil sausage. Ummmm, it was so dang good, but I don't think it compares to the dish you made as mine had limited ingredients. That's the way it goes with me and cooking. Clean and simple.

The Solitary Walker said...

Clean and simple sounds good to me, Rubye.

Goat said...

Sounds great, I prefer recipes where precise quantities aren't listed. You'd have a hard time putting that dish together where I'm presently living, though, but I think you'd manage.

As for the cheese, you would have to either use dried, powdered parmesan or lay a square of pre-sliced, processed pseudo-cheese over the top! As far as I know, there's no real cheese in the entire nation! I can't even find canned tomatoes or tomato paste - and a lot of the prepared pasta sauces come from Hong Kong or Taiwan! Ughhhhhh!

Anonymous said...

Good clarification for me...white wine to the meatball mix and no to the pasta !

However I like discovering new things...I'll try to add some white wine in the water. Why not ??


The Solitary Walker said...

To live in a country without fresh parmesan, tinned tomatoes and tomato purée must be challenging to say the least, Goat. Perhaps there is an export opportunity here for someone?

I think the 'right' quantity of ingredients comes with experience. I certainly find it difficult myself quite often; it's trial and error. And of course with things like bread and cakes it's essential to get the recipe-stated quantities exactly right.

The Solitary Walker said...

Wine in the pasta water, Mike? Sounds like a waste of good wine to me!!!

Laura said...

What are you fixing tonight? A meal like that is worth a trip across the "pond." I'll bring the wine!

Susan Scheid said...

I'm not much of a cook (my better half, lucky for me, more than makes up for that), but I certainly do love to eat good food. Your recipe sounds delightful. So interesting to put the pasta into the sauce, as opposed to the other way around. Makes good sense, really--and certainly the wine at hand and splashed in the sauce has to enhance any meal!

PS: What you wrote over my way, I can tell you, certainly made MY day. So pleased you enjoyed HBH!

Kleinste Motte said...

Sometimes not using a recipe works too. Your creation looks so yummy.

Worthing Wanderer said...

That all looks so fantastic! You'd better get some miles in to lose the calories!

Ruth said...

I read this post several days ago, Robert, and I've been drooling ever since. I just haven't gotten over here to tell you that you can write about anything you want, and I'll read it, greedily. As for food, yes! More, more, more.

I thought of you yesterday when I got my latest free book download announcement from the University of Chicago press: Pilgrimage to the End of the World: The Road to Santiago de Compostela. I get these for Adobe Digital Editions, which is a wonderful software you can download. Anyway, it has all the wonderful photos, and I look forward to reading at least bits of it.

The Solitary Walker said...

Laura — if you're bringing wine, you're most certainly invited!

Thanks for visiting, Susan — and, yes, I thought your short story was superb.

Hope you find the my blog's new blue colour for quotations easier to read than the former orange, Kleinste Motte ...

... and thanks for your comment, WW. A walk is always a good way to burn off the calories.

Glad you enjoyed the foodie post, Ruth. I haven't read that book, and it looks quite interesting. May order it from the library.

Heidrun Khokhar said...

Your new colour has made it so much easier. I really appreciate this kind improvement. It's hard for some of us with visual impairment to convoke others that the colour does make a huge difference. the Apple folks use an ugly pail tray that just frustrates me but they have yet to take note. I guess they just hope I'll switch to voice over. Since I'm not blind why?
Your cooking tales left my mouth watering. And now I must grab a snack.

ksam said...

YUMMMM...and this after eating a quiche for dinner!