Friday, 17 September 2010

Crochette di prosciutto - Ham croquettes

You want to make something utterly delicious and relatively quick? Ham croquettes are irresistible. I used the end of a piece of culatello I bought in Bologna months ago, chopped into tiny dice. You could use a few slices of Prosciutto chopped finely or a few slices from a roasted ham hock, shedded finely. Make them small and they are ideal finger food; a bit bigger and they can be served with a salad and maybe some garlic mayonnaise. Don’t add salt to the mixture – there’s plenty in the ham. If you don’t have suitable bread to make breadcrumbs, take some cheese biscuits (Jacobs or Doriani are perfect) and bash them to smithereens.

Ingredients (enough for 20 pieces as finger food)

2 tablespoons olive oil

50g butter

1 medium onion, finely chopped

1 garlic clove, squashed and chopped

50g plain flour

350ml milk

pinch of nutmeg

black pepper to taste

30g grated parmesan

2 tablespoons finely chopped parsley

2 eggs, beaten

75g breadcrumbs

sunflower oil for deep frying


1. Gently fry the onion and garlic in the olive oil until it is soft and beginning to brown.

2. Melt the butter in the same pan and stir in the flour.

3. Heat the milk and add to the flour mixture, stirring it in to create a smooth sauce which you should cook bubbling gently for two or three minutes. Add and integrate the ham, parsley, black pepper and parmesan. Leave it to cool for an hour or so until set firm.

4. Using a tablespoon, scoop up the cold mixture and roll into balls and then into fat cigar shapes. Dip each one in the beaten egg, then in the breadcrumbs and deep fry in the hot oil for about four minutes until brown and crisp on all sides.

5. Lip out with a straining spoon and place on kitchen roll to absorb surplus oil. Serve straight away.

Thursday, 16 September 2010

A night at the palace

I’m always wary about making recommendations about friends to friends. Before they set off on a road trip through Europe to Turkey, I suggested to my friends, Sue and Alec, that they call in on La Locanda del Castello at Sasso Marconi, just outside Bologna. They did and this is what they wrote in their travel blog.

‘Martin had said Marcello had a few rooms but he hadn’t said anything about a 14th century palace! We just had to eat there which meant we had to spend the night there because I couldn’t drink and drive, could I? We were well looked after, we ate the most delicious food of our whole trip, washed it down with a delicious wine (recommended and I can’t remember what), and we spent the night in a VERY comfortable room. Expensive? Not at all. We could have eaten more expensive meals and drunk more expensive wine but what we had was very reasonable. As was the cost of the room. I would recommend it to anybody.’

La Locanda del Castello and Hotel del Castello Bologna
Via Palazzo Rossi, 13
Sasso Marconi (Bologna)
Tel 051/6781172
Email :

Tuesday, 7 September 2010

Hope for carnivores

Somehow, by accident, this blog seems to have turned into a treasure trove of vegetarian recipes. I know that will delight many of you. But I make this  solemn promise to the carnivores: there is a whole stream of meaty - and fishy- dishes coming up as autumn sets in. Including wild boar sauce with pappardelle and, next week, involtini di pollo - chicken rolls stuffed with prosciutto and cheese. There will be tagliata di manzo - steak with a balsamic sauce - pork pot roasted in milk with sage and the famous cotelette bolognese.

Here I am at work in the kitchen of our tiny house built into the corner of a Victorian walled garden - preparing yet another vegetable dish, I recall.

Papparocci – Bean and polenta slice

This bean and polenta dish harks back to the days when cucina povera – poor man’s food - wasn’t a fashionable foodie trend but a necessity for families who couldn’t afford meat and bread. Marcello dall’Aglio has put it on the menu at La Locanda as part of a campaign to revisit the traditional roots of cucina bolognese. He has it as an antipasto or even as a finger food for banquets. As the photo suggest, it can also be served as a more substantial dish, in this case accompanied by a simple tomato sauce. Other names: calzagatti, ciribusla.

There are three parts to the dish: the bean stew, the polenta and the tomato sauce.

Ingredients (enough for 4 as a substantial dish)

6 tablespoons olive oil

2 medium onions

4 sticks celery

2 medium carrots

3 cloves garlic

2 tins chopped tomatoes

4 bay leaves

4 finely chopped sage leaves

1 tin borlotti beans

salt and pepper to taste

400ml water

100g polenta

30g butter

60g grated parmesan


1. chop the onion, garlic, celery and carrot into fine dice.

2. to make the tomato sauce, gently fry half the onion and garlic until they soften, then add a tin of tomatoes and the bay leaves.

3. to make the sauce for the beans, gently fry the remaining vegetables until then soften, then add the beans, a tin of tomatoes and the sage. Cook together on a very low light for an hour or in a cool oven for two hours.

4. to make the polenta, heat 400ml of water to simmering point, then gradually stir in the polenta. Cook for two minutes, being careful to avoid being spattered by the polenta (I wear kitchen gloves for protection), until it thickens, stirring constantly to prevent it catching on the bottom of the pan.

5. Add the butter and the parmesan and salt and pepper to taste, cooking and stirring for another couple of minutes.

6. Grease a large flat roasting pan with oil or butter and tip in the bean stew then the polenta, mixing them together. Allow to cool.

7. To serve hot, cut the bean and polenta mix into slices, fry in a couple of spoonfuls of olive oil, meanwhile reheating the tomato sauce.