Looking at models on the runway, you might conclude that food and fashion make for unlikely bedfellows, but you’d be wrong. I don’t think it’s a coincidence that the world’s fashion capitals are also absolutely mad about their food. As cities, Milan, Paris, Tokyo and New York celebrate what they eat even more than what they wear.
And that makes sense. More than just fuel for the body and protection from the elements respectively, food and fashion are a celebration of our societies, our communities, and our very humanity. As our societies change, our preferences change along with them. And that changing fashion – whether in food or clothing – is what we call taste. Here are a couple of dishes from around Milan, the heart of Italian fashion. The original version of vitello tonnato is from Piedmont, just west of the city, and mascarpone originated in Lombardy, to Milan’s south-west. Put this supermodel of a tart at the centre of your next dinner party table and it’s sure to steal the show.
MELON AND BERRY MASCARPONE TART
It doesn’t get any easier than a pastry case filled with fresh seasonal fruit and glazed to a shine. You can buy a tart shell, but they’re very easy to make.
• ½ cup blueberries
• ½ cup raspberries
• 6 strawberries, halved
• ½ cup honeydew melon, balled
• ½ cup rockmelon, balled
• ½ cup watermelon, balled
• ¼ cup marmalade, to glaze
• sprigs of mint, for garnish Sweet shortcrust
• 250g plain flour
• 125g butter
• 60g caster sugar Mascarpone filling
• 250g mascarpone
• 2 tbsp icing sugar
• 200ml thickened cream
To make the pastry, combine the flour, butter and sugar in a processor and pulse to the consistency of coarse breadcrumbs. Add 1-2 tablespoons of cold water and pulse again until the dough comes together into a ball. Knead just 2 or 3 times to bring the dough together, then wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate for 20 minutes. Heat your oven to 200˚C. Roll out the dough to a ½cm-thick sheet and press into a 22cm fluted tart tin.
Put in the freezer for 10 minutes to firm, then line with baking paper, weigh down with pastry weights and bake for 10 minutes. Remove the weights and bake for a further 5 minutes. Allow to cool to room temperature in the tin and chill until ready to use. For the mascarpone filling, whip the mascarpone with the icing sugar in the bowl of a stand mixer. While still whipping, add the cream a little at a time until the mixture is thick but spreadable.
Spread the filling into the tart and loosely arrange the fruit on top . For the glaze, combine the marmalade with ¼ cup of water and bring to a simmer. Strain to remove any peel and brush the glaze over the tart. Garnish with sprigs of mint to serve.
Adam’s tip Get that natural look when arranging fruit on top of a tart by doing what food stylists do – letting it fall as it may. Don’t overfuss this step or the result will look contrived.
CHICKEN TONNATO SALAD
Chicken tonnato salad. Photo: William Meppem
• 1 cup white wine
• 1 onion, roughly chopped
• 1 carrot, roughly chopped
• 1 stalk celery, roughly chopped
• a handful of flat-leaf parsley, leaves separated from stalks
• 2 bay leaves
• ½ tsp black peppercorns
• 4 chicken breasts
• 185g can tuna in spring water, drained
• juice of ½ a lemon
• 1 tbsp capers, plus extra for garnish
• ½ cup good quality mayonnaise
• 3 cups baby spinach leaves
• 3 cups rocket leaves
• ½ red onion, sliced into very thin rings
• 2 tbsp olive oil
• freshly ground black pepper
Place the wine, onion, carrot, celery, parsley stalks, bay leaves, and peppercorns in a large saucepan with 2 cups of water and bring to a boil. Add the chicken breasts and cover with the lid, simmer on very low heat for 5 minutes then turn off heat.
Leave to stand for 10 minutes or until the chicken is very lightly cooked through. Remove the chicken from the pan and set aside to rest for 5 minutes, then chill in the fridge. Bring the poaching liquid back to a boil and simmer until the volume is reduced by half. Place the tuna in a food processor with ¼ cup of the reduced poaching liquid, lemon juice and capers. Purée until smooth and then pulse through the mayonnaise so that the sauce is a thick but pourable consistency. Chill in the fridge.
Dress the parsley leaves, spinach, rocket and red onion with olive oil and grind plenty of black pepper over the top. Arrange on a plate. Thinly slice the chicken and arrange it with the salad, then pour the sauce on top. To serve, scatter with a few extra capers , drizzle with olive oil and finish with a good grind of black pepper.