Monday, January 18, 2010

What a load of Bol.

Flicking through the Times newspaper today, I came across an article dedicated to the well-loved Italian dish SPAGHETTI BOLOGNESE. It is known to most that what we consider to be a good Bolognese is very different from the thoughts of native Italian eaters. It is seen as the dish 'cooked worst than most', which I half agree with - I've had some shockers. But the other half of me says: everyone cooks in their own way so why should that change with Spag Bol? I occasionally cook mine with added sun-dried tomatoes, balsamic vinegar, lots of red wine and Bay leaves, and I am certain that's not how the Italians do it.

Living in Bologna last year, I ate 'Bol' - what they call tagliatelli al ragu - often. It was served with very little tomato, hints of crumbly liver, and fresh, yellow tagliatelli. You really can't get more authentic than that...

Or so I thought...

The article, on p. 35 of Monday's paper, is now telling me that

'They don't even make it properly in Bologna any more'.

Now I am craving to know what the original recipe is! If they can't make it, who can?

Wednesday, January 13, 2010


New Year's Resolution Time.

I usually work my way around this one very well. My annual motto is TAKE UP, don't give up. It's much easier this way and has a rather virtuous ring to it I think.
My favourite one this year is verging on experimental, and may force me to give up more than I take up... I want to step outside the box, I want to explore the new, I want to make my tastebuds tingle. For 52 weeks, I aim to buy something new to fill the kitchen store cupboard, so that when it's just a few grains of rice and some shriveled peas left, there will always be something to make it interesting.

This week, I have bought something for my Last Supper's second course.

Again, taking inspiration from the comment board, I drove three treacherous miles through melted snow and cold rain to buy two small, dark, succulent pigeon breasts from the local farm shop. These delicate morsels had never found their way into my stomach so it was about time that they did.
Mrs Beeton, who has a wonderful selection of pigeon sketches and recipes in her book 'Mrs Beeton's Book of Household Management', says good things about these wee feathered creatures, and after last night's supper, I have to agree with her:

'Their flesh is accounted savoury, delicate, and stimulating, and the dark-coloured birds are considered to have the highest flavour'.

So I'd like to introduce, without further ado,

pigeon breast wrapped in bacon served with dauphinoise potatoes and 2 1/2 hour red cabbage.

Taking example from Islamack's suggestion, I think this one is a corker. Lots of rich colours and deep flavours. The sweetness of the cabbage complements the gamey pigeon, and the creamy potatoes are mouthwateringly good.

I love this ensemble: You can prepare the veg, stick them in the oven, leave them for a couple of hours and then come back last minute, perhaps at the end of the starter, to finish the pigeon.


1kg red cabbage
2 red onions,finely chopped
2 apples, finely chopped 1 garlic clove, finely chopped
heaped teaspoon of Quatre Espice
2 tablespoons of brown sugar
3 tablespoons white wine/red wine vinegar 15g butter
salt and pepper.

This is so hassle free - just prepare all the ingredients and throw them in a casserole and leave to sweat for 2 to 2 1/2 hours at 150˚C so that the cabbage is soft and the flavours have all infused. It becomes the most beautiful bright purple colour and the aroma is fantastic.



3 cloves garlic, finely chopped
30g butter
1.5kg potatoes, peeled and thinly sliced
300ml creme fraiche
600ml double cream
salt and pepper

Gently melt the butter and garlic in a saucepan on a very low heat. You don't want the garlic to brown but just release its flavour into the butter. Grease a large oven proof dish. Peel and thinly slice the potatoes and layer them into the dish. Mix the cream and creme fraiche together and stir in the cream mixture, adding salt and pepper, and perhaps nutmeg if desired. Pour over the layered potatoes and put into the overn at 200˚C for 1 1/2 hours. When done the potatoes should be soft and the top crispy and brown.


8 fresh pigeon breasts (or 16 if you want to serve two each)
8-16 rashers of bacon
tablespoon of olive oil
salt and pepper
tin foil

Twenty minutes before the potatoes and cabbage are due to come out, put a frying pan with olive oil on to a high heat. When the oil is very hot, place the breasts in around the edge of the pan so they all cook equally, making a note of the one you put in first. Flash fry for a minute on each side, then remove from the pan. Now, wrap each breast in bacon, before putting it onto tin foil. Season with olive oil, salt and pepper and wrap the breast in tin foil. Place in the oven with the potatoes and cook for 10-15 minutes. Check them to see how fast they are cooking. The end result should be pink and tender, so that it almost melts in the mouth, and the bacon cooked through.


We put a little of The Garlic Farm's Rhubarb and Pear Chutney which went very well with everything on the plate.

A delicious meal - and an ingredient I will definitely take up again in the future.

Bon appetit!

...I'm heading to Somerset for the weekend, where I shall be mulling over my Pudding choice so, while you digest, prepare yourselves for a fabulous third course!


WE'RE UP FOR VOTE AGAIN with Dorset Cereals! go on... >>>>

Tuesday, January 5, 2010


A month without a blog? OUCH. What have I been doing that is so important? UM. Lots.

Due to the gluttonous quantities of FOOD and DRINK that have been forced down my neck without my consent...kind of..,the snow turning house into prison, and dreadfully cosy fires, I have only just been unable to haul myself out of the yuletide stupour. And having just been handed a 'soldier' of bare, toasted, Swedish rye bread I think it is time to take a hint.

Here's to 2010!

This week's blog is a matter of life and death. It holds the first of three deliciously inspired recipes, stolen straight from the taste buds of you lovely readers. When I asked 'What would be your last supper?' way back in November you came back with some fantastic ideas. From these, I have chosen 3 courses; all very delicious, hearty and, as the season is most definitely winter, HOT.
So let us begin with the starter, just to be wild...


Thank you to Mattie for her idea of ravioli stuffed with leeks and bacon:

"May I offer you in exchange the strange but wonderful filling suggestion of sweated leeks and bacon with a smidgen of cream and plenty pepper - the winner of the various fillings I tried on my teenage guinea pigs"

In truth, it's a filling that I would never normally put with pasta but, not being too far off a teenage guinea pig, I really liked it. I added a touch of nutmeg to give the filler a subtle sweetness and blended the mixture to make the ravioli melt in the mouth. As a starter I would serve two or three large ravioli for each diner in a deep pasta bowl, drizzled with butter and sprinkled with Parmesan.

FOR 8 wonderful GUESTS:
My new vintage pasta machine arrived with enormous welcome - the days of dead arms are over - and it has been awfully helpful for perfecting this recipe.

If you want to make the pasta from scratch, check out the basic pasta recipe on Tortellini or not Tortellini and make around 1kg of pasta. Any left over can be dried or frozen and eaten at a later date. There is NOTHING better than homemade pasta. It can take up to an hour to make if you are doing it all by hand the sweat and blood way. But with a food processor and rolling machine it should take much less.

TIP: You can make the pasta dough in advance and pop it in the fridge, or even freeze it but, if you can, leave the rolling to the last minute for ultimate freshness.


4 Leeks, finely chopped
2 tablespoons of double cream or 4 tablespoons of ricotta
6 rashers of bacon or pancetta, chopped into small pieces
Pinch of grated nutmeg
Salt and pepper

VERY VERY SIMPLE. Fry the bacon until completely cooked and starting to brown. Throw in the leeks and sweat until soft (the leeks...not you). Add the cream or ricotta, and stir. You don't want the mixture to be too runny; it will turn stuffing the ravioli into slippery business.
Add the salt and pepper to taste and grate in the nutmeg. With a food processor or hand-blender, whizz the mixture to a firm, moist consistency.

Having rolled out the pasta into thin sheets (the smallest notch on the machine), cut the pasta into large 9cm x 17cm shapes (make it 6cm x 12cm if you want smaller peices) and place the filling onto of the bottom half of the rectangle.
Fold the top half over and press firmly around all edges so the filling is tucked into the middle with no gaps. If you find that the filling is spilling out, try reducing the amount, or changing the size of the pasta cut.


100g salted butter, melted
50g grated Parmesan
16 basil leaves to decorate

Once the ravioli are shaped to your fancy, pop them into a pan of boiling water for approx. 5 minutes, until the pasta is soft but slightly al dente. The time can always vary depending on your hob so keep going back to check on them. Whilst they are cooking melt the butter and grate Parmesan. Drain. Pour over buttery juice and sprinkle with a little cheese. They are now ready to serve as you starter.

Pour yourself and your guests a glass of a cold crisp white wine.
Do start. Chin chin.

Stay in tune for next week's scrumptious MAIN.