Friday, 23 January 2015

Cuttlefish with peas

All the taste of the sea in this delicious, traditional recipe, which is great if served hot in a cold Winter day, or at room temperature in Summer!
Few simple ingredients, a trick to shorten cooking times,- the pressure cooker - in 20 minutes a great dish without any hassle!

Try it with slices of toasted rustic bread, fresh garlic and fresh parsley!

The ingredients will be enough for a medium portion as we eat at home. For robust appetites consider to add some more.

Ingredients for 4

4 cuttlefishes
450 gr./1 lb peas (fresh, frozen or canned)
2 garlic cloves + 2 for the bread (if you like it)
4 fresh tomatoes,  or 400/ 1lb/1 tin chopped tomatoes
8 slices rustic bread
Fresh parsley - chopped
3 Spoons extra virgin olive oil

How to:  pressure

1) Clean the cuttlefish taking off the bone, beak and gut.

2) Cut them into pieces

3) In a small pan saute 2 peeled garlic cloves until golden. In this way you will need less oil.
In the meanwhile wash and cut the tomatoes into 1 cm. 1/2 inch pieces. Let them drain a little in a colander.

4) Put the oil, the garlic, the cuttlefishes, the cubed tomatoes, the peas in your pressure cooker a close it carefully.
Bring it to the boil and when it is in pressure, lower the heat and let it cook for 12 minutes. Take out of fire. 

5) In the meanwhile slice the bread, put the slices under a grill or grill them on a hot non stick pan on both sides and scrape it with the remaining garlic. (quantities depend on how much you like garlic). Put two of them in each soup dish.

6) Open the pressure cooker very slowly, remove the cooked garlic and serve the food pouring it on the toasted bread. Add the parsley and serve immediately.

If you want to eat this recipe at room temperature, allow the fish to cool down and add it to the toasted bread at the very last minute.

Friday, 9 January 2015

Cotechino with lentils

Cotechino is a sort of thick sousage, made with second choice meats and rind (= cotica from which the name), spices and salt.

It is the most traditional dish for the new year where I live, and as I like it very much, I like to prepare it often during Winter.
Traditionally it is served with mashed potatoes (pured potatoes), but on the first day of the year lentils are the preferred side because we believe they bring good luck and money!

I  am not sure you can find a fresh cotechino, but there are many pre-cooked ones which are delicious and get cooked quite quickly in their bag (usually 30 minutes). They are very nice and the meat is just a little bit softer. And of course the spices can be slightly different. Also you can find zampone, more typical of the Modena area, nearly the same taste and same preparation.

Ingredients for 4

1 cotechino 1.5 lbs (600 gr)
250 grs dry lentils
1 carrot
1 bay leaf
1 stick celery
1 small onion
vegetable stock
salt to taste
the grated zest of an organic orange
2 spoons vegetable oil

1) Fresh cotechino has to boil for at least 2 hours. No special ingredient needed, just put it in a pan with lots of water, bring it to the slow boil.  Put a lid on it and let it cook.

2) Put the lentils in a colander and wash them under a stream of cold water.

3) Prepare a "soffritto" by processing the carrot, onion and celery and gently sauté them in a pan with some oil, until the carrot becomes yellow and soft.

4) Add the bay leaf and the lentils and the hot vegetable stock to cover the lentils. They should be completely soaked.

Taste the stock and add salt if needed. Let the lentils boil for at least 45 minutes, or until soft, stirring now and then because they tend to stick. If needed add more stock. 

When ready take off fire and keep warm (put a lid on). Before serving, remove the bay leaf and grate on them some orange zest, it will give freshness and a special taste to your pulses!

5) After 2 -2.5 hours your cotechino is ready. Discard the boiling water and drain your cotechino. I prefer to take off the outer gut, but if you are cooking a 

pre-cooked cotechino leave it on because you will cut it more easily. You will peel it off in each dish.

Prepare a warm serving plate with your hot lentils.

Let the cotechino cool down for a minute or two and then slice it. Slices break easily.

6) Arrange hot cotechino on the lentils and serve immediately.

Tip: If the lentils dry too much because they completely absorb the liquid, warm them up with some more hot vegetable stock.

Tuesday, 6 January 2015

Mulled wine - vin brulé (bisò)

I like these cold sunny days in Winter, but also the warm atmosphere inside the house, in a raining day if I can drink something hot to warm me up.
Mulled wine is one of my winter must do, the smell is nice in the house, gives relief to my cold and warms up my shoulders, hands and feet...

Mulled wine is one of the most warming preparations and it is widely drunk during a great bonfire we hold in Faenza on Jan. 5th  when the crowd gathers in the piazza to say goodbye to the old year (Nott de Biso’)

As I leave so close the the Piazza, I cannot miss it and of course, every year it is a tradition to gather for dinner with friends and go out and try all the 5 different mulled wines.
The Niballo, a great effigy of Hannibal – the Saracen warrior who symbolises adversity – is burnt on an enormous bonfire in the centre of the Piazza to which it is brought on an oxen drawn cart. 

Most importantly we drink lots of  Bisò, the typical mulled wine made with spiced Sangiovese, prepared in large cauldrons in accordance with different recipes, and served in elegant “gotto”, Faience pottery bowls.

Here is my recipe:

For each glass/bowl:

1 glass of red wine
3 cloves
1 stick 1.5 inch cinnamon
2.5 inch strips of organic orange /lemon zest  (yellow/orange part only)
1 tb spoon sugar
1 small pinch of ground nutmeg (I seldom use it…)
1/2 aniseed
1 slice of organic orange unpeeled to decorate and give flavour

1) Put the ingredients in a pan (avoid aluminium) and add the wine. Mix to melt the sugar on medium fire. When it starts boiling, with a lighter or a long stick light fire in the evaporating alcohol.

CAUTION. Stay away from fire! And mind your browns, eye browns and long hair!

2)  The fire dies when there is no more alcohol, so everybody can drink the wine. If you want to keep at least a little bit of alcohol inside the drink, put a lid on the pan.

3)  Serve very hot in a ceramic bowl or cup: glass could break!

Faenza’s “gotto” created for the Nott dè Bisò is one of the traditional elements: different every year it is embellished with the symbols (court of arms) of the five parts of the town.