Spaghetti with carciofi and mint

Evening in Garbatella

It may be November, but here in Rome it is sunny and still 19 degrees. My cousin was visiting from Norway this week, only for two days, but she saw as much as possible. She was thrilled, also to escape the snow and Norwegian winter darkness. She enjoyed wine, gelato, Roman pizza, seeing the Pantheon, tossing a coin in the Trevi, and being flirted with by waiters, and now wants to come back next summer to study Italian. We also ambled around  our neighborhood (Garbatella) and had wine in the balmy first evening, which was good as it poured the next day.
20131027-192340.jpg With houseguests you never know, I like having some food options on hand for those too tired to go out. Not the case with my cousin! What time did not allow on this trip was spaghetti with carciofi and mint, so we had that for lunch after she left. Very easy, especially when our fruttivendolo has the carciofi (artichokes) already prepped and ready like this.

20131027-192348.jpgSpaghetti with carciofi and mint

4-5 artichokes, cleaned and sliced thinly
Handful of fresh parsley
Some sprigs of fresh mint
1 tsp olive oil
Splash of white wine or water
Pinch of salt
250 grammes spaghetti

While the pasta boils, toss the sliced artichokes in a frying pan with the oil and cook lightly until tender, just a few minutes. Add a splash of white wine or water if it looks dry. Chop parsley and mint and add, with a pinch of salt. Drain pasta when done, keeping a little pasta cooking water aside (1/4 cup?), and toss it with artichokes in pan. Moisten with pasta cooking water if needed, and serve. It’s light and tasty, the carciofi flavour really comes through.


And then we went for a walk to enjoy our tourist-free, football loving neighourhood, basking in November sunshine. Life is good.

PS Many thanks to mrs.choux for the Liebster Award, and many thanks also to the Transplanted Cook for the Versatile Blogger award!

Garbatella Totti grafitti

Pumpkin soup with leek and red lentils

20131027-192052.jpgYou have the house to yourself, you’re in leggings and a flour-smeared T-shirt that has seen better days, busy cooking after hanging out laundry, anticipating a quiet afternoon watching “Downton Abbey” with a nice cup of tea. Then a friend calls, hopeful. “How about lunch? Do you want to meet up?” I was honest, and said “Thanks, but no.” No, I didn’t want to leave the house, I did not want to spend the money, and I really did not want to change out of my comfortably decrepit clothes. But I said she was very welcome to come over and have the lunch I was cooking, which she did.

Pumpkin soup with leek and red lentils

2 leeks
Wedge of fresh pumpkin (300 grammes or so)
1 teaspoon olive oil
2 celery stalks, with leaves
4 cloves garlic
2 stock cubes
1.4 litres water
200 grammes red lentils (about a cup)
1 tsp salt
2 tsp cummin
2 tsp coriander
Pinch of cinnamon
Pinch of pepper
Some fresh basil and parsley (optional)

Chop the leeks, whites and all. Wash them first, there is often grit between the layers. Keep a handful of chopped leeks aside for garnish later. Heat the oil, and gently fry the leeks. Peel and chop the pumpkin, add it to the leeks.

20131027-192059.jpgChop the celery, leaves and all. Add to the pot, with garlic, spices, herbs, water and stock cubes.

20131027-192111.jpgAdd a cup of red lentils, if you like them. Season with salt and pepper.

20131027-192139.jpgGently simmer for 20 minutes or so, until the pumpkin is soft. You can serve the soup like this, or blend it with a hand blender (as below). It is quite thick. Taste if more salt and pepper is needed. Sprinkle with a little chopped leek, and serve with freshly baked bread, if you have some. Very nice.

Notes: No need to dress up and leave the house! My friend brought her three-year old, who is deeply suspicious of green food, and she actually ate this with gusto, dunking bread into it, as long as there was no leek garnish involved.


Oatmeal porridge sourdough loaf


There is something about autumn that just calls for soups and stews, and for starting the day with a nice bowl of oatmeal porridge. I like mine with brown sugar, or maybe just a grated apple. I often make a little extra porridge, so I can add some (unsweetened) to my next bread dough. It keeps the bread moist and gives a nice structure.


Oatmeal porridge sourdough loaf

100 grammes mature sourdough starter (100% hydration)
300 grammes leftover oatmeal porridge
200 grammes water
600 grammes flour (plain white 00)
10 grammes salt

Stir the sourdough starter with the water and the cooled leftover porridge. Add the flour and mix well. Cover with plastic wrap and let rest for 20 minutes. After this initial rest, add the salt and seeds, if using. Mix well. Add more flour or water if you think the dough needs it.

Cover the bowl and let rise for about a few hours at room temperature. Fold the dough a few times (just in the bowl, using a spoon or spatula). You will feel the dough becoming more elastic and responsive, and it will increase nicely in volume. A few hours before baking, fold dough into a banneton or bread tin, and let rest a couple hours until it’s rising nicely. (You can also leave it overnight in the fridge, unless your fridge is too full and the only option is baking same day…. A overnight fermentation gives better flavour.)

When ready to bake: heat your oven to 250C, with a cast iron pot. When it is properly hot, take the pot out carefully. Invert the dough onto a piece of baking paper, slash the dough, and put the bread in the pot. Bake at 250C for 25-30 minutes with the lid on, then 15-20 minutes more with the lid off, until the bread looks done and the base of the bread sounds hollow if you tap it. About 45 minutes in all, depending on your oven. Cool before slicing.

20130901-150437.jpgNotes: Oatmeal porridge always reminds me of Norway, so here are a couple pictures from this August, on the farm of a friend. Her son was busy building this small cabin in the yard, which is possible with lots of space and spare materials.