Wraps with mashed potato, avocado, spinach and bacon

avocados The Egyptian greengrocer had avocados this week, and nice ones they were indeed, after a few days of ripening in the kitchen. I had great plans for them. Maybe Finnish avocado lime pasta? But I got home late, after enjoying post-work drinks (and too many crisps….) with a friend, so ambitions were lowered and we improvised with what we had. Very tasty it was as well.

Wraps with mashed potato, avocado, spinach and bacon
2 wheat tortillas
4 generous tablespooons of leftover mashed potatoes
2 slices of cooked bacon (optional)
3-4 handfuls of fresh spinach, washed
half an avocado, sliced
A squiggle of garlic salad dressing

Wraps with mashed potato, avocado, spinach and bacon

Fry the bacon, if using, and drain on paper towels. Drain the fat from the frying pan (a milk carton will do, for later disposal) and sauté the fresh spinach in the same pan until it wilts. Drain if needed, then remove from pan and set aside. Heat the mashed potato. In a separate dry frying pan, heat the flour tortillas on both sides. Assembly: Divide the mashed potato between the two tortillas. Add the sautéd spinach. Arrange the avocado slices across the centre, and crumble over the cooked bacon. Serve with a little garlic dressing (if you wish), roll it up and enjoy. Serves two.

Note: We had brought bacon from the UK, and had leftover mashed potato with onions and cheese sitting in the fridge, so I used that, but half a tin of drained and crushed cannellini beans with a chopped onion would be lovely as well. 

This was fast and tasty, but is hardly food mile neutral. Along with British bacon, Norwegian garlic dressing and imported avocado, the tortillas were at least Italian. Those can be expensive here, but these came from Todis, a discount supermarket that for some reason has decent flour tortillas, not just the thicker piadine that Romans like. They also have excellent Romanian sour cream, not in the dairy section but in the meat section with obscure Romanian sausages.

Fiesta Friday

I am bringing this to Fiesta Friday at The Novice Gardener this week, as an impromptu contribution – like when friends drop by at dinner time, you are having a drink and are getting hungrier but nobody fancies leaving home, and you need to rustle up something from what you have on hand. Unplanned can still be delicious. Happy FF to all!

PS LOVED this article by Jay Rayner in The Guardian this week: In the kitchen, I got the power. When modern life gets out of control, there’s one refuge where I get to play God

Worth reading!

Pasta con le sarde (sardines and wild fennel)

finocchio selvatico
I confess, my week of being home alone and eating badly has continued. Ramen noodles, cheese and crackers, take-away pizza; yesterday dinner was fish-fingers and Häagen-Dazs while watching “Reality Bites”. Lots of guilty pleasures. Still, by now I am really looking forward to my husband getting back from London tomorrow and me cooking from scratch again. In honour of that, here is a dish from the archives: pasta con le sarde (sardines and wild fennel). I love wild fennel, and this is a great dish I make when I find wild fennel in the market (or bring it back from Palermo.)

Pasta con le sarde (sardines and wild fennel)

300-400 grammes spaghetti
One white onion, chopped
1 tbs olive oil
300 grammes sardines, filleted
Five anchovy fillets
Spash of white wine, optional
A generous bunch of finoccio selvatico (fresh wild fennel)
50 grammes pine nuts
75 grammes sultanas or raisins
Salt and pepper
To serve: a handful of toasted breadcrumbs

Wash the wild fennel, removing any brown bits and cut off the lowest part and roots. Heat the olive oil in a frying pan, and gently fry the chopped onion. Add the sardines (yes, with tail – we get them in the frozen food shop filleted like this) and the anchovy fillets, with a little white wine if you have some. Cover and cook gently for 7-8 minutes. Add half the fennel to the pan with the onion and sardines. Meanwhile, boil water for the pasta. Add pasta and the rest of the fennel to the boiling water, and cook until pasta is al dente.

20130705-214022.jpgDrain off the water, then pour pasta (with fennel) into the sauce. Add pine nuts and sultanas, toss, and serve with a sprinkle of toasted breadcrumbs.
I am not sure what I will be cooking the next few days, but pumpkin risotto for sure, maybe a potato-leek soup, or something with cauliflower. Maybe melanzane alla parmigiana? Salmon with miso and sesame? The gas company is coming tomorrow to change our very old gas counter, so I have taken the afternoon off to wait for for them. Hopefully there will be time to also go stock up on vegetables and get some real food in the fridge again (not just jam, wine, pickled herring and mystery chutneys). Also, my husband will get home! Yeah!

Stormy day pumpkin soup

Garbatella bridgeLots of weather vocabulary in the Roman news yesterday. Allerta meto, emergenza, nubifragio; maltempo, bomba d’acqua sulla città. Stay home, said authorities. Severe weather warnings, schools closed, lots of rain, hailstorms and thunder. Shops are closed and shuttered, it’s very black out there, but I got home safely from work and am making pumpkin soup. As our windows leak in heavy rain, all the shutters are firmly down and I am watching the changing weather through the sheltered balcony door. This is our new bridge in Garbatella, just before the skies opened and I was absolutely drenched while walking home from the metro.

Fortunately I had pumpkin in the fridge, destined for a risotto with chestnuts, but now becoming soup. Rome is not great when the rain gets heavy; the tombini (drains) overflow, and are often full of leaves and rubbish. Not enough resources to maintain the old drains or prune enough trees, so piazzas flood, trees blow over, metro stops close and traffic slows to a honking, humid, annoyed tangle.  Now that I am drying out in my pyjamas, with soup simmering in the kitchen, I am very grateful it has not been worse here.

Stormy day pumpkin soup

1 large leek
1 tbs olive oil
3 sticks of celery, with leaves
2 tsp ground cumin
800 grammes of peeled raw pumpkin, in large chunks
1 litre vegetable stock
4 bottom-of-the-fridge carrots, peeled
1 tsp salt
1 tsp pepper
handful of parsley, if you have some
1/2 tsp ground cloves, optional
1/2 tsp turmeric

Chop the leek coarsely, after removing base and an inch off the top, and washing and soil off. Sauté in a generous sized pot with the olive oil. Add chopped celery, cumin, then pumpkin, then stock, chopped carrots, salt, pepper and spices. I used cumin, turmeric and cloves this time, just to try. You might have another spice combination you prefer? Toss it all in the pot, no need to chop anything too finely as it will be blended later.


Bring soup contents to the boil, and leave to simmer for half an hour or so. Just enough time to tidy the kitchen, hang up wet clothes, draft a blog post and look at the rolling clouds a bit. I like blended soups, so I used my immersion blender to whiz it all together to a smooth soup, once the carrots had softened enough. Taste it: what do you think the soup might need? Today I enjoyed as it was: warm and slightly spicy, with an aftertaste of the cloves.


Hopefully everyone is not too pumpkin-ed out after Halloween, so I’ll bring a large pot of this soup to Fiesta Friday #41. Happy Fiesta Friday to all, and many thanks to the hosts!

Notes: I have an amazing pumpkin soup recipe somewhere, but could not find or remember it, so this was assembled from what was on hand. Normally I would add some chill flakes, a couple potatoes, cumin and something: ground coriander, possibly? Maybe some lentils…. but as I am home alone this week, I know I’ll reach pumpkin soup saturation by day three, so I did not want too much soup. This soup should freeze well, though.

At least I cooked something! When my husband is away (not often), I succumb to a no-cook diet of cereal, yoghurt and cheese & crackers. I must say, proper home-cooked food tastes amazing after a week of that. This time, since I cooked today, I have soup enough for dinner, and lunch, and dinner, and lunch…… Time for cheese & crackers after that? I may just forage for inspiration at Fiesta Friday. I already have my eye on chefjulianna’s Blueberry Rosemary Focaccia! 

Fiesta Friday PS I posted this, and then read the Guardian, where this was published today: To cook or not to cook? A sensual pleasure for some can be plain serfdom for others  — interesting reading.