Ev­ery­day he­roes

Delve into this win­ter bake through a crisp sur­face of potato and butternut squash, past sweetly yield­ing red onions and sage, to find a pleas­antly bit­ter radic­chio at its core

The Guardian - Cook - - A Kitchen In Rome - Rachel Roddy

Ionce met a woman called Glenda who told me that, in 45 years of mar­riage, she had never missed her weekly hair ap­point­ment and had never cooked her hus­band the same din­ner twice. At the start of each week she would plan the six meals – the sev­enth was a meal out – book­mark­ing cook­books and rip­ping recipes out of mag­a­zines. She also kept lists of all the recipes ever made, of­ten not­ing with a word or two how the recipe had worked, how it was re­ceived, and even how it was di­gested. The di­ges­tive notes were mostly feed­back from her hus­band, who had a mi­nor med­i­cal is­sue that she didn’t go into.

Glenda had been given my book as a gift, and told me it had pro­vided four din­ners so far. I asked which ones, to which she replied, apolo­get­i­cally, that even though they were quite re­cent din­ners, she didn’t have her note­book with her, and could only re­mem­ber two. The first was saltim­bocca, which she had made with chicken as she couldn’t find veal, and it had been a great suc­cess. The sec­ond, pasta e ceci, they had both en­joyed so much that her hus­band didn’t mind the fact he had to dou­ble his flat­u­lence pills.

Soon af­ter this rev­e­la­tion, our bus lurched to a stop and we parted ways. Our con­ver­sa­tion was un­fin­ished. I was left with so many unan­swered ques­tions, about the ex­act na­ture of the lists and notes; if she was ever tempted to make any­thing again; about that med­i­cal con­di­tion. I could have spent hours with Glenda talk­ing about 45 years of din­ners, and her hair­dresser, and felt dis­ap­pointed we didn’t have the chance. This re­gret, and the sharp memory of her ex­pres­sive face, is prob­a­bly why she re­mains clear in my mind, and why, when I make some­thing for the fourth time in quick suc­ces­sion, I might think “Glenda would never do this”.

Not that I have any prob­lem mak­ing things again and again. In fact I like it, and find it a re­as­sur­ing re­lief. Maybe this is one of the rea­sons I have set­tled hap­pily in Rome, a city which still ob­serves an in­for­mal weekly menu in

trat­to­rie, and in homes: Tues­day pasta e ceci, Thurs­day gnoc­chi, Fri­day fish, Sun­day lamb with pota­toes. How­ever, what I do have in com­mon with Glenda is that I keep notes: I come from a fam­ily of ded­i­cated list mak­ers. Un­like her, though, my food notes don’t show the dif­fer­ences, but the rep­e­ti­tion, the fact that I am de­voted to cer­tain things, and that when I find some­thing I like I am back to my 11-year-old self with a new sin­gle, play­ing it again and again.

Talk­ing of which, do you re­mem­ber the sum­mer veg­etable bake from last Septem­ber? It was made with toma­toes, cour­gettes, pota­toes, onions, oregano and olive oil. The aroma as it bakes is so good that work­men might stop, for a mo­ment, at your door. The first time I made it, it felt like an old friend, and im­me­di­ately be­came a reg­u­lar around here – pos­si­bly too reg­u­lar – which meant it wasn’t a bad thing when it was put away with the shorts and floor fan.

Last week, it crossed my mind to do a win­ter ver­sion. But what to put in it? Pota­toes, butternut squash and onions sprang to mind, mak­ing it a lit­tle bit like a mixed root boulangére. But it needed ... some­thing else? I was pick­ing up the onions at the mar­ket when it came to me: they would go well with red chicory, which is par­tic­u­larly good at the mo­ment. There’s the small cab­bage­like radic­chio di Chiog­gia and also radic­chio Tre­viso, its long slen­der leaves the colour of a bishop’s robe. Radic­chio is not only a fine, pleas­ingly bit­ter salad – es­pe­cially with wal­nuts, soft cheese and bal­samic vine­gar – it also grills and bakes beau­ti­fully. It sounds coun­ter­in­tu­itive to cook salad leaves, but sand­wiched be­tween lay­ers of pota­toes and squash, radic­chio wilts beau­ti­fully, pro­vid­ing a soft, ever-so-

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from UK

© PressReader. All rights reserved.