Do you have a favourite cuisine? What type of food do you love to prepare - and eat? Discuss.
Enough questions, already! Well, I am interested in why some types of food are so popular, though you can probably guess why. I mean, desserts are eternally admired because they are sweet and attractive. French food is à la mode because it is refined, attractive and dripping with buttery goodness. And molecular gastronomy is fashionable because... it's attractive? Please excuse the generalisations, I'm in a bit of a stupor with the pre-Christmas preparations.
Which leads me onto my favourite style of food - Italian. Why do I like it? I think it's because it's usually easy to prepare, and to me, growing up in Australia, strangely exotic. And that's why a new book by Tobie Puttock, called 'Cook like an Italian', is so fascinating. It documents Tobie's travels through various regions of Italy and it's filled with postcard-images of the villages, countryside and people. It also has heaps of lovely, rustic recipes that are nonetheless strangely exotic.
This is the first dish I made from the book. The gnudi (aka gnocchi made with ricotta instead of potato) are wonderfully light, and best of all, easy to make. The original recipe uses guanciale, but I've substituted pancetta and it is lovely, too. If you see the book, it's worth having a flick through it - I picked up my copy during the pre-Christmas sales, so that's my Christmas pressie sorted!
Gnudi con pancetta e fave
Gnudi with pancetta and broad beans
350g fresh ricotta
1 egg, lightly beaten
40g freshly grated pecorino
1/3 cup plain (all-purpose) flour
1 cup broad (fava) beans (fresh or frozen), removed from pods
6 slices pancetta or guanciale (cured pig cheek), cut into matchsticks
8 mint leaves
small handful of flat-leaved parsley, finely chopped
freshly ground black pepper
extra pecorino, to serve
1. Put the ricotta in a sieve lined with paper towel sitting over a large bowl. Refrigerate for 1 hour to remove excess moisture.
2. Place the ricotta in a large bowl and fold in the egg, pecorino and half the flour. Use a spoon to combine all the ingredients, then season with salt to taste. Cover and refrigerate for about 30 minutes.
3. Meanwhile, being a saucepan of water to the boil and cook the broad beans for 1-2 minutes. Drain then refresh under cold water. Remove outer skins and set beans aside.
4. Remove ricotta mixture from fridge. Dust a clean bench with a little of the remaining flour. Take a handful of the ricotta mixture and roll into a sausage shape about 3cm (1 1/4 in) in diameter. Cut the roll into 2cm pieces to form little pillows (the gnudi). Repeat with the remaining mixture.
5. In a large, non-stick pan, cook the pancetta over medium heat until the fat melts. When the pancetta becomes crispy, remove from the pan and drain. Wipe out the pan with paper towe.
6. Bring a large pan of water to the boil with a good pinch of salt. Dip the gnudi into the rmaining flour and shake well to remove excess flour. Gently drop the gnudi into the boiling water and cook untit they rise to the surface. Remove with a slotted spoon and transfer to a sieve to dry a little. Sprinkle over a small amount of olive oil to stop them sticking together.
7. Melt the butter in the non-stick pan over medium heat. Add the gnudi and gently cook until they become golden on all sides. You may need to reduce the heat so the butter does not burn. Then add the broad beans, crispy pancetta, mint, parsley and some pepper.
8. Serve immediately with the grate pecorino.
Recipe adapted from Cook Like an Italian by Tobie Puttock (Lantern)
Ingredients, including fresh ricotta cheese, pecorino, egg, mint, broad beans and pancetta
Roll the dough into a thin log, then cut into pieces before frying in butter, lots of butter...
Sprinkle the gnudi with more grated pecorino before serving
I like cooking like an Italian !