Picture perfect: Hix cooks his photographer's favourites

For years, Jason Lowe has provided the wonderful images that accompany the recipes in this magazine. Now he and his wife Lori de Mori have written a cookbook inspired by the food of their beloved Tuscany. Mark Hix cooks some rustic favourites

Following on from last week – when I paid homage to my predecessor as The Independent Magazine's food writer Simon Hopkinson and his new recipe book Week In, Week Out – I am this week featuring some delicious dishes from the pages of a new book by my partner in crime and colleague Jason Lowe. Jason has taken pictures for both myself and Simon over the past 12 or so years. Now he has created a great Tuscan cookery book, Beaneaters and Bread Soup, with his wife Lori de Mori. After staying in Jason and Lori's Tuscan house this summer and getting to know the region a bit, I can understand why they felt they had to write a book. Jason's passion for food really does come through in his photography. There isn't much that Jason hasn't eaten, or shot (through the lens) either.

If you're a food magazine enthusiast, you may well have read or heard of Lori's writing in magazines such as the American publication Saveur. Like Jason, she has an astonishing passion for food, which comes across in these delicious rustic recipes.

Bruschetta with black cabbage

Serves 4

Cavalo nero, or Italian black cabbage, has a robust leaf compared with our native greens, which often causes a predicament as to what to do with it. This simple recipe shows the leaf in its true form, served on toast. Some supermarkets sell cavalo nero now – but if you can't get hold of it, then kale will do instead.

1kg cavalo nero or kale, ribs and stems removed
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
8 slices of country bread
3 garlic cloves, peeled
Olive oil to drizzle

Cut the cabbage or kale into broad strips. Boil in a pot of salted water until tender, for about 20 minutes. Drain. When it is cool enough to handle, squeeze out any excess water and roughly chop the leaves.

Toast the bread (over the embers of a fire is best, but the oven or toaster is fine too). Rub the toast with garlic.

Spoon the cabbage on top of the toast, season with salt and pepper, drizzle generously with olive oil and serve.

Boiled beef with salsa verde and mayonnaise

Serves 6

Jason found the inspiration for this lovely, light autumnal dish during a delicious lunch at the Aia della Colonna farm in Tuscany. It's a great alternative to a heavily sauced braise or stew. This is just the kind of dish for which it would be suitable to use the less common cuts that I often go on about.

Meat that is a bit tough for a steak is ideal for a slow-cooked bollito. In Italy, the example Jason tasted was made from the local Maremman cows, which are more or less wild and have very dark meat. You can use a singular cut of beef, or a mixture of cuts, which will add an interesting variation of textures to the dish. The piquant salsa verde and creamy mayonnaise are perfect matches.

1kg beef (any combination of shoulder,brisket with some rib attached, or perhaps silverside and even tongue)
1 onion, peeled
1 medium carrot
1 celery stalk
1 ripe tomato
Handful of flat-leaf parsley
Handful of basil leaves
Sea salt
Pinch of black peppercorns
For the mayonnaise (makes 600ml)
3 large egg yolks
2tbsp lemon juice
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
600ml olive oil
1tsp Dijon mustard



For the salsa verde

1 garlic clove, peeled
1 salted anchovy, finely chopped
1tsp brine-cured capers
Large bunch of flat-leaved parsley, finely chopped
1 hard-boiled egg, finely chopped
4tbsp olive oil
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

Put all of the ingredients into a large saucepan with about 3 litres of water or enough to generously cover the meats. Bring to the boil then reduce the heat to a simmer, and cook for 3 hours, skimming off the scum as it rises to the top from time to time.

While the beef is cooking, in the meantime make the salsa verde and mayonnaise. To make the salsa verde, pound the garlic, anchovy and capers, using a pestle and mortar. Stir in the parsley, chopped egg and olive oil, then season to taste with salt and pepper. Transfer to a serving bowl.

To make the mayonnaise, put the egg yolks, lemon juice, a pinch of salt and a grinding of pepper in a bowl and whisk together until smooth. Slowly drizzle in the olive oil, drop by drop to begin with, then in a steady stream, while whisking continuously. Add only so much oil as can be absorbed by the egg mixture at one time. Stir in the mustard, then check the seasoning.

Remove the meat from the pan and strain the cooking liquid through a fine meshed sieve. Peel away the skin from the tongue, carve all the meat into slices and serve with a little of the cooking liquor, salsa verde and mayonnaise.

The excess stock can be used to make a beef broth.

Polenta with cuttlefish

Serves 6

Cuttlefish is very popular in Italy, where it is most often used for risotto nero. But why don't we eat more cuttlefish over here? There's loads of it out there off our shores, but we choose to buy squid instead which costs double the price. I'm sure that once you taste cuttlefish you will be convinced of its merits.

Many fish shops sell cuttlefish, but you may need to order them in advance. If you can't find them with their ink sacs, ask your fishmonger for cuttlefish or squid ink in sachets.

For the polenta

2tsp salt
200g polenta

For the cuttlefish

1kg small cuttlefish
5tbsp olive oil
1 yellow onion, finely chopped
2 garlic cloves, crushed
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
125ml white wine

To make the polenta, bring 1.5 litres of water to a gentle boil in a medium heavy-based saucepan. Add the salt. When the water returns to the boil, add the polenta in a fine steady stream, stirring continuously with a wire whisk so that no lumps form. Reduce the heat to medium. After a few minutes, when the polenta begins to thicken, turn the heat right down. Cook, stirring regularly with a wooden spoon, for 30-40 minutes. The polenta is ready when it comes away easily from the side of the pan.

To prepare the cuttlefish, pull the head and tentacles from the body pouch. Set aside the ink sacs and discard the transparent quill and other innards. Cut away the mouth and eyes. Rinse the pouch and tentacles under cold running water. Peel the grey membrane from the pouch. Roughly chop the tentacles and cut the pouches into 3cm rings or strips. Dilute the cuttlefish ink in a small glass of water, or use the bought ink.

Warm the olive oil in a frying pan. Add the onion and garlic and cook over a gentle heat until the onion is soft and transparent and the garlic golden. Add the cuttlefish and season with salt and pepper. Stir the cuttlefish in the pan for a moment, then pour in the wine and cook over a high heat until the alcohol has evaporated, no more than 2 minutes. Stir in the diluted cuttlefish ink and cook for another minute.

Ladle the polenta on to soup plates. Spoon the cuttlefish in its ink on top and serve.

Pecorino, figs and chestnut honey

Cut a wedge of aged ewe's milk cheese into slices and cut a handful of ripe autumn figs in half. Serve with chestnut honey and a glass of fine red wine.

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