Monday, 21 April 2014

New Food and Travel Blog

Bologna is still dear to my heart but I've launched a new blog about food and travel called silverstreaker.  It's for people who like to get off the beaten track. There will be travel tales, visits to food and drink producers, restaurant reviews and recipe. See you at

Wednesday, 11 April 2012

On sale now - Foodlovers' Bologna

It’s out now – Foodlovers’ Bologna the e-book of the blog with loads of full colour spreads,  new recipes and reviews and interviews.


Foodlovers’ Bologna follows on the heels of acclaimed blog,, with 240 pages of reviews, interviews, visits to the best artisan producers, authentic recipes to try at home plus how to spend 48 hours in Bologna. Specially designed for the i-pad with dozens of full colour spreads, this e-book looks good on any computer or smart phone.

It doesn't work on Kindle or Kobo (or any other device that can't cope with double page spreads and colour).  

Use it in the kitchen, use it as your guide in food-mad Bologna or drool over it almost anywhere.  Download the pdf  now from i-tunes for £5.99 or $11.99 -

Or go to Paypal. Once Paypal has accepted your payment it emails me to confirm you have paid and then I send you your personal copy of the book.

Guardian Travel Blog Network (I'm one of the bloggers)

Thursday, 5 January 2012

The book of the blog - coming soon

Negotiating about food: the big business in Bologna
Bologna is Italy's food capital. Who would dispute that in Italy? Yet here in England (and probably in the US too), while the bookshops are full of cookery books about Tuscany and Sicily, there's nothing on Bologna. Liz Cousins and I - who have been visiting the city for 30 years - decided last year to rectify that by writing a book about the relationship between the Bolognese and food, a mixture of tourist guide and cookery book.
‘Foodlovers’ Bologna – a guide to eating, drinking and shopping with classic Bolognese recipes’ will be published as an e-book in March.  Like A Taste for Bologna,  it will introduce the best and most interesting restaurants and restauranteurs to an English-reading readership. It will feature the classical ingredients of Bolognese such as parmigiano, mortadella and prosciutto, and the people who produce them. It will centre on the city but take readers on a tour around Bologna the province. We will even visit Modena and Parma. The book will demonstrate that tagliatelle al ragu, tortellini and lasagne - the best known dishes abroad - are part of a large and rich culinary tradition. One that is an essential part of life for the Bolognese.

Watch out for a  pre-publication offer on this site. Let us know if you want to buy.

Thursday, 29 December 2011

Learning to cook in Bologna

Paola is elated.  Not only has she turned out a creditable poppyseed loaf, she has also learned to flip her pancakes faultlessly. Later, as we sit eating the proceeds of our labour - actually all I’ve done is to observe the whole thing – there is a quiet satisfaction around the table at what has been achieved. Half a dozen different finger foods have been prepared and cooked plus several kinds of bread by the Tuesday night cookery course. For four hours there has been incessant activity, especially by Marcello, our teacher, who has never taken a moment’s rest.

Learning to cook is the new tourist activity and in Bologna there is plenty of choice whether you want an introductory day or something longer and more serious. The Council’s website lists 16 local cookery schools: 

We tried three places:  Alessandra Spisne’s la Scuola Vecchia on via Malvasia,   Marcello dall’Aglio’s course at Locanda del Castello and the Scuola Cucina di Bologna in via del Pratello. These all offer a range of courses from amateur to professional, varying in length from an evening to several months.  All focus on bolognese cuisine but not exclusively - vegetarian dishes and food from other parts of Italy and the world also get a look in.

I signed up for a morning’s pasta making with Aurelia, the sfoglina at Locanda del Castello, and learnt a lot of useful tips. Evening courses at la Locanda and at La Scuola Cucina are useful for introducing a range of techniques and dishes. Of course, if you want to become really proficient in cucina bolognese you will need a month at least and more likely three months in one of these cookery schools or La Scuola Vecchia before you can expect to earn a living in a professional kitchen. 

Contact details

La Scuola Vecchia

via Malvasia, 49 - 40131 Bologna   - tel: 051 6491576   - 

La Scuola Cucina di Bologna

Enquiries to Cultura Italiana (language school), to which it is linked, at  Via Castiglione, 4     I - 40124 Bologna
tel. +39 051228003 +39 051228011 +39 051227166

3 ½ hour  evening class costs from euro 35 in a group of 8-15.

La Locanda del Castello

Via Palazzo de' Rossi  

Pontecchio Marconi

Sasso Marconi


+39 051 6781172 or mobile  348 4402943

Single evening lesson:  euro 60

Tuesday, 13 December 2011

Mortadella - uniquely Bolognese

‘I can’t say it’s better than the others. All I can say is that a lot of people prefer it  to the others.’
 - Ennio Pasquini
Pasquini is a no nonsense,  bear of a man who meets us with his arms folded and a look of undisguised scepticism. In his late 70’s, after half a century,  he is  still very much in charge of the business,  very conscious of its importance.
 Besides, time is money. But he agrees to show us around.
Ennio Pasquini - traditional  hand made mortadella
Bologna is known the world over for a cooked sausage, the mortadella, that has its origins in the 16th century. There are many firms around Bologna entitled to stamp their mortadella IGP, as a European protected product,  but Pasquini is the only one within the city walls. Moreover, it is the only truly artisanal producer, with much of the work done by hand, especially of the salame rosa variant. Including the boss, there are just seven workers. The output is a tiny 20 quintals a week, or 2000 kilos.  Not a lot compared with the 37 million kilos produced in 2006 by the 30 companies that make up the Bologna Mortadella Consortium.
 It is highly prized in Bologna as an aperitivo snack, as part of a plate of finely sliced salami and as an ingredient in the filling for tortellini.  We also liked the mortadella mousse served at Trattoria La Montanara.

Mortadella mousse
Unlike other salamis, it is cooked rather than cured.  This mortadella is not to be confused with the pink, slimy chopped ham impersonators to be found in many supermarkets, especially in America. Nor does it contain the pistachios or peppercorns that some other varieties contain.
‘I decided to carry on the artisan tradition because I wanted to keep control of quality’, Pasquini explains. ‘It’s like if you had a baby, you wouldn’t want to hand it over to a nursery, you would want to bring it up yourself. Well, for me it’s the same with mortadella. ‘
He takes us into the cooling room where yesterday’s production is suspended from a large frame. ‘In some ways, it’s very easy to make. But it is also quite difficult to get right because it’s a real team effort. Yes, a team sport, not a cycle sprint.  It’s like a jigsaw, every part of it has to be precision made or it won’t fit together.’
There’s a ready market for the real thing but Pasquini controls rigorously whom he allows to sell it. Simoni, the salami, ham and cheese shop in the Quadrilateral is one of the few privileged. The shelves there empty at Christmas, Davide Simoni, tells us, because that’s when mortadella is given as a present and when much of it finds its way into traditional seasonal dishes such as  tortellini, a must for many Bolognese families on Christmas day.

Sunday, 13 November 2011

Parmesan finger food

Wear your heart on a stick
Since we came back from Bologna in June – writes Liz Cousins -  I have been trying to keep up the Italian I learnt at the wonderful Bolognese language school – -  where I did a week’s intensive course.  So I have found a local Italian teacher Laura who is trying to cram some more grammar into my brain.

 This Saturday Laura invited all of her students to a spaghettata. We were all asked to bring a contribution and the idea was that we would try out our best Italian phrases on each other.  I decided to make a few nibbles to add to the antipasti plate. Both of these recipes  make ideal  finger food or canapés.  The hearts on a stick could be what Franski is looking for for her wedding next May.

Biscotti di parmigiano

These are simplicity itself, although one or two seconds too long in the oven can ruin a whole batch. All you need is a pile of finely grated Parmesan, a flat baking tray covered with Bake-o-Glide or equivalent, a 2” (50ml) round biscuit cutter and a palette knife.

Place the cutter on the tray and sprinkle in ¼ inch (12ml) of parmesan - make sure it covers the whole area before you  remove the cutter.  The parmesan should retain its shape but you don’t need to be too tidy about it.  Repeat, leaving a good space between each as they spread as they melt.

Taking care not to jog the tray place it into an oven heated to 220 degrees C or Gas 7.  This is the tricky part- the cheese will quickly melt and bubble and you want it to very slightly change colour but not too much as this will make the biscuits bitter.   Remove the tray from the oven and leave the biscuits to cool and set hard. Carefully remove with a palette knife.

You can store the biscotti  for a few days in a tin but I find that they never last that long.

 You can make them into lollipops  for a party or heart shaped for a wedding by placing a wooden lollipop stick into the centre of the parmesan shapes before you cook  them, adding  a little more parmesan to cover up  the stick. Cook as above.

Crostatine di parmigiano con olive

Another simple starter-  Mix one large egg with 40g of finely grated parmesan and 2 tablespoons of cream, plus salt and pepper. Take a sheet of bought puff pastry and cut small squares just big enough to fit shallow bun tins (I find muffin tins too deep).  Add 2 pitted green olives and a good spoonful of the mixture.  Place in a hot oven (about 220 degrees C) until the pastry is golden brown and the filling has puffed up.

Sunday, 30 October 2011

Asparagus and Prosciutto Parcels

Marcello dall'Aglio's cookery course: showing how to make asparagus and prosciutto parcels 

Franski has asked me for a simple stuzzicato to serve at her wedding next May. This makes an impressive finger food, ideal for parties. What’s more, it hardly takes any time. You can wrap the asparagus first in the ham, then in the filo pastry, as in the photo, or, as I prefer, lay out the pastry, cover with the ham then lay on the asparagus and wrap it all up.   The recipe makes two parcels per person for four people. Serve it hot or cold.

Not an elegant photo but it shows asparagus already wrapped in prosciutto and then being wrapped in filo pastry

Ingredients for 4 people

asparagus tips
prosciutto, thinly sliced
8 slices
filo pastry
½ kg
salt and pepper
flour for dusting
3 tbl


1. Snap off the woody end of the asparagus, and then cut off a bit more if necessary so that you end up with tips that are about 10cms long. The bits you don’t use can be cut into small pieces and sautéed to accompany a pasta dish like  pumpkin and sage tortelloni. Parboil the asparagus in salted water for no more than four minutes, drain and refresh under cold running water to stop it cooking. 

2. Now cut up and lay out on a lightly floured surface eight pieces of filo pastry, about 15cm by 20cm. Brush with melted butter. Place a slice of ham on each piece of pastry, then two asparagus tips plus some freshly ground pepper.

3. Roll up each parcel, ensuring that the ends are properly tucked in so they can’t unravel. Brush with melted butter again. Pre-heat the oven to 170 degrees C. Place the parcels on a greased baking tray and put them in the oven for 15 minutes. When they come out they are ready to serve.