The taste of Italy brings winter cheer

Apart from brief glimpses of sunshine with sub-zero temperatures, November has been cold, winter has officially arrived. We need food to sustain and tempt us but comfort food does not have to be heavy and dull. It should contain a range of subtle flavours but plenty of carbohydrates to keep us going.

Seeking inspiration, I visited the Canteen Deli in Rock Street, Brighton. More of a food emporium, it is stocked from floor to ceiling with mouth-watering goodies. I bought some strong white flour to make my focaccia and some beautiful yellow polenta flour. Eaten throughout the Italian Alpine region, polenta is well-suited to cold climates. The only difficulty in cooking it is that you have to stand over the pot stirring continuously. It is well worth the effort because polenta takes on all the flavours added to it, soaking them up like a sponge and giving out in the eating.

Potato gnocchi, delicious little dumplings, have the same quality. The bitter/crisp taste of chicory is a perfect contrast to the doughiness of the main dish and compliments the flavours in the sauce. This is a menu inspired by Italy and adapted to a cold British winter.



Recipe of the Week: Potato and Rosemary Gnocchi + Sweet Pepper Sauce

Potato & Rosemary Gnocchi


1 tbs rosemary, finely chopped

500g starchy potatoes (Duke of York, Romano or King Edward)

100g plain flour

75g fontina cheese or 1 mozzarella, roughly chopped

salt and black pepper



  1. Place the potatoes in a large plan, cover with water and boil in their skins. Sieve the flour onto the work surface and season well.
  2. When the potatoes are done, remove and peel away the skin with fingers or a small pairing knife. Place in a mouli (vegetable mill) and press together over the flour.
  3. Finely chop the sage and sprinkle on top of the potato and flour. Using your hands, knead the ingredients together until a firm dough is formed. Use extra flour if necessary.
  4. Mould small amounts (about a dessert spoonful) into round dumplings. Bring a large pan of water to a boil, lower to a simmer and drop in the dumplings a few at a time.
  5. As they come to the surface, scoop them out with a slotted spoon and drain on some kitchen roll.
  6. Put into the dish of sweet pepper sauce and cover with a little chopped fontina cheese or mozzarella.
  7. Place in the oven until bubbling and cheese has browned and enjoy!


Sweet Pepper Sauce


1 red pepper

1 tbs light olive oil

1 medium onion

2 cloves of garlic, crushed

150g passata

150g chicken stock

handful of basil leaves

salt and black pepper



  1. Roughly chop the peppers and onion, heat a deep frying pan or sauteuse, add the oil and sweat off the peppers and onion until soft.
  2. Add the passata and stock, season well and stir. Put on a lid and cook gently for another 20 mins.
  3. Pour into a food processor or blender and puree. Correct the seasoning, add the basil and give another quick whisk in the blender.
  4. Keep the sauce in a serving dish & add the gnocchi.