The Brits may love their chips but the Italians love the crunch of deep-fried vegetables, best eaten with one’s fingers
When we were kids, my grandparents would take the three of us to a fish and chip shop in Whitby called the Magpie. I can’t remember sitting inside in the cafe, although I know we did. I remember sitting on a wall looking out to sea, the hot chips warming our laps through slightly damp paper, the sea air whipping our hair into our mouths. Grandma would divvy up a large cod between the three of us, making sure we all got our fair share of fish, batter and an equal rubble of the crispy bits. Little wooden forks were quickly discarded in favour of nimble fingers searching for the ideal chip, fat- and vinegar-soggy at one end and crisp at the other. The portions seemed enormous back then, a never-ending sea of chips, great white flakes and shards of golden-brown batter that shattered. Until it did end, which was always a bit sad, and we would screw the paper into a ball and lick our salty lips and fingers, then wipe them on our trousers and Grandpa would frown and say “give over”.
The Italian historian Massimo Montinari is referring to fritters when he writes how “the golden colour of its crust is pleasing to the eye, the bubbling of the fat on its surface delights the ears and the sense of touch is gratified by a food at its best when brought to the mouth with one’s fingers”. But he could just as easily be talking about fish and chips. It wasn’t just that the Magpie’s fish and chips were superb, or that we were sitting on a seaside wall swinging our legs; it was that we were eating with our fingers.
We’re often told how healthy kale is, but rarely how versatile it is, too
If Popeye had been born in the 21st century, he would surely be shoving kale down his famous pipe to boost his powers, rather than spinach, and it wouldn’t have come out of a tin, either. Fresh kale’s much-vaunted health benefits are discussed at such length these days that we often forget quite how delicious and versatile this leafy vegetable actually is. A simple saute with garlic and olive oil is usually my first port of call, but after that the possibilities are endless. Kale may make you big and strong; it will definitely leave you cheerful and sated.
Eggs are every cook’s best friend, especially at this time of year when simple and quick are the order of the day
New year, new resolutions, new everything, right? Well, an egg, with all its promise of new life, is a very good place to start. Eggs give me everything I want from the kitchen, especially during this post-excess phase: they’re gentle on the wallet, easy to get hold of, fuss-free, quick to prepare, comforting to eat – and full of the sort of amino acids and nutritional benefits that, after a certain point, red wine cannot really boast of having. In terms of New Year’s resolutions, then, eggs give you a lot of easy wins.
They are also incredibly versatile, not least in terms of what you pair them with, so they’re very useful when you’re looking for ways to use up all those bits and bobs you still have lying around after the festivities. I’ve suggested using manchego in today’s omelette dish, but really any other hard cheese, from cheddar to comté, will work just as well. Much the same applies to the herbs and spices: eggs are as happy with the coriander, parsley and dill as they are with the chervil or basil I’ve used here; and while I’ve paired my eggs with what I have to hand in my cupboard at home (chilli flakes and za’atar, in this instance), ground cumin, sharp sumac, regular chilli flakes or even a good crack of black pepper will do the trick, too.