Even though throwing dinner parties for my friends is one of my favourite things to do, I also look forward to cooking a meal that is just for me. I can decide exactly what I want to eat. I don’t have to worry about whether any of my dining companions are allergic to prawns, dairy, onions, or something else that they haven’t discovered yet, but will be present in the meal I cook.
For those of you to whom Manchego means absolutely nothing, it is a Spanish sheeps’ milk cheese that is something of an obsession of mine. It is just the right balance of nutty and sweet, with a firm texture. And, as I discovered while making this omlette, it melts. Which is always a plus.
I decided to team it with chorizo to make something approaching an authentic Spanish omlette. Also, if we’re being authentically Spanish, it should be pronounced ‘horitho’, with an over-exaggerated Spanish accent. Maybe put some loud flamenco music on too.
So far on the blog, I have strictly alternated between sweet and savoury recipes. I’ve mostly done this for the sake of my waistline – to stop me getting too carried away with puddings. But I got so excited when I made zabaglione for the first time that it simply couldn’t wait.
I’ve always been aware of the existence of this famous Italian dessert, but never eaten it or made it before. I had to ask an Italian who comes into the café where I work how it is pronounced. It took him a while to decipher what I meant by ‘Zabag…Zabagglionee- you know….that frothy thing with eggs..’. ‘Zabalyioney’, is correct, if you’re wondering. Said in an Italian accent with lots of gesturing. Almost as much fun to say as it is to eat.
Zabaglione only has three ingredients: egg yolks, sugar, and alcohol. But this is a case of the whole being greater than the sum of its parts. There is a magical moment during the whisking when the mixture increases in volume, morphing into this amazing foamy, meringue-like substance. It is traditionally made with Marsala wine, but I used amaretto liqueur, as I love the stuff. I also added some crushed amaretti biscuits to give a bit of textural contrast to all the voluptuous creaminess.
My latest thrilling food discovery is passionfruit curd. I bought a jar and it was gone in about two days, as I was consuming it at every opportunity. I then bought another jar and made this cheesecake. I wanted to put this amazing stuff to a more fitting use – rather than it just being eaten, sometimes without the need for a utensil of any kind, straight from the jar.
There seem to be all sorts of curds out there these days. I bought a particularly memorable blackcurrant one in the Lake District – again eaten straight out of the jar for breakfast, whilst shivering in a tent in September. Theoretically, any fruit can be made into a curd by mixing the juice with eggs, butter and sugar, although some seem to work better then others. I think passionfruit curd might just be able to rival lemon curd as the frontrunner.
This recipe came to me when I was eating my passionfruit curd with yoghurt for breakfast one day (and a good day it was). The creaminess of the yoghurt went so well with the tartness of the passionfruit that I decided to combine the same idea in a cheesecake.
You can’t really go wrong with a cheesecake – it’s (usually) such a crowd-pleaser. There’s something satisfying about having a big gooey slice of pud, rather than something that’s been individually portioned out beforehand. While your cutting it the question of ‘how big’ is invariably raised- to which the answer is usually ‘not too big’, followed by ‘ooh…a bit bigger than that’.
I frequently like to play a game with myself along the lines of desert-island discs called desert-island meals. Disregarding all notions of nutrition/what would help you survive on said island, fresh pasta would have to be on the list (along with pesto, chocolate mousse, and some sort of salad to keep Mum happy). Realistically, it would be the last thing I would want to eat if being marooned on an island did actually happen. Not to mention the unlikelihood of having a convenient pasta maker to hand. But, logistics aside, it really is something that I would be happy to eat until the end of my days.
Fresh pasta is a different thing entirely from dried pasta. Yes, it is a bit of an effort to make – the mixing, kneading, resting, rolling takes time – but I’m always convinced that it’s worth it in the end. A pasta maker is pretty much a necessity to get the dough thin enough – I tried it once with just a rolling pin, and it was disappointingly thick and chewy. You need reinforcements in the form of willing volunteers to help coax the pasta through the rollers. I had three helpers to hold the ever-lengthening sheet of dough. If you are Italian, maybe you can do it single-handedly, but this would be quite a feat.
I sometimes serve the pasta with homemade pesto, but it really doesn’t need much embellishment. This time I went for parmesan, olive oil, salt, pepper and a few basil leaves. A green salad was meant to be an accompaniment, but having got so involved with making the pasta I completely forgot about it, so we had a salad course afterwards.