I spent Saturday cooking up a feast from the marvellous Polpo cookbook. If you don’t have it, I would highly recommend that you add it to your letter to Santa. Not only does it contain over a hundred delicious sounding recipes but it is also a thing of beauty, with a stripped spine which means that it stays open on the page that you want it to. There are loads of added extras such as a map of venice, a four page introduction which tells the story of how Russell Norman fell in love with the city and decided to open the first Polpo in 2008, some fantastic local photos and the details of various Venetian wine bars and restaurants that Russell recommends. If an hour with this book doesn’t make you desperate to get on a plane I don’t know what will!
Yes I did manage to drop it on the floor and yes I was disappointed 😦
It’s funny, I love cooking but recently I’ve been so busy that I haven’t really had the time to do any proper cooking and I’d forgotten how much I love it. Cooking for guests is my favourite. Pouring through cookbooks deciding what to make, making a list of all the ingredients, going to the supermarket and filling the trolley with delicious treats and then spending the whole day making a feast. Absolute heaven!
As per usual, I didn’t quite allow myself enough time on Saturday, which mean I was still at it when our guests arrived and I was exhausted by the time we sat down to eat, but I still throughly enjoyed myself.
I decided to make a selection of sharing dishes and to put my new found bread making skills into practice. It was pretty much an unmitigated success.
Focaccia, Mozzarella Pizzaiola and Caponata
Piedmontese Peppers & White Anchovies
Braised Scallops, Pancetta & Peas (with a steamy lens!)
A bowl of olive oil and balsamic and a couple of bellinis rounded things off nicely.
Then it was pudding time. I made a flourless orange and almond cake and served it with with mascarpone mixed with a little double cream – bellissimo! I did have a slight crisis when after boiling my oranges for two hours (and no, I hadn’t allocated two hours) the recipe told me to cut them into pieces and add them to the cake mix in the food processor. There was no mention of taking the skins off but it seemed a little strange to leave them on. However, thanks to some helpful responses on Twitter in my moment of need, I left them on and it turned out perfectly.
A firm tangy sponge with a big dollop of mascarpone cream
I don’t like to leave you without a recipe so, next time you have 4 hours to spare, here is what you will need for this delicious and simple cake:
100g brown sugar
400g caster sugar
6 medium free range eggs
250g ground almonds
1.5 teaspoons baking powder
2 tablespoons double cream
1. Boil 2 oranges in plenty of water for 2 hours. Reserve the cooking liquid.
2. Whizz the brown sugar, 200g of caster sugar and 6 eggs in a food processor.
3. Cut the oranges into small pieces and whizz up with the mixture.
4. Add the almonds and give one last mix.
5. Pour into a lined 26cm cake tin and put in the oven pre-heated to 180°C.
6. Bake for around an hour, until a skewer comes out clean.
7. Zest and juice the third orange and add this to the cooking water with the remaining 200g sugar, boil for 20 minutes or so until you have a syrup and then drizzle this on top sparingly (I *may* have gone slightly overboard with this!)
8. Mix the cream and mascarpone and make sure you serve a great big dollop with each slice of cake.