August 2022

This month I thought I’d take you on holiday with me! I’m off to Italy and I didn’t want you to miss out on the lovely Italian food that I’m looking forward to eating, so I thought I would share some Italian inspired recipes! Normally we visit Italy at least twice a year, and as eating out is my favourite past time I always enjoy revisiting old restaurants and discovering new haunts. I particularly love the fish and shellfish dishes that feature on the menus of these restaurants, hence the first recipe I’m sharing this month is ‘Baked Sea Bass with Cherry Tomatoes and Potatoes’. It’s a quick, tasty fish dish, all it needs is a good green salad on the side… and hopefully a little sunshine, and a glass of crisp white wine. Naturally, pasta features heavily on the menus during my Italian adventures. In recent years I’ve started eating  gluten-free but, thankfully, this hadn’t caused too much of a problem as, these days, most restaurants offer gluten-free pasta, failing that there’s always risotto!…So, as a nod to the pasta dishes that I’ll be enjoying, Menu Two is ‘Spaghetti with Mussels, Cherry Tomatoes and White Wine’, it’s one of those simple dishes which always delivers! Over the years, through having our own little ‘bolthole’ in Italy, we have made friends with our Italian neighbours, and so our holiday will undoubtedly include eating at home with these friends. Therefore Menu Three, is home cooking at its best, an easy summer roast with Italian flavours; ‘Buttery Lemon Chicken’ is served with ‘Artichoke, Fennel and Pecorino Salad’, both recipes are from Skye McAlpines Italian inspired cookbook, ‘A Table for Friends’. I think that these recipes will definitely give your kitchen a taste of my holiday and hopefully they’ll also bring a little of the Italian sunshine…!

With the summer sun in mind I’ve been listening to a new playlist which shouts summer party vibes – it’s not only great fun in the kitchen but pretty good for a BBQ! Listen to ‘Music to Cook to…Menu Music Twenty’ here!

(Recently I’ve been enjoying eating out at some new restaurants – check out my reviews here!)

*Menu Mistress will be taking a break until the end of August… I will be back with new recipes Wednesday 31st August! See you then…

Menu One

Sea Bass with Potatoes and Cherry Tomatoes (Serves 4)

This is such a quick and tasty fish dish, all it needs is a good green salad on the side (I like to dress it with sherry vinegar vinaigrette – recipe below!).

250g cherry vine tomatoes

500g new potatoes (waxy potatoes)

4 sea bass fillets

4 sprigs of rosemary

Olive oil

180ml white wine

  1. Peel and slice the potatoes, then parboil for 5 minutes.
  2. Meanwhile cut the tomatoes in half and squeeze out the seeds and juice.
  3. Put the drained potatoes in a baking tin with the tomatoes and rosemary sprigs, drizzle with olive oil gently mix. Bake in a preheated oven, 200’c fan, for 15 minutes.
  4. Then pour over the white wine and cook for a further 15-25 minutes until the potatoes are lightly browned.
  5. Place the sea bass fillets on top of the potatoes and drizzle with more olive oil. Cook for 12 minutes.
  6. Serve with the pan juices spooned over and a good green salad on the side.

‘Staple Side Dish’ – Green Salad with Sherry Vinegar Vinaigrette

Make up a salad as desired and dress with this vinaigrette:

2 tablespoons sherry vinegar

3 tablespoons olive oil

½ teaspoon honey

Sea salt and black pepper

  1. Whisk all the ingredients together.

Menu Two

Spaghetti with Mussels, Cherry Tomatoes & White Wine (Serves 4)

This is one of those simple dishes which always delivers!…

800g live mussels

150ml dry white wine

6 tablespoons olive oil

2 garlic cloves, peeled and sliced

15 cherry tomatoes, halved

4 tablespoons fresh parsley, chopped

500g spaghetti (gluten-free if required)

Sea salt and black pepper

  1. Scrub the mussels under cold running water. Ensure that all shells are closed – discard any that remain open or have broken shells.
  2. Place the mussels in a large saucepan with the wine. Cover and cook over a high heat, shaking the pan occasionally, for about 5 minutes or until the mussels are all open. Drain, reserving the cooking liquid. Discard any mussels that remain closed.
  3. In the same pan, heat the olive oil over a medium heat, add the garlic and fry for a minute or so. Add the tomatoes and parsley and pour in the reserved cooking liquid. Simmer gently for about 2 minutes until the tomatoes have started to soften. Season with salt and pepper.
  4. Meanwhile cook the spaghetti according to the packet instructions, until al dente.
  5. Drain the spaghetti and tip into the saucepan with the sauce, add half the mussels and gently stir to combine over a low heat for 30 seconds.
  6. To serve, put the pasta in large bowls with the remaining mussels arranged over the top.

Menu Three

Buttery Lemon Roast Chicken with Artichoke, Fennel & Pecorino Salad (Serves 4)

This is from Skye McAlpines cookbook ‘A Table for Friends’, she describes this recipe for roast chicken as her ‘failsafe’, which can’t be a bad thing! The salad is from the same book, its flavours are fantastic with the roast chicken. I also like to serve this dish with ‘Concetta’s Potatoes’ (recipe below).

Buttery Lemon Roast Chicken (Serves 4)

A large bunch of sage

1 lemon

50g salted butter, softened

1 teaspoon sea salt flakes, plus a generous pinch

1 small chicken, about 1.4kg

  1. Finely chop half the sage and finely zest the lemon. In a bowl mix the butter, chopped sage, lemon zest and the 1 teaspoon of salt, mashing to a paste.
  2. Put the chicken in a roasting tray. Cut the lemon in half and squeeze some of the juice into the cavity, then stuff the 2 halves inside with the remaining sage sprigs.
  3. Gently lift the skin flap on the right breast and smear one-quarter of the butter mixture under it, using your fingers to press it down as far and as evenly as possible, taking care not to tear the skin. Repeat with the left breast. Now rub the rest of the butter over the chicken, on the breasts, legs and wings. Sprinkle all over with an extra pinch of salt.
  4. Roast the chicken in a preheated oven, 180’c fan, for 1¼ hours, until the skin is golden and crisp and the juices run clear when you stick a knife into the thickest part (between the leg and body). Leave to rest for 10 minutes before carving and serving with a spoonful of the pan juices.

Artichoke, Fennel & Pecorino Salad (Serves 4-6)

Just three main ingredients, but wow, they really sing together! Using artichokes preserved in oil makes this recipe a year-round option.

10 baby artichokes in oil

1 fennel bulb

Juice of 1 lemon

2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

A handful parsley leaves

100g pecorino cheese or parmesan cheese, shaved

Sea salt and black pepper

  1. Quarter the artichokes. Remove the fennel fronds and save to dress the salad. Finely slice the fennel bulb.
  2. Put the artichokes and sliced fennel into a salad bowl, squeeze over the juice of the lemon and drizzle with the olive oil. Toss, then add the parsley leaves, season with salt and pepper and toss again.
  3. Top with shavings of pecorino and the reserved fennel fronds.

‘Staple Side Dish’ – Concetta’s Potatoes (Serves 4)

I have named these after our Italian friend (and chef), Concetta, who gave me the recipe many years ago; they are simply sliced baked potatoes with garlic, rosemary and sage.

4 large potatoes – such as Maris Piper (roasting potatoes)

1 teaspoon dried rosemary

1 teaspoon dried sage

Sea salt and black pepper

2 cloves garlic, crushed

Olive oil

  1. Peel and slice the potatoes, and parboil in boiling water for 4 minutes.
  2. Place in a roasting tin, sprinkle over the rosemary, sage and garlic, season with salt and black pepper and drizzle over some olive oil – mix well.
  3. Place in a preheated oven, 200’c fan, for 35-40mins until crispy and well browned.

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