Posts Tagged ‘la famiglia’

This salad featured regularly at summer lunches, B.D. (Before Diagnosis!)

Back then I made it with roughly torn pieces of stale white ciabbata bread and sun-sweet tomatoes bursting with juice, assembled an hour or so before eating, dressed and turned over to let the juices do their work melding the oil and garlic and softening the bread.

It then sat, covered, ready for a proud presentation–convenient, as well as delicious.

But when white bread got the boot I was put off making it.

This week I remembered a version I’d had at La Famiglia (favourite Italian restaurant in London) years ago, made with neatly cut smaller pieces of bread that had been fried in olive oil. At the time I was disdainful of its inauthenticity (pompous thought!).

Reminded of how much I missed it, I tried it with a few neat pieces of the 100% organic rye bread I have for breakfast, dribbled with olive oil and browned in the oven for a few minutes.

It got the nod at lunch!


Though Meredith insists this is not worth doing with less than ripe tomatoes–je suis d”accord.

It’s a late summer salad–handy if you have a tomato glut.

for 2/3

3 slices of rye/ wholewheat bread–cut into small pieces

1 tbsp olive oil for tossing the bread in

1 lb ripe, sweet, delicious tomatoes–peeled and roughly chopped with their juice

half a cucumber–peeled and seeded and cut into four pieces


1 fat garlic clove

2 tbsp red wine vinegar

6 tbsp olive oil

salt and pepper

a handful of parsley–chopped

Turn on the oven to 220C/430F

Toss the bread pieces in a tablespoon of olive oil and spread them on a small oven tray and put it in oven as it heats up.

Check after ten minutes to see if the pieces have browned a little.

If so, take them out and let them rest or if not, cook on a few moments more.


Slice the peeled garlic clove as thin as you can.


Then add them to the bread.


Pile on the tomatoes and their precious juice.


Then the cucumber, in chunks…


Whisk together the oil, vinegar, salt and pepper and pour the dressing over the salad.

Having dutifully “followed my own instructions” I realised the plate I’d been assembling the salad on, though it looked good, was too small on which to turn the salad over comfortably!

So I slid it into a mixing bowl, turned it over thoroughly and then carefully back onto the plate. (An exercise a sensible forward-thinking person can avoid!)

Finished by sprinkling over with chopped parsley.

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Back in the days when I used to frequent Italian restaurants in London–

(frequent being the operative word, often seen in them in other words“Meesta Ailees–good to see you again!“–so flattering.)

chicken paillard with a side order of spagetti in tomato sauce was a regular choice. The combination felt very Italian though I’m still not sure about that*.

It was a specialty of the chef at La Famiglia in Chelsea,

where they also served the quaintly named teenage lamb cutlets–we knew what they meant, but it brought a smile.

It was/is owned by the now legendary Alvaro Maccioni.

Originally from Vinci, northwest of Florence, Alvaro learned his trade at Mario and Franco’s La Terrazza in Soho and before opening La Famiglia ran a nightclub on the King’s Road in the swinging Sixties.

A lot of Italian restaurants in London have lost touch with their roots. I say to my chefs that if you can cook like your mother then you are a good chef, but if you can cook like your grandmother then you are a great chef.

Sunday night was his night off;  he and his family always watched Poldark–he told me.

I was lunching there one day with Ralph Bates–villainous George Warleggan in the series.

Alvaro approached our table looking grim–offended even.

Whatsa thees?! Thees isa not right–you are ‘ere widge your enemee?”

A couple of weeks later Angharad Rees (aka Demelza) and I were at the same table.

A beaming Alvaro came over and said loudly, “Thatsa bedder–you are widge you’re a whyfe!

 Chicken Paillard

2 chicken breasts–fat removed

for the brief marinade 

2 tablespoons each of  olive oil and lemon juice plus the zest of a lemon–whisked together

salt and pepper

for a simple sauce

Whisk together:

1 tablespoon of lemon juice

3 tablespoons olive oil

salt and pepper

  • On a chopping board, lay out a sheet of clingfilm at least twice the width of the breast you are about to beat.
  • (Putting a folded dish cloth or drying cloth under the board helps to keep it in place).
  • Carefully place a breast in the middle of the sheet.
  • Lay a second sheet of the same size over the breast.
  • Using a rolling pin, mallet or similarly heavy kitchen utensil–beat the breast to flatten and widen it, taking care not to damage it.

beaten breast next to uneaten breast

  • Repeat the process with the second breast.
  • Peal back the clingfilm and place the first breast on a large plate.
  • Pour some of the marinade evenly over the chicken.
  • Place the second breast on top and pour over the rest of the marinade.
  • Move the breasts round some to coat them in the mixture and leave for half an hour.
  • Heat a grill pad or large frying pan on top of the stove.
  • Season the breasts and place them on the heat.
  • Two minutes each side should do it–though it depends on the thinness you’ve achieved, the thinner the quicker…
  • Remove to a serving plate and pour over some of the sauce.

A fresh green salad is a good accompaniment–and/or, as above, some beans.

* This is a question for regular commentator Beatrice Papi to answer perhaps–would this be a strange combination to ask for in Florence, Beatrice?

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