Thursday, March 30, 2006

Dear Francesca

When my dh returned home from Edinburgh on Monday, he brought with him a book -- Dear Francesca by Mary Contini. It is a travel cum tale of a family's history cum recipe book and it is excellent. Mary Contini has ties to one of my favourite food shops in the whole world Valvona and Crolla.
We first discovered the shop back in 1990 when my eldest was ababy and we had to get him a US passport. For some reason, we had not gotten the passport when I registered his birth and had to go up to Edinburgh. We had read about Valvona and Crolla as having great Italian wines, but I hadn't realised what wonderful food it stocked.
At the time, the North East was not really very good for exotic foodstuffs. Even cranberry juice was exotic. Thus going into this shop was special. So many different types of olives and salami. They had proper Italian cheese and flour. Anyway I have always held a soft spot for Valvona and Crolla and when ever we go up to Edinburgh, we always stop and stock up.
When I was about 12, some of my favourite books hadto do with immigrant families. I remember Mama and Sound of Music are two that spring to mind. Dear Francesca is like that, recounting what it was like to grow up in Scotland, if one was Italian. My only gripe with the book is that I would have liked to have had more about the families and how they coped.
Interestingly the families were from just north of Naples. Many of the foodstuffs they cooked harkened back to the Romans. Apparently some of the dailect is very close to Latin. This book confirmed my view that Roman cookery provided the basis many of the foodstuffs we eat today.
As soon as my Aga is fixed, I look forward to trying out more of the recipes.
Last night, we made the pasta carbonara --easy, tasty, filling and requiring only one pot. We were cooking over the cooking stove! The recipe is basically pasta, one egg per person, salt and pepper, lots of parmesan cheese( Valvona and Crolla have several good varieties) and a big blob of butter. Cook the pasta to al dente. Meanwhile, beat the rest of ingriedents together.Drain the pasta, put back in pan and add the egg mixture. Stir together until the egg is the consistency of scrambled egg. This takes about a minute. Serve with fresh bread and a green salad.
Absolutely delicious...but I would like my Aga back.

1 comment:

Sela Carsen said...

If you start the pan with some diced pancetta, then add the pasta and the eggs, you get a really wonderful flavor! We make pasta carbonara about every two weeks or so.