My Gift to You – Marcella Hazan

I’ve been waiting for the right moment to give this gift.

To you, my readers, if you happen to be reading this.

The gift is a blog. Not my blog. Another blog. Not just any blog. A blog that contains posts on each and every recipe in Marcella Hazan’s ‘Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking’.

But that’s not all!

The gift of this blog, written a few years ago, contains comments from Marcella Hazan herself. A real treat, as she passed away a year ago.

The blog contains posts from a group of nine people that divided up all the recipes in Marcella’s book and cooked and posted each day for just over a year. Marcella often comments on their progress, giving both encouragement and critique. Some of the bloggers even got to meet her near the end of their project.

For those of you who despair at my forgetfulness in taking photos of the dishes I cook from her book – you will also find photos of each recipe they cooked.

You won’t find recipes there. They (and I) believe that you should get our own copy of her book!

I try not to view each post until after I cook the recipe, so that the surprise factor is still there as I cook. Though, occasionally, when I’m feeling a bit uncertain about the recipe, it is good to read their comments and tips.

I’ve cooked 20% of the recipes in the book so far (there are 466 of them, not including the variations). It’s the best cookbook I’ve cooked from.

So here’s a gift well worth opening:

Pomodori e Vino

Happy Christmas!


Books I’ve Read – 2014

I’m really bad at remembering what books were about after reading them. So I’m afraid the list below will not include reviews. However, I will highlight a few that have managed to stick in my mind and why:

What Alice Forgot by Liane Moriarty – From time to time, I find myself sitting opposite women who are finding it really hard to see a way forward in a marriage where communication has all but broken down. This novel explores what it might be like to wake up one day having forgotten the past 10 years of your marriage, and how issues that seemed so significant in the daily grind lose their grip.

The Invention of Wings by Sue Monk Kidd – I don’t remember much about this book. But I do remember identifying a little with one of the single women in the book and I remember the heartache of bravery while trapped in an awful situation.

The Rosie Project by Grahame Simsion – I just loved this book! It made me laugh out loud (in public) and weep a little out loud (in private).

In the list below of Christian Books/Applied Theology, I find it too difficult to pick favourites. I feel I had a good diet of things to apply and learn from this year. However, the ones that crop up pretty much every day in my thoughts and speech are: True Friendship by Vaughan Roberts, And So to Bed by Adrian Reynolds, and A Place of Healing by Joni Eareckson Tada.


Eventide Kent Haruf

Perfect Rachel Joyce

Benediction Kent Haruf

A Faraway Smell of Lemon Rachel Joyce

The Storyteller Jodi Picoult

The Invention of Wings Sue Monk Kidd

The Engagements J.Courtney Sullivan

Life After Life Kate Atkinson

The Husband’s Secret Liane Moriarty

The One Plus One Jojo Moyes

What Alice Forgot Liane Moriarty

Instructions for a Heatwave Maggie O’Farrell

We Are Completely Beside Ourselves Karen Joy Fowler

The Brightest Star in the Sky Marian Keyes

The Hypnotist’s Love Story Liane Moriarty

Longbourn Jo Baker

Sister Rosamund Lupton

At Home in Mitford Jan Karon

Painter of Silence Georgina Harding

Big Little Lies Liane Moriarty

We Are All Made of Glue Marina Lewycka

The Rosie Project Grahame Simsion

The Last Anniversary Liane Moriarty

The Universe Versus Alex Woods Gavin Extence

The Light Between Two Oceans M.L Stedman

Fangirl Rainbow Rowell

Lila Marilynne Robinson

Short Stories

Varg In Love Alexander McCall Smith

To Build a Fire Jack London


Garlic and Sapphires Ruth Reichl

Tender at the Bone Ruth Reichl

Notes From a Small Island Bill Bryson

A Walk in the Woods Bill Bryson

Christian Books – Applied Theology

Ordinary Hero Tim Chester

The Heart of Singleness Andrea Trevenna

True Friendship Vaughan Roberts

If I Should Die Before I Wake K. Scott Oliphint and Sinclair B. Ferguson

Scribbling in the Sand: Christ and Creativity Michael Card

And So to Bed: A Biblical View of Sleep Adrian Reynolds

The Single Issue Al Hsu

Eating Heaven: Spirituality at the Table Simon Carey Holt

Life Together Dietrich Bonhoeffer

Pastoral Theology in the Classical Tradition Andrew Purves

How People Change Timothy S. Lane and Paul David Tripp

Relationships: A Mess Worth Making Timothy S. Lane and Paul David Tripp

A Place of Healing: Wrestling with the Mysteries of Suffering, Pain and God’s Sovereignty Joni Eareckson Tada

Table Grace: The Role of Hospitality in the Christian Life Douglas Webster

Struggling? – With Marcella #91 & #92 (of 466)

At my table, last night, sat dear friends who know what it is to struggle.

We all do, don’t we? There’s always something we’re struggling with.

We talked about how unhelpful it can be for a fellow Christian to ask ‘How’s your walk with the Lord?’ It’s unhelpful because we’ll pretty much always be left standing there with a heavy awareness of our failures to love and serve our Lord the way we should.

We agreed a far better question was to ask ‘What are you struggling with lately?’ Then, to seek to encourage each other to see how the Lord is walking with us in those struggles, molding and shaping us to be more like him.

It’s less about our walk with the Lord. It’s more about his walking with us, beside us, before us, behind us and through us.

So, as we ate the next installment from the ‘Veal’ chapter in Marcella’s book, along with a deliciously simple potato and anchovy dish (neither recipe involved any struggle at all!), we asked each other, ‘What are you struggling with?’ and reminded each other how we do that struggling with the Lord by our side, holding us fast.

We finished off the meal with the remnants of Nigella’s ‘No Churn Coffee Icecream’ from the night before – no churning or struggling there!

Last night: #91 ‘Veal Scaloppine with Marsala and Cream’ and #92 ‘Pan-Roasted Potatoes with Anchovies, Genoa Style’ with fellow strugglers at my table.

Using Up Stuff – With Marcella #88, #89 & #90 (of 466)

When forced to live through times of transition, uncertainty, waiting or delay, I tend to get moderately (to highly) obsessive about sorting, culling, throwing out and using up stuff. I must write a how-to guide about it someday. For now, I’m too obsessed to be writing about such obsessive behaviour.

Last night I ventured into the ‘Veal’ chapter in Marcella’s book. I think I may only have had veal once in my life, if ever, so I had left this chapter untouched up to this point. The potential cost also put me off a little – but then it turns out that because you flatten the escalopes until they are thin, it looks like your guests are getting more meat than they actually are. Also, because Marcella’s recipes tend not to have long lists of complicated ingredients, you don’t have too many other expenses.

The main reason I was venturing into the chapter of veal recipes, was to cook one particular recipe that would use up the couple of tablespoons of Grappa leftover from the ‘Drunk Roast Pork’ recipe I cooked for my friend’s 40th. In addition, it would also make use of some of the tin of anchovies in my cupboard. ‘Veal Scaloppine with Ham, Anchovies, Capers and Grappa’ was quick to cook (5-6 minutes). So quick, that I didn’t remember to take a photo – sorry.

For dessert, I used one of Nigella’s recipes that had been highlighted on a blog I was reading the night before. ‘No Churn Coffee Icecream.’ I also found the recipe on her official site. I highly recommend giving it a try!! My guests last night would concur. This recipe used up the last of some coffee powder (used for cooking purposes) and a forgotten tin of sweetened condensed milk found in the back of my cupboard. I served the icecream in coffee cups with a seasonally inevitable Ferrero Rocher on the side. Sorry, no photo of that either.

That was last night.

Today I made a ‘Glazed Bread Pudding’ in advance of a staff Christmas dinner in two day’s time. Marcella suggests making it in advance to let the flavours develop. This recipe used up the last of the rum (used for cooking purposes!) in my cupboard. I also, somewhat frustratingly, used up a half packet of caster sugar in my attempt to make the toffee glaze. After three attempts I gave up. I will make my own toffee sauce to drizzle over it on the night.

Crazy, I know! Ever so non-conformist of me! My inner ‘recipe-conformist’ is not coping very well.

Tonight, I’ll be giving another veal recipe a go – just to use up the remaining anchovies and some of the remaining Marsala (used for cooking purposes!).

Last night: #88 ‘Veal Scaloppine with Ham, Anchovies, Capers and Grappa’ and #89 ‘Smothered French Beans with Carrots Sticks and Mortadella or Ham’ with the Violinist and the Ambassador at my table.

For Monday night: #90 ‘Glazed Bread Pudding’ at my boss’s home with a collection of desserts set to be on the table.



Recommending – Nigella’s Kitchen

For those of you have been following from the beginning of this blog (I started earlier this year) you will remember my Letter to Nigella.

I still haven’t received a reply to my letter. Though to be fair, she may never have received it.

I am still a big fan – not so much of the woman herself (she has millions of those fans) but of her work. I can highly recommend her cookbook ‘Kitchen’.

I have a red apron, too!

I have a red apron, too!


The Book: ‘Kitchen’ by Nigella Lawson

Contains: 153 recipes (at my count)

I’ve Cooked: 103 recipes so far


‘Coffee Toffee Meringues’ (This was my first recipe and one I repeated several times for dessert for guests. They were very simple to make, could be made in advance of the dinner guests arriving, and were just that little bit more special than ordinary meringues with the addition of coffee)

‘Salmon and Sushi Rice’ (Oh, so simple and great on a big platter in the middle of the table for guests to help themselves. I made this at least six times and then had the slight embarrassment of having four of these guests together one evening, realising that they’d all had the same recipe on separate occasions. It still tasted good).

‘Indian-Rubbed Lamb Chops’ (A good way to make use of ground spices in the store cupboard, taking about three minutes to prepare and having the taste of a good Indian meal)

The List So Far:

The List, Part 1

The List, Part 1


The List, Part 2

The List, Part 2

That’s just a taste!

If you had this book and Marcella’s book on your shelf, I would argue you need no others.



Photo Success – With Marcella #87 (of 466)

Earlier this week, I cooked six recipes and took zero photos.

To make up for this and to bring happiness to you, my readers, I bring you four photos of one recipe.

I am presently staying in the north of the island that has very much become my home. Last night, I visited an old friend (old in friendship years – not in life years) and cooked him dinner while I was there. He took photos and decorated his Christmas tree. We were a good team.

Prepare now to be ‘bombed’ with photos!

The recipe: ‘Mushroom Sauce with Ham and Tomato

My cookbook travelled with me.

My cookbook travelled with me.

The beautiful gas stove: I was experiencing a little ‘stove envy’ – mine at home has those horrible solid plates that take five minutes to heat up and sometimes longer to cool down. This beautiful stove gave me total control –  and I like that!

His stove. My knife.

His stove. My knife.

The Chef’s Hand: waiting for photographer to take photos and sit down to eat.

My Hand. Marcella's Pasta. His water jug.

My hand. Marcella’s pasta sauce. His water jug.

The Close Up: those are lovely porcini mushrooms you see in there.

Feeds 4-6 people. Enough for leftovers for photographer's lunch.

Feeds 4-6 people. Enough for leftovers for photographer’s lunch.


Last night: #87 ‘Mushroom Sauce with Ham and Tomato’ served, as Marcella suggests, with penne pasta. With an old friend at his table.

Apologies to my functional but less-than-enthusiastically-loved stove at home.

Photo Fail – With Marcella #81, #82, #83, #84, #85 & #86 (of 466)

Number of evenings with guests over for dinner this week: 2

Number of people around the table each of those two evenings: 4

Number of Marcella’s recipes cooked: 6

Number of photos I remembered to take: 0

Photography Memory Failure: 101

Number of recipes that worked and tasted yummy: 6

Total number of guests over two evenings: 6

Number of guests who were great company: 6


Monday night: #81 ‘Pan-Roasted Lamb with Juniper Berries’, #82 ‘Braised Leeks with Parmesan’ and #83 ‘Italian Chocolate Mousse’ with Richard, Stanley and the Violinist at my table.

Tuesday night: #84 ‘Chicken Fricassee with Red Cabbage’, #85 ‘Sautéed French Beans with Parmesan’ and #86 ‘Walnut Cake’ with Steven, Joan and Dawn at my table.


Recommending – The Hairy Dieters

Last month (that’s the month that ended yesterday), I enjoyed reading Emma’s daily ‘Book Challenge’ posts over at bluchickenninja. This girl is good at picking good books – and steering us all clear of ones she didn’t find so good. I’ve read a couple of her recommended books and will be coming back for more.

So it got me thinking.

While I wouldn’t be reading enough novels to be all that discerning in my recommendations, I do know my cookbooks!

At least I know which ones on my shelf contain recipes that work – consistently.

So I thought I would do a little series of cookbook recommendations over the next little while. Most of my cooking adventures are currently in the realm of Marcella’s ‘Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking’ (her Pan-Roasted Lamb with Juniper Berries is simmering away as I type). However, I have been known to dip into some other books – I’ve even dived in and swum around for a year or so in one or two.

So here is my first recommendation:

The Hairy Dieters

The Hairy Dieters

Book: ‘The Hairy Dieters’ by Dave Myers and Si King.

Contains: 77 recipes

I’ve Cooked: 17 recipes so far (all have cooked well and tasted good)

Favourites: ‘Chicken Korma’ (in the ‘Fakeaways’ chapter) and ‘Salmon with Chilli Ginger Sauce’

The List So Far:

17 down, 60 to go

17 down, 60 to go