The Mint Shop

The Mint Shop

Wednesday, 22 September 2010

Summer is not over yet


(And now I feel I can refer to more than just myself as to my surprise I have discovered today that I have 12 followers...sooo exciting! However, how do I set it up to give my readers notice of new blogs? I'm such an old hack).

Despite being close to the official end of Summer, I found myself having dinner in the garden last night at 9.30 without even the slightest faint of shiver. I had spent my entire day working inside and the result of it was that my fingers were frozen, my toes were frozen, my nose was frozen (why am I such a whimp?). So I assumed that 10C was the real temperature. I discovered that between outside and inside there were at least 8C difference (WHAT IS WRONG WITH OUR HOUSE?!?).

So, being overly excited at my discovery, I decided to host a solstice feast in the garden with full moon lighting and plenty of candles. And some fish; definitely also some good white wine. I even scattered around the grass some tea- lights to give a fairy effect. As always, I forgot to take a picture (still haven't recharged the batteries..useless me!) so you just have to use your imagination! But I assure you it looked lovely!

As my new resolution is to finish all the ingredients we have in the fridge before going shopping again, I assembled what we had which sounded promising to me: risotto rice, smoked salmon, clotted cream (from the fabulous scones I made again last Sunday - not the ones from August!), chive, mint, peas, and parmesan.

Knowing the feelings that the majority of English people seem to have towards peas, I am sure that most of you will be weirded out by the vegetable-fish combination, but they do bring something special to a plain risotto like this.

You can also use frozen peas (which is what I did, despite having loudly advertised how much better fresh peas are...). They will cook easily in the pan with the risotto.


Ingredients (for 2 people)

200g risotto rice (pudding rice also does the trick); half an onion; 1 vegetable stock; 750ml water; 2 dollops of clotted cream (you can replace it with normal cream - healthier probably! - of creme fraiche, if you want to continue with the non-healthy theme); 100g trimmed smoked salmon (Sainsbury's basic is quite all right); 1 handful of chive; 1 handful of mint leaves; 100g parmesan.


> Chop the onion very finely (seriously!) and golden in a pan with olive oil.
> Pour the rice in the pan and stir for a couple of minutes until it becomes well coated with the oil and onions.
> Prepare the stock: pour the water (hot) onto the stock and slowly add it to the rice to cover it. Let the rice simmer and add gradually the water to avoid it dries out.
> When the rice is almost cooked, add the chopped herbs, the cream and the peas.
> Stir well to ensure all the ingredients are mixed together and the peas have cooked.
> Sprinkle all the parmesan and mix so that it melts.
> Serve it on the plate and arrange the salmon on top and a few remaining strings of chive. The idea is that the salmon does not cook in the rice but folds gently with the rest retaining its flavour.

The moon was really full. I can now have a haircut.

Sunday, 5 September 2010

A copy of my crusted seabass?

I normally read and trust film reviews (well except that time everyone was praising "The Dark Knight" which frankly was a complete scam as it was damn rabbish). This time I am glad I decided to ignore what I read and go to see Copie Conforme (or as it has been translated "Certified Copy" - the translation already gives reason for debate as conforme and certified are not at all the same. Anyway.).

I thought it was a really clever, melanchonic, mellow, and gentle film. I feel that I have to rivendicate it and give it justice - and encourage my readers to go to see it. Maybe it is because I had very low expectations but I am glad we went. What is original and what is a copy? Does it matter to know that a work is not original or fake? Or what matters is how we relate to it? Or the original carries its authenticity which has intrinsic value as otherwise all copies would be on the same level? I liked the thought that the first wedding night has such a value that cannot be reproduced.

Juliette Binoche gives another of her outstanding performances, with a palette of expressions that few actresses and actors are able to put on their faces. I liked the idea that often objects of discussions, for example at some point a statue in the middle of a leafy Tuscan piazza, is never seen, only glimpsed in the mirror of a motorbike.

And I even discovered something from my home land which I had never heard before. In Lucignano, a village just outside of Arezzo, there is a golden tree which is supposed to bring luck and eternal happiness to newly married couples. I must go and see it - not because I am in need of luck. But you never know!

Anyway, I thought the philosophical discussion on authenticity and fakeness was interesting (Monna Lisa's smile was original or asked by Leonardo?). For sure my recipes are original as even if I try to copy them from recipe books I always manage to forget an ingredient or do not have enough of one and so decide to replace it with something else. It works though!

On Friday I decided to make a main course taken from Sale & Pepe, an Italian cooking magazine which is reasonably reliable even though I would suggest your warning sign switches on every time it says easy.....

So what did I make?
Pesce in crosta with sformato di carote (a.k.a. Fish with crunchy crust and carrot flan).

For 4 people


For the fish: 4 sea bass fillets (the original recipe wants angler, but where the hell are you going to find angler??); 1 carrot; 1 courgette; 1 potato; parsley; 2 handfuls of grated parmisan; a couple of spoons of olive oil.

For the flan: 400g carrots (the recipe wants only 300g but frankly you won't even taste the carrots otherwise); 1/2 litre of milk; 150g butter (this is a lot, I know, but for this time!); 80g flour; 3 eggs (I would suggest 2 if you want); 50g grated parmisan.


Make the flan first as it takes 50 minutes to cook.
> Boil the carrots with some salt in water until very tender.
> In the meantime make the besciamelle sauce by melting the butter in a pan, then add the flour and incorporate it well. Once that is done, pour the milk and cook slowly making sure you don't have lumps - these horrible lumps...inevitably you will get them! So secret: whizz everything at the very end, they'll go and nobody will know).
> Drain the carrots and blend them well to make a pure'.
> Add the carrot pure' to the besciamelle. Then add the eggs and the parmisan. Stir well to make sure the egg whites are mixed with the rest.
> Pour the composte into a plum cake tin (previously greased and floured).
> Place the tin in a tray with hot water and put in the oven (previsouly warmed up) at 180C for 50 minutes.

For the fish
> Dry the fish with kitchen paper.
> Chop finely the carrot, potato and courgette, parsley and parmisan. I added some generous doses of breadcrumbs, and oil.
> Spread the mix on one side of the fish and finish with some more grated parmisan.
> Cook the fillets (with the mix facing up) in the oven for 15 minutes at C200 - on cooking paper.

Serve the fillet with a slice of the flan (which you have removed from the tin of course).

I liked it very much. And so my in-laws.