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.
Feral Pigeons are responsible for substantial grain losses to farmers who feed grain to their stock. From time to time hunters are invited by farmers to come and assist in controlling the numbers and recently I was fortunate to be the beneficiary of such harvest. Being a minimalist and striving towards self sufficiency, I slaughtered and cleaned the birds for the pot and very little was wasted. Backbones, wing tips and excess skin was all used in making perfect stock. The offal was all cleaned and used to make perfect “La Coratella”. Leaving me with perfect pigeon carcasses, well packed in vacuum bags for many sumptuous meals to come (see my next post for Ravioli di Piccione)
I invited a few friends over and had to decide on a Primi Piatti as I had all the other courses sorted. After a walk in the garden and an inspection of the fridge, I decided on Capelletti Romagnoli di Magro. Cappelletti means little hats.
This is little hat shaped filled pasta. On holy days conservative Catholic households would normally not eat meat and this meatless pasta is a favorite in many households on such occasions. This is generally what is meant by magro (direct translation means thin or lean) and in this instance it refers to be without meat.
Standard pasta dough is made using only flour and eggs – nothing else. The dough is rolled out and cut into 60 mm squares and filled with the filling, then boiled in brodo (stock) and served with sage butter poured over it and dressed with lots of grated parmigiano.
Blanch 500 g fresh spinach and cut very fine. Mix the spinach with 150 g ricotta cheese and 100 g of mozzarella cheese. Also ad a pinch of nutmeg and salt. Set aside until needed.
Plain white flour mixed with enough beaten egg to make a pliable soft dough. Roll out very thin and cut into 60 mm squares.
Place one teaspoon of the filling on the centre of each square and fold over to form a triangle sealing the edges with some egg. Wrap each trianlgle around your index finger and join two of the corners together with some more egg. Fold the third corner over to form the hat.
Bring some strong brodo (stock) to the boil and dump the cappelletti into the broth. When they float, leave for another 1 minute and remove with a slotted spoon. Serve immediately while still hot (in pre heated bowls) and pour over some melted sage butter (not burned) and black pepper and dress with parmigiano. Keep the brodo and tomorrow re heat it and ad a handful of risoni to make a wonderful lunch.
ENJOY and do not forget the home made red wine!!
I was very fortunate to be invited for my first New Zealand duck hunt last Saturday. We prepared our Maimais on Friday and was out before light on Saturday. Even if there were to be no ducks, the shear beauty and pleasure of being out in the wild was adequate compensation. We were fortunate to get our share of ducks early on Saturday and enjoyed the views, walks along the streams and fresh air for the rest of the day. Sunday was duck cleaning day and after a few technical hitches, everything went smoothly and soon we had enough duck meat to last a long time. I was fortunate as nobody was interested in the offal and had it all to myself. As soon as got home I made it all into coratella, ate some and packed the rest into about 30 portions for the freezer – wonderful. The ducks were cut into portions, vacuum packed and frozen. I gave some meat to a few close friends and my neighbor across the road tried it the very next day and gave me the recipe for slow basted duck breast with dried figs, a recipe she created herself, which apparently was absolutely delicious.
Braise some onion and garlic in olive oil in a oven proof pot. Dust the duck breasts in flour and brown in a separate pan in olive oil. Now put the duck in with the onion and garlic and ad passata (tomato sauce) wine, chicken stock, dried figs, salt and pepper and bake in the oven for four to five hours at 120C. Turn and baste every so often.
Duck breasts and figs are on the menu for later in the week!
There were various hunting groups in the area and Saturday evening we all congregated to discuss the day and watch rugby together. I was disappointed to learn that many hunters would take breasts only and a few groups even discarding up to 60 entire ducks unused to only go out the next morning and kill some more. I am used to harvest for the pot only, waste nothing, and leave some for next year.
The joys of fresh organic produce straight out of the garden. The less complicated a dish is, the more chance there is of it being superb. I go so far that before looking at a new dish, I count the ingredients and if the list is too long, it does not even warrant my time to read any further. Carciofi bolliti is the ultimate of simplicity, and in our house probably the favorite way to eat these wonderful flowers. Boil the already cleaned and prepared carciofi in water until the leaves are easy to pull off with a gentle tug. Drain and serve with a bowl of very good extra virgin olive oil, salted to taste (about a teaspoon of salt per 1/2 cup of oil) Pull the leaves off one by one and dip in the olive oil salt mixture and rip the flesh off with your front teeth – discard the hard part. Of coarse the younger the flower and the closer you get to the heart, the more and more of the leave you can eat. When all the leaves are gone and the heart is exposed, make sure the choke is not stringy, and if so, remove and discard before eating the heart – soft and creamy.
Enjoy!!! Do not forget a piece of home made bread to mop up all the olive oil and wash it down with good home made wine.
Having purchased a pumpkin at a Farmers Market about a year ago and liking it, I decided to save some seeds. This year I planted a lemon tree and remembering the pumpkin seeds decided to put down two seeds at the base of the tree. Within days the pumpkin vines were taking over the front garden flowering profusely and we waited expectantly. Soon the pumpkin harvest came in and twenty kilograms later, cooked in ten different ways, we were not so keen on pumpkin any more. Now the pumpkin is threatening by growing another seven pumpkins, all increasing in size by the minute. Another 20 kilos of food is on the charts. All neighbors and family members shied away when offered yet another pumpkin so Mrs BYF decided to avoid a third batch of 20 kilograms by picking and cooking the flowers.
Fiori di Zucca Fritti (Fried Pumpkin Flowers)
2 large pumpkin flowers
300 g home made ricotta or other soft cheese
1 handful of herbs (consisting of every herb in the garden)
salt and pepper to taste
1 large egg
100 g bread crumbs
deep oil for frying
Breadcrumbs, flour and egg wash for frying
Chop the herbs finely and mix well with the cheese, using a fork. Add the egg, salt and pepper. Add crumbs until the mixture can be shaped to fit the center of the flower. Press the petals of the flower over the cheese mixture until the cheese is covered completely by the petals. Dip the stuffed flower in the flour, then in the egg, then in the breadcrumbs. Fry in deep oil until golden and crunchy. Serve warm.
PS – At the last count I had enough pumpkins seeds to produce 60 kilograms odf pumpkin for the next 113 years
We have agreed the beetroot tops are more tasty than spinach so, today, Mrs BYF made a delicious pie out of the leaves and all the stems of the leaves. Even the thicker bits went in to the pan. The reds and greens of the leaves and stems were colourful and the slightly rough texture was very good. It was so good that I had to share the recipe.
This recipe works with sour cream or home made yoghurt, full cream, no light stuff. Greek style bought yogurt may work as well.
2 cups of self raising flour
1 cup butter cut in small cubes
1/2 cup yogurt or sour cream
you can add a tablespoon of sugar if you are making a sweet pie
Whisk the dry ingredients in a bowl, add the butter and work the butter in until the mix resembles fine breadcrumbs. Add the cream or yogurt and mix and knead util the dough comes together. Refrigerate until needed
BEETROOT TOPS FILLING
1 large bunch of tops, well washed and roughly chopped. Use the tasty stems as well but chop the thicker ones finer
2 tablespoons or more of olive oil
pinch of chili
pinch of pepper
1/2 cup ricotta or soft cream cheese
2 table spoons of parmigiano cheese or any cheese you have on hand
Use a lidded pan that can hold all the spinach and add the olive oil and chili. Turn the heat to med high and cook the chili for a few minutes before adding all the tops. Do not add any water, the water clinging to the leaves after washing will be enough. Cover the pan and cook until just softened. Do not over cook. Cool the leaves a bit and mix in all the other ingredients well. Line the pie dish with the pastry keeping some to make the lattice over the top. Fill the pastry case with the filling mix, decorate with strips over the top and bake for about 30 min at 200 degrees.
Do not forget the red wine. ENJOY!