Friday, 4 August 2017

cookery calendar challenge - August

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


  1. Mmm, delicious, two of my favourite things. The biggest boy made gnocchi a while back, I can't remember what recipe he used but it was nice. He cooked them in a light broth. We're both fans of gnocchi but the others not so much. My partner likes loads of sauce on his pasta, gets quite cross if there isn't enough or, horror of horror, none at all. I like just a little or even just oil and a few flavours. Cooking here not inspired at the moment either. There's usually someone who objects to whatever I'm making. Salad tomorrow! I'll get away with it if the sun shines. CJ xx

  2. My cooking is totally uninspired at the moment and we seem to have the same thing over and over again so I rally must join in with the cookery book challenge this month. Your two dishes sound delicious and I'm inspired to try making my own gnocchi now. I've never done it before.

  3. I have made gnocchi before but it was many years ago and I can't remember, sorry. I seem to remember thinking at the time, gosh what a lot of faffing. Maris Piper and King Edwards seem to be the floury ones. Think people roast with these but personally I like to roast with the red waxy ones. We're all different.
    I found a chart on Sainsbury's that might help you choose. All the best, your recipes all sound lovely. Love your blog, upbeat and entertaining even if everything isn't how you planned it to be. Enjoy the weekend. Cathy x

  4. Love Italian food, it is my favorite kind. I buy my gnocchi and make my own sauce. I like parmigiana anything so I would have loved what you made.

  5. I'm very impressed with your cooking adventures. When my kids were younger I was much more of a cook.. because I had to.. lol. But now our DIL does most of the dinner cooking. We're on our own for breakfast and lunch. So.. I'm rusty. But I will never forget when I made my own manicotti noodles which were made like a noodle crepe.. then I filled them with cheesy stuff and rolled them up and covered them with meat spaghetti sauce and mozzarella and baked them. DELISH!! ((hugs)), Teresa :-)

  6. You do try new things and I love reading about your adventures in cooking. I have not made gnocchi but I often find I have to adapt things anyway because of flours and so on. You do find some things are more faffy then not worth the trouble but you don't know until you try them. Keep experimenting, when you feel the urge that is. xx

  7. You are a better woman than me for sure. I love all the effort you have poured into these dishes, I hope your family are feeling the love? Meanwhile for me, can you recommend any lovely Nonna's that want adopting?
    Have a wonderful Sunday
    Wren x

  8. I made gnocchi once, and once only. I remember it taking for ever, covering the kitchen in mess and not being blown away by the results. I have not tried again. As a Scot I like potatoes but it seemed a very fiddly process the way I did it!

  9. These both look delicious. I've never made gnocchi from scratch, only the shelf-stable dry kind, which I love to eat. My Italian relatives eat the same way you describe. My grandmother, who was born in Bari, was a very good cook and I only wish I'd appreciated it more when I was a child. I would love to try it again now.

  10. Your cooking - and your writing about it - sounds wonderful and makes me want to eat!! Your childhood Italian holiday home sounds wonderful, a great place for children to be and explore!

  11. We both enjoy cooking and now that we are finally back in NH have returned to doing so. It's not that we didn't cook while at our VA house getting yard work and other chores done, but the meals were not very inspired. A rotisserie chicken can last for a few meals with additional salad fixings and going out to dinner with friends solved a couple more meals, as did a late lunch or two! That said, these meals looked delicious just from the photos posted and love the name of the cookbook too.

  12. Christina thank you so much for joining me again this month I really appreciate it. I have made fresh gnochi once, many years ago (pre children in fact) and was happy with the results but I remember Derek didn't really like them so I never made them again. Personally I love anything made with potatoes, in fact sometimes it is all I can do mot to simply make a great big pot of buttery mash and eat the whole lot myself. I like that you used courgette for your parmigiana, amd it looks absolutely delicious. I don't like aubergine much, and find it soaks up obscene amounts of oil if I fry it, so it is an unloved vegetable in our house. X


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