|Minted peas and verdure al forno as part of a family lunch|
Growing up, I was definitely not as fond of vegetables as I am now. Once when I was having a rather long and drawn out battle with some broccoli which had culminated in me pushing the stalks around my otherwise empty plate, my mum told me to eat the bits I didn't like first to get them out of the way so I could enjoy my favourite foods later. This became my vegetable mantra.
And then as I grew up, I began to enjoy them more and more. Broccoli and I became very good friends. Brussel sprouts, the marmite of the vegetable world, are a big fat LOVE in my eyes. Green beans and carrots and celery and peppers and cucumber and lettuce and cabbage all have a welcome place in my fridge. In fact, I love all vegetables. (Except peas. I bloody hate peas.)
So much so, that I started getting a weekly veg box from the Riverford farm (I really cannot recommend these boxes enough and no, they didn't ask me to say that! Click here for an example of what you get in the boxes.) Waking up on Friday mornings to find my box of (mainly) local and (always) organic produce felt like Christmas every week! Even better, it wasn't always what I would have chosen at the supermarket and it forced me to be more creative in the kitchen although you can see from above that it wasn't too crazy.
Tastes change as we get older. But could it also have something to do with the half-hearted treatment we give vegetables in the UK? Since my first visit to Italy 4 years ago, I've discovered that my favourite salad dressing isn't a creamy, pre-made one but a splash of good quality oil and vinegar and a pinch of salt. Broccoli tastes even better when it's drizzled with extra virgin olive oil and a squeeze of lemon. Spinach can be made so much more exciting if it's given a spin in a pan with some garlic and chilli flakes. Thinking back to the way veg would be served up at home, school and friend's houses as a kid and seeing the way my friends in the UK still cook them (boil them and slap them on a plate) it's no wonder we weren't all that keen.
|Moroccan tomato and pepper salad makes a great side to calamari and chips|
Verdure Al Forno
This one is one of my favourites; I love making stacks of vegetables (mini-veg kebabs if you will) on my fork and mixing the flavours up. The soft potatoes, the sweet peppers, the aubergineyness of the aubergines... it's a regular favourite but lately it's been feeling like the perfect summer dish, especially as you can eat the leftovers cold as an antipasto
- Your favourite veg; we used aubergine, peppers and potatoes
- Olive oil
- A laurel leaf
- Thinly slice your vegetables and then cut into smaller pieces if necessary
- Toss with olive oil and a pinch of salt
- Put in oven dish with laurel leaf and cook
- Wait until they've cooked
(I told you they were laughably simple)
Moroccan Tomato and Pepper Salad
This one was introduced to me by Fouzia, the lovely lady who came to look after Giorgio as his illness progressed. She's from Morocco and would cook a wonderful mix of Moroccan and Italian food. This was one of my favourites.
- Tomatoes (the bigger ones if you're planning on peeling them)
- Red peppers
- Cumin (ground although I like it whole too)
- Olive oil
- Place your peppers in the oven to roast
- When the skins are wrinkly and charred, bring them out and seal them in a sandwich/freezer bag
- Leave them for half an hour and then peel the skins off
- Chop into small pieces
- Chop tomatoes (if you want to peel them, go for it but I am far too lazy!)
- Place tomatoes and peppers into a bowl
- Season with oil, cumin and a pinch of salt to taste
(Yep. Not getting any trickier)
Wait, what? Didn't I say I hated peas? Well yes, I think they are the spawn of the devil. Kind of like frogspawn except little devil babies will hatch from them rather than tadpoles. Unless, it turns out, they're fresh and cooked up with a little mint. I swear, I hate peas unless they're done like this. And then I cannot get enough of them.
- Fresh peas in their pods
- An onion
- Vegetable stock + water
- Shell the peas (woah, getting complicated now, I know)
- Finely chop an onion and cook until soft in some olive oil
- Pour in your peas and stock and simmer
- When they're cooked, drain any extra liquid
- Stir in chopped mint
Let me know how you get on with these! Again, apologies for the very unhelpful lack of measurements but hey, it's authentic Italian style! (I say this with a little shrug of the shoulders and plenty of Mediterranean hand gestures of course!)