Category Archives: References to Cookery Books

SENAPE, a new type of mustard green vegetable

The Italian word senape, is mustard in English, therefore it is very appropriate that this green, leafy vegetable is called Senape.

A few weeks ago I bought one bunch from Il Fruttivendelo, Gus and Carmel’s stall in A shed at the Queen Victoria Market. Unfortunately, they have not been able to source any since.

I did some research and apparently – sinapis arvensis grows wild and around Ragusa in Sicily where my father’s relatives live. More research tells me that these leafy, mustard greens are also common around Etna and the Madonie Mountains.

I  remembered that I encountered Senape (also called Sanapu and Sinàpi) in the Market in Syracuse in 2007 and now realise that I also have a photograph of this wild green in my book, Sicilian Seafood Cooking.

The bunch I purchased at the Queen Victoria Market is obviously the cultivated variety of Senape and it tastes very much like one other mustard tasting, leafy green of the Brassica tribe, Cime di rapa (broccoli raab, also known as rapini),

Recently, I was away camping for a couple of weeks and i do enjoy forging. apart from wild lettuce I picked two varieties of wild Brassicas. One variety, I am quite familiar with and I have written about this one many times; it looks and tastes like canola plants, the wild version. I notice that several Australian references call them ‘Wild Cabbage’. Sicilians may call them amareddi or cavuliceddi, rapudda, rapuzza, sanapuddhi and many more local terms.

The photo below demonstrates how in this plant’s advanced stage this variety looks so much like broccolini.

The other variety of wild green I foraged had an intense, fiery mustard taste with a hint of bitterness (photos below).

They tasted fabulous and after some research I think that in Australia these are referred to as ‘Mustard Greens’ and they could be related to the cultivated Indian mustard plant.

Both types have tiny, yellow flowers and unopened buds, similar to the distinctive flowers in broccoli heads,  the same as the Cime di rapa, or the bunch of Senape that I hope to be able to purchase again.

In the wild I foraged and collected the tips – the soft leaves and flowers of both of these wild plants.

In some places  there were plenty around and I made the most of them.

I cooked one harvest with Italian pork sausages and pasta, other yields with cannellini beans and plenty of shaved pecorino and another pasta dish with anchovies and feta.

It is a common practice to cook Cime di rapa or wild greens from the Brassica family by boiling them in plenty of salted water and once cooked they are drained before sautéing in the oil, garlic and chilli. I always omit the pre-cooking  phase and sauté the greens directly with the flavourings.

One disadvantage perhaps of not boiling the greens first is that I cannot use the drained water from the greens to cook the pasta, this being popular with Sicilian cooks. The pasta takes on a green hue and some of the flavour of the vegetables, but I prefer sautéed greens that still have some bite in them.

I cooked the bunch of the  Senape (about 500 gr) I bought from the QVM with ossocollo (smallgoods/cured pork neck), 3 cloves of chopped garlic, about 4 tbs extra virgin olive oil, salt and chilli flakes (or use fresh chilli). Speck or pancetta is also a good substitute for ossocollo, I chose this because I had some in my fridge.

Unlike the preferred quantity of 100g of pasta for each person, I think that 300g of pasta is sufficient for 4 people, however you may disagree.

Clean the green vegetables.

Fry the garlic and chilli, add the ossocollo and leave to  lightly brown in a pan.

Add the Senape and sauté it. I added some salt, a splash of white wine, put the lid on and cooked it till I was satisfied with the degree of done-ness.

Dress the drained pasta. I always like to drizzle some fresh extra virgin olive oil on the finished dish to add fragrance and accentuate the taste.

No grated Parmesan on pasta in Sicily, leave that to the northern Italians!

Parmesan can only be called Parmesan if produced in the neighbouring historical regions of Parma and Reggio (in Italy’s Emilia-Romagna). It is given the DOP label by the European Union (Denominazione d’Origine Protetta/Protected Designation of Origin). The DOP label guarantees that the product is “authentic,” or made in the original town or region with proper ingredients and process.

Use Pecorino, a strong-tasting alternative for a strong tasting dish. Pecorino is made from sheep’s milk and  Pecorino cheeses that have DOP protection are the Pecorino from Sardinia, Lazio and the Tuscan Province of Grosseto and Pecorino Toscano from Tuscany, and from Sicily.

Other Posts about wild greens:

EDIBLE WEEDS: Orecchiette e Broccoletti Selvatici (and cime di rape)

SICILIAN EDIBLE WEEDS and Greek VLITA

CIME DI RAPE (or Rapa) with pasta, anchovies and lemon peel

ONE OF MY FAVOURITE VEGETABLES ; Cime di Rape

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

 

 

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

RISOTTO AL RADICCHIO ROSSO

I have not made a Risotto al Radicchio Rosso for a long time.

So, why now?

First of all, I had some red Radicchio in the fridge. It is more or less a regular staple which I use mainly for salads.  However, I do  enjoy it cooked as well .

Secondly, I had some freshly made chicken broth. I received an email from my brother who lives in Adelaide beginning with:

I read that your lockdown has been extended for another 7 days.
I am so sorry. There is not much that one can say to provide comfort.

So, I wrote back an email beginning with:

You could make me a good chicken broth and send it over… broth always fixes things.

And with that, I took my own advice and made some chicken broth for myself.

Thirdly, a friend left a jar of Radicchio sotto aceto pickles on my doorstep – it literally translates as radicchio under vinegar. This revived my interest in  the versatility of radicchio. 

We ate some of the radicchio pickle with the boiled chicken and it was all very good.  As I often do, I then boiled the bones from the cooked chicken to make some more stock  which I added to the left-over broth and stored it in the freezer.  P.S. Using cooked chicken bones to make stock, is not an Italian thing.

Although I am very familiar with how to make Risotto di Radicchio (or Risotto al radicchio rosso), I wanted to tap into my bookshelves to see what recipes I had. Radicchio grows in Northern Italy and the recipes are Northern Italian.

I found recipes by Stephanie Alexander and Maggie Beer (remember that they both spent time in Tuscany), Sky Mc Alpine (with a nice addition of gorgonzola), Tessa Kiros, Jamie Oliver, Jennifer Mc Lagan (Jennifer sweetens the risotto with pumpkin), Diana Henry (she adds borlotti; radicchio and borlotti go well together and I have cooked many dishes with these two ingredients), Marcella Hazan (very traditional and simple), Jacob Kennedy (Barolo and bone marrow), Rose Gray and Ruth Rogers, Charles Nardozzi (he added pink grapefruit).Lidia Matticchio Bastianich, who is closer to  the origins of risotto and radicchio, adds bacon. This is acceptable as her birth place is close to Trieste in Pola, just before the city was assigned to Yugoslavia in September 1947.

I  particularly liked Risotto with red wine in Joanne Weir’s : From Tapas to Meze. She specifies the wine – Amarone from Veneto or Barolo from Piedmont – and adds some radicchio. She also adds nutmeg. Radicchio is bitter, nutmeg adds sweetness, which I think is a good addition, much like Jennifer Mc Lagan’s in Bitter where she suggests adding pumpkin to  the risotto, also a sweetener.

There were other recipes in some of my cookery books written in Italian, all very simple and traditional recipes and using mostly white wine. There were also  a few recipes for Risotto Rosso or Risotto all’ Amarone . None of the red wine recipes included radicchio.

Amarone is a full-bodied wine that tastes rich and fruity. Barolo is more floral and earthy, but both are strong tasting wines with a high alcohol content. I was interested to read  on the web that both wines go well with dark chocolate, a bitter taste.

In the end my preferred recipe was one by Julia Della Croce in Veneto – Authentic recipes from Venice and Italian Northeast.

Did I vary the recipe?

I never weigh ingredients and I always vary recipes to suit my tastes. I did not vary from Julia Della Croce list of ingredients very much and maybe this is why I liked her recipe. The ingredients I have at home is also a factor. For example, I can see how red onions would add to the colour, but I only had white onions.

I added nutmeg; used a white onion instead of a red one; red wine instead of white, and used more than a 1/2 cup; added thyme and bay leaves. I only used 1/2 a large radicchio. I thought that the walnuts were a good addition as once again, they provide a contrast to the bitterness of the radicchio. 

I did vary the process slightly,  but only slightly. This is what I did:

I sautéed  the onion and garlic in the oil and butter, then added the radicchio and removed it once it was softened.

I toasted the rice in butter and oil.

Once the rice was toasted, I added  seasoning , the red wine and some stock. Once the liquid was evaporated I returned the radicchio to the pan with a couple of bay leaves and thyme.

I continued to cook the risotto by adding stock a couple of ladles at the time and stirring it until the rice was ready… loose… ie cooked all’onda (like waves, not dry and gluggy).

When the rice was cooked, I added  freshly ground nutmeg , dished it out, sprinkled a few walnuts and grated some Parmigiano Reggiano on top and ate it.

This is the photo (below) as used in the book. My photo (above) did not do the dish justice! Come to think of it, this photo doesn’t either. It is over decorated … I see walnuts, but it is hard to see the riso.

 

There are other recipes with cooked radicchio on the blog and I can assure you they are good combinations or radicchio and other ingredients.

BIGOLI NOBILI (Bigoli pasta with red radicchio, borlotti and pork sausages)

COOKED RADICCHIO

Pan fried radicchio with pickled pears, walnuts, beetroot and gorgonzola

RADICCHIO (Treviso) with polenta and tomato salsa

CASSOULET? Not quite

Did I use mutton? Pork rind? Pork hock?
Not even goose?
Breadcrumbs on top? Confit of duck?
No, not any of these.

Cassoulet? Not quite. Perhaps I can call my recipe Cassoulet inspired.

Melbourne is in lockdown and I cooked this just for the two of us, and with no guests to impress, I took an easy option. Many writers have written about Cassoulet and I enjoyed leafing through some of the numerous books on my bookshelves.

It takes a lockdown! I have not leafed through books for a very long time.

I found recipes for Cassoulet in books by: Claudia Roden, Paula Wolfert, Joyce Goldstein, Stephanie Alexander, Guy Grossi and Jan McGuiness, Alice Waters, Clifford A Wright, Julia Child, Raymond Oliver, Elizabeth David and Rick Stein. If I had kept looking I may have found more.

The most comprehensive recipes are in this book:

The best photo for ingredients are in this book:

There is very little fat in my version of this dish; this is yet another reason why it cannot be called a Cassoulet. I used chicken legs and thinly cut pancetta because they needed using up. Instead of the pancetta, that I had in my fridge, I would have preferred to have used cubed pieces of speck, fatty prosciutto or raw bacon.

Ingredients

I used duck pieces, chicken legs , good-quality garlicky pork sausages, pork steaks from the neck, some pancetta and chicken stock. 

1 onion, 3-4 cloves of garlic, cannellini beans (soaked over night and cooked), 1/2 can of peeled tomatoes, thyme, bayleaves, parsley, bit of celery with leaves, pepper and salt.

Processes

I used a Dutch oven (thick bottom pan, suitable for slow cooking). This allowed me to brown the meat on the stove and to transfer the pan to the oven. . 

The cannellini beans can be cooked beforehand and stored in the fridge: Soak over night (about 3 centimetres above the beans). Drain the beans , cover with fresh water, add some bay leaves and celery then simmer till nearly cooked/almost tender, but retain a slight bite, 30 – 40 minutes.

Brown the meat: Begin with the duck, and use the rendered fat from the duck to brown the other meat. Remove the duck, add the  pancetta, seal it and set aside. Add some extra virgin olive oil or duck fat or lard if you need more fat and continue to brown the chicken,  pork and sausages, turn occasionally until well-browned on both sides.  Remove each piece of meat when it has browned and set it aside with the duck. It is best not to overcrowd the meat whilst browning.

Add onions, stir and scrape up browned bits from the bottom of the pan.  Add beans with some of the broth from the beans, garlic,  thyme, parsley, bay leaves and tomatoes. Cover with stock.

Arrange the meats on top of the beans with the skin facing upwards.  Make sure  that the meat is almost completely submerged. with the stock.

Transfer to oven (155C) and cook, uncovered, until a thin crust forms on top (about 2 hours). The crust is a combination of the fat and collagen  from the meat and bones and the homemade chicken stock I used. The beans need to be covered with liquid and the meat mostly submerged. The liquid will evaporate so add more water or stock as it cooks – pour it carefully and gently down the side of the saucepan so as not to break the crust that forms on top as the ingredients cook. 

Continue cooking undisturbed until the crust is deep brown and thick (at least 3 hours). Usually a real cassoulet is cooked for longer, but the meat was very tasty,  soft and succulent.

Definitely not a Cassoulet, but I had fun dipping into some of my old books, cooking, eating and writing about it.

 

 

 

PRESERVED LEMONS

This week there was an article by Richard Cornish in his regular column: Brain food with Richard Cornish (Everything you need to know about…preserved lemon).  The Age 20/7/20210.

I made a jar of preserved lemons recently to take to Adelaide for when and if I’m able to visit  my son . My daughter and he meet for lunch now and again and swap produce and recipes. He lives in an Asian neighbourhood, so he brings her Asian produce. She is in an African and Middle Eastern neighbourhood and she brought him some preserved lemons. He told me how much he was enjoying them. So I reminded him that I have been preserving lemons for years and he asked me to make him some and bring them over when we come to SA. I have them packed in a jar ready for when we can travel.

This morning I sent him a copy of Richard Cornish’s article and i thought that I would also find him a simple recipe from the web, mail him the link – it’s the easiest way to send recipes these days. My son and friends expected me to have a recipe on my blog, but with so many recipes  for preserved lemons on the web I have never bothered.

I was very surprised by the variations and how complicated the recipes seem on the web.

Making preserved lemons is the simplest thing! The only ingredients you need are lemons, salt and boiled water. You need to pack the lemons in a sterilized jar and leave them in a cupboard to mature.

So many recipes on the web  add embellishments like cinnamon sticks, bay leaves, star anise, vanilla pods or other spices and herbs. Although a  very popular recipe  by Stephanie Alexander suggests embellishments, I prefer to preserve them plain. This allows me more flexibility, more opportunities to add them to different cuisines. For example, if I’m making an Italian lemon  or  a seafood risotto and wish to enhance the recipe with a little preserved lemon, I would rather not have the risotto taste of various spices. And, by the way, they are not an Italian ingredient!

I have added some of the preserving juice when I have pickled olives. A reader once told me that he adds some when he is stewing rhubarb, I have added some when baking quince. They are also great in salads made with grains or pulses, beetroots, Middle Eastern dishes, dressed olives… experiment!

I have read in various publications that in Morocco where preserved lemons are very common,  that they do not traditionally add embellishments such as cinnamon, bay leaves or other spices and herbs. I have been to Tunisia and this seemed to be the same there.

I then started thinking when and why I had begun to make and use preserved lemons in the first place, and I remembered!

I found the dusty recipe book by Robert Carrier on one of my shelves, together with some other very dusty recipe books that I haven’t opened for years. There was the recipe for preserved lemons and the food that inspired me to make them.

The book was published in 1987! How time flies!

Claudia Roden also has recipes- for preserved lemons – same as Carrier, lemons and salt, no spices.

Here is a simplified version or the recipe:

You will need a large jar with a wide neck, the size of the jar to accommodate the number of lemons you intend to use. Keep in mind that the lemons will be compressed in the jar.

When I make a large jar, I use about 10 -14 lemons.

The jar I made for my son has 5 lemons + the juice of 1 more lemon.

I use all-natural rock salt, from evaporated sea water.

Wash and dry the lemons. Partially cut through them from top to bottom to make four attached wedges. Fill the crevices of the cut lemons with a rough tablespoon of salt.

Squeeze the salted lemons shut and pack them into the jar. Wedge them in as tightly as possible so they can’t move around. Some juice will be released in the process. When the jar is as full as it can be with tightly packed lemons, add a little more salt to the top of the jar. All the lemons need to be fully submerged in liquid, so top them off with some more lemon juice and some boiled water. I always add  a layer of extra virgin olive oil on top. I do this with all my preserves to keep the mould out.

Close the jar and place in a cupboard to cure for at least two months. My large jar has lemons in it that were made last year. They become darker, softer in texture and more mellow and intense in flavour the  longer they sit undisturbed.

Once opened, you can store the lemons in the fridge. The large jar does not fit in my fridge and it is stored in a cupboard. You may notice that I have added some netting and weight on top to keep the remaining lemons submerged.

Richard Cornish’s article:

Subject: The The Age Digital Edition: Everything you need to know about… preserved lemon
This article is from the July 20 issue of The Age Digital Edition. To subscribe, visit “https://www.theage.com.au“.

What is it?

Preserved lemons are ripe lemons transformed through lactic acid fermentation and the action of salt into aromatic, sharp and salty slices of citrus. Washed, unblemished lemons are trimmed, sliced into quarters or eighths depending on their size, and covered with salt. They are packed tightly in jars and squashed to release juice. More juice is added to ensure the lemons are covered. The jars are closed and kept at room temperature for several days to help kickstart lactic acid fermentation. Meanwhile, the sea salt draws liquid from the lemon and helps create an environment in which pectin from the rind and pith thickens the liquid. Most commonly associated with North African and Middle Eastern cuisine, the art of pickling lemons was not unknown to 17thcentury Britons. Lemons are pickled for traditional medicine and culinary uses in China and Vietnam.

Why do we love it?

Perhaps because they are so easy to make using simple recipes and equipment. A jar of homemade preserved lemons also makes a great gift. With their bright colour, sweet and salty tang, and smooth citrus aroma, they give dishes a burst of summer, even in the depths of winter. Preserved lemons will last for years, the rind becoming softer and softer and flavours mellowing.

Who uses it?

In his new book, All Day Baking, baker and author Michael James has a recipe for kangaroo, preserved lemon, prune and sweet potato pie. He also says the pulp and skin are useful in the kitchen, from salads and sauces to braises and mayonnaise. In the second edition of The Cook’s Companion (the one with the striped cover), Stephanie Alexander presents a beautiful recipe for Moroccan-inspired chicken, with chickpeas, swedes, pumpkin, saffron and cumin slowly cooked to make a rich gravy that is finished with coriander and pieces of preserved lemon.

How do you use it?

With respect. Preserved lemons are potent and can easily overpower a dish. Think of them as two parts – the pieces of lemon and the syrup they are in. Use the lemon rind as culinary punctuation, where small morsels can add colour, an acidic tang and a nice whack of salt. Preserved lemons love Middle Eastern spices such as cumin, saffron and coriander seed, and legumes such as chickpeas and lentils. Expect to use them in tagines, Middle Eastern stews, grilled and stewed lamb and chicken, and innovative dishes such as cracked wheat, prawn and lemon salad. You can add the syrup to dishes as a seasoning or brush over meats as they grill.

Where do you get it?

With lemons in season, you can try making your own. Or look for preserved lemons at farmers’ markets and food stores. Supermarkets carry good brands such as Raw Materials Preserved Lemons or buy Arabian Nights lemons preserved in Morocco from Essential Ingredient.

Suggest an ingredient via email to brainfood@richardcornish.com.au or tweet to @foodcornish.

PASTA RIMESTATA COI CAVOFIORI – Pasta with cauliflower, sultanas, pine nuts and anchovies

The recipe for this pasta dish is from my book, Sicilian Seafood Cooking (now out of print).

In the Sicilian  language the recipe is called : Pasta chi brocculi arriminata. In Italian = Pasta rimestata coi cavolfiori.

Rimestata, seems like a fancy word, but it just means stirred

In English, I have described this as Pasta with cauliflower, sultanas, pine nuts and anchovies. 

In Italian the word for cauliflower is cavolfiore. Just to be different, the Sicilian name for cauliflower is brocculi.  

In Sicily coloured cauliflowers are the most common (unfortunately most of the colour fades when they are cooked). As well as the familiar white or cheddar (pale yellow) varieties, there are beautiful purple ones (cavolfiore viola in Italian) that range in colour from pink through violet to dark purple. A friend  in Australia is growing a variety called purple cape cauliflower and one that is light green and pink called cavolfiore romanesco precoce

There are also the bright, pale green ones and a sculpted, pointy pale green variety called Roman cauliflower; I have seen these in Rome and throughout Tuscany.

Every time I cook this pasta dish, there is great applause from guests.

Over time recipes evolve and each time I make it I  may vary it slightly, mainly by increasing the amounts of some of the ingredients, for example: I tend to use more bayleaves (or rosemary), pine nuts, anchovies (for people who like them and remove them for those who do not).

I also like to add some fresh fennel (at the same time as I place the cauliflower into the pan) and a little stock and white wine.

I present the pasta with both pecorino cheese and breadcrumbs. Sometimes I add cubes of feta or ricotta whipped with a little pepper. Feta is Greek, but I like it as it adds creaminess to the dish.

The ingredients and the method of cooking the pasta with cauliflower below is how the recipe appears in the book. The recommended  amount of pasta is 100g per person. In our household this is far too much and 500g of pasta is OK as first course for 6-8 people. As with all recipes I hope that you  vary it to suit your tastes. 

500g dry, short pasta

2 tablespoons sultanas or currants 

1 medium cauliflower

1 large onion, chopped

1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil

4–5 anchovies, finely chopped

2 bay leaves

1 tablespoon fennel seeds

2 tablespoons pine nuts

1 small teaspoon saffron soaked in a little warm water

grated pecorino or toasted breadcrumbs

salt and crushed dried chillies to taste

Soak the sultanas or currants in a cup of warm water. To prepare the cauliflower, remove the outer green leaves and break the cauliflower into small florets.

In a frying pan large enough to accommodate all the ingredients, saute the chopped onion in the olive oil. Add the anchovies and let them melt in the oil, stirring with a wooden spoon. Then add the cauliflower florets, bay leaves and the fennel seeds. Stir gently over the heat to colour and coat the vegetable with oil.

Add the pine nuts, the saffron (and water) and the sultanas or currants with the soaking water, salt and crushed chillies.

At this stage I add a splash of white wine and a little stock). Cover, and allow to cook gently for about 20 minutes, until the florets are soft.

Cook the pasta. Drain and toss with the cauliflower sauce. Coat the pasta evenly and allow to absorb the flavours for about 5 minutes. Serve with toasted breadcrumbs or grated pecorino cheese.

The breadcrumbs add texture and flavour.  Over time, instead of tossing coarse breadcrumbs, (100 grams made with day old, quality bread  – sourdough/pasta dura) lightly fried in some oil, I also add grated lemon peel, a little cinnamon and sugar to the breadcrumbs while they are being toasted.

Below: Saffron

In memory of Zia Licia, my aunt from Trieste – recipe for Fritole

My last surviving aunt, Zia Licia, died last week. She died in Adelaide and the funeral was a couple of days ago, but because I live in Melbourne I was unable to attend.

I was visiting friends in Pambula, on the south coast of NSW when my brother rang  last week to give me the news about Zia’s death and since her death, I have been remembering many things.

Zia Licia was from Trieste and was married to my mother’s brother, Pippo.

My mother’s family moved to Trieste from Catania, Sicily, when my mother was five years old.  She lived in Trieste till my father, mother and I come to Australia. I was eight years old but my memories remain strong.

I consider myself very lucky to have roots in Trieste, Sicily and Australia.

Just like my Sicilian aunts, Zia Licia liked to cook.

 

 

When we came to Adelaide we shared a house for a while with my  Zia Licia and her husband, Zio Pippo.

My mum did not cook much in Trieste, my parents went out to eat or  Zia Renata, my other aunt in Trieste would often cook.

When we came to Australia, mum and Zia Licia cooked together. It was a form of entertainment… what else could you do in a new country when things were so different? Of course my uncle also enjoyed cooking and because he worked on weekdays, he joined in on weekends. There were the three of them on a Sunday morning cooking up new things for the guests we often invited for Sunday lunch.  Those lunches were special, and I was required to help in the kitchen.

Maybe that is where my love of cooking comes from?

My Zia Licia had a good sense of humour and a way of laughing that brought fun into any situation; as expected we all  laughed a lot during these cooking sessions.

One of the very first things that I can remember really enjoying  was the making of Fritole (Frittole in Italian, from fritto, fried).

So what are they?

Fritole are fragrant  and flavourful balls of sweet dough. Once fried they are  coated in granulated sugar (and cinnamon, optional); the spoonfuls of batter were once most likely fried in lard but in recent years, olive oil.  Some may use vegetable oil but I think that olive oil has a special fragrance that enhances the taste of Fritole.

The batter is made with flour, yeast, milk, eggs, sugar, lemon zest,  raisins or sultanas soaked in sufficient dark rum (sometimes in grappa) to rehydrate the raisins. In most recipes  pine nuts are also added, but not always.

Frìtole are also a well established sweet in Venezia, especially during  the Carnevale. The Venice Carnivale takes place each year in February. It begins around two weeks before Ash Wednesday and ends on Shrove Tuesday, also known as Fat Tuesday (Mardi Gras in French or Martedi Grasso in Italian).

Trieste and Venice are neighbours, so sharing this recipe is not surprising, but in Trieste Fritole are popular at Christmas time. Bakeries, pastry shops and Christmas street markets all have Fritole and they are also made at home.

We had no recipe for Fritole, so we relied heavily on Zia Licia’s memory of making Fritole because Zia  would have helped her mother make them in her Triestinian kitchen. Having eaten them very frequently in Trieste we also relied on our collective memories of how Fritole should look, taste, smell and feel…and always eaten warm and fragrant – so important when it comes to reproducing recipes.

I cannot remember how the adults felt about the Fritole, but I remember enjoying them very much as a child.

In those days we did not add pine nuts to our Fritole; we had no access to them and it was a nut not familiar in Australia at that time.

I found various recipes for Fritole in the large number of books about the cooking of Trieste (in Friuli Venezia Giulia) and in the Veneto regions of northern Italy and  the recipe below is probably  the closest to what we would have made. The instructions in the ancient Italian recipe I’ve chosen, are not very specific because it is assumed that cooks would know what steps to follow, so I  will spell them out.

Ingredients: 3eggs, 30g fresh yeast, 400g plain flour, cinnamon, milk, 50g sugar, lemon peel (grated), rum, 50g raisins (or sultanas), 40g pine nuts.

To the above, add a little salt to the batter. If you wish to use dry yeast, 10g should be sufficient. As for the milk , you will need at least 2 cups, but maybe more – the mixture should be like a thick batter.

Place the raisins or sultanas in a small bowl and pour some dark rum or grappa over them (to cover). Set aside for a few hours or overnight.

Place about a cup of warm milk in a mixing bowl and sprinkle in the yeast. Mix well to incorporate the yeast into the milk. Add about half of the flour and mix it in gently. Cover the bowl with a cloth and set aside to rest for half an hour. The mixture will bubble as the yeast activates.

Drain the raisins or sultanas and reserve any rum in a small bowl. Toss them around in a little flour to coat lightly; this will prevent them from sinking to the bottom of the Fritole as they fry.

When the yeast mixture has risen, use a wooden spoon or spatula to incorporate all the ingredients  – the remaining flour, raisins sugar,  egg, lemon zest, rum and pine nuts (if using).  Add more warm milk as necessary to ensure that the mixture is like a thick batter. Cover the bowl with cloth again and set aside in a warm and draft-free area for at least 30-45 minutes to rest – it should double in size and the batter should be bubbly and airy.

Use a heavy-bottomed pot to heat sufficient oil (for the batter to swim/float in). The oil needs to be hot. Use a spoon to carefully drop the batter into the hot oil. It is better to fry a few Fritole at the time and not overcrowd them in the pan.

Once fried, drain the Fritole  with a slotted spoon or tongs and place them on paper towels to absorb any excess oil. Roll them in sugar and cinnamon.

In the last few days I  have  found myself bursting into old Triestinian songs…like Le Ragazze di Trieste and Trieste Mia. I will need to stop myself otherwise i will drive my partner mad!

I have returned to Trieste on many occasions and the photos  of Trieste have been taken over a number of years .

 

 

 

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Drain them and leave until ready to serve.

I presented them with poached pears and egg custard.

To Make Custard:

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

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

ZUPPA INGLESE, a famous, Italian dessert

CHICKEN WITH SAUERKRAUT, from the Carso, in north eastern Italy, near Trieste

This is a simple dish with flavours from north eastern Italy, in an area between Slovenia and the Adriatic, south of Monfalcone and close to Trieste called the Carso (Karst in German, Kras in Slovenian).

The ingredients in the recipe are simple and reflect the flavours of Hungary and Germany, Russia and countries in Eastern Europe but also Trieste – chicken, sauerkraut, onion, lardo and white wine.This is not surprising as Trieste used to be part of the Austro- Hungarian Empire

I first came across a version of this recipe in Fred Plotkin’s book, La Terra Fortunata, (published in 2001). I have made versions of this dish before but have used chicken with bones as the recipe suggests, but this time I used boneless chicken and some fatty bacon that needed using. Having lived in Trieste I am very familiar with sauerkraut and cooking with smoked pork and pork fat (on the odd occasion) and I invariably have jars of sauerkraut at home, especially in winter for making dishes like iota.

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Lardo is an Italian salume that is eaten and widely used in Italian cuisine especially in northern Italy; it is made from the thick layer of fat from the back of a pig and cured with a mixture of salt, herbs, and spices;  the most esteemed Italian lardo is aged in the warm, fresh caves in the area of Carrara (famous for its marble) and no additives or preservatives are used.

Lardo Affumicato is Speck. This also is used widely in cooking of Trieste and Italian regions that used to be part of the Austrian- Hungarian Empire.

The rendered fat from the  lardo or bacon is the fat used in this recipe. (Pork fat, or rendered pork fat is also called lardo in Italian and is lard in English).

It is not necessary to specify amounts as this recipe and like most Italian recipes it relies on estimations and what you like, but I used roughly 1k of chicken, 5 rashes of fatty bacon and about 500g of sauerkraut (drained and squeezed in a colander). If you want more bacon use it, more sauerkraut…by all means.

Gently fry the bacon or lardo in a heavy bottomed pan over medium heat and when there is sufficient melted fat in the pan sear the chicken pieces till golden.

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Fry the chicken in batches so as not to crowd the chicken pieces in the pan while searing.

Once you have seared the meat, add a sliced small onion and cook it gently till softened and golden.

Add some peppercorns , bay leaves and the sauerkraut and cook it gently for about 10 minutes.

Add the chicken, some white wine (about 1/2 cup) and bring to a boil. Cover with a lid and cook gently for about 20 minutes. If necessary add more wine or water to keep it moist while it is cooking,

 

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If you are using chicken with bones cook it for longer (30-40 mins depending on the size of the chicken).