The first cookery book I bought, was called "Recipes from round the world". Grandma and I had a lot of fun making previously unimagined things, Lemon soup from Sweden, which we both thought was delicious, but Grandpa didn't, Beef stroganoff and Boeuf Bourguignon (delicious).
When I came to Italy I was on my own so much that I lost interest in cooking and lost weight and got what Nonna called "Milza", this means "spleen" and describes a state of mind like homesickness or Nostalgia.
Food could be considered a universal passport, crossing all boundaries. To offer food is to extend the hand of friendship, to accept is to be accepted into the community. Italians have a great advantage here, their food is considered the finest in the world. They have poured all their passion into their food. It is a National heritage. the Mediterranean diet a Unesco site!
British food, on the other hand has a terrible reputation and even now Italians come back from Britain and complain that they only places they liked eating were the Italian restaurants.
Luckily my Italian relatives love British food, mainly due to my sister-in-law and her friends who are all brilliant cooks. They all agree that the Traditional Christmas dinner is a culinary masterpiece.
Roast turkey, stuffing, parsnips, roast potatoes, pigs in blankets, Brussell sprouts with almonds
carrots, peas, cauliflower in white sauce, bread sauce, cranberry jelly
! Then Christmas pudding and brandy butter, they love it all !1 Hurray !
Grandma sent me a cookery book called "The Dairy book of Family Cooking" and everything became much brighter. I read the book from cover to cover, made lots of recipes and felt stimulated to eat again. I now own loads of cookery books for all eventualities. A happy marriage and family life could be said to be made up of many happy meals, not grand occasions, just everyday wholesome food.
Now here are two very easy recipes that are ideal for this time of year:-
Lebanese Tomato Rice Soup
1 onion, chopped
1 clove of garlic, if liked, chopped finely
1 tin of tomatoes, plus any fresh ones that you have in the fridge
500 g stock, or water and a bit of stock cube
80g rice, basmati if liked
salt, pepper, mint and lemon juice to taste
Simply fry the onion and garlic in olive oil until soft, you can stop it browning by adding a pinch of sugar.
Add the tomatoes and stir fry for a few minutes and some tomato puree to taste.
Add the stock and bring to the boil
add the rice and stir well
simmer gently for half an hour
add salt, pepper, lemon juice and mint as liked.
It should be like a soup not a risotto. This means it can be made in advance whereas a risotto has to be eaten straight away. You can add a tin of beans to make it more substantial.
Irish salmon and potato gratin
8 potatoes, peeled and left whole
225 g smoked salmon
400 ml cream
Parboil the potatoes for 8 minutes
Butter an ovenproof dish and rub a clove of garlic all round it.
Slice the potatoes and then layer half of them over the bottom of the dish.
top with the smoked salmon
season well and pour over some lemon juice to taste
Cover with the rest of the potatoes
Pour over the cream and sprinkle with parmesan
Bake in the oven at 180 c for 20 minutes until golden .
Both these recipes are ideal after a walk on a Winter's day