A Passion For Food

This is a very comforting soup especially on the cold wintery days. The combination of the squash and the creaminess of the charlotte potatoes whit the salty pancetta create an amazing contrast of flavours, the little crème fraiche in the end will be just the perfect finishing touch. Try to use onion squash, as its flavour is better than butternut squash.

Squash, Pancetta and Potato Soup – Serves 4

1kg ripe onion squash (or butternut squash)
1 small onion, finely chopped
100g pancetta cubes
1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1 tsp chopped thyme
300g Charlotte potatoes, peeled and cubed
1 litre chicken stock
2 tbsp crème fraiche
Dash of Tabasco
Salt and black pepper

1. Peel the squash and remove the seeds and fibres. Cut the flesh into cubes.
2. Fry the onion and pancetta in the olive oil in a heavy based saucepan until light gold in colour. Add the thyme, squash and potatoes and stir, then cook for a further 5 minutes.
3. Pour in the chicken stock and bring to the boil. Reduce the heat and simmer for 30 minutes.
4. Ladle into a blender and pulse until smooth. Pour back into the pan and stir in the crème fraiche and salt and pepper to taste. You can reheat if necessary before serving. Enjoy!

Recommended Wine: Merlot (France)

Twice-Cooked Pork and Olives on Pesto Mash – Serves 6

This dish will take some time, but the result is really worth it and the mash is a treat in itself. I got the recipe for this dish when I was working for Peter Gordon in London. Believe me, you and your family will love it.

1.5kg boned and rolled pork shoulder
1 onion, peeled and quartered
2 fresh chillies
2 carrots, peeled and chopped
2 bay leaves
6 spring rosemary
125ml vinegar
2 tbsp salt
200g black olives
150g plump raisin
3 tbsp golden syrup
Pesto Mash
1.2kg potatoes
250g butter
150ml cream
100g basil pesto

1. Place the pork, onion, 1 chilli (halved), carrots, bay leaves, 2 rosemary spring, vinegar and salt in a saucepan large enough to hold the pork.
2. Cover with cold water and bring to the boil. Cover and simmer 90 minutes. leave to cool in the liquid then proceed, or you can refrigerate it for up of 2 days.
3. Preheat oven to 170c, gas mark 3-4. Take the pork from the liquid, strain off 400ml and discard the rest.
4. Place the pork in a casserole large enough to hold it and pour on the reserved liquid. Tuck remaining rosemary into the pork and add olives, remaining chilli (sliced), raisin and golden syrup.
5. Cover and bake for 45 minutes with the lido on or foil, when the pork is cooking let start to work on our pesto mash.
6. Boil peeled potatoes in salted until tender. In a small saucepan bring the butter and cream to the boil and mix in the pesto sauce. Drain potatoes and mash it. Stir in the warm pesto sauce. Season to taste and our Pesto mash is now ready.
7. After 45 minutes remove the lid or the foil and roast until the liquid has become almost caramel. Remove pork from pot, take off the string and slice pork about 1/2 cm (1/4in) thick. Dollop some mash on the plate. Sit sliced pork on, then spoon on the olive mixture. Ready to serve!

Recommended Wine: Shiraz (South Africa)

Chocolate and Almond Cookies

This month, instead of showing a pudding recipe, I would like to offer these delicious cookies. I got this recipe when I was working in Italy, the chef where I was working at the time was preparing these cookies as a afternoon treat for the hotel guest and for the staff. There are so delicious that today I prepare them for my kids, I hope you and your kids will like them as much as we do.

400g Blanched (skinned) almonds
4 eggs, separated
250g caster sugar
150g plain flour
250g unsalted butter
250g 70% dark chocolate

1. Preheat the oven to 180c. Spread the almonds on a baking sheet and lightly toast in the oven as it heats up. Line 1-2 baking sheets with baking parchment.
2. Beat the eggs yolks with the sugar in a large bowl until pale, light and creamy. Add the flour and mix well. set aside.
3. Gently heat the butter in a small pan until it has just melted; remove from the heat. Finely chop the toasted almonds and roughly chop the toasted almonds and roughly chop the chocolate.
4. In another large bowl, whisk the egg whites until soft peaks form when the whisk is lifted from the bowl. Fold the almonds and chocolate into the yolk mixture followed by the melted butter and then whisked egg whites, folding until combined.
5. Place spoonfuls of the mixture well spaced apart, on the lined baking sheets. Bake for 12-15 minutes until the cookies are set and crisp on the outside (they should still be soft in the middle). Transfer to wire racks to cool before serving, tuck in!

Recommended Wine: Port (Portugal) or a glass of warm milk

Simone Conti

Enjoying these recipes? You can read more of Simone’s meals HERE.

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