Tag Archives: Food from Calabria

‘NDUJA, was considered peasant food in Calabria

I am not Calabrese, and not being Calabrese means that I only discovered ’nduja late in life, as it was very much a regional and local food. I may have been late, but I did discover ’nduja much earlier than those living in Australia, who are now celebrating its use in a big way. Better late than never, because ’nduja is a fabulous salume (smallgood).

Featured photo is Tropea, Calabria.

So what is ’nduja?

We can thank Richard Cornish for his full-flavoured description of it in his Brain Food column in The Age on 10 November: A fermented sausage, originally from Calabria in Italy, that has a texture like sticky pate and a spicy kick on it like an angry mule. Pronounced en-doo-ya, it is a mixture of pork fat (up to 70 per cent), pork, salt, spices, culture and chilli peppers, which are ground together until smooth, wet, unctuous and deep red. It is stuffed into large-sized natural animal skins and slowly fermented and air-dried. The lactic acid bacteria in the culture ferments the sugars in the mix, making the ’nduja acidic enough to keep it safe from bad bugs. The name is Calabrian slang and is said to derive from the word for the smoked French sausage andouille.

Is it nduja or ’nduja? You will find that in certain references the spelling will be without an apostrophe.

The apostrophe before the nd (as in ’nduja), does not appear in the Italian language and I spent some time looking for the why it is spelt that way. It appears that in Calabrese, nd is proceeded by an apostrophe. Think of ‘Ndrangheta, as the mafia is referred to in Calabria, and ‘ndrina, the different families or clans, usually made up of blood relatives that are part of theNdrangheta.

Like most Calabresi, I usually spread ’nduja on fresh bread (like pâté) or I have used it as an ingredient in pasta sauces – it can fire up a tame ragù (a meat-based tomato sauce). I have also added ’nduja to sautéed cime di rape and Italian pork sausages, and to squid or octopus for a pasta sauce or on their own to be mopped up with bread.

I first encountered this spicy, spreadable sausage about forty years ago in the home of a Calabrese family who used to slaughter a pig and make smallgoods. They covered all of the smallgoods with chili. To their taste, food without chilli seemed flavourless, but also that the coating of chilli acts as a barrier, repelling flies (and bad bugs as Richard says) and is therefore a powerful and natural preservative. It’s the chili that gives this soft spreadable ’nduja salame its distinctive red colour.

Years later (about 23 years ago), I had some ‘nduja in the Sila mountains in Calabria, but I did not know then, that this peasant food product was to become the taste-sensation outside of Calabria that it is now.

My addition of ’nduja to seafood came much later in my cooking after I tasted a pasta dish of squid and fried breadcrumbs spiced with ’nduja, in a restaurant in Marin County, in California in the northwestern part of the San Francisco Bay Area of the U.S).  Years later, I had a similar dish in a London restaurant. Both blew me away.

Probably the first dish I tasted with ’nduja in a Melbourne restaurant (Baby octopus with ’nduja) was at Tipo 00 when it first opened and later at Osteria Ilaria.

Originally, ’nduja was considered peasant food. It was first made by contadini (farmers/ workers on the land) who raised and butchered pigs and being poor, would sell the prime cuts of pork to upper-class families who could afford them.  as is the way of the frugal, offal, excess fat, and off- cuts of meat were blended together, seasoned intensely with chilli, stuffed in a casing and transformed into a soft salame that tasted good and did not spoil easily.

These days ’nduja is probably made with better fats and cuts of meat and with its popularity, the price has also risen. ’Nduja originated in the Vibo Valentia province in Calabria, and much of it still comes from the town of Spilinga but it is now showing up as an ingredient all over Italy and in many restaurants in UK, US and in Australia – imparting a chilli kick on pizza, in pasta dishes, seafood dishes, burgers and even with Burrata; I would have thought that fresh cheeses are far too delicate to go with the strongly flavoured and spicy ’nduja. However each to their own. ’Nduja is no longer just found in specialist supermarkets and specialty butchers, but also in some fairly ordinary supermarkets. I have liked some varieties much more than others, so it is worth experimenting.

For those who like chillies, recipes that include ’nduja on my blog:

‘NDUJA, a spreadable and spicy pork salame from Calabria

PASTA with ‘NDUJA, CIME DI RAPA and PORK SAUSAGES

‘NDUJA with SQUID, very simple

‘NDUJA and CALAMARI as a pasta sauce

‘NDUJA, SQUID, VONGOLE AND PAN GRATTATO with Spaghetti

 

CREMA DI PEPERONCINI – Hot Pepper Paste in Autumn

Chillies are at their best in Autumn. I generally never waste produce and when friends give me some of their fresh seasonal crops  I get enthusiastic and active.

These chillies were grown in Adelaide and  this time I decided to make a chili paste that was not Harissa.

I have been making Harissa for a very long time since one of my Sicilian relatives who lives in Augusta introduced me to it about thirty five years ago.  Augusta is in south eastern Sicily and  is an important Sicilian  and Italian naval base and trading port.  Giacomo is a mechanical naval engineer and was often called out to work on naval vessels in the gulf, some vessels  were from Tunisia, Algeria and Libya  and he was introduced to this hot chilli paste through his contacts. There are many recipes for this paste and it is an important condiment in Middle Eastern Cuisine.  Some make it with dry chillies, some with fresh chillies and some with roasted chillies. I usually use cumin and caraway seeds and garlic when I make it. I use Harissa in many ways and always to accompany cuscus.

I also like to make Salsa Romesco , a condiment popular around Barcelona in north-eastern Spain.  Like when making harissa there are many variations to recipes  but this condiment is commonly made with red peppers,  garlic, tomatoes, white bread and almonds.  Sometimes I have  roasted the peppers and added some roasted chillies as well.

Crema di Peperoncino is a chilli paste that is very popular in Calabria. It is usually made with fresh chillies , salt,  garlic and olive oil.  I thought that would combine my experiences for making Harissa and Romesco and make a roasted chili paste. No spices, just chillies, salt, garlic and extra virgin olive oil  – Crema di peperoncini.

Isn’t that what cooking is all about?

I kept is very simple.

I could have made a milder paste by adding some ordinary red peppers which are also very much in season but I decided to just keep the Crema di pepperoncini hot, hot. hot….And it was. I used the other red peppers in a salad.

The photos demonstrate what I did.

Use any type of red chillies that you have.

INGREDIENTS: red chillies, garlic to taste, 3-4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, teaspoon of salt (preservative), more extra virgin olive oil to place on top.

Grill/ Roast the chillies on high heat. Turn once until blackened and charred all over. Do the same with unpeeled garlic cloves.

Allow to cool.

Remove the skins and seeds – you can leave some seeds if you would like it hotter!

Blend all the ingredients together.

Place in a sterilized jar and top with a layer of more oil to seal. I keep my jar in the fridge and make sure that each time I take some out of the jar I replace a layer of oil on top (to stop mold).

See previous posts:

HARISSA (A hot chili condiment)

SALSA ROMESCO (Romesco sauce, this recipe is made with roasted peppers, tomatoes and almonds)