‘Gallina vecchia fa buon brodo’ – an old hen makes good broth as the Italian saying goes, for it brings age and experience in the magic of food being medicine and comfort. (A good quality, free range chicken who’s led a pleasant, kind life in the outdoors and lived a bit longer is good too.) It’s been a while since I’ve roasted a whole chicken and made broth, something Granny Maddalena did as one of her remedies as the village witch. (Her chicken soup was said to cure her son, Elia from typhoid when a doctor couldn’t.)
Of course, Italians don’t follow written recipes but I was curious to find one for roast fowl with dripping in an Australian 1934 cookery book. My Italian-Australian version is somewhat different but simple with leaves of rosemary from the garden, olive oil, mountain pepper berries, lemon myrtle, saltbush and desert raisins sprinkled over top. What is left after the roast meat is eaten is all put in a pot with water and soffritto, that trio of carrots, onion and celery, simmered for hours then strained.
Whether as a clear soup or stock for risotto it is amazingly restorative – along with some cheery flowers on the kitchen table. For all of you, especially those who are finding times a challenge at present, wishing you a lovely day, the happiness of yellow flowers and good chicken soup. Zoe 💛 xx
Polpette and peas in gravy, such an ‘Australitaliano’ combination – meatballs and peas in tomato sauce. Comfort food at its best. Nanna Francesca cooked this a lot (and when I was a kid, I found it a bit confusing that, being southern Italian, she called the tomato passata or sugo – ‘gravy’ considering my Australian Mum called gravy a deep-brown liquid accompanying a roast). Nanna Francesca would’ve been 95 today so it seems fitting to cook her polpette e piselli in gravy. We always celebrated her birthday on the 12th, the day she was born though the official date on her birth certificate was the 19th (lodged late as her parents argued who to name her after). Tradition won, as did her father, and being the first-born, Francesca was named after her paternal grandmother.
This photograph of Nanna Francesca isn’t the clearest unfortunately, but she just looks so natural and happy in it, I couldn’t go past it. It’s from the 1960s and I love how the flowers she holds look like they’re from a garden rather than bought. It seemed all her life she worked so hard – at the farm, at home, in the fruit shop and milk bar, at the ANFE club and always looking after family. And she spent many hours at the stove cooking for four generations of us. It’s lovely to see her dressed to go out and given some flowers.
While it’s almost twenty years she’s been gone, I feel lucky to have had her in my life for the time I did and of course, the memory of our loved ones lives on, especially when we cook the dishes they cooked. (I’ve included the recipe that was printed in Delicious magazine and yes, the dish they made for the article photo is much more elegant than my at home version you see pictured here!)
Buon compleanno a mia Nonna, with love and recognition for all your love and hard work – and your polpette and peas in gravy! xx