Yes, the title of the book, the food of italy: a journey for food lovers, is all in lower case, clearly Murdoch Press was being trendy at the time. It’s not a bad book, there were some occasions where I wasn’t sure whether I was doing what was expected, but overall any mistakes made were more my fault than the book – which isn’t a ringing endorsement I know. This cookbook has a wide range of Italian food, great pictures, interesting information about Italy and Italian food and culture, and overall gets 3 out of 5 (I should really rate more of these books).
The house mate who is allergic to capsicums was away this weekend, so we indulged, which was awesome. I also learnt that beef and veal are two completely different things to cook (which should have been a no-brainer) and it might have been useful to think about how I used my oven – but oh well.
- 3 red or yellow capsicums
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 1 small onion, finely chopped
- 2 garlic cloves, crushed
- 50g butter
- 180g fresh breadcrumbs
- 1 egg
- 35g grated parmesan cheese
- 2 tomatoes, peeled, seeded and chopped
- 150g grated mozzarella cheeese
- 2 tablespoons chopped basil
- 3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
- Preheat the oven to 170C. Cut the capsicums in half and remove the seeds. Place on a lightly oiled baking tray.
- Heat the olive oil in a frying pan, add the onion and garlic and cook, stirring, for 5 minutes. Remove from the heat and stir in the butter and breadcrumbs.Transfer to a bowl and add the egg, parmesan, tomato, mozzarella, basil and 3 tablespoons of water. Stir well and season.
- Fill the capsicum halves with the stuffing, drizzle with the extra virgin olive oil and bake for 40 – 45 minutes, or until the capsicums are cooked through and the tops are golden brown.
Notes on this recipe:
- This was the most popular dish of the entire evening, and probably the only dish which actually worked out the way it was supposed to. Because I put this tray full of capsicums under the casserole dish of potato, I think I slowed the cooking of the potato right down – that wasn’t so good.
Osso Buco with Tomatoes
- 10 veal shanks, about 4cm thick
- plain flour, seasoned with salt and pepper
- 60ml (1/4 cup) olive oil
- 60g butter
- 1 garlic clove
- 1 small carrot, finely chopped
- 1 large onion, finely chopped
- 1/2 celery stalk, finely chopped
- 250ml dry white wine
- 375ml veal or chicken stock
- 400g tin chopped tomatoes
- bouquet garni
- Tie each piece of veal shank around its girth to secure the flesh, then dust with the seasoned flour. Heat the oil, butter and garlic in a large heavy saucepan big enough to old the shanks in a single layer. Put the shanks in the saucepan and cook for 12 – 15 minutes until well browned. Remove the shanks from the saucepan and set aside. Discard the garlic.
- Add the carrot, onion and celery to the saucepan and cook over moderate heat for 5 – 6 minutes, without browning. Increase the heat to high, add the wine and cook for 2 – 3 minutes. Add the stock, tomato and bouquet garni. Season with salt and pepper.
- Return the veal shanks to the saucepan, standing them up in a single layer. Cover the pan, reduce the heat and simmer for 1 hour, or until the meat is tender and you can cut it with a fork.
- If you prefer a thicker sauce, remove the veal shanks and increase the heat. Boil the sauce until reduced and thickened, then return the veal to the saucepan. Discard the bouquet garni, and taste for salt and pepper.
Notes on this recipe:
- If you can’t find veal shanks, as I couldn’t, and you decide to use beef shanks, you probably only need between 6 to 8 depending on how many people you are feeding (beef shanks are bigger than veal shanks).
- The beef will need to simmer for another 30 minutes at least – so about 90 minutes.
- I have absolutely no idea what “standing them up in a single layer means”
- If the beef shanks are 2cm thick (as mine were) you won’t be able to tie them with string (too narrow) and you should only fry them in the olive oil for 6 – 8 minutes.
- Apart from my minor issues (didn’t simmer for 90 minutes, used beef), the dish tasted just right. I love Osso Buco, so was pretty happy all up.
Potato and Leek Gratin
- 3 tablespoons butter
- 400g leeks, trimmed, halved and sliced
- 3 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
- 1 tablespoon chopped thyme
- 1kg potatoes, thinly sliced
- 350g mascarpone cheese
- 250ml vegetable stock
- Preheat the oven to 180C. Heat the butter in a saucepan and cook the leeks for 10 minutes until soft. Seasons, add the garlic and thyme and cook for a couple of minutes. Grease a 20cm round gratin dish with butter.
- Arrange a layer of potato in the base of the dish and season with salt and pepper. Scatter with 3 tablespoons of the leek and a few dollops of mascarpone. Continue the layers, finishing with a layer of potato and some mascarpone. Pour the stock over the top and cover with foil.
- Bake for 45 minutes, then remove the foil and bake for a further 15 minutes to brown the top.
Notes on this recipe:
- The dish I cooked this in was too deep and so the potato didn’t cook very well. It was deliciously tasty, but it needed a much shallower dish so the liquid would evaporate and the dish would cook through.
- Putting the capsicums under this also didn’t help.
- The flavours were delightful and I would definitely have this again, but I’ll cook it better next time.
- The 1kg of potato was also excessive, I ended throwing a fair bit out at the end (well into the compost)