Category Archives: Events, Christmas and Easter

DOLOMITI (Menu/ Melbourne Food and wine Festival)

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On Monday, 15th March I attended a dinner at Society Restaurant, Melbourne.

Massimiliano Ferraiuolo is a chef (originally from Naples) who is visiting from Italy for a week’s residence at Society Restaurant and cooking each evening. The event is part of The Melbourne Food and Wine Festival and is called Around Italy in 7 Days – Travel north to south with a different gastronomic journey each night.

As you know, there is no such thing as Italian food, you have to specify the region and this event began with a menu with dishes from the Dolomiti, a group of impressive mountains in the eastern section of the northern Italian Alps. Living in Trieste as a child I know and visited the nearby towns Sappada and Corina D’Ampezzo, where I ate rustic food in trattorie.

This was not what I remember eating in the trattorie (domestic traditional), but I was not disappointed. The food was of high quality, very professional, adventurous and modern, beautifully presented on the plate and with the flavours and ingredients faithful to the region. I say modern, because the duck and the venison fillet were served rare (as is in let’ s say the France tradition).  The service was excellent .There was also generosity with the wine – the glasses kept on being filled.

The event first advertised Sicily as the final destination. Unfortunately diners will need to make do with evenings in Naples (Chef’s home town so this should be good) Sardegna and Puglia.

Massimiliano, grazie. 

Mi e`piaciuto tutto quello che hai preparato e ho apprezzato la difficoltà che hai avuto per trovare i prodotti adatti. . Forse quello che mi è piaciuto di piu’, è stato il baccalà mantecato – lo mangiavo spesso a Trieste….  e quegli gnocchetti Tirolesi. 

Complimenti a tutti in cucina. (And all staff).
Marisa
LE DOLOMITI
 
Monday 15 March, 2010
This is the menu (there were choices), and these are the photos:
ANTIPASTI
  • Pan seared duck with asparagus and artichokes.
  • Venetian dried cod with pea mousse and rye bread (photo).
 
 
PRIMI 
  • Ravioli filled with ricotta and ravioli filled with porcini mushrooms and veal
  • Tyrolean dumplings, with fondant cream cheese sauce and shallow fried proscuitto di Parma (photo).
SECONDI
  • Venison fillet pan seared with autumn vegetables (photo).
  • Venison shanks (slow cooked) in a red wine jus with cherries, potatoes and black pepper.
DOLCI 
  • Warm apple strudel with vanilla ice cream and crème anglaise
  • Pistachio crème brulee with lemon and olive oil ice cream and fresh fruit.
PER FINIRE
  • Fresh berries and nuts dipped in bitter chocolate, an amaretto and some caramels.

(It was even covered with snow (icing sugar) from the Mountains. See feature photo.

STRUCOLO DE POMI (Apple strudel from Trieste, common at Christmas and Suitable for our autumn)

I grew up in Trieste.
Trieste is in the Friuli Venezia Giulia region of Italy. It is close to Venice, but it is also close to the Slovenian border. In 177 BC Trieste was under the control of Roman Empire. As well as Italy, Trieste also once belonged to Austria and then Austria-Hungary for more than 500 years and much of the cooking of Trieste reflects these cultures.

Cooked strudel cut 2

One of the culinary specialties of Trieste is strucolo de pomi (in Triestine dialect). It is a popular autumn and winter sweet.

When my family came to Australia the pastry shops in Adelaide were not to our tastes (lamingtons, sponge cakes with raspberry jam and in most cases, mock cream). My mother felt it necessary to teach herself how to bake, something that she never did when we were living in Trieste; as is the common European way, we left the baking to the specialists and we bought all of our pastries and cakes, especially when we had guests.

For our first Christmas Eve celebration in Australia my mother and my aunty made a strudel together and making strucolo de pomi became our celebratory dessert for any occasion. Later my mother began making  Zuppa Inglese, this too became a perfect celebratory dessert especially for Christmas.

My only aunt living in Australia is zia Licia. She married my mother’s brother. Her maiden name was Ursich, which may not sound Italian, but like many of the people living in Trieste, she had a Slavic name.

When we first came to Australia our families lived next door to one another and they often cooked and ate together.

 

INGREDIENTS
Strudel dough:
plain flour, 250 g
salt, 1/4 teaspoon
sugar, 2 tablespoons
egg yolk, 1
warm water, 115 ml, plus more if needed,
vegetable oil, 2 tablespoons, plus additional for coating the dough

Filling:
apples, 1k – we used delicious apples (golden or red) but other people prefer more acidic varieties, e.g. granny smiths
sugar, 3/4 cup
sultanas, 3/4 cup
walnuts, (or pine nuts) 3/4 cup
ground cinnamon, 1teaspoon
lemon, 1 (juice and grated peel)
butter (unsalted), 70g
bread crumbs, 50g

 

PROCESSES
Mix the flour, sugar and salt together and then slowly add the water, egg yolk and oil to the dry ingredients and knead into a medium-firm dough. We always made any dough on our kitchen laminax table (these were great for mixing and rolling out pasta and pastry), however an electric mixer can be used.
For this option:
Combine the flour and salt in a mixer fitted with the dough hook attachment. Mix the water, egg yolk and oil and add this to the flour on low speed.  Knead it for about 10minutes until the pastry is soft and elastic. Even if I use the mixer, I like to finish this off with my hands so that I can feel when the pastry is right.
Shape the dough into a ball and throw it down hard onto the working surface a few times.
Spread a little oil on the surface of the dough, cover it with plastic wrap (a use a tea towel) and allow the dough to rest for a couple of hours.

DSC_1137

While the pastry is resting prepare the filling:
Peel, core and slice apples. Mix in sugar, sultanas, nuts, grated lemon peel, lemon juice and cinnamon and toss together well.
Stir well until the sugar dissolves and the apples are coated with the mixture.
Melt the butter in a frying pan, over medium heat. Add the breadcrumbs and toast, stirring constantly until lightly browned (about 5 minutes). Let cool.

DSC_1133

Roll out the dough:
Cover your working area with tablecloth and dust it with flour (this will help you move the strudel to the baking tray once it has been shaped).
Place the ball of dough in the middle, sprinkle with flour and beginning rolling from the centre roll the dough out into a very thin rectangle,. The dough my be a little resistant at first but will relax more as you roll it. If the dough tears a little it can be patched with off cuts of pastry before you add the filling.

DSC_1140 (2)

 

Assemble the strudel:
Spread the breadcrumbs bread evenly over the dough and leave a clean border  on all sides.
Arrange the apple mixture evenly on top of the crumbs.
Shape the strudel: begin rolling the strudel into a fairly tight roll, starting at one end and gradually working down the roll. The finished roll should look fairly even in circumference.
Use the table cloth to transfer the strudel and place strudel on a buttered baking tray (I line it with baking paper).
Brush it either with melted butter or oil, or egg yolk mixed with a little oil.
Bake strudel for 60 to 80 minutes in a 180 C oven.

We soaked the sultanas in rum beforehand. Small pieces of dark chocolate mixed into the filling was also a variation.

PASTA DI MANDORLA (How to make Marzipan recipe)

This photo of marzipan fruit (also called Frutta di Martorama) was taken in a pastry shop in Catania. This pasticceria has shaped the marzipan into a variety of shapes: apples, apricots, oranges, prickly pears, different varieties of plums, cherries, green figs, pomegranates, pears , chestnuts and almonds.

I make marzipan when I make cassata di ricotta which I cover with a thin coat of pale green marzipan (I use a drop of green food colouring. In earlier days my mother used to use a little puree made with wilted spinach leaves). Sometimes I also add a proportion of ground pistachio nuts to the almond meal.

In one of my previous posts I have included a non traditional, simple recipe for making marzipan and for shaping marzipan fruit. I like this version because  it is less sweet.

INGREDIENTS
almonds ground, 500 g – blanched and ground finely
icing sugar, 300 g, icing sugar
vanilla bean paste, to taste
egg white, 1
salt, a pinch

In a bowl whisk the egg white with the salt until frothy. Whisk in the vanilla. Gradually stir in the almonds and the sugar, kneading as you go to form a smooth, pliable dough. Add  more almond meal and/ or icing sugar if it is too soft.

The most authentic recipe that I have found is in the book called Bitter Almonds, Recollections and Recipes from a Sicilian girlhood. The book was researched and written by Mary Taylor Simeti and it contains recollections and recipes of Maria Grammatico, famous for making almond pastries. She has a wonderful pastry shop in Erice and I visited this recently (in September 2009).

This is the recipe as written in the book.

• 2 CUPS (3oo gr) whole blanched almonds
• 2 CUPS (4oo gr) granulated sugar
• 1/3 cup (0.,75 dl) water
• 1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
• 1 teaspoon almond extract (optional)

In a meat grinder or a food processor, grind the almonds with about 2 tablespoons of the sugar until very fine, almost powdery.
In a food processor or in an electric mixer, combine the nuts, the rest of the sugar, the water, vanilla, and the almond extract, if using. Process or mix until the paste is very smooth. Remove to a marble slab or other cold work surface dusted with confectioners’ sugar and knead briefly by hand.
Wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate until ready to use. Marzipan will keep almost indefinitely in the refrigerator. This makes 800gr of marzipan.

A particular specialty at Easter time in Sicily are the pecorelle pasquali (marzipan lambs). These lambs are from Pasticceria Spinello in Modica Sicily (it is near Ragusa where my relatives live). In Sicilian they are called agneddi (lambs)or pecuredde (small sheep) di pasta riali. . They are often filled with citron jam or paste made from pistachio nuts.

I once bought one for my mother and she still has it, 20 years later. She said that it was too pretty to be eaten. It was never kept in the fridge – it is a little bit dusty!

MA2SBAE8REVW

SCACCE (focaccia-like stuffed bread)

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These scacce were made by one of my cousins, Franca. She lives in Ragusa and these focaccia-like stuffed breads are typical of that region of Sicily (south east and the chief cities are Ragusa, Modica, Noto).

There are many focaccia-like stuffed breads made all over Sicily. They have different names, they may be slightly different in shape and have some variations in the filling. In my previous posts I have written about sfincione di Palermo and impanata (in categories Snacks and Meat), but there are other regional specialties, for example the ‘nfigghiulata, fuazza, pastizzu, ravazzata and scacciata.

Scacce are probably classed as finger food and are usually made in large numbers. In the houses of my Ragusa relatives they are made for Christmas, Easter, birthdays, baptisms (few of those lately) and in fact, on any celebratory occasion.. Although the other cousins and their daughters and my aged aunt can all make scacce well, it is always Franca’s duty; she is deemed the campione (champion) maker.
There are several different fillings for scacce in their household. The ones in the photo are made with slices of fried eggplants, tomato salsa, toasted breadcrumbs, basil, pepper, caciocavallo cheese (use provola/ mozzarella- type cheese) and of course, extra virgin olive oil.

But if she is making one type of filling, she is likely to make other scacce with different fillings and they vary with seasonal ingredients.

Typical fillings are:
• tomato salsa (300g ripe tomatoes, garlic, oil, salt and pepper and reduced, basil, caciocavallo cheese (100g cut into very thin slices),
• caciocavallo cheese , parsley, seasoning and oil,
• young spinach leaves, sprinkled with salt and cut finely, dried grapes (currants), seasoning and a little salsa,
• fresh onion, cut finely, sprinkled with salt and left in a colander for about 30 mins, then squeezed, the onion is mixed with fresh drained ricotta,
• fresh drained ricotta and fresh pork sausage(casing removed) rubbed between the fingers, wild fennel,
• purple or green cauliflower (partly cooked in boiling water), dressed with extra virgin olive oil, garlic, salt, chili, caciocavallo cheese, (anchovies are optional).

When I make a scaccia I put the filling on top of the dough in one layer, then roll it up like a strudel, but this is for the novices, the Ragusani do it differently. The dough is folded over, filled again, then folded again. I have difficulties explaining it but I will do my best.

The scaccia is cut into slices once it is baked.

INGREDIENTS and PROCEDURES
The dough is the same as for making pizza: good quality white flour, yeast (fresh or dry), salt, warm water, and some white wine (this ingredient is not usually added to a pizza and seems typical of the region). Try: 500g/ ¾ cup of liquid/25g yeast.

Combine all ingredients until you have soft dough. Stretch and place fingers through dough and add about ¾ cup of extra virgin olive oil.
Kneed well. Leave it covered for about one hour to rise.

When spreading the filling over the dough, spread the filling thinly.

Roll out the dough into a thin square sheet.
Place ½ of the filling of choice on top of the dough, but leave a border of about 2cm. on the four sides.
Fold two of the opposite borders into the centre. Place the rest of the filling on top of the two folded flaps.
Fold the other two opposite ends into the centre and seal the pastry with beaten egg.( make sure it is well stuck).
Bake the scaccia in a 200 C oven for about 30 minutes.

Remove the scaccia from the oven, let it rest, covered with a tea towel, for about 20 minutes.
Cut the scaccia into slices.

In the photo you will notice bottles of Nero D’Avola (typical Sicilian red wine) and some white mirtilli (these berries are the same species as blueberries, bilberries and cranberries). These are very much appreciated in Sicily.

See recipe:

Sfincione di Palermo 
Scacce and Pizza and a Sicilian Easter.

 

PRESNIZ and GUBANA (Easter cakes in Trieste)


In Trieste, while the Sicilian relatives were eating their celebratory desserts at Easter, we were either eating presniz or gubana (also called putiza) – both are made with similar pastry (gubana has yeast) and fillings containing different amounts of a mixture of nuts, sultanas, peel and chocolate. A little grappa or a little rum always helps.

The presniz or gubana are then placed into a round baking tin and coiled inside the tin so that when baked, the sides will join up and form a round shape when removed from the tin.

The preparation of gubana requires several steps in order to allow a sourdough to develop using very little yeast.

Pastry with yeast:
500 g flour 00
20 g of yeast
2 cups milk
130 g sugar
100 g butter
1 lemon, peel
1 egg yolk to complete
butter for the plate
3 eggs
salt
 
FOR THE FILLING:
150 g raisins,
60 g Mixture: candied citron,  candied orange, prunes, dried figs
150 g of walnuts
60 g of pine nuts
60 g almonds
100 g of dark chocolate
1 glass of grappa or brandy
2 tablespoons of breadcrumbs
30 g butter
2 eggs
grated zest of ½ orange and ½ lemon
 
Heat 4 tablespoons of milk and when it is warm, add the yeast and let it bubble.
Mix 100 g of flour with a teaspoon of sugar and the yeast dissolved in milk. Cover and allow to rise. When it has doubled in volume, add the remaining flour and remaining sugar, eggs, softened butter, a pinch of salt, grated lemon peel and milk. Work this into a dough. Allow to rest 24 hours.

Prepare the filling:

Soak the walnuts and almonds in boiling water, remove their skins and chop them finely.
Soak the raisins in alcohol for a couple of hours. Add the rest of the fruit cut into small piece sand soak for another hour.
Add grated chocolate  peel and pine nuts.
Add 1 beaten egg (beaten with a fork) and  soft or melted butter .
 
Roll out the dough on a towel in a thin rectangular shape (about 5 mm thick).
Fry the breadcrumbs in a little butter and when cool spread them over the dough.
Cover with the filling and leave a boarder around the edge (2 cm) . Roll it up on itself, in the shape of a coiled snake. Arrange on baking paper or buttered and floured baking tray.
Brush the surface with 1 beaten egg yolk, sprinkle with a little sugar and bake in a preheated oven at 190 ° C for about 45 minutes. Serve luke warm or cold (it cuts better and it is usually made well in advance of being eaten).
 

All you need to do is look at a map of Italy to understand why much of the cuisine in Trieste (Friuli-Venezia Giulia), is influenced by Austro-Hungarian and Yugoslav traditions.

The apple strudel that is celebrated throughout the year and is a standard dessert in the kitchens of Triestini, has yet again a variation of the pastry, some of the nuts, peel and chocolate, but also raw apple. My mother always used the delicious apples because they were the sweetest. In all three desserts, the pastry is rolled around the filling. See Strucolo de Pomi

One year I went to Sicily for Easter and brought a presniz for the Sicilian relatives to try. I had gone to considerable trouble, buying it from what was considered to be the best pastry shop in Trieste and handling it carefully so that it would not be damaged while travelling.

There was no enthusiasm when I put it on the table, most of the relatives were too full to try it (it was presented with coffee and liqueurs after the big Sicilian Easter lunch after all), and those who did try the presniz did not express any great enthusiasm.

Tradition and only Sicilian food is everything for most Sicilians and I could probably say the same about any other region in Italy.

The traditional desserts for Easter in most of Sicily are made with ricotta. Many have cassata, made with sponge cake, ricotta, chocolate and candied peel, others, like the Ragusani  have cassatedde, small, baked ricotta filled tarts made with short pastry (cassatedde can be different shaped ricotta filled pastries in various parts of Sicily – some versions are smaller adaptations of cassata, some cassatedde are fried instead of baked). Very different, quite delicious and perhaps as interesting as presniz and gubana.