Ricotta al caffè/coffee ricotta cream (and tips on home-made “ricotta”)

One of the foods I miss most from Italy is fresh ricotta – the real deal of course, not the  industrial type which I can get also here, a tasteless and pappy substitute. Fresh ricotta is another thing altogether: sweet, milky and light, creamy and yet not insubstantial: with a sprinkle of sugar or with a drizzle of olive oil, it is culinary nirvana. Here in the UK, even in London, fresh ricotta is still very hard to come by: I tried the Neal’s Yard’s one (made in England) and I was not impressed, but I also saw beautiful looking Italian fresh ricotta at Gastronomica, in Borough Market (I was told it is flown in every few days).

Because it’s so hard to find good ricotta in the UK, many years ago I started making “home made ricotta” – though it is actually nothing more than fresh cheese: milk coagulated with some acid (lemon juice, vinegar, rennet, citric acid the most common) . Continue reading

Sgombro sott’olio fatto in casa/homemade olive oil cured mackerel

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This picture shows a typical Italian summer salad:  fagiolini, patate e sgombro sotto olio – that is, green beans, potatoes and mackerel preserved in olive oil. It is a no-fuss, quick salad and most Italians would use shop-bought canned fish, but I have always found it very dry – and I did try also very expensive brands.  Fortunately, to preserve mackerel (and tuna, for that matter – but tuna is an endangered species and it is best avoided) in olive oil is dead easy and delivers a far better product – flaky, tender and not at all dry. The key is to poach the fish extremely gently and for a relatively short time. Continue reading

Battuto di lardo, aglio e rosmarino/whipped lardo with rosemary and garlic

lardoLardo is one of the most delicious of Italian salumi. It is pork hard back that has been cured with salt and flavoured with herbs, garlic and spices. You can spot it in any good salumeria, the typical Italian delicatessen: it comes in large, squat slabs smothered in salt, pepper and herbs and almost marble white within. Lardo has a sweet, mellow, delicate porky flavor and a melt-in-your mouth, satiny, luscious texture. Continue reading

Mulinciani‘mbuttunati/Buttoned up aubergines, a.k.a stuffed Sicilian aubergines

Stuffed aubergines img_0892A delicious, “culinary joke” from Sicily. Mulinciani ‘mbuttunati is a typical summer dish of whole aubergines cooked in tomato sauce, with a twist though. A deep slit is made into the aubergine belly (turning it into a “button hole”) and the usual suspects of much Southern Italian cooking are inserted into it, garlic, pecorino cheese, basil/mint (the “buttons”). Here you have it: buttoned up aubergines!

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