Sometimes life just throws you a bone. In fact, I think life must just be throwing me whole skeletons because I am one lucky lady when I sit back and actually think about it. The amount of really cool, properly geeky food people I know is just awesome. Florian is one of these people. I believe we first met over dinner at The Ten Bells. We then proceeded to organise a food tour of South London together in which we took 21 people (some coming all the way from Germany) to see the best of Peckham, Camberwell and Brixton. We did a restaurant crawl, cooked a meal together using ingredients we’d bought at Brockley Market, Persepolis and on Rye Lane. We lunched at Frog on The Green, visited the Brickhouse Bakery and had a tour of Brixton Market. Phew!
So anyway now Florian is involved with a company called wearethesauce.com, importing some incredible produce from around the world; at present, Campania (I WANT HIS JOB). He proposed we cook an Italian feast with the ingredients from one of the boxes and so of course I said yes please let me at it now now now now NOW.
We started with mozzarella in carozza, which didn’t quite work because I couldn’t bring myself to use shitty plastic bread with the awesome mozz. I know, I never usually have a problem with these things, right? Should have trusted my instincts. Good quality bread is way too sturdy and the mozz wasn’t able to melt inside. Still, bread and cheese, innit. Pretty tasty. I made a thinly sliced courgette salad (very seasonal, ahem), topped with chilli, basil, olive oil and the most incredible ricotta I’ve ever tasted. It had a slight smoky flavour and was rich and creamy; a far cry from that thin tasting shite we get in supermarkets.
We ate slices of cured meats alongside. A salsiccia spiced with fennel and a soppressata with an amazing core of pure milky white neck fat. Florian told me that he ‘almost cried with joy’ when he first cut into it.
Then, pasta with bagnoli truffles, mushrooms and shitloads of butter. Healthy. The truffles are different to more familiar truffs and are likely to divide palates. Raw, they smell like petrol and need cooking to mellow them down. We beefed the dish with portabella mushrooms. Intense.
Grilled sea bream for the main course, baked in the oven with spring onions, lemon and herbs, salsa verde and fennel on the side. For dessert, a lemon and ricotta tart with more of that incredible cheese and the juice and candied rind of fragrant Amalfi lemons; they really are famous for a reason. We burnt the top of the tart but hey, it was fluffily gorgeous underneath. I’d love to make an Amalfi lemon sorbet in the summer.
We ate and drank and ate and drank and laughed and chatted until late (Ish. Look, it was a school night, okay?). Good friends are the ones who bring you boxes of stunning ingredients from Italy, no? Oh, and let us not forget THE LARGEST LEMON IN THE WORLD*
* It is called a procida lemon and can be used to make BOOZE! The pith can also be eaten in salads! It’s a beautiful freak to be sure.
Courgette Salad with Ricotta and Chilli
2 young slender courgettes
1 red chilli, de-seeded and finely chopped
Approx 200g ricotta di bufala
Handful basil leaves, finely sliced
Lemon juice (preferably Amalfi), about half a lemon
Extra virgin olive oil
Slice the courgettes very thinly and lay out on a plate. In a small bowl, whisk together the lemon juice with 4 tablespoons of the olive oil. Sprinkle the courgettes with coarse salt and pepper. Sprinkle over the chilli. Crumble over the ricotta. Drizzle with dressing. Sprinkle over basil leaves. Serve.