There is no better way to spend a Sunday, with a few good friends, to convert the pig and stag that crossed our way a few days earlier, into some delicious products.
The temperature in my “Meat Curing Room” is ideal at 8 – 10 C at this time of the year, but I would have preferred the humidity to be less than 60% to allow for proper curing and drying – hopefully it will get a bit less humid over the next few days.
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.
I have been honoured by my good friends, Peter and Mary, with a hessian bag full of just dug up organic potatoes. As my wife is away in another country for some months, I have had nightmares as to how I am going to eat through this mountain (as wel as all the other reserves in the pantry) all on my own. My decision was to attack from the beginning and start cooking and eating them immediately. My first endeavour is gnocchi di patate.
In making good gnocchi there are two golden rules to follow : 1 – Never be aggressive in handling the product. 2 – Never use eggs in the recipe as many experts propagate. The reason for this is that both transgressions cause the end product to be gooey, solid and rubbery.
Place 1 Kg unpeeled potatoes in abundant cold salted water. Bring the water to a boil and boil for 15 to 20 minutes, depending on size. The pototoes should be soft, but not coming apart. Never pierce the potatoes to test if they are done as this makes them absorb water and your dough would be too wet. Peel the potatoes as soon as it has cooled enough to handle and put it through a potato ricer. Ad a pinch of black pepper and salt. Mix about 150 g of fine flour (Tipo 00) with the potatoes by hand until it comes together. We say abbastanza, which means – just enough. So ad the flour in stages until the dough just come together but still a bit sticky. Do not over work the dough and if you still see some potato particles it is fine. Roll the dough into long sticks of about 25 mm thick and cut across in about 25 mm long gnocchi pieces. Form the gnocchi now with a gnocchi former or fork and set aside.
In a large enough pan prepare your sauce. Any sauce normally associated with pasta can be used. A very popular sauce is butter and sage. I have been lucky to have some pesto, which I have made some weeks ago, to use. Boil the gnocchi in abundant salted water until they float and then for another 10 seconds. Mix with the sauce in the pan over low heat for a short period and serve hot, topped with some cracked black pepper and grated parmigiano.
Gnocchi can me made well in advance and kept for a few days in a sealed container in the fridge.
Enjoy with abundant home made red wine!
It is Italian tradition to slaughter at least one pig once per year so as to make all the salumi required for the rest of the year. I have made some pork liver salami and sausages (Salsiccia di Fegato di Maiale) on the day the pig was killed while waiting for the pig to cure for a week. Today we made some Salami and Cacciatori sausages. Tomorrow it will be Pancetta, Coppa and Prosciutto. In the mean time we make stock from all the bones and rendered the fat from the skins and small off cuts to either use for cooking or to make soap with.
The Italians are very generous and seldom do your friends leave your home without some of your home produce for them to try at their own place. Likewise you never leave a friends home without more gifts than what you brought. Every Italian province, district and town have their own food and recipes. It goes so far that every family and family member has their own special way to prepare a dish, which obviously is better than anybody else can dream to make it. Food is often the main talking point around the table and when somebody asks you for a recipe, you know that they know you can prepare the specific dish better than what they can. You always oblige and provide them with the recipe, minus a few essential ingredients and omitting at least one of the important steps – this way you can stay as the master of that specific dish.
So please do not ask me for a sausage recipe!
There is a saying in Italian “Cu si marita e cuntentu nu iornu, cu mmazza nu porcu e cuntentu n’annu” – Marriage gives you happiness for one night, but the pig gives you happiness for a whole year. There must be more recipes for salami and sausages than there are Italians on this planet, and every Italian is convinced that his / hers is the best. My believe is, as with all my cooking, that the simple recipes, using very good quality ingredients, are the best, allowing the enjoyment of the foods without having to camouflage it with unnecessary ingredients and processes. Sausage and salami making is one of my great passions which I practiced for many a year. Traditionally the pig is killed once a year and every bit of the pig is used and the saying is that only the toenails are discarded. The way I eat sausages, fortunately, allows me many sausage making days during the year. Not having a pig to fatten in the back yard (only because Mrs Back Yard Farmer does not allow me to) means that you need to find and befriend a good butcher in the area as quality ingredients of the correct cut and animal are of utmost importance.
This week I made Sacicce di Manzo (Beef Sausages), Salcicce alla Cacciatora (Pork Sausages) and a few Salamini. For dinner on sausage making day, I traditionally serve some spiedini (skewers) using the various types of sausages produced on the day. The picky eaters (grand kids) could not get enough of the skewers so I consider the day a success!
SALCICCE ALLA CACCIATORA
4 Kg heavy smoked bacon
4 Kg veal topside
2 Kg lamb or venison leg
4 Kg pork leg
4 Kg pork shoulder
2 – 3 Kg pork back fat (Depends on the fat content of the meat)
100 g balck pepper
220 g salt
All the meat should be without bones. Grind all the meat though the coarse grid on your mincer. Mix well after adding the salt and pepper. Let it rest for 12 hours in the fridge. Grind again and fill the skins.
The way to cook these is either on the open fire or in a pan, using one cup of water and one tablespoon of vinegar.