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Easter Feast Part 3: Buona Pasqua!

This is what we cooked for our virtual Easter feast. The meal paid homage to three great Italian cooks. Raf's mother Assunta, the late great Marcella Hazan and my most recent favourite cook and food writer - Rachel Roddy.

Buona Pasqua!

Zuppa di Pasqua - Easter soup

The use of eggs and chicken at Easter is, of course, a symbol of new life. Assunta made this traditional Pugliese soup at Easter. It starts with a good home made chicken broth which carries little frittata squares.

Chicken stock needs to be made ahead of time. Raffaele regularly makes it and puts it in containers in the freezer so we always have good chicken stock available. To make a good chicken stock take two chicken carcasses and a few chicken wings. Roast the chicken wings in the oven. Put them and the raw carcasses in a big pot of water. Add a large onion, one carrot and celery with some leaves still on and the stalks of a bunch of parsley.

Add a few black peppercorns, salt and a small tomato. Bring it to the boil and simmer with the lid off until the carcasses falls apart and the broth is tasty (a couple of hours). Take out the vegetables and bones and put it in the fridge overnight. The next day skim off the congealed fat. Put into containers in the freezer to use later.

In a bowl whisk together 6 fresh organic eggs, add about 100 grams of grated pecorino cheese, a small handful of chopped parsley, white pepper and salt to taste and then stir in enough breadcrumbs to make a cake-like consistency. Spread the mixture on a baking tray covered with baking paper to a thickness of about 1cm. Bake in a moderate oven until it is firm and cooked. Let it cool then cut the frittata into little squares.

Put the little squares of fittata in a bowl and pour over the chicken stock. Top with more grated cheese and a twist of black pepper.

Roast Lamb Roman Style

(Adapted slightly from Marcella Hazan in her book Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking

I worship this amazing cook about whom I will blog another time)

This dish is made in a large, shallow heavy bottom pan on top of the stove but if you don't have one, it can as be made in the oven in a covered roasting pan.

Approx 1.5kg of lamb shoulder or leg on or off the bone, cut up into 10cm chunky pieces.

3 tbsp olive oil

salt and pepper

1 tbsp plain flour

1 chopped clove of garlic

5-6 fresh sage leaves

large sprig of rosemary

half a cup of white wine vinegar

a third of a cup of water

4 anchovies

Deeply brown the lamb pieces in the olive oil then flavour with salt and pepper. Using a sieve, evenly sprinkle the flour over the meat, turning to cover all sides. Cook for a minute then add the garlic, sage and rosemary. Cook for another minute or two.

Next, add the vinegar and when this is boiled off a little, add the water. Put the lid on, leaving it a tiny bit open and put on a low heat so it simmers.

Cut up potatoes (as many as you want!) into small pieces and spread these around the meat with some more rosemary and a drizzle of olive oil. Cook until the meat softly falls apart and the outside is sticky with crunchy bits and the potatoes are brown and soft. This will be between one and two hours, depending on the age and tenderness of the meat. Check and turn the meat regularly, and turn the potatoes so they are brown on all sides. Add more water if the pan gets too dry.

When cooked, take the meat and potatoes out of the pan and put on the serving dish. Melt 4 anchovies into the pan juices and mix well, pulling up the burnt and gooey bits from the bottom of the pan. Pour this over the lamb.

We served this with a fresh green salad and a glass of excellent Primitivo from Copertino!

Roman fennel and wine biscuits - Ciambelline al vino

( from Rachel Roddy's My Kitchen in Rome )

I've never been much of a desert cook and wasn't one of those mothers who kept the biscuit barrel full of home made treats but these cookies intrigued me. I could imagine them being eaten by the ancient Romans at the baths of Caracalla.

The recipe is one of those that assumes the cook has, as Rachel writes "good taste, good instincts and recipe that is good enough to make again and again". Italian recipes use a glass as a measurement rather than a cup and it doesn't really matter about the size because it is about the relative quantities. That's why all the other ingredients in this recipe are to your taste or as the Italians say "qauntobasta" or qb.

1 glass of sugar

1 glass of wine (red or white)

1 glass of extra virgin olive oil

salt to taste

fennel seeds to taste

plain flour ( as much as you need)

more sugar for finishing

In a bowl mix together the sugar, wine and oil. Add the salt and fennel seeds. Add the flour a little at a time until it becomes a soft but manageable dough that you can mix with your hands. Put the dough on a board and knead until it until it is smooth. Cover and leave for an hour.

Preheat the oven to 180 degrees.

Put baking paper on a baking tray. Pinch walnut sized balls of the dough then roll it into logs about 6 cm long and then curl them into a ring. Put some sugar in a bowl so you can lightly coat the rings and then place them on the baking tray. Bake for about 25-30 minutes or until they are golden and crisp.

These are wonderful dipped in wine, but better still dipped in wine in which cut-up pieces of peach have been steeping for an hour or so. That's how we ate them.

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