Wednesday, August 31, 2011


Marcella kindly posted this on my wall:

If you love risotto, you might like succotash, assuming you have wonderful corn and fresh young beans or peas in Brisbane. First cook the peas/beans, then puncture the corn kernels to release their milk, then scrape off the kernels too and add them to the cooked, drained peas/beans together with whipping cream, butter, salt, pepper. Cook for about 8 minutes, stirring constantly. It's delicious. Please don't add cilantro.
2 hours ago · · · See Friendship

Wednesday, August 24, 2011


Saturday, August 20, 2011

Celery and tomato pasta sauce

I haven't checked in for a while. I have been cooking less Italian and trying to trim down.

But I haven't stopped.

Here is a celery and tomato pasta sauce from Marcella Cucina - the book, I think, that is her most physically beautiful and engagingly written.

It was a surprising and delicious sauce. Smooth but not buttery from the 3 tablespoons of butter and the tablespoon of oil. Herby and grassy (in a good way) from the celery - I use those words but really it was an intriguing flavour I find difficult to describe.

Some say it smelt like the garden......

In any event it was a fine and tasty pasta. I would like to make it again.

Another winner from Marcella Hazan.

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Pomodori E Vino

Here is a comment I posted over at the blog of the Pomodori E Vino (, who have almost cooked their way through Essentials.

I am posting this as the project is coming to a close. Your work has been of incredible interest to me, as I have been trying to teach myself how to cook Italian by cooking my way through Marcella's works for a couple of years myself. However, my modest efforts could not begin to approach the sheer volume of work you have all produced since you began: one a day! It is remarkable.

I have enjoyed getting to know each of you during the process. While Marcella says in her first book that anyone who is slightly alert will have no problem cooking every dish, she also admits that simple does not always mean easy. It isn't easy making the perfect pasta with only spaghetti, garlic and oil, for example. When ingredients are not masked, and have to speak for themselves, in simple combinations and manipulated by simple procedures, then you really do have to do everything right.

And you know what, I think that more often than not you did.

I've been inspired by some of your dishes. You might see that in things I have cooked after you did. Some of the photography is beautiful, and the writing lyrical. You should be proud, each of you, of your efforts.

But of course the real hero in this project has been Marcella herself (and you too Victor, I know you're never far away). It is not too strong a statement to say Marcella's generous interaction with her fans over facebook, in her advanced years, have been one of the highlights of mine in recent times. We all knew she was an extraordinary gifted cook and communicator, with a clear vision of how things should be, but the way in which she has offered her increasingly valuable time to so many people she has not even met is just a sign of what a giving and passionate woman she is.

I have always said it was the intelligence in Marcella's writings that first drew me to her, and it was my success with her recipes and her virtual presence and encouragement on forums such as this project that has kept me cooking through her books.

It really has been like a director's cut, this project, with priceless commentary coming 20 years after the film was made. Although in this case it has been 30 years.

Lucky for us good cooking is timeless.

But enough from me. Thank you to each of you, and the biggest thank you and grandmotherly hug and firm handshake to Marcella and Victor. You are all food heros in my book, and the bringers of much happiness to many families, over many decades.

Saturday, May 21, 2011

A Farm Wife's Fresh Pear Tart

This was a cracker. I didn't expect much of it, but it was delicious, and so simple. I used the cloves - best if you can pick them out before eating them. But came up a treat, and was devoured by everyone.

I'll be making this again.

Sunday, March 6, 2011


I've been thinking about what it means to brown an onion. Using Marcella's writings I describe onions becoming golden and then light brown (and presumably after this dark brown and then burnt). I think there is an expectation that it takes about 5 minutes for a onion to become golden and starting to brown from a cold start using a medium high heat (for example, in a risotto). But I'm reading someone else (not in the Italian space) and they say cook the onion until "light brown". Immediately I think of that post golden phase, but I wonder if they really mean lightly golden. Is anyone aware of whether the language used to describe a phase of cooking an onion is consistent among cooks?
21 hours ago · · · See Friendship
  • Michael Ryan likes this.
    • David Downie You know, I may have thought about this too much. It would appear that red onions cooked in olive oil do not behave in the same way as brown onions cooked in butter. I just waited until it looked light brown, as directed. I didn't see a golden phase at all. Pic on my wall for those interested.
      19 hours ago · · 1 person
    • Michael Ryan Very informative and entertaining David :). Good Afternoon Marcella, Hope your weekend is off to a great start!
      7 hours ago ·
    • Marcella Hazan
      Let us assume we are talking about sautéing, and not sweating, which is a different technique, and let us also assume that the internal color of the onion when raw is white. When it cooks in an uncovered pan in whatever fat you are using, the first phase will see it turn from flat white to translucent. Some people think it is already done. For Italian cooking, it is not. As you continue cooking and stirring, it acquires a deeper hue than it had originally, and that hue may be described as golden. For most dishes I prefer to continue cooking it until its color resembles that of a pale nut shell or dark blond wood. Depending on what you are making, it may now be ready. If you want a fuller release of the onion's flavor so that it may more intensely be transferred to the other ingredients that are to follow, continue cooking until is a medium to dark brown, but obviously not charred. The process may take from 5 to 8 minutes, depending on how fine the onion has been cut, on how much room it has in the pan, on how efficient is the heat conduction ability of the pan, and how the flame is regulated. I prefer a steady, but not excessively brisk simmer, but other cooks may like to use faster heat.

      I can see the golden phase, and you cannot. What of it? Just be a cook, David, and develop a sense of when the onion is ready. A little less analysis, a little more instinct.
      11 minutes ago ·
    • David Downie Thank you Marcella. Sometimes I think I am not very good with colour. I also have trouble spotting things right in front of me in the kitchen, such as the cheese grater. As for the onion, I can see the golden phase when I cook a brown onion in butter, but have trouble with a red onion. Perhaps it is all in my mind. I am much more instinctive a cook than I was when I began, but I do like to think about things as well. It could be my training.

      My Madhur Jaffrey stew turned out very nicely in the end, golden onion or not. It is amazing how many dishes may be cooked with lamb shoulder, at least to me. I have a few I cook regularly now, and they are all different and delicious. I think it is my favourite cut of meat, so far.
      2 seconds ago

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Lemon risotto

Well I have been working my way through Giuliano Hazan's risotto recipes. Tonight was lemon risotto, from his How to Cook Italian. It all went to plan, and while not perhaps as mind bending as the classic porcini, or the butternut pumpkin, it was delicious all the same, and each bright, citrusy mouthful appreciated by the grateful diners.