Thursday, 28 July 2011

Stuffed sardines with preserved lemon and pine nuts

There was a particularly nimble fingered woman in the Rialto fish market who could bone and clean a sardine with her bare hands in under twenty seconds.

Impressive stuff, but when it came to handing over my euros the sardines lost out to the more alluring swordfish and crayfish on offer. There was a moment of regret when I realised that I wouldn’t be able to fit any more into my overspilling bags, so I made this dish almost as soon as we landed, to make amends.

For this, all you need is spanking fresh fish and the rest will take care of itself. It wasn’t intended for the barbecue but a row of these would be extremely good lined up on the grill for outdoor eating, perhaps with a simple red onion, tomato and herb salad.

Serves 2

6 whole large sardines, gutted, washed and dried
3 preserved lemons, chopped
25g (½ cup) dried breadcrumbs
3 tbsp toasted pine nuts
¼ tsp coarsely ground black pepper
4 tbsp chopped parsley

1) Mix together all the ingredients except the sardines, then divide equally between the fish. Stuff the belly cavities quite full with the breadcrumb stuffing, then use a wooden barbecue skewer to sew the fish closed, by weaving once or twice through the body from the tail end to the head end. This will also help the fish stay intact while it’s cooking.

2) Cook the sardines under a very hot grill, or barbecue, for 3 minutes on each side, until the fish is juicy and the skin slightly blackened.

Wednesday, 27 July 2011

The scent of ripe peaches

Ciao bella! Ah, is there anything quite as bitter sweet as the first day back at work after a holiday? Such delicious memories to think back on, but all over…


Well, as expected I ate too much but if you saw the seafood in the Rialto Fish Market then you’d judge a little less harshly. Plus I had the hunkiest fishmonger EVER (see photo above).

Venice may be a small city but it is spectacular: we stumbled across a dazzling firework display for the Festa del Redentore on our second night, a festival to give thanks for deliverance from the plague; a very Venetian interpretation of an age old (and slightly grim) tradition in spectacular modern style.

A happy week encompassed meals of uber fresh fish, drinking bright orange Prosecco spritzes “con Aperol” as we lazed in the afternoon sun, browsing the highbrow culture and lowering the tone by schmooching on every bridge.

There is a tradition for couples in Venice to add a padlock to a bridge, etched with their names. I guess it’s to do with marking something, somewhere, as a permanent reminder. We added ours too, and it makes me smile to think of it there.

My highlights: the tiny tapas-like cicheti served in Al Portego near the Rialto bridge, and Al Bottegan in Dorsoduro, where you can watch the last remaining gondola workshop beavering away as you lazily sip a glass of something frosty. And the fact that every street has a gelato shop, and all with ice cream to die for. More on that later.

The Rialto fish market was packed with exciting produce (snails, argh!) but it was the small canal boats selling fruit and vegetables that really tickled me. I passed one moored to the Ponte dei Pugni bridge just off from the Campo Santa Margherita where the air was thick with the scent of ripe peaches, so juicy that they ran down to our elbows as we ate them.

I never quite managed the cicheti crawl through Venice. The lure of a refreshing glass of something was always far more tempting but that just leaves me something for the next visit. Roll on 2013.

Thursday, 14 July 2011

Ciao bella!

Finally! For one glorious week I will be leaving London for the sunny shores of Italy. I'm off tomorrow for my bi-annual trip to the Venice Biennale to see what the contemporary art world has been up to since I allowed it to slip down the back of the sofa in 2009.

As always, I will be travelling firstly for my devotion to culture (cue halo), with the continuous rumble of my stomach coming a very close second in deciding how I spend my days. This trip will bring my first cicchetti crawl – a thorough interrogation of the many bàcari (bars) that litter the backstreets of Venice, away from the burger joints and tourist traps of San Marco square. Hopefully I will be able to recommend a few gems when I return. Till then, enjoy the sun wherever you are – happy holidays!

Wednesday, 6 July 2011

A fine romance

Yesterday, I fell in love in Paris. No, not with a dashing Gallic man with flashing eyes and tousled locks. Of course I fell for the food, namely some stand-out fabulous patisserie.

I was in Paris for a meeting (a one-off moment of glamour in my otherwise London-based life!) which catered for our lunch from "a little bakery down the road". Of course when you work in Paris it is normal to have an historic patisserie next door, naturellement? And so we were treated to simply the most incredible spread of charlottes, macarons, tarts, mille feuille and other sweet concoctions that I've ever seen, courtesy of Pâtisserie Stohrer on Rue Montorgueil.

Since it doesn't do to eat more than one dessert at a work meeting (honestly, it broke my heart) I made my choice carefully: just one, but my god it was delicious. A crisp, buttery pastry tart base filled with pistachio mousse and topped with fat, glistening strawberries. It makes my mouth water even now to think about it.

If you're ever in Paris, I urge you to seek out this place. Go with an empty stomach and leave a few pounds heavier but very, very content.


Stohrer - pâtissier traiteur

Magasin au 51 rue Montorgueil
75002 Paris
Open 7 days a week, 7:30am to 8:30pm

Sunday, 3 July 2011

Tart with a heart

If ever there were a tart with a heart it would be this one.  If you've only ever had the mass produced versions covered in a thick wedge of icing with a glace cherry on top I would urge you to try this instead, they're worlds apart. 

This is a tart that seems more wholesome than it is because it tastes like a sepia tinted childhood memory that you probably never had - unassailably comforting. I recommend it with a cup of earl grey in the afternoon.

Makes one 25cm tart

~for the pastry:
190g plain flour

35g golden caster sugar
115g butter, cut into cubes
1 medium egg

~for the filling:
6 tbsp cherry jam
225g caster sugar
225g soft butter
225g ground almonds
5 medium eggs
½ tsp almond essence (optional)
the zest of a lemon
2 tbsp flaked almonds

1) First make the pastry by rubbing the butter into the flour with your fingertips until it resembles fine breadcrumbs, then stir in the sugar and the yolk of the egg (saving the white for later), and bring together into a ball. If the mixture feels too dry, add a few drops of milk. Roll out into a rough circle about 20cm round, then cover with clingfilm and chill for 20 minutes.

2) After chilling, roll out again to a thickness of 3mm and use to line a buttered and base lined 25cm x 3.5cm loose bottomed tin. Leave 1cm of additional pastry around the edge of the tin, this will be trimmed off more neatly after blind baking. Chill in the freezer for 15 minutes, then prick the base all over with a fork, line the pastry with a piece of greaseproof paper and fill with baking beans before baking for 20 minutes at 350f/180c/gas mark 4. Remove the beans, brush the pastry with the left over egg white, and bake for a further 10 minutes. Then trim the edges down to the height of the tin, and leave to cool.

3) Now spread the cherry jam over the base of the tart, then cream the butter and sugar together until light and fluffy. Beat in the eggs, lemon zest and almond essence then fold in the ground almonds. Spoon into the pastry case, level out, and scatter over the flaked almonds. Bake for a further 20-25 minutes at the same temperature as before until golden on top and set in the centre.

3) Serve cool or slightly warm with thick cream, ice cream or Chantilly cream.
Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...