Posts

Rosemary and Garlic Focaccia

Italian Food and Flavours

Rosemary and Garlic Focaccia

The best thing about baking this bread is the aroma of rosemary and garlic which fills the kitchen. I use rosemary straight from my garden and at this time of year only the freshest new growth from the ends of the stems. Rosemary is so versatile and can be added to many dishes such as roast chicken,  roast potatoes and vegetables. I add loads when making a stock and also add it to soups. It’s aromatic and beautiful and I wouldn’t be without this herb. Being blessed as I am with an Italian herb garden full of rosemary, I can pretty much rely on it to flavour my food all year round. At the moment it is a purple flowered bee heaven, but it is the fresh green sprigs I pick for culinary use.

Rosemary was the first herb that I wanted to plant in my Le Marche garden as it never thrived in my English garden. ‘Rosemary for remembrance’ they say and I do have a treasured memory linked to this herb about a lady who lived in my house many years ago. She sadly passed away last year but during our first weeks here, she would pass by, take my hands in her hands and kiss me on my cheek, then lead me around all the trees and plants she had planted twenty or so years before. On one such visit she openly scoffed at my small pot of rosemary I intended to plant somewhere. I needed no understanding of Italian as she led me a few paces down the road to a huge bush she had planted herself. The locals, she told me used to walk down here to pick sprigs to flavour their homemade proscuitto. Although I have indeed planted more rosemary I always use her plant in cooking as it grows in full sun and seems particularly aromatic.

Rosemary and Garlic Focaccia
A rustic but aromatic bread, perfect for tearing and sharing
Write a review
Print
Ingredients
  1. 350ml luke warm water
  2. 3 tbsp olive oil
  3. 650 g bread flour or Italian 0 flour
  4. 2tsp salt
  5. 2tsp sugar
  6. 2 7g sachets yeast
For the topping
  1. Extra virgin olive oil
  2. 2/3 garlic cloves
  3. lots of rosemary sprigs
  4. sea salt
Instructions
  1. Add to your bread machine in the above order and select dough function.
  2. Or mix by hand into smooth dough and allow to raise covered for an hour or so.
  3. Knead the dough until smooth, then roll out to fit a large baking tin. It is a very springy dough so needs some pulling and stretching to shape.
  4. Leave to rise for 40 minutes.
  5. With your knuckle make dents all over the surface.
  6. Sprinkle with salt.
  7. Spread a few cloves of mashed garlic all over and then brush on lots of extra virgin olive oil
  8. Finally push the rosemary sprigs into the dough.
  9. Bake at 180 degrees centigrade for approx 25 minutes, until lightly golden.
Notes
  1. Slice into strips, triangles or simply tear and share with others. Add halved cherry tomatoes with the sprigs of rosemary if you wish.
Cooking Holidays Italy http://www.italianfoodandflavours.com/
P1180441 (2)P1180483P1180495P1180538 (2)

Facebooktwitterpinterest

Crescia di Pasqua/ Le Marche Cheese Easter Bread

Italian Food and Flavours

Crescia di Pasqua

Crescia di Pasqua. This typical Le Marche Easter bread is actually so rich that it is more like a cake – a huge cheese filled and rather moreish cake that when baking fills the kitchen with a lovely aroma. It is traditionally eaten at Easter, after the period of Lent when Italians long for some rich food. It is packed full of eggs and the local cheese, Pecorino and can be eaten on its own or with local cold meats and salamis. Many locals will have their secret family recipes passed down through the generations and will bake several breads to give as gifts to friends and family. This is a bread that will also be offered up to the local priest to be blessed.

I have to admit that I made the dough in my bread machine and although a little concerned about the excess moisture from the cheese it turned out just fine and saved me a lot of time. Being English I have to make my hot cross buns and my easter chocolate cake as well as the Le Marche Crescia di Pasqua.

Le Marche Crescia di Pasqua
A moist, crumbly, rich cheese bread baked at Easter in Le Marche region of Central Italy
Write a review
Print
Ingredients
  1. 6 eggs
  2. 100ml luke warm milk
  3. 650g 00 bread flour
  4. 220g of grated pecorino cheese (or a mix of pecorino/parmesan)
  5. 160g margarine (or lard)
  6. 40g dry yeast
  7. 2 tsp salt
  8. tsp atleast of pepper
Instructions
  1. Place the ingredients in bread machine in the order above and set to dough mode
  2. Knead the dough well on a floured surface
  3. Place in a large, round, deep cake tin and allow to rise in a warm place for atleast an hour.
  4. Bake in a 180 degrees oven for about 50 minutes
Cooking Holidays Italy http://www.italianfoodandflavours.com/
Facebooktwitterpinterest

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/

 

Facebooktwitterpinterest

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/
Facebooktwitterpinterest

Frittata with Purple Sprouting Broccoli and Spinach

Italian Food and Flavours

Frittata with Purple Sprouting Broccoli and Spinach 

P1170086

 

A frittata or omelette makes a super speedy and nutritious lunch or supper dish, especially when you add some healthy veggies such as broccoli and spinach. At this time of year in Italian Ortos the purple sprouting broccoli is ready to pick.  Broccoli (which comes from the Itallian word brocco meaning branch or arm) was initially cultivated by the Romans. Broccoli has been grown in the UK and the US since the early 18th century, although the purple sprouting variety has only recently been popular. The plant produces lots of little heads of broccoli  rather than one large one which you maybe more used to and the slender, fine stalks should be chopped and eaten too.  Of course, if you don’t have access to purple sprouting, then normal broccoli is fine.

 

P1170157 (2)

 

The Italian frittata is versatile, in that it can be eaten warm or cold and one can change the ingredients to suit you or to suit what is in your fridge or veggie plot.  My Le Marche friends and neighbours give me plenty of organic, free range eggs so this is a lunchtime staple for us.

Broccoli and in particular sprouting broccoli is a super food and is rich in iron, calcium, phosphorus, potassium and sulphur.

Fresh Broccoli is a storehouse of many phyto-nutrients such as thiocyanates, indoles, sulforaphane, isothiocyanates and flavonoids like beta-carotene cryptoxanthin, lutein, and zea-xanthin. Studies have shown that these compounds by modifying positive signaling at molecular receptor levels help protect from prostate, colon, urinary bladder, pancreatic, and breast cancers.Further, it contains very good amounts of another anti-oxidant vitamin, vitamin-A. 100 g fresh head provides 623 IU or 21 % of recommended daily levels. Together with other pro-vitamins like beta-carotene, alpha-carotene, and zea-xanthin, vitamin A helps maintain integrity of skin and mucus membranes. Vitamin A is essential for healthy eye-sight and helps prevent from macular degeneration of the retina in the elderly population.

 

Frittata with Purple Sprouting Broccoli
A simple and nutritious lunchtime or supper dish which can be adapted according to the season or what is in your fridge
Write a review
Print
Ingredients
  1. 5 or 6 eggs
  2. A couple of garlic cloves, chopped finely
  3. A glug of extra virgin olive oil
  4. Handful of purple sprouting broccoli
  5. Handful of spinach leaves
  6. Grated parmigiano and pecorino cheese
  7. Salt and pepper
  8. Handful of frozen prawns (optional)
Instructions
  1. Prepare the broccoli by finely chopping the stalks and steaming the stalks and the florets briefly.
  2. Roughly chop the spinach and the garlic.
  3. Gently heat the oil in an omelette pan and saute the garlic and the spinach.
  4. Whisk the eggs with some salt, pepper and grated cheese to taste.
  5. Pour the eggs over the spinach and garlic , then add the broccoli.
  6. Put a lid on the pan and cook over a very low hob for about 15 minutes, until the eggs have set.
  7. Do not turn over.
  8. Take off the heat and leave for a few minutes before removing from the pan.
Cooking Holidays Italy http://www.italianfoodandflavours.com/
Facebooktwitterpinterest

Well oiled.

Italian Food and Flavours

Extra Virgin Olive Oil

olive oil

(Photo”Italian olive oil 2007″ courtesy of Alex Ex.)

For anyone not living in olive tree territory, looking at the last couple of posts on pruning etc, you may well wonder what all the fuss is about. Why worry about keeping trees healthy and why panic when the crop is affected by disease? Can’t you just pop to the supermarket and get a cheap bottle of extra virgin off the shelves? Going by the reaction of the locals here who (until it ran out) were buying the only oil to have been produced this year (the ten per cent that didn’t fail) and paying twelve euros a litre I guess it’s not the same thing at all. The oil that you pay through the nose for at the supermarkets is what people here would use for lighting the lamps (OK this is 2015 but you know what I mean.) People are born here knowing the difference between good oil and bad. They know that there is no substitute.  In Italy there is a very definite sense of prestige to go with recognising a good olive oil and people will pay a lot of money to join the ranks of experts. There are professional ‘olive oil taster’s courses advertised which take five days and cost just under a thousand euros for the pleasure! If you take the importance of good quality olive oils up to competition standard you will find people who can explain to you in minute detail the chemical compounds involved and their effects on our bodies. I looked up some information on the magical polyphenols that are so highly sought after in a variety foods including olive oil to try to explain some of these effects but there were far too many words with more than ten letters and I decided to leave that to the experts. In layman’s terms research has found that replacing other oils/fats in the diet with extra virgin olive oil had significantly reduced incidences within their subject group of certain cancers, heart disease, strokes, diabetes, osteoporosis and rheumatoid arthritis to name just a few. If you want to look at it purely from a foodie point of view, the taste of good quality extra virgin olive oil in your recipes is unrivalled. At the most basic level we as consumers are becoming more concerned about what it is that we are putting into our bodies and what it consists of.

So just how do you avoid the lamp oil and procure some of the decent stuff? One of the biggest issues here is the lack of proper controls over how truthful the labelling is. Extra virgin olive oil sold by some of the top names has been outed recently by Tom Mueller, an American in Italy as really only a small percentage of extra virgin oil which has been mixed with a lower grade olive oil, often not from the same country or sometimes another vegetable oil completely. The resulting blend is then chemically coloured, flavoured and deodorised, and sold as extra-virgin to the producers. The other main issue is quality testing; the chemical tests that should by law be performed by exporters of extra virgin oil before it can be labelled and sold as such can often fail to detect adulterated oil, particularly when it has been mixed with products such as deodorised, lower-grade olive oil.  National food authorities don’t appear to be particularly bothered as long as the oil isn’t actively harmful, which is rarely the case. If taste tests were done by the people on their thousand euro courses I’m sure that they would soon pick up on the adulteration though!

 If you live in a country where olive oil is produced you have a lot more chance of being able to follow it’s tracks and check that the product that you are buying has come from where it says it has. If it has been imported then the footprints are more difficult to follow and unless you are importing directly yourselves then the safest method (although not foolproof) is to buy from specialist food shops and if possible from single producers. A PDO (protected designation of origin) and PGI (protected geographical indication) status on the containers should be more of a guarantee of a genuine product and one more thing to look out for is the date of production. A common trick amongst the fake oils is to put previous years’ oils in with the mix because these are worth a lot less money. Olive oil is at it’s best for a year really. Two years is its maximum and then it starts to become inedible.

As a note to this, remember to keep your lovely genuine oil, when you find it, in a dark cool place. Ideally it wants to stay in stainless steel or dark glass containers, away from direct sunlight and at a constant temperature of 14/15 degrees centigrade. Much higher or lower than that and your oil will be spoiled and will never regain it’s flavour or qualities. So at the end of the day it’s not just the trees that are pampered…right down to the final product the olive needs to be treated like royalty to give you it’s best.

 

 

 

 

 

Facebooktwitterpinterest

Salt cod: Baccalà

Facebooktwitterpinterest

Carote a marsala: carrots in marsala

Italian Food and Flavours

Carrots in marsala

A simple but delicious alternative to boiled carrots from Le Marche. Winter being the perfect excuse for putting a little fortification with your dinner. Once tried you wont go back

Carote a marsala: carrots in marsala
A simple but delicious alternative to boiled carrots from Le Marche. Winter being the perfect excuse for putting a little fortification with your dinner. Once tried you wont go back
Write a review
Print
Prep Time
10 min
Cook Time
30 min
Total Time
40 min
Prep Time
10 min
Cook Time
30 min
Total Time
40 min
Ingredients
  1. 2/3 carrots
  2. 50g butter
  3. 1/2 glass marsala wine
  4. stem of fresh thyme
  5. salt and pepper to taste
Instructions
  1. The quantities will depend on the numbers you have to feed. This is not a recipe where the quantities are critical, it is more about the cooking method so feel free to adjust to suit. Scrape the carrots to clean and cut in half then slice longitudinally into thick matchsticks, about 3/5 mm thick. Put the butter in a heavy bottomed pan and heat gently until melted then add the carrots. stir and cover, keep the heat on low for 10 minutes stirring occasionally.
  2. When the carrots start to soften turn up the heat and add the marsala, let the alcohol evaporate and then turn down the heat again and throw in the thyme and cook for a further 20 minutes or so uncovered unless the wine evaporates too soon in which case add a little water and cover. Ideally the carrots should be starting to colour a deeper red at the edges but not browned.
Notes
  1. This is a lovely contorno (side dish) for roast or grilled meats. The sweetness of the marsala permeates the carrots which will be soft and caramelised, a perfect complement to strongly flavoured meats.
Cooking Holidays Italy http://www.italianfoodandflavours.com/
Facebooktwitterpinterest

polentina di mais: polenta recipe

Italian Food and Flavours

 

Polenta recipe

Polenta evokes in me the stories of my grandfather his tales of hard times of war and times of hunger. Polenta in their era was a luxury that could be afforded only rarely. A a young boy listening to my grandfather’s stories I remember was like watching a black and white movie through his eyes. I saw ten, fifteen maybe even twenty people all gathered around a long wooden table in a farm house in the country. On the table was a large pot from which flowed steaming hot polenta. The group would enjoy together the only meal of the day. Today polenta recipes are basically very similar. Here is a version you can try, I suggest with seasonal ingredients of “Verza ripassata” cabbage and sausage to evoke those old stories of my Grandfather’s day

polentina di mais: polenta
Polenta evokes in me the stories of my grandfather his tales of hard times of war and times of hunger. Polenta in their era was a luxury that could be afforded only rarely. A a young boy listening to my grandfather's stories I remember was like watching a black and white movie through his eyes. I saw ten, fifteen maybe even twenty people all gathered around a long wooden table in a farm house in the country. On the table was a large pot from which flowed steaming hot polenta. The group would enjoy together the only meal of the day.
Write a review
Print
Ingredients
  1. 300/400g polenta
  2. 1 ltr salted boiling water
Instructions
  1. In this variation I suggest combining polenta with other seasonal ingredients.
  2. To prepare the polenta boil a quart of salt water, just before the boil begin to add 300/400 g polenta flour a little at a time stirring constantly with a whisk. While cooking Polenta should have the consistency of cream, if it is too hard to add a little hot water. Once combined with the water and mixed to a smooth paste, cover and leave on low heat for 15-20 minutes stirring from time to time.
Notes
  1. At this time of year I serve polenta with "Verza ripassata" cabbage and sausage, with a generous sprinkling of Parmesan cheese, but the variations are many and are limited only by your imagination.
Cooking Holidays Italy http://www.italianfoodandflavours.com/
Facebooktwitterpinterest

verza ripassata: cabbage with sausage recipe

cabbage with sausage

Italian Food and Flavours
 

cabbage with sausage recipe

Verza ripassata: cabbage with sausage
Serves 4
Today I want to suggest a typical winter dish, a modern variation on a traditional lunch from this time of year in rural and  agricultural areas of Italy. This take on the local "Cossignanese" - from my home town of Cossignano - involves two very important ingredients available during this season. The two main ingredients sausage and cabbage are combined here because traditionally in country farms and houses a pig is is killed during the coldest days between December and February and the humble cabbage is the main protagonist of the "orto" kitchen garden or allotment during those same months.
Write a review
Print
Prep Time
30 min
Cook Time
1 hr
Total Time
1 hr 30 min
Prep Time
30 min
Cook Time
1 hr
Total Time
1 hr 30 min
Ingredients
  1. 1kg cabbage
  2. 200g potatoes
  3. olive oil
  4. 3 cloves of garlic
  5. 2 sprigs of fresh rosemary
  6. 3 italian sausages, de-skinned
  7. chilli (optional)
garnish
  1. rosemary sprigs
  2. thinly sliced fried purple potatoes
Instructions
  1. Take a small whole green cabbage and remove the outermost, damaged leaves, then chop roughly and remove the hard central core of the cabbage, what we call "removing the bone". Now rinsed the cabbage thoroughly and boil in lightly salted water with 200 g of peeled potatoes. Meanwhile, in a skillet, fry the whole pealed garlic with two sprigs of rosemary in olive oil, when the garlic is golden brown remove it and crumble in the three sausages and cook them well and mash with a fork. The vegetables are cooked when the potatoes are crushed easily, at this point drain the pan and using a colander transfer the cabbage to a chopping board and chop finely. Add the cabbage to the sausage pan and braise for about thirty minutes, adding some of the cooking water as needed to prevent drying out. To serve add in the mashed potatoes, season with salt ad pepper and serve topped with the fried potatoes and fresh rosemary.
Notes
  1. To add spice to the dish add chilli to taste 10 minutes before the end of the cooking time.
Cooking Holidays Italy http://www.italianfoodandflavours.com/
Facebooktwitterpinterest