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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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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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Italian food blog: Faggotini

Italian Food and Flavours

Italian food blog: Faggotini (Italian food parcels of wonder)

Faggotini are another specialty Italian food from the Ascoli region that we are pleased to include on our Italian food blog. They are small thin pancakes stuffed with a mixed meat filling severed with a bechamel sauce. Faggotini are served as a primo (first/pasta course) or as a light lunch. They are melt in the mouth delicacies and a neat alternative to ravioli to impress the guests. All the ingredients and methods are familiar and they reasonably easy to make. You can use a similar stuffing to the Ascoli Olives in the previous Italian food blog recipe or try the one here.

Ingredients

for the stuffing:

olive oil

100g each of  beef, pork and chicken or other white meat, all cut into small cubes

50g chicken livers

half an onion, a carrot and stick of celery

50g freshly grated parmesan

to flavour – salt, pepper, nutmeg and cloves

splash of white wine

for the pancakes:

2 eggs

100g plain flour

350cc milk

150cc water

béchamel sauce to serve

Method

Cook the onions in the oil until translucent, add the meats and vegetables and brown. Add the flavourings and the wine put on a lid and simmer for a hour or so on a low heat. Add a little water if it gets too dry. Allow the mixture to cool.

While the meats are cooking prepare the pancakes. Whisk up the pancake mix till smooth. Pour a small amount of the mixture into a small (15cm) frying pan in which you have a little sunflower oil. Tip the pan quickly to cover the base, when cooed through toss the pancake and brown slightly on the other side. Slide out of the pan and cook all the rest of the pancakes, they should be thin and lightly coloured and flexible not crisp. cover with a cloth until you are ready to assemble.

Back to the filling: mince the cooked meats in a mincer or food processor to a coarse consistency, mix in the parmesan, season to taste. Take a pancake and spoon a small dollop (technical term) of the stuffing into the middle.  lift over the top, bottom, right and finally left sides of the pancake to cover the filling then turn the little parcel over and place in a oiled ovenproof dish. Do the same with the remaining pancakes and fill the base of the dish pushing the parcels together but not overlapping. Pour enough béchamel sauce to provide a scant covering of the parcels and put the dish uncovered in a hot oven (200 C) for 10/15 minutes. Everything is already cooked so you are really just making sure it is all lovely and hot.

serve with black pepper and parmesan – and a green salad if you are feeling desperate.

Read more authentic recipes from our Italian food blog

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