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.
As we all know Ricotta is suppose to made from whey and not milk. Even though the whole milk version is not bad, nothing comes close to the real deal. I make milk Ricotta every time I fetch milk, which is about once every ten days. but only can make real Ricotta after I made a hard cheese, which is not every week. Last night the Montasio went well and after it was in the press, I made some Ricotta with the whey. Following breakfast and lunch, I had to be quick, otherwise there would have been no product left to photograph. Even though the yield from whey coming off ten liters of milk is not a huge quantity, but it made up in quality.
Fresh whey – less than two hours old
50 ml Apple Cider Vinegar
100 G Mesophillic Starter (I propagate my own cultures)
3 g Salt (Non iodised)
50 g Heavy cream – I made my own milk separator – simple and cheap – and will blog about it soon.
Put whey in a large non corrosive pot and heat over direct heat to 94 C. Stir continuously to prevent the whey from burning to the hot bottom of the pot, but do not boil
Turn the heat off and slowly ad the vinegar whilst stirring continuously. Small white particles will commence to form which is the precipitated protein (curds)
Ladle the curds carefully into a ricotta colander lined with fine muslin cloth. When all the curd is in the colander, allow to drain for about ten minutes and when no more visible moisture is present in the curds, then mix in the starter.
Tie the corners of the muslin and hang over a container to drain for about three hours. When the ricotta does not release moisture any more, untie the muslin and mix in the salt and cream
Store in refrigerator for up to ten days (It never lasts that long in any case).
One of the most common cheese products used in Italian cuisine
BUON APPETITO !!
I had to photograph the result of a cooking discussion or, cooking bickering, if you must.
The great thing about being self sufficient and eating from the vegetable patch is the joy of harvesting something one grew oneself. It is organic and fresh even if, at time whatever is harvested is gnarled and puny it still tastes wonderful. The bad thing is that one is held hostage by the blackbird that eats all the seedlings the chickens overlooked when they were free ranging last time. The seasons and climate, especially here in Dunedin , dictate whether things grow or not and the person in control of the garden constantly suffers arched inquiries as to why in the world so much (or so little) of something was planted
Sometimes there is a glut of something and then the search for a great recipe, or, often many great recipes of one particular vegetable or fruit depending on the amount harvested. The frantic paging through the cookbooks begin, and since my 200 plus books are all about regional Italian cooking the search can not be narrowed down to, say, Indian or Chinese, and mutterings of ‘ it was always in this book, where has it gone’ are commonplace. A lot of time is spent getting side tracked when I see something fondly remembered or something I always wanted to try. Once the recipe is selected sudden resistance from the household to the ingredients could flare up, prompting the beginning of a new search and the hauling out of more books!