Did you get some inspiration from the January cookery calendar challenge over on Penny's blog, 'The Homemade Heart'? I did! This month's link up is here. I enjoyed about Penny's February cooking adventures.
It took me ages to decide on a cookery book for the February cookery challenge, there are just too many on my shelves that I don't like enough to use (but can't bring myself to get rid of). In the end, I settled on an old Italian cookery book. I had it when I was still living in Switzerland. It is called 'Aus Italians Küchen' edited by Marianne Kaltenbach and Virginia Cerabolini. The book is full of traditional family recipes and a treasure trove for the lover of Italian food.
When we think of Italian cuisine, pasta and pizza comes to mind immediately. In fact, my kids think this is all there is to Italian cooking. How wrong they are! Italian cuisine is as varied as its regions are and makes heavy use of the riches of Italian agriculture and fishery.
I wasn't all that popular with my Thai cuisine in January and thought I'd cook something even the teenager eats. I set myself the goal to cook a pasta dish a little different from what we usually enjoy and to introduce a completely new dish to my family. It was not trivial to identify a recipe. Some were off limits because some of the ingredients were 'unacceptable'. Remember, I wanted to cook something they all like. It was also surprisingly difficult to source some of the ingredients, more so than for more exotic foods. Many of the meaty dishes use veal, which is my all time favourite meat but is difficult to buy. It doesn't substitute easily for other meats. You can buy veal at any butchers on the continent but here it is pot luck. I was rather pleased to find a packet of veal mince at Waitrose just after new year and I had it in the freezer since.
I made cannelloni Piemontesi to satisfy the pasta cravings in the house. The Piedmont is close to my heart for many reasons, one being that my dad really loved it. His family originated from the Lombardy region but I think his heart was in the Piedmont, even though he never actually lived there, nor anywhere else in Italy. I miss my dad every day. Anyway, the cannelloni were filled with a mix of pork and veal mince, ham, egg and spinach. It had just the right squishiness to be squeezed through the corner of a freezer bag, making it easy to fill the pasta rolls. Covered with a rich Bechamel sauce and cheese - simply delightful. Unfortunately the teenager was visited by the Noro virus and didn't even get to try it. I don't know what the vegetables were that I cooked. I found them at Lidl and they looked a bit like sprouting broccoli that had not sprouted yet. Or something like that. It tasted lovely. Btw, I didn't make the pasta, just used the dry cannelloni rolls readily available in supermarkets.
The second dish was a meat dish that I remember from my childhood but one that I had never cooked myself, scallopini al limone. That's lemony escalopes. The recipe asked for veal escalopes but I couldn't get any so I used pork fillet cut into thin slices and bashed thoroughly with my rolling pin. Italians like to bash their escalopes so they are thin and tender. The escalopes were ready in minutes, they were fried briefly in a frying pan with butter, then put into the warm oven. Then lots of lemon juice was poured into the pan to mix with the meaty juices. I served the lemony escalopes with a risotto to which I added a bag of mixed salad leaves, the small tender leaves that are so tasty in spring. The red leaves turned the risotto a palest pink, beautiful. It was the perfect side dish for the tangy escalopes. The greens are steamed pak choi.
I rather enjoyed these dishes and I am sure I'll make them again. The book is a winner. I knew that already but I needed to remind myself of just how good and simple the dishes are.
Annie did some cooking, too. She was really keen to make her own fish fingers and potato wedges. She used cornflakes instead of bread crumbs for the fish. Annie is so organised, look at her time planning for dinner. In the end, the timings were out a little and she was very cross with herself. I am glad I had a bag of oven chips in the freezer. The fish was delicious of course and there were no leftovers.
We also enjoyed Annie's speciality, a dish of gnocchi with a sauce of peas, bacon and cream. They were eaten so quickly that I didn't get a chance to take a photo.
I am not sure which book I'll use in March. Be sure to come back in a month time to find out! xx