There are many Easter Breads in Italy and each region has its own version, but most include whole, sometimes coloured, eggs. This specific recipe is from Napoli and is made in a pan with a hole in the middle, called a ruoto. The recipe is enough for two breads in 270 mm pans.
- 800 g Bread Flour (Tipo 0)
- 300 g Water – luke warm
- 5 g Honey or Molasses
- 23 g Yeast – fresh
- 500 g 1:1 Biga (Mother plant of yeast)
- 100 ml Extra Virgin Olive Oil – plus extra to smear the pans
- 20 g Salt
- 50 g Salami – about 5 mm cubed
- 50 g Pancetta – about 5 mm cubed
- 50 g Cheese – any melting mild cheese of your choice – about 5 mm cubed
- 50 g Parmigiano or Grana Padana Cheese – about 5 mm cubed
- 12 Quail eggs – fresh – Plus two to glaze the bread
Mix the honey, water and yeast and let it stand for 5 minutes. Now mix in the flour, biga, oil and salt and knead well. Let it proof until at least double in size, then knead briefly again. Divide the dough in two, but keep about 50 g to make strips to secure the eggs, and roll each into a square of about 300 mm. Spread all the cheeses and meat on the squares and roll up. Place each roll in a well smeared pan in such a way that it fills the entire base of the pan. Now place the whole eggs evenly on the breads and secure each with two thin strips of dough. Proof until at least double in size. Glaze the top of the breads with beaten egg and bake at 220 C for 13 minutes. Turn the pans around and bake for another 20 minutes at 190 C.
Enjoy hot or cold, or the next day on the Easter Picnic.
There are many quail and pheasant breeding farms in Italia which all breed for release as hunting is still very popular. It is almost impossible to visit these farms for quarantine reasons as well as keeping the secrets and knowledge within the family. I managed to visit a farm through a contact I had who had a friend that knew the second cousin of the neighboring farmer’s daughter to the quail farm I visited. Even with my good contacts, I still was not allowed inside the cages, but gained enough information. This farm breeds Coturnix coturnix as they still appear in Europe and North Africa in the wild. The birds are small and only weigh about 130 g at maturity. There is a general concern among breeders that some breeders may cross the natural occurring birds with domesticated birds which definitely result in a bird much less adapted to local conditions and also have poor survival capabilities when released. The crossbreeds are a bit heavier and a much inferior flier.
All the following figures are rough estimates, but I think very close to reality. This specific farm sells about 250,000 live quails a year at €1.50 each. For this he has 1,300 breeding hens and 450 males producing 1,000 viable good eggs per day. He has 6 incubators that takes 3,500 eggs each and fills two of these every week. At 14 days the eggs are transferred to a Hatcher where about 5,600 chicks hatch every week, of which 5,000 grow to eight weeks of age when they are sold for release.
The interesting thing is that his Incubators run at 80% humidity and the Hatcher’s at 90%, which I thought are way too high, but apparently it works that way as I witnessed these levels personally.
The other interesting fact is that the growing cages are sheds with only canvas sides with holes in so the quails can come and go and fly in the adjacent aviaries if they wish. The quails are in these semi open cages from day one. Gas heaters keep the temperature at about 37C at ground level for the first four weeks. There after the temperature is slowly reduced to day temperature over about one to two weeks, depending on outside temperatures, to harden them up. It gets very cold and it was – 12C on the day I was there and the quails seemed to be happy – my quails would have been dead after the first day. The growing houses are all the same size of 10 X 20 meters each, with two aviaries of 20 X 20 meters each attached to the sides of each house. Each house holds half of the 5,600 day old chicks.
I was glad to have visited this successful third generation family business which is at present operated by the grandson only as the grandfather is retired and the father attends to the rest of the farm.
La fiera di San Giuseppe a Brembio
I attended a Rabbit Exibition / Show in Brembio, Italy yesterday and enjoyed it a lot. Not only were the rabbits of exceptional quality, but it is also interesting to see the information provided and transparency of judgement for each animal.
There were rabbits, equipment, feed, housing and much more on display, but I also enjoyed all the rabbit dishes and have over consumed, but luckily there was enough wine to balance the meat consumption. My favorits were Rabbit Salami and Rabbit Ripieni.
I attach a few photographs and it interesting to note the New Zealand White and New Zealand Red rabbits. The Flemish Giants are absolutely beautiful, but I liked the Hares a lot.
After spending a whole day combing through Archives of Mezzano Martello in Milano, I was thrown out at 15H00, because they wanted to close for the day.
On recommendation of my wife, I made my way to the Navigli in Milano for a memorable lunch / dinner.
The Navigli of Milan are the artificial canals constructed between 1179 (Naviglio Grande) and the 16th century (Naviglio Martesana) with the purpose of making Milan accessible from the Ticino and Adda rivers.
I enjoyed the home made Gnocchi as a Primi and Polenta with Eggs and Truffle as a Secondi with fried Artichokes as a Contorni. Even though the place was still very quiet and empty as it only comes to live at night, it was a memorable and enjoyable experience.
I was on my way to the cemetery of Caselle Landi, a small village not far from my house, in search of more information on a certain Marchesa Landi, married to Douglas Scotti, who lived in my property, Mezzano Martello, in the 1870’s. I could however not resist to take a detour after passing this sign on the side of the road.
I always wondered what it would be like to have a hectare under snails, producing 10 Tonnes of snails a year.
They have planted covered areas in winter where the snails can hide from the winter snow, as well as little houses made out of wood as additional cover, with lots of tiny snails in there when you lift the roofs. The extra growth of plant material is then removed to allow maximum snail growth during the warmer months. Harvesting in summer happens once a week for both eating and cosmetics purposes.
I left with 1 Kg of snails and convinced my friend at the delicatessen, cum restaurant, at Castelnuovo Bocca d’Adda to cook these for me, offering him to join in the feast as a softener. He willigly obliged, but said it would take some days to clean (purify) the snails before cooking.
I am having a hard time waiting until Thusday evening to see how he prepares the snails.
If it was me, I would have fried them in the shells in butter and lots of garlic, then adding some parsley just before removing it from the heat, and serve it with lots of fresh bread and lots of GOOD RED WINE.
Spring in Cremona – March 2018