Saturday, September 16, 2006

(F)light reading

I had a brilliant idea for a little light reading on the plane; I’d been dying to really tuck into Anna Del Conte’s “Amaretto, Apple Cake and Artichokes” but hadn’t really considered how heavy the book is – even for a paperback. And with the current restrictions on hand baggage, it was a tight fit cramming the book, my handbag and a few emergency packets of Minstrels in my carry on bag. But I was extremely grateful that I brought it along – I starting reading the first chapter “pasta” and started salivating. Pasta with fennel and cream, with garlicky béchamel, with artichokes, with pumpkin sauce, with mozzarella, anchovies and parsley, with a creamy courgette sauce, fish ravioli, with a fontina and cream sauce and all utterly tomato free! Where is a kitchen when you want one? I was just desperate to grab my knife and start creating. And then I espied a recipe for a “one egg ravioli in clear broth”. What was really amazing about this is that I’ve been trying to find this recipe for years. I’d enjoyed a stunning dish of a poached egg inside a ravioli at Gary Rhodes’ original restaurant City Rhodes and had been trying to find the recipe for it since. And here it was, way above the clouds I had eventually found the elusive recipe. Anna Del Conte’s method is to build a wall with a ricotta and spinach mixture onto of the 4” rounds of fresh pasta before popping the egg yolk into the middle and topping with the second pasta round. I have always wondered if I should attempt pressing the fresh pasta round into a mould of some sort and then drop the egg into the resultant indentation before topping off with the other round. This sounds a bit fiddlier and is probably what Gary would do!

On arrival at JFK I stocked up with a couple of US food magazines that I hadn’t read for a while – Bon Appétit and Gourmet. I used to subscribe to both when there was a dearth of food magazines in the UK but now this has been rectified and I read Good Food Magazine, Observer Food Monthly, Waitrose Food Illustrated, Olive, Delicious and Fresh. I used to also try and get “Elle - A la table” and wade slowly through the French. When I picked up the September edition of Bon Appétit it fell open to a recipe for “Soft Egg Ravioli” which as you’ve guessed it was the second time in several hours I’d read a recipe for a dish that I’ve been trying to locate for about eight years. The Bon Appétit recipe used a ricotta and finely zested lemon mixture to build the retaining wall. I have a few Italian cookbooks wending their way to me soon and it will be amusing if they all contain this impossible to find recipe!

Update: I have finally, after first tasting it so many years ago, made my own gooey egg in a fresh ravioli – see here for the results.

The next chapter is “risotto” and one of the first recipes I find is another old much-loved friend – “risotto with lemon”. This innocuous recipe is a favourite of Nigella’s and Anna Del Conte’s recipe appears in “Nigella Bites”. I have mentioned in the past that I’ve been caught out by the quantities as even though Nigella claims it’s a recipe for two, it produces a river of risotto and in my experience is really too much for two, however hungry. Now I’ve got the original recipe with the same quantities I can see that Anna thinks this will feed three to four!

After the fabulous “risotto” chapter it’s “polenta” which I’ve been meaning to get more into, then “bread”, “pulses”, “fish” and “molluscs”. I’m not even a third through the book and I just crazy to get cooking. Nigella is so right about Anna Del Conte, she is the person to turn to when in need of bolstering and comfort and just incredible Italian food.
I am hooked!
Now where’s my knife…?

No comments: