Cooking Together


Cooking with others is a great way to share and learn knowledge and skills, and to build friendships. Since being at the British School at Rome as the Ampersand Foundation Fellow 2022-23, I have met food writers, fellow artists working with food, food producers and food keepers, and cooking together has been a great way to share experience. 
When Rachel Roddy, food writer and author invited me to her home to cook with her, I was a little nervous of the thought of spending one-to-one time with someone I did not know, and also I was in awe of, (having read and loved all her books).
As soon as we started cooking together, I felt totally at ease as we shared in our experiences. A natural flow between chatting, making and eating. Talking as we shaped orecchiette and cut vegetables, broken by comfortable silences as we concentrated on rolling out pasta sheets and timing boiling water. We watched each other’s hands tackle tricky tasks, exchanged food knowledge, (although of course Rachel, is the expert here), empathized through personal narratives (the common difficult family relationships,) and enjoyed eating our accomplishments afterwards, joined by her son and husband.
I have also been cooking with artist Liza Dieckwisch, who is based at the German Academy in Rome. She has a similar approach to food as I do, engaging with food in many different ways, then absorbing the experiences into our art practices.
Both finding it frustrating not to be able to access kitchens in Rome; due to health and safety restrictions; to get hands on experience, such as to be a volunteer in a pizzeria, or work in a bakery, we have decided to meet up and cook together. Bringing our wealth of hands-on material experience into the kitchen, in a chaotic but very productive way.    
Understanding how fulfilling these ‘cooking together’ sessions have been in Rome, I plan to continue them when I return to London in the summer.
Cooking with Rachel Roddy (food writer and author) and Rebecca May Johnson (Food writer.) 14th November 2022 and 15th Janaury 2023
Two days spent with Rachel in her kitchen preparing and cooking food. The second day we were joined by food writer Rachel May Johnson and her partner.
Made pasta – orecchiette and tortellini. Tried different flours – semonlina, 00 and walnut flour (very soft and difficult to handle – but delicious.)
Pasta sauces – mushroom and a light broth for mini tortellini’s.
Tuscan soup with unusual vegetables.
Vegetables – cardoons with cheese sauce, puntarella with anchovy dressing (one of my favourite dishes in Rome.) 
Making lemon and orange produce with Liza Dieckwisch (artist) and Erika Mayr (bee keeper and food specialist)
We picked oranges and lemons from the trees at Villa Massimo (German Academy in Rome) and made marmalade, lemon jam, salted lemons and orange and lemon liqueur.
BAY night with Catriona Gallagher (artist). 28th January , 2023
Alloro Dinner (Foglia d’alloro – bay leaf) at the British School at Rome. Collaboration with Catriona Gallagher (fellow award holder at the BSR) to create a meal with alloro. Catriona’s project at the BSR is focused around the Metamorphosis of Daphne (the ancient Greek name of laurel/bay.) We worked together to create a meal using the extraordinary plant . I produced individually made green bay shaped pasta cooked with a rich tomato ragu. Catriona made a tangy Greek bay soup and beautiful individual bay infused cream deserts.
We invited all the award holders for dinner and decorated the tables with laurel.
Vegetable’s and Garum with Liza Dieckwisch (artist)18th March 2023
Visited Mercato Italia after a coffee and a chat in the café opposite with Liza. We bought a range of exciting and unusual vegetables.  
Puntarella, cut into strips using a Tagliapuntarelle and dropped in cold water, which makes them curl up. Eaten cold with a dressing – anchovies, oil, lemon, salt and pepper.
Cardoons (the leaves from the artichokes – they were throwing these out for free.) Quickly boiled and tossed in butter, salt and pepper.
Agretti (like strands of grass and texture like spaghetti) – delicious fried in olive oil.
Cedro lemons (very gnarly big fruits with a lot of white delicious flesh). Chopped finely and eaten with slices of mozzarella, olive oil, salt and pepper.
Chard – quickly boiled and tossed in butter, salt and pepper.
Wild asparagus. Extremely expensive as just coming into season. Lightly boiled then with olive oil, lemon juice, salt and pepper.
We also made grissini – bread sticks made from strong flour, pork lard, olive oil, salt and pepper. Baked at a high heat for 12 minutes.
And finally we made the famous Garum, a salty fishy sauce the Romans made from fish intestines and salt which was fermented in the sun. Usually takes 3 months, but we did the quick version. Using whole anchovies boiled in salty water for 40 minutes with oregano, and then strained. Not bad for a first attempt!
Offal day with Liza Dieckwisch. 4th April, 2023.
We ordered the innards of a lamb plus some beef and pig parts/cuts from a local butcher. The lamb parts came all attached  for us to divide up and prepare.
Lamb: heart, sweetbreads, spleen, liver, lung and intestine.
Beef: cheeks, sweetbreads 
Pig: Caul fat  (fatty membrane between a pig's stomach and diaphragm.)
So interesting to explore the different material qualities of these organ. The robust hard muscle of the heart to the malleability of the sweetbreads. The strength and elasticity of the translucent skins wrapping these organs -  some tore easily and others were almost impossible to cut through.

After exploring the material we started to prepare - mince for sausages, cuts for wrapping with caul fat, and small cuts for Coratella (traditional Italian dish using lambs innards.)
Each dish exploring different methods of cooking with very different outcomes of taste and texture.
We made two types of sausages. The first with the beef cheeks and the second with the innards of the lamb, both using basmati rice as a binder, with different herbs and spices. The lamb innards sausages were amazing - that is if you like a rich meat fest!
Using the caul fat we wrapped small cuts of liver, sweetbreads, and sausage mince. The caul fat brings a rich flavour when you fry it. In fact it served as a better wrapping than the intestine we used to make the sausages, that tended to burst when we cooked them.
A fantastic day with Liza - handling, cooking, eating, chatting, and then sharing our dishes with friends and neighbours at Villa Massimo, Rome.
DOUGH day with Liza Dieckwisch. 23rd April, 2023.
We met at Mercato di Campagna Amica at 10am on Sunday morning. This is a farmers market open only on the weekends near Circo Massimo in Rome. It is my favourite market as all the sellers are local from Lazio and everything is seasonal. You realise this when you see NO tomatoes, NO peppers – because they are not in season right now.
We need to get some vegetables and salad to go with all our dough recipes. Agretti - nearly coming to an end, but still my favourite vegetable here in Rome. A little bit woody at the base, but still good. There is a woman who sells jars of tomatoes, 2 euros a jar and perfect for our tomato ragu. We also get two types of ricotta – a sheep ricotta and goat ricotta. We need one for a pasta sauce and one for filling our sfonliatelle (pastry sweets.) We have already got our flours, eggs, milk….etc… Liza notices some small blue flowers – not sure what these are – they are  sweet and perfect for a salad and decorating dishes. We buy a few other ingredients and then head over to Villa Massimo where Liza has her studio to start our epic dough day.
We start by making sfonliatelle. These are small shell shaped pastries made up of thin leaf layers of dough, which you make by rolling out ribbons of pasta dough and then covering with fat. You then stretch out paper thin and roll it into a sausage shape. Put into the fridge and when cool cut into 4 cm pieces. Taking one of the shapes you push a finger at one end, pushing inside the dough separating the layers as you push. This is what creates the multiple layers which when sprinkled with icing sugar once baked look beautiful. Once you have made a cavity inside you fill with a semolina mix. We made up one with ricotta and candied orange, and one with apples and cinnamon. Not as easy as it looked on the You Tube tutorial! However, once these beauties were baked they looked pretty good. I think it takes a bit of practice to do it well.
We made three types of pasta. The first with chestnut flour which I bought from a local producer in Tuscany when I was on a cheese course. It smelt sweet and roasted. it’s a very crumbly dough to work with so we added some 00 flour to give it body. Chestnut flour is gluten free so another way to bind it is to add boiling water instead of warm. This was the dish we served with ricotta and sprinkled with the blue flowers and parmigiana. It was totally delicious.
The second pasta was made with nettles, which we gathered from the garden. We also collected loads of extra flowers to use in our salad as we scouted for nettles. Liza is really knowledgeable about edible flowers, something new to me. Once we boiled the nettles we quickly chopped them up finely and added to an egg based pasta. We made tagliatelle and then tossed in garlic butter.
The other two pastas where for making curly gnocchi (a Rachel Roddy recipe.) You make a dough with water and one with eggs  then after they have both rested you combine them, kneading to marble the two tones of pasta. This pasta we rolled into 1cm thick sausage shapes, and then cut into 2cm pieces. Taking two fingers you drag the pasta nuggets across a wooden surface so it curls into itself.  These little gems we served with a rich tomato sauce.
We also made a wholemeal Italian loaf – which was so easy to make and surprisingly soft and light – I will be making this again…
Cooking with Liza is wonderful, we are really in tune with each other. This is our fifth time making food together and I have noticed how comfortable we have become in each others company.  There was a moment when I caught us passing something between us, I can’t remember exactly what it was, but it was something that before today we would have had to ask each other for, but now no words were needed, not even eye contact. We are working in a very small kitchen and are able to weave around each other with ease.
I invited some friends over from the British School to join us in eating everything we had made. All I can say is YUM bloody YUM……  what a mega dough feast….
DOUGH day 2 with Liza Dieckwisch and Irene Machetti.
4th May, 2023.
This is our second day working with dough, myself and Liza, but this time we have invited Irene Machetti to join us, who is also an artist working with food as part of her practice.
I had a lot of chestnut flour left over from our last dough so wanted to use it up. This chestnut flour is very special. I bought it from a small producer in Tuscany. It smells divine and tastes even better.
We made three things with the chestnut flour – chestnut and walnut bread, pasta (handmade tagliatelle) and Castagnaccio, which is a traditional Tuscan cake. Each recipe showcasing the flour in very different ways. Although having said that – they all held the flavour of the flour in a similar way, maybe because the roasting of the chestnuts for this flour creates a very particular taste.
As well as the chestnut flour recipes we made again sfonliatelle, and Irene brough the recipe and ingredient to make maritozzi. Maritozzi like sfonliatelle is a very traditional sweet Italian bake. It is a classic pastry, traditionally served packed full of whipped cream. The dough-based bun is typically eaten in Rome for breakfast but can also be eaten as a hefty snack.
Having another go making sfonliatelle, we wanted to improve on our last efforts. This is the thin dough that you roll up with fat (see post above), then cut into small pieces which you form into shell shapes, and stuff traditionally with a semolina ricotta mix.
After watching a number of  You Tube clips, are adjustments were to make a much bigger pasta roll, and to cut it into thinner pieces. We also decided that our previous experiment to stuff with a semolina and apple filling, which we loved last time we would repeat. When I was in Naples I had one that had apples and cinnamon inside and loved it.
All three of us made the sfonliatelle together – I enjoyed watching our hands manipulate the dough at the same time – six hands all pulling, stretching, rolling the dough.
These cooking days together are so enjoyable, and I learn so much. We all come to food in different ways with different skills. It was great hearing from Irene about the specifics of Roman cuisine and techniques, and she was able to give advice on specific Italian recipes – what not to do! Which is a theme of Italian cooking – to keep to the traditions and not go off-piste…
DOUGH day 3 with Liza Dieckwisch
27th May, 2023.
This is the third day myself and Liza have explored making and cooking dough based recipes.
Sardinian festival bread
Apicius bread with bay leaf
Semolina flour and water pasta – exploring shape and colour
00 flour and egg pasta with squid ink
Tomato sauce and squid with squid ink sauce for the pastas
Liza has a massive book on festival Sardinian bread. Bread that is wholly decorative to create entire religious narratives, patterns and designs.
The bread is made from a basic white semolina flour tight knit dough, which you then form into shapes, patterns and designs. Using scissors you cut into the unproved dough, creating peaks and fringes.
What is interesting with this method, within a few seconds of cutting into the dough the material expands, the yeast activated by the cut turning sharp edges into swollen rounded forms. Using scissors is a great method to cut dough, unlike a knife that struggles to cut cleanly through. We experimented with this technique, finding that not cutting too much into the dough worked the best.
Continuing my interest to make pasta that is an extension of my sculptures, marbled with food colouring and ‘too big for the mouth’. I made individual pasta shapes that filled an entire bowl, which we then ladled over a clear broth. This is Liza’s meat and vegetable broth she has bubbling on the hob for days (delicious). The food colouring changing the colour of the broth as you slurp the liquid, and try and negotiate the unruly pasta shapes into your mouth.
Liza made big pieces of black squid ink egg pasta and fettuccine. The large pieces looking very much like off cuts of leather.
Liza made bread rolls from the Apicius cooking book – of ancient recipes. These are small rolls made with grape juice (she used pomegranate juice as we could not find grape), cumin seed, anise and a mild cheese. You place the dough on fresh bay leaves, and once proven bake for 20 minutes. The flavours work brilliantly and the bay leaves leave a beautiful imprint on the bottom of the buns.
We also made pasta with breadcrumbs. A recipe from Rachel Roddy. You mix 200g of breadcrumbs into 200ml of water, and once squidgy like wet carpet! mix with 200g of 00 flour. We made small orecchiette and fettuccine. Rachel suggested to make a fresh tomato sauce with broad beans, we made the tomato sauce but without the beans – it was delicious.
Yet again we made food for a small army, so luckily people came by to eat our results over the course of the evening.