Tag Archives: food

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

In my kitchen, April 2017

The gentle coolness of autumn has rolled into the kitchen, bringing with it thoughts of soups, minestrone, and baked dishes like parmeggiana.   As we pick the very last of our tomatoes and cucumbers, the garden is looking very bare and I need to swot up on what to plant next.

We also picked our last baby beetroot, which I gently roasted in the oven.

imkapril17 (6)

One of the Small People has also been tending lovingly to a strawberry plant, of which he is very proud.  He insisted I take a photo!

imkapril17 (4)

Last month I mentioned I was germinating white dragon fruit.  Now teeny sprouts, they are looking very healthy.  My latest challenge has been to try and germinate mulberries.  I adore mulberries, but the season is short and they are very hard to find.  I occasionally stumble across them at a farmers market.  I planted 10 seeds each of the black and white varieties, and waited the prescribed 40 days, and nothing.  When 50 then 60 days passed, I knew it was a fail.  Undeterred, I tried again, planting another 6 seeds of each.   I have one tiny sprout of the black variety!

imkapril17 (9)

For those who don’t like carbs, now is the time to look away.

In my kitchen is a variety of Molisana pasta that we all really like.  It is a really tight curl, Shirley Temple ringlet style, and “holds the sauce” very well.  If you haven’t tried the Molisana brand of pasta, I recommend it.

imkapril17 (1)

One night I used it to make a “pasta forno”, or baked pasta, with peas and eggplant.

imkapril17 (2)

In my kitchen is this lovely plate of biscuits from my darling Godmother.  Her savoiardi were divine, I must ask her for the recipe.

imkapril17 (3)

A fellow bread baking friend and I went up to Victoria’s Basement to get enamel roasters.  Other breadbakers and IMK’ers swear by them.  I was very happy with the result.

imkapril17 (7)

I’m loving these crispy Afghani Dippits made by a local family company in Sydney.  With a smear of avocado or a gooey cheese they are great.

imkapril17 (5)

In my kitchen is also some fresh Afghani bread from a local grocer.  Its kind of like a squashed Turkish bread, really thin but springy at the same time.  The Marito was a big fan.

imkapril17 (8)

I found a panettone lurking in the pantry from Christmas, I’m thinking I’ll make a dessert with it rather than have it straight up.  I’m sure I’ll also put the tin to good use.

imkapril17 (10)

What’s happening in your kitchen? Thanks to Liz at Bizzy Lizzy’s Good Things for hosting this month’s link up of kitchens around the world.

In my kitchen, March 2017

Summer is technically over but the days are still lovely. I’m not looking forward to daylight savings ending, though the mornings are getting noticeably dark.  Meanwhile, there’s been plenty happening in the kitchen.

In my kitchen are dragon fruit (also known as pitaya).  I love them but don’t buy them often as they are usually quite expensive.  But I think there were a lot around for Chinese New Year so quite a few grocers had them on special.  I used them in a fruit salad for breakfast, but I also love to eat them as is.

imkmar17-6imkmar17-7

I read that you can germinate them from the seeds, so I extracted a few, washed and dried them and put them in some seed raising mix, and voila!  After just a few days little green shoots started appearing.  They also grow from cuttings, and a dear friend gave me some cuttings for red and yellow dragon fruit, but I adore the white ones as well, and thought I may as well have all three colours.

imkmar17-5

I am steeping some vanilla beans in vodka for some new vanilla extract.  The last bottle I made (pictured right) was in mid 2014, and I’ll probably use what is left in the next couple of months.  Given that it needs at least 3 months to steep, I’ve started a new bottle.  It is so much more fragrant doing it this way rather than the commercial varieties available at the supermarket. It is also more convenient than having to regularly buy the small bottles.

imkmar17-2

Our tomato plants are dying off, so its time for new autumn crops.  I bought some broadbeans to plant, the Marito loves them.

imkmar17-4

In my kitchen are some fresh tagliatelle, courtesy of Mamma Rosa.  Her tagliatelle rock.

imkmar17-1

I stocked up on Callipo Tuna when it was on special at Coles recently.  The Callipo factory is actually 20 minutes or so from Mamma Rosa’s village in Italy.  It is my favourite tinned tuna.

imkmar17-10

In my kitchen is a sign for our new coop, to be varnished and hung. It’s from Castle and Cottage Signs; she made a custom sized sign for me it so it will fit neatly above the door.  Our new coop is walk in which is fabulous, makes things so much easier.

The girls had a very tough time of it during the Sydney heat wave last month, I wasn’t sure they were all going to make it. Operation Chicken Watch was in full swing. Blocks of ice in the water, hosing down the roof to keep it cool, and standing them in ice baths when I saw they were really struggling, were needed. Oh, you’re probably wondering about the name. “Bokens” is a nickname for chickens that the Small People came up with when they were Really Small People.  It was courtesy of an old Lilydale ad which had chickens running around going bok-bok-bok.

imkmar17-3

In my kitchen is this sauce that a lovely friend got me from this year’s Tomato Festival by Italian chef Luca Ciano.  Look forward to road testing it!

imkmar17-8

And finally in my kitchen are some Sydney grown Kensington Pride mangoes, from my parents’ backyard tree.  The skin doesn’t colour like those from the Northern Territory or Queensland, but they  ripen inside and taste just amazing.  What I love is that their tree becomes abundant just when all the Kensington Prides disappear from stores.

imkmar17-9

I hope all is well in your kitchen. Thanks to Liz from Bizzy Lizzy’s Good Things for hosting this month’s IMK link up.

Burnt Orange, Mosman

You’ll find Burnt Orange in a pretty cottage amongst the trees at Middle Head in Mosman looking out over the water, so it is understandably very popular for breakfast and brunch.

burntorange-1burntorange-2burntorange-3burntorange-4

They have four morning sittings on a weekend for breakfast at staggered half our intervals starting from 8.30am with an hour and a half per sitting. We and our friends opted for the first one. The breakfast menu is pretty standard – eggs, bacon, pancakes and the like, and all quite well executed. The sourdough bread is delicious. Though we do ask for a fried egg for one of our Small People and are told “ah no, we can’t do that, it requires a different griddle and it’s too difficult”. Um, didn’t think a small fry pan would be all that hard really, or maybe fried eggs are taboo in Mosman, not sure which. And although we are the first sitting and it is not busy we need to chase our drinks, which arrive after our meals.

burntorange-7burntorange-8burntorange-9burntorange-10burntorange-12

I go for the breakfast board, which has a very nicely done confit of trout. But I find the Avoca brown bread extremely dry and dense so don’t eat it, and pinch some sourdough instead.

burntorange-11

Attached to the café is a retail shop with a variety of treasures. I raise my camera to take some snaps. “Oh, no, you’re not allowed to take photos here”. Ok. I’ll take them in the Louvre or the Vatican instead, they don’t seem to mind.

burntorange-5burntorange-6

Burnt Orange, 1109 Middle Head Road, Mosman, Ph 02 9969 1020
http://www.burntorange.com.au

Burnt Orange Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Roasted capsicums with breadcrumbs and olives

This simple dish comes courtesy of Rosa’s Farm, a lovely cookbook with recipes you would actually cook, and not just imagine cooking.  It can be served as part of an antipasto or as a side dish with a main course. In the recipe she suggests putting the capsicums on a baking tray; I put it in a baking oven-to-table dish so that I could prepare and serve all in one dish. I also upped the quantity of parsley

roastcapsicum

Ingredients
6-8 red capsicums
1/2 cup olive oil
salt and pepper
1/2 cup green olives, pitted and roughly chopped
3/4 cup fresh white breadcrumbs
1/3 cup chopped continental parsley

Making it
1. Preheat oven to 180C

2. Cut the capsicums, remove seeds and cut into strips. Place in a bowl, add oil and season to taste with salt and pepper, mixing well. Place on a baking tray or in a baking dish and cook in the oven for 20-25 minutes – stir them three or four times while cooking

3. Remove from the oven, sprinkle with the olives and breadcrumbs, mix and return to the oven for a further 10-15 minutes until capsicum are tender

4. To serve, sprinkle with parsley

Four years in

This week my friend Francesca over at Almost Italian posted about her three year “blogaversary”.  I realised that October is also my blogaversary, it has been four years!  As Francesca says, it is a complete mystery why some posts are so popular, or how people find them, while others languish at the bottom of the heap.

A friend at work actually started this blog for me, there is no way I would have done it.  So with a bit of help and a few YouTube videos I navigated my way around basic html and setting up links and the like.  I know that if I want to grow I should go down the path of “self hosted” and “plug ins” and Google Analytics.  But that was never the plan.  It’s a record, a keepsake, an easy place to find my own recipes rather than going through my scrap book and files, knowing that piece of paper with the ingredients list is somewhere in the pile. It has also been an unexpectedly great way to come across other like minded, delightful people, each with their own story.

So following in Francesca’s footsteps here are my most popular posts over the last four years. Surprisingly, at the top of the list is this one on Sydney’s Best Cannoli.  It is a rare day when someone doesn’t look at it.  Forget doughnuts and tella balls, cannoli is where its at.

001_marked

More understandably popular is this post on Sydney Private Dining Rooms, which needs a bit of an update given restaurant closures and new openings.  In the lead up to Christmas in particular this one gets a lot of hits.

Antonio Citterio Patricia Viel and Partners S.r.l

It is very closely followed by Mamma Rosa’s lemon biscuits.  If you google “Italian lemon biscuits” somehow this one has made it to page one of Google.  I must make these again, the Marito loves them.

lemon biscuits (2)

Most months on the blog you’ll see an “In My Kitchen” post. The monthly IMK series was started by Celia over at Fig Jam and Lime Cordial, and is a linkup of bloggers all around the world, showing, as the name suggests, what is going on in the kitchen.  Scour the posts of the global tribe of IMK’ers and you’ll see every manner of kitchen gadgets, ingredients, recipes, wedding and birthday preparations, and the occasional renovation. It’s good fun.  My most popular IMK post was when we left our very modern house of 13 years (which we built) and moved to a falling down heap with more space, which we adore.

imkdec15 (4)

And at the bottom of the pile is this Restaurant Dictionary.  Goodness knows we need one most times we dine out these days. But maybe only I do!

dictionary-glossary_600x315

I never really expected to do this for four years. Will I do it for another four? I don’t know. But it is a nice change from the myriad of numbers I look at all day at my computer at work. Thanks so much to those who read and comment, I really do appreciate it.

The Big Island, Hawai’i

Arriving at Kona Airport, we realise how different this island is to Oahu.  There’s miles of arid landscape, next to miles of green rainforest, both interrupted by somewhat violent yet occasionally beautiful hardened rivers of lava.  Mother Nature has been busy here.  It is very literally The Big Island, and you’ll need a car to explore.  Though a guide tells us that it was once upon a time the small island, growing over time from the eruption of volcanoes.

There is a lot to do here, and in our six days we only manage some of what we’d planned, underestimating time and distances, and wanting too to spend time relaxing at our gorgeous resort and enjoying the spectacular sunsets on the “Kona side”.  Funny that the west side is one of the driest spots in the USA, while the island’s largest town of Hilo (pronounced Hee-lo) on the east, some two and a half hour drive away, is one of the wettest.

The boys want to know if Panulu’u Black Sand Beach really is black, and one morning we set off on the two hour drive.  Its a lovely scenic route of coast, mountain, coffee and macadamia plantations.  In some areas they are trying to promote re-growth of plants, but its a hard ask through the lava.

kona (39)

There are also a few small strips of shops with interesting antique and vintage stores, as well as this…..

kona (19)

And yes, Black Sand Beach is indeed black.  Shoes are recommended, as understandably the sand is scorching.  So turtles love it, and there are a few wandering around.  One has laid an egg, and someone has built a little protective barrier around it.

kona (41)

kona (42)

On the way back we stop in at a bakery for a treat. They do a roaring trade in Lilikoi (passionfruit) Malasadas, their best seller.   But I don’t think they are quite as good as the ones at Leonard’s in Oahu.

We next head to Papakolea Green Sand Beach, the southernmost point of the USA.  You’ll need a four wheel drive and some serious experience in off road rough driving to get here.  Otherwise there’s a group of drivers with suitable trucks and experience in navigating the bumpy terrain.  If you’re game, you can walk the rocky three miles from the car park – it is about an hour walk and a tough one in scorching heat.  Calling it green sand is a bit of a stretch, but the setting is pretty spectacular.  Nearby there is a cove where the sand is in fact green, but without such a dramatic backdrop.

On another morning we check out Hapuna Beach which is popular with the locals.  Easy to access and sparklingly clean, it is lovely for a swim.

In Kailua-Kona you’ll find Hulihee Palace, once the modest Summer palace of the Royal Family.  There is no longer a monarchy in Hawai’i, as the members of the family died out.  One of the larger towns in the island, it is still a fairly low key place.  There is a pier which could easily be turned into another Santa Monica type place, but I suspect it is a very conscious decision for the island not to go down that path.

kona (35)

After walking around, we make a pit stop at Kope Lani Ice Cream which has some interesting flavours.  You’ll find Kona Coffee to be a popular flavour on the ice cream front in Hawaii.  Like Champagne or Parmeggiano, the rules around what can be called Kona Coffee are very strict.  The beans must come from a very specific area, and they are all hand picked.  The coffee plantations are all small family owned businesses; we met a few of the families during our stay, and it really is a labour of love. I would have loved to buy some of the coffee beans to bring home and support them, but at over US$80 per kilo of coffee, it was a bit of a stretch.

Driving up a mountain one day we stop at Holukaloa Garden Café.  Its almost classifies as in-the-middle-of-nowhere, but we are clearly onto something as very shortly the place is full.  They are all about slow food made from scratch. The glorious tomatoes are from the owners farm and under my fish is a bed of unfamiliar but really delicious greens. The Marito’s generous vegetarian lasagne is topped with a tasty macadamia pesto.

The most awesome thing we do is a helicopter tour of the island.  We debate this one a bit as it is quite an extravagance. But I come across a local magazine with an offer for a good size discount, and the deal is sealed.  The friendly ground staff give us a safety briefing (“please turn your devices to helicopter mode” they deadpan) and our pilot Koji gives us a briefing of our route.  The flights generally go for 1.5-2 hours, and Koji advises we’ll be on the longer end today as there is sniper training going on at the military base that day and we’ll have to go around it – I wasn’t  entirely sure if he was joking or not!

It is a pretty amazing way to look at the island.  Kealakekuka Bay is stunning, and apparently the site of Captain Cook’s death – there is a monument there in his honour.

kona (49)

Along the way the landscape alternates between thriving green and volcanic black emptiness.

kona (55)

We pass a 10 mile crack in the ground – the result of a 1975 earthquake.

kona (54)

We then head towards one of the volcanoes.  This one is currently active, but not dangerously so.  Even though we are a long way up, when the pilot opens a small window and tells me to stick my hand out, it is scorchingly hot.

Continuing around the island, we head up to Waipi’o Valley – just stunning. There are some seriously long waterfalls.

kona (61)

And then we circle back to Kona Airport.  What a ride!

Accommodation

We stayed at the Four Seasons Hualalai – wow. It was fabulous.   And it wasn’t just the stunning surrounds (I have never seen such amazing frangipane trees)…

kona (34)

…or the turtles wandering on the shore

…but the warmth and sincerity of the staff, and the fact that they think of everything (“ma’am, would you like me to clean your sunglasses for you?”). At the pool station where you can grab towels, there is not only sunscreen, but goggles, toddler swimming nappies, leave-in hair conditioner, and goodness knows what else.  There are very cute toddler sized sunbeds at the small pool (there are several pools, so it is never crowded). At turndown a locally made ceramic jug and cup are placed on each bedside table with cool water. On the balcony, there is a small hanging rack for your swimmers (why don’t all beach resorts do this?).  And throughout the rambling resort, there are several fully equipped laundry rooms for guests so that you don’t have to return home with a suitcase of dirty washing. The rooms and bathrooms are a little dated, but very spacious.

kona (28)

Sitting on our balcony, I enjoy this local pineapple soda.

kona (36)

Our booking comes with quite a large voucher for the restaurants which we make good use of, as they are expensive and alternatives are a ten to thirty minute drive away. Ulu Ocean Grill is Japanese/Asian and it holds its own against Sydney’s Sokyo or Tokonoma. And while the prices are similar to Sydney, the servings are much bigger.

The Ahi Poke (pronounced pok-ee, it is almost a national dish) is prepared at the table and served with taro chips. Sublime.

I adore the kochujang sauce that comes with the crispy calamari, I want to pour it over everything.

kona (12)

The miso Kombacha is perfectly cooked and the side of corn has a sauce with a kick.

Beach Tree, which serves largely Italian, while expensive, is excellent.

If only it didn’t have to end! Ziplines are popular on the island, but the boys did not weigh enough (you need to be at least 70 pounds) so we’ll need to put that on the list for next time.

Four Seasons Kona, http://www.fourseasons.com/hualalai/
Paradise Helicopters, https://paradisecopters.com/

Ulu Ocean Grille Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato