Category Archives: Italian Regional

Babà al rum, Baba au rhum, Rum Baba and Savarin – facts and legends

 Go to Naples and eat Babà al rum. Neapolitans will claim them as their own.  But are they?

While I was looking for my Moulinex, a seldom used appliance in my top cupboard, I found other infrequently used appliances, like Baba and Savarin molds.

A Baba au rhum (as called by the French) is a rich yeast cake or sponge made with eggs, flour, milk and butter saturated in syrup made with alcohol, usually rum, and sometimes filled with pastry cream.

A Savarin is bigger version, baked in a ring mold and soaked in rum syrup and usually placed in the centre could be one or more of the following: pastry cream, Chantilly creme,  poached or fresh fruit. Raisins, sultanas or currants may be included in the dough.

The Neapolitan Babà al rum are usually made as mignons (small shapes) but the larger Savarins are also popular in Naples.

My partner has been experimenting and baking mainly with sourdough but also with fresh yeast. He bought too much yeast. I am not one to waste ingredients, so I suggested that he makes some rum babà – a very easy process but with enjoyable results. I gave him a few recipes and suggested that he may also like to look at how the French made them as well as the Neapolitans.

Before his bread baking sessions, my partner likes to find bakers/chefs demonstrating how they make the bread on YouTube, and he did the same this time when he was preparing to make the babà. Among the many YouTube videos he found, he showed me a very amusing one that had a highly reputed Italian pastry chef pinching up pieces of baba batter and twirling around his fingers to almost flick the very elastic batter into molds. Another YouTube demo featured Rita Chef who introduced her lesson on make babà with stories, about the origins and the legend of babà. Both chefs in these YouTube sessions speak in Italian so my partner didn’t quite understand Chef Rita was saying.

Chef Rita, does mention France and Poland but the account of the origins of babà is slightly twisted.

Chef Rita tells us that a sovereign who lived in Poland did not enjoy what his chefs had made as a dessert … a dry cake. The angry sovereign forcefully pushed the cake to the end of the table. And guess what?

At the end of the table was a bottle of rum and when the cake hit the bottle, the rum was spilled on the cake. In Chef Rita’s version of events the sovereign and his courtiers at the table were ‘inebriated’ by the combined fragrance of the cake and the rum and so the cook was given a reprieve and ordered to experiment with the ingredients and perfect the making of a rum-soaked cake.

At the time, this Polish sovereign was reading and enjoying the Arabian classic, A Thousand And One Nights. You can guess what’s coming … he called the dessert Ali Baba.

In a further twist to Chef Rita’s story, the Polish sovereign was later exiled to France. There the French chefs refined the recipe and soaked it in a syrup with alcohol of some sort, but it was only when it came to Naples that the Ali was dropped from Ali Baba and rum was added.

The Neapolitan chef’s story is very amusing, but there seem to be more realistic accounts about babà. Here are some:

  • Poland and Ukraine have a tall, cylindrical yeast cake called babka meaning “old woman” or “grandmother” and in most Slavic languages; babka is a diminutive of baba.
  • There are many similar versions to the Babka in Eastern Europe but also the Gugelhupf of Alsace Lorraine, France.
  • The deposed King Stanislas Leszczynska was exiled from Poland and came to France in the 1600s because Stanislas’s daughter married King Louis XV.
  • King Stanislas Leszczynska either returned from a trip to Poland with a Babka cake or he found a Gugelhupf version in the area. The alcohol he added to sweeten and moisten it may have been Hungarian sweet wine.
  • Stanislaus’ daughter’s pastry chef, Stohrer, went with her to Versailles and he added rum for the first time. Later he opened a pastry shop in Paris, Patisserie Stohrer and the Rum Baba became famous and claimed the French it as their own.
  • Rum Babà was brought to Italy by visiting French pastry chefs.
  • The legends vary in different texts but this one seems the most popular: Stanislas found the French cakes too dry and dipped them in rum. The chefs then experimented using brioche dough, and some added raisins.
  • In Larousse Gastronomique it says that a Parisian Maitre Patissier omitted raisins from the dough, giving the cake another shape and soaked it with a syrup made with secret ingredients and created and called it the Brillat-Savarin (celebrated French gourmet and writer on gastronomy), which later became simply savarin.
  • Alan Davidson in the Oxford Companion says that in the 1840s one of the Julien family of Parisian pastry-makers, set his mind to experimenting with the baba recipe and he named this rich and tasty dessert in honour of Jean Anthelme Brillat-Savarin (1755-1826).

My partner used a combination of recipes but in the end this is what he did:

The recipe is for 6 babas and one small savarin, or 8 small babas

220g flour, 12g fresh yeast, salt, 50g sugar, 2 eggs, 70ml milk 100g butter

Stir the yeast, a little sugar in the warm milk together into a mixer bowl (to use with a dough hook in your electric mixer) and allow the yeast to dissolve and froth (about 5 minutes).

Mix in 25g of flour, place in a warm place until double in size.

Once the dough has risen, slowly start mixing the dough and gradually add the remaining flour, sugar, salt in a bowl and then add eggs, one at a time, blending after each.

Progressively add butter and beat it until the dough then increase speed to high speed and beat it until it is smooth and glossy and almost coming away from the sides.

Cover the dough with a tea towel and allow to rise in a warm space for about 30 mins.

Divide dough among 8 greased dariole moulds, cover with a tea towel and set aside to prove until dough reaches tops of moulds. Use 180 C oven and bake until golden.

Turn out to cool completely, prick them all over with a skewer then place them in a large airtight container until required.

All of the recipes use an incredible amount of sugar (400g per litre), we used 2 litres of water 400g sugar 400ml rum and we found that sweet enough.

For the rum syrup, in a saucepan mix water, sugar, lemon zest from1 lemon and juice from 1/2 lemon and over medium heat stir until sugar dissolves, then simmer until syrupy (5 minutes). Add the rum and gently place the babas in the syrup, turning lightly until soaked through.

Drain them and leave until ready to serve.

I presented them with poached pears and egg custard.

To Make Custard:

3 egg yolks, tablespoons caster sugar infused with a vanilla bean, a pinch of salt 2 tablespoons of cornflour, 400 ml of milk, rind of 1 lemon, and a cinnamon stick.

In a saucepan, mix the egg yolks with the sugar and slowly add the flour, salt and a little milk to make a smooth paste – a whisk could be useful. If you do not have sugar that has been infused with a vanilla bean, use a little vanilla essence (not artificial).
Add the rest of the milk and incorporate to dilute the mixture evenly.
Using a vegetable peeler remove the rind in one piece from ½ lemon. Add this to the milk mixture. Add the cinnamon stick.
Use low – medium heat, stir it constantly with a whisk or a wooden spoon and slowly bring it to the boil- the custard should have thickened.
To make a creamier pastry cream, add a few pieces of room temperature butter while the custard is warm. Add a bit at a time, and whisk until well blended.
Cool before using. To prevent a skin from forming, I place a piece of baking paper or butter paper on its surface.
You may like this Italian dessert:

ZUPPA INGLESE, a famous, Italian dessert

Do I take making coffee at home too seriously?

Here is a photo of the coffee-making equipment I have at home.

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In times before the Corona Virus lockdown, when a group of us went to gym classes at the Melbourne City Baths we would go for a coffee and a chat after our session. Now that we are socially isolating, the same gym group catches up for a chat on Zoom.

During one of our Zoom sessions I brought out the coffee making equipment pictured above on a tray and I staged a performance of having made a coffee for each of us. There were the expected laughs but one person said that it looked as if I was hording. That was the end of that. I kept on thinking about this and wondering if I did have too many coffee makers.
I do not know if my friend  knew just how important is a ritual making coffee at home.

As an Italian – I take making and drinking coffee seriously. I’m glad I have macchinette da Caffè of various sizes: 1 cup 2 – 4 – 6 cups. I do not have a 3 or a 5 cup macchinette but, if I have three people wanting coffee, I use  both my one cup and my two. If I’m making coffee for five, I use my one and my four. If I think that someone may like more than one cup of coffee, I ask before I make it, and make coffee in one or more of the large macchinette.

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I grind my coffee beans just before I place the ground coffee in the chosen macchinetta because freshly ground coffee is likely achieve the best flavour and aroma. If I am making coffee for one, it has to be in the one cup macchinetta, for two people, it has to be in the two cup, etc. Usually Italians are happy with just the one coffee per time and they only make the right amount because, after all, it needs to be freshly made and never rewarmed. I have had that grinder for about 30 years old.

Any left-over coffee can be saved to make a caffè freddo in summer or a granita di caffè.  The left-over coffee can also be kept if there is someone in the household who mixes left over coffee with milk to eat with bread,  broken into pieces and dropped in. This is no different to the French doing the same thing. My father used to have this for breakfast. Of course, he did not do this when we lived in Italy – there he would go to the bar on his way to work to have a quick coffee and a chat with the barista at the counter.
No lingering. (Crem Caffè in Piazza Goldoni, Trieste). His Tailoring business was a couple of doors to the right and upstairs and our apartment was just around the corner.

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There was no way that my dad could continue this ritual in Australia when we came to Adelaide from Trieste in 1956.

Lucky for us, times have changed and those who wish can do this. You will not see Italians carrying takeaway coffee or sipping it as they walk along and I find it difficult to appreciate those who sit in a coffee place for a long time, chatting and having only one coffee or reading their papers or writing on their laptops. Especially if it is a small business. Some beliefs are difficult for me to dismiss. Maybe it is to do with the coffee place having a  relatively quick turnover so as to make a living.

If we (father, mother and I and perhaps friends) wanted a leisurley coffee and luxurious cakes we would go to  Caffe degli Specchi in Piazza Unità on the waterfront.

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Our Napoletana coffee-maker travelled with us to Australia.  At the time it was the top domestic extraction coffee-maker available before the stovetop espresso macchinette became popular. This is not a photo of what we had. This piece of equipment was discarded years ago. We also brought with us a little milk eating saucepan to heat the milk. I have memories of inviting one of our Australian neighbours for coffee. I can remember the man’s face and irrespective of the amount of warm milk we poured into the coffee, it was was much too strong. He was used to Chicory Essence.
We tried.

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The Napoletana has a tank for the water, the ground coffee holder and filter, a small hole for steam to escape and the server.

Once it is assembled, the part that holds the water is put on the heat to boil and once it has boiled and the steam begins to come out, the pan is flipped upside down and the boiling water trickles through.

Now back to my macchinette da caffè and do I have too many? I do not think so.

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There are the macchinette I use at home (as above) but we also have some that travel with us. We never travel overseas with out taking these. They are very light weight. These are much more modern than all my other caffettiere, the little blue Bialetti used to be my mum’s – I cannot get rid of that! Coming to think of it, that little blue Bialetti must be at least 15 years old.  The ones in the photo above were made by Alfonzo Pupplieni e figli (and sons) and I notice that my research indicates that they are classified as “Vintage” and are in high demand. Good things last.

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This one (photo below) is heavy.  It comes camping with us and gets taken when we go and sleep at friends’ houses or Airbnbs or rental holiday accommodation.
We like our “proper” coffee.

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Fortunately, none of our friends drink instant coffee … or at least they do not let us know. Some friends have plunger coffee … this is not the coffee I like to drink. My partner drinks plunger coffee if he has to, but prefers coffee from the macchinetta that travels with us. He even prefers this to the coffee made from electric Coffee Machines – pod or automatic so it gets included in our luggage.

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But he doesn’t like strong coffee in the morning, so he uses the distinctively designed Atomica, which makes two large cups. I never drink coffee from the Atomica. It is far too weak for my taste. This vintage coffee maker can also froth milk to make cappuccino or caffè latte.  The Atomica was designed by Giordano Robbiati in 1946 in Milan Italy. I do not know the age of my Atomica but just like our car, it goes in for a regular service. This used to belong to a friend and was given to me many, many years ago.

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I want to make special mention of this macchinetta. It was a gift from one of my Sicilian aunts. With this heavy macchinetta, I can make coffee for four people or six; this macchinetta must also be getting to be elderly.

I  had a taste for coffee when I was pretty young. My mother made me “caffé col’uovo sbatutto” (coffee with beaten egg) for breakfast.
If it wasn’t a “uovo sbattuto” it was “un uovo all’ ostrica”…this was an egg yolk with a squeeze of lemon juice, just like having an oyster.
This with a cup of hot chocolate was breakfast.

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Beat an egg yolk with a few teaspoons of sugar until foamy, then pour in a little good strong coffee, and mix it up. The coffee deletes the sweetness. If I had been an adult, more coffee would have been added.

If I am going to have good coffee at home, I do want proper equipment…. and I take pleasure remembering.

 

PORCINI in ADELAIDE, Yeppee

Should I move back to Adelaide?

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

Pocini clump

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

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

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

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

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

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

Porcini and wine glass

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

WILD MUSHROOMS – Saffron Coloured, Pine Mushrooms and Slippery Jacks

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

WILD MUSHROOMS, I have been foraging again

PASTA WITH MUSHROOMS – Pasta ai funghi

NORTHERN ITALY, pasta made of rye or buckwheat flour and PIZZOCCHERI

Last year (2019) I stayed and travelled through parts of Tuscany, Emilia Romagna, Liguria, Veneto, Friuli Venezia Giulia, Trentino Alto Adige and a few places around Mantova (Mantua) in Lombardy. I loved it all, but I particularly enjoyed spending time in some parts of South Tyrol I had not ever visited – South Tyrol is an autonomous province and part of the two that make up the region of Trentino-Alto Adige.

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A few years before this trip I stayed and travelled around Bergamo, Brescia, Lake Como and Lake Maggiore and also parts of Piedmont.

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And years before this, I travelled through from France to Trieste, stopping in many places on the way.

And just because all these places may be described as being in Northern Italy, you will find the food from place to place is vastly different.

Never skiing, always looking, appreciating, drinking and eating.

Those of you who have travelled through Northern Italy may notice that the further north you go, the more corn (polenta), barley, rye, and buckwheat you will find in local dishes, especially in the array of dark breads, cakes and pastries.

I particularly like buckwheat polenta and rye or buckwheat pasta.

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Rye and buckwheat are popular in Eastern Europe where, in particular, the climates are cold. Cold weather brings deep winter snow and the jaggered peaks and mountains increase the isolation, especially in earlier times when transporting produce was much harder than today. The food in this particular part of Lombardy is unique because of its isolation in the past.

Italian food is all about locality – unique heritage, local produce and local food.

For example, Valtellina is a long narrow valley bordered by mountains in northern Lombardy, north of Lake Como and it is recognized for Pizzoccheri – a buckwheat pasta that is cooked with cabbage and potatoes – vegetables associated with hearty food – suitable for cold weather terrain. The  distinctive flavour of this dish is enhanced by the alpine cheeses such as Bitto and Valtellina Casera (DOP cheeses – Protected Designation of Origin) which the region is renowned for producing. 

Rye and buckwheat, especially, are widespread and prominent in the region and used in the local cuisine. Rich pasture is plentiful, and this region is also renowned for dairy produce. Sage is a hardy perennial and garlic (lots of it) add flavour. The garlic may also be there to boost health – in many countries, garlic has been used medicinally for centuries.

The use of rye or buckwheat creates a darker, chewier and more flavoursome pasta. Obviously, it does not go with all sauces, but I particularly like it with nut and herb based dressings and cheeses.

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Pizzoccheri is not a dry pasta dish and commonly the ingredients are drained before they are dressed with the butter and the cheeses, but I much prefer it as a wet pasta dish, so I suggest you read the whole recipe before you decide to make it.

The ratio of using buckwheat flour to white flour varies, but I like 300g of buckwheat to100g 00 white. No eggs are used in this type of pasta, just water, however, once again, occasionally I have added 1 egg to the mix.

Some cooks use more potatoes than cabbage, I like to use more cabbage than potato, say approximately 300 g potatoes to 400 g cabbage.

The cheese Valtellina Casera may be difficult to find, so you may wish to substitute it with Fontina or Gruyère, Emmental, Edam, or Gouda, especially if the cheese is aged.

To make rye pasta use the same amounts and procedure as described in this recipe, but substitute the buckwheat flour with rye flour and add three eggs. When making rye pasta I usually add some caraway seeds, or fennel or anise to the dough when kneading. At times, I have also done this when making buckwheat pasta.

Once again, the amounts are only guides. When my relatives make/ made pasta (or I make pasta for that matter) I use an estimation of judgement. I can remember my mother saying:

“One fistful (un pugno) of flour per egg, and ½ eggshell of water if it needs more liquid”

Having grown up with this, I still use this measure.

300 g buckwheat flour

100 g 00 flour

300 g butter

200 g cheese (see above)

6 cloves of garlic, a few sage leaves

salt and pepper

Parmesan, grated, at time of serving

Place the 2 flours and a pinch of salt in a bowl and mix. Make a well in the centre, pour in some water, a little at the time. Use your fingers to mix liquid with the flour, until everything is combined. Knead it to make one smooth lump of dough (for 5-8 minutes).

Follow the procedure as for rolling and cutting as in the previous post: MORE AUTUMN PRODUCE… lemons and quinces, wild mushrooms and homemade pasta.

Once you have cut the pasta into the width of pappardelle, cut each strip diagonally into pieces roughly 1 cm long.

Cut the potatoes into cubes – I like waxy potatoes and leave the skins on, Italians peel them.  Remove the core from the cabbage and cut into strips about 2 cm square.

Put the potatoes into some cold water, sufficient to make a thick soup like consistency when all of the ingredients have been added and cooked.

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The pasta will swell a bit and need more water than the vegetables; it needs liquid to cook so estimate sufficient water. You can also always add more boiling water to the dish as the pasta cooks if you think it needs more liquid.

When the potatoes come to the boil add the cabbage and add the pasta. I do not think it matters if you use a lid or not while it cooks. If I have too much liquid, I tend to leave the lid off to allow some evaporation. Cook until all is cooked and keep the pasta al dente.

Cut the garlic cloves into thin slices, add some sage leaves and gently cook them in the butter but prevent them from browning. 

Cut the cheese into small cubes.

Now, this is where you need to decide if you drain the solids and dress it or eat it as a wet pasta dish. My preference is for a wet pasta dish and to remove some of the liquid if it is too wet… save it for making another  and different soup.

Sometimes, I have cheated. When i do not have time to make fresh pasta, I have used commercially made  pasta. As you can see these are spiralli. San Remo makes both buckwheat and spelt spiralli. Both good. NOT traditional.

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CHICKPEAS and simple food

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

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

Here are two things that I cooked recently using chickpeas.

Pasta with cauliflower, short pasta and chick peas:

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The other, chickpeas, saffron, mushrooms and eggplants:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Is it regional Italian?

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

Being creative in my kitchen gives me much pleasure.

BACCALÀ MANTECATO, risotto

Baccalà Mantecato is a Northern Italian specialty and when I make it I poach the baccalà in milk.

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So what to do with the left over milk?

I made a risotto.

I had two jars of baccalà flavoured milk, far too much to make a risotto, so I reduced it to concentrate the flavour, and this worked well.

I used this antique gadget given to me a very long time ago by a friend. it is called a milk saver.  She used to find all sorts of treasures at the Stirling dump in the Adelaide Hills and this was one of them.  It does work!

Just using the milk would not be enough to flavour the risotto. I wanted texture and more flavour and I had some Mantecato left over in the fridge.

Ingredients: extra virgin olive oil,  carnaroli rice, spring onions, bay leaves, thyme, parsley, grated lemon peel, Baccalà Mantecato and roasted almonds to spring on top.

Method is nothing out of the ordinary when making risotto.

Check the taste of the milk to see if it is salty and you may not need to add any more seasoning.

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Saute the spring onion in the extra virgin olive oil, add the rice and coat it in the oil -at this stage you may like to add a little white wine and evaporate it.  Add thyme and bay leaves and gradually add the milk in stages, just as you would add stock when making a risotto. If you do not have sufficient milk you may need to add a little water. Remember that rice is supposed to be presented “all’onda”, as Italian would say. “Onda” means wave….all’onda is wavy, therefore the  risotto should be moist, with waves on top and not solid.

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Add the parsley, grated lemon and the Mantecato last of all and stir through. The Mantecato will make the rice very creamy.

Sprinkle with roasted almonds when ready to serve.
There are several recipes for baccalà on the web and also for risotto.

BACCALÀ MANTECATO (Creamed salt cod, popular in the Veneto region and Trieste)

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

Was I excited? You bet I was.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 


Back to the lemon salad in Melbourne, Australia:

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

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

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

LEMON and CEDRO – SICILIAN LEMON SALAD

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

 

 

FREE RANGE PORK WITH NORTHERN ITALIAN FLAVOURS

This pork was simply and quickly cooked but delicious. The meat was tender and flavourful.

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This Berkshire pork  comes from Brooklands Free Range Farms in Blamfield, in the central highlands of Victoria.

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If you live in Victoria, the pork is sold in some of Farmers Markets – see list on the photo below, it is on the back of their business card.

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I used sage, thyme and juniper berries, northern Italian flavours. There are a couple of Sicilian recipes at the end of this post.

When I use juniper berries I like to deglaze the pan either with dry vermouth or gin rather than white wine. Juniper berries are a spice used in a wide variety of culinary dishes and best known for the primary flavouring in gin – you will not need much and it will enhance the taste of the sauce.

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A little extra virgin olive oil at the bottom of a frypan, put in the meat, a little salt, herbs and  some juniper berries. I used about 8. And look how lean and pink the pork is!

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Turn them over when they are coloured on one side, cover and cook on low heat for about 6 minutes.

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Turn again, deglaze. Turn off heat, rest for a few minutes before serving.

Thank you Brooklands Free Range Farms for producing top quality produce and what i particularly like is that these pigs not only frolic on rich volcanic soils but that other local producers contribute to feeding these pigs- local grain, vegetables and whey. The pigs also eat seasonal acorns…very European.

Sicilian recipes for pork:
BRACIOLI DI MAIALI O’ VINU (Sicilian for Pork Chops Cooked In Wine)

PORK IN RAGUSA (I Ragusani mangiano molto maiale)

 

 

VONGOLE con FINOCCHIO e Vermouth

B1D5EC2C-3A7E-487F-A229-600CA75EE764Cockles, vongole , pipis from Goolwa.

02D5AEFE-17A9-4E7F-95F2-D86DCA11F397Fennel sautéed in extra virgin olive oil, garlic, tarragon and parsley. Deglazed with dry vermouth.

FE637EF8-8A6C-4CFD-B88D-8B0DF6D14833Add the vongole, cover, and the vongole will open very quickly. Open and serve with crostini…..bread of your choice brushed with extra virgin olive oil and toasted in the oven.

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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.

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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)