I was still in Italian mode after the Sicilian wine tasting last night. With family coming for lunch I decided to make some cicchetti – little appetizers – to have with some prosecco to begin. Jonathan made a huge lasagne for our main course, and we finished with gelato in true Italian style – the cinnamon ice cream I made last week and a new batch of the wonderful chocolate ice cream from my Moro East book which I first made a few weeks ago.
This is entertaining and spending time with family or friends at its best and easiest: lots of simple, good food prepared in advance, leaving plenty of time for talking. It also coincided with Fabio teaching me the verb pranzare in our last lesson; the verb ‘to lunch’, so I was able to practise in my head: pranziamo – we lunch.
I had to make the cicchetti a little ahead of time to transport to Jonathan and Lyndsey’s house, but not too far in advance so they spoilt. I cut a baguette into slices and lightly toasted them and then brushed one side with plenty of olive oil. Then I had three toppings: Milano salami with cornichon; buffalo mozzarella with tomato and fresh basil; and Parma ham with fresh fig.
The sun made a spectacular return and we sat in the garden to eat the cicchetti with olives, caperberries and some healthy crisps (mixed vegetables – beetroot, parsnips etc) for the kids, my little niece and nephew. Though actually us adults tucked into those too and they tucked into the cicchetti and olives, having sophisticated tastes despite their young ages (7 and 9).
The lasagne was happily baking in the oven. The great thing about a dish like this is it’s quite hard to overcook it … and once it’s done it can come out of the oven and sit for a while without spoiling. There was also a big salad to go with it dressed with olive oil and balsamic vinegar.
We were quite full after all that lovely eating so decided to take Zeph, Lyndsey and Jonathan’s Yorkshire Terrier puppy, for a walk before having the ice cream.
We’d left the ice cream in the fridge rather than freezer to soften a bit while we were out and it was just perfect by the time we got back. I’d got cornets for the kids but the adults chose to have two scoops – one of each flavour – in a bowl with a biscuit (some rather yummy chocolate and ginger biscuits from Waitrose).
Like all the best lunches, there was some shared effort as well as shared pleasure, good food and wine, and a long slow enjoyment of it all. Lunch stretched over four hours … and what a lovely four hours they were.