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Tasting our Memories!

There are two instances where the smell of food played a part in my upbringing and in my later life: the smell of my mother’s home cooked Lasagne and the local coffee shop roasting coffee beans that I could smell on my way to school. I still use my mother’s recipe today as a chef and in my own home cooking. Some years later, I was asked to create a ‘special’ dessert for a lunch where the main guest taking part, was a coffee grower. I recreated that big coffee taste and aromatic smell.

Here are the recipe results of these two “smells” that evoke many happy memories of mine. Enjoy.

PASTICCIO DI LASAGNE AL FORNO (Baked Lasagne meal) (Serves 4)

Italians eat lasagne as a “first” course (starter), but in the UK it’s usually a main course, the recipe here is for a “main” course. I assure you it was a treat for all the family to have this dish, even if mother had to start working from 8am as father was already sitting at table at 12 sharp. And the smell was incredible!

Ingredients
16 Sheets of dried “easy cook” lasagne
200g lean minced beef
100g minced pork
1x 500mls bottle of Italian tomato “Passata”
80g finely chopped onion
80g finely chopped celery
80g finely chopped carrots
5 cloves of garlic crushed, shelled and chopped
100mls of strong stock
100mls of dry white wine
30mls of olive oil
50g butter
25g chopped basil
600mls of béchamel sauce
250g grated strong cheddar cheese
250g roughly chopped mozzarella cheese
Salt and pepper mill

Preparation
1. Place the lasagne in a bowl of water 4 at a the time during the process
2. In a suitable non stick saucepan place the oil and butter over the hot stove and fry the meat until its juices are well caramelised
3. Take the meat out and keep it warm, saving the cooking fat in the pan. In it place the chopped onions, celery, carrots and garlic
4. Fry it all well and then add the meat, bring all to a lively heat and moisten with the wine, reduce and add the stock
5. Let it simmer for 1 hour stirring frequently
6. Heat the béchamel and keep it hot on the side. Do the same with the Passata
7. When the meat is cooked, pour some oil on a deep metal baking tray
8. Oil it well on all the sides and bottom and then spread on the bottom some béchamel and place on it the four lasagnes you have soaked, cover with a layer of meat and then the next four lasagnes, cover with passata and cheese
9. Repeat this process until you have used up all ingredients, try to end with a thick cheese layer
10. Place the tray in a hot oven at 200ºC for 20 minutes then reducing to 160ºC for a further 30 minutes

POMODORO RIPIENO A CRUDO (Cold stuffed tomatoes) (Serves 4)

Ingredients
4 Medium sized “beef steak” tomatoes (or 2 large)
100g cucumber chopped
100g shelled prawns cut small
75g grated carrot
75g finely chopped celery
50g finely chopped shallots (or spring onions)
50mls of lemon and olive oil dressing
20g chopped basil and parsley
4 bouquets of green herbs for garnish

Preparation
1. Wash and dry the tomatoes
2. Chop the “head” off each tomato and keep it
3. Scoop out all the inside of the tomatoes discarding the seeds and chop the remainder with half of each “head”
4. In a bowl, place all the chopped food add the dressing, the chopped parsley, basil and mix well together
5. Fill each tomato with the mixture, placing each on a suitable plate
6. Garnish with the 4 half ”heads” and the herbs bouquets

COFFEE DELIGHT (Serves 4)

Ingredients
4 Mini sponge cakes (or Doughnuts)
200 mls of cold strong coffee
300 mls double cream
100 g soft brown sugar (Moscovado)
50 g castor sugar
80 mls brandy
4 balls of coffee ice cream
40 g of roasted almonds flakes

Preparation
1. Place the sponge cakes in 4 suitable dishes (small soup bowls?)
2. Soak the sponges with ¾ of the coffee; sprinkle on it half the brown and castor sugar. Rest for at least 1 hour
3. Whip the cream to stiff point then fold in the rest of the sugar and the brandy using a metal spoon.
4. Place one ice cream ball on each sponge
5. Cover the lot with the cream and sprinkle the almonds over

Should I have to serve this dish today, I would finish it with a big strawberry on top of each dessert. Do so if you wish: when I prepared it the first time it was autumn and then strawberries were not in season and therefore not available as they are nowadays.

BUON APPETITO – Giovanni Fontebasso

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