Category Archives: Travel and Recipes

NORTHERN ITALY, pasta made of rye or buckwheat flour and PIZZOCCHERI

Last year (2019) I stayed and travelled through parts of Tuscany, Emilia Romagna, Liguria, Veneto, Friuli Venezia Giulia, Trentino Alto Adige and a few places around Mantova (Mantua) in Lombardy. I loved it all, but I particularly enjoyed spending time in some parts of South Tyrol I had not ever visited – South Tyrol is an autonomous province and part of the two that make up the region of Trentino-Alto Adige.

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A few years before this trip I stayed and travelled around Bergamo, Brescia, Lake Como and Lake Maggiore and also parts of Piedmont.

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And years before this, I travelled through from France to Trieste, stopping in many places on the way.

And just because all these places may be described as being in Northern Italy, you will find the food from place to place is vastly different.

Never skiing, always looking, appreciating, drinking and eating.

Those of you who have travelled through Northern Italy may notice that the further north you go, the more corn (polenta), barley, rye, and buckwheat you will find in local dishes, especially in the array of dark breads, cakes and pastries.

I particularly like buckwheat polenta and rye or buckwheat pasta.

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Rye and buckwheat are popular in Eastern Europe where, in particular, the climates are cold. Cold weather brings deep winter snow and the jaggered peaks and mountains increase the isolation, especially in earlier times when transporting produce was much harder than today. The food in this particular part of Lombardy is unique because of its isolation in the past.

Italian food is all about locality – unique heritage, local produce and local food.

For example, Valtellina is a long narrow valley bordered by mountains in northern Lombardy, north of Lake Como and it is recognized for Pizzoccheri – a buckwheat pasta that is cooked with cabbage and potatoes – vegetables associated with hearty food – suitable for cold weather terrain. The  distinctive flavour of this dish is enhanced by the alpine cheeses such as Bitto and Valtellina Casera (DOP cheeses – Protected Designation of Origin) which the region is renowned for producing. 

Rye and buckwheat, especially, are widespread and prominent in the region and used in the local cuisine. Rich pasture is plentiful, and this region is also renowned for dairy produce. Sage is a hardy perennial and garlic (lots of it) add flavour. The garlic may also be there to boost health – in many countries, garlic has been used medicinally for centuries.

The use of rye or buckwheat creates a darker, chewier and more flavoursome pasta. Obviously, it does not go with all sauces, but I particularly like it with nut and herb based dressings and cheeses.

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Pizzoccheri is not a dry pasta dish and commonly the ingredients are drained before they are dressed with the butter and the cheeses, but I much prefer it as a wet pasta dish, so I suggest you read the whole recipe before you decide to make it.

The ratio of using buckwheat flour to white flour varies, but I like 300g of buckwheat to100g 00 white. No eggs are used in this type of pasta, just water, however, once again, occasionally I have added 1 egg to the mix.

Some cooks use more potatoes than cabbage, I like to use more cabbage than potato, say approximately 300 g potatoes to 400 g cabbage.

The cheese Valtellina Casera may be difficult to find, so you may wish to substitute it with Fontina or Gruyère, Emmental, Edam, or Gouda, especially if the cheese is aged.

To make rye pasta use the same amounts and procedure as described in this recipe, but substitute the buckwheat flour with rye flour and add three eggs. When making rye pasta I usually add some caraway seeds, or fennel or anise to the dough when kneading. At times, I have also done this when making buckwheat pasta.

Once again, the amounts are only guides. When my relatives make/ made pasta (or I make pasta for that matter) I use an estimation of judgement. I can remember my mother saying:

“One fistful (un pugno) of flour per egg, and ½ eggshell of water if it needs more liquid”

Having grown up with this, I still use this measure.

300 g buckwheat flour

100 g 00 flour

300 g butter

200 g cheese (see above)

6 cloves of garlic, a few sage leaves

salt and pepper

Parmesan, grated, at time of serving

Place the 2 flours and a pinch of salt in a bowl and mix. Make a well in the centre, pour in some water, a little at the time. Use your fingers to mix liquid with the flour, until everything is combined. Knead it to make one smooth lump of dough (for 5-8 minutes).

Follow the procedure as for rolling and cutting as in the previous post: MORE AUTUMN PRODUCE… lemons and quinces, wild mushrooms and homemade pasta.

Once you have cut the pasta into the width of pappardelle, cut each strip diagonally into pieces roughly 1 cm long.

Cut the potatoes into cubes – I like waxy potatoes and leave the skins on, Italians peel them.  Remove the core from the cabbage and cut into strips about 2 cm square.

Put the potatoes into some cold water, sufficient to make a thick soup like consistency when all of the ingredients have been added and cooked.

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The pasta will swell a bit and need more water than the vegetables; it needs liquid to cook so estimate sufficient water. You can also always add more boiling water to the dish as the pasta cooks if you think it needs more liquid.

When the potatoes come to the boil add the cabbage and add the pasta. I do not think it matters if you use a lid or not while it cooks. If I have too much liquid, I tend to leave the lid off to allow some evaporation. Cook until all is cooked and keep the pasta al dente.

Cut the garlic cloves into thin slices, add some sage leaves and gently cook them in the butter but prevent them from browning. 

Cut the cheese into small cubes.

Now, this is where you need to decide if you drain the solids and dress it or eat it as a wet pasta dish. My preference is for a wet pasta dish and to remove some of the liquid if it is too wet… save it for making another  and different soup.

Sometimes, I have cheated. When i do not have time to make fresh pasta, I have used commercially made  pasta. As you can see these are spiralli. San Remo makes both buckwheat and spelt spiralli. Both good. NOT traditional.

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CEDRO o LIMONE? Insalata di limone. Sicilian Lemon salad.

Was I excited? You bet I was.

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I was at the Alphington Melbourne Farmers’ Market yesterday and found these beauties at the Sennsational berries stall.

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It is not often that one finds such mature lemons. And what to do with large lemons?

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Make a Sicilian salad like my father used to make (he grew up in Ragusa, Sicily before relocating to Trieste). I did wonder if it was a cedro rather than a lemon, but was told it was a lemon and it tasted like one.

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I removed the skin and squeezed out some of the juice….this lemon was certainly juicy and the salad should not be too acidic.

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This salad likes fresh garlic and I still had some in the fridge that I had bought the week before from the same market, however this time I bought some garlic shoots, added fresh mint, a little parsley and some of the fresh oregano I have growing on my balcony. This oregano plant came from my father’s garden in Adelaide. He died years ago.

The last time I bought garlic shoots was earlier this year when I was in the Maremma, Tuscany.

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In our Airbnb in Castiglione della Pescaia I cooked them with zucchini and zucchini flowers as a dressing for Pici, the local pasta shape in Tuscany.

 


Back to the lemon salad in Melbourne, Australia:

Some good extra virgin olive oil and salt are a must. The salt brings out the sweetness of the lemon.

So, so good for summer. Think about it accompanying some seafood…BBQ fish? Very good. I took it to my friends place and we had it with a simple roast chicken, a succulent free range chicken.

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I have written about lemon salad before. That post also explains what is a cedro and has a photo of a cedro from a Sicilian market.

LEMON and CEDRO – SICILIAN LEMON SALAD

I shared my recipe with the stall owners. They were excited too.

 

 

PIEDMONTESE favourites

Two of my friends have been spending time in Piemonte (Piedmont) and as a welcome home dinner I made three Piedmontese favourites:
Bagna Cauda with an array of fresh vegetables cut into batons for dipping,
Vitello Tonnato,
Hazelnut cake with a homemade and delicately flavoured, vanilla ice cream.

I too visited Piedmont a few years ago and have very fond memories of  of driving around Piemonte and Valle D’Osta. I stayed in Stresa, Lake Maggiore, Asti, Bra and Alba.

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Bagna Cauda
I  make it different ways but this time I poached the garlic cloves in cream, using low heat. This process softens the taste of the garlic. Notice the tall sided pan…this prevents the cream from boiling over. You can use milk instead.

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I added the extra virgin olive oil, heated it and added the anchovies. They soon dissolve with the heat. (Photo below)

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Then the butter and mixed the ingredients with a hand whisk. The sauce is kept hot.

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Vitello Tonnato

I bought a cut of  yearling girello. This is a lean, round strip of meat….giro=one of the words for “round” in Italian.

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I always seal (lightly brown) my girello in some extra virgin olive oil, add some onion, carrot, celery and herbs.These are referred to as “odori” in Italian. Always   dry white wine and chicken stock and I poach the meat for a short time. This is the same method and ingredients I use when I make Vitello Arrosto…a pot roast.

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I want the meat to stay a little bit pink. Some recipes suggest not sealing the meat but poaching it in water or stock. I much prefer my method, the flavour is stronger and  I do not do it this way just because my mother did.

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I make an egg mayonnaise, add drained tuna packed in olive oil, hard boiled eggs, some lemon juice, capers, anchovies and a few of the poached vegetables that were used in the poaching of the meat. I blend all this and use it to make a stack ….about three layers of sliced meat interspersed with the tuna sauce.

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Hazelnut cake

Roasted hazelnuts, skins rubbed off. Ground to resemble fine breadcrumbs, but not a powder.

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A splash of Frangelico to accentuate the hazelnut taste.

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Eggs and sugar, beaten (3 eggs, 180g of sugar)
Flour….SR or add baking powder to plain flour (200g)
Strong black coffee (1 small espresso cup). In the photo below, are some of my coffee making macchinette, the smallest is for making one small cup.

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Butter, melted (150g).

A dash of milk if the mixture seems too dry. Mix all of the ingredients and place the batter in a buttered, spring-form tin.

Baked for 40 minutes (180 C)

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TASMANIA, FOOD, ART, HOBART and Bagna Cauda

YEARNING FOR VITELLO TONNATO

VITELLO TONNATO

VITELLO ARROSTO (Roast Veal)

SAUERKRAUT with Dried Mushrooms and golden CHICKEN BROTH, Polish secrets

Everyone should have a Polish friend. In Adelaide recently, I stayed with my Polish friend and during the first two days of being  back in Melbourne I have already made two Polish inspired dishes.

Not only that, I came home with a bunch of sorrel from her garden and I made an omlette (sorrel = bottom right hand side of photo). When i am fortunate enough to have some sorrel  I usually braise it with potatoes, or make a green borscht, or add it to it to a braise of meat.

My friend celebrates Christmas eve with some of the traditional Polish  foods that her parents used to enjoy. She and her two sisters get together and make Pierogi stuffed with sauerkraut and dried porcini mushrooms.

She knows how much I like sauerkraut and if I am visiting her after Christmas I know that she would have saved some Pierogi for me in her freezer.

This time (October) she prepared the sauerkraut and dried porcini mushrooms as a side dish for duck breasts, a green salad , steamed herbed potatoes and beetroot….potatoes and beetroot are almost a must in all Polish meals. The dried mushrooms make the sauerkraut a darker colour.

Having lived in Trieste, I am very used to eating and preparing sauerkraut and it is one of my favourite ingredients, but I generally I do not add dried mushrooms nor do I cook sauerkraut as long as she does.
Like all who have cooked a particular recipe for a long time, she does not measure quantities.

Vary the amounts of mushrooms, sauerkraut and cooking times as you wish.

1/4- 1/2 cups dried Porcini mushrooms soaked in water to cover
splash of olive oil
1 onion, chopped
1k-900g sauerkraut, jars are usually 900g – drained, rinsed and squeezed
salt and ground black pepper to taste

Leave mushrooms too soak at least for a couple of hours or combine water and dried mushrooms in a saucepan over low heat, simmer,and cook until tender – about 10 minutes. Drain mushrooms, reserving cooking water. Slice the mushrooms into smaller pieces if necessary.

Heat olive oil in a saucepan and over medium heat sauté onion until soft. Add mushrooms and drained sauerkraut and mix well. Add salt and pepper.

Add mushroom water, cover, and simmer until sauerkraut is soft. Add more water as it cooks if necessary. My friend cooks it for over an hour.

The second Polish thing I did in the last two days was to add a beetroot to the chicken broth I cooked. I have done this before and what it does is to colour the broth…not red, but a rich, golden colour as is evident in the photo above.

I make chicken broth the Italian way, adding a whole onion, celery sticks, carrots, whole peppercorns and salt.

My mother also added a little tomato, and perhaps this was done to colour, but I only do this when tomatoes are in season.  My Polish friend had recommend adding a beetroot years ago.

I use a whole, free range chicken and eat the meat.

BRODO DI GALLINA (Chicken Broth)

Follow the above recipe, just add a whole beetroot (unpeeled).

You could also add dried porcini to this recipe:

CHICKEN WITH SAUERKRAUT, from the Carso, in north eastern Italy, near Trieste

 

 

Goulash (Gulyás in Magyar) and Gulasch in Trieste

Having travelled to Tyrol, Vienna and Russia recently where I saw Goulash (Gulyás in Hungary) frequently on menus, once home I dipped into my recipe books of Hungary and found George Lang’s Cuisine of Hungary to be the most informative and detailed.

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I have been making Gulasch (in Triestian, dialect of Trieste) for a long time. As a child I lived in Trieste and not very far back in time Trieste was part of the Hungary – Austrian Empire and Gulasch is now part of the cooking of Trieste.

I have a fair few recipes of the cuisine of Trieste and all are made with meat, onions and paprika. Mostly the onions and meat are browned with lard and olive oil, bacon is not used, none have peppers or potatoes or any other vegetables or are thickened with flour. Some recipes suggest using caraway seeds, some a little tomato paste. None suggest adding red wine.

The main differences in my version of Gulasch as made in Trieste are:

I use wine or alcohol often in my cooking and have always added red wine to Goulash. Perhaps my mother did this and I have never questioned it.  I always use herbs in my cooking so I add bay leaves, as these seem to be the most appropriate. I also use a mixture of hot and sweet paprika.

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I do not add potatoes to the braise and prefer to present then separately, either Patate in teccia or creamy mashed potatoes with lashings of milk and butter. However, I am more likely to present it with Polenta, a favourite accompaniment in the cooking of Trieste. Below Goulash as presented in a restaurant in Tyrol. It was accompanied with braised red cabbage.

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George Lang says that that a true gulyás should contain no spice other than paprika and caraway. Lard and bacon (either one or both) and chopped onion are absolute musts.
Never use and flour, Never Frenchify it with wine, Never Germanize it with brown sauce. Never put in any other garniture besides diced potatoes or galuska (dumplings).

But many variations are possible – you may use fresh tomatoes or tomato puree, garlic, sliced green peppers, hot cherry peppers to make it spicy and so on.

This recipe Kettle Gulyás comes from “The Cuisine of Hungary” by George Lang (Penguin Books, 1971).

2 tablespoons lard (or substitute canola or other vegetable oil)

2 medium onions, coarsely chopped

2 1/2 pounds beef chuck or round, cut to 3/4-inch cubes

1/2 pound beef heart (optional), cut to 3/4-inch cubes

1 garlic clove

Pinch caraway seeds

Salt

2 tablespoons paprika

1 medium-sized ripe tomato

2 green frying or Italian peppers

1 pound potatoes

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Peel onions and chop into coarse pieces. Melt lard in a heavy 6 to 8-quart Dutch oven. Add the beef cubes to the oil and brown. Work in batches if necessary, removing cubes as they are browned. Don’t overcrowd the pan. Add onions to the pot. Heat should be low in order not to brown the onions. When onions become glossy, add back the seared beef. Stir.

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Meanwhile, chop and crush the garlic with the caraway seeds and a little salt; use the flat side of a heavy knife.

Take kettle from heat. Stir in paprika and the garlic mixture. Stir rapidly with a wooden spoon. Immediately after paprika is absorbed, add 2 1/2 quarts warm water. (Cool water toughens meat if you add it with the meat is frying.)

Replace covered kettle over low heat and cook for about 1 hour.

While the braising is going on, peel the tomato, then cut into 1-inch pieces. Core green peppers and slice into rings. Peel potatoes and cut into 3/4-inch dice.

After the meat has been braised for about 1 hour (the time depends on the cut of the meat), add the tomato and green peppers and enough water to give a soup consistency. Add a little salt. Simmer slowly for another 30 minutes.

Add potatoes and cook the gulyás till done. Adjust salt. Add hot cherry pepper pods if you want to make the stew spicy hot.

For my recipe of Gulasch, as cooked in Trieste see:

GULASCH (Goulash, as made in Trieste)

 

 

 

 

Sbrisolona and Mantova (Mantua)

Sbrisolona (Sbrisolone, Sbrisolina) is one of the tradtional pastries that represent the culinary traditions of Montova (Mantua) and Lombardy.

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Mantova (Mantua) is a city and in Lombardy.

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For recipe, see: SBRISOLONA, SBRISOLOSA OR SBRISOLINA (Biscuit- like crumble cake)

MARINETTI Filippo Tommaso, futurist, frequented a bar in Bologna

In Bologna I visited where Filippo Tommaso Marinetti hung out with his futurist friends and discussed the evils of eating pasta. I did not expect to find it to be part of a grand hotel.

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Cafe’ Marinetti is located in the Grand Hotel Majestic “Gia Baglioni”. It is an 18th-century palazzo across the street from the Cattedrale Metropolitana di San Pietro and only a 5-minute walk from the Towers of Bologna.

CFBEA013-5359-47D5-86F8-07AA09D4BDB0The hotel is decorated with Baroque details, expensive paintings and photographs of famous visiting celebrities….Frank Sinatra, Eva Gardner, Princess Diana, Sting, Bruce Springsteen and others.

C28BCA23-F038-4C67-ACC5-88A72257BAEC The hotel is very luxurious…when I was there there was a Bentley Ferrari and a sports BMW out the front collecting and dropping off guests.

0A5F4284-3E7B-454D-838C-57A58180EAE1Cafe’ Marinetti is frequented by well heeled guests as I imagine it was then during Marinetti’s time.

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But who was Marinetti?

And really why would I expect someone who had such strong views about pasta to be anything else but part of the well heeled set?

It is interesting to see that pasta features on the menu at Cafe Marinetti and there is no risotto.

Filippo Tommaso Marinetti, one of the founders of Futurism in the early 1900:

ADELAIDE REVIEW OF ‘SICILIAN SEAFOOD COOKING

Bolognese recipe, from Great Italian Chefs.

My mother used to add cream rather than milk, and a little grated nutmeg.

BOLOGNESE RAGÙ

  • 300g of beef mince 85% fat
  • 150g of pork mince
  • 50g of unsalted butter
  • 50g of onion finely chopped
  • 50g of carrot finely chopped
  • 50g of  celery finely chopped
  • 125ml of red wine
  • 30g of  tomato paste, triple concentrated
  • 125ml of whole milk
  • salt to taste
  • black pepper to taste
Place a large thick-bottomed saucepan over a medium heat. Add the minced pork belly to the pot and cook until all the liquid from the meat has evaporated, then add the minced beef and cook until golden, stirring frequently. Transfer the meat to a bowl and set aside.
Add the butter to the saucepan and place over a medium heat. Add the onion, carrot and celery and cook until the onions are very soft and translucent. Finally, add the tomato paste and sauté for 5 minutes more, stirring occasionally.
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Return the meat to the saucepan, turn up the heat and pour in the red wine. Cook over a high heat for 2 minutes, then cover the pan and turn the heat down to low
Leave the ragù alla Bolognese to simmer very gently for at least 3 hours. The meat must not be excessively dry. Pour in the whole milk and cook for a further 40 minutes just before serving
Ragù alla Bolognese is very tasty when just cooked, but is even better the next day. Reheat the sauce over a very low heat with a little bit of milk and use it to season pasta.

……or tortellini or to make a lasagna.

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TORTELLINI, how made in Bologna

This post needs little explanation.

This woman worked quickly and drew much attention.

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Tortellini are everywhere in Bologna. The small tortellini are eaten in broth( made with chicken and veal) or with a cream dressing and grated Parmesan on top.

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The egg pasta is rolled ultra thin and cut into small rectangular shapes.

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The filling is close by; the most common fillings are a mixture of mortadella, roast meats and parmigiano. Nutmeg and marjoram are also favourite flavourings.

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SPRING IN TUSCANY

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Boar (cinghiale) is king in Tuscany.

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Cinghiale smallgoods.

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But there are many other old favourites.

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I am staying in Castiglione della Pescaia in the Maremma, Southern Tuscany and a couple of days ago and for the first time, there was sunshine and some evidence of Spring.

Unfortunately today it is raining again and my friends and I are doubly saddened by the weather and because of the devastating results of the Australian elections.

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Alici

The wild mint.


9A4A047C-460B-4806-A1F2-1DFA8BA72610 However, we have enjoyed 6 days in Tuscany so far.

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There are also old favourites. The ricotta and the cheese are made with a black coloured sheep specific to the Maremma region.

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FLAVOURED BUTTER TO DRESS AND ENHANCE TASTE

I hesitate to write recipes that are just so simple, but recently I was reminded how a simple herb butter can enhance simply grilled or steamed fish, meat or vegetables, bread etc. Grilled vegetables seem to be the pick of the month – enhance them with a flavoured butter.

While in South Australia I ate and drank very well in a number of restaurants, most had unusual combinations of excellent South Australian produce, others like Skillogalee Winery Restaurant in the Clare Valley had simple fare, more conventional and perfectly geared to the wide range of people who visit wineries and can enjoy a relaxing afternoon.

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Our group of four sat in the garden and one of the dishes we chose to share was Port Lincoln whole sardines served with lime and parsley butter with bread. We ordered 2 serves of these sardines.

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So modest, but so delicious. Sometimes we forget how something so quickly and simply made can really enhance a dish.

Some of you may remember the craze for the Beurre Maître d’Hôtel, also referred to as Maître d’Hôtel butter or Compound butter – It is simply butter combined with herbs, pepper and lemon juice and typically formed into a cylinder and sliced.  A circular disc of Maître d’Hôtel butter was centrally plonked on top of a grilled steak –  a technique used by many high-end steak houses in the eighties and early nineties…. people in Adelaide may remember The Arkaba Steak Cellar.

With a little imagination, different herbs instead of parsley will impart different flavours and grated lemon or lime peel will boost the citrus taste.

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To make lime and parsley butter sufficient for 4-6 sardines and bread begin with 1 cup unsalted good quality butter at room temperature, 1-2 teaspoons of lime zest, 2 teaspoons of fresh lime juice, 1 tablespoon of fresh parsley chopped very finely and a little salt and pepper to taste.

Use a fork to beat the butter in a bowl until smooth and creamy. Mix zest, juice and gradually add parsley salt, and black pepper into the butter until thoroughly combined.

Taste it and if it is necessary to alter it add more of any of the ingredients to make it to your taste. Rest in the fridge to return consistency and enhance the flavour.

If you wish to store it and give it that 1980’s shape, wrap it in foil or in baking paper keep it in the fridge until ready to use.

All grilled fish and not just sardines can be used, as all meat and vegetables.

Instead of parsley, add different herbs – rosemary, thyme, sage, dill, basil, fennel fronds, tarragon, chives, oregano, marjoram, coriander are simple examples.

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Garlic, ginger, horseradish, paprika, pink pepper, spices….need I go on?

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Only to say that I rather like finely chopped anchovy fillets combined in butter – begin with 1 tablespoon of chopped anchovies to 1 cup pf butter and add more if it is not to your taste.

For miso butter – begin with 1 tablespoon of white miso and proceed as above. Red or brown miso can also be used.

Recently I also tried mixing some chopped lavender leaves into butter to present with scones. Not too much lavender  or it could taste medicinal.

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