Thursday, 7 November 2013

Lunch with Vix and J-M featuring Butternut Squash baked with Chestnuts and other delicious stuff

Dear friends, Damian and Renu recently gave me a gift of foody fare brought from Ceglia Messapica where they have a little property. I have never cooked them before but the little bulbs left me in no doubt about how they should be prepared and what they would go well with.They are callelampaschiuoli delicious little bombs of slightly bitter delight. They are actually the bulbs of wild hyacinths (muscari) picked and bottled in Puglia in the South of Italy and look very like our familiar little spring onions but they have none of that latent sweetness that manifests when fried and caramelised. Their tinge of bitter complements the earthy softness of the thin slices of artichoke fried in garlic enriched extra virgin olive oil until just starting to turn brown. Some cooks say they should be left for a while with salt flakes to pull out their moisture but I have never found this to be necessary..I just slide them into hot oil and watch them, keeping a sharp eye to make sure they don't burn more than a little along the edges of the skin..and turning a few times to ensure golden brown all over. 

Asparagus sprinkled with flakes of sea salt and Extra Virgin Olive oil after snapping the stems so they'd fit in the dish..baked in a hot oven but not too near the top shelf, until the tips start to ever so slightly crisp and the stems are softly sagging
These fresh green beans were tossed in my big old pan in piping hot olive oil with crushed garlic and a pinch of sea salt until they just slightly start to change colour..but it's only necessary to let a few take up the streaks of brown the rest should be just past al dente and still properly green. I squeezed fresh lemon juice onto them just before serving.
Seafood pasta
Chop two lovely red onions and sweat in olive oil until soft and golden...stir in your favourite mushrooms...add a good big pinch of dried herbs or if you have them chop and dice oregano and thyme..later add basil. I also sprinkled a handsome amount of Bouillon on to the mix. Add a tin of tomatoes and some fat prawns. I sometimes make this with mussels and sliced squid. I would also put in capers . Cook all of the mix in a big frying pan and set aside until the spaghetti is cooked..then find your favourite serving bowl ..strain the pasta and stir in the mix..you can then place a few basil leaves on top to serve...


Veggie pasta
mozzarella and sun-dried tomatoes with basil and spaghetti . Ridiculously easy to make. Cook pasta..stir in a bowl of little mozzarella balls that have been sitting in with oil and sliced sun dried tomatoes and a light sprinkle of herbs..Next time I would let the heat melt the mozzarella just a little bit more...in fact I'd make sure the cheese and tomato are heated through..this time I only used the heat from the freshly strained pasta.
This was really delicious and I will make again for Christmas. Cut butternut squash into skinned chunks and mingle with whole chestnuts..I used frozen. I then poured oil and salt flakes with a sprinkle of freshly ground black pepper. So good!! The sweetness from both ingredients merge and complement each other. It also offsets the mild bitterness of the lampaschiuoli.