The Mint Shop

The Mint Shop

Thursday, 28 October 2010

Moroccan flavours

Last night I felt like something spicy. And escape a bit somewhere warm and magical. While I was having a break sipping my cup of Earl Grey tea and munching a ginger biscuit, my eyes rested on a tin of cayenne pepper. And thought that a tagine would a have been the perfect combination.

I've heard many people complaining that in Morocco one finds nothing but couscous and tagines, tagines and couscous. It is true, most of what you get in restaurants do involve one or the other, if not both. But there is more to that. Or at least the flavours can change (a bit) and in any case I love them so much that I really didn't mind!

Morocco has always been a place which has occupied a special fantastical place in my imagination (the real Thousand and One Nights). And when we eventually went, nothing disappointed me. On the contrary, everything was even better than expected. Smells, colours, noises from the market or street vendors, all mix in a grand bazaar.

I cannot deny that there are no annoyances. There are, or better, there can be. But only if you are somebody who starts talking to anyone on the street and starts following him into some remote Berbere market (because of course, everything is Berbere down there, not Arabic) and to some amazingly stinky tanneries.

So what did I cook in the end? Fish Tagine!
This dish is great because you can also prepare it in advance, then simply bang it in the oven and forget about it for at least an hour and even if you leave it there for a bit longer (once you've switched the oven off), that doesn't matter as this even intensifies the flavour.

It is very colourful so always ideal for dinner parties. And if you cook it in the actual tagine itself, you can also serve it straight to the table, removing the lid in front of your guests and expecting a "wow....uhhh".

I had a similar tagine in Essouira. I loved that place. It is so calm and peaceful with white washed houses and blue doors (that blue blows you away), a lively fish market by the port, and a constant breeze blowing over the rampants. If you are in Morocco, do make a detour down there. The impression you will have compared to Marrakesh is totally different. No hassles at shopping and no constant interest from the locals.

We stayed in this lovely guest house right on the cliffs. I had a seagull staring at me for a worrying minute, completely still in the air, while I was eating my semolina pancake (very typical for Moroccan breakfast) with honey. Surprisingly the place was called The Seagull (Dar Al Bahar). Don't leave the place without having savoured a pigeon or prawn pattie (pastilla) or eaten at a fabolous restaurant called Les Alizes' tucked away in a little alley and only lit with candles. Great atmosphere, and not just for the tourists!

Fish Tagine

For 4 people

4 fish fillets (cod or any white fish);
1 tin tomatoes;
1 onion;
2 garlic cloges;
1 tsp cinnamon;
2 tsp cayenne pepper;
2 tsp paprika;
1 tsp cumin powder (I used seeds instead and the result is the same);
3 handfuls of fresh coriander;
2 handful of fresh parsley;
3 tbsp olive oil;
juice of half juice;
4 large potatoes;
2 peppers (red and yellow if possible as it guarantees more colour)

1. In a mortar (or a in a mixer for the modern and busy Berbere dame) mix to a paste all the herbs, garlic, spices and oil. Squeeze the lemon juice and mix well. This is called chermoula.

2. Marinate the fish (cut into 4-5cm long pieces) in the marinade for at least 1 hour (you can make an express tagine and do it even in half an hour if you cook the fish in a pan using a lid to ensure that the flavour intensifies quickly and the fish absorbs it.

3. Chop the peppers and the onion.

4. Peel and slice the potatoes (if you have decided to make the express tagine, then cook the sliced potatoes in boiling and salty water to speed up the cooking time) and place them on the bottom of the tagine or a deep oven tray.

5. Place the peppers, onions, tomatoes on top of the potatoes and then the marinated fish. Cover and place in the oven (if you are using the tagine make sure that it can go into the oven as some of them might crack as they are supposed to be used only on a hob).

6. Cook the dish in the oven for at least 1 hour at 200C. Serve it with couscous which you will have cooked separately in a pan by adding to the grain 2 tsp of salt (for 300g couscous), 1 tsp turmeric, and 1 tsp cinnamon and then covering it with enough boiling water to cover it more than a finger. The coucous must absorb all the water so make sure that the lid is closed and you never peer through. You can add a knob of butter to separate the grains with a fork.

By the way, tagine is, as I am sure you know, being the well-travelled sophisticates that you are, the utensil with the conic hat in which all the ingredients get cooked rather than the dish itself. In Morocco you can find all kid of tagines - sizes, colours, patterns. A tagine for every season.

I've always loved the Yves Rocher bag.

Wednesday, 27 October 2010

We don't want Christmas decorations!

Yesterday I made my monthly appearance to the shops in the centre of town. You must know that where we live it feels like a real village community despite being only 15minutes walk from the main market square of Cambridge. Shops are local (the photo above was taken in the organic UrbanLarder) and don't belong to big chains (I am ignoring the newly opened Tesco, for me that doesn't even exist), people are friendly and recognise you so will say hello and smile. This heaven is called Romsey Town.

Well my decision to have only monthly visits to Cambridge is a clever one. But I wish I had stretched it to two months..... Christmas decorations are out already!! On 26th October. I couldn't believe it. This year they haven't even waited for Halloween switches from beach barbeque sets with colourful Pimms' glasses to fake snowy peaks and made-in-China baubles. I find it slightly worrying.

I find Autumn colours so inspiring... I'm sure we could fill our shopping windows with leaves, pumpkins, and mushrooms (without turning the shop into a garden centre). As I said before, I will never ever again buy strawberries in January and my kitchen will be filled up with seasonal smells. So today I made the Autumnal soup par excellence.

Autumnal soup with Ricotta

100g butternut squash (or pumpkin);
100g parsnip;
50 celeriac;
half onion;
1l vegetable stock;
100g ricotta;
1tsp chopped thyme and rosemary (each);
100g kale;
1 tsp soy sauce

1. Make the soup. Peel all the vegetables and chop them small so that they cook quickly.

2. Chop the onion very finely. In a pan (the size depends on the amount of soup you want to make) cook the chopped onion in a couple of spoons of oil until golden. Add the herbs and toss well. Add a tsp of salt.

3. Make the stock and pour it onto the cooked onion. Let it babble for a minute. Add the vegetables and close the pan with the lid.

4. When the vegetables are cooked, blitz to make it smooth (to the horror of my husband who calls this a "baby-meal").

5. In a separate pan, warm a table spoon of oil and when it's hot (you can tell when the oil starts babbling - I wouldn't suggest to stick your finger in it!), drop the kale all at once so that it sizzles quickly. I love this sound! Let it crinkle for a minute, add a splash of soy sauce. Remember that soy sauce is quite salty so you won't need to add extra salt to the kale.

6. Spoon some of the soup into a bowl and add the ricotta and incorporate it with a spoon. I also added a few leaves of basil as I still have some persevering plants on my window sill.

7. Add the sizzle kale on top of the soup.

As always, I'm too greedy and never remember to take a photo before I start tucking into my dish! So you might notice bits of soup already on the sides of the bowl....I think I also exaggerated with the kale on top of the soup....

The weather is still good enough to enjoy lunch in the garden. The leaves on our patio are still hanging on there but I feel not for long. The colours are great though. There are even some enduring flowers which kept me company while I was devouring my soup...

Tuesday, 26 October 2010

The last carrot crumbles

Today I have finished the last slice of the carrot cake I made on Sunday for my friends. They all seemed to enjoy it. And they looked honest. I need to practice at taking good close shots of food - I'm seriously considering cultivating this passion for food and photography. Who knows if something in the future comes up?

At least I am already in the right environment. Helping poor people from hunger. A bit the other side of the spectrum though. Food security v food abundance. I think food (well this thought is not that original and I am not the first person who has said it) has a central role in people's life. Most of our celebrations are around food. And funny but true, some of our best travelling memories involve food in a way or in another.

Anyway, going back to my cake. Here is the recipe I got from the website. It is a GoodFood recipe which I adapted slightly (a bit less oil and sugar and sandwiched filling rather than just on the top). I think the recipe could be adapted to cupcakes, just distribute the mix into the little cups (up to 3/4) and bake for 20-25 minutes instead of 35.

Sandwiched Carrot Cake

150g raising flour;
1 tsp bicarbonate of soda;
1 tsp baking powder;
2 eggs;
130g caster sugar;
250g coarsely grated carrots;
125ml vegetable oil;
1 tsp vanilla essence;
2 tsp cinnamon powder;
150g cream cheese;
200g icing sugar;
50g butter.

1. Preheat the oven to C180.

2. Sift the flour and mix the soda and baking powder. Add the cinnamon.

3. Grate the peeled carrots (not too fine as if you were grating cheese for your pasta) and add them to the floury mix.

4. Beat the eggs and add the sugar and vanilla. Mix well.

5. Add the oil to the eggs.

6. Add the wet mix to the dry mix and incorporate everything well to ensure all the ingredients are sticking together.

7. Pour the mix into two small sandwich tins previously greased. Place them in the oven on the same level and bake them for 30minutes at C180.

8. Remove the cake from the oven and let it cool down on a rack for at least 20 minutes. I left mine resting for the entire night and I believe the flavour intensifies. The advantage is also that you don't have to rush and do lots of things at the same time in case you are cooking more.

9. For the filling and icing. Mix 150g cream cheese with 50g butter and 200g icing sugar. Use half of this mix to fill the cake by distributing on top of one of the cakes.

10. Place the second cake on top so that the filling can be seen and gives a pretty effect. Spread the other half of the filling on top of the second cake using a fork so that you can give some nice ridge effects. Sprinkle some grated carrot on top to garnish.

I know that by posting another cake I shew away all my "male readers" as for some reasons men don't seem to like baking while women do. Is it because men want to control what they do? Or because women are naturally a baby-oven? Mhmmm....I wonder..

Some food shots at the market

There is nothing more expressive than food...

Saturday, 23 October 2010

A sweet wake-up

Today I knew I had to work. So I knew there was no long and lazy brunch for me. But I thought I had to experiment something I could blog about, even if it had to be quick. Actually that was probably better. So I lulled between the idea of an Egg Benedict - too early for something that filling - and a simple almond croissant - which I would definitely not have made myself though.

Eventually I rested my mind on a banana pancake. The original recipe suggested to use only buckwheat flour. I wasn't convinced. I have tried it before and it gives this chewy bready consistency which would dry out almost any other ingredient.

So I changed it and the result was not that bad. I must try it again, probably tomorrow morning. Call it dedication or insanity but until I am pleased with what I eat, I don't give up. (Unfortunately neither all those who are close enough to me).

Creamy banana pancakes

2 eggs;
75g plain flour;
45g buckwheat flour;
1 tsp baking powder;
2 tsp cinnamon;
1 tbsp treacle;
2 tbsp double cream;
1 tsp ginger;
150ml fat (or at least semi-skimmed as otherwise you just add water!) milk

1. Mix the egg yolks with the treacle, the sugar and the spices. Beat well to make sure that the sugar and treacle melt or at least get incorporated into the eggs.

2. Beat the egg whites until firm and fluffy. You can add the famous pinch of salt which is supposed to help the whites to stiffen up; personally I don't see any difference. But do if that makes you feel more comfortable!

3. Add to the eggy mix the milk and cream, and beat well.

4. Mix the two flours and the baking powder together.

5. Slowly add the flour sifting it (and I am proud to say that we finally have one, so no more tea strainer!) into the eggy mix. Beat well to avoid lumps. The batter has to have a thick consistency.

6. Leave the batter to rest for at least 15 minutes.

7. Melt a knob of butter in a pan and when it is melted and about to bubble, add a ladle of batter to form a pancake. You can decide the size; they can look like petites Russian blinis or massive American pancakes (like those you see in films!).

8. If you are making more than one, preheat the oven to 100C and keep each pancake while you are making them in the oven before being served.

9. When the pancake is almost cooked, slice a banana and scatter a few slices on top. You can either fold the pancake or just let the slices sink in the batter and become part of the pancake (this is what we did).

10. Serve warm, with a dollop of cream and sprinkle of cinnamon.

P.S. Today, Sunday, we used the leftover of the batter and turned the sweet pancakes into savoury ones by adding extra mature cheddar, and chive and served with wilted spinach and crispy bacon. The result I must confess was fantastic, better than the original recipe!!

Wednesday, 20 October 2010

A very green soup

Last night I was zapping around (is this the right word? mmm....probably not) the iplayer programs - it's true, we STILL don't have a telly (so what?) - and bumped into GUESS WHO?? Nigella, of course! Or maybe it was my subconscious that drove me towards her kitchen...

I cannot hide my horror at her inspired spaghetti with Marmite....blargh!! And once again she came back with a science-fiction story that Italians recycle the oil/sauce from their Sunday roast to dress their pasta on Monday. I think there must have been some cheeky Italian who took the real piss out of her. NON E' VERO!

And does she really have a fur apron? Well if so, I guess that's just fine....but I suspect there is somebody there who tells her to be provoking and open wide her black eyes at the camera while she ravages her larder, which is probably the size of my living room. Mhmm..

Well, at least I had a nice and healthy soup just before that. It was all a bit green to confess, but if it is your green day then you'll be ok. The original recipe (thank you Ilva for it!) wanted shrimps which I didn't have and couldn't be bother to go to Coop in the rain. So if you want to try it with the shrimps, do and let me know. I added basmati rice on the side.

Leek and Spinach Soup

Makes 2

One medium (length-wise) leek;
3-4 handful of fresh spinach;
a knob of butter;
1 tbsp oil;
200ml vegetable stock;
200ml fresh single cream;
1 bay leaf;
50ml milk.

1. Cut the leek in medium rings and cook them in a deep pan with some butter and a spoon of oil until tender.

2. Make the vegetable stock and pour it onto the leeks. Let simmer for a couple of minutes. Then add the cream and the bay leaf, and simmer for another few minutes.

3. Remove the bay leaf (if you leave in the cream for too long it starts tasting very terrible as it is quite strong), and add the milk to make it creamier.

4. Blitz everything and if necessary pass it through a colander to make it smoother. Add salt to taste and a touch of pepper.

5. Make separately the basmati rice. For 200g rice you need enough water to cover plus a finger above the level. Add to it a couple of knobs of butter, a tsp of salt, few leaves of jasmine tea, a cardamom and a starred anise.

6. Add the spinach to the soup which will only take a minute to wilt with the heat.

7. Pour the soup in the bowl adding in small quantities the rice which has been served separately. The rice functions as a form of bread.

Very filling and warming! The photo was taken half way eating it as I had forgotten. It's not great but just wanted to show you how fantastically green it is!

Tuesday, 19 October 2010

A pear encounter

More and more I think it is ethically wrong to find strawberries in January, or cherries in November. And I get really grumpy when I discover that my butternut squash comes from Greece or potatoes from Kenya...without wanting to sound too Daily Mail we-don't- want-foreign- food- here but.... "don't we grow this kind of stuff here?" Humph, humph...

I don't expect people to eat cabbage and parsnips for 6 months a year, but at least that our kitchens get synchronised a bit more around seasons without mobilising planes from God-knows-where.

This week I was supposed to travel to Mozambique but to my joy I didn't - I know, I know, I am really ungrateful to the blessing I have. And this is the worst part because when I say to people "Oh yes I have to give a workshop at a beach resort in Mozambique" then of course everyone says "Oh wow how cool!" To which I feel a complete brat. But the point is that after a while you do it, you don't fancy that much packing again, spending at least 18 hours between planes and lounges (however swish the Heathrow T2 one can be), and stuffing yourself with what my colleague calls "medication" - makes me feel I'm nuts.

In any case, as I happened to be in rainy England I thought of taking advantage of a great spot we discovered last year for a proper back-to-nature harvesting. Within 50 metre distance you literally bump (ok maybe not literally) into walnut, apple, and pear trees. However, to our deep disappointment the walnut tree had already dropped all its shells and the apple tree to make no apples whatsoever. Very sad indeed.

Our search though was not all in vain. The pear tree was in full abundance. A bit high up - and not just for me.... but with some primitive tools that mother nature provided I hit enough branches (as well as almost killing my husband) and caused a generous fall. Our month's provisions has been secured.

Now with such an opulence, I have come up with all unimaginable recipes that involve this key ingredient. I looked through one of my favourite blogs (luculliandelights) and I thought that Pear and pine nut semolina cake sounded absolutely scrumptious. What is great about this cake, isthe crunchiness and coarseness of the semolina; and that is why I would highly recommend that you eat it when it's still warm - shouldn't be difficult if you are as greedy as I can be. Also the longer you leave it, the more the taste of cardamom intensifies.

Pear, Cardamom, Apples and Pine Nut Cake

For a 20cm baking tin

280g semolina;
70g self raising flour;
400ml milk;
3 eggs;
100g butter;
200g sugar;
1 tsp cardamom;
3 tbsp pine nuts;
2 medium soft pears
1 soft apple (cox)

1. Mix the flour with the semolina and the cardamom.

2. Melt the butter (thanks God you don't have to soften it up and mix it with sugar which is one of those horrid things that cake recipes ask you to do) and mix it with the sugar. Then add the milk and bring it to boil.

3. Whisk the eggs and add to the milky mix once it has cooled down a bit or you'll make an omelette. Mix well.

4. Pour the milk/egg mix onto the semolina (I know this will sound very unorthodox but it does work). Leave it for a minute so that the semolina absorbs the liquid and then mix well.

5. Peel, remove stalk, and cut the pears into slices.

6. Grease and flour the baking tin. Pour the mixture in it.

7. Arrange the slices of pear and apple on the surface of the cake, sprinkle the pine nuts all around the surface. Finish with a touch of sugar sprinkled on top which will slightly caramelise.

Monday, 18 October 2010

A walk in the vineyards

Strange to believe but there are vineyards around Cambridge. The place is called "Chilford Hall" and they produce a small amount of wine, all of it white quite fruity and light as they use prevalently Muller-Thurgau and Dorfendel which are quite sweet and juicy. We haven't bought a bottle yet but we will. The shop was closed on the way back from our walk. I almost felt back home in Tuscany!

Autumn in Lode

Sunday, 17 October 2010

The Fisherman's brunch

I think of myself as quite a devoted person. At least I always try to please my reasonable bosses, Liz, Victoria, and now Elise (I don't believe in working for men). I could almost say "yes" if they asked me to throw the selected virgin into the mouth of a hungry God volcano (as Esther says) like a sun-worshipping islander. Well, almost. I would probably offer to give up some of my weekend's time for the good cause of the office.

However, when time for brunch comes, I do not make concessions. Brunch is one of those indisputable and irreplaceable moments of a late Saturday morning. And with one meal, you cook only once, replacing breakfast and lunch (how clever!). That is why one couldn't possibly have brunch any time before 10.30 or after 12.30. It wouldn't be right. You just would have to call it something else entirely.

As I still haven't reverted back to meat, my treat involves only fish. I took inspiration from an Italian recipe which requires entirely vegetables (peppers and broccoli) and turned it into something a bit more luscious.

Fisherman en cocotte

For 2 people

2 ramequines; 2 eggs; 50g mild cheddar; 50g smoked salmon (trimmings which is a lot cheaper); 1 small/medium potato; 1 small piece of leek; 2 handful of fresh spinach (more expensive but so much tastier than frozen), 1 tsp butter; 1 tbsp double (or single, not that important) cream.

1. Pre-heat the oven at C180.

2. Peel and dice the potato in salted water. Cut in small rings the leek and cook it with the potato. Once the potato and the leek are well cooked, drain the potato and mash it adding the leek, a dash of cream and a pinch of salt if necessary. Mash well to make a smooth paste. If it's a bit lumpy, don't worry, it doesn't matter!

3. In each ramequin, arrange the mash potatoes as a basket. Arrange the salmon in the mash and just around it.

4. Crack the egg in the potato hole.

5. Place the ramequines in a tray with warm water and then place the tray in the oven for about 5 minutes.

6. Wilt the spinach in a pan with a touch of water. Add a drop of cream and a pinch of salt.

7. The egg will be almost cooked. Take the tray out of the oven and sprinkle the cheese on top. Return it to the oven for another couple of minutes until the cheese has melted and made that wonderful crispy crust.

8. Serve the ramequines on a plate with small toasted bread batons (or soldiers as they are called in England) and the wilted spinach.

Wednesday, 6 October 2010

Parmigiano - get it right!

I am in a state of shock by Nigella's understanding of Italian dishes. Cannelini beans, salame, tomatoes and ditalini?? What is this supposed to be? Has anyone seen her latest programme? Nigella Kitchen - without the apostrophe s. I always wonder: when in the programme they go out, are those hired friends? Who knows.
I used to be a big fan of her Christmas show, so much that I have fond memories of slipping into bed with a cup of hot chocolate and be inspired by Nigella. But this one? I am deeply troubled. Under what type of heavy substances is she? And why does she always pretend she has been told by Italians? Which ones? Va beh.

I have just come back from Tuscany where I experienced some new great dishes. As I feel generous and in a sharing spirit, I have decided to let you have the recipe. Also because it is very easy but of great impact.

I think parmisan, actually not, parmigiano...why do we feel the need to translate it? Do we say ceddaro when we refer to it in Italian? No. Exactly. And I am not particularly nationalistic but I cannot stand violence to language. It's a bit like the fashionable word of panini; you're supposed to order a (singular) panini even though the word implies the plural so it would be two panini...while if it is only one, it should be one or a panino! Va beh.

So, my recipe. We were exploring a few places for my sister's wedding, and one of these was Dievole, near Vagliagli, at the real heart of Chianti. Beautiful. Especially now when the vineyards have decided to change colour to their leaves but haven't made up their mind completely going from green to gold, to rusty red to brown.

I do not intend to make any publicity of the place itself (although I would highly recommend it...) but one of the suggested menus had a spuma di parmigiano con pere, miele e aceto balsamico (parmigiano mousse with pears, honey and balsamic vinegar). I didn't go and interrogate and extort the chef - didn't think it would have gone down well. So I tried to guess and came up with a rough idea of the recipe.

I tried it twice while I was at my parents' in Siena and this is what I think you should do:

For 4 people


> 250g parmigiano Reggiano; 300g single cream; 500g pears (Williams); 10g gelatine; 1 tbsp of honey; 1 tbsp of granulated sugar; 2 tbsp balsamic vinegar.


> In a saucepan boil the cream.

> In a plate with cold water, soak the gelatine, squeeze it and add it to the cream. Stir well.

> Add to the cream, the grated parmigiano. Mix well whisking gently. Pour the mousse into individual ramekin which you will have previously greased or otherwise the mousse won't come out of them (and you will get really angry!). Set them aside for a few minutes to let it cool down, and then leave it in the fridge for an hour until it is completely set.

> Peel and chop the pears into small cubes. Mash half of them to make a pure'. Use the other half cut into cubes and cook in a pan with the honey, sugar and vinegar. Let the vinegar evaporate slightly and make a think syrup.

> Distribute the pear pure' on the serving plate. Turn the mousse onto the pure' (which you will have removed from the fridge a few minutes earlier so that it warms up a bit). Top up with the pear cubes and the sauce.

Monday, 4 October 2010

Ridge it all'italiana!

hen I was little every time something went wrong at school (mind you, never serious stuff but mainly children things , as I was a very clever little girl of course...) my mother suggested to make gnocchi for me. School was only in the morning and at 1 o'clock we were all out already. Poor parents who had to do something with us for the rest of the day....children labour in the kitchen was a good option!

Gnocchi have some comforting sense; perhaps it is because you know that you have to be gentle when you handle them as they are soft and small. I loved the act of ridging them with the tip of a giant fork which I could barely manoeuvre from my 8 years old height (which hasn't changed much since...). You have to exercise a gentle pressure and then push the potato piece away from you. It is a very relaxing movement. And the result is below.

Note: how to pronounce gnocchi correctly. Imagine it is written as neokee, and you probably
get to the most accurate pronunciation you can hope for!

As I thought they are really fun to make, I asked my cooking students to give it a go last week. We had them with hand-made pesto, which is a totally different experience from that green stuff you get in jars!

For 80 gnocchi


> 2kg old potatoes (this is important. The potatoes need to be old because the skin needs to be quite thick. If you have no clue of what old potatoes look like, you can go for those which seem quite been picked out of the ground as often still covered in mud to give the effect of naturalness!); 2 eggs; 400g flour

> Cook the potatoes with their skin on in water to cover them well (adding probably 2 tbsp salt) until very soft.

> When they are soft, peel them (I must apologise already for the slight pain you might suffer as the potatoes do have to be hot or the skin won't come off) with the help of a fork and knife, and mash them very well to avoid any lumps.

> Let the mash cool down a bit. Add to it the eggs and mix well to make sure they are absorbed.

> Add gradually the flour and incorporate it to make a floury and soft mix.

> When you have finished all the flour, you can take portions and roll it on a floured surface and make some sausages which you will have to roll with the palm of your hands to make thinner and longer. The potato sausage must be only 1.5cm wide (I am not expecting you to measure them but just to give you a rough idea).

> If the sausage becomes too long and not manageable, cut it into half and finish with one of it. Using a knife cut it into small cubes (again around 1.5cm long).

> Using the end of a fork, make the ridges. Place a gnocco on the tip of the fork, press down slightly and while pressing push the gnocco away to roll on the ridges.

> In the meantime, boil 2 litres of water (adding 2 tbsp of salt).

> Once you have finished with all of them til the end of the potato mix, drop a few handfuls of gnocchi in the boiling water. They only need to cook for a few seconds. As soon as they come up to the surface, they are ready! So spoon them out and leave them in a dish to which you will have added a spoon of hot water and some of the pesto (recipe below) so that it acquires the right fluidity.

Pesto alla genovese

They are a lot of variations on the theme - Sicilian with walnuts; Sardinian with rocket - but the authentic recipe is from Genoa.

I'm afraid to tell you that you will have to sacrifice an abundant part of your basil plant -however, don't despair! If you cut it just right below the leaf, it will grow even healthier than before!


> 150g basil leaves; 100g parmisan; 50g pine nuts; 1 garlic clove

> In a mortar (or bowl) grind 1 tbsp of sea salt with the garlic and the nuts to mash them well.

> Add some of the leaves and continue grinding. Add the cheese and more leaves.

> The aim is to make a thick paste to which you will add a few table spoons of olive oil (depending on the oil you use, the pesto will become more or less strong). Add more salt if necessary.

P.S. I have just realised that I forgot to tell you that I am running a 5 session Italian cooking course! The three people I have - very brave indeed - are lovely and really open to experiment! Bravissimi!