Frittata? That’d be lovely, ta…

Onion, potato and tomato frittata

“Frittata, light of my life, fire of my loins. My sin, my soul. Free-ta-ta: the tip of the tongue taking a trip of three steps down the palate to tap, at three, on the teeth. Free. Ta. Ta.”*

A long time ago I was deeply influenced by the writing of Marcella Hazan. She was, and remains, one of my favourite food writers; not just for her playful tone and homely style, but also for her authoritative standing on all things Italian-American. Our family used to holiday regularly in Italy when we were growing up, so the palates of Miss South and myself were honed through years of exposure to appreciate in simple yet perfect Mediterranean staples and delicacies. A Marcella cookbook or two always stood, well thumbed, on the kitchen bookshelf, and I’ve upheld this tradition since living here in England. I was given “Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking” many moons ago, and almost immediately alighted on the chapter on frittate. I fell in love and I’ve not looked back since.

A frittata is a kind of open Italian omelette. Its core component is egg: everything else is optional, and one of the joys of life is experimenting with different ingredients to see how they combine and contrast. Over the years the other fundamental I’ve settled upon is that of slowly browned, deliciously caramelised onions. I’m particularly partial to some steamed broccoli in there to add a bit of crunch and colour, but I’ve tried so many other ingredients and rarely has anything gone amiss. It’s also a great way to use up leftovers. Frittata is one of my ultimate kitchen standbys, and I find it’s much better when served cold. If you can bear to wait that long, that is. Perfect for picnics and packed lunches. Or a late night snack after rolling in from the pub…

Pextenement Cheese from Calderdale

I started off with half a dozen shallots and a red onion, thinly diced and slowly sautéing in a heavy based pan with some butter and olive oil. Slow, sloooow cooking is key here… you want to sweat the onion gently, rather than cook it to a crisp, to bring out those wonderful caramelised flavours. Normally I’m partial to using duck eggs to give a really light, creamy consistency, but today I used eight wonderfully fresh hens eggs from Height Top Barn, laid just yesterday.

One the egg’s loosely beaten, it’s time to add the cheese. Any hard cheese is well suited… personally I like the bite and tang of a strong cheddar or similar, paired with some percorino or parmesan to up the umami stakes. This time I used a mix of Parmesan and some Pike’s Delight, the Pextenement’s Cheese Company‘s new local hard cheese for the main base. To this I finished off the last of some French boar salami which I’ve had in the back of the fridge for a little too long, and some diced par-boiled spuds, again leftover from a previous meal. Adding potato takes this a little closer to a Spanish-style tortilla… but there’s nothing wrong with that in my book…

One thing to bear in mind when making frittata is to ensure the other ingredients have all cooled down before stirring them into the cheese and egg, otherwise you can get an unevenly cooked mix. Once your constituent parts are well combined pour into the pan, cook until the top of the mix has started to set, then finish off under the grill until set and browned. I added some halved cherry tomatoes, set into the mix, which added just enough piquancy and sweetness to play off the other ingredients. Looks lovely too. You really can’t go far wrong with a frittata…

Potato, tomato and salami frittata

* With apologies to Vladimir Nabokov…

2 replies
  1. Elly
    Elly says:

    I’m not prone to envy but my great-aunt (who cooks professionally) went on an Italian cookery course taught by Marcella Hazan. Yes, really.

    Apparently the course was amazing, she was terrifying and she smoked all the way through.

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