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Italian Mashed Potato, Peas and Spinach

What is he on about? I mean Italian mashed potato has to be the same as the English variety, hasn’t it? Well, actually no, it’s not the same.  And nor is the way Italians cook vegetables for kids.

Italian mash goes by the rather exotic name of ‘Purè’.  This does not mean that it contains the omnipresent tomato, it just means that Italian mash is much more liquid than the English version. Should be really, sometimes Italians liquidize their potatoes.   The result is not bad.

Instead of peeling and boiling potatoes this evening, we cheated and made up a packet of the Italian equivalent of UK instant potato called Smash (Does Smash still exist?) and served it with our veal steaks.  Italy loves veal or ‘vitello’ in the local lingo, which also means ‘calf’, incidentally.  While it might seem the Boot is not a great place for vegetarians; which is no problem for me because I like meat; in actual fact, vegetarian food can be found – even if meat stock has to be watched out for.

The Argentinean steaks we get from the local Carrefour supermarket are absolutely wonderful.  If you like meat that is.  Funnily enough my little son seems to prefer vegetables to meat.  Whereas I hated peas and green beans, he laps them up.  I sometimes cook the greens in the same water as the pasta, at the same time, by the way.

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I don’t add salt to the water, just drop a piece of ‘brodo’ in there (a stock cube to you in the UK) and this gives the vegetables a more interesting flavor.  Shame that my mum never thought of this method  – all she served were boring boiled peas – which I detested.

Italians Make Greens Appeal to Kids

Peas, for example are sometimes cooked with little cubes of ‘pancetta affumicata’ – smokey bacon.  Now, I never really liked peas before I came here, but I love smokey bacon peas now.  To make spinach more interesting, mozzarella cheese is added to it – and children love it.

Vegetables seem to be cooked in much more imaginative ways in Italy compared to back in the UK and tend to appeal to kids more as a result.  Battles to persuade children to eat their greens as probably exceedingly rare in Italian households.

Hunting Rashers of Smokey Bacon

A quick word about smokey bacon while I’m sort of on the subject.  It is difficult to find rashers of the stuff here. You can get large pieces of it, as it is before it gets sliced and put under the plastic wrapping in UK supermarkets, I suppose.  It is possible to ask you local cold meat counter at the supermarket or local butcher to use the same slicing machine as they use for slicing cooked ham, prosciutto cotto and bresaola etc, to prepare you a few slices of this smoked bacon, although getting them to do it at the right thickness can be tough.  Explaining what you want puts your Italian through its paces, I can tell you.  However, some places, well, to be honest, one place, our local supermarket, actually refused to even attempt to prepare any rashers for me.  It was against shop policy or so they said.

Maybe at some point in the future I will add a list of stores in Milan which will prepare rashers of good old smokey bacon. Still, it’s not often that I get a hankering for smokey bacon, as there is plenty of other yummy stuff here to tingle those taste-buds.

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