Category Archives: Sauces and Condiments

ANTIPASTO – GRILLED SUMMER VEGETABLES AND A SCOOP OF SALADS

You really cannot beat a plate of grilled vegetables, especially when eggplants and peppers are so prolific at this time of year.

Zucchini, although not in this selection are also a good choice.  Grilled vegetables are perfect as an antipasto but they can just as easily be part of a main course.

The vegetables can be grilled on a BBQ or Grill press or in the oven.

To the array, throw in some of the cooked green beans, asparagus or broccolini (that perhaps are left over from the night before), add a drizzle of good extra virgin olive oil, some chopped garlic, a little parsley and a squeeze of lemon juice.

You could also add to the cooked vegetables different textures with a bit of crunch – some of that celery, fennel, cucumbers and apples that are probably in your fridge. Or it could be tomatoes, celery, spring onions and fresh basil leaves, once again a drizzle of that good olive oil that will add fragrance as well as taste.

So easy, so simple.

Just recently, in two different restaurants I ordered versions of grilled vegetables and they both were presented with Romesco sauce dolloped separately on the side of the vegetables.  In one of the restaurant it was grilled asparagus, topped with fried breadcrumbs. In the other it was eggplant. This had been grilled and rather than presenting it in slices it was pulped to a medium texture. Bread is a perfect accompaniment for scooping up the eggplant and the Romesco sauce. A drizzle of good quality extra virgin olive oil is a must.

Recipes in earlier posts:

 

PEPPERS WITH BREADCRUMBS- PIPI CA MUDDICA – PEPERONI CON LA MOLLICA

SALSA ROMESCO (Romesco sauce, this recipe is made with roasted peppers, tomatoes and almonds)

In this version of this sauce almonds are added to the the vegetables (garlic, peppers and tomatoes). These are roasted/chargrilled on a BBQ or Grill press:

Roast/chargrill the peppers whole, peel, remove seeds and break them into strips. If using fresh tomatoes cut them into pieces. If you are roasting / chargrilling the peppers do them at the same time.
*Click on above link to see a list of ingredients and how to make it.

A different Recipe for Romesco sauce made with hazelnuts

This recipe uses hazelnuts instead of almonds. Also the vegetables are roasted. in the oven rather than grilled.

Use the same ingredients as the recipe above, substitute the hazelnuts for the almonds, but roast the vegetables:

Place the tomatoes, peppers and a whole head of garlic in a roasting tray with a little oil and roast in a 190C oven. Take the vegetables out as they become soft, i.e. the tomatoes will take about 10 minutes,  the peppers and the garlic could take about 30-40 minutes..

 

SAUCES for meat, fish and vegetables to brighten up your Christmas

Because one of the books that I have written is called Sicilian Seafood Cooking and because my blog is called All Things Sicilian And More many of my readers assume that at Christmas I will be cooking Sicilian food.

And what is the norm in Italy  or Sicily for Christmas?

As many have stated before me, there is no point in restricting the menu to a few common dishes because the food in Italy is very regional and depending where you live is likely to determine what you eat on Christmas day. When I was celebrating Christmas in Trieste (in Northern Italy), Brodo (broth) was always the first course on Christmas day. When I celebrated it in  Sicily I had entirely different food – home made gnucchiteddi ( small pasta gniocchi) or Ravioli di ricotta  were the norm.

See:
RAVIOLI DI RICOTTA
GNUCCHITEDDI

Sicily is relatively a small island, yet the food in Sicily is also very regional. All you need to do is look at the posts that I have written about Christmas food in Sicily to see that. For example when I celebrated Christmas in Ragusa, they always made and continue to make scacce,( baked dough with various fillings) and they make these during other festive occasions as well. Are Sicilians living in Australia likely to have scacce for Christmas? Not likely. They may be part of Christmas fare for those Sicilians coming from Ragusa and  the province of Ragusa,  but the menus from any Sicilian  living in Australia is going to be influenced by other offerings of either Sicilian or Italian origin and by Australian culture and the  Summer climate.

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As I have already stated in my last post QUADRUCCI IN BRODO, Squares of home-made Pasta in Broth:

Time and time again I am asked what am I cooking for Christmas Day or Christmas Eve. The answer is that I do not know yet.  I can say is that on Christmas eve I like to eat fish as is traditionally observed in Italy and on Christmas day I usually cook something that I do not normally cook or have not cooked for a while, for example for first course I may cook Spaghetti/ Pasta with sea urchin (ricci) or bottarga or squid with black ink or crayfish or crab.

So for this Christmas fare post, I am going to provide links to some of my posts which highlight sauces and dressings. This is because, irrespective of whether you are presenting a seafood salad, baking a turkey, or using a BBQ for fish or meat you can always vary the sauce you present a- Let’s face it, sauces can make a lot of difference and if you wish, you can enliven any food with a new sauce.

Here are some sauces. that are suitable for Savoury food.

SALSA D’AGRESTO

It was a sauce which dates pre-Renaissance time and went out of fashion because lemons became popular in cooking and superseded the use of green grape juice. The recipes suggested that the juice of the green grapes can be extracted by using a mouli or a juicer. It is very good for any hot meat. Verjuice can be used instead and white wine works as well.

Walnuts and almonds are blanched to remove as much skin as possible. My sources indicated that there may have been more walnuts used than almonds in these sauces.

Onions, garlic and parsley and a few breadcrumbs are pounded together with the nuts. Add a bit of sugar, some chopped parsley and sufficient grape juice to make the amalgamated ingredients soft – like a paste.

Heat these ingredients and add a little broth as the sauce will thickened because the bread crumbs.

SALSA VERDE – ITALIAN GREEN SAUCE

Salsa verde can be used to jazz anything up – vegetables, roasts, cold meats, smoked fish, crayfish etc. I sometimes use it to stuff hard boiled eggs (remove the yolk, mix with salsa verde and return it to the egg). It is mainly parsley, anchovies, capers, green olives.

SARSA DI CHIAPPAREDDI

There may be times when an accompanying sauce for steamed, baked, grilled or fried fish will bring you greater compliments.

The sauce is called sarsa di chiappareddi in Sicilian and it is made with capers and anchovies.

For me it is most essential to use quality, extra virgin, olive oil. This is especially important for cold sauces, – when the cold sauce hits the hot food, the fragrance of the oil will be strongly evident.

 BAGNA CAUDA

Bagna Cauda, translated as “hot bath,” is a dip for any combination of firm vegetables- cooked or uncooked. I would not have it on roast potatoes and can enliven many vegetables.

It is a hot sauce mainly of garlic, anchovies and butter.

SALAMURRIGGHIU – SALMORIGLIO (salmorigano)

Such a simple Sicilian dressing made with extra virgin olive oil, lemon and oregano that will make an enormous difference to any grilled or BBQ food- whether fish meat or vegetable.

HOME-MADE MAYONNAISE OR SAFFRON MAYONNAISE OR TUNA MAYONNAISE

Excellent for any cold meat, fish, eggs, vegetable dishes.

See:
MAYONNAISE  and SAFFRON MAYONNAISE
INSALATA RUSSA
CHICKEN LAYERED WITH TUNA AND EGG MAYONNAISE
VITELLO TONNATO

 SALSA ROMESCO

Salsa Romesco is said to have originated from Tarragona, a town close to Barcelona in north-eastern Spain. It is an old Roman town so I can understand why you might think the sauce originated from Rome.

This sauce is usually associated as a condiment for shellfish and fish. It is also good with grilled and roasted vegetables (especially cold, left over ones that need dressing up the next day). Recently, I have been to two restaurants and this sauce was presented with cold asparagus. Garlic, red peppers, almonds and paprika are the main ingredients.

SALSA SARACINA (Saracen sauce)

Does a combination of green olives, pine nuts, sultanas and saffron appeal to you? It is a cold Sicilian sauce, especially suitable for fish but I use it for many other hot or cold food.

ANATRA A PAPAREDDA CU L’ULIVI

Last time I roasted a duck I made a special sauce for it and it tasted great –  green anchovies, parsley, the pale centre of a celery, garlic, stock and wine added to the roasting pan made an excellent gravy.

HOT MINT SAUCE

This is a recipe from Sam and Sam Clark’s Casa Moro, The Second Cookbook. I had this sauce at a friend’s house accompanying roast goat. It is made mainly with mint, cumin and garlic and red vinegar (or balsamic).

*There are many other posts for Christmas food.

BUON NATALE 

SORREL, Italians call it acetosa

I once lived in Adelaide and I successfully grew and cooked sorrel.

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I used it liberally in hollandaise and egg mayonnaises (wilted or raw and cut very finely). I loved these sauces with asparagus, beans and potatoes. I added young leaves to mixed-leaf salads, cut leaves into chiffonade to decorate and add an intense lemony tang to raw and cooked foods. I added it to soups and braises, fish, veal or pork stews and sautéed it with other vegetables. It was great in frittata, too. Because of its intense, sharp flavour you only need small amounts of leaves and when they’re cooked, the bright green spinach-like leaves melt to a yellow-green, mushy purée. It may not sound appealing but it is.

I eat extremely well when I visit South Australia both in restaurants and in homes. During my recent trip I encountered sorrel at three different times at different friends’ houses.

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I was delighted with a sorrel Granita by one friend in her house in Eden Hills (a suburb of Adelaide). It was presented with a sorbet made of elderflower cordial (she made this), golden caster sugar and water syrup and St Germain elderflower liqueur.  what you see in in the photo above are the Granita and sorbet, plus elderflowers (from her garden). These were topped with Prosecco. Amazing!

This was not dessert – it was presented as a palate cleanser in between courses. It could easily double up as a dessert- a  very simple solution is to pair it with vanilla ice cream rather than an  elderflowers sorbet….not every cook is as skilled as this friend.

See recipe for the sorrel Granita at end of post.

Friends in North Adelaide offered me potato and sorrel soup for lunch. I had  enjoyed this before at their house and it can be eaten hot or cold.

I also visited friends in Ardrossan (a coastal town on the Yorke Peninsula about 90 minutes from Adelaide) and found red sorrel growing in their garden. This friend presented some of the attractive young leaves in a leafy salad. She also wilts it like spinach and has made a quiche with some of the leaves.

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I told her I knew nothing about red sorrel. I thought that maybe Bunnings had made a mistake (she found it in the Herbs section of this store). Was it really a culinary herb or an ornamental plant? My friend, now concerned and thinking that she should sue Bunnings found a link on the web, and sure enough, red sorrel leaves are considered edible…. despite my misgivings.

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The story doesn’t stop there. Now back home in Melbourne I found a small bunch of red sorrel at my regular supplier of green vegetables – Gus and Carmel’s stall in The Queen Victoria Market, called IL FRUTTIVENDOLO . I stored it in the fridge in a container  partially filled with water. I store asparagus in the same way.

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Believe it or not there is a lot of information on the web about sorrel that is considered to be at its best in Spring. There is the French sorrel (Rumex scutatus) with distinctly small, bell-shaped or arrow-shaped leaves; English sorrel (Rumex acetosa) with broader leaves- both of these have leaves with a smooth texture. Red sorrel (Rumex sanguineus) is  very attractive and has tapered light green leaves with dark maroon veins and stems. Not surprisingly it is also called Bloody Dock. When cooked, it bleeds like beetroot leaves (which I eat). First discard the bottom tough part of the stalks and then wilt the leaves as you would silver beet or spinach.

Both French sorrel and English sorrel are used interchangeably. It is also sold interchangeably and usually just labelled as ‘Sorrel.’ The French variety with the smaller arrow shaped leaves is hard to find . Both sorrels have very similar tastes – the flavour is tangy and pleasantly acidic. This is not surprising as sorrel is related to rhubarb, recognized for its tartness that comes from oxalic acid. Some texts advise to use sorrel sparingly and warn that it can be toxic to animals. The red sorrel has been primarily grown as a decorative foliage but can also be eaten. The taste is not as sharp and sour as the French and English sorrels and the larger leaves are tougher and slightly bitter rather than tangy., however when cooked they do break down considerably.

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Sorrel has been used as a culinary ingredient by the early Egyptians, Greeks and Romans. It was used during medieval and in Tudor times in England and France and it is still popular in French cuisine.

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Italians have many words for sorrel. They call it acetosa and acetina, acetosella, ossalina or erba brusca. There are even names for sorrel in dialect. It is known as pan e vin in Friuli, Veneto and Treviso regions. The Sicilians call it aghira e duci or agra e duci. The list of the various regional Italian names for sorrel can be found on a site by the Dipartimento di Scienze della Vita, Università di Trieste. The culinary uses in Italian cuisine suggested in the texts that I have seen are the same as in other cuisines: the young leaves are served raw in salads and the cooked leaves accompany fish, meat or eggs and in cream sauces and soups.
Sorrel is also found in some Asian cuisines for example in Vietnam it is known as rau chua (sour herb) or rau thom.  It is not surprising that in Vietnamese it translates as sour herbfrom old French surele, from sur, sour. I had one quick look for a Vietnamese recipe that uses sorrel and ‘sour soup’ seems to be popular.

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Notice that my bunch is just  called ‘Sorrel’. So unfair for those who are not familiar with the other sorrels!

And what did I do with my small bunch of red sorrel?

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There were no leaves in the bunch that I considered ‘small’ so I did not add them to a salad. I  added the leaves to some hot extra virgin olive oil and garlic, added the leaves and wilted them. I then added some cooked Puy lentils. I was pleased with the results and presented and made a nice accompaniment to fish cooked with with tarragon and vermouth , cauliflower and baked tomatoes.

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My friend’s recipe for  Sorrel Granita

Equal weight of French sorrel leaves (with that lovely sour taste) and simple syrup (equal parts sugar and water). The sorrel must not be cooked. Just blitz the leaves with the syrup and then strain through a fine strainer. Add a squeeze of lime juice and a pinch of salt to taste and then pour into a container and put in the freezer. About every 30 mins or so I stir it to move the ice crystals that evenly through it. When it is completely frozen (and it isn’t rock hard anyway) I just scrape it with a fork to break it into crystals.

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AGGLASSATO braised meat with a thick onion sauce

When a food is Agglassato (from a French word glacer) it is glazed. For example if it is a cake it could be glazed with glacé icing, glace cherries are glazed with sugar, the surface of a meat pate meat or fish could be glazed with a jellied stock. And to me this implies that the glaze has a sheen.

In Sicily there is a traditional dish called Agglassato also Aggrassato ( to further complicate matters it can be spelled Agrassato and Aglassato) and it is braised meat (veal, lamb, kid, tongue) cooked with large amounts of onions.It is also referred to as Carne Agrassata -meat carne =meat and it is a feminine word, therefore the ‘a’ at the end.

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Once cooked, the onions become very soft, the sauce is reduced and the onions became a thick puree Agglassato can also be eaten cold. This is when the onion sauce jellies, thickens and glazes the meat.

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Although this particular dish may have been influenced by French cuisine, lard rather than butter is used – lard being more common in Sicilian cuisine.

Agglassato seems to be a method of cooking meat which is fairly wide spread across Sicily with a few variations. Some use less onions, others add potatoes and in some parts of Sicily, especially in the South-eastern region grated pecorino cheese is added at the end of cooking. Sometimes the meat is cooked in one piece and held together with string, at other times it is cubed as in a stew.

The sauce (without potatoes) can also be used to dress pasta – remove some of the onion sauce for the first course (pasta) then present the meat for the second course with contorni (side vegetable dishes).

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The recipe is simple.

The ratio is:

1 kg meat to 1 kg onions
200 g lard or a mixture of lard and extra virgin olive oil
salt, pepper
½ -1 glass of white wine
rosemary or sage or bay leaves
meat stock (optional)

In a pan suitable for making a stew heat the lard, add the sliced onions, and herbs. Soften the onions on low heat and then add the meat (cubed or in one piece).
Toss the meat around until it is white on the surface (unlike other stews do not brown).

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Add the wine, cover and cook it over low heat for about 70 minutes per kilo of meat, less if the meat is in small pieces. Remove the lid about 15-20 minutes if the contents look too watery and allow the sauce to thicken.

If you are cooking kid or lamb (this is a common recipe for Easter especially in the south east of Sicily), the following ratio of ingredients is a useful guide.

2 kg kid, or lamb on the bone, cut into stew-size pieces
800g-1kg potatoes
500g onions
100g lard or a mixture of lard and extra virgin olive oil
salt, pepper
4 cloves of garlic (whole)
1 glass of white wine
rosemary or sage or bay leaves
1 cup of parsley cut finely
meat stock (optional)
100 g grated pecorino cheese

In a pan suitable for making a stew heat the lard, add the sliced onions, garlic and herbs (but not the parsley).
Soften the onions and then add the meat.
Toss the meat around until it is white on the surface. Add the wine, cover and cook it over low heat for about 50-60 minutes. Check for moisture and add splashes of stock or water if the stew looks too dry. In Sicily kid and lamb are slaughtered as young animals and depending on the age and tenderness of your meat you may need to cook it for longer.
Peel and cut the potatoes into small chunks and add them to the stew. Add parsley and stock or water to almost cover the potatoes and cook until they are done (probably 30 minutes).
At the end of cooking sprinkle with grated pecorino.

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In a previous post I have written about how my father used to cook tongue (lingua) in this way. Now and again he would also cook meat instead of tongue

See Recipe: Carne Aglassata-  Glazed tongue in onion sauce

Below is a photo of the whole tongue( lingua)  – this is removed from the sauce and sliced before being served.

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Anatra a paparedda cu l’ulivi (Sicilian Duck with green olives and anchovies)

Il Signor Coria (Giuseppe Coria, Profumi Di Sicilia) will tell you that ducks are not standard fare on Sicilian dinner tables. The eggs may be used to make pasta all’uovo (egg pasta) but ducks  in Sicily are few and far between.

In his book Profumi Di Sicilia, I found one duck recipe and this was for a braised duck cooked  with anchovies plus garlic, parsley, heart of celery, white wine, rosemary and green olives. The thought of braised duck does not appeal to me very much, unless I make it the day before so that I can skim off the fat the next day.

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I decided to roast the duck (on a rack so that the fat drains off) and make an accompanying sauce using the same ingredients as Coria suggested for the braise….. and it was pretty marvellous.

A couple of days later I used the leftover sauce with the stock made from the carcase/carcass and some mushrooms in a risotto, and this tasted exceptionally fantastic, even if I say so myself.

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All I can say is that I am glad that living in Australia ducks are pretty easy to find – more so in the last few years  and not just for special occasions.

Here is the duck roasting in the oven. I stuffed it with some rosemary. I  placed some potatoes in the fat, and in the pan to roast (to fry really) about 30 minutes before the end of cooking…..and I do not need to tell you how delicious they were.

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Pre heat oven to 190C.
Dry duck with paper to obtain a crispier skin
Ensure the opening at end of the duck is open to allow even cooking
Place duck on a rack in a roasting tray
Season with sea salt and freshly ground pepper and roast it.

 

My duck was 2kl so I roasted it for 2×40 minutes= 1hr 20mins.

And this is the sauce:

Remove the duck, drain the fat (use it to roast potatoes, it also makes good savoury pastry, just like lard).

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Reserve any juices that are in the bottom of the pan.

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Using the baking pan, add a little extra virgin olive oil and over a low flame melt 4-6 anchovies in the hot oil.
Add 2 garlic cloves, chopped finely (or minced as some say). Stir it around.
Add about 1 cup of finely chopped parsley and 2-3 stalks from the pale centre of a celery also sliced finely. Stir it around in the hot pan for about 2 minutes…add salt and pepper to taste.

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Add ½ cup of white wine and evaporate. Add the juices of the duck, or if you did not save them, add some meat stock – about ½ cup.
Add some chopped green olives last of all.  I had stuffed olives so I used them….probably about ¾ cup full.
Heat the ingredients through, and there is your accompanying sauce.

And it looks much better in a gravy boat than it does in the pan.

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TASMANIA, FOOD, ART, HOBART and Bagna Cauda

One week ago today  I was having lunch in Templo, an Italianate, very small restaurant in Hobart.

Duck Polenta. On the side some pickled red radicchio.

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Twelve days before that I was in Berlin.  Four days before Berlin I was in Rome and before that Sicily, and prior that London and Nottingham.

And why  go to Tasmania three days after I returned to Melbourne after seven weeks in Europe?

Tasmania had been arranged before Europe because our friend Valerie Sparkes was part of an exhibition curated by Julianna Engberg called TEMPEST at the Tasmanian Museum and Art Gallery (TMAG). It was part of MOFO. Two whole walls of this type of imagery – wallpapers.

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I  ate well in Tasmania, but I manage to eat well wherever I go.

I work hard at it – researching via books and web (I do not take much notice of Trip Advisor), taking note of restaurants I pass that look as if they may suit and looking at menus displayed, but most of all taking advice from others whose opinions I think I can trust (strangers as well as friends).

I feel that I should start with Nottingham, my first destination, but I have decided to start with Tasmania – my most recent experience.

View from Mt. Wellinghton.

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The evening before I had lunch at Templo in Hobart, I was at Aloft, that has an Asian inspired menu and is a totally different dining experience to the Italian-ate Templo.

I am not a food critic and as you may have noticed in my posts I do not elaborate or philosophize about what I eat, but I will say that although I enjoyed the ambiance, service and some of the food in Aloft, I often thought that some of the dishes were overwhelmed by strong, salty flavours, whether  they were garnishes, pickles or sauces.

I like robust flavours and certainly I had some at Templo but the flavours were well rounded….  the various tastes are balanced. Check the wine list too!

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The food originated from humble beginnings – regional Italian on this occasion – but was adventurous, modern in taste and presentation. And not at all fussy – whether in name/ description or presentation.

Templo is a very small restaurant with only one engaging  waiter – very personable and knowledgeable . As you can see by the menu on the board, there is little choice.

Below,  Broccoli and Bagna Cauda. (Recipe below for Bagna Cauda).

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This was described as Beef, celeriac…. I picked what type of cut the beef was as soon as I cut it and put it in my mouth – heart!!! Fantastic stuff… lean,  great taste, all muscle. Waiter was impressed that I knew what it was. My father used to cook it for me- how could I forget!

We ate other stuff but how many photos can I include!

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I  love Tasmania – the scenery and the bountiful produce.

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I did eat and drink well at other places in Hobart and on Bruny Island.

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And, as on any trip I cooked in the places I stayed in , in Tasmania.

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I appreciate the high-quality fresh produce along with the locally-produced meats, cheeses and  fish.

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I ate so much cheese.

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And there is MONA. I could go on and on.

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Bagna Cauda  (it is Piedmontese)

I am amazed that I do not have a recipe for Bagna Cauda on my blog.

Bagna Cauda, translated as “hot bath,”  is a dip for any combination of firm vegetables- cooked or uncooked.

A fondue-style fork will help. Slices of quality bread can be held underneath to catch the drippings and eaten also, if liked.

Here is a very simple recipe:

2 heads of garlic – separate cloves, peel
enough milk to cover garlic cloves in a small saucepan
about 25 anchovy fillets in oil, drained
300g unsalted butter, cut into pieces
300ml extra virgin olive oil
about 1 tablespoon double cream

Place the garlic cloves into a small pan, cover with milk. Gently simmer on very low heat until the garlic is soft.
Crush/mash the garlic into the milk (I use the back of a spoon), add the anchovies and dissolve them in the milk and garlic over gentle heat, stirring all the time. Add the butter and olive oil, bits and slurps slowly and stir gently to combine (without boiling).Take off the heat and mix in the cream.
Pour the mixture into a fondue dish or similar container that can be kept warm over a lighted candle or an appropriate burner.

I use this. I have a choice of two containers.

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Place in centre of the table and dip in the vegetables.

Link to post CELERIAC (Sedano Rapa)

SPAGHETTI with ‘NDUJA, SQUID, VONGOLE AND PAN GRATTATO

In a restaurant in London recently I ordered a plate of Spaghetti alla Chitarra – square cut spaghetti that was cooked with some very spicy pork sausage.  Square cut spaghetti are especially widespread in Abruzzo, but also in Molise, Lazio and Puglia and obviously can now be found elsewhere in the world.

It reminded me how, about a year previously in one restaurant  in Marin County I ordered Rustichella d’Abruzzo Chitarra with Manila clams, Pacific squid and ‘Nduja with anchovy and breadcrumbs. The Italian square-cut spaghetti were originally rolled over a box strung with guitar strings to create its straight edges.

There is a little bit of Italian regional fusion in this dish:  The pasta is from Abruzzo, ‘Nduja from Calabria,  and anchovy and breadcrumbs are very Sicilian.

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I do not have a recipe for Rustichella d’Abruzzo Chitarra with Manila clams, Pacific squid,  ‘Nduja and anchovy and breadcrumbs, however, I have a pretty good palate and a sharp sense of smell.

I am also able to discern flavours and identify ingredients. I know about cooking methods and this is my interpretation of this recipe. Obviously there may be many differences in the way they would cook this dish, for example in my recipe for simplicity, I have cooked Part 2 and 3 separately and I have then joined the components together. This is not to say that the next time, I would cook this in the same way. I always adapt and experiment with recipes and I am pretty lucky that the majority of times the food tastes OK.

Clearly, this is on my estimation of amounts and is based on my tastes and preferences.

Recipe for 6 people

300 g spaghetti. Use good quality durum wheat spaghetti for example the recommended amount is 100 g per person. I always think that this is far too much- 50g per person is fine in my household but adapt amounts accordingly.

Part 1. Breadcrumbs, anchovies and garlic mixture (often called pangrattato in Italian) is used to sprinkle on top of the dish instead of cheese.

  • 1 cup bread crumbs made from 1-2 day old good quality bread
    ⅓ cup extra-virgin olive oil, more if needed
    12 anchovies, chopped
  • 4-6 garlic cloves, chopped finely

In a fry pan (I use a non stick one) heat the oil. Add garlic and toss them around for about 30 seconds before adding the anchovies. Stir over medium heat until fragrant. Add breadcrumbs and continue to stir them until they are golden and toasted. Remove from the pan when they are ready otherwise they will continue to cook.

Part 2

  • 5-6 tablespoons of’ ‘Nduja per person
  • 2 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil
  • 1-2 red onions, sliced thinly

In a frypan sauté the onion in the olive oil. When it is soft and golden add the ‘Nduja and stir gently on low heat until it is dissolved. You may need to use a little water.

Part 3

  • Estimate about 150g of both squid sliced into small pieces and vongole or clams (without their shell) per person – adjust to your tastes. In the restaurant version there were tiny baby squid and octopi used, just as they do in Sicily. This makes me think that in the US they must be allowed to fish for baby fish.
  • 2-3 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil
  • a little salt
  • 2-3 tablespoons of passata

Sauté the fish in the oil until it is golden. Add the passata, stir over medium-low heat until you have the consistency of a thick tomato sauce. You may need to add a little more liquid if necessary.

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Complete Part 1.
Prepare the ingredients for Part 1 and 2.
Cook the pasta and while it is cooking make part 1 and part 2 using different saucepans.
To the fish mixture add the ‘Nduja mixture.
Drain the pasta and dress it with the sauce.
Dish it out into separate plates or into a large serving plate, top with the breadcrumb mixture and serve.

I have written about ‘Nduja in an earlier post. See: Nduja, A Spreadable and Spicy Pork Salame From Calabria

 

Gnocchetti Sardi dressed with a Tomato and a Pork Sausage Ragú and Differences between Ragú, Sugo and Salsa

I ate at a Sardinian restaurant in Melbourne recently and ordered Malloreddus Campidanese – Homemade traditional semolina pasta with slow cooked sausage ragú, wild fennel, chili and Sardinian pecorino cheese.

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Another name for Malloreddus are Gnocchetti Sardi (small, gnocchi shaped pasta). These are made with hard wheat flour (durum wheat), salt and water…no eggs. The mixture is kneaded for a long time and then shaped into small concave gnocchi with the help of one’s thumb and a small tool to make the ribs/ grooves– the indentation traps the sauce.
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Campidano is the name of the vast plain in Sardegna (Sardinia) so the dish originates from that part of Sardegna.

Pecorino Sardo – is strong tasting and obviously local and the preferred grating cheese. Wild fennel grows freely in Sardegna.

Sardo (masculine, singular), Sardi (masculine, plural) = Sardinian.

RAGÚ and SUGO
The ragú implies that the sauce was reduced, i.e. the flavours are concentrated and the ingredients are usually cooked for a long time. The resulting sauce is used to dress pasta, fregola, polenta, rice.  The Italian expression ‘ragú’ is derived from the French ‘ragout’-it is a thick stew of meat, poultry or fish with or without vegetables.

A ‘sugo’ is often used interchangeably with ‘ragú’- different regions of Italy prefer one term above the other, but generally a ragú is cooked on low heat for a long time and the flavours are concentrated.

Because sausages cook quickly I would probably hesitate to refer to this pasta dressing as a ragú, unless I had added some pieces of pork meat which would benefit with longer cooking.

I had some commercially bought Gnocchetti Sardi in my pantry. I also had crushed tomatoes. I bought some Italian pork sausages. I also know where to collect wild fennel, but if you purchase Italian pork and fennel sausages (and perhaps add a few fennel seeds) you will have similar results.

The dish is so easy to replicate.

6 Italian pork sausages or pork and fennel sausages (hot or mild)

1 onion, finely chopped
¼ cup extra virgin olive oil
½ cup of dry white or red wine
800g crushed tomatoes
2 garlic cloves, whole
seasoning: salt and crushed chili flakes, or pepper to taste
some wild fennel sprigs or ½ tsp fennel seeds
fresh basil (optional)

100g of pasta per person. I cooked 400g of Gnocchetti Sardi
grated Pecorino (of good quality). I sometimes use Pecorino Pepato (has pepper corns in it)

Heat the oil in a pan, add the onion, and allow to soften over a moderate heat.
Remove the casings from the sausages and crumb the meat, separating it into small pieces. Add the sausage meat, brown, add the wine and evaporate.
Add the crushed tomatoes, seasoning, garlic, fennel and basil.
Cover and cook slowly on  low heat until thickened for about 30- 40 minutes.
Remove the garlic before dressing the pasta.

Cook the pasta, dress and present with grated pecorino.

SALSA
As an alternative you could make a simple tomato salsa…  so what is the difference between a tomato based sugo and a tomato salsa?

To an Italian this is important.

A tomato salsa is made quickly with pureed tomatoes…. No meat or vegetables, easy, fragrant and perfect for summer as a dressing for pasta:

¼ cup extra virgin olive oil
800g crushed tomatoes (fabulous with fresh tomatoes, peeled)
2 garlic cloves, whole
fresh basil
salt and pepper

Put all of the ingredients together in a pan and cook uncovered until thickened.
Remove the casings from the sausages and crumb the meat, separating it into small pieces.
Heat the oil in a pan, add the sausage meat, brown it and add this (meat and juices) to the prepared salsa.

Check out one of my old posts, great photos of my Sicilian aunt making Sicilian Gnocchetti:

Gnucchiteddi (Making Small Gnocchi Shapes Using My Great Grandmother’s Device)

 

MASCARPONE and its many uses. How to make it at home.

I have been making different batches of mascarpone at home and I have been using it in all sorts of dishes.

I have stuffed fresh figs with it (as a non sweetened savoury cheese), added zabaglione to it and used it to accompany stuffed peaches with raspberries scattered on top (stuffing made with amaretti and crushed almonds), spooned dollops of it into cold cream soups, thickened and enriched sauces, used it in a baked plum tart (like a cheesecake), enjoyed it with fresh berries, mixed it into dips, blended it with gorgonzola or with feta and used it as a spread …..and have made the most of having it as a staple in my fridge.

IMG_2645Mascarpone is a cheese, originally from Lombardy but now used extensively in savoury and sweet dishes elsewhere in Italy and of course in other parts of the world. It can be difficult to find and making it at home is so easy.

Plum tart #2

Cheese is made with creamy milk but mascarpone is made from cream that thickens when coagulated with cultures (like those used to make sour cream) .

You will find various explanations of how it is made. The most common is that the cream is heated, then acidified with citric acid or lemon juice and then kept at a high temperature for 5 or 10 minutes.

Figs stuffed with cheese

However, I use a much simpler way – I do not heat the cream nor do I coagulate it with lemon juice (this can also impart an unwanted lemon taste).

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I mix fresh cream with soured cream. The sour cream introduces the bacterial culture to  the cream and after leaving it for 2 days or more it thickens. The result is a very thick cream with a slightly sharp, sour taste – and very much like the commercially made Mascarpone. Buttermilk can also be used to introduce the culture to the cream.

Mascarpone is very much the consistency of clotted cream, but this has a higher fat content and it is thickened by heating with no cultures added.

Crème fraiche is also cultured cream; to make this I add a higher amount of sour cream to the cream and make it slightly more acidic in taste.

I like to use double cream and do not use thickened cream because it contains a thickener.

DIRECTIONS

Combine one carton of cream and half of that amount of sour cream in a glass container. Cover and let sit at room temperature overnight. Refrigerate for at least 24 hours before using.

 

When stored in the fridge, the cream will continue to mature and thicken; it keeps well for about one week.

 

 

 

MATARROCCU, a Sicilian pesto

At this time of year basil is plentiful and many of us enjoy pasta with pesto, so it is time to revisit a post I first wrote in February, 2009 about the Sicilian pesto called Mataroccu (and also Ammogghia in some parts of Sicily).

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The name pesto comes from the word for pestle or to pound. The ingredients are pounded in a mortar and the results are much sweeter than ingredients chopped in a food processor – the differences are much the same as the results obtained from chopping herbs by hand and using a food processor fitted with the steel blade (will taste grassy).

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Most associate pesto with the traditional combination of basil, pine nuts, extra virgin olive oil, garlic and good quality grated cheese; pesto originates from the region of Liguria.

Some of us would be amused about the way that Ligurians discuss a genuine pesto- Ligurian pesto can only be made with basil grown in Genoa and close environs (region of Liguria) and that Ligurians generally use as the cheese component, half Parmigiano and half Pecorino sardo – Sardinian (sardo) Pecorino is a much sweeter tasting and less salty than other pecorino. As it should be, Pecorino is made from sheeps’ milk – the word pecora is Italian for sheep.

To dress pasta, also like to make a Sicilian alternative, a pesto from around Trapani – Mataroccu or Ammogghia and sometimes Pesto Pantesco (if it is from the island of Pantelleria, south-west of Sicily).

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As expected there are different regional versions of the same pistu (Sicilian word for pesto)  It contains similar ingredients as the Ligurian pesto but also raw, fresh, ripe tomatoes, which at this time of year, like basil, should not be a problem. Some Trapanesi prefer to use blanched almonds instead of the pine nuts.

I never weigh ingredients when I make pesto, but the following amounts should provide a balanced sauce for pasta. As I may have written at other times, in Australia we tend to overdress our pasta – the pesto should coat the pasta (and it is assumed that you will use good quality, durum wheat pasta) but not overpower the taste.

INGREDIENTS:
almonds or pine nuts, 1 cup
garlic, 8-10 cloves,
ripe tomatoes,  400g, peeled, seeded, and chopped
basil, 1 ½ cups loose leaves
parsley ½ cup, cut finely
extra virgin olive oil (your most fragrant), about 1 cup or as much as the pesto absorbs
salt, and red pepper flakes to taste

PREPARATION:
Pound garlic in a mortar with a little salt to obtain a paste (I like it fine but with some uneven bits).
Add some of the tomato, some herbs and a little oil and pound some more.
Keep on adding a few ingredients at the time, till they have all been used and until you have a homogeneous, smooth sauce.

Because we live in a modern age you may wish to use a food processor.  First grind the nuts. Add the rest of the ingredients gradually and process until creamy.