EVOO PAIRING: Le Trebbiane
We are often asked to recommend a good, benchmark Tuscan Extra Virgin Olive Oil and one of our favourites is Le Trebbiane from Frantoio Franci. A medium intense oil from a single East facing grove that benefits from the cooler morning sun, Le Trebbiane is a blend of Frantoio, Moraiolo, Leccino and a small amount of Olivastra and features complex, herbal notes with a hint of artichoke and a good peppery kick. For this reason, it works well with grains, pulses and red meat where it balances the earthiness and lifts the natural flavours.
Spelt Salad with pickled vegetables and edible flowers
Cook the spelt in lightly salted water (approx 30 mins) and then cool. You can add anything you like, any seasonal veg. Here we had it with some preserved vegetables (aubergine, peppers) plus lightly sautéed onion, carrot, fennel. Throw in some radicchio leaves and a few edible blue flowers if you can find (borage, chicory or bergamot would work).
The dressing is with apple cider vinegar which adds a touch of sweetness and Le Trebbiane which imparts a lovely peppery persistence.
Roasted Spring Lamb served with Cannellini beans
Lamb isn’t hugely loved in Italy. Italians often say that they find the flavour too strong, which to me, having grown up near the Welsh border, means that they have been eating mutton. New season lamb is delicate and one of the finest meats you can enjoy (ecologically as well as flavour-wise), so now is the season to make the most of it.
Here we serve it with cannellini beans that have been soaked overnight before cooking and then quickly sautéed with garlic, rosemary and white wine, salt and pepper and extra virgin olive oil. We also drizzle with oil at the point of serving to add a freshness and peppery bite to the dish.
Penne with new season asparagus and ricotta salata
This simple pasta dish is brought together with the use of lemon and extra virgin olive oil.
The Italian kitchen still lives so much by the seasons and the window for asparagus really is only around 6 weeks, so we take full advantage. Super fine, wild asparagus has not only a fine intensity but retains its bite when cooked, so creates a great texture in this pasta dish. Ricotta is also at its best in the spring months and we’ve gone for a hard ricotta here, but the dish can work with fresh ricotta or even pecorino as an alternative.
The asparagus just needs a couple of minutes to cook and once drained can be stirred through the pasta with some olive oil, lemon zest and shavings of ricotta. It works well with the addition of some lemon thyme.