Carina Contini for Scotsman – In print Saturday 13th April 2019
25 years. Oh my goodness. I can’t believe Victor has put up with me for all this time. The 2nd of May, was our Silver wedding anniversary. No regrets.
To celebrate we’re having a family party at home and I’ll be cooking. So many of our events are hosting other people’s special occasions. Weddings, anniversaries, birthday parties, retirements etc. When it comes to the Contini household we are guilty of busman’s parties and usually entertain at home.
I think because we spend so much of our time in our own restaurants when we want to relax we do it at home, even if it can means a lot of work. In truth I love the cooking, it’s the tidying up that can be more work. That’s why I love our KP’s in the venues as their shifts are by far the toughest.
We’ve got the party scene down to a fine art, helped by my own team of KP’s, Victor and the children.
When the numbers are over 25, which isn’t hard when you are the youngest of 8 children, I do a buffet. One hot pasta dish like a lasagne never goes a miss and then lots of cold salads, maybe a lovely ham on the bone from Ramsays of Carluke, ham and egg pie and a whole smoked salmon from Dicksons in Cockenzie. Pudding is usually homemade meringues, loads of fresh fruit and a gallon or two of ice cream from Lucas never gets wasted.
25 years, we’ve lost three parents, had three children, opened 4 restaurants, closed one, had hundreds of fights, well we’re half Italian after all but lots of happy times. Being married is tough, the pressures of a family can be hard add into the mix working with your partner in business and you can see the pressure starting to bubble. Wise words from Nonna Olivia have kept us together, never go to bed on an argument, always touch toes. Touching toes is our secret recipe to a happy marriage. I’ll definitely be sharing that recipe with our children.
These can be made in advance and then heated up in the oven. They are lovely with a spicy dip or any pesto. I also make these for Victor when I’m needed to do a bit of toe touching!
1 x small cauliflower, break the florets into pieces but try not to crumble the flowers
3 x free range eggs
2 tablespoons of plain flour
1 teaspoon of salt
freshly ground pepper
large handful of chopped parsley, leaves only
olive oil for frying
- Blanch the cauliflower in boiling salted water until cooked
- Drain and let aside
- In a large bowl beat the eggs and add the flour, parsley and season with salt and freshly ground pepper.
- add the cauliflower and gently coat in the egg mixture
- Heat a frying pan and add enough oil to coat the bottom of the pan.
- Add a floret of the cauliflower that’s been well coated in the egg batter. Gently fry until golden, turning to make sure all sides are toasted.
- Continue until all cooked and serve with a salsa or pesto
Ham & Egg Pie
We never have a party without a Pastone, or ham and egg pie. It’s great cold so perfect for a picnic, packed lunch or a family buffet.
3 x 100g fresh ricotta
100g grated Parmigiano Reggiano or Corra Linn
100g thick-cut ham (preferably thetrimmings from the ham on thebone), cut into small cubes or smoked pancetta
100g cured Italian sausage or Chorizo
2 sprigs of rosemary, leaves only, very finely chopped
sea salt flakes and freshly ground black pepper
unsalted butter, softened, for greasing
500g ready-made puff pastry
flour, for dusting
egg wash made from 1 egg, beaten
- In a large bowl, crumble the ricotta until it is loose add the grated cheese. Break in the eggs and mix until they are incorporated. Add the sausage, ham and rosemary. Adjust the seasoningand mix well. Set aside.
- Preheat the oven to 200ºC/400ºF/Gas 6 and grease a 30 cm pie tin ( preferably one with a loose bottom) with the softened butter. Roll the pastry out on a large floured surface so you haveenough to cover the bottom and sides of the tin.
- Ensure there is also just enough pastry hanging over the edge of the tin so the mixture does not slip over the rim and stick the pie to the tin.
- Line the tin with the pastry. Place the filling in the pastry-lined tin. Trim the edges.
- Bake in the preheated oven for 25 minutes. The pie will start to colour. Reduce the heat to180ºC/350ºF/Gas 4.
- Bake for 10 minutes more. The pie will have a bounce like a quiche on topto the touch, a lovely golden brown, and will smell heavenly. Allow to cool for 10 mins then remove from the tin and allow to cool on a wire cooling rack. Cool for 15 – 20 minutes before cutting. This pie easily lasts for two days if you cover it with tinfoil as soon as it is cool.
When we have a party I try and make a selection of meringues as they look pretty and can keep most of the family happy. Plain ones for the children, rosewater or orange water for the grannies as it usually matches their perfume and fancy nut ones for the other grown ups.
The trick with meringues is to add the sugar, slowly, slowly, slowly. It makes all the difference.
Makes 8 – 10 fabulous meringues
Weigh just the whites of 3 organic free-range eggs. 100g finely ground pistachios. Make sure they are at room temperature
Weigh double the weight of white caster sugar
Pinch of salt
Beat the egg whites and the salt until stiff. You’ll need a hand mixer or a table top mixer is ever better. Beat the sugar in a teaspoon at a time. The mixture should be firm and light. Finally fold in the ground pistachios. Spoon small ladles of the mixture onto a baking sheet lined with parchment. Place in a pre heated oven gas mark 2 and turn the oven off. Leave in the oven for 1 1/2 hour if you like them chewy or over night if you like the meringues dry.