“Carnival Lasagna” from “Jamie Cooks Italy”

When we saw the name of this dish– Carnival Lasagna– it seemed the perfect thing to make as we head into the final weeks/days/hours of Andrew being at home before he heads off to the great adventure that is university life. Who doesn’t love a carnival? And indeed, this dish seems perfect for a big family gathering or a party. More pertinently, a carnival might also be just what we need as we all get a bit wistful about his departure.

We set aside a Sunday afternoon to get this done. You could just tell by looking at the three pages of photographs and one full page of instructions this was going to be a PROJECT. We were fine with that, because after all, isn’t that what Sunday afternoons are for?

It was a team effort. You have to make pasta dough for the lattice on the top, which Tim made. You also have to make meatballs and tomato sauce to layer in, which I made. We both kept an eye on the kilo of spaghetti we had to cook to put inside. Assembly was also largely a team effort.

You can imagine the relief we felt when it was finally time to eat. We figured it would be good, and we also figured that everyone would love it, given the ingredients.

The verdict? “This is just basically just spaghetti and meatballs, in pie form,” Andrew said after one bite. That’s really not the reaction we were hoping for after hours of cooking. But he was right. Even so, it was delicious, and it was even better as leftovers for lunch the next day.

This truly would be the perfect meal for a huge gathering of people. You could make it ahead of time, and put it in the oven when the guests arrive. Then once it’s time to eat, all you have to do is bake it and slice it. The picture above doesn’t really do it justice, but trust me, it’s a dramatic dish.

But when I make it again, I’ll modify some of the more fiddly bits. The meatballs, which are fried and then poached in the tomato sauce, were really good, but it took an age to fish them out of the tomato sauce. So the next time, I’ll just roast the meatballs like I always do, and then toss them in a bit of tomato sauce before layering them in– that will be much easier. Although the pie would be fine without the lattice on the top, it does add something extra to the dish, so I guess I would do that again. The next time I’d also add more prosciutto and cheese to the dish, but that’s just down to personal preference.

All in all, it was an excellent way to kick off a month of Italian eating with Jamie Oliver.

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“Carnival Lasagna” from “Jamie Cooks Italy”

Cookbook of the Month, September 2018: Jamie Cooks Italy

Maureen: I hate to be cynical about it, but given that he did “Jamie’s Italy” in 2005, and then “Jamie Does…” in 2010 that has a section on Italy, I have to ask– is this just money for old rope?

Kirstin: Jamie, it turns out, really, really likes Italy. Just in case you didn’t know that.

Maureen: He did this with Gennaro, and I love recipes from Gennaro Contaldo– his porchetta recipe is a firm family favourite– so perhaps this will be great.

Kirstin: But it’s hard, isn’t it. We criticise him every year– either the food is too odd [Superfoods] or the recipes too slapdash [15/30 Minute Meals]. The question is: what do we want from Jamie?

Maureen: What do I want from Jamie? I want to Jamie to take a year off. He sells so many cookbooks and is such a juggernaut that other cookbooks don’t even get a look in.

Kirstin: But we can’t keep saying we don’t like what he does. We say that nearly every time. But what I really want is I want him to do a book like the first two books. Or a dining in book would be fab. Simple, delicious food.

Maureen: You’re right. We’re being hypocrites. We can’t complain about EVERY Jamie book, and we especially can’t complain about a book about Italy because we both love Italy and we will love this food. I’m not complaining, exactly, I just feel like I’ve got Jamie fatigue with his punishing once-a-year schedule.

Kirstin: He’s got this businss with all these people, so he has to do a book a year. But if he gets more people cooking Italian food, that’s no bad thing, right?

Maureen: I wonder how much cross over there is with his previous books on Italy. There’s bound to be some repeats.

Kirstin: The Jamie Does book is on Venentian food, and this is all Tuscan, so there won’t be much crossover with that.

Maureen: I do think there will be a fair amount of crossover to Jamie’s Italy. Bearing in mind that it was published in 2005, so it’s been 13 years. There’s a whole new generation of cooks who probably never even saw that one, so maybe it’s time he go back to Italy.

Kirstin: We said we were never going to do another Jamie book again, but he’s doing Italian food, so here we are.

Maureen: We cannot resist the siren song of Jamie. Us and millions of other people, based on his sales figures.

Kirstin: We cannot keep dissing Jamie.

Maureen: Fair enough. We’ll see. Maybe this will be delicious and a return to the Jamie we love.

 

Cookbook of the Month, September 2018: Jamie Cooks Italy

Our Verdict: How to Eat a Peach

Maureen: This is less of a cookbook and more a memoir about food.

Kirstin: It’s a lovely book to own about food, but it’s not a cookbook.

Maureen: I liked the way she organised things by menu, which is great if you’re planning a big multi-course meal for friends and family, but it’s less good when you’re looking to make something on a Wednesday night.

Kirstin: Preferably with fennel. She really loves fennel.

Maureen: She’s a beautiful writer, to be sure.

Kirstin: And the pictures were beaiutiful

Maureen: I liked the peach-like cover– that was pretty clever and it felt nice, too.

Kirstin: I loved the cover, too. The writing was good, but again it’s not a book you can cook from.

Maureen: We knew that going in, though. We didn’t think it would be a very useful book, but we thought it would be a nice one to have.

Kirstin: Exactly.

Maureen: She’s still one of my favourite food writers, I just don’t think this is a very useful book.

Kirstin: Completely.

“How to Eat a Peach”
Overall Grade (A- F):  C (Maureen) C (Kirstin)
Best recipes: Maureen: I’m not really sure it’s that kind of book, but I can’t think of one I would make again. Kirstin: The pork I made was really good.
Grade for Photography (A-F):  A. I love Laura Edwards.
Any disasters? Kirstin: No. Maureen: No disasters, but the broad bean crostini was huge faff.
Bookshelf or Charity Shop Donation? Kirstin: Bookshelf, for the photography. Maureen: Charity Shop Donation because I don’t see ever using it again.                                              Would You Give This Book to a Friend?: Unfortunately, no.

Our Verdict: How to Eat a Peach

A Summer Sunday Lunch from “How to Eat a Peach”

That’s not what the lovely Diana Henry called it, but that’s what I’m calling it because that’s what it was. On this particular Sunday, I made “Crostini with Crushed Broad Beans & Nduja” along with “Roast Sea Bass with Fennl & Anise Aïoli” and “Tomatoes Provençales aux Anchois.”

It’s been an unusually hot summer here in London, which has been lovely, for the most part. I mean, it did start to get a bit old when all of our grass died and I had to wake up every morning at 7 a.m. to walk our dog before the heat of the day set in. But by and large, it’s been nice. However, living in such unusual heat did have its fair share of cooking challenges because often I just couldn’t face cooking because that would only make me hotter.

As Kirstin said before, this cookbook is unusual in that it’s organised by menu rather than courses. This does make it difficult to find something to make for, say, a hot Wednesday night. But if you’re planning on spending some time on a meal, which is often the case for me on Sundays, this would be a good book for that. She also helpfully organises the book by “Spring and Summer” and “Autumn and Winter,” which meant I kept to the first half of the book this time of year.

Roasting a whole sea bass is certainly a treat because it’s definitely more expensive than our usual meals. But it looks impressive when you bring it to the table, and once it’s all said and done, it’s a pretty easy dish to make, which would be perfect for a dinner party. We loved the fish.

Half of the family liked the the tomatoes provençales– the half of the family that loves tomatoes. The other half wasn’t so keen, but I don’t think that was a failure of the recipe, but instead a failure of their taste buds (I am in the half of the family that LOVES tomatoes). For what it’s worth, I cut up one of the leftover ones and added it to scrambled eggs the next morning for breakfast and it was delicious too.

Unfortunately, given that everything else was so good, the crostini was a total faff and definitely more trouble than it was worth. Cooking, podding and mashing the beans took a ridiculously long time. Crostini, which is just fancy toast, really is delicious but I’m not going to spend an hour getting the ingredient that goes on top ready. Next time I’ll follow her alternative suggestion and use peas instead and use the time I saved reading a good book.

But all in all, a delicious summer Sunday lunch.

 

A Summer Sunday Lunch from “How to Eat a Peach”

“Braised Pork with Ginger and Star Anise” from “How to Eat a Peach”

I’ve very much enjoyed reading this book, but its menu-based format means that choosing a single recipe to cook from it can be a bit of a challenge. But then I invited our friend Viv for dinner, and Viv always loves a good pork recipe. So that made my choice for me! And buried deep in one of Diana Henry’s menus, I found this little gem. I made sure to read through the directions before setting off for a pub lunch, noting that it took a minimum of THREE HOURS to cook. I also managed to source the Indonesian kecap for the sauce. What I had not factored in however, was the time I spent gardening after lunch. I got so absorbed that what felt like one hour turned out, in reality, to be three or four. So I ended up starting this recipe a little later than I had expected to, with the garden looking much better! Anyway. I digress. Thankfully my guest and family were very forgiving, especially as this smelled heavenly as it cooked. For all three hours of cooking.

And it helped that when we finally ate, that it tasted AMAZING. The sauce was divine; a glorious sticky combination of ginger, garlic and chilli. The pork was also exquisitely tender after all those hours on the hob. Tom has already asked if I will only cook pork this way in future. I might well agree. I’ll just make sure to stay away from the gardening beforehand next time!

“Braised Pork with Ginger and Star Anise” from “How to Eat a Peach”

“Marcella Hazan’s Roast Chicken with Lemon” from “How to Eat a Peach”

If you haven’t already seen this book, it is organised into menus. For instance “Take me back to Istanbul” and “A perfect lunch”. Or what about “A thousand chillies” or “Darkness and light”. This is a great idea, unless you’re having a “Shitty rainy Friday”. Or maybe a “Crappy Wednesday at work”. Or how about “A day in August which should be sunny, but instead can’t decide whether to rain or not all day so you don’t put the washing out… and then finally it decides to rain.” Because that’s the menu I needed today.

So. This recipe is originally from Marcella Hazan and is included in the “Summer begins with apricot tart” menu. Which might be a thing. If it weren’t August and the weather was unable to decide whether to rain or not all day. Before raining.

I love Marcella Hazan. I dug out my original copy of her classic “The Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking” because it’s where I started on my Italian cooking adventure and it’s from 1995. WHICH IS TWENTY THREE YEARS AGO! How can that be? When did all that time pass? What happened? I must have been sucked into a space-time continuum vortex because I don’t feel like it was that long ago. Gah!

And Marcella Hazan still gets it completely right. This chicken was gloriously tender. Full of lemony goodness. And perfect with a salad and potatoes, just the way Diana Henry recommends. So it’s an old recipe, and it’s a new recipe. Nothing has changed, but everything has changed. How did that happen? Well, at least we’ll always have roast chicken.

“Marcella Hazan’s Roast Chicken with Lemon” from “How to Eat a Peach”

“Spatchcocked Chicken” from “How to Eat a Peach”

The full title to this should be, “Spatchcocked Chicken with Chilli, Garlic, Parsley and Almond Pangrattato.” In the introduction, Diana Henry admits that there’s nothing more to this than roast chicken with yummy stuff scattered over the top when it’s done roasting.

That’s absolutely true, but it’s also absolutely delicious. And frankly, what’s wrong with a roast chicken with chilli, garlic, parsley and almond pangrattato scattered over the top? Nothing at all.

Also, here’s a top tip from our friendly butcher at Dring’s: while it is relatively easy to spatchcock a chicken yourself, it’s better to get someone else to do it because it might ruin your knives if you do it. Good to know. (Also, I’m pretty lazy and when any task can be done by my butcher– deboning, deskinning, de-anything– I’ll have them do it.)

This one was a winner. We’ve been having an unusually scorching summer in London, so this was also a good one to make in the heat because I could bang the chicken in the oven, and then leave the hot kitchen to go read out back. But this would work any time of year, frankly.

“Spatchcocked Chicken” from “How to Eat a Peach”