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Archive for the ‘Recipes’ Category

The acacia has beautiful and highly perfumed flowers.  Rubber Slippers in Italy makes fritelle with them and we have a good friend in Lombardia (Lombardy) who produces the most delicate organic acacia honey.

I also saw this intriguing recipe for Liquore di Robinia in the Italian magazine: Fuori Casa (March 2006 # 7)

  • 200 g acacia flowers
  • 500 g granulated sugar
  • 1 litre pure alcohol
  • 2 tbsp acacia honey
  • 1 litre water

Clean the flowers with a dry cloth, or soft brush.  Put alternate layers of the flowers and sugar in a large glass bowl.  Cover and leave to infuse for 48 hours.  Then add the alcohol and honey.  Leave the infusion until you can see that the sugar has totally dissolved.  (Approximately one month.)  Add the water and stir gently.  Strain the liquid well and bottle.


Despite their beauty, their perfume, the fritters, the honey and the liqueur, the acacia flowers pose a problem for us as we can’t open the swimming pool for guests until the flowers have dropped.  This is because they sink straight to the bottom and turn into some strange gluey, porridge which clogs the filters.

In order not to disappoint, we tell people who are interested in visiting Casalba that we can’t open the pool until the acacia flowers have dropped.  Luckily, this confetti effect usually happens towards the end of May, which is just about the right time for most guests who wish to take a dip.


Alternatively, I suppose we could just make gallons of liqueur and tons of fritelle.

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There is a steep slope at the front of our garden and, to be honest, it isn’t very pretty.  You need to be a mountain goat to mow it and it always looks  unkempt.  I’ve tried planting ground cover, but nothing seems to do very well there.  This has everything to do with the fact that the soil is very poor, too well drained and nearly always in the shade of some ancient cypress trees under which nearly everything struggles. 

I had the tiniest bit of luck with periwinkle.  I saw that some was already growing among the weeds, so added a few more plants.  That was over three years ago.  I was expecting a carpet of blue by now!  

 

What does do well under the olive and cypress trees is the wild asparagus.  These were already well established when we moved here.  

They are rather ugly plants that don’t do anything to enhance this part of the garden.  If they weren’t so special, I’d have pulled them up ages ago. 

Here, they come into season towards the end of March/beginning of April.  So now is the time to start enjoying  them. 

If you are looking for a recipe: I just put them in boiling water for hardly a minute and serve drizzled with olive oil and a tiny squeeze of fresh lemon juice, but more often than not, I’ll just snap them from the plant and eat them raw.  They are that sweet.

 

Two of my favourite blogs have posted about wild asparagus recently:

 

 Ingrid from Vita Lenta nel bel Paese

and

Joe from Italyville 

 

If you click on the links, you’ll find more information, a couple of recipes and a neat video from Joe too!

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Tradition has it that Chicken Cacciatore was made to cheer up the unlucky hunter when he came home empty-handed.  (Cacciatore is the Italian for hunter.)  Well, not exactly empty-handed because sometimes he’d spot some wild mushrooms under a tree whilst having a rest and cussing his hound.

I served this on wooden trenchers over polenta, but it goes just as well with rice, potatoes, or just a chunk of crusty bread.

Chicken Cacciatore:

  • 1 onion, peeled and roughly chopped
  • 2 carrots, peeled and roughly chopped
  • 2 celery stalks, washed and roughly chopped
  • 1 handful of dried porcini
  • 1 whole chicken
  • 1/2  glass Marsala
  • 500 ml chicken stock
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 5 tbsp passata
  • salt & pepper
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  1. Put the dried porcini in a bowl and cover amply with boiling water.  Leave to steep for at least half an hour.  Strain, but reserve the juice.
  2. Cut the chicken into 6-8 portions.
  3. Put the olive oil in a large heavy-based pan, add the chopped onion, celery and carrots and sauté for 3-4 minutes.
  4. Add the strained porcini and cook for another 2 mins.
  5. Add the chicken pieces.
  6. When the chicken begins to brown add half a glass of Marsala (or a full glass of dry white wine).
  7. Simmer for a couple of minutes to reduce the alcohol.
  8. Add the stock and the juice from the dried porcini.
  9. Add the tomatoes and a bay leaf a good twist of black pepper and a pich of coarse sea salt.
  10. Turn down the heat and simmer gently for about an hour, or until chicken is cooked.

We don’t have a hunter in the family and are still novices at foraging for wild mushrooms.  This recipe uses dried porcini.  The mushrooms (either dried or fresh) are optional, but they do give the dish an earthier taste and a bit of depth.

The black jewels in the photo are cured olives. Again optional.  If using, add 15 mins before the end of cooking.

I’d like to take this dish to the

Festa Italiana

held by Maryann over at

Finding La Dolce Vita

and Marie from

Proud Italian Cook.

I’ll also be taking along a bottle of the local Rosso Piceno.

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I do all the day to day cooking, but when I fancy a night off  Dan will step in.  He’s actually a brilliant cook who has worked as a chef in restaurants both in Italy and in the UK. 

One of the first things Daniele cooked for me was Bollito Misto.  As he started to explain it, I was thinking:  Hang on, this is Boiled Beef and Carrots!

I’d never boiled meat before and I can’t say I was relishing it that much, but it was delicious and has become a winter staple.

Bollito Misto:

  • 1 large potato (peeled and cut in half)
  • 1 onion (peeled, but left whole)
  • 2 carrots (peeled and snapped in half)
  • 2 sticks of celery including the leaves (washed and snapped in half)
  • 2 cloves of garlic (peeled)
  • Half a chicken
  • Large piece of boiling beef  (silverside or brisket)
  • 2 bones from the butcher (I had a knuckle and a small piece of marrow bone)
  • 1 bay leaf
  • a good twist of freshly ground pepper
  • a little coarse sea salt

 

 

Put all the ingredients in a very large heavy-based pan.  Fill with cold water, bring to the boil then simmer very, very gently for approximately 3 hours.

When ready, slice the vegetables and serve on a large platter with the meat.  Best accompanied with salsa verde and/or Mostarda.

Purists would say that if you want a good stock place the meat in cold water and if you want good meat wait until the water is boiling before adding it, because this seals the meat.  I put the meat and vegetables into cold water and bring it rapidly to boiling point on the gas then transfer the pot to the wood-burning stove where it bubbles away gently for a few hours until ready to eat.   This way I get good meat and good stock.

Please Note: This is a “pauper’s” version.  A true Bollito Misto uses about seven different types of meat which often include a pig’s trotter and sausages, some of which are boiled in separate pots.

This is an economical dish because you can use the cheaper cuts of meat and everything is cooked in one pot.  To make it even more economical, I usually make this in a larger quantity than we can eat at one sitting.  Any leftover meat can be eaten cold the next day with salad.  Any more is turned into a curry and any vegetables are whizzed up for soup.

The best part, however, is that you are left with a delicious stock, broth, or “brodo” with which I always make Tortellini in Brodo.

Recipes for Tortellini in Brodo and Salsa Verde to follow soon.

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Not all our olives are destined for the press.  Some are set aside to preserve.  Until now, I’ve used the brine method as explained by Patience Gray in “Honey From A Weed”:

  • Wash the olives and soak them in glazed jars for 40 days. 
  • Change the water every two days.  This removes any bitterness.
  • Drain and place in jars with alternate layers of coarse sea salt.  (About two handfuls of salt for every three kilos of olives.) 
  • Fill jars to the brim and top up with water.  
  • They will keep for two years if stored in a cool, dark place.

 

This year I tried the salt version that both my neighbour L. and Over A Tuscan Stove swear by:  

  • Rinse the olives and pat dry.
  • Put in jars, alternating olives with coarse sea salt. 
  • Drain the water from the jars every day.
  • They are ready when no more water comes out.
  • Fill jars to the brim and top up with the very best olive oil. 

I think this recipe is better than the brine version and I’ll be making them the same way next year.  However, I’d make more because they’d reduced by half in volume by the time they were ready.  (They didn’t reduce nearly as much using the brine method.) 

You can play with either method by adding spices, garlic, orange/lemon peel, etc.  Personally, I don’t think they need any frills.  The olives are more than capable of taking centre stage without any assistance.

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I am offering a squid dish as one of the courses for “The Seven Fishes Feast” held by Joe over at Italyville and Maryann from Finding La Dolce Vita

Fish is traditionally eaten on Christmas Eve in Italy as a means of fasting during the Vigil before the arrival of Christ.   

In southern Italy they go a step further and eat 7 different types of fish served in 7 different ways.  It’s supposed to be a fast, but if you just pop an ‘E’ in there, you’ll have a feast.  

  

pasta-air-miles1Casarecce con seppie e piselli:

  • 250g pasta
  • 250g squid
  • 100g peas
  • 150g passata
  • 1 clove of garlic
  • 2 teaspoons of peperoncino fresco tritato
  • 1 heaped dessert spoon of chopped agretti sott’acetto or 6 capers (preserved in salt and rinsed well)
  • 1 good handful of parsley chopped in a mezzaluna
  • 1 large glass of white wine
  1. Cut the body of the cleaned squid into rings and coarsely chop the tentacles.
  2. Put a little olive oil in a pan over a gentle flame then add the squid, garlic, peperoncino and chopped agretti (or capers).
  3. Sauté for about 8 minutes, then add a good splash of white wine.
  4. When the wine has reduced a little, add the passata and simmer gently for 20 minutes.
  5. Lastly, add the peas and cook for another 4 minutes.
  6. Adjust seasoning.
  7. Add cooked, drained pasta to the pan and serve immediately.

pasta-air-miles-1 

For more information check out:

Italyville

&

Finding La Dolce Vita

The authors of the Seven Fishes Fast Feast also write this blog.

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Our quince came into full bloom in mid April.  Beautiful large white blossoms with a generous flush of pink.  It’s a lovely tree.  Even its name sounds quaint, old fashioned and rather magical and mystical.

You can do a number of things with the fruit (except eat them raw, of course), but I have always been intrigued by Quince Cheese.  I’d tried making this before using the oven method, but it didn’t work out too well.  I searched the net and found Easy Quince Cheese by The Cottage Smallholder.  This is the site which introduced me to blogs; I’ve loved it ever since.

Quince Cheese:

  1. Wash and quarter the fruit.
  2. Remove the pips and cut into small chunks. 
  3. Place in saucepan with enough water to cover and simmer until soft.
  4. Strain overnight through a jelly bag.
  5. Press the pulp through a sieve.
  6. Measure the pulp and put it into a large heavy bottomed pan.
  7. Add an equal volume of granulated sugar.
  8. Add the juice and zest of 1 lemon.
  9. Simmer gently, stirring regularly until it becomes stiff in consistency.
  10. Either put it into sterilised jars, small ramekins, or set it in moulds. 

You can make “cheese” with all sorts of fruit. 

HomeMadeS gives recipes for both Apple Cheese and Plum Cheese.

 

I just learnt that the Americans call fruit cheese “butter”. 

Well, it makes just as much sense as calling it cheese!  

 

 

 

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