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Stir it up magazine March 2015

THE MELTING POT Roy Shortland, development chef for Dolmio and Uncle Ben’s sauces and rice from Mars Foodservice, www. mars-foodservice.co.uk I do think that Italian offerings eating out have gone a bit flat and caterers tend to go for the ubiquitous pizza and Bolognese, which are popular, but not very original. Pub chains, for example, could stand out more by looking at regional dishes from across Italy. Caponata, for example, a Sicilian aubergine dish consisting of a cooked salad made from fried eggplant and celery seasoned with sweetened vinegar and capers in a sweet and sour sauce, brings together the colourful veg of the Med, and you can serve it with fish or chicken. Ultimately, it’s about making an Italian offering fresher, lighter and brighter. Artisan breads are in, so how about offering bruschetta with courgettes and yellow peppers and cooked in a tomato and basil sauce as an Italian accompaniment or starter? If you want to rustle up classics with an Italian twist, you could offer a chicken cacciatore with a Bolognese sauce, a ‘hunter-style’ dish that will warm the cockles as the winter months linger on, or try out braised pork dumplings with an arrabbiata sauce, answering demand from the many consumers who want to try new flavours in traditional formats. Meals eaten with pasta in the UK have gone up by 21% in the past decade, Mintel shows, and if you are doing spaghetti Bolognese or lasagne, you could look at vegetarian versions, swapping the beef for soya and opening up these classic specials to a wider customer base. Pizza, meanwhile, does have a definite place on a menu as a convenient, affordable meal, caterers just need to consider that a fifth of pizza eaters rate authentic ingredients as an important choice factor. People are playing around with different toppings these days, from sweet toppings to seafood and different cheeses, and if you get it right, you can make an extremely healthy margin, even if you sell your pizza for just £1 per slice. Andrea Mantovani, head chef at Mele e Pere, Brewer Street, Soho www.meleepere.co.uk For me, it all depends on the season. I recommend buying products that are in season for their freshness and good price. With spring approaching, there will be delicious British asparagus on the market. As an Italian tradition, asparagus matches well with all kinds of eggs (fried, poached, scrambled) and with the classic Parmesan cheese and fresh black truffle. Another classic of Southern Italy is to eat a “carpaccio” of fresh raw shells (clams, mussels, langoustine, prawns) – only seasoned with lemon and extra virgin olive oil and served with a salad of fresh samphire. If I have to recommend a classic ingredient it would be San Daniele ham, perfect for any time of the year. I would also recommend Fritto Misto of fish, another classic which is served with a mayo of ‘smoked garlic’. “Italian cuisine is a celebration of the ingredients readily available in the Mediterranean.” Paul Wedgwood’s Blue cheese arancini with beetroot paint Paul Wedgwood, head chef and co-owner of Wedgwood The Restau ra nt, Edinburgh www. wedgwoodth erestaurant.co.uk I talian cooking is incorrectly thought of some times as easy , but I belie v e it’s easy to get wrong!! I talian c uisine is a celebration of the ingredients readily available in the Medi ter r anean. It is of the utmost importance to use the best, freshe st and high quality ingredients you possibly c an. This is the key to getting an Italian dish right. We are lucky now we can access these ingredients in the UK and, for the green fingered amongst us, we can grow them ourselves. Nothing can beat a window box bolognese where you are using homegrown tomatoes, herbs, and vegetables. This, I think, is the reason it is such a popular cuisine. Paul Wedgwood’s Blue cheese arancini with beetroot paint >> Serves 6 Ingredients 1 large onion, chopped ½ bulb g arlic cloves chopped 50ml olive oil 100g unsalted but ter 375g C arnaroli r ice ¾l vegetable stock 100g grated parmesan ¼ tsp cr ack ed white pepper 250g blue cheese rolled into 18 mini balls 1 cooked beetroot 50ml runny honey 100g plain flour 6 eg g s beaten 100g panko Met hod 1. Fry onions and garlic until soft in olive o il and but ter 2. Add rice and heat, s tirring continuously. 3. Add pepper then slow ly s tir in sto c a lit tle at a time until absorbed 4. When rice still has a slight al dente “bite” remove from the heat add parmes an and any additional seasoning (to taste) stir to combine set aside to cool 5. In a f o od processor, blitz the beetroot w i th the honey and a dessertspoon of oli ve oil until a smoo th paint like consistency is achieved. 6. When the riso tto has cooled split into 18 equal amounts, plac e each single por tion into the palm of the hand and mak e an indent in the middle. Place one of the blue cheese balls into the indent then wr ap with the mix ture in your palm. Repeat for e ach portion and set aside. 7. Roll each b all in flo ur, then beaten egg and then finally panko. To serve deep fr y the ar ancini in hot oil (220c) un til golden brown and you see evidence that the cheese in the middle of the arancini is melting. Drain on a paper towel, S eason and serve immediately with some of the be etroot paint and s om e fresh watercress. MARCH 2015 27


Stir it up magazine March 2015
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