Tag Archives: italian

Focaccia Barese

All around Puglia in bakeries, takeaway holes in the wall and cafes, you see big delicious looking slabs of focaccia barese.  Traditionally, it’s covered with cherry tomatoes, and sometimes with olives.  We ate plenty of it.

During our time in Puglia we noticed a definite difference in the bread, pizza and other bakery goods – the taste, the texture and the lightness.  It was without a doubt the flour.  They are big users of semola rimacinata in the region, a twice milled, super fine flour.  The Bari Nonnas told us that is all they use for their orecchiette and cavatelli, whereas tipo 00 or other flours they were more likely to use for tagliatelle.

Wandering into the local supermarkets, I saw a huge array of types of flour.  Tipo 00 I use in several recipes, but I had never heard of Tipo 0 or Tipo 1, nor had I ever seen them in Australia.   They are very particular in this part of Italy about which should be used for certain recipes.  Next time I’d love to have some lessons from the nonnas and learn more.

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Once back home I went to Skorin Deli in Concord, who stock quite a good range of specialty flours, and got some semola rimacinata, keen to have a go at making some focaccia. This will make a medium size focaccia. You’ll need a tray with a bit of depth, not a flat pizza tray.

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Ingredients
125g of tipo 00 flour
125g of semola rimacinata
125g of mashed potato, cooled
3.5g of dried yeast
1/2 teaspoon sugar
200g cherry tomatoes
Dried oregano to taste
1 teaspoon salt
Salt, extra
Olive oil

Making it

In a bowl, combine the flour, semola, salt and potato and mix with your hands until completely combined.

In a separate bowl, combine 120ml of tepid water, add the yeast and sugar and combine well and let sit for five minutes. Add to the flour and potato mixture and combine, then add another 30mls or so of water and knead till you have a soft sticky dough.

Grease a tray with olive oil (I used a 30cm round tray), place the dough on it gently spreading out with your hands, leaving a 1cm space around the tray, which will fill as the dough rises. Cover and allow to rise for at least an hour.

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Halve the cherry tomatoes and gently press them into the dough. Turn on the oven to 180 degrees fan forced and let the dough continue to rise while the oven is heating.

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Sprinkle the focaccia with the oregano, salt and drizzle generously with olive oil, and cook for 25-30 minutes until golden. Yum!
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In My (Puglian) Kitchen, August 2018

Recently, we spent nine fantastic days in Puglia, the “heel” of Italy’s boot (a series of posts can be found here). Whenever I travel, buying goodies for the kitchen is inevitable. Of course, do declare it all at customs. I had a chuckle when one of the owners of the masseria we stayed at told me he loved watching Australian Border Security. So here’s what is in my kitchen this month, and thank you to Sherry from Sherry’s Pickings for hosting this monthly link up featuring kitchens around the world.

In my kitchen are a set of pasta rolling pins. I am guessing this is what they used to use to make pasta before machines. (My nonna also used to use the dried stalk of a wheat plant to make a bucatini style pasta by hand, I remember her showing me years ago and so regret not taking photos). Some months before our trip, I saw a video of someone using the thin one to make spaghetti and thought they were pretty cool and said to The Marito that I would get one if I saw it. I stumbled across the four pack at a food shop near the Grotte di Castellana, and thought that the large one, which is for pappardelle, would also be handy when you are making the criss-cross pastry for a pie to get consistent strands. I paid €7 for the four, which was a steal, and lucky I did as I did not see them again except for in Matera, where the guy wanted €8 each!

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I bought a little book of classic Puglia recipes. Like most Italian cookbooks the details are fairly light and in some parts there are no specific quantities, it will be trial and error.

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These are “proper” moulds for pasticciotti, a delicious Puglian custard tart. I tried to make these and did buy moulds here a while ago but they weren’t exactly the right shape. Now that I have these and have also finally gotten to try a few authentic versions of pasticciotti, I will tweak my recipe and make them again.

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Of course I had to get some orecchiette, these ones are squid ink and truffle flavour. The Nonna’s in “nonna alley” in Bari told me that they only use semola rimacinata to make them, not flour. I had this amazing squid ink orecchiette dish with tuna at a restaurant in Monopoli, one of the best pasta dishes I’ve ever eaten, and I want to try and replicate it.

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And these are taralli; we were given a basket of these to munch on when we sat down at every place we ate at before ordering. The first time we were served them I thought they would be hard but they are feather light and delicious. They are made with white wine.

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In between checking out of the first place we stayed at in Monopoli and checking into the second place in Cutrofiano, I thought it would a great chance to take a detour to Grottaglie, a small town in Puglia highly famed for ceramics. There were some amazing studios with beautiful pieces. At Nicola Fasano’s studio we bought this pretty plate, and The Marito picked up these four small cups for espresso. I have my eye on a dinner set; they happily ship to Australia.

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In Cutrofiano, the town of our masseria, Fratelli Coli also have a large studio with indoor and outdoor ceramics. I bought some little trays, and we loved these giant oversized mugs which are bowl sized.

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In my kitchen are a couple of baking products that I often see in Italian recipes from the very entrenched Italian baking brand Paneangeli.  We get some of their products in Australia but not the full range.

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Barilla have a range of pasta called Emiliane which I haven’t seen in Australia, it is made with egg instead of water. I thought this little square shape was very cute and had to buy a packet. I will use it in some soup.

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After Puglia, we went to Florence. The Lindt store there had so many products you could take home to make which I haven’t seen here – chocolate cake mix, mousse, muffin mix and many more. The Small People are rather partial to hot chocolate so I bought a packet of it. I also bought the Lindt competitor to Nutella – it’s claim to fame is that unlike Nutella, it does not contain any palm oil. I noticed that several products in Italy had highlighted on the packaging “no palm oil” so it must be fairly topical there. The verdict – absolutely delicious.  Not as sweet, great texture and a much more pronounced hazelnut flavour, with 40% hazelnuts versus Nutella’s 13%.

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In my kitchen are lots of truffle goodies also bought in Florence – truffle oil (which actually has a sliver of truffle in it), truffle salt, truffle salsa, and a truffle and parmesan spread which is ridiculously good.

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And finally in my kitchen is a “portafortuna”, also bought at Fratelli Coli, a good luck charm. You will see these everywhere in Puglia, they are called “pumi” and represent a flower bud.  Historically they were put on corners of balconies when building as a good omen for new beginnings.

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That’s it from the Napoli kitchen. What’s happening in your kitchen this month?

Orecchiette with chickpeas, capers and olives

My friend Francesca over at Almost Italian (my “blog Mother”) has been doing a lovely  “Pasta della settimana” series – pasta of the week – so I thought I’d get in on the action and give her one to try.

This particular pasta dish was actually inspired by Ottolenghi, who does a spiced up North African influenced version where the chickpeas are fried off in cumin and caraway.  I ditched both and “Italianafied” the concept.  I really liked the end result – you have the smokiness of the paprika, the sweetness of the tomatoes, the saltiness of the capers, the zing of the touch of lemon and the freshness of the herbs.  If you don’t like smoked paprika you could use standard ground or sweet, or if it came to it, omit it entirely. They can be harder to find, but I much prefer capers in salt than vinegar, so that’s what I have used here (Italian Zuccato brand, but I think Sandhurst also does them now if you want to go local), and I’m a fan of Sandhurst’s green olives too. I used Molisana orecchiette which were great, it has become one of my favourite dried pasta brands.  Serves 4.

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Ingredients
50ml extra virgin olive oil
1 medium brown onion, diced
250g cherry tomatoes, halved
1 tbsp. tomato paste
2 tsp smoked paprika
3 tbsp. capers, well rinsed and coarsely chopped
2 tsp lemon zest
1/3 cup coarsely chopped pitted green Sicilian olives
500ml hot chicken or vegetable stock
400g orecchiette
1 x 400g tin chickpeas, drained and rinsed
1/3 cup coarsely chopped basil
1/2 cup coarsely chopped continental parsley
Salt and pepper to taste

Making it

In a large deep frying pan on medium heat, add the oil and onion with a pinch of salt and fry off until the onion softens. Add the tomatoes and tomato paste and stir occasionally gently, until the tomatoes just begin to soften. Add the paprika, lemon, capers, olives and combine and then add the stock and bring to a simmer.

Add the orecchiette and two cups of water as needed (you’ll need to regulate the amount of water and add a little as the pasta cooks if it is looking too dry) and simmer gently until the pasta is cooked to your taste. When the orecchiette are almost cooked, add the chickpeas and simmer for another couple of minutes. Season as desired. Finally stir through the basil and most of the parsley, reserving a little parsley to sprinkle on top for serving. Delicious.

Torta della Nonna

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I don’t like chocolate ice cream.  I couldn’t care less if I never had a piece of chocolate cake for the rest of my life.  Mars Bars, Snickers, Milky Way, please don’t bring them anywhere near me.  But hand me a bowl of custard, and I know that any attempts at resistance will be futile.

The custard urge came upon me this weekend, so I thought I’d make this popular Italian dessert, Torta della Nonna.   Word has it that it wasn’t actually made by anyone’s Nonna at all, but it was put on a restaurant menu in northern Italy many many moons ago and named such, and has since become an Italian staple in many a bakery.   It’s a simple tart with a classic custard with a  hint of lemon and adorned with pine nuts.

If you’re like me and can’t avoid the temptation of custard, also check out my attempt at Pasticciotti Leccese and Limoncello Custard. Oh, and if you’re wondering to do with all the leftover egg whites, try a batch of almond bread or amaretti.

For the pastry
400g Tipo 00 flour
150g caster sugar
200g chilled unsalted butter, cubed
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
pinch of salt
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 eggs

Combine the dry ingredients and the butter in a food processor until it starts to look like breadcrumbs. Add the vanilla extract and the eggs and process until it starts to come together. Turn out onto a floured surface and kneed until almost smooth. Shape into a disc, cover with cling wrap and refrigerate for one hour. While the pastry is resting, you can make the custard filling.

Custard
8 egg yolks
200g caster sugar
80g plain flour
1 litre full cream milk
Rind of 1 lemon
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Place milk, vanilla extract and lemon rind in a large saucepan over low heat and bring to just before boiling point. Remove from heat and allow to infuse for 10-15 minutes. Remove lemon rind from milk.

While the milk is infusing, whisk using an electric mixer the egg yolks, sugar and flour in a bowl and combine well.

Add milk a cup at a time to egg mixture while whisking until all milk has been added. Pour the combined mixture back into saucepan over low heat and whisk constantly until mixture has thickened. You always need to be very attentive with custard, it’s one of those things where it looks like nothing is happening and then thickens in a split second.

Once thickened, remove from heat, and pour into a large bowl. Place cling wrap directly over custard to prevent a skin from forming. Allow to cool for 30 minutes.

Assembly
50g pine nuts
Icing sugar for dusting

Preheat oven to 180°C (fan forced). Grease a 25cm tart tin with removable base (or you could also do this in a normal springform cake tin). Divide the pastry into pieces in a ratio of 1/3 to 2/3.

Roll out the 2/3 piece on a lightly floured bench and place into tin. Pour in the custard (you may not need to use it all). Roll out the remaining pastry large enough to form a lid and cover the tart, gently pressing the edges to seal.

Rinse the pine nuts with ice cold water (this can help stop them burning), sprinkle them on top of the tart and bake for 45-50 minutes until golden. Allow to cool, remove from tin and dust with icing sugar to serve.

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Torta Pasqualina – Savoury Easter Cake

This savoury Easter cake, which is really more like a pie, hails from the Northern Italian region of Liguria.  It is traditionally served on Easter Monday, and once upon a time it used to be made using 33 sheets of ultra thin pastry, each layer representing a year that Jesus was alive.  These days most recipes make it with four, which is what I did (and if you really don’t want to make pastry, store bought will do).  I needed five bunches of silverbeet to get to one kilo of leaves, it will depend on how big your bunches are; the stalks can be used for stock or soup, they are tasty and often get discarded. A lot of eggs are required here, so it was lucky that the girls had had a prolific laying week. Like lots of old recipes, you’ll see variations on the theme – some combine the spinach and ricotta, as I did, and others do them as separate layers. There are also artichoke versions.

Pastry
600g Tipo 00 flour
350ml water
1 teaspoon salt
35ml olive oil

Place the flour in a bowl, add the salt, water and olive oil and mix gently with a fork until it comes together. Tip onto a floured surface and kneed until smooth. Divide the dough into four balls – two of 300g each and the other two approx. 170-180g each. Place on a tray, cover with a tea towel and allow to rest for one hour.

Filling
1kg silverbeet leaves
1 medium onion, finely diced
2 tbsp. olive oil
3 twigs marjoram
Pinch of nutmeg
Salt
1 cup grated parmesan cheese
250g of well drained ricotta
7 eggs
1 egg extra, lightly beaten for brushing pastry

While the pastry is resting, make the filling. Blanch the silverbeet in boiling water for five minutes and drain. Squeeze out as much excess water as you can and chop finely.

Place the olive oil in a pan on medium heat and saute the onion with a pinch of salt until softened, add the chopped silverbeet and combine and cook for a couple more minutes, then remove from heat. Season. Add the marjoram, nutmeg, ricotta and parmesan and combine well. Taste for seasoning and adjust if needed. Take one of the seven eggs, lightly beat, then add to the mixture and combine well. Set aside.

Assembly
Pre-heat oven to 180 degrees fan forced. Grease a 26cm springform tin with butter or olive oil.

Take one of the 300g balls of dough, and roll out thinly on a floured surface so that it is big enough for the cake tin. Gently lift it into the tin and line. Repeat with the second 300g ball, so that you now have two layers in the base. Gently spoon the silverbeet mixture into the cake tin and smooth out. Then take a spoon (I used an icecream scoop) and make seven round impressions in the silverbeet mixture. Into each one crack one of the seven eggs. Season the eggs lightly.

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Now take a 180g ball of dough and roll out big enough to form a lid, and gently place on top of the cake tin. Repeat with the second ball. Trim the excess pastry around the edge of the cake tin, and then curl into a crust to seal (I probably made it a bit too thick, I would do it thinner next time by trimming the pastry a bit more). Take the extra beaten egg and using a pastry brush, brush over the pasty and season the top lightly. Bake in the oven for about 50 minutes or until nice and golden. Remove and allow to sit for a few minutes before serving.

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PaRi Pasticceria, Concord

PaRi Pasticceria, named after owners Paolo and Rita, opened just after the new year. For some time now, they have wanted to share with Sydney some of the sweets they grew up with in their home town in Sicily in Italy’s south. A pretty little spot with parquetry floors and marble tables on the Concord strip, the shelves at PaRi are laden with glistening deliciousness and service comes with a smile and authentic Italian accents.

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They particularly wanted to serve traditional Sicilian granita with brioche, something you’ll find many enjoying in the piazza in Taormina in Italy during the hot Summer for breakfast. I tried the refreshing espresso granita (it usually comes with cream on top if you choose) and it’s generous enough to share. There are a few flavours to choose from, among them strawberry, almond and pistachio. The texture of granita varies from place to place in Italy, with PaRi’s version being a smoother sorbet style.

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The Marito and I both loved the brioche with the ricotta and pear compote

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The baba was lovely, one of the better ones I’ve tried in Sydney, as was the ricotta cake.

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The (Not So) Small People rated their Nutella ciambella.

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You’ll also find plenty of other traditional Sicilian sweets such as cannoli and Minne di Sant’Agata (Saint Agatha’s breasts), a sweet with ricotta, chocolate and candied fruit. In the next few weeks you’ll find a traditional Pignolata Messinese, something hard to come by down under.

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If you’re not into sweet stuff, there are arancini with ragu and vegetarian arancini (I really liked the spinach filling, next time I will try pistachio which I’ve never had before) as well as focaccia. There’s a breakfast and brunch menu and a small selection for lunch.

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PaRi Pasticceria, 83 Majors Bay Road Concord, Ph 02 9743 425
http://www.paripasticceria.com.au

PaRi Pasticceria Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Panettone Pudding

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It’s a sure sign that Christmas is coming when the panettone start filling the stores.  Once upon a time you could only get them at specialty Italian grocers, but now they’ve gone mainstream, appearing in all supermarkets.   Each year new varieties appear – today at the deli I saw one with a pear and chocolate centre, one with a Strega centre, and one with a “Verona” almond crust.   I’m a bit of a traditionalist though, opting for the standard fruit or a pandoro.  Most of the time I eat it as is, but every now and again I like to do something a bit different – see a few of my ideas here.

Another nice idea if summer goes rogue and it’s a cool night, is this very easy panettone pudding.

Ingredients
1 750g panettone
3 eggs
600ml light thickened cream
1/2 teaspoon almond extract
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
20ml brandy
40g unsalted butter
Extra butter, for greasing
1/3 cup flaked almonds
Icing sugar, for dusting
Vanilla ice cream to serve

Making it
Pre-heat the oven to 180 degrees fan forced

Grease a baking dish, then tear the panettone with your hands into medium size pieces and put into the dish.

In a bowl, whisk the eggs, cream, extracts and brandy until well combined. Pour over the panettone and allow to sit for a few minutes. Cut the butter into small pieces and dot the panettone with it. Place in the oven for about 40 minutes until it becomes golden.

Meanwhile, lightly toast the flaked almonds in a pan then set aside. (You could also sprinkle the almonds through uncooked beforehand, and bake rather than adding afterwards).

Remove the pudding from the oven, dust with icing sugar and sprinkle with the almonds. Serve as is or with vanilla ice cream.

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There’s a lot of potential variations in this – you could add mixed berries in for baking, or other nuts such as pistachio for texture.

Buon natale!