menu thirteen: FEELING ITALIAN PART2.


Of all the menus I’ve made so far in the Jules & David project, this is the one I’ve been most excited about making. But ironically its also been the one which has been the most difficult to source ingredients for and so the one I’ve had to reschedule numerous times.

The good news is, its also been one of the tastiest meals…

Steamed Fennel with Red Pepper Oil

Normally I avoid steamed veg because they tend to be bland and boring but this steamed fennel was a revelation. I loved the simple freshness and the fact that dipping the virtuous steamed veg in the firey oil saved it from being too saintly. Definitely something I will serve again especially if the main event is something on the richer side.

Quail with Creamy Polenta

I hadn’t cooked quail in literally years, and I was reminded why… while the little birds were certainly quick to cook, and tasted delicious with their blankets of crispy proscuitto, they are just so fiddly to eat. Even though I adore tearing meat from the bone, I found the quail to be more effort than reward.

The polenta on the other hand was everything a good polenta should be, corny and creamy, oozy and oh-so-comforting. Well worth the hour of cooking and stirring occasionally.

In the past I’ve cooked my polenta in milk or stock and smothered it in parmesan, but I like Tanis’ approach better. Just cook it long and slow in water with plenty of salt and then fortify at the end with lashings of butter.

After reading Tanis’s opinion on instant polenta, I carefully tasted mine after the 3 minutes of cooking recommended on the pack and I wasn’t a fan. Raw and almost starchy tasting, it wasn’t a patch on the finished product.

Note to self: polenta needs at least an hour but is pretty low maintenance to cook so worth the effort!

Oven-Charred Radicchio

Both my Irishman and I raved about this simple bitter accompaniment. Sliced into wedges, roasted in a very hot oven until well charred and seasoned generously it was a delicious side. I loved how there were crispy charred bits to contrast the soft creamy corn meal.

Normally I would have finished radicchio with a little balsamic or sherry vinegar but resisted the urge to deviate from the recipe and was very pleasantly surprised how the salt was enough to make the radicchio flavours sing.

Italian Plum Cake

These days I usually keep my baking gluten-free but decided to stick to the recipe on this occasion and use a combo of almond meal and flour. The results were OK but the flour gave a slightly rubbery texture… which could have been an over-baking error on my part. If there ever is a next time I’ll just use almond meal. But I am enjoying using fruit in my baking more and more.

For more see: The Jules & David Project