When I go camping I enjoy cooking just as much as when I cook at home. I like to go camping as often as possible.
I particularly enjoy the challenge of undertaking of cooking with limited resources – few ingredients, simple cooking methods and equipment. Each meal is further restricted by what ingredients and produce has to be used first.
Camping meals also have to be easy, quick to cook and as flavoursome as I can make them. The basics are extra virgin olive oil, good quality wine vinegar or balsamic, anchovies, capers, mustard, fresh herbs from my garden, some spices and anything else that is in my home fridge and that I have room for in my camping fridge/ cooler box, for example any of the following: harissa, egg mayonnaise, tapenade, preserved lemons, left-over cooked food and sauces…these will enrich the flavours of what I am to cook.
Above: kale sautéed with garlic, anchovies and chillies is accompanied with saganaki. Like when cooking FORMAGGIO ALLA ARGENTIERA I always add a sprinkling of dried oregano while it is cooking.
Above: braised mushrooms will be used to dress pasta or may accompany pork sausages or used to make a frittata.
Above: eggs poached in some tomato salsa and sprinkled with fresh basil leaves.
Above: braised red radicchio with pan-fried salamino (or chorizo).
Above: cauliflower cooked with rosemary and saffron and some creamed feta. This too could be used as a pasta sauce.
Above: pork sausages are pretty much staples for camping. They can be crumbled into dishes or cooked whole with tomatoes, sauerkraut, lentils or beans.
Above: pork sausages with lentils.
After 30 years of using a blue gas stove I now have a yellow one. This one lights more easily and generates more heat.
Sautéed green leafy vegetables with chilli.
This is a common Italian method to cook any green leafy vegetables , such as : kale, cavolo nero, spinach, chicory, endives, cime di rape, brassicas. Italians, like my mother would blanche or cook the leafy greens in boiling, salted water before sautéing , however because I prefer my vegetables not to be overcooked I omit the precooking.
I like to add a substantial amount of anchovies, but I am careful about adding salt to the greens when I sauté them in extra virgin olive oil, garlic, and chilli.
Sauté the anchovies, The anchovies have to be cut finely and tossed about in some extra virgin olive oil to dissolve/ melt. This happens quickly.
Add some chopped garlic and chillies and toss for a couple of minutes before adding the washed greens and sauté until cooked to your liking.
This week, Richard Cornish’s regular column is about artichokes. (September 21, Brain Food in The Age). His commentary has certainly provided me with an excess amount of food for thought – artichokes are one of my very favourite vegetables and I have written many recipes for artichokes on my blog.
I have included some recipes in this post and more can be found on my blog. In Italian artichokes are called carciofi, in Sicilian they are cacocciuli. As Richard says, artichokes are thought to have originated from Sicily, and therefore Sicilians have had plenty of time to appreciate their versatility and have come up with some excellent recipes for artichokes cooked in many interesting ways.
This is not to say that the other regions of Italy don’t have their own local recipes for artichokes, but Sicilians seem to have the lot.
Artichokes in Italy are eaten as appetizers, contorni (sides), first and second courses, and stand-alone dishes. Artichokes can be stuffed with a wide variety of fillings, fried whole or sliced, and crumbed before being fried, sautéed, boiled, baked, braised and stewed, roasted in ashes, used in frittate (plural of frittata), pasta and risotti (plural of risotto).
When they are young, they are sliced thinly and eaten raw in salads. They are canned commercially and, at the end of plant’s life, the last of the artichokes that will never mature but will stay small and underdeveloped, are conserved, mostly in olive oil. When they are old, they are stripped of all the leaves and the bases are eaten.
In his Brain Food column about artichokes Richard says that artichokes contain a compound called cynarin which inhibits your tongue’s ability to detect sweetness. You don’t notice it until you have a bite or a drink of something else: the cynarin gets washed off the tongue, and suddenly, your brain tells you that what you have in your mouth is sweet, even when it is not!
Hence Cynar, one of the many Italian bitter alcoholic drinks (of the amaro variety) and made predominantly with artichokes. Cynar is classed as a digestive and it is said to have stomach-soothing qualities and cleansing and restorative properties for the liver. It can be drunk as an apéritif or after dinner drink.
Richard mentions how Richard Purdue, executive chef at Margaret in Sydney’s Double Bay, beams when the word artichoke is mentioned. ‘‘One of my favourite dishes is one I picked up in Sicily, where the artichokes are cooked in a kind of caponata – tomatoes, celery, pine nuts, currants, red wine and sugar.’’ So to finish off here is a recipe adapted from my book, Sicilian Seafood Cooking for a caponata made with artichokes.
The recipe in my book suggests using 9 -10 artichokes and I intended the amount to be for 6 -8 people. Caponata di Carciofi (Artichoke Caponata) can only be made with young artichokes. It is also worth noting that you will need to remove the outer leaves and only use the tender centre, therefore reducing the amount of artichokes significantly.
CAPUNATA DI CARCIOFFULI – Caponata Di Carciofi (Artichoke caponata)
I sauté each of the vegetable ingredients separately as is the traditional method of making caponata (as in a well-made, French dish Ratatouille). Frying the vegetables together does save time, but the colours and the flavours will not be as distinct. However, I have provided this method as a variation (see bottom of this recipe). Remove the outer, tougher leaves of the artichokes by bending them back and snapping them off the base until you come to the softer, paler leaves.
Prepare artichokes for sautéing. The artichokes need to be sliced thinly and vertically into bite size pieces. Keep them in acidulated water as you work. The cleaned stalk is one of my favourite parts of the artichoke and will add flavour to the caponata. Trim the stalk with a small sharp knife to pull away the tough, stringy outer skin (just like the strings of celery) and leave the stem attached to the artichoke. This will expose the light-coloured, centre portion, which is very flavourful and tender and much appreciated by Italians.
Drain the artichokes from the acidulated water and squeeze dry (I use a clean tea towel).
Select a large, shallow, saucepan to sauté the artichokes. They should not be crowded and if you do not have a large enough pan, sauté them in batches – you want to create as little liquid as possible.
Place some of the extra virgin olive oil in the pan and sauté the artichokes on low heat until they are tender. This may take up to 10 minutes or more depending on the freshness and age of the artichokes (add a little water or white wine if the ingredients are drying out).
Remove the artichokes and set aside.
Add a little more, extra virgin olive oil to the pan (and/or you may be able to drain some from the sautéed artichokes) and sauté the other vegetables in the same pan, separately. Proceed as follows:
Sauté the onion until it begins to colour, remove from the pan and add to the artichokes.
Add a little more extra virgin olive oil and sauté the celery.
Add the olives, capers, salt and tomatoes to the celery. Simmer gently for about 5-7 minutes. Add a little water if needed (this mixture should have the consistency of a thick sauce.)
Remove the mixture from the pan and add it to the sautéed artichokes and onions.
To make the agro dolce (sweet sour) sauce:
Add the sugar to the pan and caramelise the sugar by stirring it until it melts and begins to turn a honey colour.
Add the vinegar and swirl it around to collect the flavours of the sautéed vegetables and evaporate it (2-3 minutes).
Place all of the sautéed vegetables and artichokes into the pan with the agro dolce sauce and gently toss the ingredients, as you would do a salad.
Simmer on very gentle heat to amalgamate the flavours for about 3-5 minutes.
Placecaponata into a sealed container or jar and store in the fridge. Leave it to stand at least a day but preferably longer.
Now, for the easier version:
To make caponata, where the ingredients are not fried separately, proceed as follows:
Prepare and sauté the artichokes as in the proceeding recipe.
Add a little more extra virgin olive oil and heat it. Add the onion and the celery and sauté until they begin to colour.
Add the olives, capers, sugar, salt, vinegar and tomatoes. Cover and simmer gently until tender (5-10 minutes or more depending on the freshness and age of the artichokes).
As usual, I look forward to reading Richard Cornish’s regular column Brain Food in The Age on Tuesdays and today he is writing about Kohlrabi (September 7, 2021).
Just as listening to music has the power to bring up memories, reading about produce brings up memories of recipes for me.
When Richard chose to write about Sardines in his weekly column (August 24, 2021) I wrote about PASTA CON SARDE, an iconic Sicilian dish more common in Palermo then elsewhere, but now cooked in different regions of the island with local variations.
Below are recipes from my blog that use Kohlrabi quite differently to the chefs that Richard mentions in Brain Food including David Moyle, the creative director of Harvest Newrybar near Byron Bay, and Rosalin Virnik from Anchor Restaurant in Melbourne’s Elwood.
Here’s my bit about Kohlrabi and a couple of recipes below.
Just to be perverse, Kohlrabi are called cavoli in Sicily and in Italian it is cavolo rapa.
In Italian cavoli are cauliflowers, cavolo verza is a cabbage.
Just to confuse things even further, Sicilians call cauliflowers broccoli.
As well as the purple coloured Kohlrabi roots there are light green ones; the root is always sold complete with the leaves and the whole plant is eaten.
One way Kohlrabi is eaten in Ragusa (Sicily) where my father’s family is from, is boiled as a vegetable side dish with a dressing of extra virgin olive oil and a squeeze of lemon juice, but the preferred way is to cook it with pasta, as a wet pasta dish.
It is the season to demonstrate again my recognition and enjoyment for Cime di rape (Cime di rapa is the singular). Also known as Rapini or Broccoli Rabe in some other parts of Italy and of the world. This exceptional, slightly bitter, mustard tasting, green vegetable is a brassica and a winter green and I make the most of it while it is in season.
I cooked a bunch last night of “Cime ” as they are generally called, with anchovies for a pasta dish.
Cime di rape are not easy to buy, for example there are only three stalls that sell it at the Queen Victoria Market and you cannot rely on all three having it, but if it is available, it comes home. Some good green grocers also sell Cime di rape, especially those businesses with Italian heritage or that are in locations where Italians shop.
The flower heads are green at the moment, but they will have yellow petals later in the season as demonstrated in the photo below.
Cime di rape, are traditionally cooked with orecchiette (little ears shaped pasta) originating in Puglia, but these green leafy greens are also grown extensively in the Italian regions of Lazio and Campania and further south; they are not as traditionally popular in northern Italy.
I cook the greens as a pasta dressing or as a side dish to gutsy dishes of meat or fish or pulses. They are not a delicate tasting green and therefore need strong flavours – garlic, chillies, strong tasting cheese.
As a pasta sauce they can include the flavours already mentioned and / or be enriched by the addition of pork sausages, a few slices of a strong tasing salame or ‘Nduja (a soft, spreadable, pork salame originating from Calabria and with a high content of chilies.)
Another strong taste to add are anchovies. I like to add a substantial amount, but I am careful about adding salt to the greens when I sauté them in strong tasting extra virgin olive oil, garlic, and chilli.
The whole bunch can be used and not just the leaves and flowers. Like when cleaning broccoli, the tougher stems/stalks can be stripped of their tough, green layer. There is little wastage.
When I made the orecchiette with Cime di Rape last night I also added grated lemon peel. A friend had just picked some very fresh lemons from her friend’s property. They were so fragrant, I could not resist them.
The anchovies have to be cut finely and tossed about in some extra virgin olive oil to dissolve/ melt. This happens quickly.
The melted anchovies can either be added to the sautéed greens after the pasta and greens have been tossed together and are ready to serve, or at the beginning i. e. sauté the anchovies, add the garlic and chillies in the oil for a couple of minutes before adding the greens and cook.
Use strong tasting grating cheese like pecorino. Last night I used some Aged GoatGouda cheese instead. Sometimes I top the pasta with feta, this is not traditional, but it is good to experiment.
The lemon peel can be added either during cooking or at the end.
There are other posts with information and recipes on my blog about Cime di rape. I hope that you too will enjoy them :
In season are celeriac, kohlrabi, fennel and daikon. Mint and parsley, red onion, no worries. Radicchio and rocket, seem to be around always. Daikon is not an Italian vegetable but in this case it goes.
To cut the root vegetables I used my Borner Original V–Slicer that I have had for over 30 years. The blades are still sharp. Shredding the vegetables can make a difference – easier to eat, quicker to cut, good on the eye and the small batons accept a greater amount of dressing…. If you want it.
A much better looking and tasting salad with some colour! A combination of flavours – sharp, bitter, sour, fresh and mustard.
On this occasion to dress the salad, I began with a vinaigrette made with extra virgin oil, salt, a little vinegar and lemon juice and then topped it with some egg mayonnaise.
Using just mayonnaise would have made the salad heavy.
Depending on where you live in Australia red radicchio has only been popular in Australian households in the last ten years. Even if you have experienced radicchio in a restaurant, you have probably eaten it raw and most likely in a salad, but you can also cook radicchio. Just like any other leafy vegetable it can be grilled, braised, baked, or sautéed. I particularly like to eat grilled radicchio on polenta with a little tomato salsa, it is great sautéed in a risotto, or a pasta dish.
In Australia it is relatively easy to buy round or the elongated red radicchio.
One of my favourite ways is to enjoy it with pasta .
Sauté some Italian pork and fennel sausages (out of their skins) in a little extra virgin olive oil, then add some radicchio cut into slices. Sauté it while moving it about until the sausage meat is cooked. Add a dash of wine and evaporate it. Use red or white wine as the colour from the cooked radicchio can be quite dark.
I know a few people who do not like radicchio because it is bitter and when it is cooked the bitter taste intensifies. The bitterness is perfect as a foil for fatty dishes.
Roasted radicchio and pan fried radicchio is very easy to prepare.
I prefer to cook my radicchio on the stove because I feel more in control.
Cut a large radicchio into quarters.
Heat some extra virgin olive oil in a frypan that has reasonably substantial sides, add the radicchio to the hot oil, add salt, a little rosemary and thyme and watch it wilt. Turn it over once and towards the end add a little balsamic vinegar and a tablespoon of citrus marmalade. The marmalade is home made so it is not too sweet.
It will be cooked in about 10 minutes.
It was the accompaniment to pan fried duck breast so you can see why these flavours go well together.
It may not look appealing (maybe as cooked red cabbage) but it tastes good.
Although my radicchio was cooked plainly, it is easily seen that adding different ingredients, will modify the taste. Try: nuts, a few slices of sautéed onions , bay leaves, caraway or fennel seeds, crisp fried pancetta, a little blue cheese at the end. It is a versatile dish.
The next day, the leftover radicchio made a nice topping for some toasted bread.
There was a cacciatore in the fridge and this, and the combination the radicchio worked well. Any pork or beef salumi, smoked fish or meat and a strong tasting cheese is perfect.
Once again, it does not look like much, but gosh, it was good.
I moved to Melbourne in 2002 but after receiving photos of Porcini gathered in the Adelaide Hills, I am tempted to return.
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.
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.
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 (ragù –ragoût). 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?
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.
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!
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.
There are a number of recipes for mushrooms on my blog.
I have bought Cime di rapa, sautéed them with Italian pork sausages (chilli flavoured) and ate them with orecchiette and grated, strong, pecorino cheese.
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.
This week one friend dropped off a bag of fresh lemons from her father’s tree. A generous amount. and a welcome gesture.
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 .
I included quite a few black peppercorns, cinnamon quills and star anise in the mix.
The lemons turn out like marmalade, only crispy at the edges…I like the texture and intense taste.
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.
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.
Holly, the Cocker Spaniel loves any opportunity to have her photo taken. She is like Photographer William Wegman’s photographic, Weimaraner dogs.
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.
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.
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:
The other, chickpeas, saffron, mushrooms and eggplants:
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.
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.
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.