An easy seasonal supper to make for friends, most of which is from my book Food, Wine & Friends. Instead of having a first course/appetizer hand round a selection of crostini with drinks then move on to the main course, an Italian-style roast that can be carved before you bring it to the table. An indulgent, creamy rhubarb and strawberry fool completes the meal though you could always serve a selection of goats’ cheeses as an alternative.
250g (9 oz) shelled fresh or frozen peas
2 spring onions
40g (1 1/2 oz) finely grated aged pecorino or parmesan
1 tbsp finely chopped mint or dill
2 tbsp fruity olive oil
Salt, freshly ground black pepper and lemon juice to taste
Crostini bases (see below)
125g (5 oz) finely sliced parma ham or other air dried ham, torn or cut into strips
Cook the peas in boiling water for 2-3 minutes or until just tender. Drain under cold running water. Trim and cut the onions in half lengthways then slice very finely. Put the peas and onions in a food processor and pulse till you get a chunky spread. Add the pecorino, mint or dill and pulse again then stir in the olive oil. Season to taste with salt, pepper and a good squeeze of lemon. Spread the mixture thickly on crostini bases and drape each crostino with a strip of hamTo make the crostini bases
Pre heat the oven to 180°C/350°F/Gas 4. Take two ready to bake ciabatta loaves and cut on the slant into thin slices. Spray both sides with an olive oil spray or pour the olive oil on to two baking trays and dip the slices of ciabatta in it. Bake for 15 minutes, turning the slices half way through. Repeat with any remaining ciabatta slices. This will make enough bases for both recipes.
150g (5 oz) cooked smoked ham
150g (5 oz) unsalted butter at room temperature
1 1/2 - 2 tsp English or Dijon mustard
3 heaped tbsp finely chopped parsley
1 heaped tbsp finely snipped chives
White pepper and salt to taste
Chop the ham up roughly and process in a food processor until finely chopped. Dice the butter, add it to the ham and process until smooth. Add mustard to taste - about 1 1/2 - 2 tsp and enough water to make a spreadable consistency.
Transfer the spread to a bowl and stir in the finely chopped herbs. Season with white pepper and a little salt if you feel it needs it (it may well not if the ham is salty). Refrigerate for an hour or two to allow the flavours to develop then allow to come back to room temperature before spreading on crostini bases as above.
1 kg (2.2lb) boned, rolled loin or rack of veal or pork (but ask the butcher to give you the bones)
3 tbsp olive oil
50g (2 oz) butter
1 medium onion, peeled and cut into 8
1 large carrot, peeled and cut into chunks
3 large cloves of garlic, peeled and quartered
3 sprigs of rosemary
250ml (9 fl oz) dry Italian white wine
250ml (9 fl oz) fresh chicken stock or light vegetable stock made with 1/2 an organic stock cube
150g (5 oz) wild mushrooms
1 dsp plain flour
A few drops of marsala or madeira (optional)
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
You will need a large deep lidded casserole
Preheat the oven to 190°C/375°F/Gas 5. Pat the veal dry and season with salt and freshly ground black pepper. Put the casserole over a medium heat, add 1 1/2 tbsp oil, heat for a minute then add 15g butter. When the foaming dies down place the veal joint and the bones in the casserole along with the pieces of onion and carrot and brown on all sides, turning the meat, bones and vegetables regularly. Add the garlic and rosemary to the casserole, stir and add 3 tbsp of white wine. Put a lid on the casserole and transfer to the oven. Roast for about 1 1/2 to 1 3/4 hours, checking every so often than the meat and vegetables aren’t catching and adding a little more white wine if necessary.
Remove the veal from the casserole and set aside on a carving dish. Cover lightly with foil and leave to rest for at least half an hour. Pour off any surface fat off the juices remaining in the casserole, add the remaining white wine and bring to the boil, working the tasty, stuck on caramelised juices off the sides of the casserole. Simmer and reduce by half, add half the stock and simmer for another 10 minutes. Strain through a fine sieve. Heat the remaining butter in a small frying pan and fry the mushrooms until the butter and any liquid have almost evaporated. Stir in the flour. Pour the strained stock over the mushrooms, bring to the boil and simmer for five minutes. Add a little more stock if the sauce seems too thick. Check the seasoning adding salt and pepper to taste and a dash of marsala or madeira if you think it needs a touch of sweetness.
Finely slice the veal, arrange in overlapping slices on a warm platter and spoon over the sauce and mushrooms. Good with roast new potatoes and roast or grilled asparagus. Or some buttered spinach.
400g (14 oz) rhubarb
3 tbsp unrefined caster sugar
225g (8 oz) ripe strawberries plus a few extra for decoration
2-3 tbsp sirop de rose or rosewater and extra sugar
300ml (10 fl oz) Greek yoghurt
284ml (1/2 pint) carton whipping cream
Slice the rhubarb and put it in a saucepan with 3 tbsp of sugar and 2 tbsp water. Put a lid on the pan and heat over a low heat until the fruit comes to the boil then turn the heat down and simmer for 7-10 minutes until the fruit is soft. Tip the fruit into a sieve over a bowl and drain off the juice. De-stalk the strawberries, put 225g of them in a food processor or blender and whizz until smooth. Add the drained rhubarb and 1 tbsp of rose syrup or 2 tsp rosewater and 1 tbsp caster sugar and whizz again. Tip the pure into a bowl and leave to cool.
Tip the yoghurt into a large bowl. Whip the cream until just holding its shape and sweeten to taste with rose syrup or rosewater and sugar. Fold half the cream into the yoghurt. Fold half the pureed strawberry and rhubarb into the yoghurt and cream mix then lightly fold in the remaining rose-scented cream and remaining rhubarb and strawberry puree to create a marbled effect. Spoon the fool into individual glasses and chill until ready to serve. Slice the remaining strawberries and sprinkle with a few drops of rose syrup or a little sugar. Use the strawberry slices to decorate the top of each glass.
What to drink:
Any good quality crisp, dry white wine would work with the crostini. At this time of year I'd probably go for a Sancerre, Pouilly Fumé or other unoaked or subtly oaked Sauvignon Blanc. With the main course I'd drink a Chianti Classico, as suggested.
The dessert is also easy to pair - any fresh, young dessert wine should work - a sweet Bordeaux, a Coteaux du Layon or a late-harvest Sauvignon for example. (Pick a wine with bright citrus flavours rather than apricot or peachy ones. So not a southern French muscat, I'd suggest)