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FEELING ITALIAN (Part 1.)

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Of all the menus in the Summer chapter of A Platter of Figs, this was the one that captured my imagination the most. At the risk of spoiling the surprise, it lived up to expectations!

Cherry Tomato Crostini with Ricotta
Roast Pork Loin Porchetta-Style
Fresh Shelled Beans with Sage and Garlic
Nectarine and Raspberry Macedonia

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Cherry Tomato Crostini with Ricotta
I love ricotta but was surprised I hadn’t ever thought to use it on crostini, those tasty little Italian toasts. These were the essence of a summer starter with home grown cherry tomatoes and basil we are off to a great start.

Another lesson in how chefs use layers of flavour to good effect was using garlic crushed in to marinate with the cherry tomatoes and then rubbing the cut side of a clove of garlic on the hot toast.

I also loved the hint of chilli from the red pepper flakes sprinkled at the end. I usually don’t equate Italian cuisine with chilli but the two can go really well together. Especially when used in a subtle way like this.

Roast Pork Loin Porchetta-Style
The thing with cooking pork is its critical to get good quality meat to begin with so I made sure I got my loin from my farmers market. My mistake here was probably the most common one that happens when following a recipe… Not reading said recipe properly before starting to cook!

I have a bad habit of reading the ingredients list and scanning the method and the thinking I know what needs to happen. Rookie mistake!

In this case the problem was that I missed out on marinating the pork overnight allowing the skin to dry out in the fridge. This helps make the crackling super crunchy. But because of my slackness I missed this step. It wasn’t the end of the world, our crackling did have some crunch but I knew it could have been even better!

We loved the beautifully flavoured pork with crushed fennel seeds and garlic cooked on a bed of rosemary and fennel fronds from the garden. Roasting a big piece of meat and serving it without a sauce is something I hardly ever do but we really enjoyed it.

I was also reminded how easy it is to cook meat this way when you have a god thermometer to guide you when it’s all cooked. And the leftovers were super tasty! I ended up turning them into a Porchetta version of ‘Vitello Tonnato’ by finely carving the cold pork and smothering it in a tuna and Mayo sauce. So good!

Fresh Shelled Beans with Sage and Garlic
I knew getting fresh beans for shelling was going to be a challenge, so I had some dried borlotti beans as a backup. Even trying the farmers market and two different veggie shops left me empty handed so I was glad I had a plan B!

That being said, these beans were super tasty. A delicious accompaniment to the pork. I loved that they were flavoured so simply by adding sage, garlic and a bay leaf to the cooking water. A brilliant way to make the beans something special, even if they were dried. 

Next time I see fresh borlotti beans I’m going to buy them and see what a difference it makes.

The only disappointing thing with this menu was that I felt we were lacking in our veg intake. Normally I would have served a green salad or some other green veg but I resisted the urge in the spirit of the Jules & David project. Sorry David but a girl needs more than just pork and beans!

Nectarine and Raspberry Macedonia
This dessert was similar to the wine soaked peaches in Yellow Hunger. Because I know I prefer my stone fruit cooked, I cheated and used some roast white peaches. With the raspberries and a generous dollop of double cream we were in dessert heaven. Another lesson in the simple joys of fruit and cream for a really delicious way to end a meal without ending in a sugar coma.

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For more see: The Jules & David Project

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