Lockdown has impacted hugely on most of our lives, especially from an eating out point of view. No more popping into the pub or wine bar for a drink before going on to a restaurant for dinner or meeting up with friends for a leisurely lunch. That all feels like a distant memory.
Food has always played an important part in my social and family life, as I’m sure it has for many of you. I love to entertain, to feed and nurture and this past year I have been deprived of much of this. I’m lucky in that I currently have our daughter and grandson living with us – so I have had more than just our two mouths to feed. And I am fortunate that 5-year old Archie appreciates his nanas culinary efforts, even if it is only homemade chicken nuggets. If you’ve never made these, you really should give it a go. Those mini fillets that are so readily available in supermarkets are perfect for this purpose.
Simply dip into seasoned flour, then beaten egg and then breadcrumbs and shallow fry for about 10 minutes until golden brown. Serve with a side order of the obligatory tomato ketchup – they can be on the table in less time than it takes to oven bake a chicken dipper. Even the adults in our household love them.
Nothing inspires me to get more adventurous in the kitchen than a new cookery book. Last year during one of the very few times that we were able to actually visit a bookshop, I popped in for a browse and came out with one of the most beautiful cookery books in my collection. Sabrina Ghayour’s style of Persian cookery is remarkably simple but her recipes produce exceptional results. Feasts published by Mitchell Beazley has a cover so pretty with its paisley pattern, it could be mistaken for a book on fashion.
Preserved lemons have been an ingredient in my larder ever since I travelled to Marrakech in what seems another lifetime. These along with rose harissa and za’atar have become store cupboard essentials. Most of the ingredients in Sabrina’s books are easily obtainable from Exotica in St Helen’s Road if not our local supermarkets.
Sabrina Ghayour’s five books are, Persiana, Sirocco, Simply, Bazaar and Feasts, all published by Mitchell Beazley.
The closest we’ve been able to get to going out is having a takeaway from our favourite ‘usual’ restaurants. We’ve been trying to ring the changes and try different places and last month we ordered food to go from La Parmigiana in Duke Street. This little authentic Italian deli and café has long been a favourite haunt of ours, usually for a celebratory lunch after Bay goes to the printer. Francesca’s bowls of creamy pasta and ciabatta rolls cram-med with all sorts of dry cured meats, cheese and grilled vegetables are the ultimate comfort food.
La Parmigiana’s ordering system is easy; you simply log onto their website laparmigianauk.co.uk and select your goodies and decide whether to get it delivered or go down to Duke Street to collect, and then make your secured payment. Not only can you order prepared pastas and other ready to eat foods, but also a huge range of dried pasta.
You will find a recipe for prawns and feta in our Food & drink section which comes courtesy of Mutti, the Italian tomato product company. Mutti – mother or mummy in Italian, has been producing tinned tomatoes for 120 years and I recently discovered this brand when I purchased them from La Parmigiana.
Tinned tomatoes vary in quality – cheap super-market brands tend to be very acidic and lacking in depth of flavour – you really do get what you pay for. Francesca assured me that they were the best – and the only ones that she uses in her kitchen, and that’s a good enough recommendation for me.
I love to graze and the antipasto platter with its selection of dry cured meats, cheeses, olives and bread, and accompanying pots of mayonnaise and olive oil and balsamic vinegar were perfect and enough for three. We added in a side order of crispy calamari and some garlic bread which all disappeared in seconds.
Pasta is one of my favourite foods as I love carbo-hydrates; add in cheese and tomato and I am a very happy lady. Francesca’s spinach and ricotta cannelloni is rich but not in the least bit heavy, with a divinely creamy sauce – the sort of food that makes you want to scrape every last morsel from the dish.
I’ve read lots of Italian menus but not come across cotoletta alla valdostana before. It is described as a chicken breast filled with smoked Parma ham and cheese wrapped in breadcrumbs and fried. It certainly lived up to expectations – a bit like a chicken cordon bleu, but the smoky ham brings in another dimension – and the chicken breast was very generous – not a thin batted out fillet but a big succulent breast. Francesca is definitely a nurturer and a mutti.
La Parmigiana 7 Duke Street, Swansea SA1 4HS, Telephone: 01792 540888 Web: www.laparmigianauk.co.uk
Open: Tuesday – Wednesday 10:00 to 15:00, Thursday – Saturday 10:00 to 19:00