Pea Risotto (Risotto Piselli)
Serves 4-6
This is a dish not to rush. It is not complicated but it needs your attention; when stirring you can float away on a gondola of dreams.

1 medium onion, finely sliced
2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
400g good risotto rice such as arborio, carnaroli or vialone
Olive oil – a generous glug (approx. 4-5 tbsp)
100g unsalted butter
3 ½ lbs of unshelled peas
Bunch of parsley – very finely chopped
100g grated Parmagiano cheese –and more to serve
250ml of dry white wine
2 litres of water


Shell the peas and make a pea broth from the discarded pods, a pinch of salt and pepper and about two litres of water.

Gently sauté the onion and garlic in the oil and 1/3 of the butter until the onion starts to colour slightly.
Add the rice to the pan and stir over a gentle heat for 3-5 minutes ensuring that all the rice is coated.
Add the pea broth, a ladle or two at a time, stirring constantly. When the broth is almost completely absorbed add the next ladle or two. Intersperse the wine with the broth.
Keep cooking this way for about 20 minutes over a low heat.
Add the peas and cook for a further 2-3 minutes. The rice will be creamy but retain a slight bite, ‘al dente’, and the peas will have started to soften.
At the last moment add the cheese and parsley; give a quick stir to mix them in.

Scaloppine Milanese

Perfect for a main course, the scaloppine is also versatile enough to be a light lunch or supper.

Serves 4-6 depending on cutlet size

1 ½ lb veal cutlets
6 tbsp clarified (melted) butter
2 lemons
1 beaten egg
125g fine white breadcrumbs

If the cutlets have not been prepared for you by the butcher for this recipe you will need to tenderise the veal cutlets and flatten into a thin escalope.

Dip each of the cutlets completely into the egg then press both sides of the cutlets into the breadcrumbs ensuring that they are totally covered.
Place the cutlets into the hot melted butter and fry until tender and golden brown on both sides.
Serve with salad or sautéed potatoes and a wedge of lemon.

TIP: To give a crisp, even coating do not move or turn the cutlets for the first 2-3 minutes to allow the coating to stick to the cutlet.

Czech Bread Dumplings

Serves: 8
4 cups all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
2 large egg yolks
1 1/2 cups milk
10 slices of good-quality white bread, crusts removed, and cubed into 1/2-inch pieces

Whisk together flour, baking powder and salt, and set aside. In a separate bowl, whisk together the egg yolks and milk. Pour the egg and milk combination into the flour. 

Work the dough until it no longer sticks to the bowl. I use my hands but if you prefer not to get your hands sticky, the dough hook on your processor will be fine.

Cover and let stand 1 hour. 

Boil a pan of salted water. 

Work the bread cubes into the batter until well incorporated. Using floured hands, shape the dough into three or four rolls that are about 8 inches long and 2 1/2 inches wide. 

When the water is boiling, place the rolls into the water.  Give them a stir so they don't stick to each other.

Reduce heat, cover and cook for 10 minutes. 

Slice the dumplings into pieces about ¾ inch thick. 

Serve warm with gravy, stew or roast pork and sauerkraut. 

Hungarian Goulash

Following on from Czech dumplings of the last post is the Hungarian Goulash (gulyás). Combining the goulash with the dumplings would make a hearty main dish.

Ingredients (for 4 persons)
600 g beef shin or shoulder, or any tender part of the beef cut into 2x2 cm cubes
2 tablespoons oil or lard
2 medium onions, chopped
2 cloves of garlic
1-2 carrots, diced
1 parsnip, diced
1-2 celery leaves
2 medium tomatoes, peeled and chopped, or 1 tbs. tomato paste
2 fresh green peppers
2-3 medium potatoes, sliced
1 tablespoon Hungarian paprika powder
1 teaspoon ground caraway seed
1 bay leaf
ground black pepper and salt according to taste
water – enough to cover the ingredients. This will vary depending on the size of your pot.

1.       Heat up the oil or lard in a pot and braise the chopped onions in it until they get a nice golden brown colour.

2.       Sprinkle the braised onions with paprika powder while stirring them to prevent the paprika from burning.

3.       Add the beef cubes and and sauté them until they start to brown slightly.

4.       The meat will probably let out its own juice, let the beef-cubes simmer in it while adding the grated or crushed and chopped garlic (grated garlic has stronger flavour), the ground caraway seed, some salt and ground black pepper, the bay leaf, pour water enough to cover the content of the pan and let it simmer on low heat for a while.

5.       When the meat is half-cooked (approx. in 1,5 hour, but it can take longer depending on the type and quality of the beef) add the diced carrots, parsnip and the potatoes and the celery leaf. You may have to add some more (2-3 cups) water too.

6.       When the vegetables and the meat are almost done add the tomato cubes and the sliced green peppers. Let it cook on low heat for another few minutes.

To thicken the soup leave the lid off for the final stage.

Serves 4
100g slightly stale crusty white bread, soaked in cold water for 20 mins
1kg very ripe tomatoes, diced
1 ripe red pepper and 1 green pepper, deseeded and diced
1 medium cucumber, peeled and diced
2 cloves of garlic, peeled and crushed
150ml extra virgin olive oil
2tbsp sherry vinegar
Salt, to taste
Garnishes – diced cucumber, diced red pepper, finely chopped spring onion

1. Mix the diced tomatoes, peppers and cucumber with the crushed garlic and olive oil in the bowl of a food processor or blender. Squeeze out the bread, tear it roughly into chunks, and add to the mixture.

2. Blend until smooth, then add the salt and vinegar to taste and stir well.

3. Pass the mixture through a fine sieve, then cover and refrigerate until well chilled.

4. Serve with garnishes of your choice

Vichyssoise soup

Vichyssoise soup by Deborah Cater

55g/2oz butter
1 onion, chopped
300g/10½oz leek, finely sliced
110g/4oz potatoes, peeled and sliced
290ml/10fl oz/½pint vegetable stock
salt and freshly ground black pepper
290ml/10fl oz/½pint milk
2 tbsp cream
handful snipped chives
small handful chopped parsley

Preparation method
1. Melt the butter in a medium saucepan. Add the onion and leek and cook until softened - about 10-15 minutes on a low heat.
2. Add the potatoes, stock and seasoning and simmer until the potatoes are tender.
3. Liquidise using a hand-held blender. Pass through a sieve before adding the milk and cream.
4. Chill in the fridge until ready to serve.
5. Sprinkle with chives and parsley just before serving.

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