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Mmmnn . . . . I Just Love . . . .

Dreaming of a white Christmas? As Christmas approaches, we’re all dreaming about the fun we’ll have, the presents, the Christmas feasts. Let’s try sharing some of the cheer with those who don’t have so much time to dream about during the holiday season, who might find themselves alone at this time of year, or sat down to a Christmas meal that’s not quite as plentiful . . .

BRUSCHETTA DI SALAME E CAPPERI (Salami and capers on toast)

Ingredients
4 Slices of French bread, cut length-ways & toasted on one side.
12 thin slices of Milano salami
40g capers, finely chopped
4 gherkins, finely chopped
1 pickled onion, finely chopped
20g butter

Preparation
1. In a shallow bowl place the capers, onion, gherkins, and butter
2. Make a paste
3. Spread the paste onto the non-toasted side of the warm bread
4. Put the salami on top and serve on a side plate with a napkin

Chef’s recommendation: serve warm and with a glass (or two) of chilled Prosecco

PASTICCIO DI MACCHERONI D (Macaroni Bake)

This dish is not made with the small macaroni pasta, but with conchiglie (seashell) or rigatoni (tube shaped) pasta. It is a typical Northern Italian starter dish served mainly in the winter months as it is an oven-cooked meal.

Ingredients
120g medium-size Conchiglie
100g pancetta, roughly chopped
1 tin of chopped Italian tomatoes
200g strong Cheddar cheese, grated
30g Parmesan or Grana Padano, grated
2 sticks of celery, finely chopped
1 onion, finely sliced
5 cloves of garlic, peeled, crushed, and finely chopped
40ml olive oil
30g pork or bacon fat (lard would do)
50ml dry white wine
Salt and pepper mill

Preparation

1. In a suitably sized saucepan, heat salted water until boiling before adding some of the oil and pasta, stirring until the mixture reaches boiling point again
2. Stir occasionally until cooked (around 20 minutes) then drain and mix in some more oil to avoid sticking
3. At the same time, melt the fat and the rest of the oil in a non-stick pan
4. When hot, add the chopped celery, onion, garlic, and the pancetta
5. Cook for 10 minutes, stirring before adding the wine
6. When half evaporated, add the peeled tomatoes and boil rapidly for five minutes, before reducing the heat to simmer for a further thirty minutes
7. In a suitably oiled oven dish, add the cooked pasta and the sauce, mixing well before adding the Parmesan and half the cheddar
8. Level the pasta and add the remainder of cheddar cheese evenly on top
9. Cook for 20 minutes in a hot oven (200ºC)
10. Serve with small crusty bread rolls

GIRELLO DI TACCHINO RIPIENO

P.S An alternate way to serve Turkey at Christmas

Ingredients
Single breast from a 6 kg Turkey. (Approx. 800g)
10/12 rashers of Streaky Bacon
200g minced Pork
50g onion, finely chopped
50g celery, finely copped
70g button mushrooms, finely chopped
4 garlic cloves, peeled, crushed, and chopped
5g mixed spices
Salt and pepper mill

In Addition:
250ml good stock
Some thickening agent (I use BISTO gravy granules)
75ml dry white wine

Preparation
1. Make an incision along the thinnest part of the breast, 200mm long and 100mm deep into the flesh – you may wish to ask the butcher to do this for you.
2. Open the breast as much as possible, this is the cavity in which you’ll place the stuffing (or ‘ripieno’ in italian)
3. Let it rest for the time being, in the fridge if possible, but well away from any heat.

For the Stuffing
1. Place all the ingredients, excluding the bacon, in a suitable bowl
2. Mix well – if it seems dry, add a little Sherry or strong stock

Assembly
1. Fill the breast cavity with the stuffing and try to close the pocket by rolling both ends and inserting four cocktail sticks to keep it closed.
2. Place the bacon on top, from side to side, covering as much of the breast as possible.
3. Tie the rolled breast with string where the sticks are, dispensing with the sticks afterwards.
4. Place the breast on some roughly chopped vegetables, bay leaves, and a little water, in a suitable metal oven dish. Leave to rest for 30 minutes
5. Cook in a pre-heated oven (180ºC) for 45 minutes, then reduce the temperature to 150ºC and cook until the temperature at the centre of the breast is at least 75ºC, but ideally 82ºC

For the Gravy
1. Remove the meat from the oven dish
2. Place dish with the chopped vegetables on hob, once hot, pour the wine and reduce heat by half
3. Add the stock, reducing further by a quarter before thickening according to taste – following the instructions on the container
4. Pass through a strainer into sauce-boat to serve

You will need a reliable meat thermometer in the kitchen- important to reduce risk of food poisoning from undercooked meats especially poultry and pork. Serve with roast Potatoes, baked parsnips, carrot, and the traditional buttered Brussels sprouts.

EVELASTING LIME SYLLABUB

Ingredients
3 limes
50ml vodka
50g soft brown sugar
250ml double cream
100ml pale cream sherry
4 fan-shaped wafer biscuits

Preparation
1. Grate two limes and place the rind into a suitable bowl
2. Zest the third lime and keep for decoration
3. Squeeze the juice of the three limes and add to the grated rind
4. Add the brown sugar and vodka to the juice and rind, and stir it a little
5. Rest for at least 3 hours, then whisk until the sugar has dissolved
6. Whisk the cream to a peak and then add to the sherry very slowly, still slowly whisking to avoid splitting, before adding the sugar and rind mixture
7. Whisk quickly to form a fluffy, firm mousse texture
8. The Syllabub is now ready to be placed in 4 suitable dishes
9. Sprinkle some zest into each dish and decorate with the fan biscuits

BUON APPETITO – Giovanni Fontebasso

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