The Mandarin and The Kumquat are all about re loving, upcycling and reusing everything. Southern Italy probably invented recycling, many household items are remodeled and nothing is ever thrown away. Wire coat hangers for example are cut into pieces and shaped into S shaped hangers for curing salami, old skirts are fashioned into aprons. Historically hair from brushes was saved and sold, goodness knows what they did with it and used olive oil was given to the soap man in return for olive oil soap. Oil is still saved and by an alchemy like process turned into homemade soap.
This reusing set me thinking about food, yesterday l made a lemon tart which left me with 5 egg whites, the obvious recipe....meringues. Light, fat free, versatile and easy to make. The most important issue with meringue is the weather, never try to make them on a damp day, in fact equally important is that everything must be brutally clean. The smallest drop of fat in the shape of egg yolk will ruin everything.
The basic formula is 55 grams of caster sugar to one egg white. In a clean bowl whisk the egg white with an electric whisk until stiff and doesn’t slip out of the bowl when turned upside down. Add the sugar a spoonful at a time and whisk well after each addition. When all sugar has been added whisk for a further 4 minutes. Line trays with baking paper and use 2 teaspoons to form mounds of meringue. Cook at 100 degrees for 1 hour, then turn off the oven and leave the meringue to dry out overnight. They are great sandwiched together with homemade ice cream or sorbet, or with mascarpone and fresh fruit. Store in glass containers and indulge at will.
Potato peelings also make a great nibble. Thoroughly wash and dry large potatoes, peel a little more thickly than normal and deep fry in hot olive oil. Make sure the potato is cooked through thoroughly, the skins should be crisp and golden and the potato soft. Sprinkle with salt and serve with homemade sweet chilli sauce to dip.
Another great favourite of mine is a bisque type soup made from fresh scampi and prawn heads and shells. Heat a good glug of olive oil to smoking, throw in the shells and heads and turn in the oil. This first roasting process is important as it gives a good colour and flavour to the soup. Then add shallots and garlic, with skins just cut in half. Leave these to roast for a couple of minutes. Carefully add a tot of brandy and flambe. Add 1 carrot, some cherry tomatoes, fennel all chopped coarsley, a piece of orange peel, parsley stalks, a bay leaf and a small piece of chilli. Next add a large glass of white wine and then top up with water to cover everything. Leave to simmer for 30 minutes, then strain and reduce down. Taste for seasoning, salt may not be needed at all in this soup. I like to serve in shot glasses with some toasted country bread and garlic mayo.
And finally maybe my favourite nibble of all, toasted pumpkin seeds. After you have painstakingly made pumpkin ravioli to serve with sage butter sauce, which l adore the best part of the pumpkin is left; the seeds.
Roasted pumpkin seeds
2 cups water, 1/2 tablespoon of salt, 1/2 cup pumpkin seeds, olive oil
Clean the seeds of the stringy bits. Bring to boil in salted water and simmer for 10 minutes. Drain, dry and toss in olive oil. Put onto bakjng tray and cook in oven at 200 for 15 to 20 minutes, until crispy and browned. A delicious nibble.