Joe Trivelli’s recipes for crostini, gnocchi, pork with figs, and chocolate amaretto cake | Food

Dad used to criticise us children when we said we “loved” certain foods, as it sounded discordant to his Italian ears. Love was reserved for people. But it is with actual love that my father tends to some 100 Tuscan olive trees and makes the olive oil our whole family eats all year. He also delivers three special bottles of olive oil to our house for the kids with printed labels that say something like: “This bottle of olive oil is made for the sole enjoyment of my grandchild…” Elsa says it just clicks (her words) with everything. Even food she doesn’t like, such as broccoli. She’s not wrong.

My brother and his children have helped with this year’s harvest and rushed a few first bottles of the thick green oil to us. The typical tasting notes are cut-grass, raw artichokes and a hot peppery finish in the throat that can take your breath away. All the recipes here lend themselves to being drenched with this, but an extra grind of black pepper or sprinkle of dried chilli is what I add if I don’t have it to hand.

Cooking with this oil for a few months finds me at my happiest and I feel blessed this food culture found me. All my shirts pay the price of my oversaturation. Right now, I am happily blotched with the stuff.

Crostini misti

A selection of topped toasts is my antipasto of choice and is totally unmissable in the autumn. The bean smush is a favourite with my sister-in-law, who could spoon it from a pan and dispense with the bread altogether. Chianti may be the most appropriate wine for the chicken livers, but use any; sweet wine is particularly good, a dash of it raw at the end freshening things up. Serves 4

sourdough bread 8 slices

For chicken liver crostino:
red onion ½
garlic 1 clove, peeled
sage leaves 5
salted capers 1 tbsp
chicken livers 250g
olive oil
anchovy fillets
4
chianti, or other red wine 350ml
salt

For the other crostini:
cannellini beans 100g, soaked overnight in cold water
garlic 6 cloves, peeled
bay leaves a few
salt
olive oil
fennel
1 bulb
lemon juice of 1
hard cheese finely grated
savoy cabbage ¼

For the chicken liver topping, finely dice the onion and chop the garlic and sage. Rinse the capers. Clean the livers of any connecting tissue.

Put the onions and garlic to sweat in 2 tbsp of olive oil for 8 minutes over the lowest heat until they are soft. Add the anchovies, capers and sage and allow to cook for a few minutes more. Now add the livers, turn the heat up to medium and cook, turning them over as they begin to change colour. At this point, add about 300ml of the wine, and continue to cook, on a medium heat, stirring from time to time until the wine has mostly dried up and the livers are firm and cooked through. This should be around 10 minutes.

At this stage, turn the heat off and, using a spoon, remove the livers to a clean chopping board, without wasting any of the surrounding sauce. Chop the livers by hand or use a food processor (this saves a lot of mess, but be careful not to over-process the livers so that they become totally smooth – some texture is welcome). Return them to the pan and turn the heat back on. Stir to combine and after 1 minute add the rest of the wine and another 3 tbsp of olive oil. Taste and season, and set aside while you prepare everything else.

Bring the beans to the boil with 4 of the garlic cloves and the bay leaves from cold. Once boiling, turn to a simmer and cook until soft – you can overcook them for this without worries. It should take about 50 minutes, but this can vary. Top up the level of the water as necessary. Once cooked, drain away almost all the water, season with salt and 3 tbsp of olive oil and stir to smash. If they are unyielding, you can use a potato masher.

Slice the fennel as finely as you can, using a mandolin, processor or your sharpest knife and wits. Dress with lemon, a small pinch of salt, grated cheese and 2 tbsp of olive oil.

Tear the leaves of the cabbage and wash. Bring a pot of salted water to the boil with a clove of garlic. Allow the garlic to boil for 5 minutes before adding the cabbage and boiling for another 7 minutes, until completely soft.

When it is time to serve, check everything is warm, toast the bread, cut into small pieces and barely rub with the final garlic clove and top each slice individually. Cover some with the fennel, then use tongs or a spoon to lift the cabbage, still wet, on to the bread so it is softened with a spot of the cabbage water. Then top the remaining with warm livers and cannellini respectively. Add lots of olive oil and serve at once.

Gnocchi al cavolo nero

Square visions: gnocchi al cavolo nero. Photograph: Romas Foord/The Observer

The long cooking of the cavolo is fundamental. Lose the ribs and the flat (unbobbly) bottom part of the leaves. Serves 2

garlic 3 cloves, peeled
cavolo nero 2 bunches, about 600g
egg 1
parmesan cheese 100g grated, plus extra for dusting
flour 60g
olive oil
salt

Bring a pot of salted water to the boil with the garlic in it. Boil the cavolo nero for 10-15 minutes. Remove with a slotted spoon to a colander. You can keep the pot of water to cook the gnocchi in later, rather than waste it.

Once cool enough, give the cavolo nero a gentle squeeze and chop as finely as you can. Move it to a large bowl and then add the whisjed egg and cheese. Sieve over a rough three-quarters of the flour and mix briskly with your fingers. If it seems stiff enough to hold its shape, go right ahead, otherwise use the rest of the flour.

Shape between wet fingers into cuboid pieces about 2cm square. Place on a large plate or board dusted with flour, until just before you are ready to eat.

To cook, bring a large, deep pan of salted water to the boil, then boil the gnocchi for 5 minutes in a large pan. Remove with a slotted spoon straight to the serving plate, drizzle liberally with olive oil and scatter with extra grated parmesan.

Grilled pork with figs

Juicy cuts: grilled pork with figs.
Juicy cuts: grilled pork with figs. Photograph: Romas Foord/The Observer

A thick double pork chop is enough for 2 people – you can of course use regular thinner ones and reduce the cooking time. Serves 4

pork loin chops 2, cut about 5cm thick
salt and pepper
dried figs
8
fennel seeds 24
rosemary, sage and thyme branches
lemon
1
olive oil

Season the chops well with salt and set aside. Soak the figs in a cup of boiling water with a pinch of salt for 10 minutes. Heat the oven to 180C/gas mark 4.

Tear a hole in each fig and place inside 3 fennel seeds, a rosemary sprig, a pinch of salt and a strip of lemon peel. Place on a square of baking paper, drizzle with oil, flick with water and bake for 8 minutes.

To cook the pork, gather the herbs. Heat a grill pan on the stove. Drizzle a little oil over the pork and sear for 4-5 minutes until golden. Add half of the herbs; turn and cook for another 4-5 minutes. Add the rest of the herbs. Remove from the heat, drizzle more oil on, squeeze over the juice from the lemon, add it to the pan with the figs and move to the oven for 7 minutes.

Remove and allow to rest before carving and serving with extra raw olive oil or a very good grind of black pepper.

Chocolate amaretto cake

Indulge yourself: chocolate amaretto cake.
Indulge yourself: chocolate amaretto cake. Photograph: Romas Foord/The Observer

This is a sultry, decadent cake with a whisper of ganache on top – one that seems to keep its moisture and even improve with age. Serves 8

flour 150g
ground almonds 150g
baking powder 2 level tsp
olive oil 285g, plus extra for greasing
sugar 190g
salt a pinch
eggs 3
lemon zest of ½
cocoa 30g
vanilla 1 tbsp
amaretto 50ml, plus a little extra

For the ganache:
dark chocolate 90g
olive oil 10g

Heat the oven to 160C/gas mark 3. Place a circle of baking paper into a 20cm cake tin and grease with oil. Mix the flour, almonds and baking powder. In a large bowl, using an electric whisk, mix the olive oil, sugar, salt and eggs for 3 minutes until thick. Gently mix in the lemon zest and cocoa. Then add the flour-almond mix and then the vanilla and amaretto. Pour into the cake tin and bake for 35 minutes. Turn out on to a rack.

For the ganache, bring a small pot of water to the boil. Set a small bowl with the broken chocolate and olive oil over it and turn off the heat. When melted, drizzle an extra shot of amaretto over the cake before spooning over the ganache.

Joe Trivelli is joint executive chef at the River Café in west London

Food styling by Henrietta Clancy