Diane began our Monday night meal with a plate of pantry nibbles: small slices of prosciutto, 10 or 12 dried olives, a slice of dry provolone and a glass of Marque’s de Riscal ’12 Rueda which is a delightful, inexpensive Spanish white wine that carries on beautifully through all of dinner. According to the label on the back of the bottle (and who doesn’t like reading the little bits on the back) the Rueda grape is native to the region and has a particular very slight bitter taste that is characteristic of the grape variety. I find it delightful different and noticeable only on the palate as the wine goes down.
The main for this evening was a superb in-house paella (rather than cooked on an open BBQ fire) that in Diane’s version had pieces of chicken, slices of chorizo, frozen peas that were heated in the mixture and of course the rice which was cooked with gentle ladles of stock.
Later we enjoyed one of Diane’s delicious homemade ice cream cones.
If any reader has read this diary in the past they would be familiar with this dish because it is a “pantry” meal around our digs. We always have the ingredients on hand and the recipe is easy to put together. Roughly, and pantry meals can always give or take timing, the ingredients or amounts; the flavours are strong and will therefore blend together. All right let us get on with the these important ingredients: black olives (or green if that is what you have), garlic, capers, chopped tomatoes and here is where the variations make an important impression: I like a small can of chunk tuna that can be broken up to suit your tastes and olive oil of course.
Ah, now the big question: what shape of pasta? If your tomatoes are juicy and the mixture is fairly thin then I would recommend a penne, orecchiette, agnolotti or farfalline. However, if your pasta is thick then use a spaghetti, linguini bigloi or tagliatelle. It is fascinating to work with sauces that are suitable for different kinds of pastas. Remember, in the old days, bread would go stale in the Italian heat so they made the bread dough into shapes and then purposely dried it. That simple decision allowed for many, many combinations to suit the pasta shapes with a suitable sauce.
Diane made a simple salad to complete the meal. We enjoyed a glass of De Bortoli box red as our beverage.
The circumstances of late have dictated a stronger beginning to our meals and Diane certainly came to the table last night. She made us a 3 olive Martini with a little plate of salted macadamias, toasts with olive paste and wonderful Italian dried olives.
Our main was a Keith Floyd recipe that he claims he found in southern Spain. I have a number of his cookbooks and I find his recipes very cookable (if I can use that word.) If you can find his books, this one in particular, (Floyd on Fish)b uy them for your cookbook library. Last night Diane made a beauty! It was Swordfish grilled with a cornucopia of fresh chopped herbs: bay, sage, basil, parsley, rosemary and thyme leaves with anchovy, garlic and capers. This was made a paste with olive oil and spread on the swordfish for an hour before grilling each side for one minute. Delicious (it works equally well for tuna).
Our wine of choice for me was De Bortolli Colombard Chardonnay and Diane enjoyed Houghton Chardonnay Verdello.
Diane and I have had to shoulder many odd bod problems so we both decided that a break was needed and last night proved to be the night when the break happened. It took the form of a delivered pizza that was needed so we ordered one. The guy at our local Pizza King provided a great large pizza which was enough for two famished clients. Diane could take a break from her culinary excellence and we were all satisfied.
To begin our day-early Two Person Party Diane fixed us a little hors-d’oeuvre plate of mini-toasts with a dab of her pesto. All of these nibbles to be accompanied by two glasses of the remaining wine from the previous night.
Last night was a lamb eater’s delight. We shopped yesterday afternoon and bought a package of eight lamb chops: four to eat last night and four frozen for a point sometime in the future. I realize that it is out of season for lamb, exactly opposite on the calendar in fact but the desire to have some lamb was too great. Lamb chops deserve to be cooked over white coals but the desire outweighed the time of the year therefore we enjoyed them with some of Di’s very tasty cannoli beans with a little chopped tomatoes and some crushed garlic among other delights too numerous to mention.
The wine of choice was from a box but is a good wine nonetheless and much enjoyed by the individuals residing at #37. It was a De Bortoli Shiraz Cabernet.
Our dessert was the ever-tasty Diane-made combination of flavours that are too complicated for me to put to memory. Suffice to say that it is very good without being overly sweet.
This meal occurs only once a year, or two years when the olive tree produces fruit. Our tree seems only to fruit every other year and we have not spoken to other growers to find out if this is normal. We have tried to preserve black olives but that has proven to be a losing game because they just do not turn out so we have stuck to preserving green or unripe olives; they are the same as black olives, just picked earlier. In Leslie Forbes cookbook from 1985, A Taste of Tuscany, on page 146 will be found fron the recipe called “Agnello con Olive Nere” (Lamb and black olive stew.) The flavour that, to me, makes this simple dish and makes it anticipated is the use of partly rippened olives, olives that are coloured partly green and red. These olives cannot be eaten in the stew but like bay leaves they give the dish marvellus flavour that cannot be reproduced.
Diane has always served polentta with this delicious stew; polentta has the capacity to not only allow the absorbsion of the delicious juices from the stew fbut also to simply accompany the flavours of the stew.
Diane served a light but tasty salad with the usual suspects incarcerated there in.
Our wine of choice is an inexpensive Tuscan red wine called Dogajolo by Carpineto. It is a good drop if you see it in a store.
No dinner diary tonight because Diane and I had a wonderful and filling luncheon at Joelle’s and Kevin’s yesterday afternoon. April is the best month for eating in the garden and yesterday proved that beyond argument: it was sunny with not a cloud in the sky but it was not hot nor was there a breath of wind. It was a perfect setting for a luncheon.
Our host, Joelle, served an excellent braised rabbit that was so done that the meat fell away from the bones and was cooked in a Dijon mustard sauce. The sauce disappointed the chef (certainly not her guests) because she felt that the mustard taste should be more pronounced; to me it was just perfection.
With the rabbit Joelle fixed butter fried potatoes with a mixture of new runner beans and borlotti beans in a soft sauce.
The next course was a board of three cheeses: Brie, a hard Spanish cheese and an Australian goat’s cheese served with fresh pear and quartered figs.
This was followed by a sweet course: chocolate tarts and espressos. What could be finer?