"Two Greedy Italians eat Italy" ~ a Review

When I was up country (as we say in these parts) I had lunch at Carluccio’s; the menu was tempting, the food very good and I was really enticed by the deli selling all sorts of fascinating stuff.  I didn’t have long to linger, however, as I was with my agent (ahem!) and about to meet up with publishers to discuss the possibility of publishing the book I am writing. 

ASIDE ~ if you would like to think positive thoughts for me in this regard please feel free; there’s still time as I haven’t heard anything yet!

Coincidentally, on my return to Cornwall, among the various delights waiting me was another lovely  book from Quadrille (I thank you); “Two Greedy Italians eat Italy” by Gennaro Contaldo and no other than Antonio Carluccio ~ the very chap who developed the above mentioned Carluccio’s caffè business together with his ex-wife Priscilla Carluccio. 

The book is divided into three main sections dealing with food from the mountains (the Alps including the glacial lakes), from the coast and from the rivers and plains giving a little about the geography of each area as it relates to food and lifestyle. 

 “Comfort Food from the Mountains” deals with warming, rib sticking food.  The first recipe is for Beef & Wine Soup which is good beef broth enhanced with wine, cream and Parmesan and served over buttery fried bread.   This is just the sort of food for someone keen on using up leftovers, as I am, and so is the second recipe in the book for Bread Dumplings in Beef Broth.  As it happens I am making beef stock as I type (see recipe at the end of this post) so will try these recipes soon.  

This section also includes several game recipes, polenta, pizza, chestnuts, potatoes, sausages and cabbage, that sort of thing.  Towards the end Carluccio gives a recipe for Mascapone All’ Amaretto.  As luck would have it there was were a few Amaretti in the cupboard and a little mascarpone in the fridge so it seemed only right that I try it for breakfast.  Sadly I had no Amaretto so I had to compromise with a little brandy but it was still delicious!

“Fresh Flavours from the Coast”, of course, gives many fish and seafood dishes plus some desserts and ices and a particularly enticing recipe for Focaccia di Formaggio.

The third section “The Larder of the River and Plains” concerned the the agricultural area where not only fruit and vegetables are grown but also rice for risotto and wheat for pasta. 

Each of the guys contributes recipes, which are clear and straightforward, and also the occasional note on ingredients.  I have never been to Italy (what a slacker!) but this strikes me as real or realistic Italian food, not restaurant dishes beyond the call of day to day cooking and I am tempted by a great deal of it.  I am also tempted to visit Italy.

If the photos are to be believed Carluccio and Contaldo seem to have had fun compiling this volume and they they remind me a little  of “Last of the Summer Wine” ~ two old friends still playing with life and enjoying themselves together.  

ANOTHER ASIDE ~ does anyone have any idea what’s in Compo’s matchbox?

“Two Greedy Italians eat Italy” by Antonio Carluccio and Gennaro Contaldo is a follow up to their first book “Two Greedy Italians” which accompanied the BBC series of the same name (get the DVD here).  It is to be published by Quadrille Publishing Ltd on the 12th April this year and can be ordered from Amazon here. 

Boneless Beef Stock

If you are prone, as I am, to being left with lots of beef scraps after trimming steaks or preparing meat for casseroles then store every little bit in the freezer till there are enough to make an effort worthwhile – 500g at least. 

~   Defrost all the beef scraps if they are frozen – fat and sinew and gore are all fine for this.
~   Cut a whole onion into quarters, no need to peel it!
~   Heat a couple of tablespoons of oil in a large pan and add the onion and all the beef bits.
~   Cook uncovered over high heat, stirring occasionally, till the beef is well browned and the onions may even have started to char.
~   Pour over enough water to cover generously, bring to a boil, cover, turn down the heat and simmer for ages till you have a rich brown stock.
~   Strain the stock into a clean pan discarding the solids.
~   Add a seriously good glug of red wine (half a bottle even!) and boil till the liquid had reduced by 75% or so.
~   Cool, pour into an airtight container, cover and chill.

This keeps very well in the fridge; as it cools the fat rises to the top and solidifies thus sealing the dish.  It can also be frozen and I suggest freezing in ice cubes as it is strong and you may only need a little at a time.  This not at all classic stock has served me very well; I like to add a spoonful to sautéed mushrooms, to steak pans when deglazing, to creamy sauces, and to anything that could do with a beefy boost, such as my ever popular Peppered Steak Salad.  

Use Your Own Brain!

The Art Café, West Mersea

I have been visiting my sister and her family on Mersea Island and very much enjoying the wares of The Art Café; Cinnamon Toast (read about my way of doing it plus other yummy toasts here) and gorgeous coffee for breakfast, for instance …

… interesting and delicious lunches and wonderful breads and cheeses, olives, charcuterie,  chutneys, preserves, homemade cheese straws and other baked goods and so on and so forth from their shop next door; The Cake Hole.

Today I had a wander about the island.  The weather has been fantabulous and I had a great time  …

Even the funerals look tempting!

BUT the day was spoiled for me by an irritation so here is a bit of a rant.


Many, many years ago when the world was young (around the time of the Jurassic) my sister and I and our then-husbands owned a couple of restaurants where we had some original ideas and put them to good use.  Not amazing ideas, just a few “signature dishes” as they are now called and some different ways to promote our businesses.  A dish that springs to mind is “Cornish Rarebit” which was basically crab or crab pâté on toast topped with cheese and grilled.  No big deal, I know, but we had never seen it before but have been seeing it ever since in many restaurants in that part of Cornwall.  It’s years ago, however, that we had that idea and is no problem at all now although a bit of a pisser at the time.  

The second thing that I frequently see ripped off is our Pauper’s Supper.  I well remember the day we invented this because my then-husband woke me up in the middle of the night to say he had a good idea – why not do a cheap 3 course meal on Wednesday evenings to get the punters in?  So we did, called it Pauper’s Supper and on Wednesdays we were packed to capacity ~ we did 3 sittings plus people sometimes ate in their cars.  Now 25 years later in the general location of our restaurants Pauper’s Suppers are still offered on Wednesdays in several eating establishments.  It’s as if Wednesday and the word “Pauper’s” are the only possibilities.  

Why oh why can’t people use their own brains?  I mention all this because  …

The ­Art Café is a bright and sunny place with pine tables and chairs and outside seating serving lovely freshly made interesting breakfasts and lunches, homemade cakes and excellent coffee.  It is called The Art Café because they also display and sell art on the premises

Very nearby, within sandwich lobbing distance, is a pub called the White Hart which most people will have to pass on their way to the Art Café. 

 They have recently opened a café on the premises called The Hart Café presumably in the hope that people will mistake their café for their intended destination and pop in.  For all I know the Hart Café may sell wonderful food and drinks but however good it is they are obviously inept at using their imagination and I think this does them no favours.  Several people in the area have already, in the few days I have been here, told me how irritated they are by this apparent imitation of an established and popular business. 

Their drawing of a cup of coffee is not dissimilar to the Art Café logo (see photo at the start of this rant for comparison), even the steam squiggles are the same! This is surely not a coincidence, in fact the words “blatant plagiarism” spring to mind.

I don’t think the Art Café are very discombobulated by this at all, maybe they are even a bit flattered, but I am a grumpy middle aged lady and it’s really got up my goat!

Anyhoo, sorry about that - get it off my chest and all that!  I shall be going home in a couple of days and back to writing about leftovers as soon as I have some! 

Asparagus Pesto and Frazzled Prosciutto

inspiring leftovers

Looking in the fridge today, in a hungry mood, I found 3 asparagus spears, 2 slices of prosciutto and the last bit of a piece of Gran Padano. I very nearly scrambled some eggs with the asparagus and ham but inspiration struck, as if often the way. So this is what I made ...

Tagliatelle with Asparagus Pesto & Frazzled Prosciutto

taglitatelle, asparagus, prosciutto
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~  Snapped the tips from the asparagus, set them aside and cooked the rest of the stalks in salted water till completely tender.
~   Scooped the cooked asparagus out of the boiling water and replaced them with 3 coils of tagliatelle.
~   While the pasta was cooking I did 2 things (yes, you’ve guessed, I’m a woman!) … firstly I puréed the cooked asparagus with a knob of butter and a handful of grated Gran Padano, and, secondly, I cut the prosciutto into strips and frazzled it in tablespoon of olive oil together with the asparagus tips. For how to frazzle prosciutto and other ingredients see here.
~   I lifted the ham and asparagus out of the frying pan with a slotted spoon and added the residual oil to the asparagus purée.
~   Then, I expect you’ve guessed, I drained the pasta and tossed everything together.

I was very pleased with the result and am thinking of doing a similar thing soon with tenderstem broccoli. 

I love cooking with leftovers, they inspire me, which is why I wrote Creative Ways to Use Up Leftovers!

ultimate leftovers recipes

The Eden Project and Polenta Cake

I went to The Eden Project a couple of days ago with my friend next door, Diane.  Yet another great thing about living in Cornwall is the £5 locals’ annual pass to Eden; what a bargain!

I was eager to visit the tropical (rainforest) biome to see if it was any good for my homesickness but in that respect if was a disappointment; much more humid that Tortola and none of my friends were there!  It was wonderful, nevertheless with lots of interesting stuff to see, not only plants ...

flowers at the eden project in Cornwall

Interesting birds ~ these chaps were wandering about in the tropical biome quite at home, more like visitors than exhibits.  They have strange stubby tails, as you can see, which they wagged in a doggy fashion and were very friendly.  If anyone reading this knows who they are could you please let me know.

interesting birds

Artworks ...

eden project artwork

Advice ...

don't throw things away there is no such place as away

... and  Strange comfy seating.

eden prodject strange seating

After an hour or two in the rainforest we retired to the dining area, Diane and I both had a slice of Orange and Ginger Cake which I immediately identified as a polenta cake. 

It was utterly yummy although Diane felt it should have been gingerier, apparently this is a word – I originally put more gingery but my spell check wanted gingerier.  She suggested that I come up with a recipe or things might go badly for me.   So here it is, it’s basically a recipe from the Beeb but I’ve added ginger and a pinch of salt and glazed with hot glaze when hot as opposed to cold glaze when cold as their recipe says.

Orange & Ginger Polenta Cake

250g butter at room temperature; soft but not runny
250g sugar + another 100g
4 eggs

140g fine polenta
200g plain flour
2 tsp baking powder
pinch salt
finely grated zest and juice 2 oranges (divide the juice in 100ml and whatever is left!)
2 knobs of ginger from the jar – coarsely chopped (or finely if you prefer)

orange and ginger polenta cake for pinterest
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~   Preheat the oven to 325°F/160ºC/140ºC fan/gas 3.
~   Grease a cake pan – I used a 23cm springform.
~   Mix together all the dry ingredients.
~   Cream together the butter and 250g sugar till pale and fluffy.
~   Beat in the eggs one at a time, if the mixture looks a but curdled add a spoonful of the dry ingredients.
~   Once the eggs are incorporated add the dry ingredients and mix in.
~   When the dry ingredients are all mixed in add the orange zest, the chopped ginger and any orange juice in excess of 100ml
~   Decant into the prepared cake pan, level the top and bake for 45-50 minutes till risen and cooked.  (I have a confession to make here – mine really sunk in the middle which may be because I had the oven on the wrong number 130ºC instead of 140ºC.  Nevertheless it tastes great).
~   Whilst the cake is cooking stir together the remaining 100g of sugar and 100ml or orange juice in a small pan over a medium heat till the sugar has dissolved or melted or whatever it does in this situation.  Bring to a simmer and cook for 3 or 4 minutes.
~   Turn the cooked cake out onto a rack and stand the rack over a large dish.
~   Drizzle the hot syrup over the cake which, being warm, should absorb it but excess will be caught in the dish and can be licked up when no-one is looking.
~   Cool and serve with clotted cream if possible.

heather in flower at the eden project
The Heather flowering on the way out of Eden was gobsmacking.