Category Archives: Wine, Spirits, Liquers and Drinks

Marmelade d’oranges sanguines – marmellata d’ arance sanguine – blood orange marmalade

During my last visit to France I travelled through Alsace with friends. This is France’s great wine growing region that produces great Rieslings and there were a couple of wineries I wanted  to visit.

Located in a typical Alsatian,  small village called Niedermorschwihr, I went to sample the wines of Albert Boxler.

Wine brings out the best in me and there I met a person who like me was also very interested in food and he asked me if I had visited Christine Ferber’s Au Relais des Trois Epis in the main street of this tiny town.

Until then, and much to my embarrassment I did not know about Christine Ferber or her recipe books, but I had certainly heard the names of some famous culinary greats who have championed her delicious creations such as Parisian pastry star Pierre Hermé, and chefs Alain Ducasse, the Troisgros family, and Antoine Westermann.

Christine Ferber is a master patissière but who is mostly recognised for her quality confitures – she is France’s revered jam maker.

Although her épicerie it is in the main street, it is so tiny and unassuming that I almost missed it.

Apart from the books she has written, the cakes, pastries, traditional breads and jams that she makes, it makes sense that in such a small town Ferber has other stock.

In her shop I saw  ready-made/ take- away food, fruit and vegetables, newspapers, cheeses, small-goods, chocolates, pots, pans and  local pottery.

One of the reasons that Ferber is so highly respected by her culinary peers is that she employs locals and sources local produce – she is from Niedermorschwihr and is a forth generation pastry chef who took over the family business from her father.  Of course the fruit she uses for her confitures is  seasonal and she makes it in small batches in her small commercial kitchen behind the shop. It is cooked  in a relatively small copper cauldron and distributed into jars by hand so that the any solid fruit is evenly distributed in the jars. By making small batches of jam she is in better control of adding the correct amount of sugar – as we all know not all batches of the same type of fruit are the same – they vary in quantity and quality of  ripeness , juice, sweetness and pectin. Ferber usually uses apples to add pectin to fruit lacking in pectin.

I suspect that  Ferber also relishes the quality she achieves through her small-scale production and the satisfaction that comes from having contributed to the making of each batch of jam herself.

When I visited, Ferber had been making Blood orange marmalade – oranges sanguine in French.   I an very fond of  Blood Oranges and  I was introduced to them as a child in Sicily. They are called arance sanguine in Italian. In Sicily,  they are cultivated extensively in the eastern part of the island. 

 Marmelade d’oranges sanguines – Blood orange marmalade, 220 g ( See recipe below)

Description:The blood orange marmalade is very balanced and less bitter than traditional marmalade.
Ingredients: Blood oranges, sugar, apple pectin, lemon juice.
Origin: Alsace, France
Brand:Christine Ferber
Producer: Christine Ferber and her team prepare these wonderful jams in Niedermorschwihr, a small village nestled in the heart of vines. Not more than four kilograms of fruits are processed in copper pots for jams that have convinced the greatest chefs.

Blood Orange from Mes Confitures : The Jams and Jellies of Christine Ferber

Ingredients:
About 2 3/4 pounds (1.2 kg) blood oranges, or 2 cups 1 ounce (500g/50cl) juice
1 3/4 pounds (750g) Granny Smith apples
4 2/3 cup (1 kg) sugar plus 1 cup (200 g)
3 cups 2 ounces (750 g/75 cl) water plus 7 ounces (200 g/20 cl)
2 oranges
Juice of 1 small lemon

Directions:
Rinse the apples in cold water. Remove the stems and cut them into quarters without peeling them. Put them in a preserving pan and cover with 3 cups 2 ounces (75 g/75 cl) water.
Bring the apple mixture to a boil and simmer for 30 minutes on low heat. The apples will be soft.
Collect the juice by pouring the preparation into a chinois sieve, pressing lightly on the fruit with the back of the skimmer. Filter the juice a second time by pouring it through cheesecloth previously wet and wrung out, letting the juice run freely.  It is best to leave the juice overnight refrigerated.

Next day…

Measure 2 cups 1 ounce (500 g/50 cl) juice, leaving in the bowl the sediment that formed overnight, to have clearer jelly.
Squeeze the 2 3/4 pounds (1.2 kg) blood oranges. Measure 2 cups 1 ounces (500 g/50 cl) juice and put the seeds into a cheesecloth bag.
Rinse and brush the 2 oranges in cold water and slice them into very thin rounds. In a preserving pan, poach the rounds with 1 cup (200 g) sugar and 7 ounces (200 g/20 cl) water. Continue cooking at a boil until the slices are translucent.
Add the apple juice, 4 2/3 cups (1 kg) sugar, lemon juice, and seeds in the cheesecloth bag. Bring to a boil, stirring gently. Skim. Continue cooking on high heat for about 10 minutes, stirring constantly. Skim again if need be. Remove the cheesecloth with the seeds. Return to a boil. Put the jam into jars immediately and seal.

Yield: 6-7 8-ounce jars (220 g)

One of the delights of Alsace were the numerous storks.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Palermo and Sicily … peeling the onion

“Sicily is the pearl of this century for its qualities and its beauty, for the uniqueness of its towns and its people […] because it brings together the best aspects of every other country.”

This was written almost a thousand years ago by an Arabian geographer, Muhammed Al-Idrisi, in his book of “pleasant journeys into faraway lands” for the Norman King of Sicily, Roger II.

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As Al-Idrisi discovered, Sicily may be small, but it has the best of everything and although I may visit some places again and again, I always manage to discover something new. And this is what brings me back to Sicily again and again. I grew up in the far north of Italy in Trieste but each summer as a child, I would travel to Sicily for our summer holidays – both of my parents have relatives in Sicily. For me Sicily was an exotic place of sunshine, colour and warmth, the outdoors and the sea. Wherever I go in Europe, I always visit Sicily as well.

On my latest trip I concentrated on Southeastern Sicily and went to little towns and villages that I had not been to before as well as familiar places where I’m always interested to see what’s changed and what has stayed the same.

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Next time I visit I plan to spend more time in the city that is the essence of Sicily – Palermo.  While Al-Adrisi called Sicily a “pearl” Roberto Alajmo, a journalist and blogger born and raised in Palermo compared his home town to an onion, una cipolla – its multiple layers have to be peeled to be appreciated.

Once you start peeling back the layers of Palermo what you find is a city where history meets infamy and splendor encounters squalor, antiquities stand beside modernity. All of it evidence of a fantastic overlay of cultures from Carthaginians, Greeks, Romans, Arabs, Normans, French and Spanish. This cultural fusion shows up in the food and drink, the art and architecture, the palaces, the temples and churches and the entire Sicilian way of life.

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Last time I visited Palermo was three years ago, but each time I go I’m always happy to revisit the historic quarter with its Arabo-Norman monuments.

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Among my favourites are the Palazzo dei Normanni and its Cappella Palatina with their dazzling Byzantine mosaics and frescoes. There’s also King Roger II’s La Martorana, where the spectacular mosaic of Christ the Pantocrator overlooks Olivio Sozzi’s baroque Glory of the Virgin Mary, painted six centuries later. I enjoy admiring the simple, geometric shapes of the Norman palaces, La Cuba and La Zisa, built entirely by Arabic craftsmen and the distinctive Arabo-Norman red domes on San Cataldo and San Giovanni degli Ermiti.

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On my not-to-miss list is the Cattedrale which is another masterpiece of overlaid period styles, begun by the Normans in the 12th Century, with 15th Century Catalan Gothic porch, capped off with a neo-classical 18th Century neo-classical dome. The timeline continues inside with tombs of Norman and Swabian kings and queens: Roger II and his daughter, Costanza d’Altavilla and their son Frederick II and his wife of Costanza of Aragon. You can admire her imperial gold crown in the cathedral’s treasury.

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Palermo also has a fountain to rival the best of Rome. La Fontana Pretoria was once prudishly called the “fountain of shame” because of the multiple nude statues. Judge for yourself!

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The baroque also makes a grand stand in the four elegant palazzo facades of the Quattro Canti, framing the intersection of Palermo’s two main boulevards.

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I know I’m at the heart of the onion that is Palermo when I enter the labyrinth of laneways in the city’s sprawling markets – especially La Vucciria and Ballarò – with their clustered stalls that remind me of an Arabic souk. I like to listen to the clamour of the traders’ shouted Sicilian dialect. Sheltered from the sun under red canvas awnings you find the fish stalls. In his book, Midnight in Sicily Peter Robb described how the diffused red light of the market “enhanced the translucent red of the big fishes’ flesh and the silver glitter of the smaller ones’ skins”.

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Wandering the old quarters of Palermo, you’ll pick up the aroma of traditional street-food fried in large vats such as panelle (chickpea flour fritters), cazzilli (potato croquettes) or meusa (spleen) which are typical dishes of the friggerie. You will smell char-grilled peppers. And if I want to eat these treats in doors I go to classic restaurants like L’Antica Foccaceria San Francesco which has been cooking the same thing for decades.

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I find it interesting to see how traditional cuisine has developed and one of my favourite things to do in Palermo (or anywhere I go in Sicily) is to find restaurants that re-invent traditional dishes and present them with contemporary twists.  And if I want to contrast the old-style dishes with contemporary versions there are still typical trattorie like La Casa del Brodo that have classic Palermo dishes like sarde a beccafico, caponata, pasta con la sarde.

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I’m also seriously interested in discovering the ever increasing new hip bars that serve glasses of Sicilian wine varieties like grillo and nero d’avola and boutique beers matched with interesting snacks that reflect modern Sicilian cuisine.

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When the time comes to escape the close-quarter hustle of the city, I can catch a bus to the north-west side of Palermo to admire the Liberty-style residences of the capital’s once-wealthy merchants. I can travel to the picturesque seaside town of Mondello, where I can dine out on the waterfront, drink in the view, scoop up a granita or gelato, eat a cannolo or a slice of cassata. It is definitely a place to eat fish and enjoy a drink or two.

Mondello Harbour

Back in town I can always book a ticket to the opera or ballet at the Teatro Massimo and eat a delicious cold treat on my way back to where I am staying.

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Palermo’s gardens are another escape. I love to wander in the greenery of the Villa Giulia or the Piazza Marina with its massive fig trees, which are spectacular. The modern art galleries are another diversion. There’s the GAM (La Galleria d’Arte Moderna), Francesco Pantaleone Arte Contemporanea, Nuvole Incontri d’Arte and Palazzo Riso which I was told about on my last visit to Palermo, when I saw an exhibition of works by Francesco Simeti.

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Palazzo Riso is a baroque neo-classical edifice built in the 1780s. It was Mussolini’s temporary headquarters in World War II and bombed by the Americans in a failed attempt to kill the Italian dictator (who had left town only days before the air-raid). For years the Palazzo stood in ruins and when it was finally restored during the late-1990s, the restorers preserved some of the damage as evidence of its history.

Although I have seen Guttoso’s painting of the Vucciria Market hanging in the Palazzo Chiaramonte Steri, I have yet to see the basement where thousands of prisoners accused of heresy through the Holy Inquisition were imprisoned. These prison walls are covered in prisoners’ simple etchings, which were plastered over in the 19th Century.

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I take great pleasure in returning to a place as rich and varied as Sicily and why revisiting a city as layered as Palermo is top of my European travel wish list. It may not have the reputation of Rome (the eternal city) or Florence (la serenissima) but it has depth and diversity.

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LONG LIVE ZUPPA INGLESE and its sisters

Zuppa Inglese continues to be an impressive dessert. It is especially perfect for those Spring and Summer lunches outdoors.

The secret ingredient is Alchermes. The delicate  flavours of the Savoiardi or Pavesi (sponge-finger biscuits) and the egg custard do help but it would not be Zuppa Inglese without  Alchermes is a highly alcoholic, Florentine liqueur, red in colour and specifically used for making Zuppa Inglese.

 

Post written 10/10/2010:

Zuppa Inglese

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Post written 22/3/209:  Alchermes/ Alkermes

And, what I concocted from my knowledge and experiences of making  Zuppa Inglese and Cassata:

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Post written 13/12/2012: Cassata Deconstructed – A Postmodernist Take on Sicilian Cassata

Nothing stopping me from using dribbles from Alchermes/ Alkermes inside a sponge cake.

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Sicilian Wine and Food Experience and The Wine Depository

My next Sicilian cooking class will be:

Sicilian Wine and Food Experience, Thursday 1st October 7pm
An intimate event that will see you not only eat and drink in a Sicilian manner but learn as you go.

The event will be conducted by Phil Smith, owner and creator of The Wine Depository.

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The Wine Depository is a Melbourne-based bespoke wine retailer and consultancy here to challenge how and when we drink wine. We offer a hand picked (and rigorously tested) range of wines to either enjoy now or tuck in the cellar. We’re known for rare and hard to find wines, lesser known varietals and smaller producers.

The Wine Depository and Phil provide:
Wine Cellar Advice
Wine Sales
Private Tastings
Corporate Wine Services
**Wine Events and Education
Sicilian Wine and Food Experience is one of these events.

From The Wine Depository’s website:
Phil knows that every time you taste a wine it is an event and it can be educational. He effortlessly brings these elements together in his wine tasting events, whether a casual tasting or a Masterclass over dinner. The emphasis is on good wines that will broaden your wine drinking knowledge or at the very least be extremely yummy. The Wine Depository often brings a knowledgeable and engaging speaker to take you through the wine selection.

Information on the Wine Depository’s website about Sicilian Wines

Website:
The Wine Depository

Sicilian Wine and Food Experience Event

 

MICHIGAN, DETROIT, GRAND RAPIDS food and produce. Beef Spare Ribs Recipe.

This is our second port of call in the US. After New York we went to Michigan and stayed with friends in Okemos. They took us to see many places mainly around Detroit and Grand Rapids and we have met many of their friends.

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We covered some considerable distances in Michigan including a trip in their spacious motor home with an overnight stay on the shore of Lake Michigan.

Michigan has a very different food culture and life style from our previous destination, New York City. We appreciated observing the very different landscape and land use. Looking at the expansive, lush, green fields of corn, sugar beet and wheat I was very aware that this was summer and that their rainfall must be very high. I kept on looking for the sheep and cattle that are so very much part of the Australian landscape, but there were none.

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I was once again impressed by organic produce. It seems very much appreciated by the inhabitants and there is also a wide range of organic produce sold in supermarkets. We visited a number of farmers’ markets and I was dazzled by the quantities and low prices of quality farm produce, especially berries.

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Blueberries reigned supreme. Fresh seasonal tomatoes, apples, cherries, carrots, potatoes and pickling cucumbers were as fresh as could be.

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I did find a very small stall in one of the markets selling Asian greens. This was most unusual. I bought and stir fried some pea shoots that night in olive oil and garlic.

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I also took a photo of a stall that sold chard, small eggplants and basil – this too was not the norm. I spoke to the vendor and praised her stall.

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There were no artichokes or broccoli rabe and the like, as we saw in NYC. Is this because they are seen as exotic vegetables or is it more because farmers sold local, seasonal produce? Artichokes and broccoli rabe do not grow in summer.

There were simple cheeses (cheddar mainly) and I particularly liked the fresh curds. I remembered how when cheese cakes were fashionable in the 70’s (pre-Philadelphia cheese cheesecakes) I used to use cottage cheese instead of curds….ignorant me, cottage cheese is nothing like fresh curds.

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As always we ate and drank very well both at home and in several restaurants including one Mexican and one Middle Eastern restaurant where the food was very good.

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I am not a beer drinker, but I enjoyed the tastings of the different varieties of ales and lagers that the area around Grand Rapids produces. This consisted of sampling 6-12 different types of beer per couple so between us all we sampled quite a bit of beer in the three breweries we visited; some beers had very pronounced aromas and complex tastes including flavours of coffee and chocolate. Some were dry and not very bitter or tasted like wine and I can now more easily understand how beer could easily accompany food instead of wine.

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Once again there was very little time to write or to take many photos of the food, but I hope that some of the photos tell the story but accept that this is not the whole picture. I noticed that in the US diners do not seem to be obsessed as Australians are about taking photos of the food they are about to eat – Americans just dig into it. Do what the locals do – a good motto!!

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Pizzas as in NYC seem to be popular. I do not usually eat pizza, but these had good quality, thin pastry and interesting toppings. Pizza was a good soak-up food in one small brewery restaurant.

This is meat country.

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These photos are from the meat market in Detroit.

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At our friends’ house we ate venison. We watched some deer frolicking at the back of their house. Deer are so common and can be seen in people’s gardens nibbling flowers.

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We ate local pork and chicken and the only fish we ate was local, fresh water fish- Michigan has many fresh water lakes and rivers.

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In Milford we were invited for dinner by one of their friends. We ate bison prepared à la bourguignonne. How kind of these friends. We had never communicated or met and they cooked bison for us. It was very tasty. Unfortunately I did not take a photos of these meals, there was much going on, talking and enjoying our conversations with new friends.

In one restaurant in Detroit we had ribs and chicken wings. I am pleased to have been given the opportunity to sample these. They were not as greasy as I had imagined because they are cooked very slowly and  most of the fat drains off.

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The salads in this restaurant however were not the salads I am used to. The wide range of salad dressings we were offered were sweet and thickened and not what I expected. What they called French dressing was a deep red colour and it was sweet and sticky.

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Blue cheese also seems to be a favourite ingredient crumbled on salads.

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This is how my friends cook ribs but is not to say that this is how others cook ribs.

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How my friends cook ribs (pork or beef)

Pre-heat oven to 250- 270 F.( roughly 120- 130 C)

Cut ribs into manageable sizes so that they fit into the rack standing upright and do not over crowd. Season both sides of the ribs with  a little salt and pepper. (Many season the ribs with spices and sugar).

Into the bottom of the baking pan place about  2-3 inch layer of water (roughly 6-8cm) . Add one sliced onion and some garlic cloves.  Cover the baking dish with the lid or foil and place on center rack of pre-heated oven. Bake for approximately 3-4 hours. Check on the water level now and again as the ribs are meant to keep moist with the steam.

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Remove the ribs from oven and place them on the BBQ for about five minutes to brown. Serve with your favourite BBQ sauce. I asked about this – the sauce is a prepared sauce usually made with tomatoes, vinegar, spices and hot pepper.

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It’s Tiger country!

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CHRISTMAS AT DOLCETTI in 2014 (and Recipe for Spicchiteddi – Sicilian biscuits)

It is Christmas time and this small Pasticceria/ Patisserie in Melbourne (callled Dolcetti) is packed to the ceiling!

Marianna with her angels and her elves have been very busy; they have been filling Dolcetti with delicious sweets, artfully wrapped and displayed.

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There is no need for me to say much, the photos speak for themselves.

Last year I asked her to provide a simple recipe (it was for Pistachio shortbread in 2013 ) and this year the recipe is for Spicchiteddi/ Spicchiteddi (Spicchitedda in Sicilian). I will  include the recipe at the end of the post.

Marianna has arranged her sweets and produce in a number of attractive packages.

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The price for the large box above is $85.There is even a gluten-free smaller hamper.

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Buccelati are definitely Sicilian…..those types of ingredients are a legacy of the Arabs.

Another Sicilian favourite is Pignolata… I must not leave out the Calabresi as Pignolata is also common in Calabria. The small Pignolata is $11

Notice one of her angels packing a child’s apron with a biscuit…..something for everyone! There are two types of children’s aprons…Both beautiful.

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Marianna makes a Dark and a White version of Panforte – this Christmas sweet originates from Siena.

I always fiddle around with Carol Field’s recipe when I make Panforte. I have written her recipe in a much older post called Per Natale, Cosa Si Mangia? At Christmas, What Do You Eat…apart From Panforte?  

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This Italian inspired fruit cake comes in three sizes: $5.20, $22.50, $64

Notice that Marianna uses Australian apricots – to me this is very important and demonstrates her use of local and quality ingredients.

Vincotto and biscotti

The small- snail like biscuits are spicchiteddi (spicchitedda in Sicilian). They are typical Christmas sweets from the Sicilian, Aeolian islands and contain almonds, citrus peel, cinnamon and cloves.  They also have vincotto ( vinocotto, vino cotto – ‘cooked wine’) and once again Marianna is using some local produce. This one is made by Paul Virgona.

I have used Vincotto in savoury dishes – it has many uses and I have written about this in an earlier post.

As you can see by the shape of the spicchiteddi, children could shape them – they could wear an apron (as mentioned above).

SPICCHTEDDI

Here is the recipe that Marianna gave me:
100gms unsalted butter
250 mls vinocotto
150 gms sugar
grated rind of 1 orange
675gms plain flour
2 teaspoons cinnamon
1 pinch of ground cloves
2 teaspoons bicarbonate of soda
1/2 cup blanched almonds

In a saucepan gently melt the butter and vinocotto.
Remove from heat and add the sugar and orange rind, stir well and allow to cool.
Sift together the flour, spices and bicarbonate of soda.
Add the cooled vinocotto mix and mix lightly to form a dough.
Leave to rest for 10 mins.
Pinch off a tablespoon at a time and roll into a long thin rope approx 2cm thick.
Roll each end into a snail shape.
Decorate with blanched almonds.
Bake at 180c for 10 to 15 mins.
Brush lightly with extra vinocotto whilst still warm.

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INSALATA RUSSA (Party time – Russian salad)

IMG_1001Helping my mother to make Insalata Russa was my job throughout my childhood and teenage years. It was a legacy from Trieste and a reliable appetizer served on special occasions. She kept making it well into the 80s and then it would re-appear intermittently throughout the years. She would present it before we would sit at a table for a meal, as a nibble…  she would pass around a spoonful of Insalata Russa on a slice of bread from a French stick. Those of you who are of a certain age may remember Rosso Antico (a red aperitif) or a Cinzano (vermouth) or a martini. Sometimes it would be a straight gin with a twist of lemon.  Today you may prefer a different aperitif like Aperol or a glass of Prosecco or a Campari  you get the idea!

It keeps well in the fridge and is an easy accompaniment for drinks – I am thinking of those unexpected guests who may pop in …. a drink, a small plate of Insalata Russa and some good bread. If my mother was still alive she would probably be making it on Christmas eve or Christmas day.

Insalata Russa is made with cooked vegetables: peas, green beans, carrots and potatoes cut ino small cubes and smothered with homemade egg mayonnaise. She always decorated the top with slices of hard-boiled eggs and  slices of stuffed green olives. Sometimes she also placed on top small cooked prawns or canned tuna.

***** Modern Times…..Try it sprinkled with Yarra Valley caviar (fish roe) instead.

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Ensaladilla rusa is the Spanish version of this salad and it is a very common tapas dish; It was certainly still popular as a Tapas in Madrid and Barcelona when I was there last year.

The Spaniards make it the same way, but the canned tuna is often mixed in the salad rather than being placed on top. Some versions have olives, roasted red peppers or asparagus spears arranged on top in an attractive design or just plain with boiled eggs around the edge of the bowl.

Making it with my mother, we never weighed our ingredients, but the following combination and ratios should please anyone’s palate.

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This recipe (and the photos of the pages in the book) are from my second book – Small Fishy Bites.

2-3 medium sized potatoes, waxy are best
1 cup of shelled peas
3 carrots
3 hard-boiled eggs
3/4 -1 cup of green beans cut into 1cm pieces
1/2 cup of Italian giardinieria (mixed garden pickles in vinegar)
1 and 1/2 cups of homemade egg mayonnaise

Cook potatoes and carrots in their skins in separate pans; cool, peel and cut them into small cubes.
Cook the peas and beans separately; drain and cool. 
Hard boil the eggs; peel them and cube 2 of them.
Cut the giardiniera into small pieces (carrots, turnips, cauliflower, gherkins).
Mix all of these ingredients together with a cup of home made egg mayonnaise.
Level out the Russian salad either on a flat plate or in a bowl and leave in the fridge for at least an hour before decorating it by covering it with the remaining mayonnaise.
Have a good old time placing on the top slices of hard-boiled eggs, drained tuna or small cooked prawns and caviar. Bits of giardiniera will also add colour.

Maionese (Mayonnaise)

My mum made maionese with a wooden spoon. I use a food processor or an electric wand to make mayonnaise:

Mix 1 egg with a little salt in the blender food processor, or in a clean jar (if using the wand).
Slowly add 1–1 ½ cups of extra virgin olive oil in a thin, steady stream through the feed tube while the blender or processor is running, Before adding additional oil, ensure that the oil, which has previously been added has been incorporated completely.
Add a tablespoon of fresh lemon juice when the mayonnaise is creamy. If you are not making the traditional Italian version, it is common to add vinegar instead of lemon juice and a teaspoon of Dijon mustard.
As an alternative, the Spaniards like to add a little saffron (pre-softened in a little warm water). Add this once the mayonnaise is made.
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THANKSGIVING AND CHRISTMAS (Log of smoked trout wrapped in smoked salmon and silverbeet)

It is close to Thanksgiving and I have been thinking of my friends Beverly and Mark who are now living once again in the US.  This post was first published on Nov 28, 2012 and I am  updating it.

I never thought that I would go to a Thanksgiving dinner but here I am in Melbourne Australia with my Canadian-American friends, Beverly and Mark, sharing their 2012 Thanksgiving dinner  with me. It was a real treat and my first experience to the feast that my friends provide on this occasion. As you can see, they have a wonderful view. DSC_2752

Our Canadian-born friends have lived in the US for a long time. They are old hands at this celebration, Beverly says she’s been doing it for 37 years and more) made a roasted, stuffed turkey. The stuffing was made with bread and herbs and tasted marvellous having absorbed some of the juices and flavours of the meat while cooking.

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The juices were also used to make an excellent gravy – this was made with broth (from the turkey’s neck and giblets) and mushrooms. As instructed, we made small hollows in the centre of our very creamy mashed potatoes and filled them with this very flavourful gravy.

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We had roasted butternut pumpkin presented with its seeds – these had been dry roasted in salt beforehand. (Beverly called the pumpkin “squash” and says that it is different to the type of squash she uses at home).

How amazing! And Southern Italians, Greek and Turkish people enjoy pumpkin seeds prepared this way. The Italians call the semi di zucca tostati, (toasted pumpkin seeds) passatempi (pass the time – pass-times).

With the turkey and the pumpkin and the potatoes and the gravy with the mushrooms (she must have been cooking all day!) we had green beans, and cranberry sauce. Beverly was a little put out because she was not able to purchase fresh cranberries to make the sauce.

Here's the food

I brought the starters, but I was asked not to bring as many as I had originally planned. Wanting to keep within the culture of what I understood Thanksgiving to be, I was going to use what, from my reading, were some common ingredients: Camembert cheese, cream cheese, walnut or pecans, prawns (shrimps), smoked salmon or trout. I decided to make a smoked salmon and smoked trout terrine; it turned out well. We ate this with our Pumpernickel bread as we drank our Pimms on the balcony.

The left over cream cheese mixture can be thinned with a little cream and with the addition of some chives it can be served as a sauce to accompany the log. The orange coloured sauce is a rouille –  I made it in case we were having prawns. It was a good accompaniment for this dish.

I later wrote a recipe for this log in my second book, Small Fishy Bites (published in Oct 2013) and called it:

Log of smoked trout wrapped in smoked salmon and silverbeet

3–4 large silverbeet leaves (also called chard), cooked, left whole
9 oz/250 g cream cheese, a little cream or mascarpone, enough to make the cream cheese spreadable
1 teaspoon fresh horseradish, finely
grated, or prepared horseradish
juice of 1 lemon
black or pink pepper, coarsely ground
1 tablespoon chives or scallions/spring onions, thinly sliced
1 tablespoon capers
extra virgin olive oil, salt, pepper and
a little lemon juice, for dressing (optional)
a little extra olive oil,
5–6 slices smoked salmon
smoked trout fillet skinned, boned
4 asparagus spears, cooked
 
Rinse the silverbeet and remove the thick white stalks at the bottom of the
green leaves.
Cook the silverbeet leaves carefully. I usually cook them in a little salted
water, drain them and then lay on kitchen paper to absorb further moisture.
Mix the cream cheese with the cream or mascarpone (this makes the mixture
lighter and more spreadable). Using a wooden spoon, add the horseradish,
lemon juice, pepper, chives and capers.
On a piece of plastic wrap, place a single layer of whole cooked silverbeet
leaves. You may not need to use all four leaves but they come in useful in case
you need to patch up holes. I usually drizzle a little extra virgin olive oil, salt,
pepper and a little lemon juice to dress the leaves, but this is optional.
Top with a very thin layer of cream cheese mixture.
Place a layer of smoked salmon on top of the cream cheese.
Repeat with a very thin layer of cream cheese mixture.
Add a thick strip, or shreds, of smoked trout in the centre. Lay some cooked
asparagus spears on either side.
Cover with more cream cheese mixture.
Use the plastic wrap to roll the layers into a neat log. Use the extra leaves of
silverbeet if necessary. Press it firmly together so that the different layers stick.
Leave for at least an hour or overnight in the refrigerator to set.
Slice and serve.
 

Being renowned as a caponata maker, I wanted to also bring one of the seven Sicilian recipes for caponata in my first book (Sicilian Seafood Cooking, published Oct 2011). I selected the Catanese version of caponata (as the people of Catania make ). They use peppers as well as eggplants as their main ingredients.

The caponata on this occasion was better off in Sicily – we certainly did not need it.

And as the grand finale, Marianna, a professional pastry cook of Sicilian heritage presented a Millefoglie, (the French call Mille-Feuille – flaky puff pastry inter-layered with a rich chocolate crema – creamy custard- in the bottom half and Chantilly cream on top).

As you can see from the photo chocolate swirls and strawberries added flavours as well as decoration to this elegant dessert. In spite of the ingredients it was light, not too sweet and perfect for that occasion. If you live in Melbourne, Marianna’s pastry shop is Dolcetti – her sweets can be ordered and are perfect for a festive occasion.)

And it was a fantastic evening and all of what we ate could also be perfect for an Australian Christmas.

 

 

 

ITALIAN DRUNKEN CHICKEN – GADDUZZU ‘MBRIACU or GALLINA IMBRIAGA – depending on the part of Italy you come from

In Trieste my zia Renata used to make what she called Gallina Imbriaga (in dialect of Trieste- braised chicken in red wine), but as a child I thought that she called it by this name to make me laugh, and it did. I thought that the concept of a drunk chicken was hilarious.

Recently I decided to investigate the origins of this recipe and  it seems that  Friulani (from the region of Friuli Venezia Guilia, in a northeastern region of Italy) and i Triestini (who are part of this region) claim it as their own, but so do those from Padova (in the neighbouring Veneto region) and those from Central Italy particularly those in Umbria and Tuscany.

drunk-chicken-800x600

The recipe in each of these regions, whether it is a pollo ubriaco (drunk) and pollo in Italian being the generic word for  gallina (hen) or a galletto (young cock or rooster) seem to be cooked in a very similar way with the same ingredients – chicken cut into pieces, red wine and the following vegetables – carrot, celery, onion, garlic and parsley – all common ingredients for an Italian braise. Some marinate the chicken pieces beforehand, and as expected the wine needs to be from their region, i.e. if it is a Tuscan recipe the wine must be a Sangiovese or Chianti and if from Umbria, the choice of wine must be an Orvieto or Montefalco.

DSC055631-800x533

One recipe from Friuli  browns the chicken in butter and oil and also add brandy as well – drunken indeed if not paralytic.

Other variations are in the type of mushrooms: fresh or dry porcini or cultivated mushrooms. Rosemary is the  herb most favoured and parsley; some use sage and/ or thyme. The recipe is beginning to sound more and more like Coq Au Vin. So which came first… is it the French or the Italians ?

But I also found a recipe called Gadduzzu ‘Mbriacu (rooster) in Giuseppe Coria’s Profumi di Sicilia, and what I like about this recipe is listed as a variation – it is the addition of a couple of amaretti (almond biscuits) at the very end to flavour and thicken the sauce. Now that is a great addition!!

Coria suggests 1 onion, 1 carrot, heart of celery, 100g of porcini …. I added greater amounts of vegetables and used chicken legs (called coscie di pollo in Italian). Corai does not suggest using Nero D’Avola but this would be the preferred Sicilian wine to use.

1 chicken, cut into 6 or 8 pieces
200 g. mushrooms.
2 onions, sliced finely
2 carrots, diced
3-4 sticks from the centre of the celery, sliced thinly
½ litre of red wine
1 cup chopped fresh parsley
2 sprigs fresh rosemary
salt and pepper to taste
3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
2-3 amaretti
Dry the chicken pieces with kitchen paper and brown them in the oil evenly. Remove them and set aside.
Sauté the onion, carrot and celery until golden in the same pan and oil .
Add the chicken, herbs, seasoning and the red wine, cover and simmer for about 20 mins.
Add mushrooms and cook everything some more till all is cooked (30-40 mins altogether).
Break up the amaretti into crumbs and add it to the sauce before serving.

 

 

 

JEWELS OF SICILY: A celebration of SPRING

Spring in Sicily is welcomed ‘big time’ and spring produce is embraced.

Marisa prepares artichoke 1

Sicilians make a fuss about the preparation and eating of seasonal spring produce: asparagus, artichokes, broad beans, fennel and ricotta. It is the time when the island comes alive – flowers bloom, vines sprout and vegetables ripen.

Pasta and greens with wine

The menu at Waratah Hills Vineyard  was a celebration of Spring, and all who attended the class enjoyed all of that produce and the occasion in such a beautiful vineyard.

Garfish fillets

We ate local garfish rolled around a Sicilian stuffing (commonly used for sardines called Beccafico),  stuffed artichokes and a pasta with a dressing made from sautéed spring vegetables, moistened with wine and stock and topped with nutmeg and creamy ricotta.

Carlo and Peter watch Marisa add stock

We drank excellent, matching wines with each course and used local, extra virgin olive oil made by Judy and Neil’s (proprietors of Waratah Hills Vineyard and organizers of this event) neighbours .

Beccafico

Cassata  of course was the final culinary jewel; I coated it with not-too-sweet marzipan…..and I have my tongue out in anticipation…(I do not know what I was saying!)

Marisa talks about cassata

A few dressed Sicilian Green olives at the start did not go astray (garlic, orange rind,  chilli flakes, wild fennel fronds, bay leaves, extra virgin olive oil) and a fennel and orange salad as a palate cleanser eaten after the fish was a good choice .

Marisa cooking fritedda close up

Thank you to all those eager and friendly people who made the event a success.

Judy and Marisa talking food

Waratah Hills Vineyard Wines:

http://waratahhills.com.au/buy-online/