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.
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.
I added the extra virgin olive oil, heated it and added the anchovies. They soon dissolve with the heat. (Photo below)
Then the butter and mixed the ingredients with a hand whisk. The sauce is kept hot.
I bought a cut of yearling girello. This is a lean, round strip of meat….giro=one of the words for “round” in Italian.
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.
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.
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.
Roasted hazelnuts, skins rubbed off. Ground to resemble fine breadcrumbs, but not a powder.
A splash of Frangelico to accentuate the hazelnut taste.
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.
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.
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.
On this occasion I cooked dairy free and gluten free, stuffed, baked mushrooms (funghiripieni 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
This is a simple dish with flavours from north eastern Italy, in an area between Slovenia and the Adriatic, south of Monfalcone and close to Trieste called the Carso (Karst in German, Krasin Slovenian).
The ingredients in the recipe are simple and reflect the flavours of Hungary and Germany, Russia and countries in Eastern Europe but also Trieste – chicken, sauerkraut, onion, lardo and white wine.This is not surprising as Trieste used to be part of the Austro- Hungarian Empire
I first came across a version of this recipe in Fred Plotkin’s book, La Terra Fortunata, (published in 2001). I have made versions of this dish before but have used chicken with bones as the recipe suggests, but this time I used boneless chicken and some fatty bacon that needed using. Having lived in Trieste I am very familiar with sauerkraut and cooking with smoked pork and pork fat (on the odd occasion) and I invariably have jars of sauerkraut at home, especially in winter for making dishes like iota.
Lardo is an Italian salume that is eaten and widely used in Italian cuisine especially in northern Italy; it is made from the thick layer of fat from the back of a pig and cured with a mixture of salt, herbs, and spices; the most esteemed Italian lardo is aged in the warm, fresh caves in the area of Carrara (famous for its marble) and no additives or preservatives are used.
The rendered fat from the lardo or bacon is the only fat used in this recipe. (Pork fat, or rendered pork fat is also called lardo in Italian and is lard in English).
It is not necessary to specify amounts as this recipe and like most Italian recipes it relies on estimations and what you like, but I used roughly 1k of chicken, 5 rashes of fatty bacon and about 500g of sauerkraut (drained and squeezed in a colander). If you want more bacon use it, more sauerkraut…by all means.
Gently fry the bacon or lardo in a heavy bottomed pan over medium heat and when there is sufficient melted fat in the pan sear the chicken pieces till golden.
Fry the chicken in batches so as not to crowd the chicken pieces in the pan while searing.
Once you have seared the meat, add a sliced small onion and cook it gently till softened and golden.
Add some peppercorns , bay leaves and the sauerkraut and cook it gently for about 10 minutes.
Add the chicken, some white wine (about 1/2 cup) and bring to a boil. Cover with a lid and cook gently for about 20 minutes. If necessary add more wine or water to keep it moist while it is cooking,
If you are using chicken with bones cook it for longer (30-40 mins depending on the size of the chicken).
A friend who was going overseas gave me a packet of phyllo pastry (unopened) and not being a person who throws food away, I used it to encase a filling of a strucolo di pomi, an apple strudel as made in Trieste.
I have to say that I would much rather make my own pastry as I found the phyllo extremely annoying to use. It kept on breaking and although I covered it with a cloth it also dried out. There was no way that I could make a strudel of any size with it so I made a pie.
Walnuts roughly chopped and raisins (usually sultanas are used) soaked in Grappa.
Add cinnamon, apples, grated lemon rind and sugar.
Some chopped chocolate and lemon juice.
Toast some fresh breadcrumbs in some butter. Cool.
Line a baking pan with some baking paper, butter it. Place 5 sheets of phyllo pastry on top of the paper. Make sure that you brush each sheet of pastry with a mixture of some melted butter and oil (I use extra virgin olive oil as this is what is used to make the common pastry for the strucolo.
Place the filling into the baking tin lined with the pastry and cover with 5 sheets of phyllo, greased between each sheet as before.
Try to roll the edges as best you can. Phyllo is very brittle and I found this difficult to do. Brush with butter and oil mixture again.
I presented it warm with some home made mascarpone. This is not difficult to make, it is economical and you will end up with more than a 250g tub, the size for shop purchased mascarpone.
Andrea Calogero Camilleri, a Sicilian director and author, born 6 September 1925; died 17 July 2019.
The entire nation is in mourning: RAI 1 news, the state broadcaster, dedicated 80 per cent of its time slot to this news; writers, intellectuals and the highest representatives of the Italian state have expressed their condolences. Even his arch-enemy, Matteo Salvini, minister of the interior and leader of the xenophobic Northern League party — with whom Camilleri had several heated exchanges over the years — has paid tribute to the popular Sicilian writer.
The paragraph above is from an article published in The Age and The Sydney Morning Herald on July 20. It is written by Barbara Pezzotti, a lecturer in Italian Studies at Monash University. She is the author of three monographs dedicated to Italian crime fiction and has extensively published on Andrea Camilleri.
Camilleri perhaps is best known for his Montalbano novels and has become one of the most-loved crime fiction writers in the world. Camilleri’s books have been published worldwide and translated into 32 languages, including Catalan and Gaelic. The highly successful TV series, inspired by Montalbano’s books became an international success and was broadcast in Australia by SBS. I am sure that the scenes of beautiful Sicily in the series have encouraged many travellers.
There have been many items from around the world in praise of Camilleri and the character Inspector Montalbano, who not only fight the Mafia and solves crimes is also a lover of good food and when Andrea Camilleri died last week, one of my relatives in Ragusa, Sicily sent me an article from Ragusa News, an on-line publication that covers news and interest stories from the Ragusa Province and nearby towns – Vittoria, Modica, Comiso, Scicli, Pozzallo and Ispica.
The article is called Domenica a pranzo onoriamo Camilleri con la pasta ‘Ncasciata (On Sunday for lunch let us honour Camilleri with pasta Ncasciata).
Sunday lunch is still an important family occasion in Sicily and pasta ‘Ncasciata is an Sicilian, oven baked pasta dish and one of Montalbano’s favorite things to eat. It is prepared for him by his housekeeper, Adelina. (Place above is where Montalbano lives in the TV series.
Camilleri in his Montalbano series of books describes almost every dish Montalbano eats. And every dish is traditionally Sicilian.
There are many versions of pasta ‘Ncasciata in Sicily, with different combinations of ingredients but the most noteworthy one is from Messina and the recipe in this article appears to be the Messinese version and is made with commercial, short shaped pasta in layers dressed with tomato meat sauce, mortadella or salami, fried eggplant, caciocavallo cheese, salami and hardboiled eggs. Although I have eaten pasta ‘Ncasciata, I have never liked the sound of this dish and have never made it.
Apart from Pasta ‘Ncasciata, Montalbano has other favourites and obviously I like them too as I have written them in my blog and my first book, Sicilian Seafood Cooking.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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:
Having travelled to Tyrol, Vienna and Russia recently where I saw Goulash (Gulyás in Hungary) frequently on menus, once home I dipped into my recipe books of Hungary and found George Lang’s Cuisine of Hungary to be the most informative and detailed.
I have been making Gulasch (in Triestian, dialect of Trieste) for a long time. As a child I lived in Trieste and not very far back in time Trieste was part of the Hungary – Austrian Empire and Gulasch is now part of the cooking of Trieste.
I have a fair few recipes of the cuisine of Trieste and all are made with meat, onions and paprika. Mostly the onions and meat are browned with lard and olive oil, bacon is not used, none have peppers or potatoes or any other vegetables or are thickened with flour. Some recipes suggest using caraway seeds, some a little tomato paste. None suggest adding red wine.
The main differences in my version of Gulasch as made in Trieste are:
I use wine or alcohol often in my cooking and have always added red wine to Goulash. Perhaps my mother did this and I have never questioned it. I always use herbs in my cooking so I add bay leaves, as these seem to be the most appropriate. I also use a mixture of hot and sweet paprika.
I do not add potatoes to the braise and prefer to present then separately, either Patate in teccia or creamy mashed potatoes with lashings of milk and butter. However, I am more likely to present it with Polenta, a favourite accompaniment in the cooking of Trieste. Below Goulash as presented in a restaurant in Tyrol. It was accompanied with braised red cabbage.
George Lang says that that a true gulyás should contain no spice other than paprika and caraway. Lard and bacon (either one or both) and chopped onion are absolute musts.
Never use and flour, Never Frenchify it with wine, Never Germanize it with brown sauce. Never put in any other garniture besides diced potatoes or galuska (dumplings).
But many variations are possible – you may use fresh tomatoes or tomato puree, garlic, sliced green peppers, hot cherry peppers to make it spicy and so on.
This recipe Kettle Gulyás comes from “The Cuisine of Hungary” by George Lang (Penguin Books, 1971).
2 tablespoons lard (or substitute canola or other vegetable oil)
2 medium onions, coarsely chopped
2 1/2 pounds beef chuck or round, cut to 3/4-inch cubes
1/2 pound beef heart (optional), cut to 3/4-inch cubes
1 garlic clove
Pinch caraway seeds
2 tablespoons paprika
1 medium-sized ripe tomato
2 green frying or Italian peppers
1 pound potatoes
Peel onions and chop into coarse pieces. Melt lard in a heavy 6 to 8-quart Dutch oven. Add the beef cubes to the oil and brown. Work in batches if necessary, removing cubes as they are browned. Don’t overcrowd the pan. Add onions to the pot. Heat should be low in order not to brown the onions. When onions become glossy, add back the seared beef. Stir.
Meanwhile, chop and crush the garlic with the caraway seeds and a little salt; use the flat side of a heavy knife.
Take kettle from heat. Stir in paprika and the garlic mixture. Stir rapidly with a wooden spoon. Immediately after paprika is absorbed, add 2 1/2 quarts warm water. (Cool water toughens meat if you add it with the meat is frying.)
Replace covered kettle over low heat and cook for about 1 hour.
While the braising is going on, peel the tomato, then cut into 1-inch pieces. Core green peppers and slice into rings. Peel potatoes and cut into 3/4-inch dice.
After the meat has been braised for about 1 hour (the time depends on the cut of the meat), add the tomato and green peppers and enough water to give a soup consistency. Add a little salt. Simmer slowly for another 30 minutes.
Add potatoes and cook the gulyás till done. Adjust salt. Add hot cherry pepper pods if you want to make the stew spicy hot.
For my recipe of Gulasch, as cooked in Trieste see: