Tag Archives: Enoteca Sileno

PANETTONE AND PANFORTE for an ITALIAN CHRISTMAS

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Photo by Patrick Varney, Raglan Images for  Italianicious ( magazine) Nov- Dec 2010

I first posted the content of this post on Dec 20th, 2010. I called it: PER NATALE, COSA SI MANGIA? At Christmas, what do you eat?

I am able to view the stats for each of my posts and all of the posts about Christmas have been viewed many times, but this one has not been popular. Is it the title?

It contains some general information about the food that is common in Sicily around Christmas time but it also contains information about Panettone and Panforte – both popular at Christmas. There is also a recipe for Panforte.

Now, on Dec 15, 2014, it is time to post it again and give it another title:

PANETTONE AND PANFORTE for an ITALIAN CHRISTMAS

 

CHRISTMAS IN SICILY

You are probably wondering what Sicilians eat for Christmas in Sicily.

When the respected writer Mary Taylor Simeti (an expatriate American, married to a Sicilian organic wine maker and farmer and most importantly, one of the greatest authorities and writer about Sicilian food) visited Melbourne recently, she and I and pastry cook Marianna De Bartoli, who owns Dolcetti, a pasticceria in North Melbourne, were all asked this same question during an interview for Italianicious Magazine (Nov-Dec issue 2010).

We all gave the same answer, which is that there is no one answer since the cuisine and traditional food of Sicily is very regional. Sicily may be a small island, but the food is very localised and very different from region to region.

The three of us also agreed that Christmas Eve was more important than Christmas day – it is a meatless occasion and fish is the first choice. In some places Sicilians eat stoccofisso (stockfish) or baccala, where in others they eat eel. Usually families wait up and go to midnight Mass. And for those that do, Christmas lunch will often begin with a light first course. For example, chicken broth with maybe some pastina (small pasta suitable for broth) or polpettine (small meatballs) made with shredded cooked chicken meat, egg, a little fresh bread and grated cheese.

In Ragusa, where my father’s family comes they tend to eat the same foods as they do at Easter: scacce and large ravioli stuffed with ricotta dressed with a strong ragu (meat sauce) made with tomato conserva (tomato paste) and pork meat.

These are followed by some small sweets like cotognata (quince paste), nucatuli and giuggiulena (sesame seed torrone).

In other parts of the island gallina ripiena (stuffed chicken cooked in broth) is popular, while others may eat a baked pasta dish, for example: anelletti al forno. timballo di maccheroni or lasagne made with a very rich, strong meat ragu. This may be followed by capretto (kid) either roasted or braised.

There may be cassata or cannoli for dessert or the wreath shaped buccellato made with dried figs, almonds, walnuts, sultanas and spices (from Latin buccellatum meaning ring or wreath).

There are links to recipes for all the words in blue above.

PANFORTE or PANETTONE FOR CHRISTMAS

Both panettone and panforte are popular Christmas sweets in Italy.

In recent years panforte has become popular in Australia, but you are probably more familiar with panettone. This may be because there are so many different brands of panettone available and they are exported to many parts of the world, especially in countries where Italians have migrated.

Italians are very happy to buy both of these Christmas sweets and the big brands are of excellent quality. Generally Italians where ever they live would rather buy these than make them at home. I have never tried to make panettone but I have made panforte several times very successfully.

PANETTONE

This Christmas sweet bread is now popular not just in northern Italy where it originated.

It is said that the early version of panettone ( means bread big) was not the light textured, yeast perfumed, fruit bread we are familiar with, before it was made common by industrial production. It was a type of heavy, enriched, Milanese fruit bread baked at home and not just eaten at Christmas time. Panettone was made famous and affordable when it was commercially produced (from the 1920’s) and railed all over Italy. As a child growing up in Trieste the most famous panettone was the Motta brand (and still a well known brand in Italy) and part of the charm was opening the box and releasing the fragrance.

Popular brand of Panforte

PANFORTE

Panforte is from Siena (within Tuscany) and contains exotic spices of ancient times. It is made with dry fruit and nuts – candied orange peel, citron, chopped almonds, spices, honey, butter and sugar and very little flour to bind the ingredients; it has no yeast, has a very solid texture and is shaped like a disc. Panforte (from pane forte) means strong bread and in earlier times it may have been derived from the Tuscan pane pepato (peppered bread), meaning strongly peppered with spices.

Just like panettone there are some excellent varieties of imported panforte. I like Panforte Margherita (the light coloured version developed in honour Queen Margaret of Savoy’s visit to Siena). Panforte Nero is the dark variety made with dark chocolate.

Being a purist (or as my daughter used to refer to me as a food fascist) I cringe when I see ”gourmet” versions of panforte for sale, some of these contain glace cherries, or glace ginger; I even hesitate at the inclusion of pistachio or macadamia, not the norm, but could be more acceptable.

My favourite recipe is from The Italian Baker by Carol Field (recipe below).

In spite of writing recipes, I am not one for following recipes closely. I always improvise and adapt amounts of ingredients to suit my taste. For example I double the amount of pepper, nutmeg and coriander.  On occasions I have also included walnuts and pine nuts which were included in panpepato, a predecessor.

If I make Panforte Nero I add unsweetened cocoa (Dutch cocoa powder about 2-3 tablespoons) and some bittersweet chocolate.

 Ingredients:
1 cup whole hazelnuts,
1 cup blanched almonds
1 cup candied orange peel and citron, coarsely chopped
1 teaspoon lemon zest
½ cup unbleached all purpose flour
1 teaspoon cinnamon, ground
¼ teaspoon coriander
¼ teaspoon cloves, ground
¼ teaspoon fresh nutmeg, ground
½ teaspoon black pepper, ground
¾ cup sugar
¾ cup honey
2 tablespoon unsalted butter
Method:
Heat the oven to 180c.
Toast the hazelnuts on a baking sheet until the skins pop and blister, 10 to 15 minutes.  Rub the skins from the hazelnuts in a kitchen towel. Toast the almonds on a baking sheet until very pale golden, about 10 to 15 minutes.  Chop the almonds and hazelnuts very coarsely. Mix the nuts, orange peel, citron, lemon zest, flour, cinnamon, coriander, cloves, nutmeg and pepper together thoroughly in a large mixing bowl.
Use a 9 inch springform pan; line the bottom and sides with baking paper Heat the sugar, honey, and butter in a large heavy saucepan over low heat, stirring constantly, until the syrup registers 242 to 248 on a candy thermometer (a little of the mixture will form a ball when dropped into cold water). Immediately pour the syrup into the nut mixture and stir quickly until thoroughly blended.  Pour immediately into the prepared pan and smooth the top with a spatula.  The batter will become stiff and sticky very quickly so you must work fast.
Bake about 30 to 40 minutes.  The panforte won’t colour or seem very firm even when ready, but it will harden as it cools. Cool on a rack until the cake is firm to the touch. Remove the side of the pan and invert the cake onto a sheet of paper. Peel off the baking paper. Dust heavily with confectioners’ sugar.
Love this stuff!!

 

PASTA CON BOTTARGA ( Pasta with Grated Bottarga)

Just recently I was speaking to a group of lovers of Sicily (TSAA-The Sicilian Association Of Australia) about recipes from my book Sicilian Seafood Cooking (Reprint edition, Released date 1 Dec 2014) that are easy to cook and very suitable for festive occasions. One of these recipes was Pasta con bottarga – it is special.

 

Si vo viviri gustusu, ova di tunnu e cacocciulu spinusu (Sicilian proverb).
Se volete vivere di gusto, uova di tonno e cardi spinosi (Italian translation).
If you wish to live like a gastronome, eat tuna eggs and prickly cardoons.

I first wrote this post in March 2009. I cooked Pasta con bottarga on Good Friday (day of abstinence). My mother, brother and sister in law visited us in Melbourne. I had bought the bottarga from Enoteca Sileno.

Bottarga (from the Arab word botarikh – salted fish eggs) features strongly in Sicilian food. It is called buttarga or buttarica in Sicilian and it is the name for the cured roe sacs harvested from the females of the grey mullet (bottarga di muggine) and tuna (bottarga di tonno.) The tuna roe is the most common in Sicily and pasta with bottarga is a Sicilian specialty well worth eating on special occasions.

bottarga DSC_0057

In Sicily almost every part of the tuna is eaten, either fresh or processed – canned, salted, air dried and smoked. These days, the skills and traditions of locally processing and preserving some parts of the tuna are at risk of disappearing. Some of these processes tuna products are listed as endangered tastes in the Slow Food compendium of The Ark of Taste.

Making bottarga is labour intensive. It was once made by dipping the sac in beeswax and leaving it to dry in the sun. In more recent times the roe sac is treated with sea salt, dried for up to two months and hand pressed into a solid mass.

Bottarga is relatively expensive in Australia (and not cheap in Sicily) and is available in specialty food stores that specialize in Italian products. It has a distinctive flavour and is rather salty, so it is used sparingly to flavour dishes. Anchovies are used much the same way, but substituting anchovies for bottarga, would be like replacing truffles with mushrooms.

Before it is grated over the pasta, the outer membrane of the roe sacs needs to be removed and then it is either grated (using the courser part of a cheese grater) or shaved very finely and soaked in extra virgin olive oil to soften before use. Bottarga is also a popular product of Sardinia where it is presented with fresh pasta made in the shape of malloreddusgnocchetti or small gnocchi. Long pasta such as spaghetti or spaghettini or bucatini are traditionally used in Sicily.

long pasta 400g (spaghetti, bucatini),
bottarga, 100g
garlic 5 cloves finely chopped,
parsley 1 cup, cut finely cut,
basil 10-12 leaves,
extra virgin olive oil 1 cup,
red chili, (to taste).

Heat the olive oil, add garlic parsley and chili and over high heat cook it until the garlic is lightly golden and the parsley has wilted.
Mix the cooked pasta with the sauce.
Add grated bottarga and the basil leaves, stir and serve.

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PARMIGIANO-REGGIANO, Parmesan and Poppy seed lollipops

johnpresentsroundofparmigiano

Recently I attended part of the ENOTECA OPEN DAY celebration, the company’s 60th anniversary. John Portelli, is one of the proprietors and is very passionate about Italian produce food and wine in Australia. When I lived in Adelaide I used to visit the original Enoteca Sileno in Amess Street and we used to load up the car with Italian wines and goodies to take back to Adelaide.

With his usual charm and enthusiasm John conducted a presentation about Parmigiano Reggiano. While he very carefully and skilfully split open a wheel of an eight year old cheese he told his audience how it is made and the process that is required to make, store and cut this large wheel of cheese which weighed around 45 kg each.  In brief, it takes 1100 litres to produce two cheese wheels of Parmigiano-Reggiano.  Each cheese is then catalogued and the Parmigiano-Reggiano name, the plant’s number, and month and year of production are placed on a metal configuration that is buckled tight around the cheese.

Those cheeses that pass the test are then heat branded on the rind. The average Parmigiano-Reggiano wheel is about 18–24 cm high and 40–45 cm in diameter. The cheese is stored and matured for one year and then tested by a professional who evaluates each cheese by tasting a sample section. The testing continues until the cheese is sold and continues throughout if it is sold to a vendor who cares and continues to look after it properly to age and cut the cheese in the best possible way.

During his demonstration John explains that in the Enoteca Sileno warehouse where his wheels of Parmigiano Reggiano are stored, to help with the maturation process, each cheese is regularly rubbed with olive oil – the extra special virgin olive that is available in the Enoteca Sileno showroom for tasting. Enoteca always uses fresh oil for tastings, so the oil that is left in the bottle after tastings is used to lubricate the cheese. Now, that it exceptionally good treatment.

This is the Parmigiano-Reggiano to eat and it was eight years old.

It so happened that the day before I was invited to a friend’s house for lunch. One friend made cheese lollipops and she used Parmesan cheese. The hostess made an excellent lasagne the traditional sort originating in Emilia Romagna made with a classic ragù, béchamel and Parmigiano Reggiano. This was the type of lasagne my mother always made on a Sunday when we invited friends to lunch.

Cheese+popsicles+2

I thought the lollipops were a very clever idea. We had them with drinks while we smelled the lasagne in the oven.

She found the recipe Parmesan and poppy seed lollipops on the BBC website. It is one of Lorraine Pascale’s from Baking Made Easy. And there is no need to use an aged Parmigiano Reggiano for the lollipops.

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