Discover the Origin Campaign

Katie was also busy this weekend with the Discover the Origin Campaign which has been a three year campaign promoting five key European products: Parma Ham, Parmigiano-Reggiano, Burgundy and Douro Valley wines and Port. Katie concentrated her efforts of using the foods from the campaign and cooked Pasta al Forno, a delicious combination of pasta, boiled egg (weird but works!), tomato sauce and meatballs. She also made a salad of roasted squash with Parmesan shavings and Broad Bean, Parmegiano-Reggiano and Mint Puree which is perfect as a crostini topping or as a side to lamb.
Here are the recipes:
Pasta al forno with Parma Ham and Parmigiano- Reggiano cheese
“It’s great with the Reserva red from the Douro valley if you want to try one of the wines from the campaign.”
Serves 8-10
For the tomato sauce:

  • 1 medium onion, finely chopped
  • 2 garlic cloves, peeled and crushed
  • 75ml olive oil
  • Salt and pepper, to season
  • 3 x 400g tins plum tomatoes
  • 1 sprig basil

For the meatballs:

  • 250g minced pork
  • 250g minced beef
  • 75g salami, diced (optional)
  • 125g fresh white breadcrumbs
  • 2 medium eggs
  • 5 tablespoons grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
  • Salt to taste

For the pasta:

  • 100g Parma Ham
  • 4 eggs, for boiling
  • 1 packet lasagne sheets (500g)
  • 50g Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, finely grated
  • 250g mozzarella, roughly torn into bite-size pieces
  • 50ml olive oil (25ml for frying, 25ml for tossing with the pasta)
  1. Preheat the oven to gas mark 4/180oC. Make the tomato sauce by frying the onions and garlic in the olive oil with the salt and pepper and when soft add the tinned tomatoes and basil. Bring to the boil and simmer for 30–40 minutes. Stir frequently, breaking up the tomatoes with a wooden spoon or potato masher.
  2. Mix together all the ingredients for the meatballs in a bowl. Roll into marble-sized balls (wet hands may help with this).
  3. Boil the eggs. Meanwhile, lightly fry the meatballs in olive oil and drain on kitchen paper. When the eggs are done, crack the shells and drop them into cold water to stop blue rings appearing.
  4. Mix together the cheeses. Shell the eggs and chop them into rough pieces.
  5. In a large lasagne dish, put a thin layer of tomato sauce followed by the lasagne sheets then cover with some more tomato sauce. Scatter over some of the meatballs, chopped eggs, mixed cheese and Parma Ham. Build the lasagne in layers until it fills the dish, finishing with a layer of tomato sauce and cheese. Bake for about 45 minutes or until golden brown and bubbling.
  6. Serve the lasagne with mixed, dressed salad leaves on a separate plate and some bread for mopping up the tomato sauce.

Roast Butternut Squash and Parmesan Salad

  • 1 Butternut squash
  • 2 red onions
  • Few sprigs of thyme
  • 6 tablespoons of extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon of Balsamic vinegar
  • Handful of pinenuts
  • Few shavings of Parmegiano-Reggiano
  • Salt and pepper

Peel the thinner skins varieties of pumpkin with a potato peeler and leave the skin in tact on the thicker ones.
Roast at 180oC in 5cm wedges with plenty of olive oil, salt and pepper.

  1. After 15 minutes add wedges of red onion, rosemary or thyme and toss well with the oil in the tray.
  2. Toast some pinenuts, shave some Parmesan and when the pumpkin and onion are browned move onto a platter. Drizzle over the oil from the pan mixed with balsamic vinegar.
  3. Scatter over the nuts and cheese and serve.

Broad bean and wild garlic dip
Franco Taruschio made me this vibrant green dip in spring when he instructed our family in picking the long, green leaves of wild garlic. It is often found by rivers and now the children recognise the smell and gather it for us when we are out walking. The leaves have a gentler flavour than garlic bulbs. It is very moreish and good with lamb chops or on toasted bread for crostini.
Serves 12 allowing two pieces of toasted bread each approx 10cm by 7cm or Serves 6 as a vegetable dish

  • 500g young broad beans in the pod or the same quantity of frozen beans
  • 1 clove garlic, finely chopped or 10 leaves of wild garlic
  • 8 large mint leaves
  • 2 heaped tbsps freshly grated pecorino sardo or parmesan
  • 4 tbsps or more of extra virgin olive oil
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper

Shell the beans and blanch them in boiling water for a minute, then plunge into cold water. If the outer skins are tough and you have time, slip the beans out of their skins. Normally I find this unnecessary as the whole dip is so finely chopped.
In a food processor process the garlic and mint to a paste, add the beans then the cheese, salt and pepper and finally the olive oil. The end result should be a smooth, loose paste.
Slice a baguette approximately ½ cm thick and brush with olive oil. Place onto a tray and put into the oven until golden brown and crisp. Serve the broad bean paste. Finish by topping with finely shredded mint leaves.

Little Italy

I wrote this piece a while ago after a visit to New York but redid the recipe just recently and loved it so thought I would share it!  I am doing a demo at Vintage Goodwood on August 15th at 4pm and will be making the 70’s dish of Chicken in a Basket, similar to this in that it is breaded chicken – something I think will be popular in some form for millennia.
We visited New York and went to see Little Italy in Lower Manhattan.  It was started by the massive influx of Italian immigrants in the 19th century who were escaping great poverty at home.  They “escaped” however to dreadful conditions of overcrowding in the dumbbell apartments where natural light never made it to the lower floors.  Tuberculosis and other diseases were rife but despite that the Italians created a new version of their homeland preserving their traditions and language.
Little Italy was nearly six times bigger than its current size before the Italians started moving out to the more comfortable suburbs of Bronx and Queens.  There are still the stubborn few who cling onto their tenement apartments and talk about the old days when each street “belonged” to a different region.  We met an old man in a patisserie who told us that there were different streets for the Pugliese, Calabrians and Sicilians.  In those streets you heard only the dialect language of those regions.
A couple of deli’s and patisseries are still there which look and feel like the real thing selling Italian products with knowledge and pride.  The few remaining restaurants however are touristy and are run by Americans with distant Italian heritage or Mexicans who sport the Italian colours.  Neighbouring Chinatown is expanding and maybe one day Little Italy will be gone forever from its original position but the strength of feeling in the immigrant Italian families has not diminished and I believe Little Italy’s all over the world will be continued for a very long time to come.
Chicken Parmegian’
Recipes evolve and mutate when immigrants recreate them in new countries sometimes with great results.  I was given this dish, typical of Little Italy, to try by an American family and it was delicious, in fact I had about four helpings it was so good so I learnt the recipe and here it is.
Serves 4

  • 2 skinless chicken breasts,
  • 1 egg, beaten in a shallow dish
  • 100g fine breadcrumbs
  • 50ml olive oil
  • Half a litre of tomato pasta sauce, preferably homemade
  • 1 x 125g balls of Mozzarella di Buffala, cut into eight slices
  • 50g Parmesan, finely grated
  • A few basil leaves as a garnish
  • Salt and pepper

Preheat the grill to its hottest setting. Using a sharp knife, open out each chicken breast and put them between two sheets of cling film.  Bash them out evenly to 1cm thickness using a meat tenderiser or the base of a small saucepan.  Cut each piece into two.  Warm the tomato sauce in a small pan.
Season the chicken breasts, dip them in beaten egg and then into the breadcrumbs to coat them on both sides.  Heat the oil in a large frying pan and then fry the chicken on both sides until golden brown and cooked through.  Set aside on kitchen paper to drain.
Arrange the chicken on a baking tray and pour over the tomato sauce in a thick stripe across the middle of the chicken pieces.  Lay two slices of Mozzarella over each portion and then scatter over the Parmesan.  Grill for five to ten minutes until the cheese starts to brown and bubble.  Lift each chicken piece onto a serving plate and garnish with black pepper and a few basil leaves.  Serve with salad and crusty bread.
If you would like to make your own tomato sauce here are two ideas for fresh – only when tomatoes are at their ripest and plumpest and bursting with flavour – and the tinned tomato sauce recipe when tomatoes smell of nothing but the plastic they are wrapped in.
Passata al Pomodoro
Fresh Tomato Passata
The double cooking of this tomato sauce gives it such an intense and sweet flavour, it’s worth the effort.  However only do this sauce with really ripe flavourful tomatoes.
First stage

  • 2.5 kg of fresh tomatoes, quartered
  • 2 sprigs of basil, left intact

Second stage

  • 50 ml olive oil
  • 2 cloves of garlic, peeled and lightly crushed
  • Freshly ground black pepper and salt
  • 10 g sugar, optional depending on the natural sweetness of the tomatoes
  • 1 red onion, finely chopped
  • 1 clove of garlic, peeled and lightly crushed

For the first stage, add the tomatoes and basil to the pan. Cover the pan and leave to simmer for about ½ hour shaking the pan frequently to make sure the tomatoes don’t stick before they have released their juices. Remove the basil and pass the sauce through a passetutto, food mill or seive until you are just left with the skins and pips which can be discarded.  The other option is simply to use a stick blender and whiz up the tomatoes, skins and all.
For the second stage, heat the oil in the pan and add the red onion and garlic.  Cook for around five minutes or until soft.  Then add the passed tomatoes and bring the mixture to a simmer.  Skim off any scum that occurs on the surface and cook for half an hour.  Taste and adjust the seasoning with salt, pepper and sugar as necessary.  Any leftover tomato sauce can be kept in the fridge for a few days or frozen.
Franca’s Tomato Passata
Passata al Pomodoro di Franca
The quintessential tomato passata is as much a part of the Italian kitchen as good stock. A ladleful is needed frequently to enrich a sauce or soup or to serve with pasta for a fast lunch. This is the simplest tomato passata I came across on my travels. If you like garlic, add some and remove with the vegetables before blitzing.
Serves 6

  • 3 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 celery sticks, broken in half
  • 1 carrot, cut into half lengthways
  • 1 red onion, peeled and cut in half
  • 3 large sprigs of basil
  • 1.2kg Italian tinned whole plum tomatoes
  • 1/2 teaspoon sugar, optional
  • Salt

Heat the oil in a large frying pan over a medium heat. Briefly fry all the vegetables and basil in the hot oil then add the tinned tomatoes. Season with salt and bring to the boil. Reduce the heat and simmer for about 30 minutes to 1 hour, depending on how much time you have: the longer you can leave it the more concentrated the flavour. Stir regularly, breaking up the tomatoes with a wooden spoon. Remove the flavouring vegetables and basil and purée the tomatoes in a blender or food processor. (or leave the vegetables in the sauce if you prefer and blend). Add a little sugar if necessary.