Remembering Friends and Food

November is often a month for remembering lost friends, but also the happy times we enjoyed with them. Friends pop up from all sorts of places – whether you make them at school when you’re growing up, you find an unexpected acquaintance at your first job, or you’ve experienced a friendship that blossomed from a chance encounter and grew into something long-lasting. Through a number of circumstances, you may one day realise that these friends are no longer with you. Sometimes just one of those things, a memory of a lost friend can leave you feeling mixed emotions. I choose to remember the happy mealtimes I had with some of my closest companions, with this recipe for a three course meal that we all enjoyed sharing together.


300g dry borlotti beans, soaked overnight
500g skinless pumpkin, roughly cut
60g of ham fat
20ml olive oil
1 onion, finely sliced
6 cloves of garlic, peeled and crushed
25g ground ginger
30g fresh sage and rosemary, finely chopped
700ml strong chicken stock (put aside 100ml)
Salt and pepper corn from a mill
If there is any cooked bacon or ham to use up, it can be chopped and added to the pan.

1. Boil the borlotti beans in the stock for 1 ½ hours
2. Boil the pumpkin in salted water until soft, then drain and keep warm
3. Heat the oil and fat together and use to fry the onions and garlic until they colour
4. Add the pumpkin along with some of the stock, stirring all the time, until bubbling
5. Add the cooked borlotti, the pumpkin, and the ground ginger
6. If the soup is too thick, add some additional stock
7. Correct the seasoning
8. Serve with crusty rolls

Ettore’s mother sometimes used to “pass the soup through a mouli”. Today, you can easily liquidise for a smoother texture. I personally prefer the chunkier version.


CAPRIOLO IN SALMI (Deer Stew with Salami)

This dish is often served in the Dolomitic region, north east of Italy. I first tasted this delicious meal in a road side “Trattoria”, during one of my cycling excursions in the region.
* A trattoria is an Italian-style eating establishment, less formal than a ristorante. There are generally no printed menus, the service is kept casual, and wine is sold by the decanter rather than the bottle.

700g shoulder venison, cut into largish cubes & marinated overnight (see method below)
100g fat pancetta, chopped into small pieces
50ml olive oil
2 celery sticks, chopped
1 large onion, chopped
8 cloves of garlic, peeled and crushed
10g mixed spices
30g mixed herbs (sage, rosemary, basil, mint, thyme, & parsley)
Salt and pepper corn from a mill
An item to thicken – my personal preference is bisto granules

The Marinade

300ml strong beef stock
500ml red wine Half the celery, onion & garlic
Herbs and spices as per above

1. Place the meat in a large bowl.
2. Pour in the marinade and leave it covered over night to steep
3. On the following day, heat half the oil in a nonstick pan until hot before adding the pancetta
4. When it starts to colour, add the remainder of the onions, garlic, and celery
5. Set aside once cooked
6. On a separate non-stick pan, heat the remainder of the oil
7. Once hot, add the drained venison pieces, stir ring all the time until there is no blood showing
8. Take the pan with the onions, garlic, celery that you set aside earlier and add to the venison
10. Stirring until well heated before adding the marinade and adjusting the seasoning
11. Simmer for 1 ½ hours then thicken to taste
12. Serve in a suitable dish with croutons and roughly chopped parsley sprinkled over
13. Creamed potatoes and broccoli are a must


DOLCE DI CASTAGNE (Sweet Chestnuts)

Chestnuts are plenty in November in North East Italy. There once was an owner of a Trattoria I knew, who served this beautiful dish for dessert. I have tried to recreate it but I have never been able to get it to taste as it did 60 odd years ago.

200g of chestnuts, peeled
100g caster sugar
150g ricotta
60g dark chocolate, melted
50ml maraschino
Double cream, whisked
Cocoa powder to top

1. Cook the chestnuts in water until soft.
2. Mush them well with an electric whisk in a large bowl
3. Add the ricotta, sugar, chocolate, and maraschino
4. Mix well and divide into suitable dishes
5. Top it with whisked cream whirls and sprinkle cocoa powder over the top to finish

BUON APPETITO – Giovanni Fontebasso

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