This pizza and roman chicken and chips are great comfort foods

For Irish people particularly, Rome immediately conjures up images of the Vatican and St. Peter’s square. 

Been there, done that, a long time ago so this time I had a two day stop over on the way to Sicily. 

The main focus of this visit was to see the Sustainable Food Project at the American Academy in Rome and to taste one of my favourite pasta dishes cacio e pepe at source. 

The latter wasn’t a great success, I tried several versions none of which were nearly as delicious as Rita Soda’s version I ate at Soda in Manhattan.

The American Academy was established at the end of the 18th century at the top of Janiculum Hill just behind the Fontanele, in the midst of beautiful gardens with mature trees, an olive grove, vegetable beds and an orchard of peaches, plums and apricots.

The Sustainable Food Project at the Academy was founded in 2007 under the guidance of Alice Waters from Chez Panisse, Berkeley in California. 

It provides the community of fellows and artists, writers, scholars, historians, architects, astronomers: Passionate brilliant, intelligent people with seasonal nutritious and utterly delicious food. 

It is fulfilling the Academy’s aim to provide a replicable model of simple sustainable food for other like-minded institutions. 

We’ve had a link with the American Academy for almost a decade but I’d never been there so it was especially nice to put a face to the name of the people I’d been corresponding with for years. 

Laura Offeddu is the manager, and Chris Behr the chef who guides a whole team of interns, two of whom are past students from the Ballymaloe Cookery School, Clementine Hain Cole and Freddie Woodruff. 

We had a delicious lunch at the long table under the arches in the courtyard that seats close to a hundred people. 

Simple delicious food, a cold zucchini soup, a salad, a pasta and a fresh cherry compote with housemade yoghurt. 

We stayed in a little hotel, Hotel Donna Camilla Savelli, in Travasera, in an old convent with a church off reception and a delightful little courtyard with lots of white hydrangeas and trees to shelter from the intense sun.

It’s just minutes from the centre, so worth getting in your diary. 

Any guide book will tell you about the awe inspiring history, architecture and iconic buildings of Rome but here’s a cook’s tour of the Italian capital.

First stop a market - Campo de’Fiori is now a tourist hot spot although there are some food stalls, you are unlikely to find anything of real interest. 

Real farmers and food producers can’t afford to trade there so seek out other local markets to get a glimpse of how and what real Romans eat. 

I went to the market in Testaccio, it’s a permanent covered market with row after row of produce, butchers, fishmongers.

If you want to make the best of a foodie trip to Rome, contact Katie Parla, www.katieparla.com 

She whizzed us around to some of the very best food shops and cafes. 

In La Tradizione, I bought a superb Pecorino aged in the time honoured way in a timber box with aromatic herbs and also tasted a variety of other Italian artisan cheeses. 

Then on to Pizzarium, Bonci on Via della Meloria I tasted the very best pizza I have ever eaten. 

At his bakery on Via Trionfale one can buy really good bread and food to go including Roman chicken and chips which is bound to become your favourite comfort food. 

Bonci is a well-known TV chef in Italy who works with small producers and farmers who grow ancient cereals and grains. 

We also loved the fantastic ice cream and granitas at Carapina.

You can’t visit Rome without eating gelato and put Supplizio on your list also for the best suppli and arancini.

Roman Chicken and Chips

This pizza and roman chicken and chips are great comfort foods

Serves 6-8

Chicken thighs, drumsticks, wings

8 large potatoes

Salt

Freshly ground pepper

Thyme

Rosemary

Onion

Extra virgin olive oil

Season the chicken heavily with salt and freshly ground black pepper. 

Put into a bowl and scatter with lots of thyme. Toss well.

Peel the potatoes, cut into thick chips. 

Dry and season well with salt and freshly ground pepper and thyme. Add to the chicken.

Drizzle with extra virgin olive oil.

Preheat the oven to 230C/450F/gas mark 8.

Spread out onto a roasting tin.

Drizzle with a little more extra virgin olive oil. 

Roast for 45 minutes or until the chicken is cooked through and the chips are crispy at the edges.

Serve with a good green salad and several vegetables of your choice.

Garden Café Pizza Dough

This pizza and roman chicken and chips are great comfort foods

The beauty of this recipe is that it is so quick and easy, using this fast acting yeast does away with the first rising. 

By the time your tomato sauce is bubbling in the oven your pizza base will be ready for its topping!

Makes 8 x 25cm 10inch pizzas

680g (1½lbs) strong white flour or 600g (1¼ lb) strong white flour and 110g (4oz) rye flour

50g (2oz) butter

1 packet fast acting yeast

2 level teaspoons salt

15g (½oz) sugar

2-4 tablespoons olive oil

450 – 500ml (16-18 floz) lukewarm water – more if needed

In a large wide mixing bowl sieve the flour and add in the salt, sugar, rub in the butter and fast acting yeast, mix all the ingredients thoroughly.

Make a well in the centre of the dry ingredients, add the oil and most of the lukewarm water. 

Mix to a loose dough. You can add more water or flour if needed.

Turn the dough on to a lightly floured work top, cover and leave to relax for about five minutes.

Then knead the dough for about ten minutes or until smooth and springy (if kneading in a food mixer with a dough hook, 5 minutes is usually long enough).

Leave the dough to relax again for about ten minutes. 

Shape and measure into 8 equal balls of dough each weighing approximately 150g (5oz). Lightly brush the balls of dough with olive oil.

If you have time, put the oiled balls of dough into a plastic bag and chill. 

The dough will be easier to handle when cold but it can be used immediately.

On a well floured work surface roll each ball in to about 25cm (10inch) disk. 

I find it convenient to pop a few rolled out uncooked pizza bases into the freezer. 

You can take one out, put the topping on and slide it straight into the oven. What could be easier!

This dough also makes delicious white yeast bread which we shape into rolls, loaves and plaits.

Gabriele Bonci’s Pizza with Tomato Sauce and Anchovies

This pizza and roman chicken and chips are great comfort foods

1¾ lb (800g) fresh anchovies

2 lemons

Extra virgin olive oil, to taste

500 ml (18 fl oz) white wine vinegar

1 (12 oz) ball white pizza dough

18 oz (500 g) canned peeled tomatoes

Fine sea salt, to taste

1 head garlic

Freshly ground black pepper, to taste

¼ cup loosely packed flat leaf parsley leaves, minced

Preheat the oven to 220C-250C (450F-475F).

Clean, butterfly and bone the anchovies. Arrange them in a non-reactive pan in a single layer. 

Zest ½ lemon and set aside for finishing the pizza. Juice both lemons, whisk the juice with a generous amount of oil and vinegar and pour the liquid over the fish. 

Cover and marinate until the flesh of the anchovies has turned white, about 20 minutes.

Stretch the dough out and place in a well-oiled pan. In a small bowl, combine the tomatoes with some oil and salt. 

Spread the tomato mixture over the dough by hand, crushing the tomatoes between your fingers as you drop them into the dough. 

Break up the garlic and scatter the unpeeled cloves over the tomato sauce.

Bake the pizza until golden brown and well risen, about 25 minutes.

Remove the pizza from the oven and arrange the anchovies on top. 

Season with pepper, the reserved lemon zest and a drizzle of oil and the parsley. Serve hot.

Gabriele Bonci’s Spicy Pizza with Eggplant and Burrata

1 (12 oz/350g) ball white pizza dough

Extra virgin olive oil

1 lb (500 g) eggplant

Fine sea salt, to taste

10 oz (300 g) burrata, chopped

Red chilli flakes, to taste

Preheat the oven to 220C-250C/450F-475F.

Stretch out the dough and place in a well-oiled pan. 

Thinly slice the eggplant into rounds and toss them with a small amount of oil and salt. 

Arrange the eggplant rounds on top of the dough.

Bake the pizza until golden brown and well risen, about 25 minutes.

Remove the pizza from the oven and arrange the cheese on top. Sprinkle with chilli flakes.

HOT TIPS

Transition Year Cookery Course:

It doesn’t matter whether you wish to be an astronaut or a GP, everyone needs to be able to cook. 

In response to numerous requests two five-day cookery courses for Transition Year students are being held from Monday, July 25 to Friday, July 29 or Monday, August 1 to Friday, August 5. Very limited numbers. www.cookingisfun.ie 

Kids in the Kitchen:

Kids absolutely love to sieve, knead, roll, measure and mix. 

It’s hugely important to teach them at this young age to develop a life-long love of food and cooking, to develop good eating habits in a fun and engaging way. 

On Monday, August 8, students will be taught to cook a range of simply delicious foods for friends and family. 

They will spend a busy morning cooking, before enjoying a lunch of what they’ve made. After lunch the scraps will be fed to the hens and there will be an opportunity to see the vegetables growing in the glasshouses. 

This is an action-packed day of delicious learning and fun. 

www.cookingisfun.ie 

The Fit Foodie:

Derval O’Rourke’s new book has just been published. She discovered the importance of nutrition as an elite athlete and believes eating well made all the difference to her form. 

The Fit Foodie is full of simple, delicious and totally doable recipes such as Laid Back Lamb Tagine, Mediterranean Salmon and Spaghetti, Butternut and Bean Stew and Chocolate Fondant Cake. 

Derval also shares smart and inspiring advice on how to get organised, so that good food and exercise is a seamless part of your life. Published by Penguin Life.

Date for your Diary:

A Taste of West Cork Food Festival, September 9–18, in Skibbereen brings together a unique mix of food markets, demonstrations, cookery competitions, special dinners, brunches and banquets, food talks, tastings and lots more. 

www.atasteofwestcork.com 


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