Foraging For Wild Asparagus

 

 

Italian Food and Flavours

 

Wild Asparagus

 

P1170732

 

I admit I am a little addicted to foraging for wild asparagus. As soon as I spot a purply-green shoot thrusting itself up between the undergrowth I can’t resist donning a thick pair of gloves, as the rest of the plant is spiky, and scrambling amongst the verges, beneath the trees anticipating the snap of the wild asparagus as I collect it! The best time to pick is between Spring rains when everything is greening up.

 

P1170692

 

They’re not always easy to spot and I have considered following my Italian neighbour to discover where she forages but last year I found my spot! It does involve crawling up a steep bank and them fighting my way through thorny bushes but the thrill when I spot the spears of asparagus is worth all the scratches. There is a knack to this which is to get close to the ground, look for the spiky bits of the plant then somewhere nearby the single spears shoot upwards. You mustn’t pull them out as that will uproot them, but simply snap the top halves off which is the most tender to eat.

Today I found a handful of asparagus as seen in the photo and will briefly simmer them and eat them with a little extra virgin olive oil and a squirt of lemon juice – divine!

 

P1170699 (2)

 

Facebooktwittergoogle_pluspinterest

Hazelnut and Dark Chocolate Spread – Homemade Nutella

Italian Food and Flavours

Homemade Nutella

 

P1170437 (2)

Hazelnut and Dark chocolate Spread (nutella)
A delicious alternative to shop bought Nutella which is easy to make and keeps for a few weeks.
Write a review
Print
Prep Time
30 min
Cook Time
10 min
Total Time
40 min
Prep Time
30 min
Cook Time
10 min
Total Time
40 min
Ingredients
  1. 120g roasted and peeled hazelnuts
  2. 200g dark chocolate
  3. 150g sugar
  4. 140g butter
  5. 140g milk
Instructions
  1. First prepare the hazelnuts. Here is a little trick i've now mastered. Boil the unpeeled nuts for 3 minutes in water with a tsp of baking soda added. The water will turn black. Then drain and plunge the nuts into cold water. They should then be much easier to peel.
  2. Once peeled, roast them for about 15 minutes in an oven at about 180 degrees.
  3. Grind the nus and the sugar in a food processor, until fine powder.
  4. Add the chocolate and blend.
  5. Melt in a glass bowl over a saucepan of simmering water with the butter and milk, until forms a paste.
  6. Finally transfer to jars - should make a couple of medium jars
Cooking Holidays Italy http://www.italianfoodandflavours.com/
P1170513

Homemade Nutella. One can’t escape from Nutella here in italy and Le Marche. It seems a staple food in Italy and Le Marche and even turns up in a pizza at a local pizzeria! My kids and their Italian friends can’t seem to get enough of it and it is their merenda (snack) of choice.

A few years back we discovered a couple of hazelnut bushes at the edge of our garden and I wondered how to use them in the kitchen. I just took this photo (above) of  buds about to burst on my hazelnut bush and hoping for a better crop this year as last year hardly had any.  After experimenting with various recipes I have settled on the below one, which is pretty easy and so much better in taste and nutrition than the shop bought stuff. The most time consuming part is preparing the hazelnuts.

According to Wikipedia, the main ingredients of Nutella are sugar and palm oil, followed by hazelnut, cocoa solids, and skimmed milk. It was developed as a cheaper version of an older recipe, Gianduja,which was a mixture containing approximately 71.5% hazelnut paste and 19.5% chocolate. Mr Ferrarro developed the first nutella in the 40s and used hazelnuts as they were cheaper than chocolate but over the years the quantity of nuts to fat and sugar has decreased even further.

Thus making your own, even if you don’t have your own hazelnuts is the best way to go and a great crowd pleaser in my kitchen with those hungry kids!

Facebooktwittergoogle_pluspinterest

Tartare di filetto di manzo al tartufo: Steak tartar with truffle

Italian Food and Flavours

 

Tartare di filetto di manzo al tartufo: Steak tartar with truffle

 

Preparation for Tartare di filetto di manzo al tartufo is very easy and very fast. This fresh dish is ideal for when the weather warms up in the spring and summer seasons. Make sure you only use the best fillet steak.

Take 300g beef fillet and chop it finely then squeeze over the lemon with half a tablespoon of olive oil, salt pepper and the truffle grated to taste (if you do not have to fresh truffle you can substitute truffle sauce) mix well and let the meat rest in the refrigerator for 30 min to absorb all the flavours. serve with a good white wine “pecorino”

Tartare di filetto di manzo al tartufo
Serves 4
Write a review
Print
Prep Time
15 min
Cook Time
30 min
Prep Time
15 min
Cook Time
30 min
Ingredients
  1. 300g finest beef fillet
  2. 1 lemon
  3. fine extra virgin olive oil
  4. freshly grated black or white truffle (or truffle oil)
  5. salt and pepper
Instructions
  1. Preparation is very easy and very fast, this fresh dish is idea for when the weather warms up in the spring and summer seasons. Take 300g beef fillet and chop it finely then squeeze over the lemon with half a tablespoon of olive oil, salt pepper and the truffle grated to taste (if you do not have to fresh truffle you can substitute truffle sauce) mix well and let the meat rest in the refrigerator for 30 min to absorb all the flavours. serve with a good white wine "pecorino"
Notes
  1. Serve chiled with a good Pecorino white wine.
Cooking Holidays Italy http://www.italianfoodandflavours.com/
Facebooktwittergoogle_pluspinterest

Tripe : Le Marche

Italian Food and Flavours

Le Marche Tripe

Tripe is a dish known throughout Italy from north to south. Each area has its own variations on cooking and preparations. I was personally inspired as a young boy to create this delicious dish and I learned the recipe from my grandmother Luigina a lady of just 90 years young. In turn I am happy to pass on this recipe which has been handed down through the generations of my family. Each time I cook tripe this way I remember with delight my “nona” grandmother and look forward to the pleasure that comes with the taste of this delicious but great value dish. Clearly, given its wholesome and warming properties this dish is only recommended in cold seasons.

tripe
Serves 6
Write a review
Print
Prep Time
30 min
Cook Time
2 hr 30 min
Prep Time
30 min
Cook Time
2 hr 30 min
Ingredients
  1. 1 kg tripe - ox \ calf
  2. 2 onions
  3. 2 carrots
  4. 2 sticks celery
  5. 1 glass white wine
  6. 2 potatoes
  7. bunch fresh marjoram or parmesan knob
  8. oil for frying
Instructions
  1. cut the tripe into pieces of one cm and boil in salted water for about 45 min, in the meantime, finely chop the onions carrots and celery and fry in the oil. Boil 1.5 liters of salted water and add the tomato paste and two potatoes, peeled and shredded. Drain the tripe and add to the frying vegetables, sauté together with the white wine, pepper, and the fresh marjoram or dried rind of Parmesan. After 15 min add in the potatoes with some of its cooking water, cook for two hours on low heat, stirring occasionally. Add more of the potato water to prevent the stock drying out.
Notes
  1. Serve with fresh parmesan cheese and accompanied with a fine full bodied rosso piceno.
Cooking Holidays Italy http://www.italianfoodandflavours.com/

 

Facebooktwittergoogle_pluspinterest

Urtica dioica Nettle

 

Italan food and flavours

Urtica dioica Nettle 

 

 

nettles

 

Urtica dioica Nettle:  All round good guy…ok apart from if you fall out of a tree and into a patch of them, wearing only pants, like my mum did when she was little. What are we talking about? Obviously nettles. Or are they obvious? Recently two New Zealanders here on a help exchange announced that they’d never heard of them in New Zealand. This seems unimaginable to us English people who will have been stung numerous times in our lifetimes…which is why of course many people are quick to uproot and clear out any patches of nettles that spring up. But wait, the benefits of nettles far outweigh the disadvantages. If you have space near your vegetable patches, especially near the compost heap, nettles will provide you with plenty of iron and mineral rich green leaves that are beneficial to other plants, insects and animals including us humans.

Starting at the bottom of the food chain nettles are a fantastic liquid fertiliser and compost activator as they contain a lot of nitrogen  and are useful in supplying magnesium, sulphur and iron to plants in the garden and on the vegetable patch. To make the liquid fertiliser you simply need to chop up the nettles, put them in a big bucket with a brick on top and add water until they are covered. Leave it for 3 or 4 weeks until they smell utterly revolting and then use a jug to transfer to your sprayer/watering can and water it down 10 parts water to every part of nettle swamp water!

Nettles are essential for more than 40 kinds of insects, either as protection against grazing animals or for overwintering. When these insects swarm around spring nettles they provide early food for ladybirds,  blue tits and other woodland birds that manage to negotiate the stinging stems.

In late summer the huge quantity of seeds produced by nettles are food for many seed-eating birds, such as house sparrows, chaffinches, and bullfinches not forgetting for other insect-eaters like hedgehogs, shrews, frogs and toads, at all times of the year.

The UK’s most colourful and best known butterflies, such as the Small Tortoiseshell and Peacock Butterflies are totally reliant on nettles for their larvae to feed on so if the sight of them in the air lightens your heart then help them to survive by leaving those nettles in place.

When cropping them for your own consumption always make sure that they are not near any immediate forms of pollution such as by the sides of busy roads or near contaminated water. If cooking fresh leaves then they really should only be eaten in spring before they flower and become unpalatable. However the summer leaves and flowers can also be dried and used for nettle tea, that well known countryside cure for feeling a bit under the weather. The iron, mineral and tannin rich leaves purify and act as a tonic for the blood. 

As long as they are cooked first, nettle leaves can replace spinach in a multitude of recipes. Here the locals combine them with potato and flour to make nettle gnocchi; with ricotta as a filling for ravioli and sometimes mixed into the pasta dough itself for deep green tagliatelle..delicious and aesthetically pleasing all at the same time. In the spring they contain up to 25% protein per dry weight which is more than a lot of other green leafy vegetables. That combined with their vitamin C content and mineral content it may be time to start looking at nettles as an essential in the garden and not that nuisance that you thought they were. Now, lets hear three cheers for the little devils…

 

 

Facebooktwittergoogle_pluspinterest

Ruccola and Walnut Pesto

Italian Food and Flavours

Ruccola and walnut pesto

P1170068 (2)

Ruccola and walnut pesto. Whether you call it ruccola, rocket or arrugula this salad leaf turns up often in Le Marche cuisine. As a salad ingredient, a pizza topping or one of my favourites, chopped and scattered on top of Tagliata. Apparently, ruccola was believed by classical writers of Roman times to be an aphrodisiac and this was the reason that monks in medieval times weren’t allowed to plant it in their gardens.

Yesterday, the sun was shining here in Le Marche and it felt like Spring but overnight it changed to stormy winds, snow and sleet – the Italian saying ‘Marzo è un mese pazzo’ is particularly fitting today. Luckily I cropped loads of rocket before the snow, which had self seeded from my orto and turned into a huge patch of wild rocket!

Ruccola leaves are peppery to taste and maybe like marmite, you either like the taste or not. I love the taste kick and it definitely livens up a green salad. Like spinach and kale, ruccola is packed full of green goodness and is easy to plant from seed. In Le Marche it grows best in Spring when everything is green and lush. In summer with hot temperatures I find it quickly runs to seed.

P1170278 (2)

I’ve also added walnuts to the pesto but you can experiment with the addition of pine nuts, almonds or other nuts. My crop of walnuts needed using and I’m trying to use ingredients that are local to Cossignano and South Le Marche so I settled with half walnuts and half almonds. Thus this recipe is great for vegetarians and the walnuts provide some extra useful nutritional value as they are high in omega 3 fats as well as many other nutrients and anti oxidants.

What follows is a rough recipe for Ruccola and walnut pesto, but making pesto is more of a technique and you need to find out what balance of flavours works best for you. Also bear in mind that it tastes much milder when mixed with pasta than trying a teaspoon raw which is what I did and found it too pungent. Mixed with spaghetti it tasted fresh and green and not over peppery.

Ruccola and walnut Pesto
A peppery, green pesto full of natural goodness. It will keep for a few days in a jar in a fridge and can be mixed into pasta, eaten with bread or bruschetta or with grilled or roast chicken.
Write a review
Print
Prep Time
15 min
Prep Time
15 min
Apologies in advance as my amounts are rather vague
  1. A few good handfuls of fresh rocket ( I used the leaves and the stems)
  2. About 70 g parmesan
  3. A small handful of walnuts and almonds
  4. A few glugs of extra virgin, cold pressed olive oil
  5. squirt of lemon juice
  6. small clove of garlic
  7. salt and pepper
Instructions
  1. Using a food mixer, or a pestle and morter if you want to make it all by hand, first chop the nuts, then add all the other ingredients and whizz to a rough paste, maybe adding more oil or more cheese, tasting as you go. Remember it can taste quite strong on its own but teamed with pasta it is much milder.
  2. Half I used with pasta and the other is in my fridge to use over the next few days.
Notes
  1. Pesto can be very successfully frozen, maybe in ice cube trays for handy little portions
Cooking Holidays Italy http://www.italianfoodandflavours.com/
Facebooktwittergoogle_pluspinterest