Monthly Archives: September 2017

The Festival of Nonna

DSC02534

 

The Festival of Nonna celebrates the Italian matriarch, the epicentre of the clan, the recipes that have been handed down verbally by generation, without measurements but by feel, taste and a love of simple and fresh ingredients.  The series of dinners, being held in Sydney and Melbourne between 8 October and 26 October, feature Italian chefs and their mothers, Nonna to their children.

This evening we have Luca Ciano, who came to Australia from Milan Michelin starred restaurant Il Luogo, and his delightful mother Nonna Anita, at A Tavola in Sydney’s Darlinghurst.  She is full of energy and enthusiasm, in spite of having ended her 20 plus hour journey from Italy that morning, and just adorable.  Together they start making Anita’s Bolognese.  It begins with a classic “soffritto” of onion, carrot, and celery in olive oil, followed by the addition of mince of veal, pork and meat from an Italian sausage.  Red wine, crushed tomatoes, and bay leaves are next.  She also adds thyme, I’ll have to give that a try next time.  Like me, she does not include garlic, which would probably surprise a lot of people.

Such a sauce would typically slow simmer for hours, and Nonna Anita is a little mortified that we are tasting it before it is fully cooked, served with some fluffy gnocchi that Luca has whipped up in the blink of an eye in the meantime.  The gentle ribbing and arguing between them in Italian is very funny and reminds me of my conversations with Mamma Rosa.  There’s plenty of opportunity to chat to them both through the evening, as they hand out jars of special Festival of Nonna pasta sauce, and while we enjoy a beautiful and extensive Italian menu, accompanied by very drinkable prosecco and wine. The lighting is not great, so apologies for the photos which don’t do any justice to the food.

It is the nature of these special relationships, often developed in the kitchen, that led the Lubrano family behind Sandhurst Fine Foods to launch the Festival of Nonna last year. Mimmo, his wife and Nonna Geraldine, the Sandhurst Matriarch, are there that evening and I have a wonderful time talking to them.  I’ve always wondered why an Italian family company has a name like Sandhurst so it was great to ask them in person.  When they bought the farm in the 1960’s – then owned by a Russian, a Pole and an Englishman – it was called Sandhurst Farm and they never changed it.  Back then Geraldine and husband Vince ran a deli.  Vince was a fisherman in Italy before coming to Australia; neither of them really knew much about farming, manufacturing, and distribution.  But like many Italian migrants who came to Australia for a better life, hard work did not scare them and they seized the opportunity.  And so it began.

It was all in for the family, with their two sons Mimmo and Ray being embedded in the business from the beginning. I love hearing that the family still sits down to lunch every day, prepared by patriarch Vince who is 86.

Over time, they looked for other family businesses to work with who would provide them with the quality of ingredients they expected. Sitting next to us is a couple from far north Queensland, the Torrisi family, who’ve been supplying them all their basil for twenty years.  Similarly, the eggplant they use comes from a family in Mildura.  The importance to them of family relationships extends to long lasting business relationships.

DSC02545

I want to adopt Nonna Geraldine, and I’m sure she means it when she gives us an invitation to join them for lunch one day.  A few weeks ago I became Nonna-less.  I was very blessed in both my Nonnas – kind, strong, selfless and loving women who never breathed a word of complaint about the hardships they endured and the poverty of post war Italy.  My Nonna in Italy, who I am named after, had a wicked sense of humour and was remarkably open minded for one of her era.  I’ll never forget her laugh.

The Festival of Nonna, October 2017
http://sandhurstfinefoods.com.au/nonna/events/

Napoli Restaurant Alert dined as a guest of Festival of Nonna

Jade Temple, Sydney

Neil and his new backers have swapped Australian fine dining for an attempt at high end Chinese speckled with (and I quote) “more contemporary interpretations”.  It is not very jade-y, nor very temple-y, and a few Rockpool bits still linger, covered up with some lanterns and windows of duck ready to be roasted.

jadetemple (1)

When word got out that this was opening, many commented how close in location it was to Mr Wong, and would it have any impact on that insanely popular venue, but really they are very different in atmosphere and style.  Mr Wong for me has more vibe.

I visited twice, once at lunch and once at dinner. The verdict – a mixed bag.  Great cocktail menu though, very reminiscent of Spice Temple which is a good thing.

jadetemple (2)

The oysters with ginger and black bean were delicious; loved the big green bowl even more.

jadetemple (3)

But were they kidding themselves with these chicken wings? Three little chicken wings for $19 (and some ordinary sweet and sour sauce), with a very sub par batter.

jadetemple (4)

Likewise these pork short ribs (I think that’s what it was, I tried to put it out of my mind) were rather ordinary.

jadetemple (15)

The pork and prawn shumai (3 for $12, same as Mr Wongs) were at standard.

jadetemple (12)

Liked the texture in these crystal dumplings with truffled mushroom but I found them a bit dry.

jadetemple (13)

The “pineapple” bbq pork bun was very good indeed, tasty pastry, flavoured meat, but really didn’t look anything like a pineapple that the menu description implied.

jadetemple (14)

I did love the XO pippies though, a great XO.  We tried them with the crunch noodles for something different but steamed would be better for absorbing the sauce.

jadetemple (5)

On the second visit I tried the XO with steamed scallops.

jadetemple(16)

The Madarin style bass grouper has unusual flavour, but in a good way, I can’t quite pick it.

jadetemple (7)

I recommend the rusty razor blades, had it on both visits, pork with caramel and chilli.  I was worried it would be too sweet but the balance of the sweet and the spice is spot on.

jadetemple (6)

Beautiful steamed noodles, so silky,  but the shrimp floss was too salty for me.

jadetemple (8)

So while the savoury was a mixed bag, the desserts shone.

The flavours of Phil’s vacherin must be a shout out to the Rockpool vacherin, and delightfully refreshing.  The lemongrass spoke Thai to me rather than Chinese, but that didn’t stop the enjoyment.

jadetemple (9)

I love sago, it’s one of those things people love or hate, so I really enjoyed the sago and mango pudding.

jadetemple (10)

And we all just adored the fried vanilla and date ice cream, splashed with maple sauce. So good.

jadetemple (11)

For groups, there are banquet menus for $75 and $95.

Jade Temple, 11 Bridge Street, Sydney
http://www.jadetemple.com.au

Jade Temple Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

In My Kitchen, September 2017

Spring has arrived and with it the September edition of IMK, a global monthly link up currently hosted by Sherry’s Pickings.   Here’s what is happening in the Napoli kitchen this month!

In my kitchen are lots of eggs. The girls are going great guns, and we are now occasionally in surplus, so it’s lovely to be able to give some home grown fresh eggs to people.  Rosie (aka The Unit) is producing double yolkers every now and again, while baby Grace produces these little mini pointy eggs.

imksept17 (5)

The Small People carefully collect the eggs from the nesting boxes every afternoon when they get home from school; they love the variation in size and colour and regularly send me photos of each day’s collection.

imksept17 (4)

Outside my kitchen window is an excavator.  It’s all systems go go go on the Grande Rinnovamento.  We are, I think, only the fourth family to own this grand old lady in it’s 127 year history.  These walls hold a lot of stories; the servant bells around the house with one for the “drawing room” speak of bygone eras, as does the little box at the back of the laundry with a door, which was once used for servant food deliveries. It is going to be a long, and no doubt sometimes complicated ride, but we are all very excited about it.

imksept17 (1)

In my kitchen is chocolate with white truffles, which the Sorella bought back from her recent trip to Croatia.  The fragrance when I opened the packet was incredible, and so was the taste, which was much more truffle than chocolate.

imksept17 (2)

I recently added to my cake tin stash with this great ridged tin.  It is a traditional shape for Amor Polenta cake which I made last week, but I’m sure other cakes will be great in it too.

imksept17 (3)

That’s it from my kitchen this month.  It’s going to be a busy few weeks as we plan to move out as the renovation accelerates, and onto a temporary kitchen until we can return.  Hope all my Australian readers have enjoyed a lovely Father’s Day today.