Saturday, September 29, 2007

Weekend Herb Blogging #102

Ulrike from Kuchenlatein is the host of this edition of Weekend Herb Blogging and once again I've been tempted by something new at the market.

Sicilian citrus

These rather unusually coloured citrus I spied at the Turin Market immediately got my attention and I knew I just had to try them. Some of there eaten but some have made the journey with me to Florence.

Unfortunately I can't give you an exact name as yet as I've seen them referred to as various things but they are clementine like - there's some acid to cut the sweetness, a bit like a lemony orange. On a warm day, they are very refreshing.

I can now give you a name - they are Miyagawa and they originally come from Japan but are now grown in Sicily.



The Florence market has been full of wonderful fruit so I thought why not make an Italian style fruit salad - Macedonia di Frutta using these refreshing citrus fruits with the best of the days market finds.

macedonia di frutta

Macedonia di Frutta/Marinated Fruit Salad

strawberries, halved
raspberries, hulled and left whole
wild strawberries, left whole
peaches, diced in bite sized pieces
white grapes, halved
fig, cut into bite sized pieces
silician citrus, peeled and cut into half, then broken into segments
melon, cut into small dice
fruit juice, I used a mix of apple and pear
Prosecco, sparkling white wine

Naturally enough you can use whatever fruit you like - this is just what I used. Try to cut the fruit into even-sized pieces

Place all the cut fruit into a sealable bowl then pour in the fruit juice and Prosecco - use enough to just cover the fruit. Make sure you taste and adjust the proportions to suit you.

Chill in the fridge to allow the fruit to macerate.

You can serve this with ice-cream, cream or yoghurt but when in Italy, use gelato!


In this case it's a lovely Fior di Latte Gelato from a local Gelateria (in case you're wondering the dark one is Nocciola, a hazelnut gelato)

macedonia with gelato

Tagged with Weekend Herb Blogging

Friday, September 28, 2007

Pici with Fresh Porcini and Pecorino

This edition of Presto Pasta Night sees me back cooking "live" so to speak, it's just that my location has changed and I am now in Florence.

Yesterday it basically rained all the way from Turin to Florence and it was still raining when I went to the market this morning.

I'll be combining the rather wintery conditions with typical produce of the region to produce a dish fit for not only the weary traveller but anyone at all.

One of the first things I bought this morning was fresh Porcini


the rain just said mushroom weather to me.

From my last visit I knew there's a stall that makes fresh pasta so why not take advantage of that fact

making pasta

Here they are busy preparing the pasta for the day.

pasta bag

The pasta I've chosen is called Pici


Pici are a Tuscan pasta that you can see are somewhat like a course and thick spaghetti.

To keep in the Tuscan spirit the cheese I'm using is a Pecorino


that hails from the Tuscan town of Arezzo.

Putting all these ingredients together I get this

pici and porcini

Pici with Fresh Porcini and Pecorino

fresh Pici
fresh porcini, cleaned and sliced
fresh thyme leaves
red onion, sliced finely
1 garlic clove, sliced finely
pecorino, roughly grated
salt and freshly ground black pepper

Heat a little butter and olive oil in a pan and when the butter has melted add the onion and garlic and cook gently until softened and beginning to colour.

Add a little more butter followed by the sliced porcini and sauté until soft and golden, sprinkle over with the fresh thyme and a some rough sliced slivers of pecorino.

Allow the cheese to melt before adding the cooked pasta, along with a grind of salt and white pepper. Toss this around to allow the pasta to soak in all the pan juices before serving into bowls.

Sprinkle over with a little more pecorino and a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil.

pici and porcini

Wednesday, September 26, 2007


Johanna from The Passionate Cook is hosting this edition of Waiter, There's something in My... and selected the theme of Savoury Preserve.

As I would be in Italy by the time this event finishes I've decided to think ahead and make that ultimate Italian Pickle - Giardiniera.


Giardiniera is a staple on antipasto platters - a mix of vegetables preserved in a vinegar based liquid. Its aim is to preserve vegetables at the peak of their season, the crunch in the vegetables a nod to their freshness.

There's no hard and fast ingredient list but you normally find things such as cauliflower, onion, carrot, beans and peas, red capsicum, celery and zucchini to name but a few. The preserving liquid is basically made from 2 parts white wine vinegar to 1 part water to which sugar and salt are added to create a balanced brew. Seasoning such as peppercorns and bay leaf are also used.

The best part is that its pretty much read to eat once you've made it.



1 fennel, sliced
1 red capsicum, sliced
4 small white onions, cut into eights
2 carrots, peeled and cut at the diagonal
2 celery stalks, cut at the diagonal
½ cauliflower, cut into even sized florets
2 parts white wine vinegar
1 part water

Place the white wine vinegar and water into a large pot and heat it. Add sugar and salt and stir until it dissolves - taste and then adjust the seasoning levels.

Once you have prepared the vegetables add them into the liquid according to their cooking time - the harder vegetables go in first, the softest go in last. Simmer until they have softened slightly but still retain a bit of crunch.

When they are ready pour into preserving jars and seal.

They should keep in a cool spot or you could eat them once they have cooled completely.

In case this recipe isn't authentic enough then here's a photo taken yesterdy of real Italian pickles at Eataly in Turin


Tuesday, September 25, 2007

That's not excessive

cook books

It's only one a day!

Sunday, September 23, 2007

Sugar High Friday #35

Ivonne from Cream Puffs in Venice is the host of this edition of Sugar High Friday and the theme selected was Figs.

It's not really fig season here at the moment so this is a perfect opportunity to take advantage of dried figs. By the time this posts I will be in Italy so I thought I'd make something with an Italian spin to it.

I dare say we will have nibbled on some biscotti by now, so I'll be baking a batch of Fig Biscotti - the recipe comes from Jared Ingersoll's Sharing Plates.

Fig Biscotti©

Fig Biscotti
[Makes over 40]

500 grams plain flour
½ teaspoon baking powder
165 grams softened butter
200 grams caster sugar
2 eggs
165 grams dried figs, chopped (I used these Organic White Turkish figs)
1 tablespoon honey
1 lemon, zested
1 orange, zested

Beat the butter and sugar until creamy and fluffy. Beat in the honey and then add the eggs, one at a time, mixing until well combined.

Sift the flour with the baking powder and add to the creamed mixture along with the figs, lemon and orange zests. It may look like it is too dry but keep stirring as it will amalgamate.

Once the mixture has come together, turn it out onto a board - divide into two and roll each half to form a flattened sausage shape about 20cm/8 inches long.

Place on a baking tray and brush with a little milk. Bake in a preheated 170°C/325°F oven for about 20 minutes or until the surface is golden.

Remove from the oven and allow to cool on a rack. Then cut using a serrated knife into 1cm/½ inch thick slices.

Put the slices back onto the baking tray and cook for 5 minutes before turning them over and cooking for another 5 minutes or until golden and dry.

Cool on wire racks.

fig biscotti

Enjoy with a good espresso, "corrected" with a little grappa if the mood strikes you.

Other fig recipes:
Fig Walnut and Date Bread
Muesli Bars
Black Genoa Figs with Buffalo Mozzarella

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Saturday, September 22, 2007


Myriam, that brownie babe extraordinaire from Once Upon a Tart is the lovely host of this edition of Weekend Herb Blogging.

This is one of those posts I prepared before I left and as I am in Italy I thought I would do something typically Italian.

Chestnut Flour

Chestnut Flour is something my mother grew up with as her family harvested and milled the chestnuts. It is quite a laborious process and the chestnuts spindly coating making it potential painful as well.

chestnut flour

This brown tinged flour has a distinctive sweet, nutty aroma but you need to careful with its storage - keep it in an airtight container in a cool place like the fridge. To have it at its optimum, buy it in small quantities.

For those with gluten intolerance you'd be happy to know that this is gluten free.

One of the main dishes made with this is Castagnaccio and when I asked my mother about it, she really couldn't understand why I'd want to make it. She had it almost every day growing up in Italy, which understandably explains why she has never made it here in Australia.

The version made by her family was rather plain and lacking the raisins, pinenuts and rosemary that you see in many "traditional" versions but it was served with their home-made ricotta and honey.

So for this version I've kinda mashed the recipes together and created my own version.

Instead of rosemary leaves, I've used the rather delicate and beautiful rosemary flowers.


I wanted something a bit more subtle and Rosemary is anything but subtle - the flowers on the other hand give you just that hint of flavour in a rather delicate mauve package.

rosemary flowers

I've also replaced the pinenuts with slivered almonds and as our raisins are quite large, currants take their place.



chestnut flour, sifted
cold water
olive oil
slivered almonds
rosemary flowers
good ricotta cheese
honey (I used Heritage Natural Comb Leatherwood Honey)

I'm not giving exact measurements as this dish doesn't have any - it's done by feel.

Sift flour into a bowl and then whisk in enough cold water to form a smooth batter - we are looking for it to achieve the consistency of runny cream.

Take an oven dish and add enough olive oil to coat the bottom of the dish. Pour in the batter - you only want it to be 1-1½ cms (½ inch) thick.

Sprinkle over with some slivered almonds and currants and then finely with the rosemary flowers.

Bake in a preheated 180°C/350°F oven until cooked (the time will depend on the size) - the top will have a crackled appearance when done.


Turn out and cut into wedges - eat when hot or warm, topped with ricotta cheese and a good dollop of honey.

Maybe this version will tempt my mother?

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Presto Pasta Night #30

By now you might have twigged that I'm in Italy but I haven't forgotten about Presto Pasta Night and as they seem to say on all the cooking shows, here's something I prepared earlier.

I think it's only appropriate that I make something typically Italian...but with a little twist.

Last year I posted my Gnocchi making secrets and rather than just repeat the exercise I thought I'd use those same principles but applied to a different type of potato. In this case I've chosen the highly distinctive Purple Congo.

purple congo potato

I am an avowed potato lover and though this is a gorgeous potato, I find it mealy and altogether a rather less than inspiring potato when used in dishes like salads. If looks matter more than taste, then this is for you.

Having said that, there was one thing I hadn't used it for and that was to make gnocchi - but that was until now.

Purple Congo Gnocchi

purple congo potatoes, choose those of a similar size to even out cooking time
plain flour

First off, wash the potatoes and then boil then whole until they are tender. You boil them whole so that they don't absorb the water and become soggy and boiling these potato fingers is quite a quick process.

Drain and then peel them - this should be done while there's still heat in the potato so don't wait for the potatoes to become cold.

boiled - purple congo

With the skin off you can see just how purple they really are - the colour does go right through.

Once peeled, put them through a potato ricer - this is really one tool you need to get that soft and fluffy result. If you don't have a ricer, try mashing them by hand but never ever put them in a food processor, you'll end up with potato glue.

riced potato

Yes, they do look a bit like purple Plasticine but that really is the potato.

Tip the potatoes out onto a board and grind over with some salt. I have read on occasion that people don't add salt but for me that makes no sense. Just like pasta dough, salt is essential to bring out the flavour.

The next part is the addition of flour and I make no apologies for this, but these gnocchi are egg free. In the earlier post I listed a rough guide of using at most 175 grams of flour for every 500 grams of potato. I found it very interesting that I used considerably less flour to make this dough.

The method is to use just enough flour to form a dough that is no longer sticky.

I then take portions of the dough and roll it out to form sausage shapes about the thickness of my ring finger. Once I've made all theses rolls, it's time to cut them into gnocchi.

Once again I prefer my gnocchi to be small, probably about the size of a fingernail - they need to fit easily on the tines of a fork, which is useful when it comes to the formation of that traditional ridging.

Take your fork and rest the tines onto your bench - hold it at a slight angle with the curve of the fork facing the gnocchi. The fork position is shown in the photo below.

formed gnocchi

Place a gnoccho at the base of the fork and then very gently roll it along the tines - you'll find that your fingertip will cause an indentation on one side and the tines will form the ridges on the other. This is a really quick process and you don't need to apply pressure to do this - if you do then you've probably got quite a floury mix that isn't going to give you that light result.

Once all the gnocchi have been formed, it's time to cook them!

As with all pasta, a large pot of boiling salted water is needed. When the water is rapidly boiling add in the gnocchi, stir and allow to cook. They will rise to the surface when cooked. Drain and toss them through the sauce and serve immediately.

purple congo gnocchi

For a sauce for these most colourful gnocchi I thought I needed something equally strong in colour. So I came up with a simple mix of onion, pancetta lardons and peas - those green orbs look so striking against the purple.

purple congo gnocchi

A fine grating of Parmigiano-Reggiano the final touch.

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Monday, September 17, 2007

On Route

on route

While not currently in the air we soon will be.

It’s been a long couple of days so far - Sunday started at 4am with a trip to the airport and we didn’t reach our midway destination until 7pm.

Actually it was even longer than that.

Since we needed to leave at 4am we never went to sleep Saturday night - so we’d been up and about since 7am Saturday morning!

Today we have a 12+hour flight which will be followed by an overnight train and come Tuesday morning we still won’t be at our final destination.

That will take another two hours or so by train.

Now, what will all this travelling mean to this blog. Well I have things scheduled to appear here but I’ll also be blogging at our other spots

Eat - will have our day to day travels and the Moblog for those instant happenings.

We have some really interesting events scheduled over the weekend so there should be plenty to see and read.

Hopefully by Wednesday we'll be nicely settled.


Saturday, September 15, 2007

Weekend Herb Blogging #100

Katerina from Daily Unadventures in Cooking is the host of this 100th edition of Weekend Herb Blogging.

This week I've got another unusual subject

snow cap mushroom

Is it some type of baseball mitt?

snow cap mushroom

A misshapen hand of some sort?

snow cap mushroom

Of course it is neither, it is a Japanese variety of fungus called snow cap mushroom.

The aren't all as interestingly shaped as these - they can in fact be almost saucer like in shape, such as this one

snow cap mushroom

What attracted me to these mushrooms besides their appearance was their description - they taste like lobster. You slice them finely and cook them in butter for about 30 seconds, just brown each side and that's it - you treat them in the same way you would abalone.

So armed with one I headed home to try it out for myself. As this was just a test I only sliced a quarter of the mushroom, browned it in the butter and a word of advice, 30 seconds means 30 seconds. As soon as one side is brown, flip it over and that's basically it.

Eagerly I tasted a slice and yes, indeed, while not exactly like lobster, it did have the consistency and a taste that was lobster-like. Needless to say those testing slices disappeared very quickly and a few other snow caps have passed through my hands since then.

For this week's recipe, the snow caps do cry out for a simple solution. You don't want to bury them with sauces or other strong flavours - what you want is to enhance their flavour and make them the star of your dish.

So I've come up with a rather indulgent brunch or breakfast idea - a generous serving of sautéed slices of snow cap atop a good, crusty whole-grain baguette with a soft poached egg to crown its glory.

egg, mushroom on baguette

Sautéed Snow Caps with Poached Egg

snow cap mushroom, finely sliced
whole-grain petit pain, partially split in half
soft poached eggs>

I love soft poached eggs but I understand that some can't stand them and in some places it isn't safe to have runny yolks. However, I must say that the yolk works so well with the slices of mushroom - they become pseudo toast soldiers soaking up that eggy goodness.

Petit Pain, the small French bread rolls are an excellent size for this dish. Cut them lengthways at a slight angle stopping before you cut straight through the roll. Pry it open to create a nest in while you can pile the sautéed snow cap slices.

In cooking the mushrooms be generous with the butter as it will be left in the skillet but you do need a good quantity in which to sauté the slices.

Once the butter has melted and is sizzling add the slices in a single layer - when you see that they are starting to colour, flip them over to brown the other side and then remove them immediately. Don't be tempted to cook them for any longer.

Pile the slices into the bread and top with the just poached egg.

egg and mushroom

My favourite part is jabbing the egg and watching the yolk spill out...


You could serve the mushrooms on scrambled eggs if preferred.

Before you ask, for those in Melbourne, if you hurry you can find these at Damian Pike's stall at Prahran Market.

Related Recipes

Sautéed Mushrooms with Wasabi
Slippery Jack Omelette
Roasted Swiss Brown Mushrooms with Chèvre and Lemon Thyme
Fettucine with Mixed Mushrooms
Mixed Mushroom and Goat Cheese Bruschetta

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Presto Pasta Night #29

For this week's Presto Pasta Night I'm taking it real slow and making lasagne.

At the heart of a good lasagne is the Ragù - the rich, slow-simmered meat sauce that provides a counter to the creamy Béchamel sauce.

Growing up, making ragù was a Sunday morning ritual. After my mother returned from the early mass, we would set the process in motion. Onions, carrots, celery had to be finely chopped - parsley, sage and rosemary picked from the garden.

There are several steps that are vital to the success of the ragu - first you must allow the vegetable base to cook down - the vegetables must soften slowly and be allowed to gently colour. This takes time - a good 20 to 30 minutes.

Next you must brown the minced meat in this vegetable base - add the meat in stages so that it sautés rather than stews. The colour you build on the meat in this stage will reward you at the end with a greater depth of flavour.

Finally, once the tomatoes have been added, it's then becomes a question of time. Cook it slowly and cook it for a long time. Our Sunday morning ritual was so designed that the last hour of cooking happened while we were at the 11am mass. On return all that was left to do was put on the pasta.



pasta sheets
béchamel sauce
baby Bocconcini (mozzarella balls)
grated Parmigiano
sautéed mushrooms (optional)

500 grams minced beef
4 Italian pork sausages, peeled and cut into pieces
1 large onion, finely chopped
2 carrots, finely chopped
2 stalks celery, finely chopped
fresh rosemary, finely chopped
fresh sage leaves, finely chopped
tomato paste
diced tomatoes
dried porcini mushrooms, soaked in boiling water
salt and freshly ground black pepper

Make the Ragù:

Place olive oil and a knob of butter into a large pot over a medium-low heat and when the butter has melted and has started to sizzle add the onion, carrot, celery, sage and rosemary. Stir this well and allow to cook slowly until the vegetables soften and start to colour. As I mentioned before, don't rush this stage and allow it 20-30 minutes to get to the right stage.

Add the minced meat a little at a time, increase the heat slightly to make sure the mixture doesn't stew. You need to keep stirring and breaking down the meat so that it evenly colours and no lumps remain. Once one portion has browned add the next. Then end result should be quite a dry mixture.

Now add the sausage pieces a few at a time - stir this well but don't be as rough, allow this to stay a little chunky.

When all the sausage has been added it's time to build the tomato base.

Add tomato paste to the mix, increase the heat a little and stir it vigourously through the mixture. You need to cook the raw taste from the paste so give this 5 minutes before moving onto the next stage. You should notice a change of appearance in the paste, it will darken and almost look like it has split.

When that happens, add in the diced tomatoes. For this amount 1-2 cans should be sufficient. I always use Italian tomatoes as none come close to them in quality - they have great flavour and ripeness. You could also replace one of the cans with tomato passata if so desired.

For special occasions, my mother would add porcini mushrooms. Dried porcini need to be softened in boiling water for about 30 minutes - strain, but reserve the liquid.

Chop the porcini roughly and add to the mixture along with the reserved liquid - the liquid gives the sauce a deeper colour and added porcini flavour. Taste and adjust the seasoning.

Simmer the mixture for about 30 minutes then turn the heat down low so it barely bubbles and cook for another 1½-2 hours. Add the chopped parsley just before it's finished cooking.

If you don't want to cook this on the stovetop, you can also cook it in the oven for a similar amount of time. Keep an eye on it as it does tend to dry out a little quicker in the oven so you'll need to add liquid to keep it moist.

One of the best things about Lasagne is that you can make large quantities easily and it freezes so well. Rather than OD on lasagne I make some to have fresh and I put the rest away in these nifty foil containers.

foil storage

The first layer of lasagne is Ragu - add it sparingly, it is used to moisten the base of your dish. This is then followed by a pasta sheet. If you are using dry then under-cook them so that they aren't al dente - the pasta will finish cooking when you bake the dish.

Add more ragu topped with béchamel sauce.

As a little treat I've then added some sautéed mushrooms.

making lasagne

The pattern repeats - pasta, ragu, béchamel and ripped bocconcini

making lasagne

The final layer goes on - pasta, ragu, béchamel and a sprinkling of Parmigiano-Reggiano and grated Mozzarella. If you are freezing the lasagne, then omit the cheese - add it fresh when you cook the lasagne.


Sealed away, perfect for those lazy days.

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Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Tea - Triple Happiness

It's been a while between teas so I thought it might be a good time to change that.

Triple Happiness

This is called Triple Happiness and it refers to the three flowers, Marigold, Lily and Jasmine that lay hidden inside this parcel of green tea.

triple happiness

This tea is said to have calming and relaxing effects and helps boost your immune system and detoxifies the body.

Related Posts:
Chinese Flower Tea
Good Fortune
Jasmine Pearls
Seashell with Pearls
Seven Angels
Spring Snow
Tian Shan Lotus

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Monday, September 10, 2007

Super Soup Challenge

Super Soup Challenge is an annual event created by Tami from Running with Tweezers to honour her mother's life and love of cooking.

Lately the soups I've made have been very simply structured with many extraneous ingredients omitted to allow the main ingredient to be the focus. In keeping with that, I've turned my attention towards cauliflower and put a different spin of the standard Cauliflower and Blue Cheese Soup.

In many ways what I've made is a soup version of Cauliflower and Béchamel Sauce and as a final touch I've frothed it up to give it almost "cappuccino" like consistency. It's creamy, it's soothing and it's comforting.

Cauliflower and Blue Cheese Soup©

Cauliflower and Blue Cheese Soup

cauliflower, cut into florets
blue cheese, broken into small pieces (I used Maffra Glenmaggie Blue)
freshly ground salt and white pepper, to taste

Put the cauliflower florets into a pot and cover with milk - place on a low heat and allow to gently simmer until the cauliflower has softened.

When you can mash the cauliflower with a fork, remove the heat. Pour into a blender (or use a stick blender) to process the soup until smooth.

Strain the soup through a fine mesh sieve back into a clean pan. Return to the heat and add a few pieces of blue cheese at a time to the soup. Add as much or as little of the blue cheese as you like. If you don't like blue cheese, try using a Grana or Parmigiano.

When the cheese has melted into the soup, it is ready to serve. Do taste and if necessary, add salt and pepper - depending on the cheese used, you may find you don't need to add any additional seasoning.

Just before serving, froth the soup using a stick blender to create that light and fluffy top.


I've served the soup in little hug bowls so you can happily wrap your hands around the bowl and sip to your hearts content.

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Sunday, September 09, 2007

Cheese: Maffra Cheese Company

Maffra Cheese Company is located in Gippsland, an area here in Victoria that is well known for its Cheese producers just as Jindi and Tarago River.

The cheese is made using only the milk from their herd of Holstein Friesian cows - this classes them as a farmhouse producer. Non animal rennets are also used.

Maffra Glenmaggie Blue©

Cheese Maker: Maffra Cheese Company
Cheese Name: Maffra Glenmaggie Blue
The dairy is not open to the public but contact information and details on where you can buy the cheese can be found on their website.

maffra glenmaggie blue

This is the Maffra Glenmaggie Blue named after Lake Glenmaggie that is located nearby. It's made in a "Stilton style".

While it looks quite fierce it has a creamy texture that offsets its sharp bite. As it ages it will break down and more sweeter flavours will emerge.

I wouldn't recommend it for the bluecheeseaphobics, solely based on its appearance but if Blue Cheese is your thing, then do give this a try.
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