Category Archives: Contorno/ Vegetables

PORCINI in ADELAIDE, Yeppee

Should I move back to Adelaide?

I moved to Melbourne in 2002 but after receiving photos of Porcini gathered in the Adelaide Hills, I am tempted to return.

Pocini clump

Yes, Porcini, the large family of wild and meaty mushroom with a rich flavour. Porcini belong to the Boletus genus and there are about 12 different species. When I was living in Adelaide I did collect wild Mushrooms, but never Porcini.

I knew that Porcini were in the Adelaide Hills, somewhere secret.

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I  had bought and still have a very scientific publication, a handbook of Flora and Fauna of South Australia printed by the South Australian Government in 1976 : Toadstools And Mushrooms and Other Larger Fungi of South Australia, by John Burton Cleland MD.

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Dried Porcini have been available  from specialised stores for a long time in Australia and are most commonly used to make mushroom risotto. As you’d expect mushrooms have an intense flavour and fragrance when dried. My mother use to add dry porcini to enrich a strong, slow cooked sugo (ragùragoût). My polish friend wouldn’t dream of making sauerkraut without some dry mushrooms; her Pierogi  stuffed with sauerkraut are marvellous. Dry mushrooms added to a fresh mushroom braise make a fabulous topping for polenta.

These latest photos were sent by Adelaide friends who wish to make me jealous. and entice me to move back to South Australia.

This Porcino (by the way, porcino means ‘little pig’) and it is easy to see why … weighed about 425g. Now, how many would you need to make one risotto?

Porcini and wine glass

Italians are very enthusiastic about Porcini and they can be found in all regions of Italy. I have been in Paris and in Tokyo when the Porcini mushrooms first hit the market – a very exciting time for locals … I must like to travel in Autumn!

A few years ago I visited Calabria and the host, a family friend, took me to a restaurant  in the Sila, a National Park whose woods are a fertile mix of conifers, interspersed with larch pine, beech, chestnuts and white fir trees. In this particular restaurant every dish featured mushrooms as the main ingredient … pickled, raw and cooked. Marvellous.

Local produce, local food. On that particular day I ate more than mushrooms….there  are chestnut trees growing in the Sila.  I ate dark bread made with chestnut flour.  Pasta is also made with chestnut flour. There are cinghiali  –  wild pigs/boars and deer in these mountains, too. Just the thing to get the cacciatore’s pulses racing. I ate the chestnut bread with a prosciutto made from the wild boar. And we stopped on the side of the road and drank fresh (freezing) water from a spring on the side of a mountain.

In Adelaide, the Porcini are being sold at the Adelaide Central Market and other places, one friend reported seeing them at his local greengrocer.

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My daughter works at an eatery called Minestra that specialize in using produce that locals offer to the eatery… I call it an eatery because it is more like a trattoria than a restaurant and they had Porcini on their take away menu last week. Lucky them and how generous was one of their patrons!

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I am a lover of the saffron coloured pine mushroom and do not mind a Slippery Jack or two, especially when they are picked young. Slippery Jacks are fantastic when dried. Easy to do, slice them if they are too large or you wish them to dry quickly,  Place them on a cloth near a heater … but not too close, you do not want them to cook…. turn them once or twice and when dry, store them in a jar.

And do not worry, my friends will be respectful and not trample and destroy the  mushroom habitat…unfortunately, non-professionals collecting mushrooms can damage the beds.

Below are some pine mushrooms also collected in the Adelaide Hills.

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There are a number of recipes for mushrooms on my blog.

WILD MUSHROOMS – Saffron Coloured, Pine Mushrooms and Slippery Jacks

MORE AUTUMN PRODUCE… lemons and quinces, wild mushrooms and homemade pasta

WILD MUSHROOMS, I have been foraging again

PASTA WITH MUSHROOMS – Pasta ai funghi

MORE AUTUMN PRODUCE… lemons and quinces, wild mushrooms and homemade pasta

The old autumn favourites are back.

I have bought Cime di rapa, sautéed them with Italian pork sausages (chilli flavoured) and ate them with orecchiette and grated, strong, pecorino cheese.

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There were artichokes, fennel and even chicory for sale, and because of the colder weather the heads of red Radicchio seemed firmer than two weeks ago.

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This week one friend dropped off a bag of  fresh lemons from her father’s tree. A generous amount. and a welcome gesture.

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I had a couple of quinces left over from last week and I added  slices of four large lemons when I baked them.  Yet again, I baked the quinces with different flavours. Honey as the sweetener and Tuaca from Livorno –  this is a sweetish, golden brown liqueur, and the ingredients include brandy, citrus essences, vanilla, and other secret spices – probably ordinary simple cinnamon and nutmeg .

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I included quite a few black peppercorns, cinnamon quills and star anise in the mix.

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The lemons turn out like marmalade, only crispy at the edges…I like the texture and intense taste.

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I also added a dash of Vanilla and some water. It is not necessary to use ample amounts of alcohol unless you want to, but probably if you did, the taste would be superb.

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Another surprise, another gift from different friends who live in Red Hill. On their morning walk they collected some saffron coloured, pine mushrooms (Lactarius deliciosus), also called  saffron milk caps and red pine mushrooms. He who works in the city on occasions let me know that he had some for me. The small mushrooms look fabulous left whole and perfect for showing off and the bigger ones get sliced… they are very meaty.

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Holly,  the Cocker Spaniel loves  any opportunity to have her photo taken. She is like Photographer William Wegman’s photographic,  Weimaraner dogs.

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I cooked the mushrooms with garlic, parsley, sage, thyme, rosemary and nepitella and a dash of white wine.

The mushrooms made a flavourful pasta sauce and went well with the home made egg tagliatelle.

Making pasta is easy – 100g of flour per egg. I use hard flour (durum wheat, high protein, the same as I use for making bread).

I used 300g of flour and 3 eggs and this fed two of us with a small bit left over for a snack the next day.

Place the flour in a bowl. Make a well in the centre, crack the eggs into it, add a bit of salt and stir the eggs with a fork.

Use your fingers to mix the eggs with the flour, incorporating a little at a time, until everything is combined.

Knead to make one smooth lump of dough.

You can also make your dough in a food processor –  put everything in, mix with the paddle attachment until the mixture looks like breadcrumbs, then remove the attachment and use your hands and bring the dough together into one lump.

I then divide the large ball into 3 smaller lumps, wrap them in film and put it in the fridge to rest for about 1 hour or so. The approx. 100g quantities balls makes it easier when you roll out the pasta or feed the pasta through the rolling machine. Flattern the ball before you feed it through, do this several times before you use the tagliatelle cutting section of the pasta machine.

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During the week I also made some pasta made with rye flour and with a rolling pin flattened each ball between two pieces of  baking paper. Cut into strips.

Very simple.

Mushrooms and home made Pasta:

WILD MUSHROOMS, I have been foraging again

PASTA WITH MUSHROOMS – Pasta ai funghi

WILD MUSHROOMS – Saffron Coloured, Pine Mushrooms and Slippery Jacks

QUADRUCCI IN BRODO, Squares of home-made Pasta in Broth

GNUCCHITEDDI (Making small gnocchi shapes using my great grandmother’s device)

Pasta with cime di rapa (rape is plural):

ONE OF MY FAVOURITE VEGETABLES – Cime di Rape

PASTA with ‘NDUJA, CIME DI RAPA and PORK SAUSAGES

CIME DI RAPE (A winter green)

About Nepitella:

STUFFED BAKED MUSHROOMS with Nepitella

Quinces:

AUTUMN FRUIT and baked quinces

A Tale about QUINCES

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CHICKPEAS and simple food

Let’s make the most of simple, healthy food. Let’s not panic about not having fully stocked pantries.

There are always chickpeas and other pulses in my pantry and freezer. I soak pulses overnight, change the water and then cook them on low heat. Once cooked, I transfer the surplus into glass jars and store them in my freezer. Easy, nutritious and on hand.

Here are two things that I cooked recently using chickpeas.

Pasta with cauliflower, short pasta and chick peas:

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The other, chickpeas, saffron, mushrooms and eggplants:

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I really enjoy making the most of the ingredients I have on hand. This is one of the reasons why I like camping or preparing a meal in Airbnbs in fabulous parts of the world….You do not have everything…cannot pop into a particular store to buy things so you have to be creative and use what you have.

The pasta dish was very simple. In the photo you see chickpeas, passata, herbs and chillies. The herb I used is  nepitella that grows on my balcony and is ultra plentiful at the moment. You may have oregano, basil, thyme, marjoram or just plain parsley on hand.

The vegetable is common, white cauliflower…easily available, keeps well in  the fridge for a long time. I like to use spring onions, rather than onions, but the choice is yours. There is garlic and stock. Stock is always in my freezer. Like I cook and store pulses, there are jars of broth or stock on hand.

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The method is nothing novel. Most of my cooking begins with extra virgin olive oil, garlic, onion (if using both), sautéed. Add main ingredients. In this case cauliflower, sauté again, add stock, herbs, seasoning and passata (not much, just to colour). Cover and cook. Very Italian.

I cooked the short pasta separately, but I could have added more stock and cooked the pasta in the cauliflower concoction.  You can tell by the photos that I intended this dish to be a wet pasta dish.

Now for the other. I cannot call it anything because I had no background for this recipe. Once again it was making use of what I had in my fridge. It tasted great and I may not make it again, but if I do it could be different. It all depends what you have on hand.

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A spring onion, sautéed. Add mushrooms, I left them whole. Sautéed once again. Add chickpeas, eggplant (I cut it lengthwise) saffron, herbs, seasoning and the chickpea broth. The chickpeas are stored in their cooking liquid, and this is the broth. I used marjoram as the herb this time (the plant on my balcony needed trimming) and decorated the dish with fresh mint.

Is it regional Italian?

Certainly the basic cooking methods and ingredients could be Italian or Mediterranean at least. Like all of us, as a cook we rely on our experiences and knowledge of particular cuisines. Is it something that my mother would have made? Maybe the cauliflower pasta has common roots.

Being creative in my kitchen gives me much pleasure.

CEDRO o LIMONE? Insalata di limone. Sicilian Lemon salad.

Was I excited? You bet I was.

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I was at the Alphington Melbourne Farmers’ Market yesterday and found these beauties at the Sennsational berries stall.

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It is not often that one finds such mature lemons. And what to do with large lemons?

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Make a Sicilian salad like my father used to make (he grew up in Ragusa, Sicily before relocating to Trieste). I did wonder if it was a cedro rather than a lemon, but was told it was a lemon and it tasted like one.

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I removed the skin and squeezed out some of the juice….this lemon was certainly juicy and the salad should not be too acidic.

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This salad likes fresh garlic and I still had some in the fridge that I had bought the week before from the same market, however this time I bought some garlic shoots, added fresh mint, a little parsley and some of the fresh oregano I have growing on my balcony. This oregano plant came from my father’s garden in Adelaide. He died years ago.

The last time I bought garlic shoots was earlier this year when I was in the Maremma, Tuscany.

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In our Airbnb in Castiglione della Pescaia I cooked them with zucchini and zucchini flowers as a dressing for Pici, the local pasta shape in Tuscany.

 


Back to the lemon salad in Melbourne, Australia:

Some good extra virgin olive oil and salt are a must. The salt brings out the sweetness of the lemon.

So, so good for summer. Think about it accompanying some seafood…BBQ fish? Very good. I took it to my friends place and we had it with a simple roast chicken, a succulent free range chicken.

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I have written about lemon salad before. That post also explains what is a cedro and has a photo of a cedro from a Sicilian market.

LEMON and CEDRO – SICILIAN LEMON SALAD

I shared my recipe with the stall owners. They were excited too.

 

 

SAUERKRAUT with Dried Mushrooms and golden CHICKEN BROTH, Polish secrets

Everyone should have a Polish friend. In Adelaide recently, I stayed with my Polish friend and during the first two days of being  back in Melbourne I have already made two Polish inspired dishes.

Not only that, I came home with a bunch of sorrel from her garden and I made an omlette (sorrel = bottom right hand side of photo). When i am fortunate enough to have some sorrel  I usually braise it with potatoes, or make a green borscht, or add it to it to a braise of meat.

My friend celebrates Christmas eve with some of the traditional Polish  foods that her parents used to enjoy. She and her two sisters get together and make Pierogi stuffed with sauerkraut and dried porcini mushrooms.

She knows how much I like sauerkraut and if I am visiting her after Christmas I know that she would have saved some Pierogi for me in her freezer.

This time (October) she prepared the sauerkraut and dried porcini mushrooms as a side dish for duck breasts, a green salad , steamed herbed potatoes and beetroot….potatoes and beetroot are almost a must in all Polish meals. The dried mushrooms make the sauerkraut a darker colour.

Having lived in Trieste, I am very used to eating and preparing sauerkraut and it is one of my favourite ingredients, but I generally I do not add dried mushrooms nor do I cook sauerkraut as long as she does.
Like all who have cooked a particular recipe for a long time, she does not measure quantities.

Vary the amounts of mushrooms, sauerkraut and cooking times as you wish.

1/4- 1/2 cups dried Porcini mushrooms soaked in water to cover
splash of olive oil
1 onion, chopped
1k-900g sauerkraut, jars are usually 900g – drained, rinsed and squeezed
salt and ground black pepper to taste

Leave mushrooms too soak at least for a couple of hours or combine water and dried mushrooms in a saucepan over low heat, simmer,and cook until tender – about 10 minutes. Drain mushrooms, reserving cooking water. Slice the mushrooms into smaller pieces if necessary.

Heat olive oil in a saucepan and over medium heat sauté onion until soft. Add mushrooms and drained sauerkraut and mix well. Add salt and pepper.

Add mushroom water, cover, and simmer until sauerkraut is soft. Add more water as it cooks if necessary. My friend cooks it for over an hour.

The second Polish thing I did in the last two days was to add a beetroot to the chicken broth I cooked. I have done this before and what it does is to colour the broth…not red, but a rich, golden colour as is evident in the photo above.

I make chicken broth the Italian way, adding a whole onion, celery sticks, carrots, whole peppercorns and salt.

My mother also added a little tomato, and perhaps this was done to colour, but I only do this when tomatoes are in season.  My Polish friend had recommend adding a beetroot years ago.

I use a whole, free range chicken and eat the meat.

BRODO DI GALLINA (Chicken Broth)

Follow the above recipe, just add a whole beetroot (unpeeled).

You could also add dried porcini to this recipe:

CHICKEN WITH SAUERKRAUT, from the Carso, in north eastern Italy, near Trieste

 

 

STUFFED BAKED MUSHROOMS with Nepitella

On this occasion I cooked dairy free and gluten free, stuffed, baked mushrooms (funghi ripieni or funghi farciti in Italian).

For those of you who would prefer to use breadcrumbs instead of crumbed gluten free cracker biscuits and you may like to add a bit of grated Parmesan cheese (as I usually do).

Apart from the crumbed cracker biscuits these mushrooms are stuffed with the mushroom stalks, silver beet (or spinach), parsley, garlic, nutmeg, extra virgin olive oil and the herb Nepitella (calamint) that I am growing on my balcony. Nepitella is not very well known in Australia but this aromatic herb it is used in Tuscany and Lazio especially for for the preparation of artichokes,  mushrooms but also with eggs and other vegetables.

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I have used Nepitella to stuff  delicate tasting fish and I also like it with pork. A couple of months ago I was in Tuscany  and I enjoyed collecting Nepitella (it grows wild);  when i cooked, I used it extensively. Marjoram or thyme also go well with mushrooms. The larger leaves in the photo below are young plants of Warrigal Greens.

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No need for quantities…once again, you can estimate how much you wish to use by what what amounts and ratio of amounts I estimated I wanted in my stuffing.

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Wipe the mushrooms clean. Remove the stalks and finely chop them. Slice and chop the silver beet or spinach leaves.Crumb the cracker biscuits (or use breadcrumbs). Preheat oven at 180˚C.

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Heat the oil in a pan add the chopped mushroom stalks and garlic. Cook for about 2 minutes until soft and golden. Remove from the stove.

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Mix in in the silver beet or spinach, walnuts, biscuit (or bread) crumbs, a dash of extra virgin olive oil, salt and pepper, herbs and nutmeg. Spoon the mixture onto the mushrooms. Bake them until cooked through and browned on top; mine were large mushrooms and I baked them for 15–20 minutes, I used baking paper with a little extra virgin olive oil.

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ITALIAN RUSSIAN SALAD, no beetroot

I was in Russia recently and I came back to Australia with a yearning to make  Russian Salad.

I ordered it in a restaurant in Saint Petersburg and in one in Moscow and in both cities it contained beetroot.

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My mother’s Russian salad was simple and contains potatoes, carrots, french beans, peas, giardiniera or citriolini (pickled vegetables and cornichons), hard boiled eggs and egg mayonnaise.

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When my mother was still alive and still capable of cooking Russian Salad was something that she made often as an antipasto . This and Zuppa Inglese (dessert) were two dishes that were particularly popular in restaurants when we left Trieste before we came to Australia. Both continued to be presented frequently in Adelaide where we lived on special occasions or for birthdays and when we invited guests for Sunday lunch – the preferred time to have a long lunch followed by a game of cards while the house shivered to the sound of opera.

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Interestingly, not all my recipe sources include beetroot as an ingredient for Russian salad as made in many parts of the world including Russia. The majority of the Russian recipes prefer French dressing seems to be preferred rather than mayonnaise and some recipes contain turnip; this makes sense as root vegetables are common in Russia.

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Variations of one particular recipe as served by the Russian nobility (probably those who spent time in France) contains a melange of flavours, either or a combination of ox tongue, lobster, ham. Truffles or cooked mushrooms also feature. Some of the French like chicken meat. Capers and anchovies in some.

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The Belle Époque is over: I think that keep it simple is my motto, and egg mayonnaise is the wow factor.

For recipes and more information of  INSALATA RUSSA,  MAIONAISE (mayonnaise in Italian) and other recipes with egg mayonnaise:

INSALATA RUSSA (Party time – Russian salad)

PESCE IN BIANCO (Plain fish). MAIONESE (Mayonnaise)

YEARNING FOR VITELLO TONNATO

VITELLO TONNATO

CHICKEN LAYERED WITH A TUNA AND EGG MAYONNAISE – A cold Chicken dish

POLLO ALLA MESSINESE (A cold chicken dish similar to Vitello Tonnato from Messina)

 

 

 

 

MELANZANE – eggplants – A FUNGHETTO or TRIFOLATE

Sometimes, some recipes are just so simple that I do not bother writing about them, but then I buy a new cookbook and notice that simple recipes are what we like and want…and besides, not everybody grew up in an Italian household and they may not be familiar with this style of cooking.

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One simple way of cooking some vegetables, for example eggplants, zucchini or mushrooms is a funghetto in bianco or trifolate.

A funghetto, translates as mushroom, i.e. in the style or method of how you would cook mushrooms – simply sautéed in extra virgin olive oil with garlic and parsley.

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In bianco translates as in white, i.e. without tomatoes. Photo above is of king mushrooms cooked a funghetto.

This style of cooking is a common way to cook either of these three vegetables throughout Italy, but it is typical of the Veneto. I grew up in Trieste, so I identify with this style of cooking very much.

Once again, I will write this recipe as an Italian – no measurements. The recipe is so simple, and the photos tell the story so who needs measurements!

C8EC1013-26A8-4459-9BCD-E8C05CD26471eggplants/aubergines, cut into cubes

extra virgin olive oil, 

cloves of garlic, chopped (to taste)

chopped parsley

pepper and salt

extra virgin olive oil

Use gentle to medium heat throughout the cooking – the ingredients are not fried, they are sautéed till softened.

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Heat a splash of oil in a frypan (I like to use a frypan with a heavy base). Add the garlic and stir it around for a very short time so that it begins to soften.

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Add the eggplants and stir often until they have softened and have coloured. Add pepper and salt.

Add the chopped parsley and keep on stirring through for about 30 seconds…and I hate to say it…until it has softened.

Eat hot or cold – fabulous as a starter, side dish….as a dressing for pasta?

 

 

 

CAPONATA FROM PALERMO (made with eggplants)

No exact quantities,  just like an Italian.  You can tell from the photos how easy it is to make Caponata Palermitana. Unlike Caponata Catanese there are no peppers (capsicums) in this caponata but the rest of the ingredients and processes for making  any caponata are the same.

I used 2 egglants. Cooked each separately as I did not want the frying to be overcrowded. I use salt when I am cooking and not after the dish is cooked. I always use extra virgin olive oil.

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A good heavy saucepan is good to use.

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After the eggplants, sauté the onions and the celery. I used 1 large onion, 2 sticks of celery and some of the tender leavesof the celery. Add some salt.

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When the onions and celery have softened to your liking, add green olives and capers.

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I made a space in the centre of the saucepan, added a couple of teaspoons of sugar. Melted that and added about a quarter of a cup of red vinegar and evaporated it.

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I made another space in the centre and added about 1/3 cup of passata.

CFB15A9B-AE28-48E3-A9E7-E05752A95BF3Cooked it – you can see that there is very little liquid left.

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Time to add the eggplants and combine all the ingredients.

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This time I will decorate the caponata with fried breadcrumbs (day old bread mollica) toasted in a frypan with a little olive oil.

I could decorate the caponata with toasted pine nuts or almonds but I think the bread will add crunch but not too much taste so as not to compete with the eggplants. At this time of year, egglants are of excellent quality.

Mint rather than basil appealed to me more on this occasion.

There are numerous recipes for caponate (I can spell, it is the plural of caponata). Use the search button.

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CAPONATA Catanese (from Catania) made easy with photos

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I am writing this post for a friend to demonstrate that making caponata is not difficult and I have therefore included many photos.

In my first book, Sicilian Seafood Cooking I have written a whole chapter about making various caponate (plural). This one is Catanese, as made in Catania, and the main ingredients are eggplants and peppers, but there are other caponate where the main ingredients are either eggplants or pumpkin or potato or celery (called Christmas caponata). I have also made a fennel caponata.

All caponate need to be made at least one day before to let the flavours develop. Caponate are eaten at room temperature.

Caponata Catanese is made with eggplants, peppers, celery, onions, chopped green olives and capers.  A little sugar, vinegar and a splash of passata are used to make the agro- dolce sauce. Toasted pine nuts (or almonds) and fresh basil make good decoration and add extra taste. Caponata Palermitana, from Palermo, does not include peppers. I used roughly 1 kilo of eggplants and 1 kilo of peppers, 3 sticks of celery (pale green from near  the centre), 1 onion. I used about 125g of capers and about the same amounts of chopped green olives. A true Sicilian making caponata would never weigh ingredients and may at times use more eggplants than peppers; these are rough amounts as a guide to illustrate ratios of ingredients. Always use extra virgin olive oil and as much as needed to prevent the ingredients sticking; access oil can always be drained off but bread makes a fine accompaniment to all caponate and the oil is particularly flavourful.

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Each vegetable is fried separately but I usually combine the celery and the onion at the same time. the vegetables have different rates of cooking and you want to preserve the individual flavours as much as possible.

A frypan with a heavy base is good to use. I am making large quantities this time to take to a gathering so I am using my heavy wok (Le Creuset).

Fry the eggplants in some extra olive oil and add a little salt. Drain the eggplant in a colander with a container underneath to collect any oil. In the same pan add some new oil and the oil that you have drained from the eggplants. Fy the peppers and add a little salt. Drain them as you did the eggplants, collect the oil and add this to some new oil in the same pan.

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Fry the celery and the onion.

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When they have softened but the celery still has some crunch add the  green olives and capers. Salt may not be necessary for this component of the dish.

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Make a small depression in the centre of the vegetables and add about a flat tablespoon of sugar – this varies, some add more, some add less. Melt the sugar (caramelise it) and then add about 3 tablespoons of wine vinegar. Evaporate on high heat.

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Add a splash of passata. Mix through the ingredients in the pan and cook it for a few minutes.

Incorporate all of the ingredients .

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The caponata is now cooked. It needs to be placed in the fridge in a sealed container till you are ready to eat it and it will not suffer if it is made 3-4 days beforehand.

Decorate it with toasted pine nuts and fresh basil leaves when you are ready to present it.

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There are other recipes on my blog for caponate made with different vegetables.

PUMPKIN – Zucca (gialla) – and two Sicilian ways to cook it

CAPONATA DI NATALE (Christmas, winter caponata made with celery, almonds and sultanas)

SICILIAN CAPONATA DI MELANZANE as made in Palermo (Eggplant caponata and Eggplant caponata with chocolate)

A MOUNTAIN OF CAPONATA – two days before Christmas

FENNEL CAPONATA (Sicilian sweet and sour method for preparing certain vegetables).

CAPONATA SICILIANA (CATANESE – Caponata as made in Catania)