Friday, 26 July 2013

The Family Table. Part 7. Jane & Matt Martino

A couple of years ago when I first started writing this blog I thought about what it was that I wanted to share.
It started as a way of me sharing my food knowledge and my passion for preparing real food for our families.

More importantly though I like to think that I give people the confidence to appreciate that the magic that is the Family dining experience is NOT just about the food.
While the food is what draws us to the table it should be considered but ONE of many things that are shared and indeed NOT the most important one.

LOVE to me should always be the single most important ingredient that is shared at our family table. Without LOVE the food and the entire dining experience is just another meal. But with it our souls as well as our tummies are nourished.

It is with this in mind that on Fridays I will be sharing with you my new series- The Family Table- where super special guests share their family dining experiences with us. It is a way of appreciating that there are infinite ways of dining together.
My wish is that every single one of my readers makes The Family Table part of their own family life.
I am so excited about this series and have some of my very favourite family sorts lined up to share with us their Family Table experiences over the coming weeks.

This week I am sharing with you some very good friends of mine, Jane & Matt Martino.
If you have been an avid 'The Block series watcher you may remember them from Series 2.  Last year amongst ,any other hats she wears, Jane co-founded the not-for-profit organisation Smiling Mind with James Tutton.
Matt is the very clever and creative architect/artist/designer behind Martino Group.
You may have seen their homes on The Design Files.

This week they sees the official launch of their new venture together- SHOUT

Shout is an app that aims to raise funds for charities & organisations. The idea is that people can make small donations for everyday items such as coffee, movie tickets, or a nutritious breakfast to a person in need easily from your phone.

You can download the app here.
You can follow them on Twitter here.
And you can follow them on Facebook here.

I know Jane & Matt as parents of 3 gorgeous boys.  Jane & Matt are smiley, community minded, generous, happy, positive and positively inspiring people who share a love of eating and of family- which is totally evident in their post this week.

I am thrilled to have them sharing their Family Table with us.

Over to Matt ~

1.) Can you please share a little about how your family shares food? 

Food is a great big part of our lives. Jane and I LOVE food and we have three healthy, growing beautiful boys (Tom 8, Henry 6, and Sonny 5) and we celebrate with meals. We socialise over meals and we get together over food. Whether it is the daily debrief or the birthday dinner, food brings us together. We always eat at the table or up at the kitchen bench - where the boys and Jane and I sit and eyeball the boys and we all go through our 'three great things'. The TV, unlike my upbringing, is NEVER on  during meal time (except movie night and this is an event of food and entertainment in itself). I have always designed my kitchens as a functioning meeting space. While I create the food, people stand or sit around. Guests are always welcome to hover and pick at the food. I believe food brings people together, this has been the way in both our families and now it is the same in ours.
As a family we always eat together. Working for ourselves we can make that happen most nights and it is important to debrief on the day, reconnect as a family and enjoy food. 

2.) Do you have hard & fast eating rules?

Eating is a good thing. Whether for hunger, energy or social reasons, eating should always be a happy pleasure. We try to get the kids to at least try things.  This 'bravery' is a great lesson for life as well as the table.They also have to appreciate healthy alternatives and understand that healthy choices are good for them and they are in control of these choices, it's important. That said, a treat is also a good thing and we would never want to get 'stressed about food'. We eat well, and when this lapses, we always try and balance it in other ways. And we always try to remind ourselves that some people would kill for what we are complaining about eating. 

3.) Can you share with us where your cooking influences/inspiration are from?

Family. Family. Family.  I grew up in an Italian family where my Scottish mother was taught to cook authentic, Italian peasant food by her mother-in-law. She went on to open and run successful restaurants. My dad also cooked. He prepared the meals most nights and mum would do the special ones. My grandparents on dad's side were incredible, untrained cooks. Homemade pizza, fresh pasta, even a simple chop was delicious. Now I cook like that. I never measure, rarely use recipes, but get inspired by others. It about the feel and being creative with food.

4.) Do you have a favourite cuisine?

Because I can't decide between French, Italian, Greek, I am going to say, European. (maybe not traditional British). The way Europeans treat flavour, ingredients and the act of dining is so cool. I love how food is enjoyed, not just eaten. I love how they dine, they share plates, they love the act of eating. They get the thing about food and like nothing else, it engages all your senses, smell, taste, sight, hear and feel & it engages your emotions as well.

5.) Can you recall a super special meal or eating experience that has stayed with you forever?

Sunday Pasta at my Nana's is one of my strongest, not just food memories but childhood ones. We would go over on Sunday where she would have had the sauce cooking from 6am and the smell would meet us in the drive way and the rich Italian flavours, the homemade pasta and real ,freshly grated parmesan cheese. The smell and anticipation would make you starve like nothing else. It was so tasty, so delicious. We had our set chairs at the table, same ritual of sitting down, who was served first, the eating, the second course, the dessert and even as a 7 year old the short black. We never tired of this ritual and we never tired of the food, never asked for something different.

6.) Would you please share the recipe of your favourite family meal with us?

Love to. This is my Nana's pasta sauce I mentioned before. It is so simple, so pure with few ingredients, but is always a rich, flavoured winner. It takes some time, but like any slow cooking, you can almost set and forget.
  • Get a boiling chicken (they are hard to find but the tough rich meat cooks for ages). 
  • Brown off the pieces in plenty of oil ( the oil holds the flavour and coats the plate once served). 
  • Add passata and 1 can of tomatoes, a tea spoon of salt (keep adding to taste) and simmer for a few hours. Keep the heat low and the sauce covered. 
  • That's it. The longer you cook, the stronger the flavour. It's such a simple, surprisingly tasty dish. 
  • Any pasta will do, fresh, dry, any shape. Cook the pasta then drain and stir through the sauce, sprinkle with parmesan and thats it.
  • Serve with crusty bread to mop up the oily/tomato residue.
  • Then you serve the slow cooked chicken pieces to share. 

All of my brothers and sisters still cook this and love it (and so do all our children!!).

7.) What song would be playing at the dinner table?

I love a playlist. I always doctor up a playlist for a dinner party. It's always my aim for people to request a copy of the playlist just as they would the evening's recipe!
But to be specific, lov'n Ryan Adams Ashes and Fire album especially Dirty Rain.

I am so grateful to Jane & Matt for sharing their Family Table with us.


  1. Wonderful post as always Ruth. ~warm, engaging and bursting with love. x

  2. I love these Posts and this is no exception,wonderful post Ruth and a lovely recipe to try as well,Thankyou.


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