A Taste of Food and Flavours
On Friday night a small group of close friends of Italian Food and Flavours got together for a promotional evening which focused on the jewel in the crown of this project…namely Fabio and his creativity. He presented us with a series of antipasti which although traditional through and through, had been tweaked as only he knows how, bringing the dishes up to the 21st century sophistication that fine diners demand. As always the dishes are kept simple yet ooze elegance thanks to the quality of the ingredients that he has combined.
Anti-pasti in this part of Italy have their roots in a past where meat was a luxury and lean heavily towards vegetable based dishes. However, since it is February and in keeping with the traditional theme, one dish in particular had everybody guessing. At this time of year the family pig would inevitably meet his maker and in times gone by when famine was rife, NOTHING was wasted. The blood from the pig would be carefully collected and cooked with onions, orange rind and a selection of herbs and spices, producing a surprisingly delicate dish that had Friday’s guests enthusing about the delicious “liver”. Even when the more squeamish amongst the guests, discovered the dish’s true nature they went back for seconds. Testament indeed as to why it is all important that these old fashioned recipes are kept alive and well in the restaurants of Le Marche.
Photo middle right shows the tangy orange flavoured blood pudding – an authentic Le Marche dish
Photo middle left shows roasted fennel with onions – an aromatic vegetable, gorgeous roasted with extra virgin olive oil
Photo bottom left shows another vegetarian dish of red cabbage with walnuts
Photo bottom right shows pork fillets with caramelised onions
We also enjoyed :
Frittura of olive ascolana and zucchine
Chicory and potato
Frittata (omelette)of leeks
White cabbage with chunks of salsicce (le Marche sausage)
Stuffed mushrooms with ricotta
Of course all washed down with a few glasses of local white and red wine straight from the local cantina (winery)
Grazie Fabio for a fabulous evening of tasty morsels!!
Salt-brining….the procedure for producing home cured meats is a centuries-old tradition that is handed down from parent to child. I’m the latest in my family to have acquired the secrets for the best results for this seemingly easy but time demanding job. Here I will show you how to produce the famous and quite delicious “Lonza” (cured whole pork fillet). To start with you have to choose a cold time of the year, usually December to February, in the photographs you can see my lonza prepared just last weekend (second week in January). The whole cuts of meat are put under plenty of coarse salt for 36 hours which flavours it at the same time as drawing out a lot of water. After this time the salt is removed and the meat washed, first in cold water and then with wine flavoured with orange peel.
The next phase requires a lot of care because the Lonza will be inserted into the very well washed casings from the pig and then into net casing which are closely tied at each end. The thus prepared lonza has now to cure for 3 or 4 months in a dry airy place to obtain the ideal conditions for drying and curing. I would tell you the secret place I store my lonza, but then I would have to…
fava e piselli
A few weeks ago we posted “A herald of spring in deepest November” a blog about Fabio’s dish of fresh spring peas with artichokes. Here is a variation on the theme using anchovies with the Fava beans. Not quite “liver with some fava beans and a nice Chianti” but tasty none the less!
This Le Marche recipe, inspired by the wish to make a healthy, green dish for lunch and by looking through my freezer to discover: freshly frozen fava and peas from my summer orto (vegetable garden) which can be briefly cooked from frozen to create a healthy, speedy salad.
two handfuls of frozen fava beans
two handfuls of peas
extra virgin olive oil
white wine vinegar
a garlic clove
Pecorino cheese ( a local Le Marche sheep’s cheese )
Boil the fava beans for 5 minutes, then run under the cold tap. They they pop out of their dull outer skins easily to reveal a fresh green inner bean. Boil the peas from frozen for three minutes and allow to cool.
Meanwhile make a dressing with 4/5 crushed anchovies, a garlic clove, olive oil and vinegar (with a ratio of 1:5 vinegar to oil) with some freshly milled black pepper. No salt required as the anchovies provide a lovely kick to the dressing.
Simply mix the beans, peas and dressing together. arrange on a serving dish and garnish with shavings of pecorino cheese.
Italian food blog: Verza alla Cossignanese
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
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.
Italian food blog: Bietolone di campo
4 cloves of garlic
good quality olive oil
one thinly sliced carrot
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
Finocchi etti al gorgonzola
Fennel sliced thinly and cut into smallish pieces
onions or leeks chopped finely
freshly grated parmesan
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.
Olive Ascolana (Stuffed Ascoli Olives)
Olive ascolana. These amazing little delights are a speciality Italian food of our region, Le Marche. It is unlikely you will have found them anywhere else in Italy, never mind the rest of the world. The only ingredient that you will find difficult to get hold of is the Ascoli olives themselves. You might be lucky if you have a good Italian food deli nearby and more and more large supermarkets stock large green olives which will be ok, failing that Ascoli Olives can be bought online. If you can’t get hold of the olives then there is another alternative, try the “Faggotini” recipe on this blog – it uses the same stuffing ingredients and is as good in its way.
Ascolane fritta are served with apperitivi, as antipasti or eaten as street food. In the best Italian food traditions, these little devils take patience and care, the results though are worth the effort.
1000g Ascoli Olives (large green olives)
for the stuffing:
100g each of beef, pork and chicken or ohter white meat, all cut into small cubes
half an onion, a carrot and stick of celery
50g freshly grated parmesan
50g fresh breadcrums
to flavour – salt, pepper, nutmeg and cloves
splash of white wine
for the frying:
plain flour and fine breadcrumbs for coating
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 olives. Use a small sharp knife to “peel” the olive from the stone in one continuous spiral – like peeling an apple in a spiral when you were a kid and had to get it all off in one go – you did do that didn’t you? Anyway you need to cut close to the stone and try to keep the section a similar size as you peel it from the stone. Be careful how you handle the spiral so as not to break it. As you put it down it should take up its original “olive” form.
Back to the stuffing: mince the cooked meats etc in a mincer or food processor to a reasonably fine consistency, mix in the fresh breadcrumbs, parmesan and 2 eggs and squish it with your fingers until combined into a homogenous mush that sticks together.
Now take an olive “skin” and a small piece of the stuffing, about the size of the stone you removed and place this inside the spiral and carefully reform to the olive shape. when all the olives are stuffed dip them one at a time in flour, egg and breadcrumbs. You can repeat this process if you like a good crumb on your olives. once they are all coated you can wait until you are ready to fry them, alternatively they freeze well at this stage.
To deep fry, get your sunflower oil to 200 degrees C and place in a few olives at a time, drain on kitchen roll when golden brown. They will stay warm for 30 mins or so, they can also be eaten cold, but not quite so delicious as freshly cooked, Italian food to die for!