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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.

Tavignano

Only 2 miles from Casalba is another vineyard we visit: Tavignano.  Apart from exporting, they sell wine to personal visitors either bottled or “en vrac”/”sfuso”. 

Tavignano is run by a noble couple and their excellent sommelier P. 

It is always an event when we visit.  I love the setting and the decor.

 Tavignano has won many national and international prizes for its wine.

The pictures speak for themselves… 

…but I would add these words: good taste! 

For the setting, the decor and, above all, the wine.

Guests

 

We were sent the most beautiful brochure from a lovely Finnish couple who stayed with us last year. 

I was totally bowled over.  Not just for the thought, but also because it was so very professional and full of  stunning photographs.  

I asked if I could put some of the photos here. 

So pleased they agreed.

Here is “my” bottle green Ape again:

If you look closely, you’ll see A. in the sunflower field: 

I think P.’s photos are excellent.  He took them all on various “days out” and made this book as a memory of the holiday he and A. had here.   What a great idea!

I’d like to share this photo of P.’s with Joe from Italyville who asked for pictures which “scream Italy”.  This one certainly fits the bill.  Non è vero?

I love cheese.  All cheese. 

As there are over 400 different varieties of Italian cheese, I’m in the right place, particularly as Parmesan, Gorgonzola and Mozzarella are among my top favourites.  Well, with Asiago, Fontina…  any formaggio di fossa… Provolone…  Taleggio…  Oh dear!

Another of my favourites is goat’s cheese, but in our corner of Le Marche, I’ve found it difficult to find. 

Daniele asked at the local shop. 

“Nobody wants it”, was the reply. 

“We do!”, he said. 

“Alright, I’ll order some.”  

 

It arrived today: 

Now, a little bit of Cheddar and some Stilton…Cheese Heaven.

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.

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.

Frantoio

We took our olives to the Oleificio Rosini – as we always do.  They are a family run business in San Paolo di Jesi, which is about 9 kms from us. 

I couldn’t resist asking this lovely gentleman if I could take his photo whilst he loaded his Ape with the fruits of his labour.  I love Ape.  You can forget your Ferraris and whatnots, I’d like one of these and in this colour too.

And, here is the fruit of our labour. 

We watched the olives pass through every single step:

weighing, 

washing,

sifting, 

crushing,

until…

it finally came through the tap.

The first thing we did when we arrived home was to make bruschette.  No garlic, no trimmings, just our own fresh, extra virgin olive oil on warmed bread from stufa.  It doesn’t get any better than this.

Il Raccolto

 We finally picked our olives.

 I love this job.

It’s very therapeutic.

 Not something you can rush.

 Now they are ready to take to the press: frantoio

We should have enough to make about 30 litres of extra virgin olive oil.  That’s 1st cold press extra, extra virgin!

 

These are destined to be conserved: 

More on both processes to follow soon…

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!