Nibbling upon ‘nduja

(Apologies for late post — very large manuscript in yesterday. Awkward to wrangle, but yay for paid work!)

I’ve been following the Hairy Bikers’ latest TV series, Mediterranean Adventure, and it’s pretty darn interesting. The topic of today’s post is a thing they looked at in the first episode — ‘nduja, spicy spreadable sausage from Calabria in Italy.

As I recall the bit where the Bikers watched a traditional ‘nduja maker at their work, this delicious stuff is made with very fatty pork (more fat than meat), vast amounts of fiery peperoncino and salt to preserve — kneaded together, extruded into pig gut, smoked and hung for a few months to mature. I got pretty curious about what this stuff was like (I’m a sucker for charcuterie and similar things), so I decided to get myself some.

I was originally eyeballing a 180g jar of ‘nduja paste (direct from Amazon), but then I happened upon this listing — cheaper than the jar, more than twice as much ‘nduja per item and coming directly from a seller based in Calabria. I leapt at the opportunity 🙂 (It arrived less than 48 hours after I placed the order, which is absolutely brilliant!)

The ‘nduja itself was pretty darn good — a very bright, clear, powerful spicy hit that fades after a few seconds to a pleasant, smoky warmth, with a background of richness from the pork fat. I found the spicy flavour to be almost overwhelming on my first try, but repeated nibbles have helped me adjust. It goes very well on generous chunks of buttery, toasted wholemeal bread, and a little experimentation has revealed that, stirred into sautéing onions, ‘nduja also goes very well in pasta sauces — especially the tomato-y ones, which have the right sort of sharp-savouriness to complement the spice and cut through the intense richness of the pork fat.

I’ll definitely be getting this again!

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There shall be prawns for tea

With pasta in a creamy tomato sauce!

I had a bash at ‘Penette alla Ines’ this week (the recipe only seems to appear in the Robert-Budwig-illustrated edition of The Top One Hundred Pasta Sauces). Pretty straightforward, really, although I didn’t have the time or energy to make the required quantity of tomato sauce the day before — I fudged things by sautéing up all the necessary onions and garlic at once, throwing in the wine, tomatoes and prawns and letting thins simmer for a bit. I also had to add the cream, parsley and pepper after stirring the tomato sauce into the pasta, so as not to make the tomato pan overflow.

It turned out pretty darn well, though 😀 Very tasty, although the cream and tomato notes were somewhat stronger than the prawns — probably because I used cheap frozen ones…

Not-so-blue(fin) tuna

I don’t really believe in Blue Monday and that sort of thing, but it has been a pretty gloomy and wet sort of a day…

Things were rather brightened, though, by the success of my latest pasta experiment — an uncooked tuna sauce which was very quick to prepare. Tinned tuna in oil (skipjack, no mater what the post title says), parsley, basil, lemon zest, walnut pieces (pounded up finely in a pestle and mortar), a splash of Worcestershire sauce and enough olive oil to help everything be distributed evenly over the pasta without clumping or falling off.

I refrained from draining the tuna (since it was in oil anyway), didn’t run the sauce through a food processor (ekk… I prefer a bit of texture) and used the juice of the lemon as well as the zest, so as to avoid wastage. This is kind of in line with the principles of ‘cucina povera’ (lit: ‘poor kitchen’) discussed in the first episode of Hairy Bikers’ Mediterranean Adventure, which focused on the southern parts of Italy, which are traditionally much poorer than the north of the country.

One thing that really caught my attention from that episode was the bit about ‘nduja, a fiery spreadable sausage from Calabria (chiefly Spilinga and surrounding areas) — especially the part where the Bikers assisted an expert ‘nduja maker in creating a batch from scratch! I am a bit of a sucker for this sort of thing, so I’ve been nosing around the web for a decent supplier. It should be a very interesting addition to cheese sandwiches or a tomato sauce!

Chocolate and peanut butter Baklava

Cooking Without Limits

GAB_5568_mix_res

With Chocolate baklava in my mind, I changed a little bit the recipe and I made a new dessert.  I add peanut butter and I made another great easy dessert. You can make it with your kids for Christmas or any other time.

To get it very crispy I used olive oil only to brush the dessert at the end.

Ingredients:

  • Phyllo dough
  • Nutella
  • Peanut butter

Directions:

Preheat oven to 220°C. Take 4 sheets of phyllo dough and put it on a baking sheet in a baking tray. Put a big layer of Nutella on top of the phyllo dough and on top of them add another 4 sheets. Add a layer of peanut butter on top.

Roll everything slowly not to break it and then put it in the oven. Bake it for 20 – 30 minutes. Check it from time to time so it doesn’t burn.

This extra…

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Quiet week

It’s been pretty quiet here — just easing into 2018, really

I made farfalle con le fave al prosciutto (pasta with ham and broad beans) yesterday — had to leave out the one stick of celery, but otherwise I stuck pretty much exactly to the Diane Seed recipe (second result). It turned out deliciously, as recipes from The Top One Hundred Pasta Sauces are wont to do 🙂

I’ve been reading La Belle Sauvage recently — it’s pretty good! Pullman retains his magical touch and worldbuilding skill from the His Dark Materials trilogy, and builds on it subtly and skilfully. The plot and pacing are just right, moving fast enough to keep the reader enthralled without leaving them in the dust (Hah! Pun not necessarily intended). The canoe whose name gives the book its title is almost a character in its own right, and you *will* come to care about its fate as much as that of Malcolm, Alice and baby Lyra — a testament to the skill of the author. There are some lovely little continuity nods and calls-forward to the HDM trilogy, some obvious (such as appearances by Mrs Coulter, Lord Asriel and so on) and some less so — for example, astute readers might remember a Dame Hannah Relf from two brief scenes in Northern Lights and Amber Spyglass respectively. She puts in multiple plot-significant appearances here as a young Scholar, and is one of my favourite characters 🙂 I’m not sure how much more I can say without delivering spoilers, but rest assured, if you liked His Dark Materials you will definitely like La Belle Sauvage (and hopefully the rest of the Book of Dust trilogy).

Happy new year!

Here’s to 2018! Skaal! [a Nordic toast meaning roughly ‘Good health!’]

The lack of post last week was due to a very restful soporific state induced by vast quantities of delicious food — roast chicken with bacon, stuffing, sprouts and roast spuds (and I made a veggie-soss-and-roast-veg risotto for my mum — I used this recipe as my jumping-off point, omitting the wine and preparatory sausage-browning (which wasn’t necessary as mum’s preferred brand of veggie sausages cooks so quickly) and using a good strong cheddar instead of parmesan at the end — it was extremely well received!).

Since then I’ve been snacking away on various types of pate, cheese and festive nibbles from my usual supermarkets — yum yum!

I’ve also been experimenting with pasta dishes containing asparagus, and I’ve come to the conclusion that they should all include sautéed onion and garlic, and perhaps a bit of stock, even if the recipe as written doesn’t call for them — I’ve found that the flavour can be a bit pallid otherwise.