Not so. Even if it is pork, MAIALE al latte is a light, delicate and sweet tasting dish, a classic recipe from the Veneto region of Italy.
This is one of the easiest and most delicious recipes for cooking a lump of pork, either the loin or the neck. I prefer it not to be a fatty piece of meat and I trim most of the fat off.
Many like to prepare a pork dish for Christmas. Pork braised in milk could make a pleasant change!
I always use full cream milk. The milk separates into flavourful and creamy curds that can be gently strained out and served on the side or under the succulent, cooked meat that has been sliced. The meat juices and whey are the fragrant sauce.
Fresh sage, garlic and lemon rind are the flavours. I also like to use quite a bit of black pepper.
I used a boneless loin of pork. Ingredients for 1k.500g:
extra virgin olive oil and butter to seal the meat and brown
1 small head of garlic, cloves peeled and halved
salt and freshly ground black pepper
fresh sage, about 10 large leaves
full cream milk, a sufficient amount to cover up to three quarters of the meat.
lemon peel from one large lemon cut into thin, wide strips – use a potato peeler.
Trim the fat off the meat, rub salt and pepper all over the pork and leave for about 10 mins.
Use a heavy-bottomed pot that is large enough to hold pork and milk that will almost cover the pork.
Brown the pork on all sides in some oil and butter. Use medium-high heat. Add pork and cook until well browned on all sides.
Add garlic and sage and milk. Bring to a boil, add lemon zest, reduce heat to medium-low.
Cover and gently simmer the meat. Resist stirring. Turn over the meat a couple of times and cook for about 3 hours. The milk will have reduced and golden curds would have formed. It will smell like caramel.
Transfer meat to a cutting board and let it rest while you lift off the curds gently and separate them from the liquid. The garlic will have dissolved into the sauce. Remove the lemon peel and the sage leaves. Skim off any fat (I did not need to do this as my meat was pretty lean).
Slice the meat. Serve on a bed of curds and the caramel meat juices poured on top.
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.
A few years before this trip I stayed and travelled around Bergamo, Brescia, Lake Como and Lake Maggiore and also parts of Piedmont.
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.
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.
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 (unpugno) 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).
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.
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.
This pork was simply and quickly cooked but delicious. The meat was tender and flavourful.
This Berkshire pork comes from Brooklands Free Range Farms in Blamfield, in the central highlands of Victoria.
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.
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.
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!
Turn them over when they are coloured on one side, cover and cook on low heat for about 6 minutes.
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.
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.
Lardo Affumicato is Speck. This also is used widely in cooking of Trieste and Italian regions that used to be part of the Austrian- Hungarian Empire.
The rendered fat from the lardo or bacon is the 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).
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:
One of my Sicilian aunt’s favourite ways to cook rabbit in Ragusa was Cunnighiua Pattuisa (cunnighiu is coniglio in Italian, rabbit in English). I did some research and found that two other Sicilian food writers call it something different: Giuseppe Coria calls it Cunnighiua Portisa, and Pino Correnti Cunnighiu a Portuisa. In Italian this becomes, alla Portoghese, that is in the Portuguese style.
I am not quite sure why the Portuguese are accredited for this recipe, but one can assume that it is because of the Spaniards in Sicily.
Sicily was ruled by Spaniards at various times by: House of Aragon (1282–1516), Kingdom of Spain (1516–1713), Duchy of Savoy (1713–1720), Habsburg Monarchy (1720–1735) and Kingdom of Naples (1735–1806).
Located on the southwestern tip of the European continent in the Iberian Peninsula are Spain, Andorra and Portugal and Portugal only gained independence from Spain in 1640. Olive oil, olives and capers are used extensively in Sicilian and Spanish cooking.
There are various versions of this recipe for rabbit cooked in the Portuguese style as cooked in Ragusa and most seem to contain green olives and capers. Some contain vinegar, others white wine. Some recipes suggest adding a spoonful of tomato paste (mainly to enrich the colour), some add a little sugar, others chilli.
I cooked a version of this rabbit for friends in Adelaide, the photos tell the story.
In a fry pan I browned 1 rabbit in about ½ cup extra virgin oil. I sectioned the rabbit into 5 pieces (number of pieces is optional).
I then added some salt and pepper, some green olives and capers, 2-4 cloves garlic and some fresh thyme. Sicilians would use a few fresh bay leaves. If you are using salted capers make sure to rinse them and soak them in several changes of fresh water.
I then added about 1 glass of white wine mixed with ½ cup of white wine vinegar. I covered it with a lid and cooked it slowly on low heat.
*If it is a tender rabbit and if it is cut into small enough pieces, the rabbit may be cooked by the time all of the liquid has evaporated. If the rabbit is not as young or as tender as you had hoped, and you feel that it needs to be cooked for longer add a little water, cover with a lid and simmer it gently until it is soft – keep on adding more wine and water.
I partly cooked some potatoes and placed them with the rabbit for the last 20-30 minutes of cooking. The green leaves are mint. These add colour and taste: Ragusani use quite a bit of mint in their cooking.
I hesitate to write recipes that are just so simple, but recently I was reminded how a simple herb butter can enhance simply grilled or steamed fish, meat or vegetables, bread etc. Grilled vegetables seem to be the pick of the month – enhance them with a flavoured butter.
While in South Australia I ate and drank very well in a number of restaurants, most had unusual combinations of excellent South Australian produce, others like Skillogalee Winery Restaurant in the Clare Valley had simple fare, more conventional and perfectly geared to the wide range of people who visit wineries and can enjoy a relaxing afternoon.
Our group of four sat in the garden and one of the dishes we chose to share was Port Lincoln whole sardines served with lime and parsley butter with bread. We ordered 2 serves of these sardines.
So modest, but so delicious. Sometimes we forget how something so quickly and simply made can really enhance a dish.
Some of you may remember the craze for the Beurre Maître d’Hôtel, also referred to as Maître d’Hôtel butter or Compound butter – It is simply butter combined with herbs, pepper and lemon juice and typically formed into a cylinder and sliced. A circular disc of Maître d’Hôtel butter was centrally plonked on top of a grilled steak – a technique used by many high-end steak houses in the eighties and early nineties…. people in Adelaide may remember The Arkaba Steak Cellar.
With a little imagination, different herbs instead of parsley will impart different flavours and grated lemon or lime peel will boost the citrus taste.
To make lime and parsley butter sufficient for 4-6 sardines and bread begin with 1 cup unsalted good quality butter at room temperature, 1-2 teaspoons of lime zest, 2 teaspoons of fresh lime juice, 1 tablespoon of fresh parsley chopped very finely and a little salt and pepper to taste.
Use a fork to beat the butter in a bowl until smooth and creamy. Mix zest, juice and gradually add parsley salt, and black pepper into the butter until thoroughly combined.
Taste it and if it is necessary to alter it add more of any of the ingredients to make it to your taste. Rest in the fridge to return consistency and enhance the flavour.
If you wish to store it and give it that 1980’s shape, wrap it in foil or in baking paper keep it in the fridge until ready to use.
All grilled fish and not just sardines can be used, as all meat and vegetables.
Instead of parsley, add different herbs – rosemary, thyme, sage, dill, basil, fennel fronds, tarragon, chives, oregano, marjoram, coriander are simple examples.
Garlic, ginger, horseradish, paprika, pink pepper, spices….need I go on?
Only to say that I rather like finely chopped anchovy fillets combined in butter – begin with 1 tablespoon of chopped anchovies to 1 cup pf butter and add more if it is not to your taste.
For miso butter – begin with 1 tablespoon of white miso and proceed as above. Red or brown miso can also be used.
Recently I also tried mixing some chopped lavender leaves into butter to present with scones. Not too much lavender or it could taste medicinal.
Now and again I feel nostalgic for the “old” food. From my childhood, I often hanker for Vitello Tonnato. It is eaten cold, can be easily prepared beforehand and is a perfect dish as a starter or as a main meal. Left overs make a perfect panino.
There is an earlier post with the recipe for Vitello Tonnato, but this time I will let the photos guide the cooking.
I used a grirello – the eye round steak. The vegetables are onion, celery, carrots, garlic and herbs. I have tied the herbs (bay, rosemary, thyme) with string so that they can be easily removed at the end of cooking. Usually I like to include sage, but I have none growing at the moment.
I insert slices of garlic into the meat.
Some recipes indicate that the vegetables and meat can be boiled. I do not always repeat what my mother did but like her I lightly brown the vegetables and meat and this does add to the taste. I used a fish kettle for the cooking.
There is a bottle of white wine and some chicken stock ready to add. I added about 1 cup of wine and 2 cups of stock.
The liquid will add flavour and keep the meat moist. I always evaporate the juices at the end to concentrate the flavours of the sauce. Add seasoning.
Cook the meat to your liking. My mother always cooked it till it was very well done – that is how the older generation cooked meat in those times. My meat is lightly pink, but could have been rarer – on this occasion I had guests who prefer their meat well done.
Cool the meat and slice thinly.
Now for the sauce: egg mayonnaise, drained tuna (packed in oil), capers, anchovies and some of the vegetables that were used in the cooking of the meat. If the reduced sauce has cooled and jellied, add a little of the sauce.
Blend the ingredients. before adding the mayonnaise.
Add the mayonnaise and this is the sauce.
Build the layers – slices of meat, topped with the sauce. I made it the day before I served it. The sauce penetrates and softens the meat.
I have had modern versions of this dish in a number of places, both in Australia and Italy and the preference seems to be to place the sauce on top of some slices without covering each layer of meat.
I like the meat to be smothered with the tuna sauce.
Decorate it as you wish. This time was not my best, I used the left over carrots, topped them with strips of anchovies, stuffed olives cut in half and pink peppercorns. My mother probably would not have approved.
As a child, I lived in Trieste with my parents, and Ragusa, Catania and Augusta were the towns in Sicily where my Sicilian relatives lived. Both Trieste (located at the head of the Gulf of Trieste in the region Friuli-Venezia Giulia) and Sicily are at the extreme ends of Italy, and as you would expect, the cuisines are very different.
I grew up with both cuisines and appreciate them both for very different reasons.
Capuzi garbi (or crauti/krauti) is sauerkraut in Triestino (the Triestine dialect) and it is a very popular ingredient in Triestine cuisine especially when mixed in Gulash (made with pork or beef), or with a lump of smoked pork, or luganighe (Triestine) – salsicce di maiale in Italian, and pork sausages for us mere mortals in the English speaking world.
When you look at a map of Italy, it is easy to see why this part of Italy has common roots with the cooking of Austria, Hungary, Slovenia, Croatia and Istria.
I have German and Polish friends and they too are fond of sauerkraut, and like my relatives and friends from Trieste, they tend to overcook it; my mother also did this when she cooked capuzi garbi.
But as we know, cuisine evolves and some of us have taken on new methods of cooking traditional foods.
In my kitchen, I cook sauerkraut for about a quarter of the time as the traditional method and at times, I also like to add a little fresh cabbage to lighten the taste and to add a different texture. A little flour browned in a little oil is added to the sauerkraut towards the end of cooking, but not me, and unlike my Triestine contemporaries I also add caraway seeds, bay leaves and a dash of white wine.
The ingredients are: pork sausages, sauerkraut, bay leaves and caraway seeds. Onion, extra virgin olive oil and pepper (the sauerkraut could be sufficiently salty). Fresh cabbage and a dash of white wine are optional.
Drain the sauerkraut and squeeze out the moisture. Soften some onion in a little oil (in Trieste lard is also common and added to the oil).
Adding a little white or savoy cabbage is optional.
And with the cabbage also add the sauerkraut and the rest. A dash of white wine will keep it moist while it cooks.
Cover and cook for about 15- 20 minutes on low heat until the sausages are nearly cooked and the flavours have had a chance to meld.
Remove the sauerkraut and slightly brown the sausages – only for appearance.