Category Archives: Pasta, Soups and Rice

A special Birthday menu for my friend, in the cloud

It is one of my friend’s birthday today and I am wishing him well, there in the cloud. I have cooked him some of his favourite food.

I hope that he will enjoy the homemade pappardelle dressed with a duck ragù.

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I was not able to buy him boar (cinghiale) or hare (lepre) as you can in Greve from that butcher who has a stuffed boar in front of his Macelleria. But I know that he is quite fond of duck; he will be just as pleased.

I have kept some of the dough from the pasta to fry and make into crostoli.  I will sprinkle them with caster sugar. We can crunch on these later.

Now he’s no longer unwell, he can once again enjoy the Barolo and the Amarone I have selected for this occasion. I know that he is fond of Sicily and I have a bottle of Nero d’Avola. Perhaps we could have a little of this with our cheese?  We will try to drink in moderation. I can return the wines from the decanters to bottles and put stoppers in them…I will be happy to drink them tomorrow.

I was able to find some early spring produce and I have stuffed some zucchini flowers with some stracchino, rather than the ricotta I usually use,  a little egg with a few fresh breadcrumbs to bind the stuffing, and some fresh marjoram ... not chervil, I am afraid, as it is not in season, this being  his favourite herb.  He particularly liked it on scrambled eggs.

I almost forgot!  I was able to order a great bottle of Riesling from the Barossa. Peter Lehman’s son – David Franz – Makes it. I love his wine and I am very fond of David’s colourful labels. I think my friend shared a bottle of this wine when I last saw him. This will be a perfect accompaniment for the zucchini flowers.

I have a bottle of Cynar for when he arrives and a little Averna for those who wish, right at the very end. 

There will be no second course, the pasta will be enough. The ragù smells fabulous and will be quite rich. Perhaps a little Mâche , or matovilc as we called it in Trieste…. lamb’s lettuce for others.  I can add some thinly sliced fennel too – this could be the palate cleanser before the dessert.

My friend does like a good Zuppa Inglese. I think that it’s the savoiardi soaked with Alchermes that he likes, although the delicate egg custard is also a winner. He will understand that I was unable to get the gooseberries or the greengage plums that he is so fond of. They are out of season. My friend was able to buy these for a very limited time of they year from one stall in the Adelaide Market. Gosh, that was a few years ago! The stall holder was a gentle and kind Sicilian man who used to grow most of his produce. I will never forget when the stall holder found out who my father was, he almost hugged me. My dad was liked by so many people my friend was popular too, and liked a chat or two. 

Idid find some Josephine pears at the Queen Victoria Market today, so I have purchased some to present with some cheeses I selected ripe, juicy pears, just as he likes them. He always expressed his dissatisfaction about fruit that was picked too green.

I have not forgotten the cheese to go with the pears. He is fond of a little cheese. Walnuts too. He likes to crack his own. I know he quite likes a little aged Parmesan with pears and I was also able to buy a good selection of  Italian and French Cheeses, some are quite smelly and I had to put them out on my balcony overnight.


Bob has baked some bread, my friend prefers to eat cheese with bread. I do too,  perhaps I learnt this from him.

So my friend, up in the cloud, I hope you enjoy what I have prepared for you. Happy Birthday from all of us, here below. We all remember you fondly and miss you.

PAPPARDELLE (Pasta with Hare or game ragù)

ZUPPA INGLESE, a famous, Italian dessert

STUFFED ZUCCHINI FLOWERS 

SALAD GREEN: matovilc, also called lamb’s lettuce and mâche

ALCHERMES/ALKERMES (The liqueur used to make Zuppa Inglese)

LONG LIVE ZUPPA INGLESE and its sisters

MUSSELS, three ways: in brodetto, with spaghetti and in a risotto with saffron

Victorian fresh mussels are always fabulous and they go a long way. There are two people in my household and we usually buy 2kilos. Sometimes we eat them all and at other times I use the left over mussels to make something else. There is usually some mussel broth left over and I store this in a glass jar in my freezer.

My partner likes to do the shopping and off he goes with his list, his bag and his mask and shops at the Queen Victoria Market. This time he cam home with 3kilos.  We are in lockdown here so no inviting someone to join us.

I really like mussels and from a 3kilo batch my partner and I had  three meals. Very frugal, but by the third day we were a little sick of mussels.

For the first meal, I cooked the mussels steamed in their own broth. In Italian this is called  In brodetto.. brodo is broth.

I begin with a soffritto of chopped carrots, celery, onion and garlic, with the help of a little white wine, then add the mussels, put on a lid and let them steam open and I sprinkle a little chopped parsley towards the end. We ate these with good quality, home baked bread, rubbed with oil and garlic and toasted in the oven.

On the second day we made some home made egg spaghetti. I made a salsa, first by dissolving a few anchovies in a little hot extra virgin  olive oil, then I added a can of chopped tomatoes, a whole clove of garlic, a sprig of fresh oregano (because there is no basil growing on my balcony in this cold season) and a little of the mussel broth. I let it cook with no lid, to reduce and thicken. I added the cooked mussels to the sauce just to heat up and dressed the pasta. I keep the garlic whole so that I can remove it, this is my preference but maybe not yours.

Next day, a risotto, and very simple once again.

This time I used a fresh fennel and some of the left over mussels out of their shells that I kept in a jar in the fridge with yet again some of their broth. But this time I also used some mussel broth I had in the freezer from the time before. That mussel broth comes in handy and there always seems to be plenty of it.

There are three types of rice you can use for making risotto. Arborio is the most common and easily available in Australia, but carnaroli  has more starch as does vialone nano; these two varieties make a risotto creamier. However, when I make a seafood risotto I prefer to use aborio because with seafood I like the risotto to be less gluggy. Don’t let this confuse you… all three varieties are suitable and it is just personal preferences. Perhaps I like to taste the flavour of the sea. Perhaps this is also why I do not  generally add butter to a seafood risotto.

You may be remembering that you have read many recipes that indicate that you stick to the stove while you cook risotto. Sicilian rice dishes are interesting.  I have watched  my Sicilian aunties cook rice and have read numerous recipes where some stock is added, the lid is put on and it is left to absorb for about 5 minutes or more,  then more stock is added and once again it is not continually stirred. The stirring happens in the last 5-7 minutes.

Making risotto is so simple, quick and easy.

I used 2 thinly sliced spring onions, 2  chopped cloves of garlic and once again began the cooking process by tossing it around in some extra virgin olive oil in a hot pan.

Then I added a finely sliced fennel and some parsley and tossed this around,  added 1.5 cup of rice (this is sufficient for 2 people but you can add more). Toss it around to coat, add a splash of  white wine. I added saffron, a generous pinch soaked beforehand in a little bit of water.

Keep on adding hot fish or mussel broth as you cook the rice until it is nearly cooked. This is when you add the shelled mussels. Cook the risotto until it is cooked all’onda…till the risotto looks wavy like the sea, and still moist.

I do not wish to eat mussels again for a couple of weeks.

 

 

 

Melbourne – August: Winter Artichokes in risotto and stuffed

Fresh  produce is very important to me and I am fortunate to live in an apartment block very close to the Queen Victoria Market and good, fresh produce is not hard to get.

Pre-lockdown restrictions, I also shopped  at various Farmers’ Markets, but this option is not available for me at the moment.

These artichokes were bought last weekend  at the QVM and I was surprised by their very green colour. This variety of artichokes are local and are in season; they are different in appearance to the three other varieties I am familiar with available earlier in the season.

During the week I bought these baby artichokes. These babies are from the artichoke plant when it has reached the end of its season. The plant does not have the energy to produce  the full type variety and produces these little offshoots. Usually they are used for pickling. Notice that this variety is tinged with purple, unlike the bright green variety of artichokes in the photo above.

You may ask what is the bunch of greens next to the baby artichokes? Cima di rapa (or cime di rape, plural). These are at the end of the season and I was surprised to find them  in such good form.

This is what I did with the big artichokes:

Stuffed with fresh breadcrumbs, grated Parmesan, garlic, parsley and extra virgin olive oil and braised in white wine, stock and extra virgin olive oil and with potatoes. I often use potatoes to hold the artichokes upright in a pan; the liquid should reach below the top of each artichoke. The potatoes are delicious as they soak up the flavours of the artichoke braising liquid.

Artichokes that are stuffed should fit tightly in a pan and in this case I have used the stems to keep the artichokes secure:

Or with potatoes once again used to keep the artichokes propped up:

And what did I do with the baby artichokes?

I braised them once again in stock, white wine and extra virgin olive oil and once cooked I used the braising liquid  from the cooked artichokes in the risotto.

For the risotto:

Sauté garlic and onion in extra virgin olive oil. Add the rice and toss around in the pan till well coated. Drain the stock (braising liquid from the artichokes) from the artichokes and add it warmed  -gradually and intermittently as you would for making any risotto.

Add parsley about half way through cooking. Add the artichokes and a lump of butter at the final stages  and when the final  absorption of stock is occurring. Do not forget, that a risotto should not be dry… present it all’onda…meaning that the finished product should ripple like waves.

Present it with grated Parmesan, if you like.

Sometimes  I prefer to taste the natural flavours of  the dish and grated cheese can be overpowering.

Carciofi are artichokes in Italian.

Carciofini are baby artichokes.

Recipes on my blog for artichokes are many and here are just a few:

CARCIOFI IMBOTTITI (Stuffed artichokes)

CARCIOFINI SOTT’ OLIO (Preserved artichokes in oil)

CARCIOFI (Artichokes and how to clean them and prepare them for cooking) 

CARCIOFI FARCITI (Stuffed artichokes: with meat and with olives and anchovies)

There are also recipes on my blog for Cime di Rapa.

MINESTRA from Trieste – borlotti, pearL barley, Sauerkraut

Borlotti beans, pearl barley and sauerkraut.

These are three of my favourite ingredients  and combined make a  fabulous soup: Minestra d’orzo e fagioli con “capuzi garbi’ (sour cabbage as called in Trieste – sauerkraut)

What more would you want  on a cold Melbourne winter’s day with many people who may need cheering up?

I have all of these ingredients at hand because I like pulses and barley as components in salads or soups.  I usually cook them separately and store them in containers in their juice in my fridge and in my freezer.  There are always jars of sauerkraut in my pantry – this comes from having lived in Trieste as a child.  The combination of mixing the cooked ingredients to make a last-minute soup can be even easier.

Like the majority of the way Italians cook, the quantity of ingredients is only an estimate…use more or less of any ingredient to suit your taste.

There are variations for making this soup in Trieste – not everyone adds sauerkraut, but very popular is the addition of lard and /or potatoes which will thicken the soup. I prefer my soup with more liquid and therefore omit the potatoes.

I generally do not have Lardo in my fridge but I can easily purchase it if I wish. Lardo does make a big difference if used – it will enrich the taste and the texture of the soup.

What is Lardo in Italian?

In this case, the Lardo is Lardo Affumicato – Smoked Lard –  Speck.

Also called Lardo is an Italian salume that is eaten (sliced very thinly) 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.

Pork fat, or rendered pork fat is also called Lardo in Italian and is lard in English.

I have nothing against canned beans but pulses are so easy to cook that I do not buy any, but if you do, cook the barley and add the drained beans to the barley. You will need to add some stock to this combination because you will not have the “bean broth” – the water the beans have been cooked in.

If you wish to add potatoes, do this at the same time as you put the barley to cook.

Borlotti Beans, dry 250g
Pearl Barley, 250g
Garlic, 1 – 3 cloves
Salt and pepper
Parsley, a handful, chopped
Bay leaves, 2 – 4
Extra virgin olive oil, to drizzle on top of soup when it is ready to serve

Optional:

Lardo/Smoked/Speck,  80 -100g, cubed into very small pieces
Potatoes, 2 – 3 cubed
Sauerkraut, 150 – 200g, drained and squeezed

Soak beans and barley overnight separately in plenty of water.

Drain the beans, replenish with plenty of cold water, add bay leaves, garlic and cook them for about 30 minutes. Add the soaked barley, seasoning and parsley and cook until the beans and barley are soft…. probably about 20-30 minutes longer.

If adding sauerkraut or potatoes add these at the same time as the barley.

Lard, both the rendered fat and Speck are very popular in the food of Trieste and if you wish to use it put it in at the same time as the beans. I prefer to drizzle some good quality, extra virgin olive oil on top and some freshly ground, black pepper.

Moulinex for making vellutate (veloutés), baby food and Pappa al Pomodoro

The husband of a friend of mine recently had surgery to repair a hiatus hernia. His convalescence requires him to be on a special diet, starting with simple liquids until the inflammation subsides. He can then move on to purées for two weeks, followed by two more weeks of mushy food.

But it does not have to be too bad. Below is a photo of some Borsch I made using the lighter coloured beetroot.

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The gradual progression of the density of food and the complexity of ingredients seems very much like what babies experience when they are introduced to solids.

I was eight years old when my brother was born and I can remember how much my mother enjoyed cooking for my baby brother. She apparently had cooked the same things for me when I was his age and years later, I cooked the same things for my two babies.

Starting with simple, mainly liquid minestrine (light soups with simple ingredients) and pappe (pap made with bread), next came the purées and pastine (small shaped pasta), followed by semolina in brodo (broth). She also added puréed chicken or veal liver or finely minced chicken breast or white fish to broth and some overcooked white rice. She made vellutate (velouté, velvety soups), a chicken or veal broth with 1-2 puréed vegetables enriched with an egg yolk rather than cream, as cream was considered harder to digest. At an early age we were introduced to a dash of extra virgin olive oil and/or finely grated parmesan were introduced.

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My mother used a Moulinex (Mouli) rotary vegetable mill for making purées. This was perfect for making baby food. The Mouli was also used for us older folk (father, mother and me and guests also) to make vellutate, not just with vegetables, she also used pulses – dried peas, lentils and chickpeas. The mushroom vellutata was pretty good.

Pulses were considered too difficult for babies to digest. They had to wait until they’d grown up a little. Basically, you can turn  any left over vegetables into a good looking, tasty vellutata.

My mother was pregnant when she left Italy and may have brought the Mouli with her from Trieste (where we lived before we came to Australia), but maybe these made in France appliances were available in Adelaide in 1956 when my brother was born. Unlike food processor or a blender which blend the whole vegetable a Mouli purées the vegetables, leaves the skins behind and it’s the skins that are considered more difficult to digest. It is perfect for making Passata di Pomodoro.

Semolina cooked in meat broth was also a household favourite, with a bit of parmesan, of course. A light soup, a minestrina, made by puréeing one or two vegetables, beginning with the ones that were considered to be the easiest to digest at first – zucchini, green beans, carrots, pumpkin or potato.

A little spinach came later, but always, the minestrina was finished off with a little drizzle of oil. As a variation and for health – fish was supposed to help develop intelligence, she used to make minestrine using white fish, which also contained either puréed potatoes or tiny pastina shapes – stelline (little stars).

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I still have my Mouli tucked away in the cupboard where I keep appliances that I seldom use, but keep just in case I ever need them again, alongside my potato ricer and a vintage Bialetti electric pasta machine designed to mix the flour and eggs to form the dough and extrude the pasta through plastic dies of various shapes.

The potato ricer can also be used for squeezing other soft, cooked vegetables like carrots or pumpkin.

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There are various cake tins for making kuglof, panettone, savarin, pâte or terrines that are lined with pastry,  ornate copper jelly or ice cream molds.

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And what about the metal rods to shape and fry the cannoli shells – a Sicilian specialty – and some conical rods to make cream horns, the shape that Neapolitans use? There is a pastry and piping bag just in case I wish to make and fill cream puffs and an icing bag. Both bags are complete with nozzles of different sizes and shapes.

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Probably the least used object in that space is a jelly strainer bag made of very fine calico designed to strain the solids from meat or fish broths. The clarified liquid can be used to make clear jelly, such as in pork pies or glaze a terrine. And it is very useful for making fruit jelly… cook the fruit, strain out the pulp, skin and seeds and use the liquid to make the jelly. The bag rests in a stand and can strain overnight to get the maximum amount of liquid. I am guessing that it could be used to  drain cheese curds or yogurt, but I use a colander lined with muslin for that. The jelly bag was a present many years ago from a dear friend who brought it back from Copenhagen.

My brother and my son Alex both loved pappa di pane when they were babies but my daughter always preferred broth with pastina.  The broth was made with meat and a carrot and a piece of celery, but not onion – this is too heavy for babies. The carrot and celery were puréed once they were cooked and returned to the broth.

The pappa may not  sound very tasty or nutritious, it consists of white bread soaked in water and boiled till it becomes a smooth pap. But this is where the magic comes in. The pappa di pane was enriched with a little extra virgin olive oil and when the baby was a few weeks older a tiny bit of grated parmesan could be added.  The bread could also be boiled in a clear meat broth instead of water and when the baby is older by a few weeks  a little stewed tomato was mixed into it , maybe cooked with a basil leaf…. and the Mouli was used again to remove the skin and release the pulp.

You can see why Italian babies develop a palate – a taste for flavour!

Adults never seem to lose the taste for pappa especially if  they come from Tuscany. In a Pappa al Pomodoro (tomato), the soup is thickened with stale bread, and though this is a rather simple recipe, you can find various versions of it across Tuscany and some other regions of Italy.

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Italian food is all about good produce – good quality white bread, fresh basil, fragrant tomatoes and extra virgin olive oil. The best pappa is made with ripe, full-flavored tomatoes, but it can also be made with good quality canned, crushed tomatoes. Whether you leave the tomatoes as they are our use your Moulinex is up to you.

Ingredients:

1 medium sized onion, finely diced, 2-3 garlic cloves finely chopped

extra virgin olive oil to stew the tomatoes, plus extra for drizzling

1k of fresh peeled and chopped tomatoes or a can (800g, good quality)

200g of 1-2 day old bread, crusts removed and cut into small chunks

2 cups of chicken or vegetable stock or water

salt and pepper

fresh basil

 

Heat some oil in a large saucepan and sauté the onion and garlic until softened and fragrant.

Add the tomatoes and simmer until thick and most of the liquid has evaporated (like making a salsa).

Add the stock, the bread, seasoning and some basil and cook on low heat for about 10 more minutes, stir regularly to break down the bread into pappa.

Serve the pappa warm or at room temperature topped with a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil and fresh basil leaves.

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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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A WET PASTA DISH WITH KOHLRABI

Kohlrabi, can be green or purple. it is a root vegetable with dark green leaves that shoot out from the top. All parts of the kohlrabi can be eaten, both raw and cooked.

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In Ragusa where my father’s family is from, they make a wet pasta dish. In the days when fresh pasta was made at home and when my elderly aunt was still alive they use to make a short pasta shape called causineddi. The younger members of the family sometimes make this pasta  on special occasions.

I bought two kohlrabi recently and ate the green leaves braised and mixed with kale . I later regretted this because when I decided to make the wet pasta dish I had to substitute kale for the green component.

The “real” recipe is in a much earlier post: KOHLRABI with pasta (Causunnedda )

I used chifferi rigati (shape) as the pasta.

Under the circumstances may be forgiven for substituting kale or cavolo nero for the green kohlrabi leaves , however I also used a strong chicken stock instead of the pork rind  for flavouring ….I cannot therefore call this a Sicilian traditional recipe.

The drizzle of good extra virgin olive oil  as the finishing touch makes this dish very fragrant and tasty.

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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