Following on from my previous blog post Gli Abruzzese Non…I visited several butcher shops this week in search of meat that’s not readily available. Readily available meat here includes chicken, pork, rabbit and even horse; but my quest was for petto d’anatra (duck breast) in fact I’d even settle for a whole bird as it’s been such a long time since I’ve eaten any.
The first shop keeper told “l’anatra non viene mangiata, solo le uova.” meaning duck isn’t eaten here only the eggs are. The next butcher shook his head and said something similar, so I decided to try my local butcher who has been quite accommodating to my requests previously.
“Do you sell duck?” I asked.
“Eggs?” came the reply.
“No, duck meat, breast or a whole bird?”
This was followed by the similar response of the earlier butchers. So I gave up and was just about to leave the shop when I turned back and asked if they could get me some pigeon.
Behind the counter she looked horrified, “Piccione?” she questioned, “Piccione?” the second time several semi-tones higher. “The Italian’s don’t eat pigeon.”
To which I replied “The English do.” She exhaled loudly, shook her head incredulously and retired into the back room of the shop, leaving me to exit her shop in silence.
This week I was wondering what to make for lunch and a quick look in the fridge revealed a cauliflower, chicken thighs and some caciocavallo cheese: Caciocavallo meaning ‘cheese on horseback’ is a sheep or cow’s milk cheese that is good for melting. I’m not keen on it melted on toast, I still prefer a mature Cheddar, but it’s good melted on pizza or as I’m about to find out, on cauliflower. I set the iPod to play and Poly Styrene’s album Translucence starts to play, the opening bars of Essence give me an idea so I grab a little packet of Moroccan spices I got a few months back and my mind starts to go into creation mode.
First I separate the cauliflower florets and pop them into boiling water to blanch for 5 minutes. Next the chicken breasts are placed into an oven-proof dish and have a dusting of black pepper, cinnamon, Himalayan salt and garlic salt followed by a drizzle of olive oil. Next I make a spiced paste for the cauliflower. To a bowl I add a tablespoon of honey, 3 teaspoons of the Moroccan spice, 1 teaspoon of fennel seeds and the juice of half a lemon.
The oven is set at 180 (fan) and the chicken breasts are covered with tin foil and popped inside. The cauliflower is drained and covered in the spice mix and then placed into an oven-proof dish and placed inside the oven to roast alongside the chicken. After 20 minutes I remove the chicken and drain off any juices and put these aside to freeze for a tasty base for a brodo, soup or risotto.
The chicken needs just 7 minutes cooking uncovered to crisp up the skin, so I slice some of the cheese and place it on top of the cauliflower and return it to the oven.
After resting the chicken for a couple of minutes the cheese has melted into the cauliflower so the final job is just plating up, sitting down and eating it. It made a great midweek lunch with enough cauliflower left over to freeze or to have the following day.
Don’t you just hate it when you’re prevented from going about your business by external sources. Today I was driving to the shop when I came around the bend by the war memorial in the lane and had to hit the brakes as the track down to Merosci was blocked.
Had one of the ruins beside the road collapsed?
Was the refuse lorry parked there?
Heaven forbid there’d been a landslide
Had an olive tree fallen over?
Back to me…
No, neither the road was blocked by a chicken, a brown bobbing headed chicken that just refused to move. I beeped my horn at it and it just looked at me, I inched closer in the car and still the bloody thing wouldn’t budge. I even got out of the car expecting it to take flight; but no, it just looked at me, it’s eyes, malevolent, mocking me.
But I wasn’t going to be beaten, I clapped my hands and shooed it away into the olive grove before resuming my journey, satisfied that man had won over bird. With bravery I had triumphed in the face of adversity. With dogged determination I had succeeded.
Well that was until on the way back when the whole cycle of road block chicken removal was repeated.