Category Archives: reviews

Sicily: Secondi

Following on from our latest blog post this is the next recipe in our Sicilian dinner menu. Live in chef’s is part and parcel of the standard family holiday.  As mentioned in our previous post, Sicily: Primi, we had a few mouths to feed and you’ll probably have noticed people gathering around in the background of photos eagerly waiting to be fed, desperate for something to go with a nice glass of wine. However, we did have one night off where we made our way down to Acireale to try some local cuisine. We managed to catch one of the local saint festivals at the same time, arriving to see the holy effigy fly out off a beautiful baroque church on her heavy wooden float at the speed of a canon ball; it was certainly a miracle that there wasn’t a bloody smear of people passata left in her beatified wake. After these wonderful celebrations, solemnised with a round of fireworks, we headed to find some food. And, with an entirely local clientele of archetypal Italian family parties sharing dishes, cracking lobsters and drinking vibrant rosé from carafes from the slopes of Etna, Restaurante I Cavaddari was truly a special find. 

fishThe choices  on offer at Cavaddari were few: fish or fish and pasta. Being an Irish family we would never shy away from a carb.
Note to self, shy away from the carb!
It had to be one of the most incredible meals we have eaten, but by course 7 I think most of us were flagging. Highlights were the Langoustine and squid ink tortiglioni (left), a starter platter that contained no less than 10 different types of fish (from smoked to seared) and Langoustine Risotto. If you ever find yourself on the south east side of Sicily, this is worth a detour. If you do go for the fish and pasta tasting menu, make sure you have a horizontal surface nearby to layout on to allow the food coma to pass before attempting any long journeys – it might take a few days!

The recipe in the second instalment of our Sicily series can be served with or without pasta or with a variety of other dishes, like grilled aubergine or just a plain leaf salad dressed with extra virgin olive oil (Italian, of course).

The simplicity of this dish is what works, you can taste ever single ingredient so if you can get your hands on good produce, this is the recipe to use.

 

Polpette Pomodoro bake
cropped

Serves 6

Meatballs

500g pork mince
500g beef mince
1 red onion finely chopped
2 teaspoons fresh oregano
1 egg beaten
1 cup of breadcrumbs
Salt and pepper

Sauce

500g of cherry tomatoes, quartered
1 red onion finely chopped
1 clove of garlic, finely chopped
1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
Fresh basil
1 ball of mozzarella cubed
Salt and pepper

(Pasta optional)

Method

Preheat oven to 175 degrees.

In a bowl combined the minces, chopped onion, egg, oregano, breadcrumbs and salt and pepper.

Using your hands roll in 4cm wide balls place on a plate and chill in the fridge whilst preparing the sauce.

Add the chopped onion and garlic into a saucepan with a glug of olive oil and slowly simmer till cooked.

Add the quartered tomatoes and half the basil to the pan. Cover and simmer for 20 mins till the tomatoes have broken down; then add the balsamic vinegar and season.

In a heavy based frying pan, bring oil up to temperature and add half to the meatballs and brown on all sides transferring to the oven proof dish to finish in the oven.  Repeat with second batch of meatballs until they have all been browned and transferred to the oven.

Once the meatballs have cooked a further 5 minutes, pour the sauce over the meatballs, sprinkle over the mozzarella and return to the oven for 20 mins to cook.

Remove from the oven add the remaining fresh basil, salt and pepper and serve hot with or without pasta.

Buon appetito!

h&h

Matcha do about nothing

Today we were lucky enough to get tickets to the BBC Good Food festival: Summer in the City event at the ExCel centre London.

The festival focus this year is taking a look at all things healthy and nutritional food; essentially reminding us that we should be cutting out sugar, salt and anything that tastes nice…

“Health” food has always erred on the side of the bland, the textureless and the unfailingly smug. But despite the fifty shades of green that could be seen dotted around the hall, we were pleasantly surprised with the variation of different foods available from dark chocolate sweetened with palmyra nectar, high in iron, potassium and magnesium, made by Maza chocolate to smoked onion BBQ crickets. After getting the latter stuck in our teeth we are not sure we will be rushing to fill our baskets with creepy crawlies anytime soon – still, it was worth a try!

One word on nearly a third of the vendors’ lips? Matcha. This green powder made from ground down green tea leaves apparently is our new “super tea” with health giving properties.  And you guessed it… its green. Unnervingly so. Not the usual goose shit green of nutri-bullet fame but vibrant green you would likely paint with when as a 5 year old you want to depict a tree. Having tried it before I can’t say it was to my taste. On the other hand, Will stopped at quite possibly every stall serving the stuff; I was surprised I wasn’t scraping him off the ceiling before we left.  One variation of matcha tea that Idid enjoy was mixed with almond milk to make a ‘matcha latte’ as recently seen on any number of instagram accounts. When it still tastes like licking a leaf, the sweetness from the almond milks very welcome and even quite refreshing.

matcha

Other cracking new products we tried natural sweetened soft drink using honey from Just Bee Drinks, Little bird Kefir which was a delicious fermented drink  with live cultures (which we will be writing a recipe for – watch this space) and a string of birch water producers (TreeVitalise and Belseva among them). While slightly reminiscent of a weekend with Ray Mears and having been hotly tipped for quite some time as ‘the next coconut water’, I think we would both recommend it although finding a place to buy it would seem a little tricky.

Overall, we won’t be reaching for the nearest raw-date-base cacao-flavoured mush-bar but it was great to see there are new companies creating delicious healthy substitutes which, for the most part, taste fantastic.  We hope to be seeing a lot of them in stores soon.

h&h

 

Amsterdam: In praise of half-pints

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On the easyjet London Gatwick – Amsterdam flight, with an assortment of stag-dos in costumes ranging between Dutch milk maids in drag and two opposing teams of table football players, one might get the impression this was a poorly timed trip. While the double bank-holiday may bring many of our countrymen – and women – to the Netherlands in search of booze and the ‘high’ life, we feel it’s a shame that this city retains its misleading reputation. In fairness, all the stereotypes were there: the gang of giggly blondes waving obscenely turgid dildos; young men smelling so strongly of weed you feel you might get stoned from the smell of them; the awkward German family who were genuinely looking for just a coffee. And all this before we reached our rented houseboat!

We have both been travelling to Amsterdam for years and it is arguably our favourite city in Europe. While there will be a number of winks and nudges as to why that may be, it is genuinely one of the most civilised cultures we have experienced and most beautiful in terms of buildings, art, and, above all, food. Our Easter Saturday visit to Noordmarkt on Prinsengracht and Westerstraat is enough to prove this to anyone. In the 3 minutes it took for us to walk around before rushing off to buy more serious provisions for the holiday, we must have walked past (and tasted samples from) half-a-dozen cheese stalls, a number of fine bakery stalls and an oyster seller whose key customer was one  busily slurping 3-year-old boy.

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The cheese samples, in particular a lemony-sweet goat’s cheese covered in cornflowers was a highlight, as well as the oysters which, served with a tiny quarter-slice of lemon, were a perfect perk to the morning. On the day we visited the market, lunch consisted of the same goat’s cheese, a springy sourdough cob and some goudsalami; in other words, all you could ask for from a good couple hours of hunter-gathering to eat sat in a secluded harbour. While this was a great moment for us, what makes Amsterdam great is that all the lunches that we had out while wondering around the city were delicious. Whether it wasa bagel shop by the Rijksmuseum, with it fantastic collections of art from the Dutch ‘Golden Age’, or our toasty and beer sat at Cafe Heuvel watching the world pass by we were stumped to find a duff meal.

Which brings us onto another important point – beer. While Dutch beers may have attracted world attention through sponsorship of any number of sporting events, few drink it the same way – in dinky half-pints. Lager is infinitely fresher drunk this way and sinks down nicely. Undoubtedly, this is helped along by the fact that the brewery is only a short walk away, as in the case of Heineken.

In terms of evening dining, one of our long term favourites is Red, a surf and turf restaurant located on Keizergracht. As a place to eat it has an almost womb-like comfort to it, if you can imagine a womb dominated by vibrant green upholstery and a red haired woman with an apple in her mouth gazing down on your dinner. Surreal? Maybe, but the steak (our recommendation) is excellent and would be a serious contender for any top restaurant in London. Importantly it is also reasonably priced for such a good dinner; we probably escaped for about £80 for two with a bottle of wine and a glass of prossecco each to start.

Amsterdam is a city of contradictions in many ways. While the night life has limited its reputation in some quarters, it is also worth a visit for so many other reasons than just what the red-light district has to offer and food is definitely one of them. So next time you go on a stag-do or even think of planning a civilised weekend away, give Amsterdam some serious thought and remember to take in as many of the pots you possibly can and not just the one you want to roll up.