Italian in the Isle of Man

Italian in the Isle of Man
If I told you that the traditional dish of the Isle of Man was the grand choice between herring and boiled potatoes and chips with gravy and cheese you might get the idea that this place isn’t perhaps known for its grand haute cuisine. However that wasn’t why we were there, it was no Italy. But luckily we were provided with the most lovely selection of home cooked meals (particularly a melt in the mouth lamb shank, fluffy trifle and copious wine on the last night) and a few of us were impressed with the traditional kipper roll (gutted I missed this), manx beer (NOT me), goats milk strawberry cheesecake ice cream (definitely me), and of course the Manx Knobs (humbug like sweets). In fact we were given so much food, tea, cake and sandwiches here there and everywhere, that a walk up the ‘mountain’ was definitely well received.
One thing I can definitely attest to is the quality of the food in the Italian restaurant La Piazza in Douglas. Lovely and filling, the highlight was unfortunately dessert by which point I was really full, any other time I would have just eaten several portions of that! More later.
The choice of starters was unfortunately limited due to the lateness of the hour, but the newbie and I shared between us a rather disappointing Caprese salad (literally just mozzarella and tomato, no dressing or pesto or nothing) and retro vol au vents (two the size of a pie each) with a lovely creamy mushroom sauce, possibly again could have a done with a touch more seasoning. However I’m glad we shared because one of them alongside the considerably lighter salad was a better size for a starter than two giant puff pastries. Im likewise pleased I didn’t opt for the garlic bread as it was literally a pizza size, if I’d have had that alongside a second pizza…..

Talking of which I opted for the house specialty, classic margarita base with garlic butter and parma ham. It was very tasty, the garlic butter added an extra layer of flavour and the parma ham was very good quality, added at just the right moment. The main issue was again finishing my plate. I have always been the good little girl that finishes everything on my plate as my mother told me to…. in this case it was possibly a mistake. Likewise the newbie had a large plate of carbonara which she couldn’t finish but the historian next to me made solid work of the volcanic looking calzone. The best moment of the night was when the northerner got confused about the sea bass dish believing that bass couldn’t possibly be a fish, but rather a manxian assortment of seafood, I believe she was rather surprised when the dish arrived.


At this point the meal deteriorated as only choir tours can and a game of pass the string bean mouth to mouth. It was probably a good thing we were basically the only people left in the restaurant at this point, although I believe one unsuspecting customer was treated to possibly the loudest, most overly harmonised and operatic Happy Birthday she had ever heard…What happens when you mix a choir and wine.
Then came the grand finale, dessert. I wisely passed on the profiteroles (I believe a good profiterole is one in a million and as expected they were soggy and too much plain cream) and grudgingly passed on the pannacotta which ran out, although I was mainly excited by the jam smiley face, and was rewarded with one of the best tiramisu’s I have ever had. Rather than a disappointing mountain of plain whipped cream, soggy lady fingers and bitter cocoa powder, we were treated to a sweet boozy zabaglione (sort of custardy but sweeter and thicker) layered with spongy lady fingers, strong coffee and dark chocolate shavings. I could have eaten another couple. La Piazza I salute you

The Student 3-course meal

The Student 3-course meal

You know those days when you feel like celebrating (in my case recovering from the flu) but have no money and have left it a little too late to organise stuff with friends? Or perhaps you have just finished an essay and are only just realising that you want food and celebratory food? (or perhaps to speed the essay on its way?) Or maybe you forgot it was your anniversary, but the budget is limited….

Poor mans G+T
so you have no ice, the college accommodation you’re in only provides a paltry fridge the size of a shoebox which of course you have stuffed half of with beverages rather than food… In my case I’ve chosen to refrigerate the tonic, but refrigerating the gin works just as well, especially if your G+Ts tend to be Gin with a dash of tonic…..
I like using Sainsbury’s ‘London Gin’, one above the basics so it tastes slightly better (or if you have parents visiting stock your cupboard with something nice, my personal favourite being Tanqueray, don’t mean to sound like an advert but I can really taste the difference – can’t wait till their visit in two weeks….)
Tonic wise, the basics is fine, but again if you can afford it schweppes is nicer – slimline for the calorie conscious.
To really pimp up this drink, i like to use a dash of lemon juice, one of the squeezable lemons will do, I find my G+Ts are so far and few between any lemons I buy tend to turn a nasty shade of green before I get round to including them in my drink…..
Not quite Gourmet but highly passable.

Starter from the Cupboard
A starter made from a student store cupboard is tricky… but i managed to create one with virtually no prep as well.
Starting point, some sainsbury’s basics chopped tomatoes and some crisp bread.

Chopped tomatoes
1 chopped onion
2 chopped cloves garlic
vinaigrette made with 1/2 oil, 1/2 vinegar (balsamic if possible)
salt and pepper
(if you have basil even better)

Mix altogether and top the crisp bread

In pizza express they would charge you £4.80 for that (and this serves a lot more than one)

Main Course
I always tend to have cooked chicken (mostly because I don’t trust my fridge to not give me food poisoning if I keep raw meat in there constantly), and I try and keep onions, carrots and sweet potatoes in my cupboard because they always come in useful.
So Supper today is…Mashed Sweet Potato Balsamic roast and ricotta cheese

Chop onions and carrots, toss in oil, balsamic, salt and pepper. Place in a microwave proof dish and cover with cling film, pierced in various places. Cook on high for 7-10mins. Remove. Prick a sweet potato and place in the microwave for 6mins on high. Remove and replace carrots and onions in uncovered, cook for 2mins, then stir in chicken and cook for a further 2mins. Meanwhile scoop the mash out of the sweet potato skin, season with salt and pepper and butter (sometimes I add a spoonful of pesto but it’s fine without)
Serve all with a dollop of ricotta cheese on the side.

Dessert
Ok so it would be really easy to buy a pot of Gu and heat that up in the microwave and all that but this is cheap and chocolatey and easy, and you can even call it molecular gastronomy because it has an element of science….

Dark Chocolate and water. Melt over a pan of water in a bowl without stirring. Cool. Once Cool whisk together. To pimp it up add a little orange zest and top with creme fraiche.

A cheap and easy 3 course meal, using mostly store cupboard ingredients. Add a large glass of red wine for real celebration.