Thursday, 25 January 2018

Fegatini Di Pollo in Swinging London

This is part two of my very short series of the Italian recipes that I felt I finally needed to write down. Like the caponata recipe I'm afraid it's probably a little elegiac in tone. I suppose that's what happens when you're as ancient as me. Never mind, it's the food that matters.

Alvaro Maccioni was one of the food celebrities in Britain through the 1960s and 70s. It's generally accepted wisdom that food in England was rubbish during that period but I'm not completely convinced. I admit there were certainly some highly questionable and eccentric restaurants around at the time but Maccioni's La Famiglia just off the King's Road definitely wasn't one of them. It tended to attract a celebrity crowd and hard up, scruffy people like me didn't necessarily eat there often - well, OK I did once or twice. Maccioni was a great advocate of authentic, delicious and often quite simple Tuscan food. Ahead of his time in many ways and hugely influential, he sadly left us in 2013, although La Famiglia is still there and carrying on the tradition if you'd care to visit.

This dish reminds me of Maccioni because I first came across a version of it in one of his books. Admittedly, this is my interpretation and not his recipe and probably not similar to the food served back then. Oddly, I've just realised that I have a signed copy of one of his books on my shelf but how I ended up with it is one of life's mysteries. My memory's not what it was and my excuse is that I was around in the 60s. At least I think I was.

This is easy to make, very delicious and is often claimed to be the inspiration for all French pâté. Well, maybe. This should serve 4 - 6 as a starter or as part of a simple lunch.
Fegatini Di Pollo

1 medium leek, finely chopped (don't use the tougher green bits)
1 or 2 sticks of celery, very finely chopped
½ medium carrot, very finely chopped
250 g chicken livers, prepared (in other words cleaned and with any nasty-tasting bits removed)
3 tbsp olive oil (this doesn't need to be your best extra virgin)
150 ml white wine
2 tbsp capers, washed, drained and chopped
1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1 tsp finely chopped parsley
1 tsp finely chopped chives
1 or 2 generous squeezes of lemon juice
Baguette or other suitable bread to serve

Fry the leek, celery and carrot in the 3 tbsp of olive oil until softened. It's best to do this on a low to medium heat and take your time over it. You want to soften the veg and not colour it. If the livers are on the large size, then chop them into 2 or 3 pieces and add to the pan. Continue to fry, stirring a lot, until the livers have taken on an even colour all over. Add the wine, increase the heat a little and keep cooking and stirring until the wine has reduced by about half. Add the capers and season with a generous amount of black pepper. (Don't add salt at this stage since the capers are likely to be quite salty). Continue cooking and stirring until the wine has almost gone.

At this point anyone with a deep respect for tradition will tell you to take the livers out of the pan and chop them thoroughly by hand. To be honest, I use an electric hand blender and whizz until smooth (or as smooth as you'd like it to be). Either way, return the liver mixture to the pan and stir in the tablespoon of extra virgin olive oil. (You could also add a little butter at this stage if you fancy a richer result). 

Reheat the mixture gently. If it seems very firm then stir in a little water - it should be thick and creamy but not solid. Immediately before serving stir in the parsley, chives and lemon juice. Check the seasoning.

Serve while still hot (or at least warm) by spreading a generous dollop onto toasted slices of baguette, or whatever bread you fancy. You could rub the bread with a peeled and halved clove of garlic before adding the liver mixture if the mood takes you.

Just over a year ago we lost Peter Sarstedt who had a song that always makes me think of those very old days. If anyone wants me I'll be in Roger's old Jag driving round swinging London.

8 comments:

  1. Phil, sounds delicious. I've never heard of Maccioni before, and now I'm intrigued -- everything about the London of that era intrigues me. I can't tell you the last time I heard or read the word 'elegiac,' and I must thank you for using it here!

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    1. At the time Maccioni was probably known at least as much for the celebrities that were attracted to his restaurant as the food he served but I'm usually more impressed by food than celebrities. Thanks for noticing the use of of the word 'elegiac'. I found a box full of outmoded words in an antique shop and I'm gradually making my way through them.

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  2. chicken liver lover... this is beautiful... I need to research Maccioni!

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    1. If you research on line then I imagine you'll find a lot of pictures of celebrities and more than a few sports cars. The very fine food often tends to disappear in the mix.

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  3. I agree that the 60's and 70's were not the gastronomic wasteland that everyone makes out and am delighted that so many classics are coming back into fashion. I remember when a plate of paté served with toast was a sophisticated starter - or at least I thought so the first few times I ate out properly, in a restaurant, as opposed to just ham salad and a cake in seaside tearooms!

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    1. The idea that food in Britain was always really bad back then seems to have become the officially accepted version of history and is often repeated by people who weren't alive at the time. London wasn't typical of the rest of the country I admit, but there was good food around if you looked for it. Although some of it certainly wasn't cheap. I remember eating paté with toast quite often and I also remember that it was often really good paté. I remember avocado on toast too despite the fact that it's promoted as something only discovered in the last few years. The thing that annoys me most, though, is the assertion that you could only buy olive oil at the chemists. I suppose that might have been true way back before my time but obviously nobody went into the same delis as I did in the 60s and 70s. Sorry, that's the end of my rant - for now.

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  4. Maccioni was new to me too. Sounds good. Wasn't anywhere near London in the swinging 60s, so missed out on a lot! Wales didn't swing to the same tune! This recipe sounds something I'd love to eat.

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