A Cranberry Classic

This is my last blog before Christmas so I would thought I’d share a family recipe for cranberry sauce which is an essential part of a poultry centred Christmas luncheon and also goes so well with the Boxing Day cold cuts.
My Mum always made her cranberry sauce with port and orange. It was rich, sticky and looked just like Christmas, all shiny and red. For this recipe, I also followed Glynn Christian’s advice and added the sugar after the berries had softened, and I was very pleased with the result.
You’ll notice I also had the benefit of an enquiring audience from our family pooch ‘Bella’ who was very put out at not being allowed to help in creating some of the Christmas magic. I think she appreciated the smell of the cranberries bubbling away too.
Makes 950g–1kg sauce
600g fresh cranberries
250ml port or red wine
Julienne (thinly shredded) zest and juice of 1 orange
300g dark muscovado sugar
Combine the cranberries in a medium saucepan with the port and orange zest and juice. Bring to the boil, reduce the heat to a simmer and allow the cranberries to bubble away merrily while you listen to Christmas carols and the skins soften on the fruit and begin to burst, approx. 10-15 minutes. Remove the pan from the heat and add the sugar, stirring to dissolve. If it is very runny, put the pan back onto the heat and let the sauce boil away rapidly until it thickens to your liking. Allow to cool then bottle into a clean jar/s and store in the fridge for up to two weeks.
You can buy ‘The Gentle Art of Preserving’ online here.

Party Nibbles Turin Style…

This is a recipe from my book ‘The Italian Cookery Course’ which I use time and time again. With the Christmas drinks party season about to fall upon us these are really easy to make and make a great pre-dinner nibble with a Christmas cocktail or two.
Torinese Breadsticks
Grissini Torinesi
These long thin breadsticks, known as grissini torinesi, hail from Turin where they have been made since the 14th century and are still made in large quantities today. They are eaten with drinks or served with soup instead of bread. This recipe is for cheese breadsticks, which for me are the most interesting but you can omit the cheese or use focaccia or pizza dough instead. These grissini make a good gift, wrapped in baking parchment and tied with rustic string. For a party make a variety and stand them in a vase as a dramatic centrepiece. My children help to make them and I let them use their imagination as to what flavourings they like to add.
Makes 80
325g ‘00’ flour
15g fresh yeast or 7g dried
200ml tepid milk
100g Parmesan
100g soft butter
5g salt
Preheat the oven to 160°C/325°F/gas mark 3. Mix the yeast with tiepid milk. Blend the remaining ingredients together in a bowl. Pour in the yeasted milk and use your fingers to incorporate everything evenly and bring to a dough. Turn onto a lightly floured board and roll out to a thickness of 0.5cm. Cut into lengths about 40cm long and 1 cm wide. Place on a greased baking sheet and cook for 25–30 minutes or until a rich golden brown. Leave to cool and store in a tall airtight jar such as a spaghetti jar. They will keep for about a month. Use them as they are or wrap each one in a thin slice of ham.
Sesame seeds – spread a layer of sesame seeds on a plate and roll each stick in them before cooking
Rosemary – spread a layer of finely chopped rosemary leaves on a plate and roll each stick in them before cooking
Thin grissini – you can also put the dough through a pasta machine: roll it through the widest setting a couple of times, then put it through a tagliatelle cutter. Lay the stips on a floured baking sheet and bake for 10-12 minutes, until golden brown
You can buy signed copies of ‘The Italian Cookery Course’ here, it makes a great Christmas gift.

Giancarlo’s BBC Breakfast with extra salt

We we’re up pretty early in the Caldesi household last Saturday when my husband Giancarlo was asked to go into the BBC TV Centre at Shepherds Bush to discuss the use of salt in our diets. Joined in the Saturday breakfast studios by Lucy Jones, Dietician from the British Dietetic Association the pair were asked to comment on the decision of Greater Manchester Council to ask fish and chip shops to remove salt shakers from view in the restaurants. Is this a case of the nanny state going too far?
The average British adult eats between 8 and 10 grams of salt a day but the GDA (Guided Daily Amount) of salt for an adult is just 6 grams a day so there’s obviously a problem, especially as too much salt in your diet is linked to high blood pressure and major illnesses such as strokes and heart disease.

Giancarlo’s point of view was that restaurants are an unlikely cause of the high levels of salt in our diets as very few people eat out in restaurants everyday. He demonstrated that the amount of salt used in cooking dishes at his restaurants might seem a lot but when portioned out most dishes easily have less than a gram of salt in their makeup. Lucy agreed that the high levels of salt in processed foods are the main culprits for our high intake and advised viewers to carefully read the salt levels in dishes like ready meals and pre-prepared snacks.
In closing Giancarlo pointed out that in his restaurants there are no salt cellars on the tables and people very rarely ask for extra salt for their meals – like most chefs Giancarlo believes that seasoning should happen in the kitchen and not at the table.
There’s no doubting that salt is an important part of our diet without we our bodies cannot function but like most things it’s important to use in moderation and take control of how much salt is in your diet by reading labels or ideally cook from fresh and be the one in control of how much salt you add to your dishes.
In Roman times salt was used to pay soldiers wages and this is the derivation of the word ‘salary’… so if you want to enjoy the pay off of a healthier diet then ensure you spend your salary on fresh ingredients and give shop bought ready meals and snacks a miss.