You know what I’ve missed the most today?
The gone off section in the supermarket.
Maybe because I’ve had one of those days where I feel like I’ve not actually talked to anyone else, I was wandering around the supermarket having one of those internal pity parties, looking for some comfort food to cheer me up tonight.
Initially I wanted to make risotto alla milanese, my current go to comfort dinner. The kind of dinner you crave when you’ve had one of those days at work where you want to cheese grate your face off. Copious amounts of saffron and a f*ck ton of cheese. Then I saw the price of saffron over here. Now it’s expensive at the best of times, but I’m sure it’s cheaper in England, plus that’s for Iranian saffron, the good sh*t. Not some powdered bustina of questionable origin. Now I’m not saying I don’t trust the Italians on their saffron, but let’s face it, no one beats the Iranians on their saffron game. No one.
Then I realised that there were still some dried porchini mushrooms at home, plus some truffle cream – bonus!
So I’m cool, got dinner sorted, now I want dessert. When I say dessert, I mean chocolate. I wander the chocolate aisle. I say aisle, I mean section, like tiny portion of aisle section. I thought better of you Italy. There’s not a great deal of choice. Now again, maybe it’s because it’s the run up to Christmas and I’m broke and watching the pennies more, maybe it’s Brexit screwing us over on the value of the pound, but I was not prepared to pay 2€ for a small bar of mediocre chocolate. My American friend Nicole asks me to send Cadbury’s chocolate in care packages and if I come to visit, I get it now. That’s exactly what I wanted, and precisely what I couldn’t find.
So, dejectedly, I roam from the chocolate section to the cakes, thinking I can treat myself to something even more indulgent. I mean it *has* been a pity party kinda day, right?? Cakes? Ha. No chance. Crostata, panettone, pandoro, yeah, all lovely in their own right, but it’s like I eat food from all over the world, love trying new flavours, new recipies, currently stuck in an Italian kinda cuisine rota, but when I’m sick, all I want is Indonesian chicken soup. The *ultimate* comfort food. So equally, when I’m having a pity party, I want cream cakes!
More specifically, I want to go to the gone off section in Asda, and pick up a 20p going off cream cake, to slightly diminish my guilt.
Even better if I can pick up some ‘fresh’ bread, some veg and a cream cake for less than a pound. It’s probably the Yorkshire girl in me, but a meal always tastes better on the cheap!
So where does the gone off food in Italy go?
Earlier this year, in August, Italy actually (very commendably) adopted a law that offers incentives to those firms that donate food to charities.
It also gives tax breaks for giving away food and removes a number of bureaucratic hurdles that made businesses wary about violating health and safety laws by donating food marginally past its sell-by date.
I mean, well done to Italy, because this is a real problem. I used to work for a well known coffee shop and we had to dispose of all the ‘out of date’ food at the end of a shift. And by dispose of I mean like actually slit the bags the sandwiches were in so that if some homeless/hungry person did happen to root through our bins, the sandwiches would be so messed up from used coffee grounds and general bin much that they’d have to be desperate to actually eat them…which presumably, if they were rooting through bins for food in the first place, they probably were. It was heartbreaking to throw away so much food and I’m not going to lie, we did used to take it away with us if we were on a closing shift and hand it out to the homeless in the city centre.
So, infact, if the food is going to the more vulnerable of society then fair play to the Italian supermarkets, but, selfishly, I’d still like first dibs on the out of date produce before it heads there, especially if it’s cream cakes!
Risotto con porcini e tartufo (for 1 portion, because you’re a lonely sad solitary pity party attendee)
Heat a good glug of olive oil in a pan and add a peeled clove of garlic to flavour the oil.
Dice half an onion and fry in the oil until soft. Then add 100g of risotto rice, turn up the heat and sweat this baby out with a glug of white wine if you desire.
Get some broth–brodo sorted out. This is a pity party, so we don’t have time to make it from scratch, throw in a stock cube to 1 litre of water and keep warm.
Meanwhile, soak those porchini mushrooms in some boiling water. There’s going to be some grotty stuff fall off them, so leave them to soak while you cook the rice.
Turn down the heat and start to add the brodo, 1 ladle at a time. Keep stirring. When the broth has totally been absorbed, add another ladle-full. It makes for a creamier risotto if you wait.
When the rice is soft, and all but 1 or so ladle full of the broth has been used, stir in your porchini mushrooms, with a bit of the top of the water they’ve been soaked in for flavour.
Turn off the heat, add a knob of butter, and let it rest a moment.
Then, if you’re feeling decadent, stir in some truffle oil or cream and some parmesan cheese.