Tuesday, 31 May 2011

Fatta a Bologna Limonata - Lemonade

Walking home from my Italian class ( learning the various ways of using reflexive verbs in the past tense) I called in at the Mercato delle Erbe (San Gervasio) off Ugo Bassi. The fruit and vegetables were wonderful. Strawberries and apricots caught my eye but I was after lemons to make a refreshing drink when I got back to the apartment. I bought three beautiful lemons from Basilicata.

I cut the  fine peel from the lemons, discarding the pith, and put the peel with the remaining lemon flesh, a tray of ice cubes, 250mls of water and 1 tbs of sugar into a liquidiser (you may need to add more sugar according to your taste or if the lemons are sour). Once fully liquidised I just strained the mixture into glasses - nothing more refreshing on a hot day in Bologna!

Sunday, 29 May 2011

Primo post da Bologna - First blog from Bologna

Benvenuti a Bologna dov’e arrivata presto l’estate quest’anno (e dove sto sciolendo come un gelato).

Eccolo il primo post della citta e il primo in italiano – la mia versione. Como sempre nell’mercati l’offerta del cibo - frutta e verdure, carne, salumi, pesce, formaggi – e stupificante. Bellisimo, soppratutto le primizie: asparagi, fragole, carciofi toscani. E, questa volta a Bologna, abbiamo una cucina nell’appartamento.

Quindi, aspettavi una serie di ricette per piatto composti da frutta e verdure. Anche interviste con persone chiavi della ‘food scene’ Bolognese.

First post from Bologna

Welcome to Bologna where summer has come early this year (and I am dissolving in the heat).

New season artichokes from Tuscany

Thanks to a week in an excellent language school – La Cultura Italiana – this is my first blog in Italian. Or rather my version of Italian. As always the display of food – fruit, vegetables, salami, hams, fish, cheese - in the markets is amazing. But the most mouth watering sight is the spring fruit and vegetables: glistening strawberries, green asparagus from Altedo, tiny purpleTuscan artichokes. And this time in Bologna we have a kitchen to cook in in our apartment. So, you can expect a lot of recipes for vegetable dishes and puddings involving fruit, as well as interviews with the people who make the Bolognese food scene tick.

Friday, 20 May 2011

Filetto di manzo con cipolline all'aceto balsamico – Sirloin steak with shallots in balsamic vinegar

Deeply flavoured, almost caramelised balsamic sauce

Shallots in a sweet sour sauce made from balsamic vinegar are an ideal accompaniment to a plainly grilled steak and a favourite of many restaurants in Emilia-Romagna. All you need to add is some bread to soak up the sauce, and maybe a bed of spinach for the meat to recline on. I bought the steak from Mr Legge in Bromyard, resisting the other temptations of the finest butcher-deli for a hundred miles around. Don't worry too much about the balsamic - it doesn't need to be 10 years old for this recipe.

Enough for 4. Ready in 30 minutes. Beat that,  Jamie.


4tbl olive oil

4 x250g sirloin steaks about 2.5cms thick

400g shallots

2 cloves of garlic

75ml balsamic vinegar

50ml sweet white or red wine

2tbl brown sugar

salt and pepper


1. Peel the shallots and garlic. Chop the garlic finely.

2. Heat two tablespoons of olive oil in a pan and add the shallots and garlic, letting them brown gently. Then, add the wine, balsamic vinegar and sugar and cook on a steady flame until the sauce is greatly reduced and starts to caramelise. Turn off the gas or electricity.

3. Heat a griddle and oil it using 2 tablespoons of olive oil. Season the steaks on both sides with salt and pepper.

4. When it’s really hot, plonk the steaks on it, standing them up on their fat so that it cooks crisply. Then, griddle the steaks for 4 minutes on each side.

Begin by crisping the fat

5. Remove the steaks and place them on a metal grille over a dish so that any juices can drain into it.

6. Scrape the residue from the griddle into the pan containing the shallots and add any juices from the steaks. Re-heat the shallots, reducing the sauce so that it is thick and beginning to be caramelised.

7. Place each steak on a heated plate and spoon over some of the sauce and the shallots.

Thursday, 19 May 2011

Risotto agl' aparagi – Risotto asparagus

Resist the temptation to add mascarpone

Close by where we live  is England’s best asparagus from Worcestershire and above all Goodman’s at Great Witley where a fat bunch sells for £3 and a large bag of all sorts costs hardly any more. As well as a risotto, I was able to make a dish of asparagus and chard stuffed pancakes al forno for £4.

It’s hard not to go a bit stupid about asparagus – during the season I could eat it every day. The mania is widespread in this part of the world. Out walking last weekend I noticed a restaurant in Evesham on the banks of the River Avon offering a three course asparagus banquet including asparagus ice cream. They understand this in Altedo, a village in Bologna province, where the annual asparagus festival in honour of the asparago verde di Altedo starts this weekend. Local restaurants  there compete to display the vegetable’s infinite culinary flexibility.

Anyway, back to the risotto: the key thing as always is to ensure that the star of the dish isn’t overwhelmed by an overdose of butter, cheese and cream as in many restaurants outside Italy. In its homeland, risotto is a simple dish. So, the flavour depends on the rice, the stock, the parmesan, some butter and of course the asparagus.

Enough for 4.


3tbl olive oil

30g butter

1 large onion

2 garlic cloves

250g Arborio rice

125ml dry white wine

500ml chicken stock (or a stock cube dissolved in water)

300g asparagus

75g prosciutto

75g parmesan

salt and pepper


1. Begin by preparing the asparagus. Cut off and reserve the spears, that is, the top few centimetres. Snap off and dispose of the bottom woody part of the stem. Chop the remaining stem into 1 cm. lengths.

2. Gently fry the onion and garlic in the olive oil with half of the prosciutto cut into ribbons.

3. Add the rice and half the butter and fry until the rice is coated in the butter.

4. Add the wine and turn up the heat to drive off the alcohol.

5. Now add the stems of the aparagus and then begin to add the stock, just enough for the rice to cook rapidly without sticking on the bottom of the pan.

6. When the rice has just reached the al dente stage, add the remaining butter, prosciutto, the parmesan and the asparagus spears. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

7. Serve.

Wednesday, 11 May 2011

Polpette – Meatballs

Polpette - Artusi's simple classic
Spaghetti with meatballs is like chicken chow mein – a dish unknown in its native land, devised by lonesome expatriates to fill their souls and bellies, and those of the people who came to eat in their restaurants. (You can pick up on this tradition at the musically challenged http://www.arkrestaurants.com/polpette.html )  Meatballs can be eaten with pasta but in Bologna they are more likely to be served by themselves, probably in a delicate tomato sauce, as they do at Trattoria Meloncello.

I have failed to persuade the sisters who run Meloncello to part with the recipe for their light as air tasty as anything polpette so I have fallen back on Signor Artusi. His renowned La scienza in cucina e l'arte di mangiare bene (The Science of Cooking and the Art of Eating Well) has the status in Italy that a book written jointly by Elizabeth David, Delia Smith, Nigel Slater and Jamie Oliver with the help of Mrs Beeton might have in England. Although not a Bolognese, Artusi is big on the food traditions of the city and its region, Emilia-Romagna, and true to their spirit. So his polpette recipe is strikingly simple, without the onion, garlic and herbs that you might reach for instinctively.

Garlic, in particular, is used cautiously in Bolognese cookery. ‘Put it in for flavouring and then take it out before you serve’ was the advice I received from one elderly lady as she showed me a recipe for a pasta sauce with prosciutto.

Anyway, here is Artusi’s slightly adapted recipe for polpette which I serve with a tomato sauce and a green vegetable (for colour contrast as much as anything). Polenta would also be good.

Makes more than enough for 4 as a main course.


for the tomato sauce

2tbl olive oil

1 onion, finely chopped

2 cloves of garlic, finely chopped

1 tin chopped tomatoes

1 sprig rosemary, finely chopped

½ tsp sugar

salt and pepper

for the polpette

250g minced pork

250g minced beef

50g breadcrumbs

50g finely grated parmesan

50g finely chopped bacon or pancetta

salt and pepper

½ nutmeg, grated

2 eggs

4tbl olive oil

4tbl finely chopped parsley


1. place the meats, breadcrumbs and parmesan in a food processor. Process until well amalgamated. Add nutmeg, eggs, salt and pepper and process again. Transfer to fridge.

2. Gently fry the onion and garlic in the olive oil until they begin to soften and go brown. Add the remaining ingredients and cook gently for 30 minutes. The sauce should had lost its liquidity and become smooth. If not use a wooden spoon to break down the tomato and cook if for a bit longer until it is drier.

3. Heat the olive oil in a large non-stick frying pan and gently add the mixture formed into balls about 2.5cm in diameter. Fry gently until beginning to brown, for five to eight minutes.

4. Add to the tomato sauce and re-heat together, gently, adding some warm water if the sauce begins to stick. Add the parsley just before serving.

5. Serve either alone with bread or with polenta or some wilted spring greens.