Category Archives: Entrée /Antipasto/Starter/Light Dishes

THE MANY VERSIONS OF CAPONATE

Any cooking and eating is greatly influenced by the variations in weather especially the temperature and the available seasonal produce. Abundant in summer are eggplants, tomatoes, zucchini and peppers/capsicum and at this time of year I like to use this produce as much as possible. Summer is also a time for grilled food.

I particularly like grilled sardines but strangely enough, for the past three weeks at the Queen Victoria Market where I shop, there have not been any,  however they seem to be abundant on restaurant menus.

Squid has been available and tastes fantastic grilled, the charring adds so much flavour and character.  The tentacles are good too and apart from having a more intense flavour they offer a different texture. Squid will not need much cooking, especially if it has been marinading beforehand for an hour or so: cook the squid quickly – about 5 mins on one side, flip it over and cook the other side for less. The marinade can be as uncomplicated as a little extra virgin olive oil, salt and a few herbs of your choice. To the marinade this time, I also added a splash of white wine.

A simple drizzle of good, extra virgin olive oil and lemon juice could be sufficient as a finishing dressing, especially it you are accompanying the squid with some flavourful side dishes.

As for the accompanying dishes, I made two different Sicilian caponate (plural of caponata) and a green salad. Not many guests cook caponate themselves and they especially appreciate the different versions of caponata .

Caponate taste better if cooked days before. They are presented at room temperature, so take them out of the fridge about 30 mins before serving. Caponate also make good starters.

I cooked one of the caponate in the oven and used eggplants, onions, celery and peppers/capsicums. To make it different,  apart from baking the vegetables, I also added fennel seeds, plenty of basil and garlic as well as the customary green olives, capers, sugar, vinegar and pine nuts. I definitely prefer the traditional method of sautéing  of each of the vegetables in hot oil. Although I roasted the vegetables at high temperatures, they released far too many juices that I had to evaporate and fiddle excessively with the flavours. In the end it did taste good, but the flavour took far too long to fix.

Place the basil and toasted pine nuts on the caponata at the time of serving and stir them through the cooked ingredients.

The caponata in the photo below is made with celery. This caponata is much quicker to cook and the addition of sultanas accentuate the sweet taste. The vinegar (present in all caponate) provides the sour taste and this cooked salad tastes very much like a pickle.

This celery caponata has the addition of toasted almonds rather than pine nuts.

The celery caponata is very easy to cook because the celery and onions are the only two vegetable ingredients and they can be sautéed in the same pan at the same time. Once they are slightly softened, add the drained and plump sultanas that have been soaking in water for an hour or so.  Add a little sugar and once the sugar begins to caramelise, add a splash of vinegar and evaporate.

The next caponata I intend to present to friends will be a chocolate version. Pieces of dark chocolate are added in the final stages of cooking the eggplant version of caponata that is characteristic of Palermo and its region. The caponata that includes peppers is typical of Catania and its region.

GRILLED CALAMARI (CALAMARI ‘NTA BRACI (Sicilian) – CALAMARI ALLA BRACE (Italian)

*The recipe for squid also has recipes for two accompanying,  Sicilian green, traditional sauces  –  Salmoriglio and Zoggiu

CAPONATA FROM PALERMO (made with eggplants)

CAPONATA Catanese (from Catania) made easy with photos

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

For more recipes for different versions of Caponata, use the search button.

VITELLO TONNATO MADE WITH GIRELLO (cut of meat)

Vitello Tonnato was a festive dish in my childhood home and it has remained so in mine.

In my childhood home, it was presented as an entrée when we had guests.

Nowadays, of course, very few of us have definite first and second courses. Anything goes! I am smiling as I write this – doing away with some conventions isn’t a bad thing. But years back, I would never have ordered a risotto, soup or pasta as my main course! Never.

When my mother made Vitello Tonnato, she always pot roasted the veal. The veal was cooked slowly with the usual broth vegetables – an onion cut in half, a carrot and a stick of celery. There were also herbs – bay leaves, a bit of rosemary and mainly sage. Sage always with veal and pork, my mother said. The moisture was supplied by some white wine and stock, or a little water and a stock cube. The vegetables were blended into a little home-made ,egg mayonnaise, some of the very flavourful and naturally jellied gravy/sauce, 2-3 hard boiled eggs, capers and some anchovies. This was the Tonnato sauce; tonno is ‘tuna’ in Italian.  My mother did not use a Girello because she thought that cut of meat would be too dry. She preferred a boned leg of veal. This was yearling beef in Australia.

The finely sliced meat was placed in 4 to 5 layers, each topped with some of the sauce and placed into a serving dish with sides. On top there was a layer of the yellow egg mayonnaise with some sliced hard-boiled eggs and maybe some giardiniera a colourful decoration of Italian garden vegetables pickled in vinegar, that added texture and sourness. Sometimes there were anchovies or capers, or sliced carrot as was one of an earlier versions of Vitello Tonnato.

And it always tasted very good.

Vitello Tonnato originates from Piedmont, but it has become a widely eaten Italian dish.

If you have eaten Vitello Tonnato in an Australian restaurant, you may have had it in a single layer with the tonnato sauce on top. My taste buds and sense of smell are pretty sharp, but rarely have I tasted complex flavours in the Tonnato sauce. There have, however, been a few good ones.

There are many recipes both in the Italian language books/web and many available in English. In most recipes the meat is what I would call boiled or poached. The cut of meat suggested in recipes is mostly Girello, the long, round, nut or eye cut of silverside that is extremely lean that is perfect for slicing. It is found outside of the rear leg.

Even though you may poach the Girello in liquid it can be dry. My mother was sometimes right.

But there is a way to keep it moist, and that is to poach it on a gentle simmer rather than on medium or high heat. The other trick is not to cook it for long and then leave it in the poaching liquid to finish off cooking. If you follow this process, the meat will remain pink and firm. I leave the meat in the poaching liquid to keep it moist until I am ready to slice it.

These days I do use a Girello and I like to sear the meat lightly before I poach it to add colour and taste. Interestingly enough, I have not found many recipes that sear the meat first and perhaps it is why I like and identify with the recipes for Vitello Tonnato from Guy Grossi and Karen Martini. Even Ada Boni just poaches it.

Most recipes add anchovies to the poaching liquid, but I prefer to add them to the Tonnato sauce.

The Meat

1.5k – 1.8k veal/yearling Girello,

1 onion, 1 carrot, 2 celery stalks and some of the tender light green leaves, all thinly sliced,

6 fresh bay leaves, a few sage leaves and whole peppercorns and if you wish, add about 3 juniper berries, or cloves or a teaspoon of fennel seeds and a little salt,

600 ml dry white wine, 250 ml (1 cup) white wine vinegar, 250 ml (1 cup) of chicken stock: this quantity should just cover the meat when it is poaching. Add more of the liquid if necessary.

Extra virgin olive oil for searing the meat and the vegetables.

The Tonnato sauce

4 anchovy fillets, 4 hard boiled eggs, 2 tins (each 425g) of drained good quality, tinned tuna in oil, 2 tablespoons of capers (in this case I don’t mind using the pickled capers), 200 ml of extra virgin olive oil, the juice of one lemon.

Sear the meat on all sides in some oil, remove from the saucepan and sear the vegetables by tossing them around in the pan for about 5 minutes.

 Add the wine, vinegar and stock, herbs, pepper and spices and bring to the boil.

Add the meat, make sure there is enough liquid, and simmer over low heat. Cook it for about 15-20 minutes. Switch it off and leave the meat to keep on cooking and cool in the liquid.

Store the meat in the liquid until you are ready to slice it and assemble it but remove a cup of the poaching stock to reduce to about ¼ of a cup. This is added to the Tonnato sauce.

For the Tonnato sauce, blend the tuna, anchovies, drained capers, extra virgin olive oil, lemon juice, extra-virgin olive oil, the reduced liquid and hard-boiled eggs. I also like to add some of the drained celery leaves and sage. I nearly always have some home-made egg mayonnaise in the fridge and also add some of this if the sauce is too thick, otherwise use a little more of the poaching liquid. The sauce needs to be the consistency of mayonnaise.

Slice the veal thinly across the grain. I like to make little mounds of meat for each person, spreading each slice of meat with a little sauce and repeating the process. Depending on the width of the meat each mound will have 2-4 slices.

Top each mound with more sauce. Cover and refrigerate until you are ready to serve it. Bring the Vitello Tonnato to room temperature and arrange some sliced boiled eggs and capers on top. A little bit of greenery around it is also good.

YEARNING FOR VITELLO TONNATO

VITELLO TONNATO

 

FIG LEAF INFUSED OIL

This is Kingfish crudo, fig leaf, mascarpone, grape, as presented at Chianti Restaurant in Hutt Street in Adelaide.

The restaurant prides itself in serving fresh, seasonal food. This is exceptionally good, modern Italian food! As for seasonal produce, figs and grapes are in season.

I did not know what to expect of the taste of fig leaf infused oil, but it was very pleasant – for me, the fig leaf oil tasted grassy, slightly nutty and with a hint of bitterness.

And look at the colour! It is so intense.

I have made parsley, coriander, dil, mint and basil infused oil and making fig oil appears to be no different.

When making oils infused with herbs I have always used a blender and I have used the the aromatic oils to drizzle over foods like labneh,  fresh cheeses like fior di latte, ricotta, burrata or fresh mozzarella (this category includes bocconcini), vegetables, especially potatoes and of course carpaccio, raw fish, usually referred to as crudo.  As you can see by my suggestions for its use, the green looks particularly spectacular with white colours, but you can also imagine how a blob will look good on pureed soups – for example, think about Gazpacho (or Gaspacho), pumpkin, Vichyssoise, zucchini soup. Visualize it on pasta dishes too. And why not use a combination of fresh figs, a fresh cheese with a drizzle of fig leaf oil!

I do not  measure ingredients, but as a rough estimate use 1 cup of good quality, fragrant, extra virgin olive oil to 3-4 fresh fig leaves (depending on size) or 4 cups loosely packed fresh herbs –  use only the soft leaves of soft leafed herbs, for example – basil, parsley, oregano, dill, chives, chervil, fennel, coriander, tarragon.

Make sure you use bright green, healthy, fig leaves and not too mature.

Blanch fresh fig leaves, or the leaves of fresh herbs (with no stems)  in some boiling water to soften. The blanching preserves the colour and the leaves will turn bright green. 

Quickly transfer the leaves or herbs from the boiling water to an ice water bath and cool quickly. Remove the herbs from the ice bath, strain and squeeze out as much excess water from the herbs as possible.

Add the squeezed  leaves to the oil with a pinch of salt and blend. Infuse in the oil  for at least  1 hour.  if you leave it overnight it will not suffer and in fact will turn a darker green. Strain the puree through cheesecloth or a fine meshed strainer.  When I did this, strangely enough, the blend had coconut aromas.

Keep oil refrigerated, bring to room temperature before use.

I used a tea strainer to filter the oil for the photo below. I am not at home and therefore do not have access to muslin or a fine meshed strainer. If I had filtered this through muslin, I could have  intensified the colour by squeezing  the muslin and squeezing  the green colour through. It still tasted great.

Experiment.  Below: sorrel, basil, rocket.

See also:

PESCE CRUDO, raw fish dishes in Sicily

SARDINE, CRUDE E CONDITE (raw and marinaded)

SPRING PICNIC – Frittata with artichokes and asparagus

Melbourne residents who have been in COVID lockdowns are now able to catch up under limited circumstances with friends.

Restrictions have been lifted:

Social gatherings are permitted outdoors between two people from a maximum of two households. Up to five people can socialise outdoors (excluding dependants), from two households, if every person over 18 years is fully vaccinated.

So that is what 4 of us did!

It is spring, and although the weather has been unpredictable it was a sunny day.

We ate well. The two households shared different things – Vitello Tonnato, Fior Di Latte (fresh mozzarella), Jamón. fennel withTapenade, home baked bread, a green salad (nasturtium leaves, herbs, frisée lettuce and other green leaves) and a frittata with artichokes and asparagus.

I often make frittata for various occasions.  Frittate (plural) are easy and laudable for all occasions – passed around at a celebration, breakfast, lunch , starter or dinner: they are extremely portable, excellent as a filling between bread or a picnic A frittata can be eaten hot, warm or cold. You can begin with raw or cooked ingredients and frittate are ideal for using cooked leftovers. I prefer frittate made of vegetables, but adding cooked meat or fish, smallgoods, cheese, cooked pasta or potatoes will make them more substantial.

On this occasion I wanted to celebrate spring produce and I used asparagus and artichokes.

I could have added other spring vegetables: new peas, broad beans, green beans, snow peas, zucchini and their flowers, but I did not. I kept it simple.

It is very common to add a little grated parmesan to a vegetable frittata, but one friend is allergic to diary produce so I did not use any on this occasion. This frittata  minus a little cheese did not suffer and if anything, the individual  tastes of the two vegetables was more distinct.

I sautéed my vegetables and cooked them separately. This makes the frittata tastier. The cooked, cooled ingredients are then added to the beaten eggs.

Ingredients: 8 eggs. 600g asparagus, 2 spring onions sliced thinly, 2 young artichokes, chopped parsley, salt and pepper, 1 clove of chopped garlic, extra virgin olive oil, white wine and a little stock.  A bowl with water and the juice of 1-2 lemon is necessary to immerse the artichokes as you work to prevent the artichokes from discolouring.

Use the same frypan to sauté the vegetables and the frittata.

The artichokes will take the longest to prepare. For the artichokes:

Remove the stems, strip off the rough fibrous outer and immerse them to a bowl with water and lemon.

Remove the tough outer leaves until you reach the softer and paler heart of the artichokes. cut the tip off each of the artichokes (on the tip of each leaf there is a thorn). Some types of artichokes can have large thorns!

Cut the artichokes in half and remove the internal beard with the help of a knife or a spoon, (looks like fluff). Cut the artichokes into thin slices and immerse them in water and lemon.

Drain the artichokes well when you are ready to cook them.

Heat some extra virgin olive oil, add garlic and as soon as the garlic begins to fry, add the artichokes and sauté on high heat.

Add a splash of white wine and evaporate. Add the parsley and a splash of stock (or water), cover with a lid and allow to cook. Set aside to cool.

Asparagus come in various  shapes, colours and sizes.

For the asparagus:

Remove the woody part of the stem and cut the bottom part of the asparagus into slices. Cut the top part into larger pieces – the top half of the asparagus is generally  more tender.  Sauté the spring onions in a little extra virgin olive oil, add the asparagus, a pinch of salt, toss them about in the hot pan, add 1-2 tablespoons of water and cook for a couple of minutes. Leave the asparagus slightly crunchy and set aside.

Place the eggs into a large bowl, add a pinch of salt and freshly ground pepper. Beat vigorously with a fork until the egg mixture is homogeneous.

Add the cooked artichokes and asparagus to the eggs and mix well.

Heat some extra virgin olive oil in the same frypan and when the oil is hot, pour the mixture into the frypan and cook over medium heat.

Use the spatula to press the frittata and to lift the edges so as to encourage even cooking.

Turn the frittata when it is ready to flip.

**For more detailed instructions and photos of how to handle cooking and flipping a frittata see:

ALL ABOUT MAKING FRITTATA and Podcast with Maria Liberati

I wrapped my frittata in some foil and then a tea towel . we did not travel far and we ate it warm. You can also transport it in the frypan. covered with foil.

Other Recipes for Frittate:

FRITTATA: SAUSAGE and RICOTTA

ASPARAGI DI BOSCO and FRITTATINA (Wild Asparagus continued, and Frittata)

Artichokes, general:

ASPARAGUS and ARTICHOKES

CARCIOFI (Artichokes)

THE AMAZING ARTICHOKE

Artichokes recipes. There are many. Use the search button and type in artichokes.

SMOKED FISH ROLLED AROUND A LABNA(labnah) FILLING

It looks impressive and it is not too much trouble to make.


For the  Filling
:

Drained yogurt (labna or labnah), tarragon or dill, pink peppercorns, grated lemon peel, lemon juice, capers. In the centre are pickled baby cucumbers. Sometimes I have used cream cheese as the filling but I like the lightness of yogurt and the tart taste suits the salmon.

I also add  trimmings of the salmon and a dollop of mayonnaise or extra virgin olive oil.

On the outer and spread on a cling film wrap:

Silverbeet leaves, wilted in a little water and  some egg mayonnaise spread over the top. On top of silverbeet, a layer of smoked salmon or salmon trout . Mine is from Denmark… a long way from home but not bred in cages like Tasmanian salmon.

Begin the rolling process. The cling wrap makes this possible.

Wrap the roll tightly and leave it in the fridge at least 4 hours or overnight.

Unwrap and cut into slices.

A more elaborate roll on a different occasion topped with more egg mayonnaise and tarragon. Pink pepper also a adds flavour and looks great.

A slice of rye or spelt bread never goes unappreciated.

PICNIC FOOD – Potato salad with smoked fish, asparagus and green beans

Coronavirus Restrictions have eased in Melbourne recently and with it comes the freedom to see friends by having picnics. It sure beats Zoom.

Easy and transportable food include smallgoods, smoked fish, cheeses , good bread, and as always vegetables –  made with  raw or cooked vegetables.I have made the occasional frittata, either with  zucchini or asparagus (in season ) and asparagus with homemade mayonnaise or sautéed with capers. Dips and spreads are also convenient – beetroot is always a favourite. All easy stuff!

What is good about picnics is that the  friends also bring food and a simple picnic turns into a feast. There have been hot quiches and Spanakopita, Pâtés and fresh fruit.

THis is a version of a salad  I used to make many years ago when I lived in Adelaide with  laschinken a dry-cured, cold-smoked pork loin. The butchers in the Barossa Valley where many of the settlers  were German or of German origin. I was also able to purchase it at the Adelaide Market. It is interesting how foods made in the long distant past resurface.

The following is a simple salad I made with smoked fish –  hot smoked, cold smoked, gravlax or fresh cooked fish.

Below, in the photo , you see the ingredients: salad greens (I used endives), cooked green beans and asparagus,  chunks of smoked fish, potatoes, spring onions, homemade mayonnaise, capers and herbs – I used parsley, tarragon and some of the light green tops of celery.

Slice the potatoes, the spring onions and chop the herbs.

Line the salad bowl or container with the green leaves and place the sliced potatoes on top.

Begin by distributing the herbs and spring onions and capers throughout the potato layer(s).

Insert the green beans and asparagus in between the potatoes and on top.  Lightly salt the ingredients (if you wish) and remembering that the mayonnaise and smoked fish both contain salt.

This is what I carried to the picnic. I took the mayonnaise and and the chunks of smoked fish separately .

Dress with the mayonnaise and place the chunks of fish on top when  ready to eat it.

There are many types of fish  that have been smoked and you do not have to use Atlantic Salmon and Ocean Trout.  The most commercially available smoked fish in Australia is from Tasmania and I am not a great fan of fish farmed in sea cages.  Imported farmed Atlantic Salmon and Ocean Trout is available in Australia. For more information on imported product, look for country of origin labelled on the packaging and refer to seafood guides produced in that country.

Rainbow trout is caught in rivers, dams and lakes (land based) and is sustainable.

For other recipes:

Frittata:

ALL ABOUT MAKING FRITTATA and Podcast with Maria Liberati

FRITTATA: SAUSAGE and RICOTTA

ASPARAGI DI BOSCO and FRITTATINA (Wild Asparagus continued, and Frittata)

I

With Mayonnaise:

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

YEARNING FOR VITELLO TONNATO

ITALIAN RUSSIAN SALAD, no beetroot

COOKED RADICCHIO

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.

More recipes with cooked radicchio
Pan fried radicchio with pickled pears, walnuts, beetroot and gorgonzola
BIGOLI NOBILI (Bigoli pasta with red radicchio, borlotti and pork sausages)
RADICCHIO (Treviso) with polenta and tomato salsa

PIEDMONTESE favourites

Two of my friends have been spending time in Piemonte (Piedmont) and as a welcome home dinner I made three Piedmontese favourites:
Bagna Cauda with an array of fresh vegetables cut into batons for dipping,
Vitello Tonnato,
Hazelnut cake with a homemade and delicately flavoured, vanilla ice cream.

I too visited Piedmont a few years ago and have very fond memories of  of driving around Piemonte and Valle D’Osta. I stayed in Stresa, Lake Maggiore, Asti, Bra and Alba.

italy-regions-map2

Bagna Cauda
I  make it different ways but this time I poached the garlic cloves in cream, using low heat. This process softens the taste of the garlic. Notice the tall sided pan…this prevents the cream from boiling over. You can use milk instead.

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I added the extra virgin olive oil, heated it and added the anchovies. They soon dissolve with the heat. (Photo below)

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Then the butter and mixed the ingredients with a hand whisk. The sauce is kept hot.

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Vitello Tonnato

I bought a cut of  yearling girello. This is a lean, round strip of meat….giro=one of the words for “round” in Italian.

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I always seal (lightly brown) my girello in some extra virgin olive oil, add some onion, carrot, celery and herbs.These are referred to as “odori” in Italian. Always   dry white wine and chicken stock and I poach the meat for a short time. This is the same method and ingredients I use when I make Vitello Arrosto…a pot roast.

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I want the meat to stay a little bit pink. Some recipes suggest not sealing the meat but poaching it in water or stock. I much prefer my method, the flavour is stronger and  I do not do it this way just because my mother did.

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I make an egg mayonnaise, add drained tuna packed in olive oil, hard boiled eggs, some lemon juice, capers, anchovies and a few of the poached vegetables that were used in the poaching of the meat. I blend all this and use it to make a stack ….about three layers of sliced meat interspersed with the tuna sauce.

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Hazelnut cake

Roasted hazelnuts, skins rubbed off. Ground to resemble fine breadcrumbs, but not a powder.

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A splash of Frangelico to accentuate the hazelnut taste.

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Eggs and sugar, beaten (3 eggs, 180g of sugar)
Flour….SR or add baking powder to plain flour (200g)
Strong black coffee (1 small espresso cup). In the photo below, are some of my coffee making macchinette, the smallest is for making one small cup.

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Butter, melted (150g).

A dash of milk if the mixture seems too dry. Mix all of the ingredients and place the batter in a buttered, spring-form tin.

Baked for 40 minutes (180 C)

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TASMANIA, FOOD, ART, HOBART and Bagna Cauda

YEARNING FOR VITELLO TONNATO

VITELLO TONNATO

VITELLO ARROSTO (Roast Veal)

MUSSELS (Cozze) IN BRODETTO (Mussels in a little broth)

IMG_2797It turned out rather well and we ate it with oven toasted bread rubbed and baked with extra virgin olive oil and garlic.

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There were four separate components:

  • a tomato salsa – extra virgin olive oil, fresh garlic cloves, fresh oregano and a little rosemary,
  • steamed mussels (cozze), most taken out of their shells…. a little white wine and a little fish stock,

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  • a soffritto of celery, chopped fennel, spring onions and baby carrots,

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  • chopped herbs – fennel fronds and parsley.

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All assembled at the end to make this:

IMG_2797 Was it Italian regional?

I do not know. I used Italian methods and ingredients and I guess that it could have been made in any part of Italy. Maybe in the South a little chilli would be added.

And we liked it.

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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