Until few yrs ago, I never though much of celery. Of course, it is one of the key ingredients of the classic battuto (generally equal quantities of chopped onions, chopped carrots, chopped celery), the basic of so much Italian cooking (fried in some fat, it becomes soffritto) and it is often served raw in pinzimonio, that is to say with other raw vegetables, to be dipped in the best olive oil. Apart from this, edano (celery) was a stranger to me. Moreover, I had always associated celery with the cold months only. Continue reading →
Focaccia is one of the most famous Italian food. Here in the UK it can be found in many more or less artisanal bakeries and even in supermarkets. It is seldom good generally far too high and dense. Focaccia is one of the most satisfying baked goodies to make at home: it is relatively easy and highly rewarding in terms of taste and texture.
This is one of the best focaccia recipes I have tasted in a long time. Its secret lies in the generous amount of oil and white wine in the dough. It is these ingredients that give this focaccia a full flavour, even if there is also a biga at work here. The inspiration came from Carol Field’s Focaccia book (via another splendid book: Recipes from Paradise, by Fred Plotkin), but I have consequently developed my own version, which I prefer. I have dramatically reduced the yeast and increased the time for the biga, from 1 hour to 12-14 hrs. I have also introduced 10% wholemeal flour, which I think gives the focaccia a more interesting crumb. Carol Field’s recipe uses white flour only and it is done and dusted over few hours (and it is very good, see notes), my version is over two days and I think it is even better. Continue reading →
Pici, pinzi, umbricelli, strangozzi, lunghetti, ciriole, serpentelli, different names for the same pasta: very long and chubby spaghetti-like tubes of fresh pasta generally made only with flour and water, typical of Toscana, Umbria and Lazio. When cooked, they acquire that pleasant, slightly chewy and slippery texture of all “pasta povera”, that is pasta made without eggs. Continue reading →
Spezzatino con patate e piselli is a hallmark of Italian cucina casalinga: a comforting stew of veal, peas and potatoes, beloved by kids and adults alike. When I saw bags of fresh British peas still on sale (it is now the end of August), I thought I would like to try a vegan version of the dish: the same ingredients, minus the veal. Continue reading →
This is the savoury version of scarpaccia, that unusual courgette cake from North Tuscany I described in the previous post; in fact savoury scarpaccia is regarded as the original dish by Tuscan food authority Paolo Petroni, whose recipe I used as a template (the sweet version, he says, came later). Continue reading →