Buonissimo – Italian food

The theme for our most recent “cooking with friends” get-together was Italian food and our hosts were the owners of La Petite Pepiniere in Caunes Minervois.

For our menu the following had been decided:

The recipe for the pimientos came from Italian Food by Elizabeth David.  As with many of her recipes the instructions leave some room for interpretation. 🙂  The peppers are grilled and peeled, and left to marinate in olive oil with a very little lemon juice.  After they have marinated for about half an hour they are cut into strips lengthwise.  On each strip is put a chopped anchovy fillet and some chopped capers.  Each pepper strip is then rolled up to form a sausage shape.

When the peppers were all done that way, they were arranged on a platter and garnished with some chopped parsley.

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The next course was a very refreshing salad made with fennel, cucumber and radishes, all thinly sliced and dressed with lemon juice, olive oil and a little salt and pepper.

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No self-respecting Italian meal would be complete without its pasta course.  Our pasta course consisted of mushroom ravioli, with a white wine and tarragon cream sauce.  Below are the ingredients we used (note, we didn’t use the chicken breast specified in the recipe):

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First the pasta dough was made, as that needed to rest for a good half hour before being rolled out.  While the dough was resting, the filling was cooked:  the onions were finely chopped (in the food processor) and slowly cooked with some olive oil, garlic and thyme.  The finely chopped mushrooms (again done in the food processor) were added, and the whole cooked until the mushrooms were tender and had “dried out” somewhat.

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Next came the fun part – rolling out the pasta dough!!  With he help of a pasta machine it was easy and great fun!  We ended up with three long strips.

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We deviated from the recipe in that we put the filling all down one side of each sheet and then folded it over to make our ravioli – doing it that way worked very well for us!

Here are the finished ravioli, before being cooked:

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The spinach was supposed to be cooked separately and the ravioli served arranged on top of it, but we decided to give the spinach a miss.  The sauce was simple to prepare:  onions and shallots were cooked over gentle heat until golden, white wine was added and cooked a few minutes to allow the alcohol to evaporate, then the cream and tarragon were added and heated through.  Very delicious!!

For our main course our hosts had choosen Osso Bucco Milanese – stewed shin of veal.  Since this is a dish which requires long and slow simmering, it was already cooking when we arrived.  The recipe again came from Elizabeth David’s Italian Food.

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To round off this meal, we baked an Italian almond cheesecake:

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It was one of the first dishes we prepared that afternoon, as it required a fair amount of cooking and cooling time.  Here’s what it looked like fresh from the oven:

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Once all our dishes were pretty much finished we had a little break.  I took the opportunity to wander about the beautiful show garden at La Petite Pepiniere, and took a few pictures for you.  The flowers are all different varieties of cistus, a native plant to the Languedoc region.

Soon it was time to sit down to our feast:

Pimientos stuffed with anchovies and capers

Pimientos stuffed with anchovies and capers

Fennel, cucumber and radish salad

Fennel, cucumber and radish salad

Mushroom ravioli with a white wine, cream and tarragon sauce

Mushroom ravioli with a white wine, cream and tarragon sauce

Osso bucco milanese, served with plain risotto

Osso bucco milanese, served with plain risotto

Italian almond cheesecake

Italian almond cheesecake

And what a feast it was!!  A big thank you to our hosts for choosing such wonderful dishes!

 

Moroccan spice

It’s been a little while since you had a food post, so when I was cooking for a group of friends who were coming for dinner last Sunday night, I thought I would share the recipe with you.  In my heart of hearts I am a fairly lazy cook, and I love dishes which can cook slowly and be prepared ahead of time.  A tagine is just one such dish, and it is infinitely variable.  For my recipe I drew inspiration from a variety of sources:  Nigel Slater’s recipe for Lamb Tagine, The Hairy Biker’s recipe for Chicken Tagine, along with recipes from books in my collection by authors such as Claudia Roden and Sam and Sam Clark (Moro).

While I was revising this post, I found that two of the blogs I follow (www.cookinginsens.wordpress.com and http://www.frugalfeeding.wordpress.com) had also posted tagine recipes recently.  I wonder if this is the effect of a collective psyche?? 😀

To cook the dish, I used an earthenware tagine pot, which is a wide, relatively shallow pan, with a conical lid.  Just for the record, the black pot on the right is used to cook rice!

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Once you have assembled all your ingredients the preparation is pretty straightforward.

The spices I used were cinnamon, cumin, ginger, turmeric, paprika, chili and saffron.  For the meat I used chicken – one leg quarter per person, separated into thigh and drumstick.

The meat is browned in some olive oil – I had to do this in batches.  Once brown, the meat is removed and set aside.

The chopped onions were added next along with the remaining olive oil, and the heat turned down to medium/low.  The sliced garlic was added after about five minutes, and both were cooked slowly until softened, but not browned, which took about 10 minutes.

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Once the onions were nice and soft I added the spices and gave it a good stir.  Be careful not to burn the spices – it’s a good idea to have your chopped tomatoes handy so you can add them if it looks as though the spices might get too hot.

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At this point a very heady aroma will fill your kitchen, and you may be feeling somewhat impatient for a taste.  Be patient – delicious things come to those who wait!!

Once you have added the chopped tomatoes, return the chicken pieces to the pan and add the dried apricots.  Add water or stock to barely cover the meat, and add a good pinch of salt, and some freshly ground pepper.  Don’t be tempted to over-season at this point, you can add more salt later.

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Once the liquid has come to the boil, the lid goes on and you simmer the tagine very slowly for 1 hour – the liquid in the pan should barely move.  Add the dried prunes after an hour, if using Pruneaux d’Agen – they are softer and don’t need to be cooked for a long time.  If you use regular dried prunes, add them after 45 minutes. Continue to simmer the tagine for another 30 minutes, by which time the chicken should be very tender.

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Remove the pulp from the preserved lemon and chop the skin finely.  Add to the tagine and mix in very gently.  Sprinkle with chopped coriander, and serve with couscous or plain rice.  Accompany with harissa paste.

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I served a pumpkin soup to start the meal, made with home-grown pumpkin.  After cheese there was dessert, and for that I had prepared Pecan Pie Cheesecake Squares, found at ChristinaWithCaramel – I think we were all quite full at that point, but everyone cleared their dessert plates all the same!!  😉

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Chicken Tagine

  • Servings: 6
  • Difficulty: easy
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Ingredients:

6 chicken leg quarters, separated into drumstick and thigh
2 large onions, chopped
3 cloves of garlic, finely sliced
3 tbsp olive oil
1 tsp ground ginger
2 tsp ground cinnamon
1 tsp ground turmeric
2 tsp paprika
1 tsp chili powder (vary this according to how hot you like your food)
one good pinch of saffron strands
1 can chopped tomatoes (400g)
250g dried apricots
250g dried prunes (I used Pruneaux d’Agen)
half a preserved lemon, pulp removed and the skin finely chopped
2 tbsp chopped coriander leaves
Harrisa paste to serve

Assemble your spices and other ingredients.  Brown the chicken pieces all over in half the olive oil.  Remove and add the chopped onion to the pan and the remaining olive oil, over medium/low heat, stirring occasionally.  After five minutes add the sliced garlic and continue to cook until the onions and garlic are soft but not brown – about another five minutes.  Add the spices, stir and cook for a minute, then add the chopped tomato.  Return the chicken pieces to the pan and add the dried apricots.  Add stock to barely cover the meat, season lightly with salt and pepper.  Bring to the boil and then simmer very gently for one hour.  Add the dried prunes and simmer for another 30 minutes, if using Pruneaux d’Agen.  Add regular dried prunes after 45 minutes of cooking and simmer for 45 minutes more.  When the dish is cooked, add the preserved lemon and stir very gently to distribute evenly.

Serve with plain boiled rice or couscous, and sprinkle with chopped coriander.  Don’t forget to pass the harissa!