Mussells

A must when in New Zealand is to eat the green-lipped mussels. They are so much larger and meatier than the varieties of black mussels common in Australia and Europe.

I stayed with friends on Waiheke Island located in the Hauraki Gulf. It is about 17.7 km from Auckland in the North Island of New Zealand. I bought the mussels from the local fish shop and cooked them with extra virgin olive oil, white wine, parsley and quite a bit of garlic (Cozze in Brodetto).

The next time I cooked green lipped mussels was a few days later when I visited other friends in Queenstown. I bought the mussels in another great fish shop in Dunedin and both towns are in the South Island of New Zealand. I cooked these with tomatoes and cannellini beans and these are the photos and the recipe. On this occasion I used tinned beans.

Black mussels can also be used in this recipe.

 There were 4 of us.

INGREDIENTS
mussels, 2.5 k
dry white wine ½  cup
parsley, ½  cup chopped
cannellini beans,  I used 2 x 400g tins, cooked and drained
tomato salsa: 800g of tinned red tomatoes, oregano (dried) or fresh basil leaves, salt, 1/4 cup of  extra virgin olive oil, garlic, 4 cloves chopped finely

Make salsa:
Place the tomato, basil or oregano, extra virgin olive oil and liquid from the mussels in a saucepan and cook uncovered for 10-15 minutes until reduced to about 2 cups.
Clean and de-beard mussels.
Place mussels in a large, wide saucepan, add wine and parsley, cover and place over high heat to steam open.
Remove the open mussels from the cooking liquid as you go (I placed mine in a large serving bowl). Leave the unopened ones in the liquid until they all open.
Evaporate the cooking liquid until you only have about 1 cup of concentrated liquid. This will be salty and this is why no salt has been used elsewhere.
Add the cannellini to the salsa and heat.
Combine all of the ingredients together and serve.

Reduction of liquid

 

You can see that I like mussels quite a bit. For other mussel recipes see:

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johnpresentsroundofparmigiano

Recently I attended part of the ENOTECA OPEN DAY celebration, the company’s 60th anniversary. John Portelli, is one of the proprietors and is very passionate about Italian produce food and wine in Australia. When I lived in Adelaide I used to visit the original Enoteca Sileno in Amess Street and we used to load up the car with Italian wines and goodies to take back to Adelaide.

With his usual charm and enthusiasm John conducted a presentation about Parmigiano Reggiano. While he very carefully and skilfully split open a wheel of an eight year old cheese he told his audience how it is made and the process that is required to make, store and cut this large wheel of cheese which weighed around 45 kg each.  In brief, it takes 1100 litres to produce two cheese wheels of Parmigiano-Reggiano.  Each cheese is then catalogued and the Parmigiano-Reggiano name, the plant’s number, and month and year of production are placed on a metal configuration that is buckled tight around the cheese.

Those cheeses that pass the test are then heat branded on the rind. The average Parmigiano-Reggiano wheel is about 18–24 cm high and 40–45 cm in diameter. The cheese is stored and matured for one year and then tested by a professional who evaluates each cheese by tasting a sample section. The testing continues until the cheese is sold and continues throughout if it is sold to a vendor who cares and continues to look after it properly to age and cut the cheese in the best possible way.

During his demonstration John explains that in the Enoteca Sileno warehouse where his wheels of Parmigiano Reggiano are stored, to help with the maturation process, each cheese is regularly rubbed with olive oil – the extra special virgin olive that is available in the Enoteca Sileno showroom for tasting. Enoteca always uses fresh oil for tastings, so the oil that is left in the bottle after tastings is used to lubricate the cheese. Now, that it exceptionally good treatment.

This is the Parmigiano-Reggiano to eat and it was eight years old.

It so happened that the day before I was invited to a friend’s house for lunch. One friend made cheese lollipops and she used Parmesan cheese. The hostess made an excellent lasagne the traditional sort originating in Emilia Romagna made with a classic ragù, béchamel and Parmigiano Reggiano. The type of lasagne my mother always made on a Sunday when we invited friends to lunch.

I thought the lollipops were a very clever idea. We had them with drinks while we smelt the lasagne in the oven.

She found the recipe Parmesan and poppy seed lollipops on the BBC website. It is one of Lorraine Pascale’s from Baking Made Easy. And there is no need to use an aged Parmigiano Reggiano for the lollipops.

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La Cucina 
Tradizionale Siciliana 

with
Marisa Raniolo Wilkins
at MERCATO
625 – 627 Lower North East Road Campbelltown SA ph: 08 8337 1808 fax: 08 8337 8024 e: marketing@mercato.com.au book online: www.mercato.com.au

 

About Marisa Raniolo Wilkins…

Like a true Sicilian, Marisa Raniolo Wilkins is a lively fusion of cultures and experience. She was born to Sicilian parents in Ragusa, but she spent her childhood in the far northeast of Italy in the famous port city of Trieste, where her parents had met. In her summer holidays Marisa would travel to Sicily to visit her relatives. This was where Marisa learnt about food and cooking from her Sicilian relatives.

“My mother always told me that my father’s family knew nothing about cooking, but it was my father’s sisters who were some of my greatest inspirations in the kitchen,” Marisa says.

Marisa and her family migrated to Australia in the late-1950s and settled in Adelaide, not far from where Imma and Mario established Mercato. Growing up in Adelaide, Marisa always kept in touch with Sicily and maintained her interest in flavours and ingredients.

Over the years she has travelled to Sicily many times to visit her extended family, adding to her store of first-hand experience with every visit. Marisa enjoyed a successful career as a teacher and educationist in South Australia before moving to Melbourne in early 2002.

As she was getting settled in Melbourne, and in between jobs, Marisa rediscovered her passion for writing and her ambition to write a book about Sicilian cuisine and to document some of the classic, local Sicilian dishes cooked by her grandmothers and aunties and food that she has eaten throughout the island of Sicily. The result, eight years later, is her book, Sicilian Seafood Cooking, published by New Holland in November 2011.

 

Photos courtesy of Bob Evans 

Modern takes on traditional Sicilian dishes. Although Sicily is not a large Island, the cuisine varies considerably from region to region.
In this food workshop & cooking demonstration Marisa Raniolo Wilkins, author of the book Sicilian Seafood Cooking, will prepare and demonstrate the ways Sicilian cuisine has been shaped and influenced by the dominant cultures of the Mediterranean from the ancient times to the modern day, which includes Greek, Roman, Arabic, French and Spanish cultures.Marisa will share her experience in the kitchen and her love of Sicilian Cuisine.

~Menu~
Caponata
When you go to Sicily, you must eat Caponata & you may have thought that eggplants are the main ingredient. Marisa will make different caponate
(plural of caponata) which feature different
ingredients that reflect the seasons.
Paired with 2011 Tavignano Verdicchio Villa Torre

 

Pasta alla Norma
Pasta alla Norma is a traditional dish from Catania.
In modern restaurants & kitchens it is now presented in a variety of creative ways that reflect the inevitable fusions of cuisines across the world. Marisa will prepare different variations of the dish that she experienced in her recent trip to Sicily, including some that use fish.
Paired with 2009 Baglio Curatolo Nero d’Avola, SicilyCucciaYou will also experience a modern version of a very ancient dessert called Cuccia that has deep-rooted religious and seasonal associations.
Paired with 2010 Etna Rosso Erse, Sicily

When: Friday 12th July 2013

Where: at Mercato in the demo kitchen
625-627 Lower North East Road
Campbelltown SA

Tickets: $120 per person
This class starts at 6.30pm and runs for approximately 3 hours and includes detailed recipe notes, delicious food matched with a tasting of Italian wine and informative, fun conversation.
We also offer all guests 10% discount on any purchases made in-store on the evening
This class has a limit of 16 people.

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One of my friends made this cake and it is called a Rich Almond and Ricotta Cake.

The recipe was a photocopy from a magazine of a couple of years ago. She has made the cake a few times and it has always been successful.

The cake is nice eaten on its own but just to remind us that it is winter, we enjoyed eating it like a dessert with warm stewed quinces and cream. With a cup of tea for morning or afternoon it is just as nice.

Because she decorated her cake with lavender from her garden we discussed how a lavender custard would also be an excellent accompaniment for this cake. I have included a recipe for this as well.

250g ricotta cheese
4 eggs, separated
1 tsp almond extract
175g caster sugar
250g almond meal
finely grated rind of 1 lime
1/4 cup flaked almonds
Icing sugar to dust
Preheat the oven to 150C
Beat together the ricotta, egg yolks, almond extract and sugar in an electric mixer until smooth. Stir in the almond meal and lime zest.
Whisk the egg whites in a clean, dry bowl until soft peaks. Fold 1/3 of the egg whites into the ricotta mixture to loosen, then fold in the remaining. Spread into the tin and bake for 35 minutes. Sprinkle with the almonds and bake for a further 10 minutes until golden and a skewer comes out clean.
Cool slightly, then turn on to a wire rack. Cool completely then dust with icing sugar to serve.

Lavender custard

2 cups milk
4 egg yolks
1/2 cup sugar
6 fresh lavender flowers, without stems
Beat the egg yolks and sugar until creamy. Heat the milk until small bubbles appear along the edges of the pan ( well before boiling point).
Pour a little of the egg mixture into the hot milk in the saucepan and whisk steadily. Keep on adding dribbles of the egg mixture slowly into the saucepan, and cook, stirring constantly until the mixture thickens.
Remove from the heat and add the lavender flowers. Pour the custard into a jug; place a piece of baking paper directly on the surface to prevent a skin from forming. Leave to steep in the fridge overnight. Remove the flowers before serving.

 

On the same weekend another friend gave me a present. She crocheted this extraordinary tea cosy for me. If only I had this fabulous creation when we ate our cake!

The Rich Almond and Ricotta Cake recipe reminded me of a different almond cake I used to make  – one of those flourless moist cakes that Claudia Roden made very popular and that has Sicilian flavours and ingredients. The almonds are toasted beforehand and then half of them are ground to a meal and the other half are coarsely ground before they are added to the cake mixture. This adds crunch as well as a more pronounced taste of almonds throughout the cake rather than just on top.

I am not saying that one cake is better than the other. They are both a variation on a theme. In Sicily the ricotta would be made from sheep’s milk – more delicate and sweeter.

Torta di Mandorle e Ricotta

Although it is called a torta (cake) it doubles up as being one of those moist desserts that I prefer to eat warm accompanied by some stewed winter or summer fruit or fresh strawberries. A dollop of cream does not go astray but this is not a common Italian custom.

250 grams of almonds
250 g ricotta, drained (the one sold in the tub is usually too moist and not suitable)
100 grams of sugar
4 eggs
finely grated rind of 1 lemon or orange

Blanch the almonds and then toast in the oven (160 degrees) till golden. Beat the ricotta and sugar, add  rind, the eggs one at a time then mix in the almonds. Mix everything well. Pour into a cake pan lined with baking paper and bake at 160 C  for 45 minutes. Serve it warm.

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I met some very interesting people while I was in Italy. One such person is Sergio Manbrini and he has a restaurant called Cartoccia in Mantova (Mantua).

Sergio founded and directed the first Legambiente of Mantua, a group dealing with issues aimed at investigating the relationship between health, nutrition, agriculture and the environment. He is now an author as well as an activist on environmental issues and a restauranteur.

His first book is Fango Nero and as you would expect it has a political message. Sergio began his working life in a factory and like the character in his book, he began to question the social, industrial and economic events that were happening in the 70’s and the consequential changes to the society and the environment he lived in. He decided to radically change his way of life and motivate others to do the same.

It is therefore of no surprise that the restaurant only uses organic, dio – dynamic, raw ingredients. All good!!

Of prime importance when I travel is to eat the local food and traditional dishes of that particular town and region (yes, to this degree – the variations and specialities of dishes exist in the short proximities). I could not go wrong when my partner and I ordered from his menu.

Cartoccia+tortollini+full+plate

Tortelli di zucca conditi con burro e salvia.  being a purist, I selected the classic traditional version dressed with butter and sage. These are large tortellini stuffed with yellow pumpkin and  certainly a classic dish from this area (photo above). On the menu he also had the tortelli dressed with, sugo di pomodoro e salsiccia mantovana (dressed with a tomato sauce with pork sausage from Mantova).

Tagliatelle con castagne, ricotta e radicchio con speck (Tagliatelle made with chestnut flour and wheat,  dressed with ricotta and radicchio and speck).

Luccio in salsa con peperoni capperi, acciughe on polenta (Pike, a fresh water fish with peppers, capers, anchovies on polenta).

Verdura grigliata (we ate this as an appetiser – seasonal vegetables including Cavolo Nero).

Torta sbrisolona (a local specialty).

During lunch I had many interesting conversations about global and local issues.  We discussed the food we were eating and my interest in sustainable fish and in the environment and I was told how pike swam in the lakes of Mantua when the water was not polluted. Pike is now bred and fished nearby in very clean waters, as the lake is so polluted that no swimming is permitted. We discussed the pros and cons of aquaculture and the importance of maintaining our interest and commitment to such an important issue.

This is not Sergio’s recipe for Tortelli di Zucca. I used to have an aunt who was Piedmontese and lived in Genova, she was an excellent cook and she used to make them. In her recipes she always included Mostarda di frutta di Cremona, an Italian condiment made of candied fruit and a mustard flavoured syrup. In my home we ate Mostarda with Bollito misto (boiled meats) and This is all I have left of the jar of Mostarda in my fridge. Cremona is not far from Mantova or Genova and the tortelli being a classical dish from these parts of Italy, it would contain Mostarda di Frutta as well as amaretti. It is an interesting taste and quite sweet.

You may consider making them into ravioli. Tortelloni are big tortellini and there is no way that I can describe adequately how you can fold them in writing… Basically they are squares of pasta, small amount of filling, pasta square is folded in half, one point of triangle folded down, other two points joined together. I am sure that if you are interested there would be something on the internet about this.

I have described how to make ravioli in an earlier post. See: Ravioli di Ricotta :

The filling is sufficient for a pasta made with 250g of white hard wheat flour and 3-4 eggs. There are plenty of recipes on how to make home made fresh pasta and I will not bore you with that.

A non-watery type of pumpkin is best. If boiled, the pumpkin must be well drained (butternut, Japanese, in Australia)

INGREDIENTS

Fresh pasta in sheets.

Filling:

1.5kg pumpkin peeled and seeded and cooked (baked or boiled in little water)
1 tablespoon butter melted
50g Amaretti biscuits, crumbed
2 tablespoons of chopped fruit from Mostarda di Frutta (pear and apricot are good)
100g Parmigiano grated
 ½ tsp ground nutmeg
Salt, pepper to taste

Sauce:

Melt 1 cup of unsalted on gentle heat. When the butter begins to bubble add 7 leaves of fresh sage and continue the heat for 1 to 2 minutes. The butter will be a caramel colour.
Make the sauce last of all.

PROCESS

Make pasta.
Mash the (cold or warm), cooked pumpkin and add all of the other ingredients. The filling should have the consistency of a paste (not runny). If it does not, you may need to add some fresh breadcrumbs from good quality bread (no crusts).
Fill and shape into ravioli.
Cook ravioli in salted boiling water for 4-5 minutes, they will float to the top.
Dress with sage butter, add some freshly ground pepper, Parmesan
(optional), and serve.

 

I enjoyed my lunch very much and I wish Sergio well…. he persists when it is so easy to give up.

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