My Mum and Dad came to visit us this weekend so, as neither have been feeling well lately, I thought I'd use this visit as an excuse to cram them both full of as many heart lifting, summery foods as I could. It can be tricky making something that will appeal to both of them but, as they both love mediterranean food, I took that as my theme.
I went out and bought some very traditional Italian antipasti: parma ham, milano salami and fat sicilian olives, marinated in chilli and garlic.
With this I served a traditional tricolore salad of ripe vine tomatoes, buffalo mozzarella, fresh basil, salt, pepper, a squeeze of lemon juice and drizzle of first cold pressed, unfiltered olive oil.
To go with this I made fresh grissini, which are basically breadsticks but honestly nothing like the bland throat-parchers you get in plastic packs at restaurants.
I was making a loaf of fresh bread to go with the meal anyway, so I just used the other half of the dough to make grissini. The only difference in the process is the shaping - cutting them into long strips, crooks, twists, plaits and the like, which are small enough to cook through without rising very much. I brushed them with olive oil and then topped them with, variously, smoked paprika, rosemary & sea salt and pepper or sesame seeds.
They only take 20 minutes in the oven, whereas the loaf takes around 50 mins.
For the main course, and to go with the fresh bread and soft unsalted butter, I made chicken cacciatore. The one I make is really different to my Mum's, who makes hers with a thick tomato based sauce, whereas mine is browned chicken simmered, with lots of rosemary and tons of garlic, in white wine and chicken stock.
The inspiration for it came from Angela Hartnett's "Cucina" and it really is wonderful, especially with crusty bread to mop up the sauce.
In this instance, the one thing I regret is having deviated from usual choice of chicken thighs, the breasts were a little too lean for this dish and lack the stronger flavour of darker meat.
However, we shredded the breasts and loaded them onto fresh, buttered bread which had been smothered in the sweet garlic, it tasted fabulous.
Finally, because my Mum is so fond of it, I roasted a load of fresh-boiled, skinned, beetroots for about 20-30 minutes, with balsamic vinegar, salt, pepper and olive oil.
Everyone was so full that it was hours before pudding was mentioned! It was a simple thing to make though, fresh blueberries and raspberries, topped with greek yoghurt and honey.
The above represents my best effort to make good on my promise that, after dinner, they would be too fat to drive home (they were, it was a good thing they'd planned to stay over)!