Raise your glass and get ready!
Bread & Olives
Bread and olives is always a good way to begin a family meal since it gives your stomach a base on which to rest the dinner to follow and it allows the cook to get on with the preparations. Our Puglian Nocellara olives (known as 'the beautful nut' in Puglia) are the famous dessert olive known for their mild savoury flavour. We'll also have the large Bella Cerignola olives if you want to make your own stuffed and fried Olive Ascolana (or do the James Bond Martini since these are the olives specified by '007') We always like sourdough toasts which we keep ready in the cupboard but if you are going to do fresh bread it's nice to put out some fresh ground black pepper and olive oil to dunk your bread in (try dunking in your wine too!). We'll have a selection of fresh bread and naturally leavened sourdough on Wednesday and Thursday - call 01788 824 123 to reserve.
We discovered the Hugo Spritz cocktail on holiday in Sardinia at a beach bar. Unusually, the Hugo Spritz comes from the ski chalets of the rich and famous in the Tyrolean ski resort of Naturno. Pronounced in the Italian way, it’s an OOH-Go Spritz - a bit Made in Chelsea bit lovely on a hot day or in a nightclub nonetheless!
A Hugo is made with Prosecco and elderberry syrup. Elderberry which is Sambucus Nigra in Latin) or Sambuco Nero in Italian is the plant from whose flowers (elderflowers) are transformed into Sciroppo di Sambuco, a syrupy-sweet cordial that is the key ingredient. Not to be mistaken with Sambuca — the strong, licorice-flavored, clear liqueur with the signature three coffee beans (mosquitos) floating in the glass — Sciroppo di Sambuco is bright yellow, very sweet and comes out thick, like a syrup should. Try our excellent Cufuffle Elderflower Cordial (£3.50) with Martini Prosecco (ASDA £6.00) or Prosecco Conegliano (Sainsbury's £7.49)
Antipasti means 'before the pasta' course in Italian and the pasta course that is usually just a few mouthfuls of something more delicate than a main. We like a mixture of salami, griddled peppers or courgettes and olives. One of the nice things about a deli is that a mixed salami platter is hugely cheaper and better quality than the supermarket equivalent since it involves a lot of labour and packaging. A typical Squisito salami platter for six people is about £18.00 or £3.00 a head.
A rib of beef is always a feast for the carnivores! Impressive, relatively easy to cook and very flavoursome since meat is tastiest on the bone and cooks best on the bone (remember that next time you think of buying a ribeye steak because you are paying the butcher to throw away the bone!). Ribs of beef vary a great deal in size with the breed of the animal - Dexter being the smallest and Aberdeen Angus crossbreeds some of the largest wit Herefords in the middle - but the truth is that it's not just breed but how far the beast has to travel to slaughter and how the animal was reared that contributes to the taste. Here local is important since the small farmer who just rears a few beasts and has an interest in a particular breed is likely to be the best producer for your table.
With good beef there's no point in messing about with complicated flavours and cooking. A simple light rub with olive oil to stick the salt and pepper or celery salt and pepper mixed with a bit of mustard is more than adequate to protect the outside and give a bit of flavour to your gravy and roasted vegetables.
If you are a bit bored with Yorkshire Puddings why not try making some old fashioned trenchers which are a bread base on which to serve up your beef and which soak up the meat juices and gravy? These can be made up and baked beforehand but it's little effort compared to Yorkshires. Click on the link to read the recipe.
It pays to shop local since Waitrose rib of beef on special offer is £22.49/kg and Donald Russell grass fed rib of beef is £27.00/kg whilst Squisito rib of beef is just £14.99/kg TO ORDER CLICK HERE with the number you want to feed, what sort of appetites you have and whether you want leftovers.
We love good cheese not the mild processed cheddar or tasteless pre-packed blue you get in a supermarket that's only fit for sandwiches or grating on a burrito. A good cheese board should offer complimentary flavours to suit the age group and tastes of your guests. A well designed platter should sustain interest and feed conversation and not be a cue to bolt for the door! So, our motto is a little of something good since any leftovers can be a treat for the rest of the week or the basis of another dish.
A typical cheese board for a family of all ages should have a mix of soft and sweet cheeses counterbalanced by the strength of a blue cheese or two with a couple of more specialist flavoured cheeses like truffle triple cream brie or a Beppino Occelli cheese crusted with barolo grapes, fruit soaked in grappa and semi crystallised or wrapped in chestnut leaves - picture a colour wheel of flavours if you will. Here are three kinds of cheese selections that will give and interesting selection that will be a talking point for your guests and if you are lucky leave you some tasty nibbles for another day.
Conservative - for grannies & children; Barbers 1833 cheddar, Brie de Meaux Rouzaire, Barkham Blue or Northampton Blue, Montagnolo Bavarian cambozola, Snowdonia Red Storm or Beechwood Smoked. Serve with Peter's Yard Crispbreads, Fosters Pickled Onions, Victorian Winter Warming Chutney & grapes.
Eclectic - for gastronauts; Brillat Saverin Truffle, Barkham Blue, Gorgonzola Dolce with pink peppercorns, Taleggio with honey & pink peppercorns, Occelli Chestnut or Testun al Barolo, leaf wrapped Cora di Capra Robbiolini and Northampton Truffle. Serve with Peter's Yard Crispbreads and Riverside Caramelised Red Onion, Sage & Chilli Chutney.
Mild & soft - Brillat Saverin Triple Cream Brie, Gorgonzola Dolce with pink peppercorns, Montagnolo Bavarian cambozola, Taleggio with honey & pink peppercorns, leaf wrapped Cora di Capra Robbiolini served with ripe pears, Riverside Caramelised Red Onion, Sage & Chilli Chutney or Fruttibosco balsamic onions and Peter's Yard crispbreads and sourdough toasts
Light & shade - Gorgonzola Dolce with pink peppercorns, Brillat Saverin Truffle, Barkham Blue, Occelli Chestnut, Occelli frutta di Grappa, Taleggio or Pecorino (Kettering finely pared is interesting) with honey & pink peppercorns. Serve with sourdough toast or Popti Parmesan Savoury Thins and Red Onion & Jalapeno Relish.
The ultimate in Christmas, Whitsun or Easter treats! Bread and butter pudding Italian style called Budino Panettone - basically very umarket bread and butter pudding with baked custard. Yummy! Our tip of the week is to make as our recipe and dunk the base of the slices in grappa or amaretto which gives a little secret surprise when you tuck into the pudding. Click on the link to read the recipe.