Calamari and potato stew

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Working with home is busier than expected, not the long days with leisurely lunches I had imagined. I go from online meeting to spreadsheets to next online meeting, and often it is my husband doing the cooking on weekdays. But this time I stepped up. Our veg box arrived from L’Alveare, along with eggs, rabbit and calamari, and the next day I dug out a wine-stained recipe for Ligurian stew with seppie (cuttlefish) and potatoes. This is very simple, but needs a bit of time, so it is perfect to assemble and leave simmering while you have a Zoom drink with a friend.

Getting a five kilo veg box is interesting, and so far it has been fun to work out what to cook. It’s all from within 50-70 km of Rome. We had fresh fava beans, carrots, salad, green tomatoes, and lots of fennel. We made pickled fennel and fennel pasta bake with lemony breadcrumbs, both which were delicious. Now we have cicoria, brocoletti and spinach jostling for space in the veg drawer, along with Roman zucchini, so maybe a green spring risotto will appear in the next days. Maybe also zucchine a scapece, fried zucchini slices dressed in oil, vinegar, garlic and mint? So many possibilities! It’s a little overwhelming after four years in Ghana with more limited vegetable options. It’s also so nice to have access to all my cookbooks. Like old T-shirts: if I do not use them now, I never will, so it’s time to use them or pass them on.

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The original recipe calls for seppie, but I used calamari, with more potatoes, and it was lovely. This is for two people, with a little left for lunch the next day.

Calamari and potato stew

500 gr calamari, cleaned
500 gr potatoes, peeled
4 tbs olive oil
3 cloves garlic
parsley
generous pinch of dried chili flakes
small glass of dry white wine
1/2 tsp salt

If you have a cast iron pot, use that — something with a heavy lid is best, or a very tight-fitting lid. Heat the oil, and gently fry garlic and chili flakes (or chopped fresh chili , if you have it).  Slice calamari into strips and add to pan with parsley (dry, or fresh chopped). Pour in white wine, cook on low heat for 25 min or so. I enjoyed more of the white wine on a call with a friend in Chicago.  Now, chop the peeled potatoes and add them to the pot, keeping the heavy lid on – you do not want the steam to escape. Relax while the stew continues to simmer with lid on for another 20-25 minutes or so, until the potatoes are cooked but not falling apart. You might need a little stock or wine if it looks dry, this did not need extra liquid. Salt and serve.

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Not quite a seaside lunch at Fiumicino, but it was really good! I really appreciate being safe in Rome, and hope that phase 2 of our lockdown here goes well.  There may be a second wave of infections following the partial lifting of restrictions. There have definitely been a lot more people out since Easter but most Romans have been incredibly disciplined. We have no family here, and cannot see friends yet, so thank goodness for good Internet. It’s a tough time for many small businesses, and we do not know what the summer will bring. I am crossing fingers for continued calm and safe days for all.

May Day, fave and pecorino

img_20200501_122742_4It’s May Day, a long weekend here and the end of week eight of lockdown. From Monday we can go for walks, which will be wonderful. Quite a few people are ambling around already, it is definitely getting livelier in Rome by the day. The traditional primo maggio concertone (big concert) will be online tonight, spring is definitely here. I’ve seen locals out in T-shirts, there is fresh asparagus and soon strawberries.  We got a veg box delivered yesterday from L’Alveare, which had lots of fave fresche (fava beans, or broad beans.) Time for a traditional first of May lunch, fave e pecorino. Ideally eaten after a trip to the countryside, with a glass of crisp cold white wine.

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No countryside this year, but we peeled the fresh fava beans sitting in the kitchen, listening to bird song. The ones on the left have the outer layer removed, maybe not needed as these are very fresh, but we have plenty. We also have plenty of time this spring. I was sorting cookbooks today (they ALL spark joy) and will pull out some less used ones to experiment with, esepcially now that we know how to shop online. The shops are well-stocked, I am just trying to avoid closed spaces. I’ll try more It looks like I’ll be working for home for a few more months, so I’m thinking about how to set up a less temporary workspace. On Tuesday my boxes arrive from Accra, so I’ll deal with that first. It will get hot in Rome soon enough, but nothing compared to the heat and relentless humidity of Accra.

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No pecorino cheese, but we had fresh, crumbly robiola and cheese with walnuts with our fave, with flatbread left over from a Persian dinner (Persian Chicken with Turmeric and Lime, and Smoked aubergines with garlic, both highly recommended. Standing on the balcony today, seeing people jog by and walk their dogs and randomly (!) bump into friends, albeit with masks and at a distance, there is a good feeling that this too shall pass. I hope the same holds true also for you.

Liberation Day in Italy: “Bella Ciao” and chocolate cake

chocolate cake

It’s April 25th, Liberation Day in Italy. At 3PM people were out on their balconies singing “Bella Ciao”  – the link below is from the Palladium building here in Garbatella.

I think people were singing all over Italy. Lots of flags and cheering.

E le genti che passeranno
O bella ciao, bella ciao, bella ciao ciao ciao
E le genti che passeranno
Mi diranno: “Che bel fior”

From a friend: the Italian Air Force was also out today.

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I made a cake today, as some yoghurt needed to be used up. Quite light and fluffy, not too sweet.

Chocolate cake with cocoa and yoghurt
125 gr butter, melted and a little cooled
300 gr white sugar
3 medium eggs
450 ml dl plain yoghurt   (I had three small 150 ml containers to use up)
50 ml milk   (as it looked a little stiff)
350g white wheat flour (I used 00)
4 heaping tbs cocoa powder (dark unsweetened kind, rather old)
2 sachets instant coffee (4 gr) (if you have some)
2 tbs baking soda
1.5 tsp baking powder
generous pinch salt

Melt butter. Whisk eggs and sugar until fluffy, then stir in everything else and mix. Bake in parchment-lined tray (I used 20×30 cm) at 200 for 30-40 minutes until cake is done (is risen, stops wobbling when touched and a wooden chopstick inserted comes out dry.) Cool cake.

Frosting
125 gr butter
3 heaping tbs cocoa powder
90 g dark chocolate
1 tsp vanilla extract
2 sachets instant coffee (4 gr), or generous splash of strong coffee
275 gr icing sugar
1 tbs sugar syrup (I was making some, otherwise just use a little more icing sugar)
a couple splashes of milk to make it spreadable

Melt butter with chocolate. Whisk rest in until it is shiny and smooth. Spread on cake when cake is cool. You might want it sweeter, this is quite dark. Top with sugar sprinkles.

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I failed to wait: friends were out for a walk in the sunny afternoon, with their police declarations ready, and were walking by our house. I hastily spread the frosting on the hot cake, and sliced off a third of the cake for them. We had a socially distanced hello and handover. Wrapped in tinfoil the cake was still quite hot, and collapsed a bit, but great to have a chance to share! After seven weeks (?) of lockdown it will be so nice to see friends again next month, we hope.