Anna, Marcella and Iron – With Marcella #172 (of 466)

Recently, I’ve been trying to get to grips with what seems like it might be an allergy. I’ve never been allergic to anything before. I’m still hoping that it’s not an allergy and that I can carry on eating eggs. In the process of sorting this out, the doctor was asking about iron and if I get enough iron in my diet. We figured I did. The last two nights, I’ve just happened to cook with good healthy ingredients that have some amount of iron, so that’s encouraging. I’m noticing these things more now.

Last night, in the interests of using up some ‘bunch spinach’ in the fridge, I revisited Anna Del Conte’s great work ‘Classic Italian Recipes’.

This is the very first cookbook where I started working my way through all the recipes. I was learning Italian at the time (the language, not cooking). I was pretty terrible at the language. I got better at the cooking.

Last night, I cooked Anna’s ‘Spinach Sautéed in Oil and Lemon’. That was recipe #50 I’ve cooked of the 75 in her book. It was quick, delicious and better than it looks in the photo!

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Tonight I quickly whipped up Marcella’s ‘White Bean Soup with Garlic and Parsley.’ It took all of 15 minutes from pantry to plate. I used a little more liquid than the recipe, but that was how I preferred it. Like the spinach, it was also quick, delicious and better than it looks.

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If you haven’t already delved into these two cookbooks, you must! They are both full of excellent, mostly very simple, well-tested recipes that work.

I couldn’t recommend them more strongly!

#173 ‘White Bean Soup with Garlic and Parsley’ with Nick, Anna, Marcella and iron at my table.

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Thanks, Kev! – With Marcella #166, #167, #168, #169, #170, #171 & #172 (of 466)

Here on our property at Razorback, NSW, we’ve raised some Charolais cattle. We’ve done this through times of green and, more recently, a year of drought. During that time, a few of our bovine family have ‘gone to Grandma and Grandpa’s’. Normally this means they’ve gone to greener pastures and some hand-mown grass clipping treats from Grandpa.

However, recently the drought has meant that even their greener pastures have been challenged. Kev (a Charolais-Wagyu cross) had a couple of good years up at the grandparent’s place. But then he proved not to be a very ‘effective’ bull. In lean times, an ineffective bull means it’s more effective for him to migrate to the freezer.

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A younger Kev (on the right) at my parent’s place, in greener times.

Tough. But true.

My parents have a kind butcher that came to the farm to assist Kev on that final journey in a non-traumatic way. He was then shared between the freezers of three households including ours.

While it can be somewhat unsettling to eat meat from one of your own cows, it is comforting to know that Kev lived a happy life that ended without trauma.

Marcella’s ‘Beef’ chapter proved helpful. The butcher declared that Kev was ‘pretty lean’ (because of the drought), so we didn’t end up with lots of ‘marbled meat’. But we figure it’s healthier that way….

The one beef recipe I remembered to take a photo of is seen below, along with a few others made from things other than beef. The other beef recipes mentioned at the end were equally delicious.

Each time we sit to eat a meal of beef, we toast Kev and give thanks for his life!

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Tuscan Meat Roll – with a view from Razorback Ridge of temporary greener pastures.

 

 

All caught up!: #166 ‘Beef Fillet with Red Wine’, #167 ‘Boiled Swiss Chard Salad’, #168 ‘Beef Roast with Braised Onions’, #169 ‘Tuscan Meat Roll with White Wine and Porcini Mushrooms’, #170 ‘Veal Scaloppine with Tomato, Oregano and Capers’, #171 ‘Sweet and Sour Tuna Steaks, Trapani Style’ and #172 ‘Fried Courgette Sauce with Garlic and Basil’ with the extended family and Kev at our table.

 

The Art of Artichokes – With Marcella #162, #163, #164, #165 (of 466)

Artichokes. When not marinating in a jar, they look quite lovely (see the previous post). To eat them however, one must discard most of the lovely-looking bits until one is left with the beige-coloured heart. With a small sharp knife, and a cut lemon to rub the heart as you go, this isn’t too much of a chore.

While in season, we ordered some. We braised them with peas. We baked them, layered in a dish with potato and onion. They were worth the little bit of paring work involved.

Broad Beans. I’m not a huge fan of them, but Nick is. So we also ordered a bag of those during their brief season. Marcella’s ‘Roman Style’ recipe calls for simply sautéing them with some pancetta cubes. They were, of course, delicious.

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Broad Beans, Roman Style

Finally, Fennel. Simply braised in olive oil. Two ingredients. That’s it.

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Braised Fennel. Tasted more delicious than it looked.

Catching up: #162 ‘Braised Fennel with Olive Oil’, #163 ‘Broad Beans, Roman Style’, #164 ‘Gratin of Artichokes, Potatoes and Onions’, #165 ‘Braised Artichokes and Peas’ with the husband and I at our table.

49 Years of Marriage and 5 more recipes – With Marcella – #157, #158, #159, #160 & #161 (of 466)

On the 23rd August, last year, we celebrated my Mum and Dad’s 49th Wedding Anniversary. While they and my husband Nick, worked hard all day with fencing around the farm, I went shopping for a whole Barramundi fish and some seafood to stuff it with.

Marcella Hazan encourages you to ask your ‘obliging fishmonger’ to debone the whole fish for you – not just fillet it – but leaving it intact as a whole fish with a split down it’s belly. The young fishmonger I approached said he’d never done it, but was willing to give it a go. I reassured him that if it ended up as two fillets, that would be an acceptable substitute for the preferred method, according to Marcella. It took him half an hour, but he presented it to me with a flourish, as I exclaimed “That’s exactly how she describes it should be!” He was rightly very proud of himself.

I did the remaining work of stuffing and cooking the fish in the oven. It was certainly a fine dish worthy of a wedding anniversary.

 

A few weeks later, Nick and I enjoyed Marcella’s ‘Veal Scaloppine with Marsala’ with the allowed substitute of flattened chicken fillets.

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Veal Scaloppine with Marsala

Artichokes were on offer in September, in season, from our local providers of fresh fruit and vegetables. So I ordered a bunch and tried my hand at the ‘Artichokes, Roman Style’. A slightly fiddly process the first time I prepared the vegetable. It got easier as I tried a couple of other recipes (see the post to follow). I had only ever had marinated artichoke hearts from a jar before trying this recipe. The difference is quite remarkable!

 

To finish this post, one successful recipe that was required to make another not-so-successful recipe.

The ‘Mashed Potatoes Bolognese Style with Milk and Parmesan’ was delicious (based on the teaspoonful I ate before turning to the next recipe).

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Mashed Potatoes Bolognese Style, with Milk and Parmesan

Clearly I had made it a little two smooth and moist, as the croquettes I then attempted to make went a little slushy in the oil… They still tasted fantastic.

That’s five more recipes from the back-logged list. Another ten to come…

Still catching up: #157 ‘Baked Sea Bass/Whole Fish Stuffed with Shellfish’, #158 ‘Veal Scaloppine with Marsala’, #159 ‘Artichokes, Roman Style’, #160 ‘Mashed Potatoes Bolognese Style with Milk and Parmesan’ and #161 ‘Potato Croquettes with Crisp-Fried Noodles’ with assorted family members at my table.

1/3 of the Book Cooked! – With Marcella #155 & #156 (of 466)

On the 10th August, 2018 (almost 6 months ago), I reached the ‘1/3 of the book’ stage in this ongoing project of mine to cook through Marcella Hazan’s ‘Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking’.

The recipe that got me over the 1/3 mark was an appropriately simple one. Like most of her recipes – easy to cook. Like all of her recipes (apart from the boiled chestnut fiasco) it tasted delicious.

Here’s to the other 2/3 of the book to come!

In this picture, I include the list of ingredients – just to show you how simple this was.

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Spaghetti Garlic and Olive Oil Sauce, Roman Style

We used the leftover pasta the next day to venture into the next 1/3 of the book. But I forgot to take a photo. Imagine a lovely golden brown eggy-pasta flan in a pan!

Reaching a milestone: #155 ‘Spaghetti Garlic and Olive Oil Sauce, Roman Style’ and #156 ‘Frittata with Pasta’ with me and the hubby at our table.

 

Catching Up – With Marcella #150, #151, #152, #153, #154 (of 466)

So, I’ve been waiting for the time and space to write inspiring words to go with Marcella’s recipes I’ve cooked some time ago. Meanwhile, I’ve been cooking more of her recipes and the list just gets longer, and the task becomes more daunting.

Enough!

I’m just going to do a few brief posts over the coming days and clear the list! That way I can write reflections as I cook each recipe or two – rather than trying to remember what was significant around my table nearly twelve months ago!

I never type the recipes in my blog posts, as I think everyone should have their own copy of this book! So, here are some pictures of five of the twenty recipes I have back-logged! As always, they tasted great. The Jerusalem Artichoke recipes come with a ‘Public Safety’ warning….flatulance-producing as they are.

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Spinach Soup

 

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Grilled Marinated Spareribs

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Fried Jerusalem Artichoke Chips

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Smothered Jerusalem Artichokes with Tomato and Onion

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Swiss Chard Stalks Gratineed with Parmesan

We were still renovating at this stage: #150 ‘Spinach Soup’, #151 ‘Grilled Marinated Spareribs’, #152 ‘Fried Jerusalem Artichoke Chips, #153 ‘Smothered Jerusalem Artichokes with Tomato and Onion’, #154 ‘Swiss Chard Stalks Gratineed with Parmesan’ with the lovely Nick and my parents at our table.

Renovation: Wrapped up in Wisdom – With Marcella #145, #146, #147, #148 & #149 (of 466)

I’m still buzzing from my recent attendance at a Furoshiki workshop at the local library! I feel like I have been bathed in creativity and beauty. Each time our teacher wrapped another random object in fabric with a combination of folds and knots, we all exclaimed with ‘oohs’ and ‘aahs’. We’re all now sold on this ancient Japanese art of wrapping things in fabric.

Attending the workshop was a deliberate, much-needed break from painting a bathroom and bedroom. While there’s something beautiful about a freshly painted room, there’s nothing easy or effortless about it. My muscles were aching and lungs longed for fresh air. I exchanged the hard, wooden handle of the paintbrush for the soft folds of fabric. A welcome change.

The instructor explained how this traditional technique had been replaced with modern, habits during her childhood. She recalled with regret the shame she’d felt as a teenager when, out with friends, she discovered in her bag and little snack wrapped lovingly by her ‘traditional’ mother in Furoshiki folds. She quickly hid this from the sight of her friends. She was aware of the wonderful irony that she was now teaching us that ancient, sustainable art.

These past couple of years, Nick and I have certainly appreciated the inter-generational support of my parents. As we’ve developed our property, inside and out, Dad’s age-old winching techniques have helped remove dead trees and tightened new fencing wire. Mum’s decades-old Anzac biscuit recipe has kept us going over many brief coffee breaks.

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Workers take a well-earned break

My mother and father have known me all my life. They therefore knew when I was struggling alongside Nick with the depth and breadth of the physical labour involved here in my new farm life. They offered help. They did it willingly, pointing out that others had helped them so much over the years as they’d built their houses.

Nick and I would, at other times, struggle along with the work, just the two of us. We were so grateful then when help arrived with different perspectives and age-old wisdom.

Certainly from my Mum and Dad I’ve learnt the value of hard work. I grew up seeing them work hard, both of them, physically and mentally. Now, as I move about the house and the property in mud-stained boots and paint-splattered track pants, I recall my Mum saying that ‘a hard-working woman is attractive to a good man!’ I trust this is true. Nick tells me it is.

It certainly hasn’t been an easy start to married life, but it’s been a wonderful way to learn about, and from, each other.

Nick’s only known my parents a few years, and I’ve been on the other side of the world from my parents for 17 years before meeting Nick. All four of us together, clearing land, building a deck, replacing fallen fences and working on all the home-improvements, has given us plenty of opportunity to know each other better. The real knowing that comes in the context of real, down-to-earth work. We’ve sat around the table together, too, eating to be energised for the next task before us. But the real knowing has come in the dust, dirt and debris.

Marcella’s chapter of soups was a great place to go for simple, hearty meals to get us all through those winter work days. Always easy. Always tasty.

#145 ‘Risotto with Sausages’, #146 ‘Potato Soup with Carrots and Celery’, #147 ‘Crostini’, #148 ‘Vegetable Soup, Romagna Style, #149 ‘Summer Vegetable Soup with Rice and Basil, Milan Style’ with hard-working parents/parents-in-law at our table.

Renovating Zucchini and Home – With Marcella #142, #143 & #144 (of 466)

Nick doesn’t like zucchini. He likes every other vegetable. I can’t think of any food he doesn’t like. Except the humble, green zucchini (or ‘courgette’ for my Irish friends).

Each fortnight, we order a box of local fruit and vegetables from the wonderful Pheasants Nest Produce. The contents of the box are fresh, seasonal and varied. Except for the regular appearance, in and out of season, of zucchini. I’m quite partial to them.

Nick doesn’t like zucchini. But he’ll eat them if they’re not really like zucchini. So to Marcella’s chapter on vegetables! She has many recipes for zucchini. Even the zucchini flower makes and appearance in the book.

Living, as we do, 15 minutes’ drive from any shops, we’ve become skilled at making do with a fairly well-stocked pantry and freezer, and our fruit and vegetable box.

So while we were in the throes of painting kitchen cupboards white, eradicating the final vestiges of 80s/90s decoration, I was disguising zucchini. While cutting holes in walls, I was hollowing out the vegetable, ready to be stuffed with other delicious ingredients.

It doesn’t take many dips into Marcella’s book to realise that most Italian cooking requires very few ingredients. Most can, thankfully, be achieved little or no travel to the supermarket, if you have a good store cupboard, some herbs in the garden and few fresh ingredients.

She often allows for substitutes, too. I say ‘allows’, as Marcella is normally wonderfully prescriptive. This girl finds that comforting and reassuring. Substitution proves very handy when you’re tired from a day of manual labour and you know that the prosciutto that is 15 minutes’ drive away, can replaced with sliced, baked ham from Christmas, nestling conveniently in your freezer.

The broccoli that regularly appears in your vegetable box can be paired with tinned anchovies from the pantry and sautéed into satisfying simplicity, then mixed with some boiled, dry pasta.

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Broccoli and Anchovy Sauce

May I also mention how convenient leftovers are the following evening after painting a re-plastered wall with a new opening in it?

#142 ‘Broccoli and Anchovy Sauce’, #143 ‘Prosciutto and Cream Sauce’ and #144 ‘Hollowed Courgettes Stuffed with Beef, Ham and Parmesan’ at our table, with little fuss, much appreciation, and no need for a trip to the shops.

 

Renovation: Making Room for a Fridge, Freezer and Gelato – With Marcella #140 & #141 (of 466)

One of the aspects of renovation has been, for us anyway, a decluttering of unnecessary things from our home.

When working out how to fit the fridge in our kitchen, rather than leaving it in the laundry (for goodness sake!), we thought about how much storage is actually needed in the day-to-day operation of a kitchen. It turns out not nearly as much as we usually think. So, having done some decluttering, we were then able to empty some cupboards, rip them out, and move our fridge into place – in the kitchen!

I had been reading an article at the time on minimalist living and the writer suggested getting rid of things in your kitchen that you never use. Then storing the things (somewhere out of the kitchen) that you would use once or twice a year.

I’d go one step further and suggest borrowing those items from others who, like you, would only be using them once or twice a year. Or perhaps they have never used them since the initial two-week burst of post-purchase enthusiasm.

I’ve done this with a pasta-maker and an ice-cream maker!

From inside an occasionally used ice-cream maker

Over the years I’ve been working through Marcella Hazan’s book, I’ve borrowed machines from two different households for the purpose of making gelato. I currently have one that the owners seem reluctant to take back. It’s currently out-of-the-way in a hall cupboard, taking up way too much space for its purpose. I shall keep it until I conquer the remaining few gelato recipes, and then insist they take it back! Most of us attempt making gelato or icecream maybe once or twice a year, until we see our favourite supermarket brand is on special.

Still, I’ve enjoyed the ones I’ve made already. These two most recent attempts were no exception. Both were easily made while deep in the throes of renovation, as dust-filled carpets were lifted and old tiles jackhammered up.

Black Grape Gelato

Banana and Rum Gelato

Both were easy to make and soothing to eat. We ate them out of some random teacups because that’s all we could find at the time.

The carpet and the mysterious lumps underneath, now gone.

The fridge on a journey between the laundry and the kitchen.

#140 ‘Black Grape Gelato’ and #141 ‘Banana and Rum Gelato’ at a makeshift table with Nick and my Mum and Dad who had been helping us with several days of toting old rolls of carpet, sanding down old grout and concrete, and generally keeping us sane.

Renovation: Cooking up a home – With Marcella #139 (of 466)

Is it all worth it?

Renovation, with all its dust, disturbance, decision-making and difficulties, has me wondering.

In my past life, alone and abroad in Ireland, I rented a number of homes over those years. I chose them for their simplicity, neatness, safety, and the few weeks or months I could see it would take me to make each house a home.

I chose those homes.

When I married Nick, nearly two years ago, I moved into his home on a piece of land with magnificent views from Razorback back toward the city of Sydney. It has been a place of peace and healing for many who have visited and stayed for that purpose.

However, a house large enough to contain many guests, and a property of 100 acres containing a good number of Charolais cattle, has been a big jump in workload for this former resident of small houses with postage stamp gardens in Ireland.

While the house itself was serviceable and adequate, I knew from the start that there would be a good bit more than a few weeks ahead of me to make it feel more like home.

Eventually, once we’d sorted the very basic elements of living together, combining goods and chattels, those basic renovation needs had to be faced.

But renovation is never basic. No matter how economically one might approach it. In fact, in our determination to do much of the work ourselves, we’ve faced many months of work, dust, and a house that has often looked more like a tool-shed than a home.

Nick and I are so alike in the areas that matter most, but we have some differences. He is good at living with a little chaos and upheaval. I need things sorted, simple and settled. Nick loves the journey. I long for the destination!

We’ve been working at this long journey together. I with determination to reach the end, and Nick with his patient application to improving many things he was admittedly happy with just as they were.

We’re almost there.

In the meantime, with stoves pulled out from walls, and dust hastily wiped from benches in order to combine some simple ingredients, we’ve fed ourselves and others. Slowly, but steadily, I’ve been working through Marcella’s cookbook.

Pork and Rosemary Filling

Pork and Rosemary filling ready to roll!

To indicate some of the time this renovation process has taken, this recipe was created back in January of this year. Not much time for writing when one is renovating!

Rolled Chicken Fillets with Pork and Rosemary Filling

The finished product with a few steamed vegetables.

#139 ‘Rolled Fillets of Breast of Chicken with Pork and Rosemary Filling’ with a patient, loving husband, and an understanding friend called Liz, at our table.