The literal translation of Minestra Maritata is ‘Wedding Soup’. Gennaro Contaldo says it’s because of the way the meat and the vegetables marry so well together. I say that he can say what he likes, and often does!, but you could call this ‘Spit In My Eye Soup’ and it wouldn’t be any less delicious. This is a good example of cucina povera, which Contaldo and Carluccio were going on and on and on about in the two series of The Greedy Italians – and I can see why! It’s simple and cheap, but also healthy and completely fall-off-your-chair delicious.
Light and fresh, crispy and vibrant, vegetable tempura is the perfect supper for a week night or a special weekend treat accompanied by spring onion pancakes (I use this recipe) or teriyaki tofu. The key to crispy, light tempura batter is ice cold sparkling water and mixing the batter at the very last moment before frying.
There is something summery about squid, even in a stew. It conjures up memories of crispy calamari, sunshine and cold beer. So the mixture of bright but chilly spring days and this subtly summery stew just seems to make sense.
After my trip to California, I came back to England craving vegetables. Usually I would have been so packed full of vegetables after a trip home that I would come back here craving junk, but this was such a whistle-stop tour that there was very little eating at home and when we did it was what was quick and satisfying − cheese, bread and wine. So I came back wanting vegetables of all colors, all at once and right now! These tacos were the perfect antidote to a week of gout-inducing luxury.
Back in August of last year, we had a fabulous meal at Donostia in Marylebone, London. While we were there, we enjoyed the most amazing piece of Ibérico pork we had ever had. Playing second fiddle to the pork though, was an incredible romesco sauce. While I was at home in California, we barbecued a nice piece of halibut and for some reason the romesco sauce popped back into my head as the perfect accompaniment to the meaty Halibut.
I know I seem to be banging on about Jerusalem a lot lately, but if you have flicked through its beautifully photographed pages, enjoyed its history and relished its ‘foreignness’ like I have, you find it hard to think of much else when dinner time rolls around. This risotto is another complete cracker of a recipe; utterly beautiful in its simplicity.
Chili pastes are all the rage these days with the Asian varieties like sriracha taking the biscuit for most people. And I can’t disagree, sriracha has depth of flavor rather than just pure heat and makes the best. chicken. wings. ever. But stepping a bit further west to the Middle East, the condiments stashed at the back of Jerusalem are full of interest and intrigue and there’s more plenty of spice for chili lovers too.
For my birthday back in November I got Uyen Luu’s My Vietnamese Kitchen and I was so excited. I dove into it and buried myself in the vibrant colors and beautiful photography, wanting to cook and eat everything all at once. Then I started looking through the lists of ingredients. It is fair to say that Vietnamese cooking requires a lot of what we would term ‘specialist’ ingredients − but, of course, they wouldn’t be considered specialist ingredients in Vietnam, would they?