LIGURIA MARE - step by step instructions

Liguria is an emerald gem of a region – what one of my good friends would describe as one of ‘God’s thumbprints’ on the earth. On occasion I will stay in the harbour town of Camogli - mainly in order to hike the promontory to the Ristorante Giorgio on the secluded beach of San Fruttuoso. Here, seated on a wooden terrace high above the gentle waves, plate after plate of marine treasures is laid before me: spaghetti alle vongole, the sauce stained green with pesto Genovese; raw prawns and langoustines, denuded of their shells and anointed with Ligurian oil; a fritto misto of tender young squid, anchovies and more of those shellfish, all lounged on crisp, young lettuce, ready to be scoffed. I cannot bring you the sea breeze, the warm air, or the delicate splash of waves lapping the rocks below me – but I can bring you the food and wine of this beautiful land; farinata with verdant runner beans, turbot baked with sweet tomatoes and Genovese basil, and camogliesi, fat little choux buns stuffed with chocolate. 

For your meal you will need:

  • A frying pan or small oven tray for the farinata
  • An oven tray for the turbot
  • A saucepan for warming the mash
  • A wooden spoon and a palette knife

The detailed recipes for the dishes are below, but in essence:

  • Let all the ingredients come up to room temperature
  • Heat your oven to 220C (fan) or 230C (static)
  • Cook the farinata and dress the salad, then eat
  • Bake the turbot, surrounded by the tomatoes & olives
  • Warm the mash in a pan
  • Chop the tomatoes, and dress them
  • Eat the turbot, mash & salad, then the pud

 

Farinata with runner beans, anchovy, lemon & pine nuts

Farinata is a wonderful Ligurian specialty, an oily and rich pancake, dense with chickpea flour and aromatic with rosemary. Dating back to Roman times, it is a feature of all the cuisines spread along this section of coast – from France to Tuscany – but no-one makes it as well as the Genovese. Here, we have it with a very Riviera-y salad of finely sliced beans, delicate basil, and salted anchovies, and it is superb.   

Your pack serves two and contains:

  • Farinata batter (a mix of chickpea flour, water, rosemary, oil & salt)
  • A little fine olive oil
  • Some runner beans, thinly sliced and blanched
  • Toasted pine nuts & fresh basil
  • A dressing of chopped salted anchovy & Sorrento lemon

Direction:

  • Preheat your oven to 220C
  • Decant the batter into a bowl, and give it a good stir with a wooden spoon
  • If using a frying pan – 8in or so diameter (20cm)
    • Heat the pan over a medium heat till hot but not smoking
    • Add half the oil (save the rest for the salad), then the farinata batter – it should be about 4mm thick, so cook in batches if your pan is small
    • Turn the heat to medium-low and cook for 2-3 minutes, until the base is coloured but not too dark, then transfer the whole pan to the oven to cook for a further 4-5 minutes
    • Remove from the oven, turn out onto a plate, and serve warm
  • If using an oven tray (22x15cm or so)
    • Heat the tray in the oven till very hot, then add the oil
    • Return the tray to the oven to heat the oil for a minute or two, then add the farinata mix
    • Pop back in the oven and cook for 6-8 minutes until pale gold and just firm
  • Meanwhile, dry the beans a little (on a clean tea towel), then put them & the pine nuts into a mixing bowl, then tear in the basil
  • add the anchovy & lemon to the salad, and the remaining oil, and mix well
  • Serve the farinata cut into wedges with the salad alongside

    Turbot with tomato, olives, pine nuts & olive oil mash

    The waters on Italy’s western seaboard are blessed with all types of exciting fish – but perhaps the finest of all is Turbot. Its rich and succulent flesh is superb – and for the home cook, far more forgiving than seabass or red mullet. I like it grilled, or poached, or steamed – or as here, roasted, surrounded by sweet datterini tomatoes & salty wild black olives, and perfumed with Ligurian basil.

    Your pack serves two and contains:

    • 2 fat tranches of turbot, on the bone
    • Sliced datterini tomatoes & wild black olives
    • Toasted pine nuts & fresh basil
    • Some fine olive oil
    • Waxy potatoes, mashed with more fine olive oil

       Directions:

      • Preheat your oven to 220C (fan) or 230C (static)
      • Season the turbot well with salt & pepper
      • Sit this on your oven tray, nestle the tomatoes & olives around then dot with the pine nuts
      • Pour over half the oil
      • Bake for 15 minutes then check if it is done (this will vary depending on oven strength and turbot thickness) – it is ready just as the flesh starts loosening from the bone. If it needs longer, return to the oven for a few minutes then check again.
      • Remove from the oven, then pour over the remaining oil & tear over the basil
      • Meanwhile, put the mash in a sauce pan
      • Heat over a medium heat, stirring from time to time, until hot through – this will probably take 5-6 minutes or so (or pop it into a bowl and microwave it)
      • Serve the fish with its sauce, and the mash on the side

      Merinda tomatoes, olive oil & basil 

      Crunchy, mildly acidic & saline, these tomatoes are very different to their plump summer brethren, and to my mind, superior. They are at their best when part green, part red, and offer a fantastic crunch and deeply savoury flavour. Tossed with a little good oil and fresh basil, they form the simplest and most beautiful salad of all.

      Your pack serves two as a side and contains:

      • Some merinda tomatoes
      • A little fresh basil
      • Some beautiful olive oil

      Directions:

      • Remove from the fridge at least 30 minutes before eating
      • Chop into rough chunks
      • Season well with coarse salt, tear in the basil and douse with some of the oil (you’ll probably have a little spare – use it for dunking bread)

      Camogliesi al rhum

      Camogliesi are, like all the best things, a 70’s invention designed to lure in tourists – originally from Pasticceria Revello in Camogli, a small town just a few kilometres up the coast from Portofino, they were a way to give the town its own distinctive product, and so give tourists a reason to wander in. They worked – so much so that now not only are these butch choco-coated profiteroles richly stuffed with choco-rum ganache, but the people of Camogli are too. 

      Your pack serves two and contains:

      • Four little camogliesi

      Directions:

      • Remove from the fridge at least 30 minutes before eating, or better yet, 1-2 hours
      • Serve on plates
      • Scoff

      ENJOY