Italian food. And other stuff. And my new place for food.

I thought a few days about going across to Italy for inspiration. Now, I won’t patronise you by telling you how great pizza is, or this extraordinary new thing called pasta… I think most people know what they are. However, let us, for a second think about Italian food. It is, very generally, food that makes the most of a small number of fresh and quality ingredients, cooked quickly (or very very slowly). It is a light cuisine, different from the heavy and hearty depths from France or the rich stodginess of Russia.

Italian cuisine, therefore is far more diverse than might be expected. The Italians love their game, and they boast one of the most diverse collection of mushrooms used in any cuisines. Italian cheese is let down by the fact that attaining proper mozzarella and Parmesan is very difficult. Proper Parmesan is bone-dry and doesn’t carry with it the almost vomit-like aroma of supermarket Parmesan. Proper mozzarella is a milky cheese that should require pressure to break into, but once you have ripped apart the bocconcini, you should be left with a centre so milky that you treat with similar care to that which a puppy might receive. Some of the best Italian cheese that I have found in London is in the “THE HAM AND CHEESE COMPANY”, based in bermondsey, who also sell some of the best Parma ham this side of anywhere.

Veal is a unique type of meat. It has the same irony richness as beef, without the heaviness. For those who don’t know, veal is the meat from calves. After images of cruel breeding procedures were published in the 80’s, veal sales plummeted, but if you get veal from a good supplier, there really is no problem. The best veal I have found in London is from THE BUTCHERY, in Bermondsey. Veal is seen as an expensive meat, which it can be, but you should be able to get a decent sized escalope for less than £3 each, so less than a steak.

It is very important in Italian, French and Austrian cuisine. Funnily enough, all cuisines seem to cook veal in a similar way; namely to dip in flour, beaten egg and breadcrumbs. Then to deep fry (to make Austrian Wiener Schnitzel) or grill (to make cotoletta alla palermitana) or fry in clarified butter/olive oil (to make Cotoletta alla Milanese). In this article, the recipe is for “Cotoletta a orecchio di elefante” (literally, elephant ear cutlet). This differs from Cotoletta alla Milanese, which has the bone kept in, whilst we are using boneless escalopes.

Cotoletta a orecchio di elefante with Pesto and mozzarella.

This can be served with any carbohydrate you want. Boiled potatoes tossed in olive oil, salt and parsley would work a treat, whilst I used tagliatelle, because I felt like it.
Homemade pesto is completely different from the shop-bought stuff. It is far more aromatic and very quick to make. I maintain that a sauce like pesto should be made with your cook’s sense, not just a recipe. So if “half a handful” means nothing to you, I apologise!

Ingredients:
Cotoletta: 1 escalope of veal per person. 1 beaten egg per 3 escalopes. Plenty of breadcrumbs. Flour.
Pesto: half. A quarter handful of pine nuts. A handful of basil leaves and stalks. Quarter handful of grated Parmesan. Half a clove of garlic, crushed. Salt and pepper. Olive oil.
Mozzarella; 150 grams will be enough for 4. Olive oil for drizzling. Fresh vine tomatoes to complement (as many as you want!). 1 avocado Salt and pepper.

Method.

Place your veal escalopes one by one between two pieces of greaseproof paper and flatten out with a meat mallet/rolling pin/any hard object lying nearby. Cut into smaller pieces if desired (I do as it cooks more quickly).
Dip in flour to cover, then coat in the beaten egg before covering in breadcrumbs. Shake off excess crumbs so it looks roughly like the picture! Keep on a plate until ready to cook.

To make pesto, in a small blender/pestle and mortar, blend up the pine nuts, Parmesan, basil and garlic until they are all chopped up. Then drizzle in enough olive oil to form into a sauce. Keep until ready.

Chop up the avocado, tomatoes and mix with torn pieces of mozzarella. Alternatively arrange in a pretty pattern on a platter (if, like me, you like that sort of thing…). Drizzle in olive oil, chopped basil or parsley, salt and pepper.

To cook the veal, melt a large knob of butter (about 40 grams) with a glug of olive oil in a frying pan. until it is melted and the butter is bubbling. Then put in the veal, carefully, so it doesn’t break apart. When one side is golden brown and crispy turn over. Only turn once! Once both sides are golden brown and crispy, and the veal is cooked thoroughly inside. Leave to rest on a board for 3 minutes.
Whilst the veal is cooking cook up your pasta (75gams per person), and make sure there is 1 litre and 10 grams of salt per 100grams of pasta. Seriously, it makes a huge difference!
Drain the pasta and toss in the pesto, reserving a bit of pesto for garnishing.
Slice the veal in halves/slices as desired and place on top of the pasta. Grate some Parmesan over the top and serve!

20130912-111808.jpg

20130912-111824.jpg