Baked courgettes to start with #multifrychallenge

Courgettes with tuna

For the first meal as part of the seven day challenge for the De’Longhi Multifry Challenge, I’ve done something very NOT fried.

In fact there was no oil involved at all. It seems the name given to this piece of kit is somewhat misleading – it can be used as a workspace top cooker as much as a fryer.

Essentially it’s a cooking dish with a high powered element above and below.

imagesI choose this recipe from the app mainly because it was so simple – the courgettes are basically stuffed with a food processed mix of courgette flesh, tinned tuna, pine nuts and Grana Padano cheese. Baked for 25 mins and that’s it, a low cal simple meal.

I served them with a mixed salad and some seasonal Jersey Royals with parsley butter.

A few things to note on its first run out:

  • On the plus side, it’s really easy to clean with no messy attachments to worry about.
  • On the downside, it’s noisey. So are fan cookers but it was surprisingly loud for its small size.
  • I like the way the app recipes all come with a calorie guide – this dish just 127 cals per serving.

So first attempt was a success – I’ll try something a bit more complicated tomorrow.

Finding value for money eats in Venice

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Beautiful, memorable and endlessly interesting as Venice is, it’s not cheap for eating out. I’ve picked the three places below out for their value.

Living it up: Trattoria al Ponte del Megio, 
S. Croce, 1666.
This is my favourite of all the places I’ve eaten out in Venice. On several visits, over several years, this friendly trattoria on a canal junction is consistently good. Weather allowing, sit outside and watch the gondaliers (sometimes noisely) negotiate their right of way along the narrow canal or simply watch the passing parade of stylish people on a night out.
The menu always includes an interesting selection of specials alongside the usual local specialities of pasta with cuttlefish or clams.
This spring visit we were lucky enough to be just in time for that fleeting delicacy – fried courgette flowers. Light and crispy with each holding just a little anchovy stuffing. Sublime! Fresh fillets of John Dory or a simply grilled sea bream followed. The vegetable portions are simply cooked – in this case spinach, carrots and ratatouille but the fact the ingredients are so fresh means everything is bursting with flavour. The house prosecco – sold by the half litre jug – is good and dry and means that wine doesn’t need to set you back too much and the hosts always offer an end of meal liquer on the house. Our meal for five with drinks, two courses and side dishes came in at 170 euros.

Can’t go wrong with pizza:Pizzeria Accademia, Rio Terra Foscarini.
Essentially a snack bar, this is worth a visit on outside seating views alone. Nestled into the great Accademia bridge, it’s easily found after a day of art and next to the vaporetto stop of the same name. The pizza is good, but in a land where all pizza is good, it’s not exceptional. What is exceptional is a front seat to the spectator sport of watching the Grand Canal traffic. Maybe Venetians find this as interesting as a day out to watch the M6 but, for us visitors, bring able to see the gondaliers plie their trade alongside the utilities of a floting city provides an endlessly entertaining and colourful backdrop to a companiable lunch or early evening. Downsides are ever present birds around the table and lack of salad accompaniment options – it’s a giant salad for approx 10 euros (with cheese?) only. Wine’s on the pricier side at 10 euros for 0.5 litres, pizza in the 10-12 euro vicinty. Cash only.

Fed up of Italian food: Chinese Restaurant, The Frari.
I realise I’m risking the wrath of a nation here but…….some people do get fed-up with pasta and pizza even on their holidays – not me of course, you understand.
I’ve picked out this Chinese because it is exceptionally good value – most dishes are around the 5 Euro mark – but also because the staff are so accommodating and helpful. They will guide your choices should you wish and have some unusual dishes such as cuttlefish with green peppercorn alongside the more commonplace.

Other bits and bobs – we had intended to eat at the Trattoria San Toma which the guide book Chow Venice recommends for its impossibly light gnocchi but, sadly on our short break, it was always completely booked out so will have to wait for a return trip to sample. If you happen to eat there please do let me know if it’s worth the wait. A couple of general points about eating out in Venice – check the cover price. Usually there’s a euro or two to add to each person’s bill but in San Marco this can be boosted up to seven to pay for the benefit of having music in the cafe!
The local drink to ask for is a Spritz bitter, a refreshing Campari based drink usually served with an olive and at three euros is a value apperitif.

Buon appetito!