Grissini

There is great satisfaction in making your own bread, of any kind, and grissini is no exception. As you can imagine they taste a million times better than those bland cardboard sticks you buy off the shelf. They are also impressive to bring out if your having people over for drinks or for a pre-dinner snack.

This recipe is simple, no waiting for dough to prove and no kneading. It does require some patient, time consuming rolling though, I will not lie. It’s worth it though and never again will I buy a box of those perfectly formed bland grissini off the shelf. I always say that, everytime I make something like this, I’m surprised by the result.

This recipe was adapted from a recipe by Katie Caldesi in her fabulous book, The Italian Cookery Course.

Grissini

100mls lukewarm milk, whole or half fat

3g dried yeast

160g ‘OO’ or strong flour

25g parmesan

55g soft butter

a large pinch of salt

Heat oven to 160°C. Mix the milk and yeast. In another bowl mix the flour and butter with your hands, so it resembles the texture of breadcrumbs. Add the parmesan and salt and lightly mix in, again with your hands. Add the milk and yeast mixture and mix until it comes together as a soft slightly wet dough. Turn out on a lightly floured bench. Roll out the dough until it it about 3 or 4 mm thick. Slice the dough in half and then start taking 2-3 cm slices. I didn’t take a photo so I have drawn you a picture so you can get the idea. If your clever enough to roll it out into a rectangle thats fantastic but mine always looked like this and I suspect your will too. Obviously you will have to take larger slices where the dough is shorter but really just treat it like soft playdough. This is forgiving dough. Roll into long sticks and gently lay on lined baking tray. Bake in oven for 25-30 minutes.

Rosemary version: Finely chop some rosemary, leave on your chopping board and roll your stick in it before placing on baking tray.

Sesame version: Spread some sesame seeds on you chopping board and roll stick over it. These taste and look good but kind of annoying as all the seeds tend to fall off when your trying to eat it.

Parmesan version: add an extra 25g grated parmesan to the mixture. Or  just separate about a quarter of the dough and gently work about 5-8g extra parmesan into it before rolling out into sticks. 

Olive version: Chop 3-4 olives (green or black) very finely. Add a small pinch to a stick before you have rolled it. Work it into the dough so the olives will be integrated. The added moisture the olives bring will require you to roll it in a little flour on your bench until you are able to handle it easily enough to roll. These are a little more challenging but just require gentle patience.

Prosciutto version: Just simply wrap thin slices of prosciutto around the plain grissini sticks after you have baked it.

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Smoked Garlic Bagna Cauda

I always pick up French breakfast radishes whenever I see them. They are impossible to find, except at the markets. Normally I slide them across some good butter and dip them in a bit of sea salt but after spotting some smoked garlic at the markets, I had to give into the bagna cauda.

The smoking really mellows the bitter pungency of the garlic. It would be great to be able to smoke it yourself. A quick google search will tell you it’s not difficult to smoke anything but a bit of equipment preparation is necessary. So until then, the markets will have to suffice.

Smoked Garlic Bagna Cauda

4-5 smoked garlic cloves

full fat milk (about 300mls)

4 anchovies, in olive oil or salt, washed and patted dry

a large nob of good butter (about 25g)

olive oil (20mls)

half a lemon

Cut cloves in half and place in small saucepan, just cover with milk and put on a very low heat for 10 minutes. Drain the garlic and repeat, this time leaving the garlic until the cloves can be easily squashed with a fork. This could take about 20 minutes and you may need to add more milk to keep the garlic mostly covered. Blitz with a hand stick blender.

Add the anchovies and whisk in, then add butter, whisk, slowly add the olive oil while whisking. Everything should be nicely emulsified. This is a thin mixture so don’t be concerned. Add a small squeeze of lemon juice. Taste and adjust accordingly.

This Northern Italian dip is best kept warm whilst eating. So if you have a small fondue set or a tealight candle holder you can place underneath that’s great. Otherwise eat quickly.

Serves 2 for a shared entree.

The Real Ossobuco?

What do you imagine when someone says Ossobuco? Do you imagine slow cooked pieces of veal shin cooked in a tomato sauce served with a risotto alla Milanese? If you did, then your definitely not alone. That’s exactly how I imagined it too, until I read Anna Del Contes’ book, Amaretto, Apple Cake and Artichokes, The best of Anna Del Conte. She suggested that it was best cooked bianco (without the tomato), so that it would not over power the delicate flavours of the risotto alla Milanese.

I’m sure it’s one of those strongly debated food topics amongst Northern Italians. Village against village, family against family, who is right??? I’m not Italian so, for me, it’s not about the one that’s right but about the one that tastes the best. I have to say I agree with Anna, it works beautifully. Osscobuco should be made from the middle cut of veal shin where the bone is surrounded by meat. It is also one of the few exceptions where it is acceptable to serve risotto with the main course.

I followed the simple recipe from Annas’ book, which I adapted slightly. Don’t forget to scoop out the bone marrow either, it’s too good to leave on the plate!

Serves 4

Ingredients

4 ossobuchi (about 1kg)

2 tbsp olive oil

plain flour for dusting

sea salt and black pepper

45g butter

1 small onion, finely chopped

1 stick of celery, finely chopped

150ml dry white wine

300 ml stock (chicken or veal)

Gremolata

grated rind of one unwaxed lemon

1 small garlic clove, peeled and very finely chopped

2 tbsp finely chopped flat leaf parsley

Method

Heat the olive oil in a heavy based saute pan large enough to fit the ossobuchi in a single layer. Mix a teaspoon of salt in the flour and coat the ossobuchi in a thin layer of it. Add the ossobuchi to the pan and brown well on both sides. Remove and set aside.

Add the butter to the pan along with the onion, celery and a sprinkle of salt. When the vegetables are soft, add the wine and increase the heat, rubbing the bottom of the pan with a wooden spoon to shift any caramelised meat. Return the meat to the pan and add the stock. Turn over the veal and reduce the heat to very low. Cover and cook for 1-1 1/2 hours or until the meat is tender and coming away from the bone.

If you have a pan what can go into the oven, alternatively you can put it into the oven, covered, at 150˚C for the same time.

To make the gremolata you simply mix the ingredients together and add a teaspoon to the top of the ossobuco when serving.

The risotto alla Milanese is also simple and you can make it while the ossobuco is cooking.

Ingredients

olive oil

1 small onion, finely chopped

1 clove of garlic, finely chopped

150ml dry white wine

3 handfuls of arborio rice (or your choice of risotto rice)

1.5 litre chicken stock

a pinch of saffron stands

grated parmesan

30g butter

Method

Heat the olive oil in a heavy based saucepan and heat the stock in a separate saucepan. Add the onions and garlic to the olive oil and soften over medium heat. Add the rice and stir of coat the rice in the olive oil. Add the white wine and continue to stir. Add the saffron, which has been mixed with a little stock. Gradually add the warm stock a ladle at a time to the rice while stirring. When the outer husk of the rice is cooked but still has a little bite on the inside take the saucepan off the heat add the butter and parmesan, stir gently, then cover for 5 minutes.

Serve with the ossobuco and gremolata.