Keep it sim­ple: your job is to en­ter­tain guests

‘The per­fect New Year meal should ap­pear ef­fort­less,’ says Gior­gio Lo­catelli

The Daily Telegraph - Saturday - - Food & Drink -

Gior­gio Lo­catelli looks ex­hausted. A few weeks ago he broke his shoul­der in a mo­tor­bike ac­ci­dent, but since then he has been work­ing dou­ble shifts at his Lon­don restau­rant, Lo­canda Lo­catelli, only man­ag­ing a few hours’ sleep be­tween the end of one ser­vice and the start of the next.

The whole year has been a busy one, not least thanks to the pub­li­ca­tion of his mag­is­te­rial cook­book, Made in Italy, which came out last Christ­mas. With his television ca­reer, he could give up the restau­rant, but he wouldn’t dream of it. ‘‘On TV I’m al­ways be­ing told what to do, but in the restau­rant I’m king,” he says, sweep­ing his arm ex­pan­sively to­wards the el­e­gant leather seats and huge mir­rors of the front of house.

This New Year’s Eve, Lo­catelli’s friends and fam­ily will have a big ta­ble to­gether at his restau­rant. But he’ll be hard at it in the kitchen, cook­ing the de­cep­tively sim­ple risot­tos, pas­tas and clas­sic meat dishes for which he’s fa­mous. Hol­i­days for busy chefs are rarely taken at con­ven­tional times and, al­though most top Lon­don restau­rants are closed at New Year, Lo­canda Lo­catelli has been fully booked for months. “I can’t re­mem­ber the last time I didn’t work at New Year,” ad­mits the worka­holic chef.

His ob­ses­sion with cook­ing be­gan early. As a boy of six, he helped out in the kitchen of his grand­par­ents’ ho­tel by Lake Comab­bio in north­ern Italy. New Year was a high­light, with din­ner, danc­ing and cabaret.

One les­son he learnt young was to plan things so that a host could en­ter­tain his guests, rather than be in­vis­i­ble: “No one will be im­pressed if you are stuck in the kitchen with smoke com­ing out of your ears.” It’s al­ways best to keep things sim­ple: “Food should be based on good in­gre­di­ents not artistry, so don’t over­stretch your­self. If you plan to pro­duce four dishes, just make two. And choose a ready-made dessert.’’

As I leave, he gives me a box of amaretti mor­bidi, soft yet crisp bis­cuits made with apri­cot ker­nels. Th­ese, he says, would make a per­fect end to a New Year din­ner, as would bis­cotti for dip­ping into dessert wine. “Or just buy nuts in the shell and tip them out all over the ta­ble,’’ he ad­vises. ‘‘Peo­ple like to nib­ble and spin out the time at the ta­ble.”

The per­fect New Year’s Eve meal should ap­pear ef­fort­less, Lo­catelli in­sists. “Peo­ple have come to see you. Don’t make a big cer­e­mony. That’s for restau­rants. At home, it shouldn’t seem like any­one’s been work­ing.”

Lo­canda Lo­catelli is at 8 Sey­mour Street, Lon­don W1 (020 7935 9088). Made in Italy by Gior­gio Lo­catelli is pub­lished by Fourth Es­tate (£30).

xan­the.clay@tele­graph.co.uk

LOB­STER SALAD WITH AP­PLE

Serves 4 Lob­ster is the per­fect treat for New Year. There are ready-cooked lob­sters in su­per­mar­kets and fish­mon­gers, but the flavour will be far bet­ter if you cook your own. Gior­gio Lo­catelli’s in­struc­tions are on the Tele­graph web­site (www. tele­graph.co.uk/foodand­drink), along with his recipe for home-made may­on­naise. 1 lob­ster, weigh­ing about 2lb/1kg 2 ap­ples, cored, quar­tered and sliced into wafers Two hand­fuls of mixed-leaf salad 4 tbsp home-made may­on­naise 4 tbsp vi­nai­grette (see be­low)

Peel the lob­ster claws by crack­ing the shell with the back of a knife and sep­a­rate the meat from the shell. For the tail, use scis­sors to split the shell and pull the meat out. Slice all the meat.

Dot four plates with the may­on­naise. Turn the lob­ster meat, ap­ple slices and salad leaves in vi­nai­grette and ar­range them along­side. For the vi­nai­grette: 1 tsp salt 1 tsp red wine vine­gar 4floz/110ml of ex­tra vir­gin olive oil 2 tsp wa­ter

Place the salt in a bowl, then add the vine­gar and leave it to dis­solve for a minute.

Whisk in the olive oil and wa­ter un­til the vi­nai­grette emul­si­fies and thick­ens.

Keep any leftover in a jar in the fridge to use for salad.

TAGLI­ATELLE WITH MUSH­ROOMS

Serves 4-6 as a starter, 4 as a light lunch In Lo­canda Lo­catelli, this dish is made with chest­nut pasta, a north­ern Ital­ian spe­cial­ity. You can find a recipe on the Tele­graph web­site, or use topqual­ity dried (not fresh) egg tagli­atelle. Cipri­ani is a good brand.

For the pho­to­graph, Lo­catelli used en­chant­ingly pretty shimeji mush­rooms (avail­able from Wait­rose), but any mix­ture of mush­rooms works well. 11oz/300g mixed mush­rooms, cleaned 4oz/110g but­ter, diced 2 gar­lic cloves, chopped 3floz/85ml white wine 9oz/250g dried egg tagli­atelle Hand­ful of flat leaf pars­ley leaves, chopped Small bunch of chives, chopped 1oz/30g freshly grated Parme­san (op­tional)

Trim the mush­room stalks and tear the mush­rooms length­ways into halves, quar­ters or eighths, leav­ing the stalks at­tached, so that the pieces are all roughly the same size.

Heat half the but­ter in a large sauté pan, add the gar­lic and cook for a minute with­out al­low­ing it to colour.

Add the mush­rooms and cook for two more min­utes, then pour in the wine and let the al­co­hol evap­o­rate un­til the juices are slightly syrupy. Sea­son and re­move from the heat.

Cook the pasta in a large pan of boil­ing salted wa­ter un­til just al dente. Drain well, re­serv­ing a lit­tle of the cook­ing wa­ter.

Add the pasta to the pan con­tain­ing the mush­rooms and toss to­gether, stir­ring in the rest of the but­ter.

Then, add the chopped pars­ley and chives and a lit­tle of the cook­ing wa­ter from the pasta to loosen the mix if nec­es­sary.

Serve with Parme­san cheese if you (or your guests) like.

BEEF FIL­LET WITH LEMON SPINACH AND MARSALA SAUCE

Serves 4 De­cep­tively sim­ple steak with Ital­ian flair. 4 beef fil­lets, each about 7oz/200g 2 tbsp veg­etable oil 1 tbsp flour 3 tbsp but­ter 1 tsp sugar 3 tbsp Marsala wine 7floz/200ml fresh beef stock For the gar­nish: White wine vine­gar 3 carrots 2 small red onions 8 gar­lic cloves 4 bay leaves 4 sprigs of rose­mary 4 pep­per­corns 4 ju­niper ber­ries

Lemon spinach (see be­low)

Slice the carrots and onions into ¼in/½cm wide rings.

Put the gar­lic in a pan of wa­ter and sim­mer for about 15 min­utes, un­til ten­der.

In an­other small pan, sim­mer the carrots un­til done.

Once cooked, take them out with a slot­ted spoon and add a gen­er­ous splash of white wine vine­gar to the pan, to­gether with the bay leaves, rose­mary, pep­per­corns and ju­niper ber­ries.

Bring to the boil, add the onions and sim­mer for about 4 min­utes, un­til ten­der. Drain and re­move the herbs and spices.

Heat a large sauté pan and add the oil.

Sea­son the fil­lets with salt and pep­per and dust with flour. Put into the pan and cook on each side un­til browned but still rare in the mid­dle. Re­move the meat and keep warm.

Add the but­ter and sugar to the pan. When the sugar has turned caramel-brown, add the Marsala and flam­bée.

Pour in the stock and bub­ble, stir­ring well, un­til re­duced to a syrupy con­sis­tency. Taste and ad­just the sea­son­ing.

Re­turn the meat to the pan with the veg­eta­bles.

Spoon some lemon spinach into the mid­dle of the warmed plates and ar­range the veg­eta­bles around.

Lift out the fil­let from the pan, slice thickly and lay it on top of the spinach. Spoon the sauce over the top.

LEMON SPINACH

Serves 4 4 large hand­fuls spinach, washed 4 tbsp ex­tra vir­gin olive oil Half a lemon

Blanch the spinach in boil­ing salted wa­ter for 5 sec­onds, drain and re­fresh it un­der cold run­ning wa­ter.

Drain the spinach again and squeeze out the ex­cess wa­ter (this can be done a cou­ple of hours ahead).

Put the spinach into a pan with the olive oil. Heat through. Sea­son and squeeze the lemon over the spinach. Taste and then add more lemon juice if you think it’s nec­es­sary.

Salute: Gior­gio Lo­catelli with

(above) lob­ster salad, tagli­atelle and beef with marsala and spinach

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