The Italian Job

Bagna càuda. (Pictured at the end of a bit of fried bread, on top of a poached egg. Purely coincidental.)

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I didn’t know what that was until Friday. Well, technically I didn’t really know what it was until I googled it the following day. But on Friday night I had a summery variation of it, not particularly authentic, but it still got me salivating big time.

Originally, Bagna cauda is a Piedmontese dip, served hot. An Italian version of fondue, if you like. But the kind I had was a chilled dip with lots of herbs. Creamy. Divine.

The place: Gastropub Rikhards. (Again, Hans Välimäki, the Finnish chef and restaurateur, haunts me.)

The entré: dipping roasted veg in their version of Bagna cauda (made from, I believe, butter, cream, anchovies, garlic, olive oil and herbs).

The inspiration: a very chatty waiter of a certain persuasion who spilled the beans on the recipe, somewhat.

After consulting some online recipes for different versions of Bagna cauda, I decided to go for it.

What I put in:

  • 3 tbsp butter
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 5 filets of anchovy
  • 4 big cloves of garlic
  • 1 dl of cream (I used herb-infused cream)
  • a sprinkle of cayenne pepper and white pepper
  • mixed herbs (fresh basil, parsley, mint and frozen fennel leaves)
  • a squeeze of lemon juice

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Melt the butter and oil together in a pan, add crushed garlic cloves and pepper and the anchovy. Once the anchovy have melted into the mixture, add some cream. Cook for a bit and stir well. And that’s your basic, traditional Bagna cauda.

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To create a summery style version, take your herbs and rinse them. You can use whatever herbs you have, whatever you like. Put them in your mixer-friendly dish or blender. Add your melted anchovy butter and cream sauce. Add some lemon juice if you like. Blend. Put in a container in the freezer and wait for it to cool down, even solidify a little. It’ll melt back to its normal, creamy consistency quickly.

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Dip fried veg in it or use as you would any herb butter or sauce (with bread or fish). Now, bear in mind, this is not, not, NOT Bagna cauda in its original form. It’s similar to what you can get at one rather pricey but nice gastropub in Helsinki. But it’s good. So who cares? (Just don’t tell the Italians…)

I served my first attempt as part of Brunch Club’s asparagus feast, on some pan fried bread. Yummy.

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