Two of my friends have been spending time in Piemonte (Piedmont) and as a welcome home dinner I made three Piedmontese favourites: Bagna Cauda with an array of fresh vegetables cut into batons for dipping, Vitello Tonnato, Hazelnut cake with a homemade and delicately flavoured, vanilla ice cream.
I too visited Piedmont a few years ago and have very fond memories of of driving around Piemonte and Valle D’Osta. I stayed in Stresa, Lake Maggiore, Asti, Bra and Alba.
I make it different ways but this time I poached the garlic cloves in cream, using low heat. This process softens the taste of the garlic. Notice the tall sided pan…this prevents the cream from boiling over. You can use milk instead.
I added the extra virgin olive oil, heated it and added the anchovies. They soon dissolve with the heat. (Photo below)
Then the butter and mixed the ingredients with a hand whisk. The sauce is kept hot.
I bought a cut of yearling girello. This is a lean, round strip of meat….giro=one of the words for “round” in Italian.
I always seal (lightly brown) my girello in some extra virgin olive oil, add some onion, carrot, celery and herbs.These are referred to as “odori” in Italian. Always dry white wine and chicken stock and I poach the meat for a short time. This is the same method and ingredients I use when I make Vitello Arrosto…a pot roast.
I want the meat to stay a little bit pink. Some recipes suggest not sealing the meat but poaching it in water or stock. I much prefer my method, the flavour is stronger and I do not do it this way just because my mother did.
I make an egg mayonnaise, add drained tuna packed in olive oil, hard boiled eggs, some lemon juice, capers, anchovies and a few of the poached vegetables that were used in the poaching of the meat. I blend all this and use it to make a stack ….about three layers of sliced meat interspersed with the tuna sauce.
Roasted hazelnuts, skins rubbed off. Ground to resemble fine breadcrumbs, but not a powder.
A splash of Frangelico to accentuate the hazelnut taste.
Eggs and sugar, beaten (3 eggs, 180g of sugar)
Flour….SR or add baking powder to plain flour (200g)
Strong black coffee (1 small espresso cup). In the photo below, are some of my coffee making macchinette, the smallest is for making one small cup.
Butter, melted (150g).
A dash of milk if the mixture seems too dry. Mix all of the ingredients and place the batter in a buttered, spring-form tin.
Because one of the books that I have written is called Sicilian Seafood Cooking and because my blog is called All Things Sicilian And More many of my readers assume that at Christmas I will be cooking Sicilian food.
And what is the norm in Italy or Sicily for Christmas?
As many have stated before me, there is no point in restricting the menu to a few common dishes because the food in Italy is very regional and depending where you live is likely to determine what you eat on Christmas day. When I was celebrating Christmas in Trieste (in Northern Italy), Brodo (broth) was always the first course on Christmas day. When I celebrated it in Sicily I had entirely different food – home made gnucchiteddi ( small pasta gniocchi) or Ravioli di ricotta were the norm.
Sicily is relatively a small island, yet the food in Sicily is also very regional. All you need to do is look at the posts that I have written about Christmas food in Sicily to see that. For example when I celebrated Christmas in Ragusa, they always made and continue to make scacce,( baked dough with various fillings) and they make these during other festive occasions as well. Are Sicilians living in Australia likely to have scacce for Christmas? Not likely. They may be part of Christmas fare for those Sicilians coming from Ragusa and the province of Ragusa, but the menus from any Sicilian living in Australia is going to be influenced by other offerings of either Sicilian or Italian origin and by Australian culture and the Summer climate.
Time and time again I am asked what am I cooking for Christmas Day or Christmas Eve. The answer is that I do not know yet. I can say is that on Christmas eve I like to eat fish as is traditionally observed in Italy and on Christmas day I usually cook something that I do not normally cook or have not cooked for a while, for example for first course I may cook Spaghetti/ Pasta with sea urchin (ricci) or bottarga or squid with black ink or crayfish or crab.
So for this Christmas fare post, I am going to provide links to some of my posts which highlight sauces and dressings. This is because, irrespective of whether you are presenting a seafood salad, baking a turkey, or using a BBQ for fish or meat you can always vary the sauce you present a- Let’s face it, sauces can make a lot of difference and if you wish, you can enliven any food with a new sauce.
Here are some sauces. that are suitable for Savoury food.
It was a sauce which dates pre-Renaissance time and went out of fashion because lemons became popular in cooking and superseded the use of green grape juice. The recipes suggested that the juice of the green grapes can be extracted by using a mouli or a juicer. It is very good for any hot meat. Verjuice can be used instead and white wine works as well.
Walnuts and almonds are blanched to remove as much skin as possible. My sources indicated that there may have been more walnuts used than almonds in these sauces.
Onions, garlic and parsley and a few breadcrumbs are pounded together with the nuts. Add a bit of sugar, some chopped parsley and sufficient grape juice to make the amalgamated ingredients soft – like a paste.
Heat these ingredients and add a little broth as the sauce will thickened because the bread crumbs.
Salsa verde can be used to jazz anything up – vegetables, roasts, cold meats, smoked fish, crayfish etc. I sometimes use it to stuff hard boiled eggs (remove the yolk, mix with salsa verde and return it to the egg). It is mainly parsley, anchovies, capers, green olives.
There may be times when an accompanying sauce for steamed, baked, grilled or fried fish will bring you greater compliments.
The sauce is called sarsa di chiappareddi in Sicilian and it is made with capers and anchovies.
For me it is most essential to use quality, extra virgin, olive oil. This is especially important for cold sauces, – when the cold sauce hits the hot food, the fragrance of the oil will be strongly evident.
Salsa Romesco is said to have originated from Tarragona, a town close to Barcelona in north-eastern Spain. It is an old Roman town so I can understand why you might think the sauce originated from Rome.
This sauce is usually associated as a condiment for shellfish and fish. It is also good with grilled and roasted vegetables (especially cold, left over ones that need dressing up the next day). Recently, I have been to two restaurants and this sauce was presented with cold asparagus. Garlic, red peppers, almonds and paprika are the main ingredients.
Last time I roasted a duck I made a special sauce for it and it tasted great – green anchovies, parsley, the pale centre of a celery, garlic, stock and wine added to the roasting pan made an excellent gravy.
This is a recipe from Sam and Sam Clark’s Casa Moro, The Second Cookbook. I had this sauce at a friend’s house accompanying roast goat. It is made mainly with mint, cumin and garlic and red vinegar (or balsamic).
One week ago today I was having lunch in Templo, an Italianate, very small restaurant in Hobart.
Duck Polenta. On the side some pickled red radicchio.
Twelve days before that I was in Berlin. Four days before Berlin I was in Rome and before that Sicily, and prior that London and Nottingham.
And why go to Tasmania three days after I returned to Melbourne after seven weeks in Europe?
Tasmania had been arranged before Europe because our friend Valerie Sparkes was part of an exhibition curated by Julianna Engberg called TEMPEST at the Tasmanian Museum and Art Gallery (TMAG). It was part of MOFO. Two whole walls of this type of imagery – wallpapers.
I ate well in Tasmania, but I manage to eat well wherever I go.
I work hard at it – researching via books and web (I do not take much notice of Trip Advisor), taking note of restaurants I pass that look as if they may suit and looking at menus displayed, but most of all taking advice from others whose opinions I think I can trust (strangers as well as friends).
I feel that I should start with Nottingham, my first destination, but I have decided to start with Tasmania – my most recent experience.
View from Mt. Wellinghton.
The evening before I had lunch at Templo in Hobart, I was at Aloft, that has an Asian inspired menu and is a totally different dining experience to the Italian-ate Templo.
I am not a food critic and as you may have noticed in my posts I do not elaborate or philosophize about what I eat, but I will say that although I enjoyed the ambiance, service and some of the food in Aloft, I often thought that some of the dishes were overwhelmed by strong, salty flavours, whether they were garnishes, pickles or sauces.
I like robust flavours and certainly I had some at Templo but the flavours were well rounded…. the varioustastes are balanced. Check the wine list too!
The food originated from humble beginnings – regional Italian on this occasion – but was adventurous, modern in taste and presentation. And not at all fussy – whether in name/ description or presentation.
Templo is a very small restaurant with only one engaging waiter – very personable and knowledgeable . As you can see by the menu on the board, there is little choice.
Below, Broccoli and Bagna Cauda. (Recipe below for Bagna Cauda).
This was described as Beef, celeriac…. I picked what type of cut the beef was as soon as I cut it and put it in my mouth – heart!!! Fantastic stuff… lean, great taste, all muscle. Waiter was impressed that I knew what it was. My father used to cook it for me- how could I forget!
We ate other stuff but how many photos can I include!
I love Tasmania – the scenery and the bountiful produce.
I did eat and drink well at other places in Hobart and on Bruny Island.
And, as on any trip I cooked in the places I stayed in , in Tasmania.
I appreciate the high-quality fresh produce along with the locally-produced meats, cheeses and fish.
I ate so much cheese.
And there is MONA. I could go on and on.
Bagna Cauda (it is Piedmontese)
I am amazed that I do not have a recipe for Bagna Cauda on my blog.
Bagna Cauda, translated as “hot bath,” is a dip for any combination of firm vegetables- cooked or uncooked.
A fondue-style fork will help. Slices of quality bread can be held underneath to catch the drippings and eaten also, if liked.
Here is a very simple recipe:
2 heads of garlic – separate cloves, peel
enough milk to cover garlic cloves in a small saucepan
about 25 anchovy fillets in oil, drained
300g unsalted butter, cut into pieces
300ml extra virgin olive oil
about 1 tablespoon double cream
Place the garlic cloves into a small pan, cover with milk. Gently simmer on very low heat until the garlic is soft.
Crush/mash the garlic into the milk (I use the back of a spoon), add the anchovies and dissolve them in the milk and garlic over gentle heat, stirring all the time. Add the butter and olive oil, bits and slurps slowly and stir gently to combine (without boiling).Take off the heat and mix in the cream.
Pour the mixture into a fondue dish or similar container that can be kept warm over a lighted candle or an appropriate burner.
I use this. I have a choice of two containers.
Place in centre of the table and dip in the vegetables.
Other purchasers usually ask me this question when I am standing at a stall at the Queen Victoria Market buying a celeriac. I am usually asked the same question when I buy cavolo nero, kale, artichokes and fennel – but not as frequently for fennel these days.
Sedano rapa (celeriac) is more common in northern Italy and here are a few ways that it is eaten.
In Trieste, we used to eat it bollito e insalata – peeled, cut into quarters, boiled in salted water and then dressed with a simple drizzle of oil and lemon (or vinegar) and extra seasoning.
In Verona celeriac is made into a soup with borlotti beans, onion, carrot, beef or veal stock and fresh pork sausages.
In Piedmont (close to France) it is made into a much lighter soup, once again using broth, but it is served over slices of good quality bread topped with grated cheese.
In Australia, I do make a celeriac soup and I also like to eat it cooked with a dressing, but I particularly like it raw in salads.
Peel it first, to remove the knobs – it becomes quite attractive peeled, it is dense and fragrant.
Because celeriac discolours easily when cut, I leave handling the celeriac till the last minute and eat the salad soon after. I cut the celeriac ‘julienne ‘ and dress the salad quickly. (Dressing made with extra virgin olive oil salt, pepper and lemon juice). I usually like to add apple. Watercress is also a favourite.
I also like to present celeriac raw as one of the vegetables for bagna cauda –a dip of anchovies, butter, garlic, and olive oil. It is served warm as an appetizer with fresh vegetables . This is a recipe originating from Piedmont also.
See TASMANIA, FOOD, ART, HOBART and Bagna Cauda
I always buy my celeriac with leaves – an indication of how fresh the bulb is. And besides, I use the leaves in soups and the small, tender, centre leaves in salads. “Us Italians’ (or at least this Italian), does not throw much away.
My father who spent his youth in Ragusa (Sicily) before moving to Trieste, said that his mother boiled celeriac and then dressed it with a drizzle of olive oil. Apparently my grandparents grew it in their mulino (a water mill) close to Ragusa Ibla. There are quite a few mulini in the region of Ragusa which were used to mill wheat. The family kept their dogs there and grew a few vegetables. As a child I visited Sicily every summer and we used to go there often; it was a place to go especially in summer when their apartment in the city was too hot. A couple of these mills have been turned into restaurants. In fact, in one of the Moltalbano episodes he goes to one of these restaurant and I thought I recognised it as the one my grandparents used to own. My relatives in Ragusa disappointed me when they told me that that it was not the one – I have since visited this restaurant.
During my last trip to Sicily I visited an old water mill that has been revived to grind organic wheat into high quality flour.