A couple of weeks ago I had the joy of dining at the really rather marvellous Polpo restaurant in Soho. I enjoyed a few drinks beforehand in the Polpo’s basement Campari Bar and then had the most delicious meal upstairs with my friend Adam and Chris Pine. Well, he was sat at the table next to us and he spoke to us so yes, that’s my story.
The food at Polpo was excellent; we ate pork and fennel meatballs, arancini, calamari, parsley and radish salad, bread and tomato salad, lamb, and a braesola, parmesan and rocket pizzetta. I was so taken with my meal at Polpo that the following day I went directly to Foyles book shop on Charing Cross Road and bought the cookbook!
Since buying it, it has been sat next to my bed for a spot of light bedtime reading but yesterday I finally put it to good use and cooked a Polpo dinner for my awesome friend, the one and only Miss Rosie Woods.
I spent Friday evening on my sofa pouring over the recipes and choosing my menu. It was an extremely difficult decision – so many wonderful recipes to choose from. I settled on an almost entirely vegetarian menu (apart from the volume of parmesan that I put in pretty much everything, it wasn’t a night for anyone who doesn’t like cheese), but don’t worry, I did make the pork and fennel meatballs. I was tempted to try my hand at a little white bean emulsion but decided that it wasn’t going to necessary.
We started proceedings with a kir royale each and then polished off the rest of the bottle of champagne while I finished preparing the food before moving onto a delicious bottle of white that Rosie had brought with her. On this occasion she shunned her native New Zealand for a rather drinkable little French Sauvignon Blanc.
So my menu last night:
Spicy pork and fennel polpette in tomato sauce
Courgette, basil and parmesan salad
Rocket and walnut pesto crostini
Aubergine and parmesan wraps
Goat’s cheese, roasted grape and walnut bruschette
Flourless chocolate and hazelnut cake with vanilla mascarpone ice cream
You’re probably thinking, my that’s a lot of food for two people and you would be right, it was and there was a rather a long pause between finishing the bulk of the meal and eating dessert but I don’t think that anyone really cared. Polpo say to serve the chocolate and hazelnut cake with a mascarpone cream but I decided to make an ice cream to accompany mine; I have written the recipe out for you below.
Favourites? I would have to say the goat’s cheese, roasted grape and walnut bruschette, (I know, weird huh? I don’t even like goat’s cheese), the polpette and the mozzarella bocconcini. If you decide to ever make these, my recommendation would be to make a lot of them. You won’t regret that decision.
I can’t recommend the Polpo cookbook enough, the recipes are delicious and easy to follow and all things considered, they’re not particularly fiddly.
Vanilla mascarpone ice cream
5 eggs yolks
1 pint of whole milk
250g tub of mascarpone
225g caster sugar
1 vanilla pod, seeds scraped
Pour the milk into a large saucepan and add the mascarpone. Scrap the seeds from a vanilla pod straight into the milk and mascarpone milk and then drop in the pod as well. Heat very gently stirring occasionally so that the mascarpone melts. Continue heating the milk mixture to just below boiling point.
Whisk the egg yolks and sugar together until pale, thick and creamy. This will take quite a while so if you’ve got a stand mixer then I recommend using it. Otherwise, use an electric hand mixer.
Fish the vanilla pod out of the milk mixture and pour on to the eggs and sugar, whisking the whole time, before returning it to the pan.
Heat gently stirring constantly until the mixture is thick enough to coat the back of a spoon. Keep the heat low and be patient, it’s the best way to avoid it overheating and splitting.
Once the mixture has thickened, leave to cool before churning in an ice cream maker.