Lentils and sausages, but mostly it’s about the lentils

Just back from seeing my partner’s parents in Rome. Spent a wonderful week checking out the sights and La Sapienza’s botanic gardens. She who knits‘ dad took me to Volpetti’s food store where I bought, amongst other things, two expensive bags of lentils. The first, Lenticchia di Castellucio di Norcia, are from Central Italy and have Protected Geographical Status. The second are organic Lenticchie dell’isola di Ustica, which I’ll blog about later.

packet of Lenticchia di Castellucio di Norcia
From http://www.wonderumbria.com/

This bag of lentils was on the counter and I thought they’re pretty. They weren’t green lentils, nor brown. Some were greeny-brown, others more browny-green. When I got back home and was going to cook them, I noticed that there were a whole range of different colours: from brown to a faded green. And some lentils were mottled, others speckled; some more, some less. How bizarre!

Lentils, showing variation of colour from brown to faded green
From http://www.academiabarilla.com

Lenticchie e Salsicce

Put 100 grammes of lentils per person in cold water, with celery and a clove of garlic. Bring to boil and keep boiling for about 30 minutes, adding salt to taste only at the end of cooking.

Meanwhile, prepare a tomato sauce: quickly fry a finely-chopped onion in olive oil on a high heat and then add tomatoes and some tomato puree. Add the sausage meat and simmer until cooked.

Add the cooked lentils to the sauce and cook on a very low heat for a few minutes.

Fantastic stuff! I would take a photo but the digital camera is still in Rome.

This recipe was translated and adapted from the back of the packet of lentils. There’s one phrase that I don’t understand: “La lenticchia non va tenuta a bagno. Si consiglia una scelta a dito e un accurato lavaggio prima della cottura” Scelta is quality and dito a finger, so I think this is asking me to manually check the lentils [for stones] since they’ve not been washed. Accurato means careful in this instance.

Google translate thinks otherwise,

that lentils should not be kept in the bathroom. It is advisable to choose a finger and a thorough cleaning before cooking.

Which is less than helpful…

What I like about it is the mix of precision for the lentils and latitude for the other ingredients. I’ve made this with more tinned tomatoes that I usually would, ‘cos I had 3/4 of a tin left over from Sunday, and I was worried that the dish would be a bit sloppy. But no worries: the slow cooking at the end really binds the dish together.


Lao Tsu’s journey of a thousand miles, and squash soup

Lao Tsu’s phrase ‘a journey of a thousand miles…’ crops up frequently, although I wish it was quoted with the other two lines. Here’s an excerpt from chapter 64 of the Tao Te Ching, translation by Gia-fu Feng and Jane English, 1972.

Deal with it before it happens
Set things in order before there is confusion

A tree as great as a man’s embrace begins as a tiny shoot
A terrace nine stories high begins with a pile of earth
A journey of a thousand miles starts under one’s feet

duhtao.com has multiple translations & a nifty side-by-side comparison

I’ve taken the daughter to a couple of galleries in the last couple of days. Yesterday we caught the Fruitmarket exhibition ‘end of the line: beyond drawing’. Upstairs there were a number of drawn reproductions of posters, and she pointed out a WWII Russian soldier bayonetting a caricature of Hitler. The Russian was drawn boldly — solid blocks of black — at the top of the piece, and Hitler, craven and wizened at the bottom of the page. I was explaining how the Russian was destroying Hitler and she asked whether that destroyed the Russian too.

What others teach , I also teach; that is:
“A violent man will die a violent death”
This will be the essence of my teaching

Tao Te Ching, Chapter 42.

Today, we went round the Gallery on the Mound. When talking about Van Dyck’s Saint Sebastian bound for martyrdom, I noted that Sebastian would soon have arrows in him. And the girl asked what an arrow was…

In other news, Crown Prince squash is pretty amazing. I’ve roasted it with some other veggies for tea and it has lovely honeyed flesh. I also roasted some slices, cut the flesh from the skin, and made simple squash soup:

  • sauté shallots, add some caraway seeds, bung in chunks of roasted squash, add stock to cover
  • simmer
  • blend

But these fantastic flavours are balanced by the squash having dense flesh and really tough skin. I’m definitely going to grow squash this year, but I don’t know whether this is the variety I’ll choose.

Two lamb shanks recipes

Mum & step-dad came round yesterday for a meal, so I got 6 lamb shanks out of the freezer. Only then did I find out the the large casserole can only fit 4 in! Cue: a second day eating stewed lamb.

The general idea is: cook them at a low temperature, slowly, and with a lot of liquid.

Yesterday I used a Jamie Oliver recipe. Coated the shanks in rosemary, salt and pepper, browned them. Then sweated carrots, celery, onions, garlic and anchovies; white wine and tinned tomatoes provided the liquid; and then 2 hours in the oven, taking the lid off for the last half hour. The vegetables were cut up quite small and so the sauce thickened and reduced considerably. Served with roast potatoes, parsnips and carrot/swede mash.

Today: read a couple of cookery books and experimented. Coated the shanks in rosemary, salt and pepper, browned them; sweated big chunks of carrots, onion rings and anchovies; red wine and stock as liquid; 2 hours in the oven. The sauce was more liquid today and the onions retained their shape. Served with cous cous ‘cos I forgot to put any starch on until 5 minutes before serving…

Both recipes were tasty, so I think I’ve learned this lesson. Next time, though, I’ll try without wine because we don’t always have litres of the stuff kicking around.

Not an enchilada…

The plot’s looking a bit sad. I’m getting better at growing stuff, but the planning is awry as I’ve now only got garlic and beans left to harvest. When I look at the neighbours’ plots I see acres of potatoes, flowers and beans. Never mind; I’ve got ideas for the Autumn and beyond, and I’ve learned a lot from this year.

K wandered by on Sunday and gave me a bag of (stringless) runner beans. Fantastic flavour! On Sunday I made a great veggie stew and today I finished the beans off in a tortilla. I thought I was making an enchilada, but it turns out that enchilada is the past participle of enchilar – to add chile and mine didn’t have chile in. As an aside, I think that’s a cracking verb!

Veggie entomatada – no claims to authenticity

  • hard vegetables: sweet potato, beetroot, half an onion, carrot.
  • grated ginger
  • soft vegetables: mushrooms, leek, small tomatoes (halved), runner beans.
  • left-over haricot beans

Make a tomato sauce: sauté the other half an onion, add garlic and then sieved tomato. Set to one side.

In a heavy pan with a lid, sauté the hard vegetables and then put the lid on to let the veggies steam for a few minutes. Add the ginger and stir for a minute. Then add the soft vegetables and haricots, sauté and steam until all the veggies are tender. The veggies weren’t too wet.

Turn the oven on medium. Put the veggies into tortillas (from the inimitable Lupe Pintos), roll them up and into an ovenproof dish. Tomato sauce, cheese and then into the oven for a quarter hour.

Elderflower cordial update

The cordial recipe made 2 stoppered bottles and a half-full irn bru bottle. It’s a bit sweeter than I prefer and doesn’t have the full-on heady aroma, but it’s palatable and tastes of elderflowers. A success!

Summer pudding was as disappointing as the weather. Thick bread doesn’t work, there wasn’t enough juice, and there were too many strawberries relative to the other fruits. I also left it in the fridge too long and the outer layer of bread got a bit hard.

It’s not too late for elderflowers

The peak of the elderflower season’s gone but there are still a few newly-opened infloresences around, on lower branches or in sheltered spots. This year I vowed to make elderflower cordial and today is the day…

today's haul of elderflowers - about 25 heads

today's haul of elderflowers - about 25 heads

The first step in The River Cottage Cookbook recipe is to steep 20-30 heads of flowers + zest of 2 lemons in just-boiled water for 4 hours or overnight. The recipe also calls for zest of an orange, but I didn’t have one.

elderflower infloresences barely covered in just-boiled water

elderflower infloresences barely covered in just-boiled water

Strain the liquid. For each 500ml of liquid add 350g of sugar and 50ml of lemon juice. Here, I had 1100 ml liquid and used 775g add sugar and 125mllemon juice. Bring the mix to a gentle simmer, skim, leave to cool, strain again and bottle.

It’s gently cooling at the moment, and I’ll bottle it up before bed. Apparently she who knits’ mother is impressed that I’m making cordial.

Other produce today includes a few small turnips, two beetroot, a box of mixed lettuce and enough fruit (strawberries, blackcurrants and redcurrants) to make two summer puddings. Tomorrow, when the daughter is asleep for her afternoon nap, I’ll break them out for me and she who knits.

lettuce and summer fruit

lettuce and summer fruit

Two recipes

No real reason for posting except that I’ve cooked these tasty dishes in the last couple of days. The first recipe could be made with things grown on the plot; the second couldn’t.

Patate e Carciofi (potatoes and artichoke hearts)

Ingredients: Potatoes; jar of artichoke hearts; an onion; clove garlic; oil for cooking

Cube potatoes into 2cm chunks and parboil.

When they’re nearly finished parboiling, chop the onion into small pieces and sauté. Turn the heat up and add the parboiled potatoes. Chop the artichoke and garlic roughly and, when the potatoes are showing some colour, add them to the pan. Allow the artichokes to heat through and serve.

Nuala and I had this dish in Rome, just after coming out of the Vatican Museum. We’d left the daughter with her grandparents and headed off for an afternoon together. When we came out of the Vatican we went to catch a bus but got sidetracked by some food and a coffee in a lovely wee café down a side street.

I know this should be the place for putting up some pictures of sumptuous Vatican art, but instead here’s a picture of a wall by the café.

quite a lot of vegetation for masonry

quite a lot of vegetation for masonry

Rosemary flatbread

First time I’ve made bread…

1 and 3/4 cups flour (I used 1 cup bread flour, .75 plain)
1 tbs chopped rosemary
1 tsp baking powder
3/4 tsp salt
1/2 cup water
1/3 cup olive oil + more for brushing
flaky sea salt

1. Preheat oven to 230C and put a heavy baking tray in there.

2. Stir together the flour, rosemary, baking powder and salt.

3. Make a well in the centre, add water and oil, stirring into the flour with a wooden spoon until a dough forms.

4. Knead dough on a surface 4 or 5 times. Divid dough into 3 pieces and roll out 1 piece to 10 inch diameter. This is tricky when you have about 12 inches of counter space in the kitchen, but I like a challenge. Keep the other pieces under clingfilm.

5. Put a piece of baking parchment on the tray, lightly brush the top with oil and sprinkle with sea salt. Cook for 8-10 minutes, then repeat for the other two pieces and use new baking parchment each time.

Eaten with humous and then a big bowl of minestrone soup…

Good news and good food

Received word from the RBGE that I’ve passed the Certificate of Practical Horticulture with merit. Not only that, but because that was the first year the course was run and there were some teething problems with the course handbook etc., all the students have been offered a free place on a one-day course next year.

The course was enjoyable, the assessment day was fun and I’ve got something to show from it. However I won’t be able to make the award ceremony since I’m at Typography: thinking with type on that day.

This evening I headed to the allotment via Waitrose. I wanted to make Summer Pudding, so wanted to get some cream. The thought of the ride from Shandon to Morningside, through Craiglockhart Woods and to the allotment was also enticing. At the plot I picked redcurrants, raspberries, strawberries and blackcurrants and then headed home, getting there just before the rain came on.

Summer Pudding adapted from Nigel Slater’s Appetite

Put the fruits in a pan with enough water to cover them, then boil for a couple of minutes. This will burst the skin and release the juice. Into a suitable receptacle (I used a glass tumbler), layer sliced white bread and the fruit mixture, keeping the bread very moist. Then pop it in the fridge for an hour, turn out and serve with goat cream.

tasty Summer Pudding with cream

tasty Summer Pudding with cream

In other news: I’ve signed up for the four week long beginners course in Italian at IALS starting at the end of this month.

Feeding guests from the allotment

Sat 14: a couple of hours, weeding and picking fruit. Inordinately happy to be picking fruit form the plot, although I’m learning how to do things for next year. Fed houseguests this weekend with a Scottish dessert consisting of raspberries and blackcurrants from the allotment, strawberries from Fife and ice cream from Orkney.

Tried to get rid of some slugs that were hanging round the courgettes. Still a bit squeamish about killing them, although I have a new-found respect as they’re tough to drown, with one particularly big one which kept climbing out of the plastic water container. I eventually chucked them in the river.

And there’s one French bean which is holding out. A small tendril is curling up the bamboo, so there may be a few beans this year.