Monday, 25 October 2010

Something for the weekend

I know the vast majority of us wake up on Friday morning, already braced for the after work dinner and drinks which so frequently accompany the birth of the weekend. My relationship with food being what it is, when Friday morning arrives and I'm frantically throwing a glass of smoothie down my neck as I run out the door, I start to get excited. My mind wanders from the predictable 'it's Friday' celebrations onto Saturday morning breakfast, where I am all ready to upgrade my smoothie to something a little more indulgent. I love weekend breakfasts. I get up, take my time and have a good old rummage in the fridge, where I can turn almost anything into breakfast bounty. Today however, I am opting for something a little more traditional, to help counteract the after effects of last nights 'house red'. A bacon roll, served traditionally on a bap with a good squeeze of tomato ketchup and a cup of tea. Is there a better start to a Saturday morning?

Clearly this did the trick, and with a spring in my step, I headed towards Valvona and Crolla on Elm Row. Living so close to this Edinburgh institution is detrimental both to my wallet and my waste line, but there is something irresistible about the smell of the cured meats and cheeses that waft towards you as you walk through the door. This is followed by a dose of nostalgia, as I recall a much smaller version of myself peering into the glass cabinets, even then appreciating the beauty of it all. That was the start of my food obsession, aged 5.

Quite often I visit Valvona and Crolla just for the rush. Todays visit is somewhat more specific, where only V&C can deliver. I have a craving for a soup I used to have as a girl, (nostalgia kicking in again), of stelline pasta (tiny, flat star shaped pasta) with cannellini beans and parmesan. This is a humble yet tasty dish, guaranteed to leave you with that warm feeling in your belly that only soup can deliver, especially on a cold winters day. To make this soup you need:

1 small onion, chopped                                           

1 clove of garlic, crushed
A glug of olive oil

125g of pancetta, cubed

1 teaspoon of dried oregano

300g stelline pasta (or any other small pasta shape if you can't get stelline)

1 litre of chicken stock

400g tin of cannellini beans

30g of parmesan, grated

1 parmesan rind (optional, but really adds to the intensity of the flavour)

Now here are the three simple steps to making this beautiful rustic soup:

1. Heat the oil in a pan. Add the onion, garlic, pancetta and oregano and sauté until the onion has softened.

2. Pour in the cannellini beans along with the stock and parmesan rind. Add the pasta and cook for 10-12 minutes, or according to packet instructions.

3. Once the pasta is cooked, remove the parmesan rind and season to taste with freshly ground black pepper.

This soup really is so easy, and will serve 4-6 people, depending on how greedy you are! It is a one pot wonder that never fails to deliver on flavour. I'll be eating this soup all winter, I can guarantee!

Wednesday, 20 October 2010

Vero Italiano

Today has been one of those rare days where although I took a very laid back approach to proceedings, I feel like I accomplished something, all thanks to a mug of hot chocolate. A stroll through Stockbridge led me to Sprio, a deli and latteria which I have been meaning to try since I moved into the area, but have fallen fowl of the familiar 'better the devil you know' concept.

The moment I stepped through the door, I knew I would be coming back. The Italian newspapers, radio and general paraphernalia transported me back to the Milanese corner bars I frequented as a former resident of the country. I was braced to order a latte macchiato to accompany me whilst I tried to get into the mind set of Italo Calvino, but almost jumped for joy when I saw the six syllable word 'cioccolatissima'. No more time was wasted over ordering, and as I sat breathing in the aroma of my bowl of chocolate soup, I didn't even bother getting my book out of my bag. But rather, as a true Italophile, I merely sat and revelled in the surroundings.

For those of you who have never experienced a true cioccolatissima, I would like to offer you a few words of wisdom:

1. It's not for the faint hearted. If you can't handle your chocolate, (I'm always suspicious of those characters), this is not the drink for you. It has a thick and creamy consistency and must be eaten with a spoon.

2. If you are fortunate enough to live in Edinburgh, catch the bus, jump in the car, hop, skip or jump along to Sprio and order one instantly! Trust me, you won't regret it.


So yes, in terms of having had a productive day, where items finally get ticked off the never ending to-do list, I failed. But in finding true epicurean pleasure, Chiara one, housework nil.

Saturday, 2 October 2010

Sometimes it just has to be....

A club sandwich! A trip into town led me on the hunt for a club sandwich. I have absolutely no idea where this craving came from, but I wasn't about to stop until it was satisfied. This led me to Tempus, where I unashamedly devoured the mother of all sandwiches, unconventionally accompanied by a lovely glass of rosé wine. I'm sure there's not a book in the world that suggests you accompany a club sandwich with a glass of rosé wine, but frankly I didn't care when my belly was full and my mind ever so slightly more relaxed. The most amusing part of it all was the look on the waiter's face when he delivered the three slices of bread, laced with chicken, bacon and mayo to my side of the table, whilst the mini fish and chips were delivered to Rob. I rose to the challenge and felt rather victorious when he collected my empty plate.