RICOTTA, FIGS, THYME AND HONEY Ricotta, Fichi, Timo e Miele
If you are going to snack, then make sure you snack well. Jammy-sweet black figs, mellowed by creamy ricotta and piled atop some charred toast with a drizzle of oil and honey: this is a snack of the gods. Best eaten alone.
2 slices of good-quality sourdough bread
100 g (3½ oz) ricotta
4 ripe black figs
olive oil, for drizzling
1 tablespoon honey
sprig of thyme
Toast your bread and spread with the ricotta. Tear the figs and arrange them on top. Drizzle over the oil and the honey and sprinkle over the salt. Rub the thyme between your fingers to scatter the leaves over the top. Eat.
SLOW-COOKED COURGETTES WITH MINT, CHILLI AND ALMONDS Zucchine con Menta e Mandorle
The courgette (zucchini), like the aubergine (eggplant), is something the Italians understand well. They know that liberal oil is the key to unlocking the sweet nuttiness of this water-heavy vegetable. In this recipe, the courgettes are cooked long and slow, in plenty of olive oil, with a sprinkling of dried chilli and lots of finely sliced garlic. The resulting luxurious combination is delicious on its own, served with a scattering of mint and some toasted almonds as a standalone dish, or as a silky bed on which to pile pork chops or roast chicken. After eating them like this, you’ll never think ill of a courgette again. I love mint here, but any soft herb is good (dill, tarragon, basil or parsley). I can taste almonds in courgettes. If you try this combination, maybe you will not think me completely mad.
SERVES 4 – 6
5 tablespoons olive oil
3 garlic cloves, finely sliced
700g courgettes (zucchini), halved and thinly sliced widthways
1 dried chilli, crumbled, or a pinch of chilli flakes
handful of mint leaves, chopped
pinch of lemon zest
2 tablespoons almonds, toasted and chopped roughly
In a heavy lidded frying pan (skillet) over a medium heat, warm the oil and then add the garlic and the courgettes. Add the chilli and cook over a medium-low heat, stirring occasionally, so that the courgettes begin to take some colour and caramelize. After 5–10 minutes, when a fair few of the courgettes have caramelized, place the lid of the pan on and turn the heat down. Cook for another 10 minutes, stirring occasionally; if they begin to catch, add a splash of water. Once softened, taste and season. Add the chopped mint, lemon zest and almonds just before serving. This is best eaten at room temperature, with crusty bread and cheese.
GRILLED AUBERGINES, SAPA, RICOTTA SALATA AND MINT Melanzane Grigliate, Sapa, Ricotta Salata e Menta
Here I have played with a combination Luca and I used to make at Morito. It was a dish of fried aubergines, whipped feta and date molasses, which sold out every service. Little surprise, as it is a winning concoction of salty, fatty, silky and sweet. If you cannot find ricotta salata, feta is a good substitute. The same goes for the sapa – you can easily use date molasses instead. The important thing is to have something sweet and syrupy against something tangy and savoury. This dressing is so good you’ll want to serve it with almost everything. It’s excellent with grilled radicchio or endive (the bitterness works beautifully), or with grilled lamb and greens.
SERVES 4 – 6 as an antipasti or side dish
80 g (2¾ oz/2/3 cup) pine nuts
3 large aubergines (eggplants),
sliced into rounds, ½ cm (¼ in) thick
a handful of mint, roughly chopped
80 g (2¾ oz) ricotta salata, sliced into shards
For the dressing:
1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
1 tablespoon sapa or date molasses
1 garlic clove, minced
2 tablespoons lemon juice
zest of half a lemon, grated
5 tablespoons best-quality
pinch of chilli flakes
Preheat the oven to 170ºC (340ºF/Gas 4). Tip the pine nuts onto a baking (cookie) sheet and toast for a few minutes, until golden. In a griddle pan over a medium heat, grill the aubergines in batches until softened, making sure they take a good amount of colour on each side. Set aside. Mix all the ingredients for the dressing and whisk well. To serve, lay the aubergine slices on a platter and sprinkle over the mint, the nuts and the ricotta. Drizzle over the dressing. This can be eaten at room temperature, warm or cold – truly, it is delicious any which way.
Recipes taken from Bitter Honey: Recipes and Stories from the Island of Sardinia by Letitia Clark, £26 from amazon.co.uk