[instagrammed] – Asparagus & avocado pasta

avocado asparagus pasta

I almost forgot about my grand plans to chip at the backlog with some ‘instagrammed’ posts.. So here’s one.

This asparagus & avocado pasta is something I’ve made many (many) times, especially on a weekday when I cannot be bothered to make something too involved. Am so glad I happened to have both asparagus and avocado in my fridge at some point, or I might have never discovered this delightful combination.

You can find me on instagram as @breadetbutter – where I post a lot more regularly than I do here. 😉

Asparagus & avocado pasta
Serves 2 (generously)

  • 250g pasta of your choice (I usually use linguini or spaghetti)
  • 2 avocados
  • 150g asparagus (I use asparagus tips), cut into 1cm lengths
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil, plus more for drizzling
  • Juice of 1 lime
  • Bunch coriander (approx 30g)
  • Salt & pepper to taste
1. Cook pasta in boiling, salted water until al dente. 1 minute before the pasta is done, add the asparagus to the pan. When draining the pasta, reserve some of the pasta cooking water – you may need it later.
2. Whilst pasta is cooking, halve and peel the avocados. Chop one avocado into small 1cm cubes, and the other into larger chunks.
3. Place the large chunks of avocado into a blender, along with the coriander, lime juice, and olive oil. Blend until it forms a thick smooth paste.
4. Place drained pasta and asparagus back into the (same) pan you were using earlier. Add the blended avocado mixture. The mixture may be quite thick and gloppy, if so, add some pasta water, 1 tablespoon at a time, until you reach your desired sauce consistency. The sauce should coat every strand of pasta.
5. Season with salt and pepper, to taste.
6. Serve pasta onto plates. Top with small cubes of avocado. Other ingredients you can use are pine nuts, extra coriander, sesame seeds, chilli flakes.. An endless list really! Drizzle with some olive oil (if you wish), and eat.

[instagrammed] – Pork & turkey ragu

We all have our comfort foods. Those few dishes that never fail to make you feel better, the dishes that put a smile on your face no matter how rubbish your day has been.

Whilst most of my comfort foods are Malaysian/Chinese, I do have a few non-Malaysian ones – and ragu is one of them. My take on ragu is by no means authentic, but it is the way R and I like it. 🙂

Someone on instagram asked me for this recipe, so I thought I might as well post it here. A blog post is long overdue anyway!

I used a mix of pork & turkey this time around, but alternative meats include beef, lamb, wildboar, or even duck. I tend to use two types of meats, as I find it gives that little something extra to the dish.

Do note that this recipe makes a fair bit of ragu – I always cook with the aim of having leftovers (hello, packed lunch!), plus meat usually comes in 500g packs. The recipe is easily halved though. Also, amounts for seasonings are approximate: please taste as you go along!

Pork & turkey ragu
Serves 4-6, generously!

  • 500g minced pork
  • 500g minced turkey
  • 1 onion, diced finely
  • 3 cloves garlic, diced finely
  • 250g chestnut mushrooms, diced/sliced finely (optional) – sometimes I use carrots
  • 3 tbsp red wine
  • 2 x 400g cans chopped tomatoes
  • 3 tbsp Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 tbsp sugar (I use castor sugar)
  • 4 small bay leaves
  • Salt and pepper, to taste

1. Heat some oil in a large pan (one that has a cover – you will need this later), over high heat. Fry the chopped onions and garlic for several minutes, until they become fragrant.
2. Add the pork and turkey mince to the pan, and fry until lightly browned.
3. Add the chopped mushrooms to the pan (if using), and fry for a minute or so until they shrink slightly.
4. Add the red wine to the pan, and stir for 1 minute.
5. Add the sugar, Worcestershire sauce and chopped tomatoes to the pan. Bring the sauce to a boil.
6. Once the sauce is bubbling, turn down the heat to low. Add the bay leaves, salt and pepper to the pan. I’d advise underseasoning with salt/pepper at this point – it’s very easy to add more salt, but very much harder to save a dish that is too salty!
7. Cover the pan, and simmer on low heat for at least 1 hour, until the oils float to the surface of the sauce.
8. Taste and add more salt/pepper as needed. If the sauce is too wet for your liking, you can leave it to simmer for a further 10-15 minutes, uncovered.
9. Serve with a carbohydrate of your choice – pasta, rice, couscous, polenta, freshly baked bread… it all works! In the photo above, I served the ragu with some pappardelle.

Hello Fresh: recipe-ready groceries delivered to your doorstep!

Hello Fresh is a relatively new company which has come up with a brilliant concept: they provide you with recipe-ready groceries… and deliver it right to your doorstep. You might be thinking “online groceries? Old news.” – but hold that thought, because Hello Fresh is so much more than that.

You’ll notice that I used the term “recipe-ready” groceries – this is because all the ingredients supplied come with accompanying recipes, and all ingredients are portioned accordingly. Basically, if you are planning to cook spaghetti bolognese – you get the exact amounts of ingredients for this (based on the accompanying recipes). I think this is quite a brilliant idea, as it definitely helps minimise waste (and let’s admit it, we have all thrown something out before).

All the supplied recipes are created by chefs who ensure that the meals are delicious and balanced. More importantly, they are all easy to prepare, and can be completed in 30 minutes.

So, that all sounds great – but how much does it cost? A bag of ‘3 meals’ costs £39 for 2 people, and £59 for 4 people. (Delivery costs are included.) I know some people might think that this is a little expensive, but I think it’s a fair price as Hello Fresh provide a good range of meals, and they source good quality products. For example, my chicken/sausages were from a butcher, and not bought from a high street grocery store (because really, I could just buy those myself). There were still items that were from stores like Sainsburys though.

Oh, and Hello Fresh is subscription based and has no minimum term, with a 6 day notice period. Which means you can opt out at any time, should you wish to do so.

But enough about all that, because the most important thing is what the service/meals are actually like. I tried out the 5-meal plan. However, I only took photos of 4 of the 5 dishes though, as I forgot to take photos of the last one. I know – forgot? Totally unacceptable in food blogger world, but oh well. I’m not going to elaborate much on each recipe as I’m never very good with words, so hopefully the photos will do the elaborating.

The meals I had were:

1) Tuscan meatballs with spaghetti, fresh basil and tomato sauce

Meatballs – who doesn’t love them? This was a perfect meal to have in my bag, and my love for meatballs meant I cooked this first. I actually learnt a few new things from the recipe.. like how adding grated Pecorino & chopped Porcini mushrooms helps to enhance the flavour of the meatballs. And how rolling the meatballs in cous cous before pan frying them gives a great, crunchy finish! Never too late to learn. 😉

This was my favourite meal of the lot, and the people at Hello Fresh have kindly agreed to let me reproduce the recipe here. I have rewritten the methods of the recipe though (I never feel comfortable just copy-pasting someone else’s recipe!), as I tend to have a preferred way of writing. [Recipe at the end of the post.]

2) Sesame crusted salmon, with cous cous & cherry tomato salsa

It was great to see that Hello Fresh gives a good balance of meals in the bag – as a medic, I’m highly paranoid about eating a balanced diet (we try to eat fish twice a week, with one vegetarian meal thrown in somewhere)… so I was glad to see salmon in one of the recipes!

I often eat cous cous, but I’ve never added fried onions for flavour/texture (those are the flecks you see in the cous cous). Another trick learnt!

3) Artisan sausages with roasted garlic mash & red onion gravy

Bangers and mash. British comfort food at its best, wouldn’t you say? What I loved most about this was how the sausages were sourced from a specialist butcher, which probably explains why they are one of the best sausages I’ve tasted in a long time.

4) Thai red curry with chicken & toasted cashews

So this was the fourth day, and I totally blanked and forgot to take a photo of the ingredients as I was in a rush to cook (read: I was too hungry/greedy/insert appropriate adjective here).

This came with a pack of pre-made red curry paste (a Thai brand which I remember buying when I was in Bangkok some years ago). I hope that you all don’t scorn pre-made curry paste, because truth be told, sometimes they taste MUCH better than homemade curry pastes.

The rice that I served on the side was supplied in the pack.

5) Pea, mint & goats cheese risotto
Err yes. So this is the dish I have absolutely no photos of whatsoever. Apologies!

So… what did I think of Hello Fresh and the service they’re providing?
What I liked:
– Portioned ingredients, which helps minimise waste.
– Not having to think of what to cook for dinner (I’m very fickle and have too many ideas, so this is a good thing for me).
– Good balance of meals: I had fish, chicken, beef, vegetarian & pork.
– Good variety of cusines: I had Italian, Thai, British, (and I’m not sure what category the salmon/cous cous & risotto dishes fall under).
– Excellent, friendly customer service.

What I thought could be improved:
– Giving customers the opportunity to choose the recipes/meals that come in the pack. Or at least, the chance to state particular ‘main’ ingredients that you dislike e.g. aubergines (which could potentially be the main ingredient of a vegetable curry). It would be a shame if someone got a pack with something they didn’t like, which would mean a high chance of throwing it out = wastage.
– The green on black text on the recipe cards weren’t great contrast wise, I can imagine it would be a little hard to read in poor lighting etc. White text on black might work better? I also thought the recipes were a little wordy, but I suspect this is a personal preference.
– Expanding the service outside of London (they currently only deliver to London addresses).

Basically, Hello Fresh is a service that aims to give you a convenient way of eating home cooked dinners. It’s great if you can’t be bothered to figure out what to cook, and don’t have the time to hit the shops in time to get groceries for dinner.

Would I pay for this service? Yes. But only once every so often (because I do enjoy experimenting and not sticking to recipes – ha!), and I’d go for the 3 meal plan vs the 5 meal plan.

* I received a bag of 5 meals courtesy of Hello Fresh, but all the opinions expressed above are my own. 

Tuscan meatballs with spaghetti, fresh basil & tomato sauce
Recipe courtesy of the Hello Fresh chefs (with some modifications)
Serves 4

  • 500g beef mince
  • 4 cloves garlic, finely diced
  • 3 tsp dried oregano
  • 3 tsp porcini mushrooms, soaked in hot water for 5 minutes, then finely diced
  • 40g pecorino cheese (or Parmesan)
  • 4 Jacobs crackers, crushed to resemble breadcrumbs
  • 6 tbsp couscous
  • 2 Eschalion shallots
  • 2 tins chopped tomatoes
  • bunch basil leaves (approx 30g), roughly chopped
  • salt & pepper, to taste
  • 500g spaghetti, cooked according to package instructions until al dente (you can do this in a pot whilst you’re making the meatballs)

1. In a large bowl, mix the beef mince, garlic, porcini mushrooms, crushed Jacob crackers, grated Pecorino, and salt/pepper to taste. (I used 1/2 tsp of salt, and 1 tsp pepper). Using your hands, mix the ingredients together until they are well incorporated.
2. Form the meatball mixture into 2-3cm balls. Roll each individual meatball in cous cous. Set the meatballs aside.
3. Place a non-stick pan on medium heat, and gently fry the diced shallots in olive oil until they turn fragrant.
4. Add the chopped tomatoes to the pan, and simmer on medium heat. If the sauce starts becoming too dry, you can add some water to the pan to thin it down.
5. Whilst the tomato sauce is simmering, heat a non-stick pan over high heat. Brown the meatballs on all sides until they are cooked through (this should take around 6 minutes). If you’re unsure if they are cooked through, cut one open – this is the best way to tell!*
6. Add the meatballs to the tomato sauce (which should have reduced down nicely by now). Add the chopped basil leaves to the sauce, and season with salt and pepper (to taste).
7. Serve the meatballs/tomato sauce mixture over spaghetti. Top with grated Parmesan, and eat!

* To cut down on washing up/having too many pans on the go at one time: cook your meatballs in the oven. If you choose to do this, I’d advise not rolling the uncooked meatballs in cous cous (as you won’t get the same ‘crisp’ from the couscous without pan frying – i.e. there’s not much point). Bake the meatballs in a 180’C oven for 15-20 minutes, until cooked through. You can then add the meatballs to the tomato sauce, as in step 6.

Scarpetta’s tomato basil spaghetti

I can’t believe it’s 2011 already. I mean, could time pass by any more quickly?

Everyone always tries to be healthier in the new year, especially after the Christmas/New Year “stuff yourself silly” festivities. Although I don’t believe in dieting (hunger makes me grumpy), I do believe in trying to eat healthy. So for the rest of this month, I will be trying to eat more greens and fish, and less dessert. Not sure how well I will actually fare with this, considering how much bbq pork belly I ate in Koba today… oh well. 😛

But in the spirit of healthiness, here is a fairly healthy pasta recipe. (I say fairly healthy because there is some butter and Parmesan used in the recipe.) I first saw this recipe on Jaden’s blog, was immediately taken by the simplicity of the recipe, and so bookmarked it. I have lots of bookmarked recipes, so this was left for a good period of time. But this pasta kept on popping up on the food radar, with everyone raving about how good it was. Which obviously meant that I *had* to try making it.

This tomato basil spaghetti is one of the most popular dishes at New York’s Scarpetta (so I hear), and I’ve read about people who specially make a trip to Scarpetta to try this dish. And after making it, I can see why. The freshness and sweetness of the tomato sauce that coats each strand of spaghetti is infinitely better than ready made pasta sauces – and when you think about how simple it is to make, it will make you want to give up on premade sauces altogether.

The original recipe calls for fresh plum tomatoes, but I used a mixture of fresh and canned plum tomatoes. The quality of your tomatoes are important, as you want the freshest and sweetest tomatoes you can find (they don’t necessarily have to be plum tomatoes, I’m sure other varieties would work just as well). Quality may cost more, but trust me when I say it will be worth it when it comes to making this sauce.

The spaghetti is served with a garlic basil oil, which in my opinion brings the dish to another level whilst not overpowering the star of the event – the tomato sauce. The oil is made by infusing garlic, fresh basil leaves and a pinch of chilli flakes in hot olive oil. I might take the “lazy” route the next time I make this, and infuse fresh basil leaves in store bought garlic olive oil (Waitrose does a fantastic one which I use everytime I don’t want to chop garlic). Plus I think that the intensity of garlic is more evident in the store bought oil – I’m a HUGE fan of garlic you see.

Scarpetta’s tomato basil spaghetti
Adapted from this recipe on Steamy Kitchen, who adapted it from Scarpetta and Scott Conant

For the sauce:

  • 6 ripe tomatoes (preferably plum tomatoes)
  • One 400g can of peeled plum tomatoes
  • 3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • Pinch of red chilli pepper flakes
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

For the garlic basil oil:

  • 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 6-8 whole cloves garlic
  • 10 whole fresh basil leaves
  • Generous pinch crushed red chilli pepper flakes

To finish:

  • 500g spaghetti
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan
  • 6 to 8 fresh basil leaves, sliced thinly

To prepare the tomatoes: (you get to skip this whole part if you use canned tomatoes)
1. Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Have a large bowl of ice water nearby.
2. Whilst waiting for the water to come to a boil, cut a small X on the bottom of each tomato. Ease tomatoes into the pot and boil for about 15 seconds, then promptly move them to the waiting ice water.
3. Pull off the tomato skin with the tip of a knife (a normal butter knife works fine).
4. Cut the tomatoes in half and use your finger to flick out the seeds.

To prepare the tomato sauce:
5. Heat olive oil in a large pan over medium high heat. Add the tomatoes (both fresh and canned) and red chilli flakes to the pan, and season with salt and pepper. It’s safer to under-season at this point, as the sauce will reduce down later.
6. Let the tomatoes cook for approximately 5 minutes, or until they become soft and mushy.
7. Use a potato masher to mash up the tomatoes. (You don’t have to mash it all into a smooth paste, but I try to mash it up as finely as possible.)
8. Cook the tomato sauce for 20-25 minutes, until it thickens. Whilst the sauce is cooking, make the garlic basil oil.

To make the garlic basil oil:
9. Put the olive oil, garlic cloves, basil leaves and pepper flakes in a small saucepan, and heat over low heat. Allow the ingredients to warm slowly to release their flavours.
10. When the garlic is lightly browned, turn off the heat, and let it cool.
11. Before using, strain the oil and discard the solids.

And to put it all together:
12. Cook the spaghetti in boiling, salted water until just shy of al dente. Drain and reserve a little pasta cooking water.
13. Add the spaghetti to the tomato sauce and cook over medium high heat, gently tossing the pasta and the sauce together with a couple of wooden spoons. (You can use tongs but this increases the risk of breaking up the wonderfully long pasta strands.) If the sauce seems too thick, add a little pasta cooking water to it to thin it down.
14. Remove pan from the heat, and toss with the butter, basil and Parmesan.
15. Serve the spaghetti into plates, drizzle with the garlic basil oil, and serve!

The food of Florence [Part 2]

It has been very warm in London lately, and the sun has brought back many fond memories of my recent trip to Florence. In an ideal world, I’d jump on a plane and fly out to Florence again (because it has truly won its place as one of my favourite holiday destinations)… but for now I’ll just have to be content with looking back at photos and reminiscing.

As I mentioned previously, the only part of the trip I planned (besides where we would stay, of course) was the food. I actually had a list of restaurants tucked in my handbag, which I constantly referred to in the time we were there. One of the places that was high up on that list was Osteria I’Tozzo di Pane. I read many good reviews about this cozy little Italian tavern, tucked away in a quiet street away from the bustling tourist spots. It took a while to find it, but boy am I glad we did. The food was simple, but oh so good. And to top it all off, they had the most beautiful outdoor dining area – if only we had similar places in London! I can’t think of how to describe the area, so I’ll let a photo do the talking.

Isn’t that just so beautiful? We dined at an odd time, so the restaurant was almost empty. From what I hear, it gets really busy during dinner service – and I can imagine why! We dined there twice, but both times were during lunch so we never got to see the outdoor dining area by night.

I was happily snapping photos of my surroundings whilst waiting for the food to arrive…

Carpaccio di bresaola con rucola, scaglie di grana e limone (very typical salami beef with salad and cheese).  So simple, yet so good. The beef carpaccio was seasoned to perfection, and complemented the bitter rocket leaves well. The cheese was just icing on the cake, because what dish doesn’t taste good with cheese? (Please note that I am an utter cheese fanatic though – when I was younger, I used to throw cubes of cheddar cheese into Chinese style soup because err.. well, I liked the meltiness of it. My mum thought I was completely bonkers by the way, so I won’t be surprised if you are appalled by this.)

Salsiccia di cinghiale con carciofi marinati e mozzarella di bufala (wildboar sausage with artichoke and buffalo mozzarella). I was on a slight artichoke-mad phase whilst in Florence, and would inevitably be attracted by any dish that had artichokes in it. Based on the deliciousness of the wildboar ragu at Osteria del Cinghiale Bianco, I decided to order this and I was very happy with my choice. I sometimes find it amazing how simple ingredients can taste so good, because this was what it was. The meatiness of the wildboar, woodiness of the artichoke, the freshness of the buffalo mozzarella and the sweetness of the tomato slices went really well together, and I truly enjoyed this dish.

Carpaccio di carciofi con scaglie di pecorino e limone (artichoke carpaccio with pecorino cheese and lemon). More artichokes, yes. I’m unstoppable when I’m on a food craze. Also, artichokes are rarely used as the star of the dish in London, and it was really nice to see it being featured so heavily in Florence. This was very good, and the artichoke carpaccio was perfectly seasoned. I suspect meat lovers may feel that the dish is lacking ‘meat’ though.

Orecchiette con salsiccia, cavolo nero e semi di finocchietto (pasta with pork sausage, black cabbage and fennel seeds). I absolutely LOVED this dish. I’d never even heard of black cabbage (also known as black kale/Tuscan kale) before eating this dish, and I’m so glad I now know that it exists. I felt that the addition of the fennel seeds elevated the pasta sauce to something really special. I was planning to order it again when we returned two days later…. but alas, they didn’t have it on the menu! (The menu had changed ever so slightly… it’s good though as it probably means the food they cook is dependent on the produce that is available on the day.)

Garganelli di pasta fresca con zucchine spek e zafferano (fresh pasta with smoked ham, zucchini and saffron). Now, we’ve all cooked a ham and zucchini/courgette pasta at some point. But I’Tozzo goes one step further and adds saffron. And my oh my it does it work well. This was a perfect example of how Italians manage to keep their pastas simple but so wonderfully delicious.

Spaghetti alle vongole (spaghetti with clams). Again a wonderful example of how you don’t need many ingredients to create a stunning dish. I always find it hard to plate pasta/noodles, as mine inevitably ends up looking really un-artistic and ugly. I can only look at the wonderful pasta and noodle photos in Donna Hay magazine and hope that one day, I will learn how to plate noodles properly. Anyway, I digress. I meant to say that I loved how this was plated, and the sprinkling of chopped parsley added more colour and vibrancy to the dish. No paramesan with this dish: our waiter pleaded “please don’t use parmesan, pleeease” when he brought this to the table. Heh.

Filetto di maiale all’aceto balsamico (balsamic vinegar pork fillet). I daresay this was R’s favourite dish in I’Tozzo, as he ordered it on both visits. It doesn’t look like much, but it definitely delivers on taste. The pork fillet was beautifully tender and each bite gives you a huge hit of balsamic vinegar. I enjoyed this, but not as much as R – but that’s because I have very sensitive teeth that don’t do very well with acidic foods like vinegar. Having said that I did eat a fair bit of this… as much as R would allow me to anyway!

Straccetti di manzo al vino rosso e finocchietto (beef in red wine with fennel seeds). This was good, but not as good as all the other dishes that we tried here. The beef chunks, whilst perfectly seasoned, were ever so slightly tough – which made me not as fond of it as I could potentially have been.

Panna cotta with a chocolate sauce. Now, compared to the panna cotta at Osteria del Cinghiale Bianco, this was much much creamier. I could literally feel the pounds piling on as I ate this. Not that it stopped me from finishing it, of course. My only gripe about this was that the chocolate sauce wasn’t thick enough.. perhaps an attempt to not make the dessert too cloying? If I could, I’d eat the panna cotta from I’Tozzo with the chocolate sauce from Osteria del Cinghiale Bianco. If only.

So yes. This is just a glimpse of the wonderful dishes at this cozy and friendly osteria. I daresay we experienced the friendliest and most helpful service here – our waiter (whose name I forgot to ask for!) was the most cheerful waiter I have EVER come across, and was constantly humming/singing. It also helps that he recommended an excellent gelato shop to us, and even marked it on my map! (I shall blog about gelato in a future post.)

Delicious food and excellent service. Could a girl want any more?

Osteria I’Tozzo di Pane
Via Guelfa 94/r
50129 Firenze
http://www.osteriatozzodipane.it/en_home.html

The food of Florence [part 1]

My attitude towards food has changed in the last few years. I used to be the sort of person who would ‘wing’ it when it came to meals whilst on holiday. Then there’s the me of today, who researches the food before anything else when it comes to holidays… and you know what, I’ve eaten better since I started doing this. I mean, trawling through restaurant reviews and making a shortlist of restaurants has to have some sort of benefit, right? 😀

We truly indulged in food (and gelato) whilst in Florence. Don’t ask me what it was, but we were eating twice the amount we normally do in London. I don’t regret a single bite of it though, and would go back and do it all again. (Except if I did I might no longer fit into my clothes….)

If you’re not familiar with Italian dining, the menu is often broken down into a few parts… First of all you have the antipasti (which translates into “before meal”), which is usually a selection of cold items like cured meats. Then you have the primi piatti (first course) which consists of dishes like pasta, polenta or soups; as well as the secondi piatti (second course) of meat or fish. Lastly there’s the dolce (desserts). From what I understand, not everyone has all 4 courses… because let’s face it, that is a whole lot of food to eat. When we were there, we ate 3 courses at the most.

Here’s a peek of the deliciousness that was Florence…

Osteria del Cinghiale Bianco

I’d read good things about this osteria, and immediately put it on my ‘to eat’ list after I visited their website. What can I say, I’m a complete sucker for well constructed websites with good photos. I wasn’t dissapointed though, so maybe this whole ‘judging a book by its cover’ thing works at times…

Photos (unfortunately) have a yellowish tinge to them due to the lighting… *sniff* Food was amazing though, so look past the yellow-ness! 🙂

Taglierini al tartufo (taglierini with fresh truffle) – this dish was simplicity at it’s best. Being someone who had never tried truffles before (I know, shocking) I instantly fell in love. The strong nutty flavours of the truffle complemented the perfectly cooked taglierini very well, and I only wish I could have regular access to this dish in London.

Pappardelle al cinghiale (wide ribbon noodles with boar sauce) – by far, one of the best ragus I’ve ever tasted. I suspect it’s because it used wild boar meat for the sauce, which gave it a very hearty and “meaty” taste. If only I had easy access to wild boar meat!

Coniglio arrosto con patate (roast rabbit with potatoes) – It’s always nice to see rabbit on the menu, and we decided to have this as one of our main courses. I don’t know about you, but I find that rabbit tastes very similar to chicken – but with a slightly game-ier aspect to it. If that makes any sense.

Maialino arrosto con contorno (roast baby pig with roast potatoes) – I’m a sucker for pork, especially when it’s cooked well. This dish was cooked perfectly, and the meat was deliciously tender. Accompanied with the roast potatoes and gravy, I was in heaven. 🙂

Panna cotta with chocolate sauce – Now I must be honest, I was completely stuffed by the time it came to contemplate dessert. But I had spied the neighbouring table order some dessert and willed my stomach to make some space for something sweet. Mind over matter and all, you know. 😉 Boy was I glad I did. This panna cotta was perfect. Creamy, gooey, and with just the right amount of wobble. The chocolate sauce that came with it was rich and not overly sweet, and was a perfect pairing to the panna cotta. I could eat this everyday.

Tiramisu – this didn’t look like very much when it was brought to the table, but I must admit it did taste good. The sweet mascarpone cream, liqueur soaked sponge and coffee flavour… all done to perfection. I still preferred the panna cotta though, and I suspect it’s because I was enthralled by it’s wobbliness. 😀

Il Santo Bevitore

We turned up (without a reservation) at this very popular restaurant around 8pm, and was told that there were only 2 tables left, but they were located near the kitchen. I like having a nice atmosphere when dining, but in this instance the need to try out this highly rated restaurant overrode the need for not seeing waiters rushing in and out of the kitchen. And you know what, I barely noticed them. One thing I really did not like about this place was how DARK it was! Sure, it was romantic and all but it was a nightmare for any food blogger. All I had for lighting was literally the candle on the table (oh and some really dim lights on the ceiling)… I wanted to weep. I still managed to take photos though, but please forgive the poor quality!

Also, I forgot to note down the exact names of the dishes so I’ll be describing them based on what I remembered of the waiter’s explanations…

Spaghettini with clams, fresh spring onions and botargo fish roe. I expected the usual spherical fish roe, and was very surprised when this dish came to the table – my first thought was “where is my fish roe?”. Then I realised that the shaved orange pieces on sitting upon the mound of pasta were the roe.. and you know what, they tasted really good. A bit like a very fishy version of proscuitto. I’ve since done a spot of googling and found out that botargo is a Mediterranean delicacy of cured fish roe, usually served grated or in thin slices. The fresh spring onions were an interesting addition, and gave a ‘fresh’ taste that cut through the fishiness of the roe and the clams. I really enjoyed this dish.

Pasta with a duck ragu, topped with a deep fried sage leaf. I love duck (roast duck rice is truly one of my comfort foods), but have never ever had it with pasta. This dish was a revelation – I mean, duck in pasta? Genius. I might just have to attempt recreating this at home.

Artichoke souffle topped with fried artichokes, served with a lemon sauce. Now, I really wanted to try this because I looove souffles. I was expecting some really nice puffy souffle, and was really disappointed when this was served. It tasted more like a mousse than a souffle. I have to admit that I enjoyed the flavour of artichokes in this, but I wish I had forgone this dish to make space for dessert – what was I thinking? Sniff.

Grilled octopus served with romano chicory and citrus glaze. I can safely say all my previous experiences of eating octopus has not involved eating a beast as big as this. It was beautifully cooked with no hint of rubbery (I hate it when that happens)… glorious. Admittedly I wasn’t a fan of the chicory, but that’s because I don’t like anything that’s bitter. Errr so I just ate the octopus. R had to eat most of the chicory. 😛

Cod fillet with caramelised aubergines and juniper berries. This dish was SO pretty. As I have mentioned, I’m a complete sucker for anything that is plated beautifully, and this dish was one of those. The cod was perfectly cooked, and I especially enjoyed the crust – not sure what it was… possibly some semolina? No idea. The caramelised aubergines were divine, with just the right amount of charring on them. All that paired with the mild sweetness of the juniper berries made for a very good dish.

Trattoria Sant’Agostino 23

This was located slightly off the main areas of Florence, in a ‘not so touristy’ area. We turned up quite early (it was just after seven I believe) and were told they only opened at eight! So it was off for another wander around the streets of Florence until 8 o’clock came about. The menu was in Italian (no English menus here) so we had to ask our waiter for help when it came to ordering. The food here was lovely but something was lacking… maybe it was the fact that the restaurant was really empty (it was a Wednesday night), or the fact that they forgot to bring the white beans that we ordered to go with our steak. But as I said, the food was good so it didn’t matter as much.

Spaghettone in salsa d’acciuga (spaghetti with an anchovy sauce). The menu stated that this would take 18 minutes to prepare, but we weren’t too fussed as we weren’t in a rush. I’m also a huge fan of anchovies and wasn’t going to pass up a chance to try this. And I’m so glad I did. I don’t know how they did it, but the pasta was miraculously not salty at all. I’m still trying to figure it out, because I would love to recreate this in my own kitchen.

Mille righe al sugo di carne (penne with a ragu sauce). This was good, but not as good as the wild boar ragu we had at Osteria del Cinghiale Bianco. I know it’s not really fair to compare wildboar and beef, but oh man, wildboar ragu is awesome.

Bifstecca alla fiorentina (Florentine steak). One word – yum. We eat our steaks medium rare, and they cooked it perfectly. Not too underdone, and not too overdone. The meat was also beautifully tender, not something I can always say about steaks. Now, I won’t lie – I have almost no knowledge of steaks (apart from how to eat them), so I decided to do a spot of googling. It’s actually rather scary how I rely so heavily on google… Anyway. Florentine steak is essentially a T-bone or porterhouse steak (taken from the loins), usually from Chianina or Maremmana breeds. It’s usually cooked rare or medium rare over a grill/charcoal fire, and served with a side of white beans. We ordered some beans to go with the steak, but it never came. You might ask why we didn’t ask for it, but the waiters were no where in sight for the first 5 minutes, and I’m not someone who can refrain from eating food that’s sitting right in front of me. It didn’t take anything away from the gloriousness of the steak though.

So yes, that’s some of the food we ate in Florence. Just so you know, I’ll be blogging about other things in between the Florence posts, as to not bore you all. 🙂

Osteria del Cinghiale Bianco
Borgo San Jacopo, 62r
50125 Firenze, Italia
+39 055 215706
http://www.cinghialebianco.it/ (for some reason their site seems to be down at the moment…)
Closed Wednesdays

Il Santo Bevitore
Via di Santo Spirito 64 r
50125 Firenze
+39 055 211264
http://www.ilsantobevitore.com/home.htm

And lastly (forgot to take a photo of this one):

Sant’Agostino23
Via Sant’Agostino 23r
50125 Firenze
+39 055 210208

Courgette, tomato & anchovy pappardelle

I’ve always wanted to own a grater that would enable me to julienne vegetables effortlessly.. but have never managed to find one – till two weeks ago! I bought a Japanese grater when I was back home for summer, hoping that I had finally found “the one”. And I wasn’t dissapointed, as I managed to julienne the courgettes for this pasta rather effortlessly! The best thing about this is that it not only juliennes, but can also thinly slice! All I have to do is to push the two little levers on each side to switch between both functions. I’m just hoping that it stays sharp! 🙂

My new toy!

This pasta dish is very simple, and is perfect for a weekday dinner when there isn’t much time to cook. I put it together based on what I had in the fridge (taking into the account the fact that I wanted to try out my new grater, hehe) and can be adapted very easily. I’ve included a very approximate recipe here, which admittedly isn’t very well written, but I will hopefully get better at it over time.

Courgette, tomato & anchovy pappardelle
serves 3-4

  • 1 pack fresh lasagna sheets
  • 2 courgettes
  • 300g cherry tomatoes
  • 1 can (approx. 50g) of anchovies in garlic
  • 10-12 cream crackers, or 40-50g breadcrumbs
  • olive oil
  • pepper, to taste
  1. Cut the lasagna sheets into (approximately) 2cm strips, and boil them in salted water for 3-5 minutes.
  2. In the meantime, julienne the courgettes and halve the cherry tomatoes.
  3. Put a pan on medium heat, and heat the anchovies, followed by the cherry tomatoes and courgettes.
  4. Once everything is heated through, add the cut lasagna strips/pappardelle to the pan, and stir everything together.
  5. If using cream crackers, crush them finely to make breadcrumbs.
  6. Add the breadcrumbs to the pan, and quickly stir it through the pasta.
  7. Dish into plates, add pepper to taste, and eat!