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Recipe: Passatelli in Brodo (AKA Parmesan Noodles in Wonderful Chicken Broth)

My first taste of this dish in Emilia Romagna awoke a hunger in me that I didn’t know I had. A new desire was immediately satisfied. Spoonfuls of broth, some gorgeous textured parmesan noodles, and repeat. Until the bowl is empty and the world feels sad. But, then you have more, and the cycle starts again. Passatelli in brodo is rich and light, sustaining and so satisfying.

I adore chicken soup but this is so much more. This is chicken broth with noodles made from parmesan, nutmeg and breadcrumbs coasting inside. Why aren’t we all obsessed with this? Why isn’t it one of those dishes that every one talks about? Deeply flavoured and rich in umami, passatelli bring this chicken soup to life and soothe unlike any other.

I first learned to make this in a hands on pasta class at La Piazzetta del Gusto in Nonantola, a gorgeous local restaurant in a pretty small town near Modena. The town square is full of elderly men chatting and passing the time jovially. Just beyond it is La Piazzetta del Gusto, a restaurant and a pasta shop. All the pasta is rolled by hand every day, and the restaurant itself specialises in passatelli.

Passatelli? I was intrigued. We started with hand rolled tortelloni, then out came the breadcrumbs, parmesan, flour, eggs and nutmeg, which we kneaded lightly to makes passatelli dough. These are so easy. Once the dough is made, you push it through a passatelli press, old style or more commonly now a potato press with large holes, also used for passatelli, and snip the noodles over and into the water. So good.

There are many ways that you can serve them, my favourite is with a classic chicken broth. A winter dish in Emilia Romagna, primarily, I think it suits our 4 seasons in a day summer quite well too.

Passatelli recipe adapted from La Piazzetta del Gusto in Nonantola, Emilia Romagna

Recipe: Passatelli in Brodo (AKA Parmesan Noodles in Wonderful Chicken Broth)

Ingredients

Passatelli (enough for two generous portions)

75g breadcrumbs
85g parmesan
2 eggs
25g pasta flour
sea salt
fresh grated nutmeg
a passatelli press / potato press (I bought this passatelli press on Amazon)

Chicken broth (more than you need – you can freeze leftovers!)

a large pot – I have a home stock pot which I use lots and recommending investing in
Raw chicken – approx 1.5kg carcasses, whole chicken (save the meat for another use if using this) or chicken wings (perfect as have lots of skin and fat so superb flavour)
6 carrots, coarsely chopped
4 sticks celery, coarsely chopped
3 onions, peeled & coarsely chopped
6 cloves garlic
2 bay leaves
a teaspoon of peppercorns (I used white as that is what I had, black are good too)

Method

Make your chicken broth by putting all ingredients into a pot that will fit them, and topping up with water until everything is just covered. Cover with a lit and boil for at least 2 hours, the longer the better. Strain when done and season to taste with sea salt.
Leave to the side. (If using a whole chicken, remove the meat from the carcass and save for another use).

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Make your passatelli by combining everything in a bowl and bringing together to a soft pliable dough.

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Heat enough stock for more than two bowls of soup and press the passatelli into it, cutting with a knife when a few inches long. The passatelli will rise to the top, and will be ready to eat a couple of minutes later. If you are making just for one, only press enough into the soup for you, and then press them onto a board, lightly flour, and store on a single layer to use within 3 days. The passatelli become flabby when left in the broth, so best to do it this way.

Now eat. How good is that?!

I visited Emilia Romagna as part of Blogville, sponsored by the Emilia Romagna Tourist Board in partnership with  iambassador.  I maintain full editorial control of the content published, as always. I wouldn’t waste your time, or my own! 

The morning view over  the Maiella from Agriturismo Caniloro in Abruzzo

Dispatches from Abruzzo, Italy: Cooking with the Grandmothers of Abruzzo and Where to Eat

Have you been to Abruzzo in Italy? Do you know of Abruzzo? It is surprising that given the vibrance of the region, particularly in terms of food, and that it is only a 2 hour drive from Rome, that only a few are blazing the tourist trail from outside Italy, when you compare it to other regions.

Abruzzo is where Italians go on holiday and it is a gem. I visited on a whistle stop tour to shoot some video with Visit Abruzzo in the early Spring. All I could think on my return was, I wish that I had brought a bigger suitcase to bring stuff home (Abruzzo has wonderful wine, pasta, truffles and saffron, just to start), and it must not be long until I return again.

Abruzzo has seaside villages, snow capped mountain top towns (with only half an hour between them), and small towns threaded by winding country roads in between. There are cities too, but they won’t overwhelm you. Pescara, where I flew into, is small, buzzing and friendly. I arrived in the evening and had my first meal at Locanda Manthonè, a highly regarded local restaurant serving produce from the region. Sagne e fagioli was a perfect pasta dish with locally farmed beans and a hint of chilli (which features in the cuisine here like much of Southern Italy). Gallo all cafona (cockerel cooked contadini style) followed. A perfect start and wonderful introduction to the food of Abruzzo.

Locanda Manthonè, Corso Gabriele Manthone, 58, 65127 Pescara PE, Italy

The next morning we headed to Mosciano Sant’Angelo in Teramo to cook and have lunch at Borgo Spoltino. The restaurant, surrounded by fields and olive trees and with a view of Gran Sasso, has a beautiful kitchen garden where we began our day gathering ingredients for lunch. The chef and his mother cooked lunch with us, there is nothing quite like learning from an Italian Nonna, especially when it comes to pasta. We made a hand rolled and cut local pasta, the sagne from the night before, served this time with locally grown lentils. The chef demonstrated every dish, which we then ate in the dining room. So charming, and all served with lovely local wines also.

Borgo Spoltino, Strada Provinciale 15, Provincia di Teramo, Italy

We hit the road again, and headed for Civitella del Tronto, a village in the mountains, and home to a large ancient fortress which was literally in the clouds on my visit. It snowed that night, and we woke to a silent dreamy landscape where bright reaching rays of sun tried to wake up the land. I cooked with another local chef at Zunica 1880 where we made a saffron carbonara (saffron grows abundantly in Abruzzo. An interesting twist on a local favourite (there is some dispute between Lazio and Abruzzo about the origins of this dish).

Zunica 1880, Piazza Filippi Pepe, 14, 64010 Civitella del Tronto TE, Italy

A slow careful drive through the snow the next morning while I admired and soaked up the gorgeous views, brought us to the seaside. The weather was unusual and the normally calm sea was wild, which I quite liked, it reminded me of my own Atlantic. I cooked brodetto alla vastese with Maria, near their trabocchi, a fishing structure that dips nets into the sea, unique to Abruzzo. Farmers, who were afraid of the water, developed this technique to harvest fish from the sea. Brodetto alla vastese is a lovely tomato based fish soup made with a selection of fish sourced locally.

Cooking class organised by Italia Sweet Italia, and highly recommended.

My next cooking session was at the wonderful Agriturismo Caniloro, an agriturismo that makes most of their own produce, even their flour which they mill themselves. I had a couple of cooking sessions there with two fantastic nonnas. We made pizza scima (translated as stupid pizza) which instead of water, is made with wine, and cooked in a wood fire covered with a solid metal lid which is covered with fire also. You can image the gorgeous smoked flavour. Dinner that evening was a beautiful rabbit and potato stew with their rosé wine, all by a roaring fire. The next morning I made pasta with tiny Nonna Antoinietta (bear in mind that I am only 5′ 4″ / 1.6m tall!), a treat, and an inspiration.

Agriturismo Caniloro, Contrada S. Onofrio 134, 66034 Lanciano CH, Italy

It was time to explore some traditional pastries, and so we headed back to the mountains to Guardiagrele to sample Sise delle Moniche pastries. Wonderfully fluffy and indulgent, don’t you love that the shop has a brush to wipe the sugar from your clothes after?

Then for lunch down the road to sample my first arrosticini, irresistible grilled mutton skewers (and that is one portion!) at Cantina del Tripio, followed by some handmade pasta. All in a local Abruzzo lunch!

What a wonderful experience. I found the people of Abruzzo to be gentle and friendly, it was a real pleasure to travel around the region and cook with them. I only saw a small slice of it too.

I visited Abruzzo with Visit Abruzzo to explore the region and shoot a video with them, which I will share shortly. Londoners can fly to Pescara in Abruzzo from London Stansted, or you can drive (or get a bus) from Rome.

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Recipe: Coconut & Chocolate Curried Chicken

I have an unusual and very tasty recipe for you today, ripe from the shores of Grenada. Grenada is known for high quality cocoa and spice, and they meet here in this lively Coconut & Chocolate Chicken Curry.

Do you consider chocolate a sweet or savoury ingredient? For me dark chocolate is intensely savoury, and a brilliant secret addition to many dishes, enhancing with a deep low rumble. It is perfect with chilli and spices, which of course Mexicans have known for a long time. Mole, a savoury Mexican dish rich with chocolate, is a superb example of this. 

Recently in Grenada, I had the pleasure of doing a cooking session with Esther and Omega at True Blue Bay. I cooked with them last time too. They are fun, and know exactly what to do with the vibrant ingredients available in Grenada. So many spices, and the chocolate which Grenada is rich with. 

This time we made a Coconut & Chocolate Curried Chicken. A small amount of chocolate enriches the spicy sauce, with the creamy coconut lightening it. It is surprising, and it is something that all chocaholics and savoury food fans will enjoy. I have adapted Esther & Omega’s recipe for you to make at home. It is a fun one and will for sure intrigue anyone that you make it for! Ask them to guess what the secret ingredient is.

Recipe: Coconut & Chocolate Curried Chicken

Serves 4 – 6

Ingredients

1.5kg chicken thigh meat, skin removed and chopped to approximately 2 inch segments
Chicken marinade: 2 spring onions, 2 tbsp chopped fresh chives, 2 tbsp fresh coriander, 4 cloves peeled garlic, one inch of peeled fresh ginger, 1 tbsp light oil like groundnut or sunflower)
250g ripe tomatoes or the equivalent in good tinned or passata
200ml coconut milk
1 large green pepper, core and seeds removed and diced into 1cm dice
2 tbsp curry powder
1 heaped tsp ground cumin
4 cardamom pods, coarsely crushed
2 chipotle chilles in adobo (or dried chipotle chilles, or a chilli of your choice if you can’t source either), chopped fine
juice of 1 lemon
2 bay leaves
50g good dark chocolate
1 nice apple, cored and diced (fine to leave the skin on)
light oil for frying, like groundnut or sunflower
sea salt & fresh cracked black pepper

Method

Blend all marinade ingredients and add to the chicken. Marinade in the fridge for as long as you can, at least a half hour, up to 4 hours.
Heat a couple of tablespoons of oil over a medium-high heat until sealed all over.
Add all of the dry ingredients, lemon juice and the green pepper and cook for a few minutes.
Add the coconut milk, chilli and tomatoes and cook for 30 minutes.
Add the chocolate and allow to melt through. Leave for a few minutes over a low heat.
Check for seasoning and adjust with sea salt and black pepper.
Ready to eat! Superb with rice, and take care not to eat the cardamom pods and the bay leaves, they are just for flavour.

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Kyoto Sake Tour: All About Sake & Visiting Matsumoto Shuzo & Gekkeikan Sake Breweries

A trip to Kyoto would be remiss without several things. While I accept that it is impossible to do everything, I have many more trips to make before I have, I will give you a starter list. You need to do a full exploration of the tea culture, including attending a tea ceremony as Kyoto is renowned for the quality of their tea and their beautiful antique pottery. You must have a kaiseki dinner and a proper Kyoto breakfast (my favourite was at Touzan at The Hyatt Regency). Finally, you cannot visit Kyoto without a visit to at least one sake brewery.  Read More

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Wild Garlic Pesto (aka the Joy of Spring) [Recipe]

Wild garlic pesto does feel a cliché but when it is so delicious, why shouldn’t it be? Wild garlic, if you haven’t cooked with it yet, is a broad garlic flavoured leaf, slightly sour, and fantastic with anything creamy, cheesy and it is the best pal for the humble spud. It grows abundantly in the shade, white flours sprouting out in clusters on elegant stems, leaping towards the sunshine.

It is wild garlic season here, but near me we mainly have three cornered leek (often confused for wild garlic), which is too grassy for pesto. I tried to source some proper wild garlic, I cried out for secret sources – I WON’T TELL ANYONE, I SWEAR! – but no joy, I failed. I am deeply impatient, and I had a visceral need for the stuff. Praise the internet for intervening and saving my brain and wild garlic free larder, a very kind twitter friend sent me some in the post, and I have been playing with it ever since.

Three cornered leek

Three cornered leek, garlicky & oniony is lovely, but it ain’t wild garlic!

Wild garlic pesto is made in many ways. I chose almonds for body, 36 month aged parmesan for that perfect cheesy umami hit, a lovely fruity extra virgin olive oil with a hint of bitterness and some wild garlic. I played with the volumes, and while they suspiciously come to the same amount in grams, the volumes are different, and they work very well, with just the right garlic punch and shade of green. The oil may seem a lot, but it needs this as a minimum or it is too dry. It also helps keep it fresh, protecting it from the air. Hey, it is healthy too, particularly as unheated and retaining all of the goodness.  When using this pesto, I sometimes add more to thin it out or help it spread. Use your own judgement for yours.

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As lovely as this is used in the traditional pesto sense as a dressing for pasta, it is great as a condiment elsewhere. This was lovely as a dressing for a crisp potato hash with bacon and eggs for brunch today, and beautiful on toast with some radishes.

Enjoy, and if you do make it, let me know what you do with it. Tag me if you make it and share it on instagram too.

The print friendly recipe is on the next page – enjoy! 

Page 2 – Wild Garlic Pesto Recipe

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Egyptian Style Falafel with Lemon Tahini Dressing [Recipe]

I love me some beans, I can’t get enough of them. It shocks people often to discover that I used to be vegetarian (WHAT?!), but you know, I was worried about industrial farming (I still am), and my degree studies were in physiology, including anatomy, which involved human dissection. Yes, HUMAN dissection. I went home one evening after an anatomy dissection, cooked some chicken and thought that it all looked too similar, the flesh and the fibres (sorry, but it is true), my stomach turned and that was that, for a long while. Then as the farmers market movement took hold properly, and people and even supermarkets started to become more concerned about meat and meat sourcing, I came back on board.

These years of vegetarianism taught me a lot. I explored pulses, vegetables, herbs and spice. I learned how to add flavour without adding meat, and I resurrected my university nutrition studies to ensure that I was eating nutritionally balanced meals. I studied more, I learned about new and exciting ways that I could eat. I devoured cookbooks, I obsessively read online. I fell in love with pulses, completely. All sorts of beans and lentils, I would fill my suitcase with bean shaped curiosities from everywhere that I travelled and bring them home.

One place I have yet to travel to is Egypt, but I have explored the food in London and in my own kitchen. One of my favourite discoveries when I first moved to London was the wonder of a bowl of ful medames (always spelled in a myriad of ways like dal|dahl|dhal!), a beautiful breakfast dish of small ful beans (dried baby broad beans), gently spiced and cooked for hours with garlic and eggs boiled within, which are served on top. I used to eat it all the time and made it my mission to perfect it at home. I think I feel a post coming on!

Dried broad beans are a superb ingredient. I loved how they cook them in Puglia, until soft and served as a gorgeous dip rich with local olive oil and mountain oregano, ripe for you to drag some crusty bread through. I brought lots home, but I buy them in local Turkish shops too. Jane Baxter, the originator of this falafel recipe, highly recommends British grown organic beans from Hodmedods, who sell them online too. You need these unassuming beans in your life, I promise you.

Which leads me on to what exactly an Egyptian falafel is. It is a falafel shaped from broad beans with spices, herbs and other joy, coated with sesame seeds. A lovely alternative to the chickpea falafel we all know so well. The falafel recipe is adapted from Jane Baxter & Henry Dimbleby, and it has a lovely story associated too (see after the recipe).

Have you got a favourite falafel recipe or story? I have many! I used to live on them when I was fresh out of university and living in Amsterdam. Another day for those, but tell me yours!

The recipe is on the next page – link here – make my day and share / comment! :)

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Dispatches from Mudgee, New South Wales (Plus What to Eat, Drink & Do There)

Everyone needs a bolt hole, even people who live in a city like Sydney. About three and a half hours inland from Sydney, and over the Blue Mountains, lies a gorgeous small town and wine region called Mudgee. Wine is not new here, winemakers have been active in Mudgee for over 150 years, but it is growing quickly and it is now the third largest winemaking region in New South Wales. At that, it is emerging in terms of tourism, and it is still under the radar for international visitors like you and me. Read More

Buckwheat and Hazelnut Banana Bread (Gluten and Dairy Free Recipe)

Buckwheat and Hazelnut Banana Bread [Gluten & Dairy Free Recipe]

It was one of those mornings. I was out of eggs – what, how could I let that happen?! – and out of coffee beans. I was staring glumly at a bag of Moomin coffee, a hasty Helsinki airport purchase, and wondering how nasty that might be and what I could have for breakfast. On my counter were some very brown bananas, barely a patch of yellow left. I had some buckwheat flour, but not a lot, and a bag of hazelnuts. I thought I might try a new take on banana bread.

It is worth buying bananas and letting them go really brown to make banana bread and pancakes. This is when they are at their best for cooking, rich and syrupy sweet. I never do this intentionally. I buy bananas and let them sit on the side. I feel guilty when I see them every day. I worry about waste, and then eventually they go completely brown, and they become banana bread or pancakes.

I love the flavour of buckwheat, I use it a lot. For pancakes, waffles, bread and now banana bread, the nutty flavour goes very well with the bananas here. It is gluten free as it isn’t actually a wheat, and as I used coconut oil too, this bread is dairy free also.

A quick word on coconut oil, I know it is being heralded as a new discovery and superfood, but you know, in Asia they have been using this forever, and in Asian shops it is very easy to buy, and much cheaper too (ok, so it isn’t extra virgin, but you know). Often in bottles, which in Asia wouldn’t be a problem as it being warm, the oil would be liquid. Here, I put mine in a pot of hot water so that it melts a bit and I can pour it. You can get jars too.

Once I discovered that coconut oil was a good butter substitute (I am lactose intolerant so I must take care), I started using it for fruit curds and in cakes that demanded to be dairy free. Texturally it is similar, unlike oils, and so it works very well. I should really share my lactose free life hacks with you some day. I have many! Of course you can use butter instead, if you prefer. Buttery bananas are good.

Lets crack on with the recipe, shall we? This banana bread is dense and fruity with nutty pops of hazelnut. It didn’t last a day in my flat, and I ate most of it. I am going to make more this weekend.

Enjoy – recipes now have their own page in my new website design, so that you can save and print the recipe on its own. PDF downloads are coming soon too. Both reader requests, and good onse I think! Let me know if there are any bugbears or things that you would like to see changed too!

Oh and you know what, the Moomin coffee was actually ok! :)

Recipe – Buckwheat and Hazelnut Banana Bread [Gluten & Dairy Free Recipe] – on the next page. I would be very happy if you could take the time to share and comment if you like it!

The white mosque with the water village in front

Dispatches from Brunei’s Bandar Seri Begawan

Brunei, a tiny country on the island of Borneo, surrounded by Malaysia, Sabah on one side and Sarawak on the other, is one of the worlds wealthiest countries, thanks to their plentiful supply of oil. It is also one of the smallest, with a population of 415,717, approximately 10% of the population of the small country that I hail from, Ireland. With one major city, Bandar Seri Begawan, and the rainforest beyond, Brunei makes a good stopover en route to Melbourne or other destinations, like Sabah, on the Royal Brunei flight network. But what do you do when you get there? Read More

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Competition! Win a Blender and a Triumph Lingerie Set of Your Choice

This is the second of two sponsored posts written in partnership with Triumph, as part of their #FindTheOne campaign. Most of you ladies, and perhaps some gents, will already know Triumph. A long established and trusted lingerie brand who want to help 500,000 women find the perfect bra. I spent a day with them so that I could #FindTheOne for me. Details on the competition are at the end of the post. The odds are super, so do enter, and the very best of luck!  Read More

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Hummus with Paprika Cauliflower & Almonds [Recipe]

One for the veggies? No! One for all of us. This was one of those things that came together randomly in a helter skelter way, and I am so glad that it did. 

When I was in France recently I bought some dried chickpeas from a farmer at the market. I cooked half of them last week, and they were so lovely. Great texture and taste, and even though they were dried, they were fresh, if you know what I mean? The cooked until plump and with bite. I was thrilled with them and saved the rest of my stash for this week.  Read More

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Have you Found the One? Not THAT one, THIS one! (In Partnership with Triumph)

This post was sponsored by Triumph as part of some work that I did with them on their #FindTheOne campaign. Most of you ladies, and perhaps some gents, will already know Triumph. A long established and trusted lingerie brand who want to help 500,000 women find the perfect bra. I spent a day with them so that I could #FindTheOne for me. 

Before I begin, this post is definitely one for the girls. Read More

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Dispatches from the Kerrygold Ballymaloe Lit Fest, Ireland

[Photo: Maggie Beer, Yotam Ottolenghi, Darina Allen and Sami Tamimi – they were having so much fun I couldn’t get a photo of them that wasn’t slightly blurred!]

I have many food related excuses to go home to Ireland, and I am clucky, for some people travel from Australia, the US, and many other places to go to one of my favourites, the Kerrygold Ballymaloe Lit Fest, a smart and fun gathering of some of the worlds best food writers and chefs, who convene in a corner of East Cork to share their knowledge and to discuss pertinent matters in the world of food. The weekend is full of chat, talks and debate, there are cooking demos, and ultimately everyone ends up in the fringe festival in The Big Shed for some wine and a bit of a boogie later on. Read More

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‘Nduja Ragu with Eggs for a Perfect Brunch [Recipe]

I never did love ketchup. I know everyone does. It is said to be the perfect combination of sweet, sour, salty and savoury, and tomatoes are one of my favourite ingredients, but I just find ketchup to be wanting, and something that is used to blanket other flavours not actually add to the dish. The flavour profile feels a bit two dimensional and dull to me, so I don’t have it in my pantry. Not out of snobbery, I love proper Asian instant noodles and all sorts of other things. I love good eating, and that comes in many forms, I am completely open when it comes to this. Read More