I am in the Alps this week, in theory escaping from the Spanish heat to the glacial coolness of the mountains, but France is in the midst of a heatwave. Even so, the nights are lovely and cool.
The Mont Blanc Tunnel is only ten minutes away, so I love to go through for an Italian fix while I am here. The Aosta Valley is so beautiful with its grey stone houses topped with huge round slates that over time develop wonderful hues, castles and fortresses that in ancient, and probably not so ancient times, were bases from which to defend the valley and rushing rivers that even at this time of the year are frothing with melt water from high up the mountains. The steep sides of the valley are terraced and planted with neat rows of vines each with a pretty rose bush at the end to act as an early warning system for mildew. Lower down are orchards of fruit trees enclosed by dry stone walls that have been there for centuries. In the high alpine meadows graze herds of cattle which provide the milk for the best butter that I have ever tasted, and a range of distinctive cheeses. Bleu d’Aoste, Fontina and Fromadzo as well as fresh cheeses that have to be eaten within a couple of days of being made.
For me, one of the joys of travelling is to be able to sample fresh food in its place of origin. I love Mozerella di Bufala, which in theory is available outside Italy, but until you have tasted it in Italy, you haven’t really tried it. The lightness is just not equal in the Mozerella for export. A new find for me is Burratina, a variation of Mozerella that is even lighter and creamier in the centre. So I have to buy some to take back to France to share with my friends.
I am having a group of chums round so that I can catch up with them in my brief stay here. This is the dinner that I prepared for them.
To start a salad of Batavia, fresh and sundried tomatoes dressed with pesto, toasted local walnuts, all topped with a generous portion of Burratina.
Belly of veal in slices, 1 slice per person
Mortadella in a piece
Olive oil for frying
1 onion, finely chopped
5 cloves of garlic, finely chopped
fresh or dried thyme
salt and freshly ground black pepper
butter for frying
Cut each slice of veal belly in two. Cut the mortadella into batons that will fit with the width of the veal slices. Wrap the veal round the mortadella and secure with a cocktail stick. Season them with salt and pepper.
Heat the oil in a shallow pan that has a lid and will take all the rolls in one layer. Fry the rolls turning them to lightly brown them on all sides.
Add the chopped onions and garlic, and continue frying for five minutes.
Add the white wine to come to just over half way up the rolls. Add a pinch or two of thyme.
Cover and cook at a simmer for an hour, turning the rolls after half an hour. Turn the heat down to the minimum and continue cooking for another hour and a half. By this time the sauce should have reduced slightly and be a thicker consistency. If the sauce reduces too much and the dish becomes dry, add a little chicken stock or water.
Peel and slice the carrots. fry in butter in a covered pan turning from time to time until golden on both sides. Add to the veal rolls.
Cook the pasta in plenty of salted water to which a splash of olive oil has been added until al dente.
Remove the veal rolls to a warm dish and remove the cocktail sticks.
Add the pasta to the white wine sauce and stir to amalgamate.