Category Archives: Recipes

SLIPPERY JACKS AND OTHER MUSHROOMS

It is mushroom time again. This time, I only found  Slippery Jacks, tiny compact ones.

They are slimy and they takes a bit of cleaning.

Washing too.

And them drying them with old tea towels.

I cooked them with  onions, garlic and herbs, braised them in extra virgin olive oil and a splash of white wine.

In spite of being dried with a tea towel and very compact  they released their juice and as expected, because I had cooked them before, the juice is as slimy as when you cook okra.

I then placed the mushrooms in jars and saved them for another time.

It was always my intention to mix the Slippery Jacks with other mushrooms.

And dried porcini to add strong flavour.

I drained the cooked Slippery Jacks. If I wish I can use the liquid for another dish.

I then proceeded to cook mushrooms as I always  do…. as in Funghi al Funghetto.

Garlic, parsley sautéed in extra virgin olive oil and butter.  Add fresh mushrooms and toss them around in the hot pan. I also added some fresh rosemary and sage and some thyme.

When the mushroom had well and truly sweated and softened, I added white wine and a little stock and evaporated some of the liquid before adding the Slippery Jacks.

This time, I used  the mushrooms as a topping for rice cooked in chicken stock. I could have used them as a dressing for pasta or as a vegetable side dish.

Pretty good.

Other wild mushroom recipes:

WILD MUSHROOMS, I have been foraging again

WILD MUSHROOMS  Saffron Coloured, Pine Mushrooms and Slippery Jacks

PASTA WITH MUSHROOMS ; Pasta ai funghi

FUNGHI AL FUNGHETTO (Braised mushrooms)

There are other recipes on my blog for mushrooms. If interested use the search button.

NOT JUST A PRETTY PLANT – SUNFLOWERS AND JERUSALEM ARTICHOKES

A plant with happy looking, golden yellow flowers that look very like  sunflowers produces these clusters of knobbly tubers that can be eaten raw or cooked in many different ways – boiled, baked, sautéed, braised or steamed.

This one plant was grown by my son and as you can see the number of tubers are prolific.

In Italy the plant and tubers are called topinambur.

In Australia and the UK, these tubers are usually called Jerusalem artichokes. In the US they seem to be more commonly referred to as sunchokes. They are actually native to Canada and North America where they were cultivated and known as sunroots before the arrival of Europeans.

Like a potato plant, the topinambur roots produce tubers that turn into these delicious, knobbly mouthfuls. They have a taste like an artichoke.

My son and daughter in law tell me that the flowers  attract many bees.

They can be scrubbed before eating or peeled, or you can remove the skin once cooked. This is especially advisable for those people who may have a reaction from eating them; they have a high fibre content and are high in inulin and both of these factors can cause gastric upsets in some people.

Many gardeners grow girasoli (sunflowers), and apart from growing them for looks, sunflowers are mostly used for their seeds that grow in the centre of the flower.  The giant variety can grow over 3.5m tall and produce flowers up to 50cm wide.

Interestingly enough, there are a variety of sunflowers in Italy (some grow wild) and they vary in size and colour.

In Italy, they are mostly called topinambur, but other local names exist and the most common are: la rapa tedesca [German turnip], il carciofo di Gerusalemme (Jerusalem artichoke), il girasole (sun flower), taratufolo (cane artichoke) and la patata del Canada (Canadian potato). In Germany, topinambur, is considered to be one of the most exceptional tubers.

Some have assumed that the Jerusalem part of the name may have morphed come from girasole. I am more likely to associate the Jerusalem part with the culinary skills for cooking artichokes of the many Jews who settled in Italy. Carciofi alla Judea is a famous Roman dish and once the artichokes are cooked they look life flowers – from Judea comes Jerusalem. Interestingly enough, in Leaves from a Tuscan Kitchen by Janet Ross and Michael Waterfield and first published in1899, Jerusalem artichokes are referred as Carciofi di Giudea.

I do have a very large collection of cookery books celebrating cuisines from different parts of the world and written in English or in Italian and wanted to find just how popular Jerusalem artichokes are in my collection, but I have found very few recipes, especially from Italy . Those that are come mostly from the UK. Scouring through them, I found references and recipes in Jane Grigson’s Vegetable book published in 1980 and Elizabeth David’s French Provincial Cooking (Penguin edition 1964). There are recipes in Leith’s Fish Bible, Rose Gray and Ruth Rogers River CaféItalian Kitchen.

Jerusalem artichokes seem to have become much more popular in recent years and you only have to look at recent, modern cookery books or websites from the UK to see they are used creatively often combined with game especially pigeon, venison, partridge and strong tasting meat like mutton. Previously, the tubers were more likely to be combined with potatoes or artichokes. You only need to look at the most recent books of Claudia Roden, Yotam Ottolenghi, Diana Henry, Nigel Slater and a great number of other notable chefs represented in The British Chefs Series.

Modern cooks are also presenting them raw in salads, peeled or scrubbed, sliced thinly and tossed in salads with extra virgin olive oil and lemon juice they provide taste and crunch. I  particularly like a simple salad  made with a combination of rocket leaves, walnuts, Jerusalem artichokes and vanilla persimmons sliced thinly (they are not the squishy ones and therefore more suitable in a salad) with a dressing made from extra virgin olive or walnut oil and lemon juice.

There are recipes in my collection of Time-Life, The Good Cook Series, but  on close inspection the recipes are either from the UK, Germany or France (called topinambours).

I found some recipes by  Massimo Bottura, Marcella Hazan and Clifford A White (who writes about Mediterranean food). In Australia, recipes for Jerusalem artichokes are included in some of Stefano Manfredi’s collections and those from Stephanie Alexander and Maggie Beer. I am not saying that there aren’t others,  but these are what I have found in my cookbook library.

Jerusalem artichokes are likely to be eaten more in the north of Italy,  mostly in risotto and pasta dishes. In Piedmont they are often boiled in milk or mixed with potatoes with butter. Often , they are one of the vegetables to be dipped in a bagna cauda – a dip/sauce made with butter, olive oil, garlic and anchovies.

When they are in season, I particularly like Jerusalem artichokes scrubbed, sliced thickly, tossed with olive oil, salt and pepper, and fresh herbs – rosemary and thyme are my favourites, then placed in a single layer on a baking sheet and slow roasted (165C) for about one hour. Toss them around halfway through. They taste intense!

Look up Hank Shaw’s recipe on the web for Pickled artichokes. This is similar to Stephanie Alexander’s recipe in The Cook’s Companion. I do not like sweet pickles (Italian pickles are always sour) and both these recipes contain a fair amount of sugar, but one may be able to adapt. What is interesting in Hank Shaw’s recipe is reading the readers’ responses and suggestions.

TASMANIA, FOOD, ART, HOBART and Bagna Cauda

PIEDMONTESE favourites

GLOBE ARTICHOKES AND JERUSALEM ARTICHOKES

 

 

EGG PASTA WITH ZUCCHINI FLOWERS, ZUCCHINI, PINE NUTS and STRACCIATELLA (egg drop)

Zucchini are coming to the end of the season but in home gardens there still seem to be flowers.

A friend gave me some zucchini flowers; they are delicate and fragile and always a pleasure to receive.

The flowers have to be used quickly.

As you can see from the photo above I decided to make a quick pasta dish using zucchini and pine nuts. I have plenty of young rosemary twigs that are soft enough to chop finely.

If I had some stracciatella (a soft, fresh cheese) at home I would have added it after incorporating  the pasta with the zucchini. I  improvised and stirred 2 eggs with a fork and used this instead,  after all , the word means little, torn rags or shreds and  ‘Italian egg drop soup,’  is also called stracciatella. In this Roman soup , egg is stirred into the hot broth forming strands.

The  free range eggs were very fresh and yellow.

I used butter for the cooking, because butter would brown the zucchini more effectively. I also like the taste of butter in cooking.

I used egg ribbon pasta and because the pasta cooks quickly I put on the pasta to cook while I finished the zucchini component.

Once the zucchini slices were coloured I added the pine nuts to toast.

I quickly added the zucchini flowers; they soon softened in the heat and did not need any further cooking.

I also added the stirred eggs  and a ladle of  the cooking water from the pasta. The heat, plus the water will cook the eggs and make them creamy.

Drain the pasta and incorporate the two together.  I always add a blob of butter or a good drizzle of good extra virgin olive oil to any pasta I make.

The fresh taste of the ingredients is what I wanted and it was not necessary to add  parmesan cheese, however, each to their taste!

See:

STUFFED ZUCCHINI FLOWERS

PASTA CON ZUCCHINE FRITTE (Pasta and fried zucchini)

 

FIG LEAF INFUSED OIL

This is Kingfish crudo, fig leaf, mascarpone, grape, as presented at Chianti Restaurant in Hutt Street in Adelaide.

The restaurant prides itself in serving fresh, seasonal food. This is exceptionally good, modern Italian food! As for seasonal produce, figs and grapes are in season.

I did not know what to expect of the taste of fig leaf infused oil, but it was very pleasant – for me, the fig leaf oil tasted grassy, slightly nutty and with a hint of bitterness.

And look at the colour! It is so intense.

I have made parsley, coriander, dil, mint and basil infused oil and making fig oil appears to be no different.

When making oils infused with herbs I have always used a blender and I have used the the aromatic oils to drizzle over foods like labneh,  fresh cheeses like fior di latte, ricotta, burrata or fresh mozzarella (this category includes bocconcini), vegetables, especially potatoes and of course carpaccio, raw fish, usually referred to as crudo.  As you can see by my suggestions for its use, the green looks particularly spectacular with white colours, but you can also imagine how a blob will look good on pureed soups – for example, think about Gazpacho (or Gaspacho), pumpkin, Vichyssoise, zucchini soup. Visualize it on pasta dishes too. And why not use a combination of fresh figs, a fresh cheese with a drizzle of fig leaf oil!

I do not  measure ingredients, but as a rough estimate use 1 cup of good quality, fragrant, extra virgin olive oil to 3-4 fresh fig leaves (depending on size) or 4 cups loosely packed fresh herbs –  use only the soft leaves of soft leafed herbs, for example – basil, parsley, oregano, dill, chives, chervil, fennel, coriander, tarragon.

Make sure you use bright green, healthy, fig leaves and not too mature.

Blanch fresh fig leaves, or the leaves of fresh herbs (with no stems)  in some boiling water to soften. The blanching preserves the colour and the leaves will turn bright green. 

Quickly transfer the leaves or herbs from the boiling water to an ice water bath and cool quickly. Remove the herbs from the ice bath, strain and squeeze out as much excess water from the herbs as possible.

Add the squeezed  leaves to the oil with a pinch of salt and blend. Infuse in the oil  for at least  1 hour.  if you leave it overnight it will not suffer and in fact will turn a darker green. Strain the puree through cheesecloth or a fine meshed strainer.  When I did this, strangely enough, the blend had coconut aromas.

Keep oil refrigerated, bring to room temperature before use.

I used a tea strainer to filter the oil for the photo below. I am not at home and therefore do not have access to muslin or a fine meshed strainer. If I had filtered this through muslin, I could have  intensified the colour by squeezing  the muslin and squeezing  the green colour through. It still tasted great.

Experiment.  Below: sorrel, basil, rocket.

See also:

PESCE CRUDO, raw fish dishes in Sicily

SARDINE, CRUDE E CONDITE (raw and marinaded)

CAMPING and COOKING

When I go camping I enjoy cooking just as much as when I cook at home. I like to go camping as often as possible.

I particularly enjoy the challenge of undertaking of cooking with limited resources – few ingredients, simple cooking methods and equipment. Each meal is further restricted by what ingredients and produce has to be used first.

Camping meals also have to be easy, quick to cook and as flavoursome as I can make them. The basics are extra virgin olive oil, good quality wine vinegar or balsamic, anchovies, capers, mustard, fresh herbs from my garden, some spices and anything else that is in my home fridge and that I have room for in my camping fridge/ cooler box, for example any of the following: harissa, egg mayonnaise, tapenade,  preserved lemons, left-over cooked food and sauces…these will enrich the flavours of what I am to cook.

Above: kale sautéed with garlic, anchovies and chillies is accompanied with saganaki.  Like when cooking FORMAGGIO ALLA  ARGENTIERA I always add a sprinkling of  dried oregano while it is cooking.

Above: braised mushrooms will be used to dress pasta or  may accompany pork sausages or used to make a frittata.

Above: eggs poached in some tomato salsa and sprinkled with fresh basil leaves.

Above: braised red radicchio with pan-fried salamino (or chorizo).

Above: cauliflower cooked with rosemary and saffron and some creamed feta. This too could be used as a pasta sauce.

Above: pork sausages are pretty much staples for camping. They can be crumbled into dishes or cooked whole with tomatoes, sauerkraut, lentils or beans.

Above: pork sausages with lentils.

After 30 years of  using a blue gas stove I now have a yellow one.  This one lights more easily and generates more heat.

Sautéed  green leafy vegetables with chilli.

This is a common Italian method to cook any green leafy vegetables , such as : kale,  cavolo nero, spinach, chicory,  endives,  cime di rape, brassicas. Italians, like my mother would blanche or cook the leafy greens in boiling, salted water before sautéing , however because I prefer my vegetables not to be overcooked I omit the precooking.

I like to add a substantial amount of anchovies, but I am careful about adding salt to the greens when I sauté them in  extra virgin olive oil, garlic, and chilli.

Sauté the anchovies, The anchovies have to be cut finely and tossed about in some extra virgin olive oil to dissolve/ melt. This happens quickly.

Add some chopped garlic and chillies and toss for a couple of minutes before adding the washed greens and sauté until cooked to your liking.

Other posts about camping:

CAMPING, Pumpkin risotto

EATING WELL, Camping in Tasmania, BBQ chicken-Pollo alla Diavola

EATING AND DRINKING IN THE GOLDFIELDS in Victoria

PRODUCE IN GIPPSLAND ; Campside Eating

Below: The Otway National Park, Victoria, my last camping trip.

PESCE SALATO in SIcilia (Salted Fish in Sicily)and BOTTARGA revisited

I always look forward to Richard Cornish’s Brain Food column on Tuesdays in The Age. For his first article this year he has kicked off with Bottarga (January 25 issue).

What a great start!

He says that we love bottarga because it has the power to enrich and enhance dishes, much the same way as Parmesan cheese  improves pasta and jamon makes everything more delicious.  I always think of anchovies and how widely they are used not just in Sicilian cooking but in Italian cooking  generally an dhow much they enrich the taste of many dishes.

The bottarga that Richard is writing about is Bottarga di Muggine:  ‘the salted, processed and sun-dried mullet roe that is pale orange to yellow in colour.”

Having roots in Sicily, I am more accustomed with Bottarga di Tonno, made from tuna. In comparison to the mullet roe,  bottarga  from tuna can be darker in colour and more pungent in taste.

I bought this  lump of bottarga (in the photo below) from Enoteca Sileno in Melbourne. Mullet bottarga is easier to find.

In Sicily bottarga has been used for millennia and is only one of many parts of the tuna that are salted.

Many years ago, when bottarga would have been next to impossible to purchase in Australia, I purchased many packets of plastic wrapped bottarga  and various salted parts or the tuna from a vendor in the Market in Syracuse who specialised in salted and dried fish. I brought them back to Australia in my suitcase. I declared them, but because they were sealed securely  I was cleared through customs.

In my book Sicilian Seafood Cooking, I begin the section of the book PESCE SALATO (Salted Fish) by saying:

Salted fish has been greatly valued and an important industry in Sicily. During medieval times the standard Lenten diet was based on pulses and dried salted fish. Still popular in Sicily, salted fish were popular with the ancient Romans. Anchovies, which still flavour many dishes, probably replaced the gurum used widely by ancient Romans.

Gurum was made by crushing and fermenting fish innards. It was very popular during Roman times, an import from the Greeks. It was a seasoning preferred to salt and added to other ingredients like vinegar, wine, oil and pepper to make a condiment used for meat, fish and vegetables – much like the fish sauce used in some Asian cuisines.

Two early cookery books, The Art of Cooking: The First Modern Cookery Book by Martino of Como and On Right Pleasure and Good Health by Platina, praise the taste and quality of salted tuna (particularly the middle section of tuna called tarantellum or terantello). Salted tuna (sometimes called mosciam in Sicily) was introduced by the Arabs (who called it muscamma) in about the 10th century. It has firm, deep red-brown flesh that needs only paper-thin slicing and is mainly eaten softened in oil with a sprinkling of lemon juice.

Salted tuna is also produced in southern Spain; they refer to it as air-dried tuna or sun-dried tuna and Mojama tuna.

Bottarga (called buttarica or buttarga in Sicilian) are the eggs in the ovary sacs of female tuna. These are pressed into a solid mass, salted and processed. The name bottarga is thought to have evolved from the Arabic buarikh or butarah – raw fish eggs, once made made by dipping the sac in beeswax and leaving it to dry. Making bottarga is a much more complicated process now and is only produced in Favignana. It is grated to flavour dishes, or sliced finely and eaten as an antipasto.

I have eaten bottarga mainly grated over pasta dishes and eggplant caponata, but in Syracuse I enjoyed baked eggplant stuffed with seafood and topped with grated bottarga.

Richard Cornish says :

‘Grated bottarga is sensational over buttered pasta. You need nothing other than a glass of wine to complete the dish. Try it grated over spaghetti with tomatoes and a little chilli, or on hot flatbread drizzled with oil as an aperitivo. Make a delicious salad of finely sliced fennel and radicchio topped with bottarga. Grate bottarga into aioli to make a dressing for a Caesar salad. Make softly scrambled eggs, grate over 50g of bottarga and enjoy on hot buttered sourdough’.

Sounds good and I am looking forward to trying some of these.

I have a post on my blog  for  the recipe:

PASTA CON BOTTARGA ( Pasta with Grated Bottarga)

PASTA ALLA NORMA and a variation (Pasta with tomato salsa and fried eggplants; and currants, anchovies and bottarga) …photo, as eaten on the coast near Agrigento.

GREMOLATA made with PRESERVED LEMON

Gremolata or gremolada is made of chopped parsley, lemon zest, and chopped garlic and is the usual accompaniment to Osso Buco Milanese,  (braised, cross cut veal shanks). The freshness of the gremolata  adds a zing to the rich taste  of the slow cooked meat that is braised with white wine, tomatoes and a soffritto base.  The marrow in the bones is also eaten. Risotto Milanese is also traditionally served with  Osso Buco and it is made with the enticing spice, saffron. 

Obviously gremolata can also pep up other food and it makes and easy and tasty accompaniment for many dishes, and not necessarily just in Italian cuisine.

I remembered first making a  different gremolata years ago and using preserved lemon instead of fresh lemon peel. I re-found the original recipe in one of my many cookbooks – Arabesque.

Greg and Lucy Malouf’s  recipe also contains another enticing spice, sumac . Ancient Romans used sumac as a souring agent and to add a sour tang to dishes. Sumac a common ingredient in Middle Eastern Food.

I particularly like this version of gremolata with simply seared tuna.

I also like it with the fried cheese Saganaki (refers to the pan used to make a variety of Greek appetizers, most famously the fried cheese dish).

The recipe in Arabesque:

VARIATIONS

My preserved lemons are in salt brine (and not preserved with added honey), but if you like the idea  of adding a little sweetness to the recipe add a little honey.

On the odd occasion, instead of sumac, I have used saffron. and sometimes I have added a few almonds (or almond meal).  Both are interesting additions and variations.

This version does contain almonds. Add 1/2 cup of blanched or whole almonds (natural or roasted ) to the specified ingredients.

Recently, I presented the gremolata made with preserved lemon with fish.

Recipe for:

PRESERVED LEMONS

GREMOLATA

Mix the ingredients together.

  • 3Tbsp minced flat-leaf parsley leaves
  • 1 Tbsp freshly grated lemon zest
  • 2 cloves garlic, crushed and minced

GELO DI MELONE, a simple summer, Sicilian dessert

Gelo Di Melone  is pureed watermelon thickened with a little corn flour or rice flour with the addition of  some rose water, vanilla and a little sugar.  Once made and poured into the mould to set,  I add little jewels  of colour and flavours on top –  chopped dark chocolate, candied citron and roasted pistachio nuts. This is the basic, traditional recipe. Arab influenced?  Except for the chocolate, I think so.

But chocolate is also made in Sicily and those who have been to Modica  may be familiar with the Antica Dolceria Bonajuto where chocolate is made using the original methods in the style of the Aztecs and brought by the Spaniards in the 16th century – the Spaniards ruled Sicily at various times and foods from the “New World” (including cocoa beans) were introduced.

Gelo Di Melone is very simple to make, but it takes time to get the flavours right. Why?

The answer is simple. It all depends on the flavour of the melone (watermelon).

The puree is thickened with a little flour and stirred on heat like a custard. This time I used rice flour and I stirred it through a little melon puree to make sure it was not lumpy.

Add a little rosewater, vanilla essence and a little sugar, but then you have to taste it. Is it sweet enough? Does it need more rosewater? Shall I add a little lemon juice to lift the flavour?

Once you have decided that you like the taste, you could then experiment with the recipe.  For example I like to add roasted almonds through the thickened mix, a little cinnamon can also be good and if I have run out of citron peel, good quality orange peel does the trick.

On occasions instead of rosewater I have used  rose liqueur or violet liqueur. This is strictly not the traditional recipe, but if I am not making it for Sicilians I feel comfortable to experiment. And I have fun doing it.

I prefer to present the Gelo di Melone in little glass bowls, however, it doesn’t look bad in a large bowl and it takes up less room in the fridge.

The black bowl below is made of glass.

Once decorated they taste and look even more stunning.

RECIPES:

GELO DI MELONE (Jellied watermelon)

GELO DI LIMONE (Sicilian Jellied Lemon)

MODICA and HONEY and Sicilian biscuits called nucatuli

ARABS IN SICILY, some sweets, petrafennula

PETRAFENNULA also called PETRAMENNULA, a Sicilian sweet with possible Arabic origins

ZELTEN from the Trentino, Alto Adige region of Italy

I have never made traditional dishes for Christmas obligatory and my menu choices depend on the people I am sharing Christmas with. Last year it was fresh seafood – oysters, prawns and crayfish – simply served and delicious. This year main course is likely to be duck with cherries marinated in grappa. What comes before and after is to be yet decided.

When my parents were alive, our family Christmas meal was likely to be a combination of offerings from Sicily and Trieste, either a caponata or an insalata russa for the finger food, a good brodo  with tortellini for firsts, while the second course varied from year to year, and perhaps there was a cassata or a zuppa inglese for dessert. Only fish on Christmas eve was obligatory, but there was never a set Christmas menu, as there tends to be in many Australian or Italian households.

You won’t find me cooking turkey because it is too much like chicken, for me. As for dessert – I am not a fan of Christmas pudding and the only parts of pavlova I like are the berries and cream. I have made too many cassate (plural of cassata) and panforte on too many occasions to repeat them or appreciate them as I once did at Christmas.

This year, probably the only traditional Christmas dish I’ll be eating is Zelten, a typical sweet, fruit and nut bread/cake of the Trentino-Alto Adige region of Italy.

I’ve looked at numerous recipes and background information about Zelten and found that there are many variations in the recipes. Zelten began from humble beginnings, a bread dough enriched with the typical local dry fruit and spices, the quantity and quality of fruit being poor in some (as in Trentino) and extravagant in others (as in Balzano).

The numerous recipes I read varied greatly. For example, walnuts are the principal nut used in all the recipes, but some variations contain almonds and/or hazelnuts/ pine nuts. Apart from figs and dried grapes, there are recipes with dates and/or unspecified dried fruit. To me using dates and mixed fruit do not sound typical of Tyrol.

All recipes include flour, either wheat or rye (some use very little flour, other recipe have large amounts of dough, some use bread dough). There are varying amounts of eggs, butter, sugar, yeast, milk or none of these. The fruit can be steeped in rum, but some recipes specify grappa, so as you can see the recipes vary greatly and some are much more modern.

I can understand the many variations of Zelten in Tyrol and why the recipes differ from family to family and location. Tyrol (German: Tirol) is historically a multi-national region located in the heart of the Alps of Austria and Italy. It is segmented by the compass into North, East and South Tyrol. North and East Tyrol lie in Austria and South Tyrol is in Italy, it is also known as Südtirol or Alto Adige). Bolzano, is the capital.

I was in this region two years ago and enjoyed its many special features: stunning scenery especially in the Italian Alps and the Dolomites with their extraordinary mountainous and rocky peaks, the distinct architecture of cities and ancient villages where people speak German or Austro-Bavarian-German and Italian, and obviously, the culinary delights that reflect these cultures.

Zelten comes from the German selten and it means sometimes/on occasions, and as the name indicates it was only prepared on special occasions like Christmas, in winter with only dried fruit and nuts available.

I finally settled on making a version of a Zelten from South Tyrol and Bolzano, characterized by of large amounts of fruit – mainly figs and a selection of other dried fruit, pine nuts and almonds. I conducted some research into the fruit that is grown in the region and omitted apricots, peaches or plums because these stone fruits are more recent additions to the orchards. I used dried apples, pears, sultanas, strawberries (there are wild strawberries in the woods), a few dried plums and only a little orange peel as I did not imagine citrus to be very common in the area.

I chose grappa rather than rum, and plenty of it to soak the fruit and to moisten the cake once it was made.

I used no butter, eggs, milk or yeast and I used rye flour because wheat does not grow well in wet and cold climates. I used honey and not sugar.

I divided the mixture and baked two round cakes.

Eventually, I combined a couple of recipes and came up with:

750g dried fruit – 400g were figs, the rest as described above
350g nuts – 120g walnuts, the remainder almonds and pine nuts
200g honey
grappa – about ½ litre to soak the fruit and another ½ litre to soak into the baked cake
ground cinnamon, cloves, grated lemon peel
rye flour

I combined coarsely cut fruit and chopped nuts in a large container with a cover, added the grappa and left it for four days, stirring it occasionally.
I added the honey and spices and gradually mixed in as much rye flour as it would absorb. The principal recipe suggested to use 5% of the total weight of the ingredients, I calculated this to be about 230g. I mixed a teaspoon of baking powder to the flour as the only leavening, there was no leavening mentioned in the recipes that I sighted that used rye flour.
I lined two round baking tins with brown paper and baking paper. The recipe did not specify heat or time, but I baked them at 200 degrees for 60 minutes. Although my cakes are round, my understanding is that in different parts of Tyrol oval or heart shapes are also common.

I wrapped the cakes in  calico( pudding cloth) and I have been dousing it  with more grappa daily.

I took a cake to friends last night and we cut it. It is heavy, not sweet and steeped in grappa. It does taste good.

Back goes the calico wrapping. With all that alcohol and  fortress -like wrapping, the Zelten will last for a long time.

Grappa is made with grape skins. The wines and grappa from this region is unique.

Recipes of food mentioned in this post.

ZUPPA INGLESE, a famous, Italian dessert

CASSATA Explained with photos

SICILIAN CASSATA and some background (perfect for an Australian Christmas)

CAPONATA Catanese (from Catania) made easy with photos

INSALATA RUSSA (Party time; Russian salad)

 

MAIALE AL LATTE (Pork cooked in milk)

A winter dish you could say!

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.

Present with asparagus for a taste of summer.