Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Marcella's comments on Facebook

  • Very few in the US were aware of the disaster that overtook one of Australia's major cities, Brisbane, when it flooded recently. Please read the account written by our FB friend David Downie, written in a matter-of-fact, sometimes wryly amusing, self-deprecating, and ultimately deeply moving style. I have become very fond of David and I regret that so many years and so many miles prevent our becoming more closely acq
    17 hours ago · · · Share
    • You and 8 others like this.
      • Victoria Jane Cole That's lovely to hear Marcella, I know David thinks very fondly of you also and your cooking has enriched both of our lives. He definitely has a flair for writing in a frank, humorous and resonating way.
        16 hours ago ·
      • Edward Hoos Thanks for posting this. Yes, unfortunately US news outlets didn't deem it a story worthy of their time. I got most of my information from friends in Australia from an online food forum.
        15 hours ago ·
      • Karen B Rush Thank you for acknowledging what our country has and still enduring. Today is Australia Day, our national day, and we find we are contemplating what we can do more to help each other.
        15 hours ago · · 2 people
      • David Downie Thank you Marcella, for your words and thoughts. I did not expect that you would become such an important person in my life when I began cooking your food. Your virtual presence and continued participation and generosity is a treasure that I for one very much value.
        11 hours ago · · 1 person

Risotto with Asparagus

I have wanted to continue my risotto quest with a vegetable for a while. I was drawn back to Giuliano Hazan's How to Cook Italian rather than Marcella's Essentials because I like the fact he calls for 1/2 an onion rather than 2 tablespoons. I also suspect that the almost 15 years between the publication of Essentials and his book allowed for greater refinement of the recipe.

That is all speculation however.

I used one of the 6 batches of Marcella Says meat broth I prepared on Sunday. That stuff is gold. The asparagus was simmered as directed. I was concerned it tasted a little gritty after it was tender. I tried to rinse it in the asparagus water as best I could. Next time I will have to remember to rinse it properly before cooking (why didn't I do that anyway? You should always rinse a vegetable before cooking it).

I only had a red onion. I don't think red onion is best. It is difficult to see it become golden, as directed.

Everything went to plan. I don't mind stirring as I tell myself it means I'm working for the dish.

I have noticed I tend to use more broth than the recipe tends to call for. I think that must be because my stove is hotter.

The end result was delicious. It was less buttery and parmesany than the butter and parmesan risotto, but I think that is to be expected. I am not sure that I was able to taste asparagus each bite, but each bite was pretty well perfect.

Marcella suggests testing for salt at the end and I think that's a good idea. I could have seasoned it a little more I think. She also adds pepper, which she also adds to her basic risotto. That might be an idea as well.

She also stirs in a little parsley.

I will definitely be making this again.

Monday, January 24, 2011

Tuscan Ragu and Sunday cookup

I had a big cookup on Sunday night. I have this idea that I will make more of an effort in the one go more often to make my life easier at a later time. Marcella for example calls meat broth as a convenience food. It certainly makes lets you make a delicious risotto in 30 minutes, and was on my list for Sunday (I ended up with 24 cups of broth).

I also cooked up a Tuscan Ragu from How to Cook Italian, and kept that in the fridge for a night before tossing it through some pasta. I have said before I am not a fan of simmered meat sauce but this was delicious, and more like what I am used to, I guess. I will make this again as it makes it extremely easy during a busy week night.

I also cooked a chicken on the stove, the cattiatore from How to Cook Italian and it's in the fridge. I wasn't too fussed on its flavours.

The final dish was the Tuscan Soup from Every Night Italian, also to eat during the week.

Knackered me to be honest.

Saturday, January 22, 2011


I thought I would mention dinner, since it was cooked on a whim with little drama, and was delicious:
- pumpkin pasta (squash) from 30 Minute Pasta;
- lamb cutlets with a rosemary, garlic and white wine sauce similar to the one in Marcella's Italian Kitchen;
- a beautiful fresh salad dressed in the Italian fashion from Essentials of Italian Cooking;
- the potato gratin from The Art of Simple Food; and
- for desert, a sliced peach.


Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Pork loin braised with cabbage

This is another dish from Giuliano Hazan's Every Night Italian. I'm still going through my pork stage, which has followed my chicken stage and lamb stage. This is similar to the others, although here the cabbage is cooked for a couple of hours with some bay leaves and white wine to become a lovely sauce.

The flavour is quite unique. It is completely different to the pork with vinegar, even though both use bay leaves.

I hope to make this again.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Brisbane Floods

Read my story at

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Pork with Vinegar and Bay Leaves and Tuscan Soup

Another simple Hazan recipe. People speak highly of it. Now that I have discovered pork loin, I am keen to try a few of her pork recipes.

I bought pork this time that didn't have an obnoxious amount of crackling fat on it, although it did have some fat (which I partially chopped off). It is not a cut of meat that butchers usually sell, as such. I think here anyway they make pork chops out of it or pork steaks. I'm not sure what they are called but they are cut up from the loin and sold separately.

Anyway, I asked for it and managed to get it.

There isn't much to do with this one. I browned the meat as requested, feeling faintly guilty at planning a meal of pork cooked in butter when I am trying to decrease in size rather than increase.

A teaspoon of peppercorns were bashed, not with a hammer as suggested, but with a rolling pin. I don't find I roll anything with that pin, just bash.

In they went with the dried bay leaves. I had bought fresh but they disappeared somewhere between the vege shop and home. I really need to buy myself another bay tree.

The vinegar was next. If Marcella Hazan has done one thing, it is to make me appreciate vinegar. Just last night I had a salad dressed with it. My favourite Hazan dish is now braised lamb with vinegar and beans.

The recipe calls for the vinegar to not be boiled away while the sides and bottom of the pan are scraped. I dutifully complied, but my urgent scraping resulted in hot fat and vinegar jumping from the pan and onto my arm. I was more worried about the lost vinegar than the burn, as so I poured a little more in the pan, and put the lid on tightly.

Prior to putting the pork on I had started off a batch of Giuliano Hazan's Tuscan Soup from his Every Night Italian. This soup is a miracle really, as there is no stock or broth to speak of, and it is still delicious. Having said that, if I have broth to burn it is even tastier if you use it instead of water. Unfortunately I did not, but I did sneak in a parmesan cheese rind which Marcella suggests is a good idea. I think it is.

It is a good feeling having pots simmering on the stove, filling the house with comforting cooking smells, and knowing that all the work has been done hours before any guests arrive.

On the question of timing, Marcella is a little vague, suggesting that I cook until the pork is tender. The efforts of others documented on the internet had timeframes from 40 minutes to an hour and a half. I could have asked her but I really didn't want to agitate on something so trivial.

On a whim I took a look at her Classic Italian Cookbook, published before I was born in 1973. This is of course the book that started it all and which was combined with More Classic Italian Cooking in the early 90s to form Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking. Here Marcella helpfully suggests that the pork be cooked for at least 2 hours. Pleasingly she also says that a minestrone would be a good first course.

The planets aligned for this meal. The Tuscan Soup was absolutely sublime (thanks Giuliano) and the pork was a fabulous followup. The pork tasted of itself but was in a beautiful vinegar and pepper sauce. It was subtle, divine, delectable and delicious.

We really enjoyed it.

This recipe is a keeper.

Thanks Marcella.

Saturday, January 8, 2011

Smothered cabbage, Venetian style

I love Marcella's chicken fricassee with red cabbage. The cabbage cooks for a long time with some red wine on a garlic and onion base and becomes as Marcella describes it "a dense clinging sauce".

This cabbage is similar but different. There is no red wine (but there is red wine vinegar), and the garlic is chopped rather than left whole.

The dish grew on me. I had just eaten a tasty meat dish and the cabbage flavour was more subtle. It is not a dish to eat in a bowl with a spoon. It would go well with other meat, such as sausage. In my case I put it on some crusty bread, and I did consider it very tasty indeed in the end. Two of us knocked off the whole dish.

I think next time I will cook the dish a little longer. I cooked it almost two hours this time and it was tasty, but I would like to see if it improves.

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Lamb shanks

It's dark, wet and miserable outside. And, strangely for the middle of a Queensland summer, a little cold. Even more strangely, since I have never cooked them before, my thoughts turned to lamb shanks. And soup. Good winter food. Half an hour later I had the ingredients for tuscan soup from Giuliano Hazan's Every Night Italian and his braised lamb shanks from his How to Cook Italian.

I don't think Marcella gives a lamb shank recipe, at least in her earlier books. I recall her saying something about how Italian lamb shanks are too small to create the dish we know as braised lamb shanks.

The usual suspects were at work in the lamb shank recipe: garlic, browning, carrots, herbs, onion and tomato. The only thing that was a surprise was how little tomato is involved. I guess I am more used to much more sauce when I see this dish.... at aussie pubs.

As usual an absolute highlight was cooking off the alcohol in the white wine. I'm not sure if this a loophole to my year off the sauce or just a simple pleasure.

Once the shanks were on I had to think about the soup. I had run out of steam for the full soup production, and time, so I had to look at what else I had bought at the vege shop. I had 2 potatoes and immediately thought of Alice Waters superb potato gratin from her Art of Simple Food.

I peeled and cut the first potato. It was rotten. Luckily, the other was not, and with the aid of garlic, milk and butter I was able to throw together a little gratin and whack it in the oven.

Meanwhile, the shanks were going to plan, except they got a little dry towards the end and I had to splash in some water, as suggested.

I wasn't sure how long the shanks should cook. 2 hours or until tender, was the suggestion. Shanks in a pub (my only reference) are always fall off the bone. My shanks weren't close to that when I took them off, but they were tender.

Everything timed nicely with the gratin, and that and the shanks were served up with some crusty bread.

The sauce was...... delicious. I would expect nothing less from a braised Hazan recipe. The first shank I tried was a little disappointing. The second (yes I tried a second - they were pretty small) had much more meat on it and was much more rewarding.

So in all a success, but dependent on the quality of the shanks, not surprisingly. I thought I had some good ones, but 2 of the 4 were much better than the others. It would not have been great for half of the diners to have a shitty shank.

The gratin complemented it superbly. Do google it.