Neapolitan lasagne

As I mentioned a few months ago, I’m currently an English teacher here in Italy, and a pretty unorthodox one at that. Thankfully, my students are a pretty mixed bunch, too, so I don’t necessarily stand out too much.

Although, like parents, teachers should never choose favourites, I totally do have a few more and less liked students. One of my happier hours of the week I spend with a cheerful Neapolitan, who usually takes me for coffee after the lesson. He’s a pretty considerate character – he does mostly conversational English, and when he realises he’s been talking about something I’m not too interested in (although I try to hide it), he’ll change the topic to food. We’ll discuss all kinds of dishes, although we like to concentrate on Neapolitan cuisine – I got a few pretty good recipes from him.

When I told him about my new pasta machine, and how I’d been making fresh lasagne, he asked me what kind of lasagne. “Well, you know, lasagne, with meat sauce and béchamel”, I told him. “Aahh, yes, but that’s Northern lasagne”, he said, “and it’s very heavy, with all that béchamel. In Napels, we make a different kind of lasagne, and it’s not as heavy.” What was that version like, I enquired? “We use only tomato sauce. Only tomato sauce. And little meatballs. And then you add ricotta, and mozzarella. But it has to be mozzarella di bufala or fior di latte. And it’s very important that every layer has parmesan. Every layer.”

Yeah, that’s totally a lighter version of lasagne. No béchamel, thank god, but only three different types of cheese and some meatballs. No biggie. Italians have such weird ideas of what is heavy and what is light.

What with all this fresh ricotta and fior di latte, I had to wait until pay-day came around to go shopping for this. But when it finally did, I got everything I needed and built this baby. It was really good, so you should totally give this a try. With the tiny meatballs being a bit space-consuming, I found that it really helped having fresh lasagne, as they are easily draped over the meatballs, something that might be more difficult with hard lasagne sheets. But if you can’t be bothered making fresh pasta, just try to make your meatballs extra tiny and it shouldn’t be a problem.

neapolitan lasagne, esposito style

For a big-ass dish full of lasagne, get the following.

For the sauce:

  • three bottles of passata, about a litre and a half in all
  • one onion, halved and peeled
  • a handful of fresh basil

For the filling:

  • 3 balls of fior di latte or mozzarella di bufala
  • 300 gr of ricotta
  • half a kilo of mince
  • one clove of garlic
  • a pinch of dried chili
  • salt and pepper

For the pasta:

  • 300 gr flour
  • 3 eggs
  • a pinch of salt
  • some lukewarm water, possibly

If you want to make your own pasta, have a look at the recipe right here. Then, instead of tagliatelle, make lasagne sheets, either by rolling them out with a rolling pin or by running them through your pasta machine, assuming you have one.

home-made lasagne sheets

Pasta sorted? Go prepare your tomato sauce. Grab your bottles of passata. Chuck it in a pan with some olive oil, a bunch of basil, and the onion. Leave to simmer, taste for salt or sugar and make sure you get a nice base sauce out of it.

Whilst your sauce simmers, make the meatballs. Spice up your meat with a little bit ofdried chili, salt and pepper, and some grated garlic. I’m sure my student would judge me for this but I just like to add a little bit of garlic to my mince. You decide, whatever. Mix your mince and roll tiny balls out of it. Really tiny balls. This will take a while. You’ll probably be able to make about 70 or 80. Fry them in olive oil, in batches of about 15 will probably be easiest.

Once you’ve done all of that, cube your fior di latte. Now grab your tomato sauce and mix in all of the rest of the ingredients: meatballs, fior di latte and ricotta.

I admit this doesn't necessarily look good.

Now it’s time to layer! Grab an oven dish and fil the bottom with a layer of sauce. Top with grated parmesan, then put on enough lasagna sheets to cover the whole thing. You can’t make massive lasagne seets and just put in one or two, as I was almost tempted to do, because the sauce won’t be able to seep through and the pasta might not cook properly. Just cut them up into sheets the size of a postcard, and drape them over the sauce, overlapping ever so slightly. Repeat until a) you have at least for layers and b) you run out of sauce. Shove it in the oven on 180ºC for 45 minutes. Orgasm as you put this in your mouth.

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Another Italian food war

There’s a few things Italians simply won’t let you mess with: their mothers, their god-given right to cut you off in traffic, and perhaps the most important, their food. Imagine, therefore, the outrage, the anger, the seething hatred when a famous Italian chef, of all people, recently announced on national television that he put garlic in his amatriciana. Yeah, imagine the outrage. Oh what, you can’t? You have no idea what I’m on about? I’ll explain.

Before anything else, you’ll probably want to know what amatriciana means. It’s a traditional dish that supposedly originated in the close vicinity of the city of Amatrice, near Rome – hence the name, all’amatriciana or ‘Amatrice style’. It’s one of those Italian traditionals that you just can’t change, not even a little, like carbonara.

So recently Carlo Cracco, this famous TV chef, was on some TV program, talking away about food, when he mentioned that his ‘secret ingredient’ when making amatriciana is ‘aglio in camicia’, or a clove of garlic in its skin.

The traditional recipe does not allow for garlic.

The seemingly innocent comment unleashed a shitstorm, as the city itself, the city council of Amatrice, posted a statement on its facebook page, condemning the chef’s lapse in judgement, as they put it.

“The city of Amatrice was left disconcerted by the events that took place in the transmission of Canale 5’s ‘C’è posta per te‘ with guest Carlo Cracco, who claimed that in the recipe for Amatriciana there should also be a clove of garlic, which he considers a ‘secret ingredient’ of his. We issue the reminder that the only ingredients that constitute the true Amatriciana are guanciale, pecorino, white wine, San Marzano tomatoes, pepper and chili.”

Chew on that, Carlo Cracco. And that was just the recipe, the real smack in the face was yet to come:

“We are confident that this has been a mistake on the well-known chef’s part, considering his professional history […]. Whilst reiterating that we have all confidence in the illustrious chef’s good faith, we hold the belief that the latter is absolutely free to add a clove of garlic to a sauce prepared by himself. It is our even firmer belief that any such sauce might even be good, but that it cannot be called Amatriciana.”

Ouch. But there you go. Try to innovate, try to be original, and that’s what you get. Shamed nation-wide. Schooled like some ignorant urchin, and in your own field, no less. Anyway, I’m going to have to agree a little bit, as this is what I always say: you can add whatever you like to whatever dish you’re making, but then you can’t call it by a name that’s no longer valid. It just becomes a dish of your own invention, which is totally fine.

So ever since this whole riot started, I’ve been reading up on the amatriciana. Turns out it was originally a dish prepared by shepherds who were spending time away from home in the hills with their flocks. They favoured it because it was easy to prepare: at the time it consisted only of pasta made freshly on the spot (always bucatini, apparently – a type of long tubular pasta), guanciale (pork jowl) and pecorino (hard sheep’s cheese). It was only after the 18th century when tomatoes and chili peppers had been introduced to Europe, that those were added into the mix. (When the white wine appeared I haven’t been able to find out – all of my sources seem to ignore it completely.)

Anyway, I decided to have a go, seeing that I’d always made amatriciana-esque dishes that were probably close, but no cigar. The whole experiment taught me two important lessons:

1) guanciale really, really is a completely different thing than pancetta (which, of course, comes from the belly, whilst guanciale is a cheek) and
2) bucatini are hard as all fuck to eat.

Aside from that I learned it’s a delicate wee thing that is worth having a shot at.

amatriciana

For two:

  • 200gr bucatini
  • 80gr guanciale – take a slab and cut it up yourself, if you can be bothered
  • some freshly grated pecorino
  • some tomatoes – 4 fresh, peeled and deseeded if you have, but they’re so out of season right now that I went for bottled tomatoes, about 200 ml
  • a glass of white wine
  • one small dried chili, or a cm of fresh, seeds removed
  • some pepper (which, to me, is totally optional, but you heard the city council)

guanciale

bucatini

Fill a large pan with water and enough salt, put on heat and wait for it boil.

Cut your guanciale into adequate pieces. I like thinner slices, but go for whichever way you prefer. Pop them in a frying pan with a bit of olive oil and the chili, chopped, and fry them on medium heat. When they’ve gone all transparent and funny, add the white wine. Stir occasionally, and wait until most of the liquid has evaporated. Now add the tomatoes.

In the meantime, your water should be boiling, so you can chuck in your bucatini. You want them to be al dente or still slightly hard – nothing quite as disgusting as overcooked bucatini, or so I learned. When they’re done, drain them, add some freshly grated pecorino, mix, then add the pasta and cheese to the tomato sauce and mix well. Serve up, and top with some pepper and some more pecorino. Not so bad eh, the life of a shepherd?

amatriciana

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The Imaginary Invalid, and their Dodgy Medicine

It’s February, it’s cold, it’s flu season, here and everywhere else in Europe, I imagine. Flu season brings with it a new and interesting cultural experience: here in the South of Europe, people have a distinctly different approach to health and sickness from what I’m used to up North. Italians have a whole range of ailments that we hyperboreans simply don’t suffer from (if I may refer you to this article, which explains it well and humorously), and to avoid catching any of these life-threatening conditions (which, to me, are all imaginary), they have a wide variety of precautions to be taken – which I steadfastly ignore.

When it comes to ailments that actually exist in the world I come from, the story is much the same: pure, unadulterated terror. For instance, Italians call anything from 37.5 degrees upwards ‘a fever’. When people here have the flu, they’ll call in sick and say they have a fever. The flu also struck here in Casa Dittatrice, and I was asked, as I was going to the shop, to bring home a thermometer. “I want to check if I have a fever”, was the explanation. But having a fever is like finding true love, or the Arkenstone: you’ll just know. If you have to use a thermometer to check whether or not you have a fever, it’s not a fever. In comparison, in Scotland, at 38 degrees, you’re ‘somewhat under the weather’ and you’re feeling a little warm. Here, your life’s in immediate and grave danger. The concept is similar to that of the man flu, except Italian women seem to be subject to it as well.

Inevitably, this nation has a similar approach to getting over the flu as it has to getting and having it in the first place: one of vast exaggeration. So bed rest, woollen blankets, turtlenecks, and a load of medicine that would knock out a horse, ranging from plain old paracetamol to substances I’d never even heard of. What with their dietary restrictions, I can imagine that Italians are terrified of catching something, because apparently all they’re meant to eat whilst they’re recovering is plain white rice and, the most famous of all health foods, ‘mele cotte’, or boiled apples. Yeah, that’ll keep anyone down for a couple of weeks. Boiled apples, are you kidding me?

In the North, we treat flu with much less respect, or rather, cowardly terror, than they do here. In Scotland, the best medicine for a cold or flu is a hot toddy. A hot toddy is a whisky-based hot drink, and it has everything you need for a rapid healing process: alcohol to chill you the fuck out and put you to sleep, honey to soothe the throat, lemon juice to boost your vitamin C supply, spices to open up the sinuses. Apart from that, it doesn’t taste like you’re being punished – it’s actually really tasty, which means that you can have it when you’re not ill, too.

There’s lots of different ways to prepare a hot toddy, and I think you should let it depend on the whisky you’re using what the ingredients you want to add. My whisky is a good one, it’s dead peaty, so I want to make it the dominating flavour. If you’re using a more gentle kind of whisky, you can maybe go for some more experimental spices – you decide. This is how I like mine.

hot toddy - it's not for pussies

For a couple of ill, cold or otherwise afflicted individuals, use:

  • 70 ml (or just a little more, go on, we’re not in a bar, no need for precision!) of peaty whisky
  • about the same amount of water
  • juice of half a lemon
  • 2 tsp honey
  • 6 cloves
  • 1 small stick of cinnamon
  • a good strip of lemon peel

Put your water in a small saucepan, add the cloves, cinnamon and lemon peel, and leave it to simmer on low fire for a good 10 minutes so that the water can soak up all the delicious flavours.

In the meantime, put a good shot of whisky (35 ml if you want to be precise about it) in a couple of glasses, and add some lemon juice to each, and a small teaspoon of honey. Top it with the still hot (but not boiling – aim for about 70°C) water, stir well, and drink it as hot as you can.

hot toddy - doctors hate it

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The joys and rage that come with owning a pasta machine

Some time in the recent past, I celebrated my birthday. “Happy birthday, Dittatrice”, you say, “how old are you now?”, I hear you wonder. Well, I’m not telling, so that’s the end of that.

For my birthday, my friends came up with the best idea ever. They all teamed up to get me a pasta machine. You might remember the pasta machine from a while ago, but that one was The Queen’s, and it has since disappeared. Instead, I now have my very own pasta machine, and fuck yeah, I was also gifted a ravioli extension! A ravioli extension is a tool that fills, folds and seals your ravioli for you, whilst the only thing that you have to do is turn a handle, saving you a lot of time, theoretically. The ravioli extension was the part that we always wanted but never had in the past, so I was fucking ecstatic.

My excitement wasn’t quite ended, but definitely tempered somewhat by my first attempts at actually using the ravioli extension to make my own ravioli, which turned out one of the more rage-inducing tasks I’ve ever carried out. I thought I’d messed up the dough at first, but in the end, I think I’d just made a few rookie errors with the machine. In any case, the first few batches failed pretty miserably. I was raging, because I’d stupidly invited a bunch of people over to come and have fresh ravioli, totally home made, before I’d even checked to see if I could pull it off or not. Vesta must have been pretty happy with me that particular week, because only two out of about a million invitees actually accepted the invitation, and I only looked like an utter twat in front of those two people.

In the meantime I’ve had some more practice, and I think I’ve figured out the trick. I wasn’t using enough flour in the beginning, which is pretty crucial – not enough flour means your dough gets stuck in the machine, and you get pasta and filling all over the place. Also, when flattening out the dough, I immediately put the rollers on the thickness that I wanted for my pasta, when its actually better to make thick sheets first, then run those through the machine again to make them thinner. You live, you learn.

So originally, I was going to put a recipe here for handcut ravioli as well, but I ran out of time, so I’m going to have to owe you that one. For now, here are some fresh ravioli with pumpkin and pine nut filling, as made with my exciting new pasta machine. If you don’t have a pasta machine, you could always just make fresh tagliatelle as described here and have those with pumpkin pine nut condiment!

mother effin' ravioli so geometrical

For about 4 people, use:

For the pasta:

  • 300 gr of flour
  • 3 eggs
  • little bit of lukewarm water
  • a tonne of extra flour for dusting

For the filling:

  • 200 gr of pumpkin
  • a glass of white wine
  • 15 gr of pine nuts
  • some grated parmesan
  • salt and pepper

As a condiment:

  • a knob of butter
  • some fresh sage

Other stuff you’ll need:

  • a pasta machine with ravioli extension, or otherwise a wee rolly zigzag blade thing
  • some cling film
  • a rolling pin
  • some greaseproof paper or clean kitchen towels

First of all, make your dough.

Put your flour and your pinch of salt in a bowl or directly onto your (clean) work surface, in a heap with a little depression in the middle. Pop your eggs in there, stir them around with a fork to break them, whisking in a little bit of flour at a time. Then, once the mixture starts to get pretty floury, use your hands to mix the remaining flour with the egg. If it’s kinda dry, add a little bit of water to make it into a smooth ball, but keep in mind that your final product should be a very smooth, but absolutely not sticky ball of dough. If it’s quite hard to knead you’re OK.

That's my hand.

Once you’ve obtained the dough ball you want, after about 10 minutes of solid kneading, wrap the dough in some cling film and leave it to rest for about an hour (in or out the fridge, I’m not sure it matters – I left mine out, in any case).

Whilst your dough rests, make your filling. Peel and cube your pumpkin, stick it in a small saucepan with the white wine, some water and a pinch of salt. Bring to a boil and leave it to simmer for about 10 minutes. After you drain them, put the pumpkin cubes in a bowl with the pine nuts, parmesan and some black and white pepper, and crush it all up with a fork. You want the filling to be quite fine, so it’ll be easier to run through the machine later.

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Now that your dough is A-OK to work with, take it out of its cling filmy cocoon, cut it in parts that are easy to work with (maybe halves), put the part you’re not using just now back in the cling film so it doesn’t dry out. Now here’s something very important: coat that bitch with an abundance of flour. Roll it out a little bit with your rolling pin, first, that way it won’t rip when you start flattening it out with the machine. Once you’ve obtained a more or less workable sheet, take it through the pasta machine, making it thinner. First maybe go for the thickets setting you’ve got, then go for the thickness you want, possibly with one more stage of thinning in between.

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Once you’ve got a sheet that’s suitable for making ravioli with, prepare your ravioli extension (or put the sheet out so you can work it with your rolly zig zag blade thingy – but that’s a method I’ll put on here some other time, as promised above). Fold your sheet in half, coat what is now on the outside lavishly with more flour, then put the crease side into the ravioli extension and turn the handle a little bit, so as to keep the sheet stuck in the machine. Fold one sheet to the left, one to the right, and put the filling piece on.

IMG_2526 IMG_2529Now scoop in a bunch of filling, press it down carefully. Start turning the handle carefully, and make sure that the ravioli are coming out properly, and that they’re not getting stuck in the machine like mine did. Here’s the difference between a properly flour-coated sheet of pasta and one that was not floured enough:

Porperly flour-coated...

Porperly flour-coated…

...aaand not so much.

…aaand not so much.

After you roll out a perfect sheet of ravioli, leave them to dry a little bit for about 10 minutes on a floured piece of grease-proof or baking paper, or on a clean towel with some flour on it. After you’ve left them for a while, you can start separating them. Careful now, they tend to tear at the edges.

Boil them in plenty of salted water, serve them with butter and sage and possibly a little bit of grated parmesan. La morte sua, as the Italians call it. Absolutely delicious.

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Posted in cooking, Food, Italian, pasta, ravioli, recipes | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Great chieftain of the puddin’ race

Last Sunday was a special day! It was Burns’ night, the day that the Scottish celebrate the birthday of perhaps the most famous Scottish poet of all times, Robert Burns (‘Rabbie’ for friends). Burns not only wrote tonnes of poetry and songs in Scots, English and Scottish dialect, he also collected traditional folk songs and wrote them down, saving them for later generations. You’ll probably know at least a few of his works, even if you’re not familiar with his name – Auld Lang Syne and Ae Fond Kiss are amongst his more internationally renowned pieces.

So old Rabbie here also wrote a poem about the most famous, or possibly the most infamous, Scottish dish: haggis. “Fair fa’ your honest, sonsie face, Great chieftain o the puddin’ race!” That’s right, Rabbie, you tell ‘em. The Address to a Haggis, as the poem is called, gives praise to the haggis, of which Burns must have been very fond. Traditionally, on Burns’ Night, one person has to recite the poem, after which everyone digs in.

Haggis is one of those unfortunate northern dishes, similar to the ones I mentioned last week, that people just can’t seem to warm up to. It’s got a bad reputation, partly because people like to describe it in the most unappetising way possible. Usually, when non-Scots describe haggis, the first (and frequently the only) words mentioned are “sheep’s stomach” and “offal”, whilst people conveniently forget all about “delicious oats” or “carefully selected spices” and a number of other ingredients.

Now, that whole thing about the stomach isn’t even necessarily true anymore: the modern version is often made in a casing similar to that of sausages. There’s some organs in it, aye, but it’s not as if they don’t eat those anywhere else. In fact, Italians can’t seem to get enough of tripe, which is much scarier than anything contained in haggis.

Still, haggis isn’t the kind of dish that travel guides tend to write about as they would about, say, Neapolitan pizza, and so it’s never really become popular to anyone but the Scots. This is a perfect shame, because it is actually delicious, and I was determined to convince at least a couple of people outside of Scotland of this fact, so after my last visit to Glasgow, I brought home a big fat haggis with the intention of organising a real Burns’ Supper on the 25th.

A traditional Burns’ Supper consists of haggis, neeps ‘n tatties, or haggis served with mashed swedes and mashed potatoes. As ever, one of the essential ingredients is utterly unfindable in Italy: swedes here are apparently only suitable to feed to your horse, so I used carrots instead. Not quite the same thing, I realise, but it was my best option: the colour is as close as you can get to the deep yellow of swede mash. About the neeps ‘n tatties: whether you want to mix it or not is up to you. I’ve kept them separated so that everyone could decide on their own carrot-to-mash ratio.

Thankfully, the other important component of a Burns’ Supper, the whisky, was under control: a special kind of deli here in Turin sells just about any type of booze from anywhere around the world, and they also have a good selection of whiskies. I went for Peat’s Beast, which was good! I used it to make the whisky sauce with, too – you only need a couple of tablespoons of it, and it makes for a really, really powerful sauce.

Of course you can eat haggis and drink whisky any time you like, and I suggest that if you didn’t have any on the 25th, you have some in the near future.

tasty tasty haggis

So for a jolly Burns’ Supper with 4 or 5 guests, use:

  • a large haggis. Yeah, sorry, I’m not that person – I don’t know how to make haggis. Buy one.

For the tatties:

  • a kilo of potatoes
  • a large knob of butter
  • half a cup of milk
  • some salt

For the neeps:

  • one swede
    or if you can’t get one
  • a kilo of carrots

For the whisky sauce:

  • 250 ml of fresh cream
  • 2 tsp of mustard
  • 2 tbsp whisky of your choice
  • some nutmeg
  • a small dash of vinegar
  • white pepper

You’ll really want some black pepper on your haggis, so you’ll need some of that to serve. Of course you’ll need enough whisky for everyone to have a glass.

So, heat up your haggis as specified on the packaging. Mine was to be rolled up in foil, put in an oven dish with about an inch of water in it, and heated up in the oven in about 1 hour and 45 minutes. Do whatever it says on the wrapper and you’ll be grand.

Peel and cube your potatoes and boil them in salted water. Make your mash as you would normally, with butter and milk and possibly some salt if it’s a bit bland.

Give your swede the same treatment, or if you can’t get a swede, peel your carrots and cut them into chunks. Boil them and once they’re soft, mash them up.

Now make your whiskey sauce. You put all of your cream in a small saucepan, put it on low to medium heat and stir occasionally so it doesn’t burn or stick to the bottom of the pan. Now once it’s kinda hot, add your mustard, stir well. Then add the whisky and the pepper, then the vinegar (only a little!). Top it off with some nutmeg, stir briefly and serve it with the haggis. Before you eat, someone has to recite the poem. Just do it, it’ll be fun!

It’s difficult to make haggis look good in a picture but I’ve really tried my hardest.

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Posted in british, british food, cooking, Food, Meat, recipes, Scottish | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The most quintessential Dutch thing you’ll ever eat, and its unsavoury name

The Holland saga continues – time for some Dutch cuisine again! This time it’s actually so delicious that you’ll never believe it. Even a bunch of Italians liked it, so it must have been good. On today’s menu: pea soup, or snert.

Dishes world-wide have a tendency to be named in a rather unflattering manner. Think of such famous dishes as spotted dick, cock-a-leekie, toad-in-the-hole – none of them sound particularly appetising, do they? Well, the Dutch take this tendency to extremes, and one of its unfortunate results, among many, is snert, which can actually also be used as an adjectival prefix in Dutch to express how shitty something is. Like, for example, if it’s raining and you can’t be bothered going out, you’d give the ‘snertweer’ or shitty weather as a reason.

But don’t let the funky name put you off, the soup is totally delicious. In fact, the snert that I made last weekend was so delicious, that people kept asking me “So is this really Dutch?”. You know, as if something this good could never possibly come from a culinary wasteland like the Netherlands. Yes, it really is Dutch. In fact, it’s arguably the most quintessentially Dutch dish in existence.

Imagine the scene: canals and ponds frozen over, children with ice skates bound under their feet screaming with glee, the littlest ones learning by holding the back rest of a chair and pushing it forward on the ice… the perfect Pieter Bruegel picture. And guess what, this picture isn’t complete without some lumpen character selling pea soup from a wee stand somewhere near the ice! Go to a Christmas market, an ice skating race or anything that’s outside between November and March, really, and you’ll probably find someone who’s selling snert there. Something like this

What sort of surprised me when I was making this pea soup is that, while I was expecting it to be the kind of poor man’s soup that the Dutch kitchen is so famous for, it was actually sort of expensive to make. Turns out that the split peas that you need for this soup are only available in funky health stores now, and they charge, like, a million euros per kilo. There’s also an obscene amount of pork involved in making this soup, so that’s an extra cost. Then again, I made six litres in one go, so I may have been exaggerating it a little bit. For two litres the price will probably end up somewhere around 7 euros, which isn’t actually too bad, considering it’s filling as all Hell.

snert

Two litres of soup will require:

  • 300-400 gr green split peas – depending on how thick you like it, 300 gr will give you a liquid soup, where 400 gr will be closer to porridge consistency
  • 400 gr pork ribs
  • 2 potatoes
  • 2 carrots
  • 1 onion
  • 2 small leeks
  • one smoked sausage

One of the most essential and traditional and indispensable ingredients is celeriac, apparently. They don’t sell celeriac in Italy so I didn’t use any and my soup tasted exactly like all of the snert I’ve ever eaten in my life. Up to you.

So, first of all, pre-soak your peas a bit, half an hour or more. Now drain and rinse a little bit more, maybe, they tend to be a bit dusty. Chuck them in a big-ass pot with the ribs and two litres of water. Add some salt, too. Bring to a boil and then simmer on low to medium heat for as long as it takes (which will be a couple of hours).

In the meantime, peel your potatoes, carrots and onions and chop them into small cubes. Cut your leeks into rings and wash them. Chuck all of the vegetables in about one hour into cooking the soup.

After a couple of hours from first bringing the peas and meat to a boil, the meat should be cooked and the peas disintegrated. Fish out the meat, pull it off the bones (you can chuck those out now), chop it up and throw it back into the pot. Also slice up the smoked sausage and add it to the concoction.

Now here’s the deal with this soup: it becomes tastier the longer you leave it. You can simmer it for another hour or so, then eat it, or you can turn it off, leave it overnight, and heat it up the next day! And the next, and then the next. Maybe not with this quantity. But quality-wise, you’d be grand. Enjoy!

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Solving my trust issues with lemon curd

I have some serious trust issues, but only with myself. I don’t trust myself to be a well-organised and responsible individual. I expect to behave like an idiot, even if I’ve proven to myself by now that usually, I don’t. It happens quite frequently that I spend forever looking for my keys, or phone, or some other small but important item because I expect it to be lost in some godforsaken jacket pocket. After a fruitless search, I check the most likely place (most frequently used bag or desk), and what do you know, often it’s right there where it should have been, right where I, a responsible individual, put it. But I just don’t trust myself to be that organised. I expect chaos from myself. In the same category, going back into the house just after closing the front door to make sure I’ve turned off the gas (of course I have), and frantically looking for my purse after a night on the piss to see how much money I wasted on booze (no more than I planned).

In a similar vein, a few years ago I made lemon curd, as an experiment, and it turned out so good that I imagined it was a fluke. I just didn’t think I was actually able to make something so delicious, or that something so good would be so easy to make. So I wrote it off as a one-time event, and I never made lemon curd again. Which was stupid, because it was one of the best things I’d ever put in my mouth, really.

Fast forward a few years, and it’s my friend’s birthday. He states that from the vast array of cakes in existence, he only likes cheesecake, and a birthday without a cake is not really a birthday at all, so cheesecake he must have. I settle for a citrusy one, and by golly, wouldn’t this orange-and-lemon cheesecake be perfect with a nice fat layer of lemon curd on top? Yes, yes it would be. So I decided to try again. And what do you know, it worked again. It really just is that fucking simple. How something so mouth-watering, slap-happy, butt-spanking good can be so easy, I shall never know, but here it is, lemon curd. Have a shot.

IMG_2410 IMG_2417

Use:

  • two lemons, peel and juice
  • 100 gr sugar
  • 50 gr butter
  • 3 eggs in total: 2 whole eggs and 1 yolk

OK, so what you do is, you grab a sharp knife and you peel off really thin strips of zest from one of your lemons. Thin, but not small, because you’re going to remove these later. Then juice your lemons.

Now what you want to do is grab a heat-proof bowl and hang it over a bunch of boiling water – a bain marie. In the bowl, put your butter, your lemon juice, the zest strips and the sugar, and melt all of it together. When everything is dissolved and mixed together, add the eggs and egg yolks, which you’ve beaten before. Slowly stir them in, making sure that everything mixes well. Once this stuff is pretty much the consistency of yoghurt, turn off the gas, remove the bowl from the hot water and set it aside to cool. Stir occasionally to make sure it doesn’t go lumpy. The lemon curd will thicken up a little bit, which is good because it’ll become all the more delicious.

Maybe if you guys behave I’ll share the recipe for the cheesecake next time.

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