August crept up on me, it was a bit of a shock to realise it had arrived. To me, August marks the beginning of the end of summer. It won't be long before Christmas cards appear in the shops. In the meantime, I am hoping to delight with a post of food and enjoyment.
Last year I gave up on the cookery book challenge due to life being in the way and me not feeling like cooking much. This year, I am trying to stick to it by exploring the farthest realms of my vast cooker book shelves. There are some gems there that I haven't thought of in years. There are also some pretty awful books, which really need to go. Someday. If you have time, please pop over to Penny at A Homemade Heart for more posts on delicious food.
For July's challenge I chose another of my Italian cookery books: Two Greedy Italians by Gennaro Contaldo and Antonio Carluccio. I am not entirely sure how I came into possession of this book but it contains the Italian cuisine I remember from a younger age. The chapters are divided into sections: antipasti, primi and secondi, dolci and (gasp) fast food. I remember the order of an Italian meal well from my childhood, when we spent our holidays in the family 'mansion' in Northern Italy. This was a rather dilapidated three story building not fit for family life. To reach the upper floors, one actually had to go outside and climb the covered stairs. The same was true for the bathroom, which was situated around the corner of the courtyard on the first floor. Still, it was a great place for holidays and we would often go out for meals, enjoying a small bowl of pasta (with a small amount of sauce) followed by a plate of meat or fish. I much prefer this to our own way of eating Italian food: huge bowls of spaghetti drowned in bolognese sauce or similar. It is rather tiresome for a working mum to prepare two courses of food so I don't
I am digressing as I often do. The first dish I cooked was for a meal I shared with Sam when the rest of the crew was travelling Europe: gnocchi alla Sorrentina. The timing was deliberate as in my memory, making gnocchi from scratch takes a while and gets a bit boring after a while. The recipe requires floury potatoes, which is a problem because the floury potatoes sold in Switzerland are of a different variety than those sold here and I still haven't got my head around the British varieties. The labelling is a bit vague and it is difficult to decide what spud works best. The only potato variety I knew would definitely make good gnocchi is the Golden Wonder but I couldn't find any. They are really really floury. I chose King Edward because the label said they were good for roasting, which should mean they are floury. I boiled the potatoes in their skin, then peeled and crushed them, leaving the mash to cool. Then I added flour. I wonder what flour type would be used for gnocchi in Italy? I chose plain flour. It is quite tricky to get the balance right but I decided to follow the recipe for guidance. I then shaped the gnocchi and cooked them straightaway in a large pot of simmering water. When they rose to the surface, I gently removed them with a slotted spoon and transferred them into a simple tomato sauce waiting on the stove. Once all the gnocchi were cooked, I added mozzarella, stirred gently until it just melted. They were good. Better than any shop bought gnocchi I ever had but not as good as you might get them prepared by your Italian Nonna, if you are lucky to have one. Sam loved them but he has never tasted the real thing. The real thing is fluffy, light and airy like a down pillow with a distinct taste of potato. Mine were a little chewy and definitely not airy like a down pillow. You can see on the photo that they are a little shiny, which is not quite right.
I am going to make more gnocchi, it is not as time consuming as my memory tried to tell me. For next time, I am going to source Golden Wonder spuds because I don't think the King Edward quite cut it for the purpose. I am going to bake the potatoes instead of boiling them and I am going to use less flour, just enough to hold the dough together. I overworked my own gnocchi dough a little I think. This is a typical mistake when making gnocchi. Have you ever made gnocchi? Please tell me your special tricks.
The second recipe was a variation of aubergine parmigiana, using courgettes instead of aubergines (which I find yucky). As with any parmigiana it takes a bit of patience to make. First I cut the courgettes into thin slices, dipped them in flour then seasoned egg. I then fried the slices in copious amounts of olive oil. Finally, the courgettes are layered with tomato sauce and mozzarella. I topped it with the last cubes of mozzarella and a generous amount of parmesan.
I served the parmigiana with pork fillet escalopes (cheat's Wiener Schnitzel) and lemon slices but really, it is a meal on its own. I did enjoy this parmigiana but the family's response was rather lukewarm. Sam refused to even try it. The flavours were subtle but well balanced and the texture was just like one would expect from a parmigiana, soft and squishy. I guess I won't make this again even though I really loved it. The joys of family meals eh?
Cooking has otherwise been uneventful and uninspired, I couldn't name a single dish that I cooked lately and got exited about. I really can't be bothered with cooking at the moment. This evening it is pizza delivery for the kids and very little for myself. I am still full from my lunch, a pork and chorizo burger at The Hill on Byres Rd, enjoyed with an old friend and former colleague.
I hope your cooking is more inspired than mine. Thanks for stopping by and saying hello. Have a great weekend xx