#BringNonnaBack with Food Revolution

Benfleet FRD picFood Revolution is a new chapter of my passion for wholesome and healthy food! It came along by chance, by following this campaign through twitter and all the other networking engines. As a huge fan of Jamie Oliver I just wanted to get involved as much as I could in making wholesome food real and possible for modern families like mine. I am now an Ambassador for Food Revolution in our area (Benfleet, Essex, East of London). Luckily for me with my traditional Italian heritage I grew up eating fresh food everyday, and when I say everyday, I mean every single day! Fresh herbs from the garden, home made pasta and bread, even home made ice-cream….that was my life as a child living in the south of Italy with a Nonna that would make her own bread and ravioli. She is now 93 years old and due to her age she can no longer use her hands to kneed her dough. It’s a shame and I know how upsetting it is for her to not be able to cook as she used to. Well, I must thank my Nonna for guiding me to wholesome food and I would like to bring back her fresh, wholesome, simple and tasty recipes to the modern families’ tables

#BringNonnaBack is my initiative, my goal, my passion. Bringing Nonna’s dishes and recipes to the table will blend flavours from the past with a modern twist.  I am sure it will work!! It worked with me and it will work with the new generations.

After the huge success that our first Food Revolution event had last week during a local football tournament, I am determined to repeat it again and again! A team of some amazing volunteers helped me to feed 53 people including 22 hungry children and their families. 4 trays of Pasta al Forno, 265 lamb and mint Polpette (meatballs) in tomato sauce, Squash-it-Salad in Pitta Bread and Courgette Spaghetti with Pesto sauce. Seeing and hearing all the positive feedback (from parents but MAINLY from the children) made all the preparation and hard work worth while. None of the helpers had any experience in preparing food on a grand scale, just shows what a great team can accomplish! Well done to everyone involved! May this be the start of the Revolution in Benfleet.

The recipe today is from our Food Revolution Day, inspired by a traditional family dish:

POLPETTE DI AGNELLO ALL’AGLIO E MENTA E SUGO DI POMODORO

Serves 4/6 people

Ingredients for the Polpette-Meatballs

500g Lamb Mince, good quality

1 egg

100g bread crumbs

1 garlic clove, finely chopped

handful of parsley, finely chopped

large handful of mint, finely chopped

pinch of salt

sunflower oil for frying

Preparation

In a large bowl place the mince and add the egg, parsley, garlic, mint , salt and bread crumbs. Mix all together with a fork or with your hand making sure you combine all the ingredients. If the mix feels too wet you can add some more bread crumbs, if it feels too dry add a splash of milk. Once the mix is smooth you can start rolling it into small balls, size of a 10p coin. You should be able to make 50 meatballs. I tent to make them a bit small as it’s easier for the children to eat them all in one go!

IMG_2184

Option 1: Heat some sunflower oil in a large pan and place 6/8 meatballs at the time. Cook them for 4/5 minutes, keep stirring them until golden. Prepare a large dish with some kitchen roll on the side and once the meatballs are ready to come out the pan, drain them and place them on the  kitchen roll to rest and to lose some of the oil. Add a pinch of salt. Keep doing the same until you have cooked all the meatballs.

Option 2: Preheat the oven at 200 degrees, place the meatballs on a flat oven tray and put the in the oven for 25 minutes until golden.

Option3: Once the tomato sauce is ready and has been cooking for a good 1o minutes (see below), poached the meatballs raw in the sauce. Turn the heat down and cook with the lid on for 40 minutes.

IMG_2185

For the Sugo-Sauce

Ingredients

Half of a medium white onion, finely chopped

800/900g of plain tomato Passata (You can find passata in any good supermarket, it’s in a carton or in a bottle)

A handful of fresh basil, roughly chopped

Olive oil, 2 tbs

Salt, a pinch

Sugar, a pinch (to lower the acidity of the tomatoes)

Preparation

Heat a large pan, add the olive oil and the onion. Simmer the onion only for a few minutes untill golden, don’t cook it for too long as it can easily burn.
Add the passata, the salt and sugar and cover with a lid.

PLAN B: if you haven’t got any passata 2 tins of chopped or plum tomatoes will do! Blend them first if possible and pour them into the oil, follow the instructions as before

Turn the heat down and let it cook for 10 minutes, stirring it every now and again.

Finally add your basil and let the sauce embrace the leaves… your sauce is ready!

Place the meatballs into the sauce, make sure they are all covered, put the lid on and  keep cooking the sauce and the meatballs for another 10 minutes on a low heat.

Enjoy your Polpette with some fresh bread, pasta or cous-cous. Buon Apettito!


IMG_2234

IMG_2274

Ravioli di Patate e Menta

IMG_0999

#BringNonnaBack with Food Revolution!

This is the STAR of our Food Revolution Day we recentely held at our local school.

A wholesome, fresh and super tasty recipe and an ideal alternative to meat or ricotta ravioli. The potato filling makes the whole dish a perfect main course! As a child I would help my Mum and Nonna make this delicious recipe and as well as kneading the dough I would help rolling the filling into small balls… In Italian we say:

FARE LA PASTA = making pasta
PATATE = potatoes
MENTA = mint
POMODORO = tomato

Serving 10 

Ingredients 

For the Ravioli:

Plain Flour Tipo  “00”       250g

Semolina     250g

White Potatoes   5/6 large

Mint, finely chopped    1 bunch

Spring Onions    2

Garlic Cloves   1 whole

Extra Virgin Olive Oil     4 tbsp

Water 1 glass

Salt, large pinch   1

Parmesan, grated     50g

For the Sauce:

Tomato Passata      2 bottles (680g per bottle)

White Onion, half, finely chopped

Basil, finely chopped      1bunch

Olive Oil, 2 tbsp

Salt, 1 pinch

Filling : Peel the potatoes and cut them in small chunks. Boil them until soft, put them into a large bowl and mash them until creamy and smooth.
In a small pan put the olive oil, the spring onion finely chopped and the garlic clove. Put it on the heat until simmering. Take the pan off the heat and the mint. Let the oil cool down.
Take the garlic out and pour the oil in the mash, add the grated parmesan and a pinch of salt. Stir it until soft and smooth. Add some more salt if needed.
Pasta: Place the flour and the semolina on a board or in a bowl and make a well in the centre. Add some water and mix it together
Once it is all combined, knead until you have a silky, smooth, elastic dough. You are aiming to achieve a play dough texture.
If your dough is crumbly (too dry) add a teaspoon of water. If the dough sticks to your hands (too wet) add a little extra flour or semolina. Cover with cling film and rest for 30 minutes.
Take a tennis ball-sized amount of dough, squash it flat with your fingers, push it through the pasta roller on the widest setting. Fold into thirds, then repeat 3 times. Once you have a rough square shape, start working it through the machine, taking it down one setting at a time, until the thinnest setting.
You should end up with a long sheet of pasta about 8-10cm wide. Place this on a flat surface with flour underneath to stop it from sticking.
Flour the ravioli mould and place one sheet of pasta over the ravioli maker.  Gently press the pasta  into the depressions of the mould to form cups. Place about a tablespoon of filling into each pocket
Place another sheet of pasta over the ravioli filling. Use a rolling pin to press the two layers of pasta together. Start with gentle pressure to press out any air and to form a seal. Then use more pressure to cut the pasta into individual ravioli.  Peel off excess dough from around the ravioli. Turn the ravioli maker over and give the mould a shake.  The ravioli should easily fall out of the mould. Dust the ravioli with some flour so they won’t stick together. In a large saucepan bring 1/1.5l water to the boil and add a table spoon of coarse salt. As the water is boiling gently place your ravioli into the water, 5 at the time. They will cook pretty quickly ( as soon as they floating you know they are cooked). Use a small colander to get the out and gently place them on a serving dish.
Sauce: In a large pan put the olive oil, the onion and some of the basil. Put it on the heat until simmering. Add the passata, a pinch of salt and cover with a lid, cook on a low heat for 10 minutes. Add the rest of the basil before serving.
Now pour the sauce on your ravioli , sprinkle some parmesan and enjoy !!!