Verza alla cossignanese

Italian Food and Flavours

Italian food blog: Verza alla Cossignanese

Verza-alla-cossignanese

Ingredients:

Cabbage, cleaned and chopped
Italian sausage, de-skinned and crumbled
one clove of garlic, sliced
rosemary sprig plus another for garnish
medium hot small red fresh chilli finely chopped
potatoes, thinly sliced

Method:

Blanch the chopped cabbage in lightly salted water for 3 minutes with the sliced potatoes. Remove the potatoes drain and reserve. Meanwhile in a separate pan sauté the garlic, sprig of rosemary and chilli. When the garlic turns golden remove it and add the sausage crumbled into the pan and continue to cook until the sausage is cooked through. Add boiled cabbage and cook for another 30 minutes. Meanwhile deep fry the parboiled potatoes and drain on kitchen roll.

serve the flavoured cabbage garnished with the fried potatoes and sprig of rosemary.

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Bietolone di campo

Italian Food and Flavours

Italian food blog: Bietolone di campo

Bietolone-di-campo
Ingredients:

Chard, sliced
4 cloves of garlic
good quality olive oil
one thinly sliced carrot

Method:

clean the chard in cold water and boil them in salted water for about 25 minutes, drain and reserve. Meanwhile sauté four whole cloves of garlic in olive oil, when the garlic turns golden golden brown remove them from the oil and sauté boiled beets in the flavoured oil for 5 minutes.

lightly flour the sliced carrot and deep fry in very hot vegetable oil until they crisp up. drain on kitchen roll.

Serve the flavoured chrad covered with fried thinly sliced carrot

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Finocchi etti al gorgonzola

Italian Food and Flavours

Finocchi-etti-al-gorgonzola

Finocchi etti al gorgonzola

Ingredients:

Fennel sliced thinly and cut into smallish pieces
onions or leeks chopped finely
gorgonzola
freshly grated parmesan

Method:

Sauté onion or leeks in the pan, when the onion is wilted add the fennel, season with salt and pepper. When the fennel is cooked, about 10 minutes, remove from the heat

Add a teaspoon of grated parmesan to a pan with a little olive oil and press with a spatula. as soon as the parmesan melts remove from the pan and leave to cool and harden.

To serve, create a “box” with the parmesan slices, fill with the fennel mixture and crumble with the gorgonzola.

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Fristingo, Frustingo, Brostengo..

Italian Food and Flavours

P1150385 (1)

Italian New year and Christmas pudding: posted by Debby

Fristingo is Marchegiana christmas or new year pudding served cold. It goes by many different names all over the region and according to folklore there are at least 22 different recipes which can include nuts, almonds, figs, raisins, breadcrumbs, candied fruit, orange juice, lemon rind, olive oil, cinnamon, rum, cocoa, coffee white wine and grape juice.

The recipe in its most basic form goes back 2000 years to the Etruscans and via the Piceni. At it’s earliest time it was just a mixture of ground flours mixed with semi dried grapes. It has always been food ‘for the poor’ and that is reflected in the use of dried readily-available fruit to sweeten it rather than sugar which was only available to the rich.

The Romans called it Piceni bread and ate it with honey and the recipe has developed over the years depending on fashion and the availability of different ingredients such as chocolate and spices.

Traditionally it is mixed and left to rest for hours before being cooked in a wood oven. When ready it is eaten together with a nice glass of vino cotto.

Pasquina is my neighbour who has been making this traditional Le Marche cake for years and she presented me with the recipe she uses, written on a much treasured old scrap of paper. The main ingredient is figs and they grow abundantly in Le Marche. One can find large black figs with succulent purple centres and edible skins, large green figs with red centres and tougher skins and many other varieties, my personal favourite being the small black ones which taste like marzipan.

Eaten fresh, straight from the tree they are divine but Le Marche people have always wanted to  preserve them for winter use. Pasquina picks them in early September and dries them very slowly in a wood oven over many hours, turning them and ensuring that they are thoroughly dry. Then she tells me they will keep all winter if there are any left by January!

Ingredients

1 kilo of figs

200g vino cotto ( a sherry like drink made in Le Marche)

150g raw almonds chopped

250g walnuts chopped ( if you prefer more almonds then reverse the nut amounts)

300g wholemeal flour

3 sweetened espressos

125g raisins

200g olive oil

zest of an orange and a lemon

tsp cinnamon and nutmeg

a glass of vino cotto

Method

150g sugar  (Pasquina’s  family recipe didn’t add sugar as would have been an expensive commodity in days gone by, so this is optional depending on how sweet you want it)

It is also possible to add 100g melted chocolate plus 100g cocoa powder to the mixture. I halved the mixture and added chocolate to one half only.

The day before, roughly chop the figs and pour over the 200g vino cotto and allow to soak overnight. The figs take in the liquid and soften.

Then mix everything together. It’s a very rustic cake of the cucina povera tradition so no need to finely chop everything. Nowadays dried figs and nuts can be rather pricy but in Le Marche every farmer has a few fig and nut trees so they are simply using what is available for free!

Finally, spread the mixture over one large baking tin or use 2 loaf tins, drizzle some olive oil over the top and bake at 180 degrees for about 40 minutes.

Keeps for weeks in an airtight tin. Has a moist, crumbly texture and is very rich so you only need a small piece!

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A walk on the wild side..

Italian Food and Flavours

 

On our facebook page last week we touched on the more flippant, culinary aspect of the wild boar cull that was under way by the corpo forestale. However, as in hunting of any kind there will always be the proponents of pros and cons on an ethical and practical level of population control.

Originally from South-East Asia in the Early Pleistocene era (when Rupert was still a boy) wild boar were introduced all over the world by man as an important source of food and are the ancestor of most domestic pig breeds today. So how did they become such a problem that they (supposedly) need to be culled?
Weighing in at between 100 – 200 kg a wild boar can do a lot of damage to crops, vineyards and vegetable patches as they root around for food. Anyone who has come face to face with a fiercely protective mother wild boar and her litter of up to eight babies hopefully knows to walk away quietly and calmly. However, the fear of what she is capable of if she thinks you ARE posing a threat has given rise to an largely undeserved bad press for such a naturally non aggressive animal.
But these problems would be few and far between if it wasn’t for man’s destruction of their natural habitat; woodland and scrubland; where they actually have a beneficial effect on the environment, ploughing up/manuring the land and dispersing seeds. Combine this loss of land with a population explosion owing to the lack of natural predators (again thanks to man) and we see what has pushed the boar onto agricultural and residential land.
Several years ago the corpo forestale introduced some grey wolves back into the eco system near here to try to deal with the problem. According to the locals they are eating more sheep than wild boar but researchers working for the “assessor for the environment” say that from their droppings their diet is mainly wild boar and deer. I remember at the time being a bit worried about there being wolves around and about if my children were playing in the fields and woods. But as a kind friend pointed out, really there was nothing to worry about until the wolves got out of hand and they sent in the leopards…
So really, unless humankind changes their disrespect for all non profit making aspects of the environment they live in, the culls will have to continue because a handful of wolves can only eat so much.

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If they’re good enough for the gods…

Italian Food and Flavours

Autumn fruits and religion seem to go hand in hand through myth and legend.

According to mythology the fig tree was created by Gaia the Mother Earth, to hide her son Syceus who was a giant fleeing from the wrath of Zeus. Perhaps that explains why each year I am faced with pruning back a gigantic amount of new wood growth on my trees!

Adam and Eve supposedly covered their nakedness using fig leaves but I bet they regretted that move as fig leaf sap is notorious for causing terrible blisters when combined with sunlight!

In Greek and Roman mythology Dionysus (Bacchus to the Romans), God of wine and fertility, and Priapus, a Satyr who symbolized sexual desire are both connected with the fig which probably goes some way to explain it’s less than savoury use in the local dialect!

Even the Buddha has a connection with the fig as apparently he achieved enlightenment one day in 528 BC while sitting under a Bo tree. The Bo is a kind of fig.

Almonds also have a special place in legend and folklore and are given, strictly  in odd numbers, as tokens of hope and good fortune in religious ceremonies around the world.

The Romans showered newlyweds with almonds as a fertility charm, sugared almonds are still presented to wedding guests today in Italy and elsewhere.

According to the Bible the almond tree is a symbol of divine approval. At Christmas time in Sweden they eat a cinnamon-flavoured rice-pudding with an almond hidden inside. The lucky finder gets good luck for the year, always assuming they didn’t choke on it first!

Here in Italy at Christmas time the tradition is to give ‘Torrone’ as a gift. Torrone is a type of confectionary, typically made from honey, sugar and egg-white and toasted almonds. It’s chewy, delicious, bringing good luck to all who eat it and I’m fairly certain that it goes some way to pay for Dentists’ skiing holidays in January…

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Red gold.

Italian Food and Flavours

Passata…passed (sieved) tomatoes..once up a time a laborious task and possibly limited to a small proportion of the tomato crop while the rest would simply have been bottled whole. Nowadays thanks to these lovely stainless steel, easy to clean, effort free machines the kilos and kilos of rich tangy and sweet tomatoes that an average ‘orto’ produces can be transformed into litres and litres of passata.

Locally, people are very conscious of the environmental and personal impact of all the chemical sprays used in mass production of passata for the supermarkets. Added to this, the issues of recycling, trying to reduce packaging and then on top of that the increasing prices in the shops of this staple ingredient and you have some of the prime reasons that families get together for mammouth passata making sessions in their garages, barns and gardens.

The bottles will be the empty ones from last year, thoroughly washed out and ready to be filled and capped and boiled for an hour. This is done in huge oil drums over grapevine wood fires producing a velvety tomato delight that smells and tastes as fresh 10 years down the line as the day they were bottled. Large families will need hundreds to see them through the year. To produce that many tomatoes takes careful attention to detail. One member of the family will have been on peronospora watch, the dreaded water mould that can carry off entire crops of tomatoes. The difference with home grown tomatoes is that it can be treated with organic home mixed sprays of copper and sulphur or even (for the purists) an infusion of equisetum (mares tail). They know EXACTLY what they are getting in every bottle.

So imagine the scene, everyone will be hauled in to help out..several will be sitting over 2 big tubs halving the completely ripened tomatoes. One tub will contain the excess juice which has to be squeezed out to avoid watery passata, the other the squeezed out shells. At the next level there will be the person feeding these tomatoes into the machine and refeeding the sievings back in to extract every available drop from the fruit. The passata will be pouring into another big tub where the next person will be using a jug and funnel to fill the clean bottles leaving a small amount of headspace to avoid explosions on heating! The next person will be capping the bottles (tightly) and the last person will be stacking them into the oildrum, filling it with water and lighting the fire. It all has to be done as quickly as possible because with that amount of sweetness in these delicious sun ripened tomatoes the process of accidental fermentation will not be far behind.

Another job done for the winter and a store cupboard that can cope with whatever the weather has to throw at them.
Now, who fancies pasta al pomodoro for lunch?

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