Category Archives: Meat/Carne

COTECHINO AND LENTILS -NEW YEAR’S EVE and CHRISTMAS

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It is hot in Australia at this time of year and I am certainly not going to cook this popular and traditional Italian, New Year’s Eve dish – Cotechino e lenticchie – but some of you who are steeped into tradition may consider cooking this in hot or cold weather. If you do, make sure that as you dig into that sausage, you make a wish for the new year (it must be before midnight).

I cooked it last winter. Perfect for the cold weather. I first published this post on Dec 9th 2015 and it is time to publish it once more.

Cotechino is rather a large sausage which has a proportion of it made with some of the gelatinous meat from the pig trotter.  Lenticchie are lentils- the ordinary green lentils. Cotechino e lenticchie is a dish that is more common in the north of Italy. I do not think that it is very common in Sicily, however as a result of media and recipe books and travel, food habits change, recipes evolve.

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Just as we have adopted Panettone and Panforte at Christmas time in Australia, I gather that it is fairly hip to cook Christmas Pudding in Italy. So what do we think of that!
You will ned to visit an Italian delicatessen or butcher to buy a Cotechino sausage. If you live in Melbourne I go to Fairfield or Carlton. If you live in Adelaide Marino Food and Meat store at the Central Market. I know about and have visited Eataly in New York and they would definitely have it.

Cooking Cotechino and Lentils is very simple, and delicious. The onion, carrot and celery are the Italian usual suspects when making broth or a soffritto (from soffriggere – to lightly fry – the soffritto refers to the sautéed vegetables that are the basis for most braises, pot roasts and soups.)

This is definitely one of those dishes where you can add 1 kilo of lentils if you wish – it depends what proportion of lentils to cotechino that you prefer. Have a look at my photo and decide.

1 cotechino sausage
700 g of lentils
1 onion
1 stalk of celery
1 carrot
¼ cup olive oil
2-3 peeled tomatoes
2-3 bay leaves – I always prefer fresh, but i have a bay tree growing in a pot on my balcony  – you may not be as lucky.

Soak the lentils in water for 30 minutes.
Sauté the chopped celery, carrot, onion in the hot oil till golden. Drain the lentils and add cold water to cover them well.
Add peeled tomatoes and bay leaves, cover and cook them and cook over low heat until cooked.
In a separate pan add the sausage to cold water- sufficient water to cover the cotechino, bring it to the boil and then simmer it until it is cooked but not split – say 50 minutes.
Skim some of the fat off the broth, cut the sausage into thick slices, add them to the lentils with as much of the broth as you wish and serve.

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The flavours will intensify over the next few days so appreciate the leftovers – you could add more of the broth (from the cotechino) and eat it as soup. Great stuff, especially for those who are living in a cold climate!

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I have mentioned Panforte ( sweet). For recipe see:

Other Christmas recipes for sweets:

Fish for Christmas (especially Christmas Eve):

Meat and other Christmas specaialties:

My family always had brodo at some stage on Christmas day:

And there are so many other seafood, meat, vegetables and pasta recipes on my blog.

 

 

QUADRUCCI IN BRODO, Squares of home-made Pasta in Broth

Time and time again I am asked what am I cooking for Christmas Day or Christmas Eve. The answer is that I do not know yet.  I can say is that on Christmas eve I like to eat fish as is traditionally observed in Italy and on Christmas day I usually cook something that I do not normally cook or have not cooked for a while, for example for first course I may cook Spaghetti/ Pasta with sea urchin (ricci) or bottarga or squid with black ink or crayfish or crab.( SEE links to recipes at the bottom of this post.)

Traditionally my immediate family always ate brodo (broth) on Christmas day and lately I have been thinking about something that I have not made since 1984. I know it is this date because the recipe was in a book which was published in 1984 andI bought it the year it was published = Giuliano Bugialli, The Taste Of Italy.

And so the other night when I pulled out of my freezer some strong duck broth, I decided to experiment with making some home-made pasta cut into squares  with parsley embedded in the centre. I had made it many years ago on several occasions . Only my daughter was coming for dinner, so if the results were not satisfacory, it did not matter so much. I am always in a hurry (I once had a friend who used to call me (Ms sempre in fretta – always in a hurry) and had no time to find the recipe. Besides I could not remember what the recipe was called or in in which Bugialli book would I find it, so I just went ahead and made it.

Because there were just the three of us eating the brodo I only wanted to make small amounts and use a rolling pin; there was no way I wanted to get out/ dirty/ and clean my pasta rolling machine….I was in a hurry.

And it was great. How could I go wrong? It is just homemade pasta with whole parsley leaves added to the dough. The parsley pasta is then cut into squares. The thinly rolled pasta with the whole parsley leaves are very attractive and resemble embroidery.

I had some asparagus (now in season) and I wanted to add a light summery feel to the brodo. Perfect for an Australian Christmas?

I found the recipe and not surprisingly Bugialli calls them Quadrucci – small squares. A quadro is Italian for square.

In Bugialli’s recipe, he suggests making the broth with Turkey- meat and bones.  My duck stock was made with the carcase/carcass of a duck – I had removed the breast and legs for another dish.

WHAT I DID

  • good meat broth, fat skimmed off, solids passed through a fine mesh strainer,
  • sprigs of Italian parsley (I also tried some with basil leaves),
  • home-made pasta = *1 large egg per 100 grams of hard flour (like unbleached, bread making flour, high in protein) is sufficient for 3 persons. Double or triple accordingly.

Sift the flour and place it in a large bowl or on a bench (depending how you like to mix flour to make into a dough).

Make a well in the centre and add the egg and a little salt.

Begin to knead with your fingers; I begin by adding flour from the edges into the centre. Mix everything well. At this stage you may need to add a little bit more of flour if the mixture is too wet or a tiny bit of water if it is too dry. This is because of the differences in the size of the eggs and the absorbency of the flour. Work the dough till the pasta feels elastic.

Shape the dough into a ball, cover it (cloth or plastic wrap) and leave it for about one hour.

Using a rolling pin (or a pasta machine especially if making greater quantities) roll/ stretch the pasta quite thin.

Place whole parsley leaves on top of half the length of the layer of pasta. Fold the other half of the layer of pasta over the parsley, and press the layers together.

Roll it again until it is very thin and you will see the parsley through the top layer of the pasta – sandwiched in the centre and looking like embroidery. I also used basil leaves for some quadri (squares).

Cut the pasta into squares ( like ravioli). These do not need to be of regular size and shape. trim off irregular bits of pasta.

Bring the broth to a boil and add the pasta squares. Cook for 1-3 minutes- they will rise to the surface when cooked.

Once I added the pasta to the broth I added the asparagus. The ingredients were cooked in a very short time.

This is what my version looked like:

I did find Bugialli’s recipe and he adds grated Parmigiano and black pepper to his pasta dough. He also says that this is a representative dish from Puglia. Bugialli is from Florence.

Here is Bugialli’s recipe:

FOR THE BROTH:

900g/2lbs dark turkey meat, with bones
1 medium-sized red onion, peeled
1 stick celery
1 medium-sized carrot, scraped
1 medium-sized clove garlic, peeled but left whole
1 cherry tomato
4 sprigs Italian parsley
3 extra large egg whites
coarse-grained salt

FOR THE PASTA:

40g (1 1/2 oz) (1/2 cup) freshly grated Parmesan
5 eggs
pinch of salt
6 twists black pepper
450g (1 lb) (3 1/2 cups) plain (all-purpose) flour
30 sprigs Italian flat-leaf parsley, leaves only

Prepare the broth: put the turkey, coarse-grained salt to taste, the whole onion, celery, carrot, garlic, tomato, and parsley sprigs in a large stockpot. Cover with cold water and put the pot over medium heat, uncovered. Simmer for 2 hours, skimming off foam from the top.

Remove the meat from the pot and reserve it for another dish. Pass the rest of the contents of the pot through a fine strainer into a large bowl, to remove the vegetables and impurities. Let the broth cool, then place the bowl in the refrigerator overnight to allow the fat to rise to the top and solidify.

Use a metal spatula to remove the solidified fat then clarify the broth. Pour 4 tablespoons of the broth into a small bowl and mix it with the egg whites. Pour the broth and egg white mixture into the rest of the cold broth and whisk very well. Transfer the broth to a pot and place it on the edge of a burner. Bring to the simmering stage, half covered, and simmer for 10 minutes, or until the egg whites rise to the top with the impurities, and the broth becomes transparent.

Meanwhile, place a clean, wet cotton tea towel in the freezer for 5 minutes. Then stretch the tea towel over a colander and strain the broth through it to clarify it completely. The broth should be absolutely clear.

Prepare the pasta with the ingredients listed, placing the grated Parmesan, salt, pepper, and eggs in the well in the flour. With much care and patience, gradually work the eggs into the flour until you have a slab of dough. Shape this into a ball and leave under a towel or in cling film (plastic wrap) to rest.

Stretch the pasta as thinly as possible by hand or with the pasta machine. Place the whole parsley leaves on top of half the length of the layer of pasta. Fold the other half of the layer of pasta over the parsley, and press the layers together. Continue to roll out the layer of pasta until it is very thin. Using a scalloped pastry cutter, cut the pasta into squares of about 5cm/2in.

Bring the broth to a boil and add the pasta. Cook for 1-3 minutes, depending on how dry the pasta is. Serve hot, without adding cheese, which would spoil its purity.

This is what Bugialli’s  pasta looked like. With a little more effort and a pasta machine, mine will look like that too.

Other recipes mentioned in this blog.

For first course I may cook:

SPAGHETTI CON RICCI DI MARE

PASTA CON BOTTARGA

SPAGHETTI WITH CRAYFISH OR CRAB

PASTA WITH BLACK INK SAUCE

 

AGGLASSATO braised meat with a thick onion sauce

When a food is Agglassato (from a French word glacer) it is glazed. For example if it is a cake it could be glazed with glacé icing, glace cherries are glazed with sugar, the surface of a meat Pâté or any meat or fish to be eaten cold could be glazed with a jellied stock. And to me this implies that the glaze has a sheen.

In Sicily there is a traditional dish called Agglassato also Aggrassato ( to further complicate matters it can be spelled Agrassato and Aglassato) and it is braised meat (veal, lamb, kid, tongue) cooked with large amounts of onions.It is also referred to as Carne Agrassata -meat carne =meat and it is a feminine word, therefore the ‘a’ at the end.

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Once cooked, the onions become very soft, the sauce is reduced and the onions became a thick puree Agglassato can also be eaten cold. This is when the onion sauce jellies, thickens and glazes the meat.

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Although this particular dish may have been influenced by French cuisine, lard rather than butter is used – lard being more common in Sicilian cuisine.

Agglassato seems to be a method of cooking meat which is fairly wide spread across Sicily with a few variations. Some use less onions, others add potatoes and in some parts of Sicily, especially in the South-eastern region grated pecorino cheese is added at the end of cooking. Sometimes the meat is cooked in one piece and held together with string, at other times it is cubed as in a stew.

The sauce (without potatoes) can also be used to dress pasta – remove some of the onion sauce for the first course (pasta) then present the meat for the second course with contorni (side vegetable dishes).

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The recipe is simple.

The ratio is:

1 kg meat to 1 kg onions
200 g lard or a mixture of lard and extra virgin olive oil
salt, pepper
½ -1 glass of white wine
rosemary or sage or bay leaves
meat stock (optional)

In a pan suitable for making a stew heat the lard, add the sliced onions, and herbs. Soften the onions on low heat and then add the meat (cubed or in one piece).
Toss the meat around until it is white on the surface (unlike other stews do not brown).

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Add the wine, cover and cook it over low heat for about 70 minutes per kilo of meat, less if the meat is in small pieces. Remove the lid about 15-20 minutes if the contents look too watery and allow the sauce to thicken.

If you are cooking kid or lamb (this is a common recipe for Easter especially in the south east of Sicily), the following ratio of ingredients is a useful guide.

2 kg kid, or lamb on the bone, cut into stew-size pieces
800g-1kg potatoes
500g onions
100g lard or a mixture of lard and extra virgin olive oil
salt, pepper
4 cloves of garlic (whole)
1 glass of white wine
rosemary or sage or bay leaves
1 cup of parsley cut finely
meat stock (optional)
100 g grated pecorino cheese

In a pan suitable for making a stew heat the lard, add the sliced onions, garlic and herbs (but not the parsley).
Soften the onions and then add the meat.
Toss the meat around until it is white on the surface. Add the wine, cover and cook it over low heat for about 50-60 minutes. Check for moisture and add splashes of stock or water if the stew looks too dry. In Sicily kid and lamb are slaughtered as young animals and depending on the age and tenderness of your meat you may need to cook it for longer.
Peel and cut the potatoes into small chunks and add them to the stew. Add parsley and stock or water to almost cover the potatoes and cook until they are done (probably 30 minutes).
At the end of cooking sprinkle with grated pecorino.

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In a previous post I have written about how my father used to cook tongue (lingua) in this way. Now and again he would also cook meat instead of tongue

See Recipe: Carne Aglassata-  Glazed tongue in onion sauce

Below is a photo of the whole tongue( lingua)  – this is removed from the sauce and sliced before being served.

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PIGEON BREAST cooked simply, from Borough Market in London

I will be travelling again and I have not even finished writing about the food and produce I experienced during my last overseas trip: Nottingham and environs- London – Oxford – Sicily – Rome – Berlin.

I have written a little about Nottingham and  of the last  trip to Sicily but nothing about the other cities. Time passes far too quickly.

I ate very well in  several restaurants in the UK especially in London including Ottolenghi’s NOPI and surprisingly in  Gee’s Restaurant and Bar in Oxford….those are artichokes with stems in the large plate and in the pan are salted Samphire –  a succulent,  vibrant green vegetable.

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But one of the places I wanted to promote is the Borough Market in London for its range of quality produce.

Here are some photos of some of the mushrooms:

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Even dried mushrooms:

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The range of vegetables, fish, small goods, bread and cheese were fabulous, too many photos to include in this post, but the game really impressed me. Here are just a few photos – there were two refrigerated window display cases full of  game meat and excellent produce made with game.

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I could not resist.  I bought some pigeon breasts and in the Airbnb I cooked them using minimalist equipment and ingredients. …and they were good.

Here they are and the accompanying photos illustrate how I cooked them.

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Marinated them with bay and rosemary,  extra virgin olive oil and a little good quality balsamic vinegar, salt and pepper.

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I bought prosciutto and softened it in a little  extra virgin olive oil in a small pan.

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I removed the prosciutto and  used the same small pan( that is all there was…no lid either) to sauté the pigeon.

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Added some white wine, bought it to the boil and cooked it for about 1 minute.

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Removed the pigeon and evaporated  the wine and juices to make a glaze.

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Presented them on tender green beans but also had a range of side vegetables.

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Anatra a paparedda cu l’ulivi (Sicilian Duck with green olives and anchovies)

Il Signor Coria (Giuseppe Coria, Profumi Di Sicilia) will tell you that ducks are not standard fare on Sicilian dinner tables. The eggs may be used to make pasta all’uovo (egg pasta) but ducks  in Sicily are few and far between.

In his book Profumi Di Sicilia, I found one duck recipe and this was for a braised duck cooked  with anchovies plus garlic, parsley, heart of celery, white wine, rosemary and green olives. The thought of braised duck does not appeal to me very much, unless I make it the day before so that I can skim off the fat the next day.

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I decided to roast the duck (on a rack so that the fat drains off) and make an accompanying sauce using the same ingredients as Coria suggested for the braise….. and it was pretty marvellous.

A couple of days later I used the leftover sauce with the stock made from the carcase/carcass and some mushrooms in a risotto, and this tasted exceptionally fantastic, even if I say so myself.

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All I can say is that I am glad that living in Australia ducks are pretty easy to find – more so in the last few years  and not just for special occasions.

Here is the duck roasting in the oven. I stuffed it with some rosemary. I  placed some potatoes in the fat, and in the pan to roast (to fry really) about 30 minutes before the end of cooking…..and I do not need to tell you how delicious they were.

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Pre heat oven to 190C.
Dry duck with paper to obtain a crispier skin
Ensure the opening at end of the duck is open to allow even cooking
Place duck on a rack in a roasting tray
Season with sea salt and freshly ground pepper and roast it.

 

My duck was 2kl so I roasted it for 2×40 minutes= 1hr 20mins.

And this is the sauce:

Remove the duck, drain the fat (use it to roast potatoes, it also makes good savoury pastry, just like lard).

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Reserve any juices that are in the bottom of the pan.

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Using the baking pan, add a little extra virgin olive oil and over a low flame melt 4-6 anchovies in the hot oil.
Add 2 garlic cloves, chopped finely (or minced as some say). Stir it around.
Add about 1 cup of finely chopped parsley and 2-3 stalks from the pale centre of a celery also sliced finely. Stir it around in the hot pan for about 2 minutes…add salt and pepper to taste.

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Add ½ cup of white wine and evaporate. Add the juices of the duck, or if you did not save them, add some meat stock – about ½ cup.
Add some chopped green olives last of all.  I had stuffed olives so I used them….probably about ¾ cup full.
Heat the ingredients through, and there is your accompanying sauce.

And it looks much better in a gravy boat than it does in the pan.

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COSTOLETTE DI VITELLO (Veal chops – baked)

I really like the gristly bits around bones, for example I like to chew around the ends of Chicken bones, shins and I particularly like pork hocks. Rather than gristle, perhaps it is collagen – the bit that connects muscle tissue together and breaks down with cooking and turns semi-transparent and tender. I think it is flavourful, but many do not.

Veal chop bones are great for chewing so when I saw veal chops at the Queen Victoria Market I bought them.

Living in Australia when I say ‘veal’ I do not mean the ‘white veal’ as in Europe, i.e. calves 18-20 weeks old, reared in small pens indoors and fed only milk. This Australian veal was quite pink – evidence that as in accordance with Australian regulations it should have been reared in open pens and fed a diet of milk and grass or grain and produced from dairy calves weighing less than 70kg or beef calves weighing up to 150kg.

Veal can be bland so the most usual way to cook veal with bone is to make a spezzatino –a braise or stew. Veal benefits from the added liquid (could be from stock/ wine/ tomatoes) and herbs for flavour.

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I chose to bake my veal chops but unlike lamb or goat (kid), veal has little or no fat so it needs oil if you choose to bake them.

I marinated the chops overnight in a bowl and baked them the next day.

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Meat and Marinade

For 4 people:

1.5k veal chops (there is little meat on them)
2 garlic cloves, sliced
½ cup dry Marsala or white wine
½ cup extra virgin olive oil
rosemary sprigs and bay leaves

Marinate the meat with the above ingredients for at least 2+ hours (can be done overnight). Drain the meat and solids from the marinade when you are ready to cook it. Reserve the liquid.

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For Cooking

¼ cup extra virgin olive oil
1 large onion, cut into large slices
salt
pepper
4 large potatoes
more rosemary (or sage )

Prepare the potatoes and cut into large pieces. Put them in a bowl and dress with half the oil, add seasoning and more rosemary.

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Heat the oven at 180C.

Place a little more oil in a baking dish. Position the meat in the tray, arrange the slices of onions and between the meat. Add seasoning and drizzle the rest of the oil on top of the meat.

Bake the meat for 15 minutes. Turn the meat and add the potatoes (with the oil). Cook for about 40 minutes then add the drained marinade – try to pour it over the meat rather than the potatoes. Bake for another 15-20 minutes till the potatoes are cooked and the meat is coloured.

If you are wondering what the green blobs are on top of the baked veal in the main photo, they are spoons of chopped parsley which I keep in the fridge topped with extra virgin olive oil…… more for decoration, but it is also flavourful.

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I guess everyone liked them.

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See recipe:  VITELLO ARROSTO (Roast Veal)

TASMANIA, FOOD, ART, HOBART and Bagna Cauda

One week ago today  I was having lunch in Templo, an Italianate, very small restaurant in Hobart.

Duck Polenta. On the side some pickled red radicchio.

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Twelve days before that I was in Berlin.  Four days before Berlin I was in Rome and before that Sicily, and prior that London and Nottingham.

And why  go to Tasmania three days after I returned to Melbourne after seven weeks in Europe?

Tasmania had been arranged before Europe because our friend Valerie Sparkes was part of an exhibition curated by Julianna Engberg called TEMPEST at the Tasmanian Museum and Art Gallery (TMAG). It was part of MOFO. Two whole walls of this type of imagery – wallpapers.

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I  ate well in Tasmania, but I manage to eat well wherever I go.

I work hard at it – researching via books and web (I do not take much notice of Trip Advisor), taking note of restaurants I pass that look as if they may suit and looking at menus displayed, but most of all taking advice from others whose opinions I think I can trust (strangers as well as friends).

I feel that I should start with Nottingham, my first destination, but I have decided to start with Tasmania – my most recent experience.

View from Mt. Wellinghton.

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The evening before I had lunch at Templo in Hobart, I was at Aloft, that has an Asian inspired menu and is a totally different dining experience to the Italian-ate Templo.

I am not a food critic and as you may have noticed in my posts I do not elaborate or philosophize about what I eat, but I will say that although I enjoyed the ambiance, service and some of the food in Aloft, I often thought that some of the dishes were overwhelmed by strong, salty flavours, whether  they were garnishes, pickles or sauces.

I like robust flavours and certainly I had some at Templo but the flavours were well rounded….  the various tastes are balanced. Check the wine list too!

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The food originated from humble beginnings – regional Italian on this occasion – but was adventurous, modern in taste and presentation. And not at all fussy – whether in name/ description or presentation.

Templo is a very small restaurant with only one engaging  waiter – very personable and knowledgeable . As you can see by the menu on the board, there is little choice.

Below,  Broccoli and Bagna Cauda. (Recipe below for Bagna Cauda).

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This was described as Beef, celeriac…. I picked what type of cut the beef was as soon as I cut it and put it in my mouth – heart!!! Fantastic stuff… lean,  great taste, all muscle. Waiter was impressed that I knew what it was. My father used to cook it for me- how could I forget!

We ate other stuff but how many photos can I include!

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I  love Tasmania – the scenery and the bountiful produce.

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I did eat and drink well at other places in Hobart and on Bruny Island.

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And, as on any trip I cooked in the places I stayed in , in Tasmania.

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I appreciate the high-quality fresh produce along with the locally-produced meats, cheeses and  fish.

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I ate so much cheese.

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And there is MONA. I could go on and on.

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Bagna Cauda  (it is Piedmontese)

I am amazed that I do not have a recipe for Bagna Cauda on my blog.

Bagna Cauda, translated as “hot bath,”  is a dip for any combination of firm vegetables- cooked or uncooked.

A fondue-style fork will help. Slices of quality bread can be held underneath to catch the drippings and eaten also, if liked.

Here is a very simple recipe:

2 heads of garlic – separate cloves, peel
enough milk to cover garlic cloves in a small saucepan
about 25 anchovy fillets in oil, drained
300g unsalted butter, cut into pieces
300ml extra virgin olive oil
about 1 tablespoon double cream

Place the garlic cloves into a small pan, cover with milk. Gently simmer on very low heat until the garlic is soft.
Crush/mash the garlic into the milk (I use the back of a spoon), add the anchovies and dissolve them in the milk and garlic over gentle heat, stirring all the time. Add the butter and olive oil, bits and slurps slowly and stir gently to combine (without boiling).Take off the heat and mix in the cream.
Pour the mixture into a fondue dish or similar container that can be kept warm over a lighted candle or an appropriate burner.

I use this. I have a choice of two containers.

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Place in centre of the table and dip in the vegetables.

Link to post CELERIAC (Sedano Rapa)

POLLO OR GALLINA ALLA CONTADINA, ALLA PAESANA. Braised Chicken with Olives, Sicilian style.

IMG_2667Any time you see Italian dishes described as alla contadina, alla paesana, alla campagnola………do we really know what is meant by these terms?

These all translate as of the peasantry – peasant style –  and as those who live on the land would cook these dishes. They imply to be dishes that are healthy, nourishing, unsophisticated, hearty, country-style and as cooked at home. In these dishes you would also expect some common vegetables – onions, carrots, celery, some common herbs and wine (someone living on the land usually makes their own wine).

Carne – meat, or coniglio – rabbit, or pollo or gallina, seem to be cooked alla contadina, alla paesana, alla campagnola very frequently in home kitchens. The method of cooking is braised or stewed.

What is meant by pollo and gallina, and is there a difference?

Pollame are farmyard birds, therefore pollo is derived from this word.

Gallina is chicken and female. Gallo is the masculine, i.e. a rooster and would probably be not as tender as a gallina and would require more cooking.

Once a pollo would most likely have been considered a male, but in modern times there is no difference between the terminology or the gender and especially in Australia, UK and US,  it is what we commonly refer to as chicken.  Usually chicken is 6-12 months old when it is killed.

A gallina vecchia would be the description of a chicken used to make broth/ stock and would be older than 12 months.

Proverb: Una gallina vecchia fa buon brodo…. An old hen makes good broth

Cappone is a capon and is a castrated male – this is likely to be sold as a larger bird as it will be fattened intentionally; the implication is that it will be tasty. I doubt if I could purchase a capon in Australia.

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Recipes for pollo or gallina (chicken) alla contadina etc. cooked with these simple ingredients and braised are found in every region of Italy; the only variations may be the addition of a few tomatoes or mushrooms or a pepper (capsicum) or two. The wine can be red or white.

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In Sicilian recipes you may find the addition of olives. More common would be the green, olive schacciate (cracked olives) as they have no stone. (The photo below was taken in Palermo. I have so many photos of Sicily and do not necessarily add them in my posts – silly me.)

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I always buy whole chicken for a braise. My mother and relatives always did and I guess I just do without question.

Although I always buy free range, there is always some fat and I remove as much as possible before I cook it. I also always skim fat from the top of the braise once it is cooked.

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As you can see by the way I dissect the chicken into pieces, I am no butcher, but if it is peasant style after all so I get away with it being roughly cut. I usually cut rough the vegetables as well. And who needs exact measurements if the recipe is home style.

1 chicken
2 carrots
2-3 celery stalks
1 large onion
2-3 red tomatoes (peeled fresh or canned)
½ -1 glass of white or red wine
extra virgin olive oil
salt and pepper
rosemary, parsley or sage
1 cup green olives (no stones)

Cut the chicken into pieces and remove the fat (unless you like fatty chicken).
Brown the chicken in a tiny amount of oil – one side and the other. Remove from the pan. I like to drain off any fat before I continue cooking the rest.

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Use the same pan, add the olive oil. Sauté the onion.
Add celery and carrots and sauté some more.
Add the chicken, herbs, tomatoes, seasoning and pour in the wine. Do not use much salt as the olives are likely to be salty.

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Add some water to almost cover the chicken, cover and braise the contents (on low heat) for 40-60 minutes, stirring now and again. Add the olives about 10 minutes prior to the finish.
If there is too much liquid and you wish to concentrate the flavours, remove the chicken, increase the heat and evaporate the liquid lid until it has thickened.  At this stage I skim more fat from the top if it is necessary. Add the chicken, mix, cover and leave until ready to serve.

Remember, Italian food is not usually presented at the table piping hot; the flavours are left to mature for at least 30 minutes.Italians like to savour their food and not have scalded palates!

GELATINA DI MAIALE. Pork Brawn

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My father’s relatives live in Ragusa in Sicily.  Ragusa and Modica are very attractive historic Baroque towns in south-eastern Sicily. Modica is  and very close to Ragusa.

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Chiaramonte Gulfi is also in this part of Sicily and Gelatina di maiale (Pork Brawn) is very popular. It is sold in butcher shops and markets, but it can also be made at home.

In Gelatina di maiale the pork’s head provides the gelatinous component. Usually the tongue is included in the head and this adds texture and extra flavour.

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Meat also needs to be included and apart from half of a pig’s head I bought 1.500 kilo of lean pork (cut into large pieces) and four pig’s feet.

Over time, I have adapted this recipe and I include bay leaves and peppercorns to the mix.  I boil the meats without vinegar for about 3 hours (until I can see the meat falling off the bones).

Once it is cooked, I leave it to rest overnight.

The next day I remove the meat from the jelly, I add ½ cup of vinegar and the juice of a couple of lemons to the broth and reduce the liquid down to a third of the original amount.

I remove the bones, shred the meat ( not too finely) and place it into a terrine lined with a few bay leaves and cover it with the cooled reduced stock.

Any fat will rise to the surface and can be scraped off when it is cool (in fact, it acts as a seal).

Great as an antipasto or as a main, especially in summer. Gelatina is sold by most butchers in southeastern Sicily.

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SALSA D’AGRESTO

I ate at du Fermier in Trentham recently. The chef is Annie Smithers. It was a set menu and the first course was a pasta dish of orecchiete with broad beans and fresh peas with abundant shavings of parmigiano.  This was followed by a loin of beef – char grilled and served with Salsa Agresto and some green beans as a side dish. We finished with a meringue, raspberries and fresh cream. All very enjoyable and uncomplicated as Annie’s cooking often is (and that is why I like it).

I asked the waiter about Salsa Agresto  because it sounded Italian. It is.

Because I was not familiar with this salsa I went searching for some enlightenment. I found some information about this sauce on Italian websites (no measures, just a list of ingredients as many Italian recipes are, especially if they are ancient recipes). I also found references to Salsa D’Agresto.

The sauce is made with uva acerba (green grapes)- grapes that remain on the vine without ripening at the end of the season.

It was a sauce which dates pre-Renaissance time and went out of fashion  because lemons became popular in cooking and superseded the use of green grape juice. The recipes suggested that  the juice of the green grapes can be extracted by using a mouli or a juicer.

Walnuts and almonds are blanched to remove as much skin as possible. My sources indicated that there may have been more walnuts used than almonds in these sauces.

Onions, garlic and parsley and a few breadcrumbs are pounded together with the nuts. Add a bit of sugar, some chopped parsley and sufficient grape juice to make the amalgamated ingredients soft – like a paste.

Heat these ingredients and add a little broth as the sauce will thickened because the bread crumbs.

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So I made this sauce according to the the ingredients and method I have written about above and the reliance of my memory of the flavours and texture of the Salsa Agresto from du Fermier .

However I used blanched almonds but not the walnuts and I used the nuts raw. I also added a little nutmeg as I thought that it’s inclusion would compliment the taste of the nuts. I did not have green grape juice so I used a dry white wine.

Days later I looked up the English translation of the Italian word agresto and it means verjuice. And then after having made my version of this sauce I discovered that Maggie Beer has written a recipe for Salsa Agresto.

Maggie is the queen of verjuice, so it is no surprise that she has a recipe. She uses basil – I did not. Her version for this sauce is not heated nor is it thinned with broth. Quite different recipes.

This is Maggie’s recipe:

SALSA AGRESTO
Makes 700 ml
1 cup (160 g) almonds
1 cup (100 g) walnuts
2 cloves garlic
2¾ cups flat-leaf parsley leaves
½ cup firmly packed basil leaves
1½ teaspoons sea salt flakes
freshly ground black pepper
¾ cup (180 ml) extra virgin olive oil
¾ cup (180 ml) verjuice

Preheat the oven to 200°C. Roast the almonds and walnuts on separate baking trays for about 5 minutes, shaking to prevent burning. Rub walnuts in a tea towel to remove bitter skins, then leave to cool. Blend the nuts, garlic, herbs, salt and 6 grinds of black pepper in a food processor with a little of the olive oil. With the motor running, slowly add the remaining oil and verjuice. The consistency should be like pesto. (If required, thin with more verjuice.)

I have no idea how close to the pre-Renaissance recipe my version of Salsa Agresto is or Maggie Beer’s recipe for that matter.

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Calling it Salsa D’Agresto makes more sense grammatically – D’ = made from or of  the ingredient agresto, i.e.verjuice.

I used my BBQ to make bistecca fiorentina – Florentine steak- and it was a suitable accompaniment for my version of Salsa D’Agresto.

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