Tag Archives: cooking

Cooking pancakes with Nanna… Nonna

Came across my first cookbook, given to me when I was five by Nanna Francesca (signed ‘Nonna’ while I called her ‘Nanna’ in our Italian/ Australian tussle). My favourite pancake recipe pages are still splotched and dusty with flour!

I read that in the 1960s/70s, Ursula Sedgwick’s cookbooks were supposedly often given to granddaughters by worried grandmothers as mothers left the home for the workforce! This wasn’t so for me (and in actuality Sedgwick herself was very much a career woman, advocated for women’s rights, raised three sons with her husband and was a journalist, copywriter and later a magistrate) but my grandmother did persist in giving me cookbooks over the years.

Perhaps in her determination to show me how to cook she hoped to impart something that was a tie to her birthplace and upbringing (her Nonna was a baker) or to her parents whom she’d lost early, both who cooked well (her father, a cane gang cook known for his puddings). I’m not sure, maybe she just wanted me to know how.

While at times I resisted cooking and argued with Nanna/Nonna about it, the irony was, I did come to love it and am thankful she persevered. Nanna Francesca didn’t get to see me achieve other things as I may have hoped yet seeing me come around to cooking made her very happy. I guess sometimes it’s the little things you don’t expect that bring such contentment, however humble they may seem, and near enough is good enough (a bit like how some of my pancakes turned out!!) xx

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Chiacchiere… chitter-chatter ~ carnival sweets

crostoliMy Italian grandmother made these all the time so I thought it fitting to serve them on one of her Florentine, painted wooden serving trays on the terrazzo table that sat on my grandparents’ patio for decades.

These crispy ribbons of pastry dusted with sugar are a sweet popular for centuries throughout Italy and across Europe and Asia. In Italy, they are traditionally eaten at the time of Carnevale, when cities, towns and villages celebrate their historical connections. The ‘chitter-chatter’ pop up under the guise of different names in different regions – chiacchiere, crostole, bugie, cenci, sfogliatelle, nodi, ali d’angelo, frappe, cioffe, galani, sfrappole…

Beware, for chiacchiere or ‘rumours’ can be addictive. They are best if light and flaky but still crunchy with some substance.

Ingredients:

  • 450g plain flour {plus extra for kneading}
  • 3 free range eggs
  • 50g butter
  • 100g caster sugar {raw, unbleached if available}
  • 50ml Marsala {grappa or brandy may be substituted}
  • 1tsp vanilla bean extract
  • oil for frying
  • extra caster sugar or icing sugar to sprinkle

Method:

  • Sift the flour into a mixing bowl. Make a well in the middle and add the eggs, butter, sugar, Marsala and vanilla, mixing thoroughly to create a dough.
  • Turn the dough out onto a floured surface and knead until smooth {dusting extra flour across surface to prevent sticking as needed}.
  • Use a rolling pin or a pasta machine to roll the dough to lasagna sheet thinness.
  • Cut into strips roughly 4-5 cm wide, or to your liking {an alternative is using a fluted, pastry/ pasta wheel cutter to give a crinkled edge}.
  • Heat the oil in a deep frying pan and fry several strips at a time until they are golden.
  • Remove with a slotted spoon and drain on absorbent kitchen paper.
  • Sprinkle with caster sugar while still hot, or allow to cool completely then cover with sifted icing sugar.

Serves a good gathering chatting over coffee or sweet fortified wine.

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sweet dumplings…

ZippoliThese little doughnut balls are also known as zippoli, zeppole or sfingi in Italy depending on the region where they are cooked. (I’ve also tasted the German version quarkbällchen – known too as ‘Bavarian snowballs’ – from a roadside stall not far from Schloss Neuschwanstein.) There’s something about eating them fresh and hot from the pan, dusted with sugar! Often a Christmas treat – although they are good any time of year – I have treasured memories of my Italian grandmother cooking them to have after dinner on Christmas Eve.

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Mulberry pie for supper…

Mulberry pieOn a Sunday afternoon walk, we discovered mulberry trees growing wild along the creek and were not the only ones who picked the berries – the largest, plumpest and sweetest we’d come across in ages. Almost half an hour later the trees were still heavy with fruit, plenty left to share with others, the birds and flying foxes. That night Roger made mulberry pie with crumbly, buttery shortcrust pastry for supper. A little bit of ‘Sunday afternoon’ to last throughout the week…

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capsico per cena…

stuffed capsicumSaw these sweet, baby capsicums at the market and couldn’t resist buying them, though I wasn’t sure how I was going to cook them. Decided to stuff the capsicums with a mixture of seasoned goat’s cheese, pine nuts, parsley and basil, then bake in the oven. Served with some crusty bread on the side…

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Homemade arancini with ragù alla Bolognese…

homemade aranciniIt is claimed that arancini originated in Sicily as far back as the 10th century. The balls of rice with various fillings are shaped, crumbed and fried, resembling an orange – the Italian for orange being arancia. (Rice cooked the day before and cooled in the fridge works best.) In Messina, they can be more cone shaped, while in Naples they are pall’e riso (rice balls) apparently. I think ours (made 11 centuries later in Australia!) ended up being influenced a little by both cities.

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Cavolo nero…

Great to see cavolo nero  (black Tuscan cabbage)
amongst the produce exhibits at the local show
in the small Australian town of
Bangalow late last year…
cavolo nero

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the melanzane are here….

black capsicum, basil, eggplant and silverbeet picked from the vegie patch… to eggplant parmigiana.

Eggplant and capsciumEggplant parmigiana

Related articlethe melanzane are coming…

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The melanzane are coming…

So far about half a dozen at last count in the vegie patch. Every day I see them getting a little larger. I cannot wait to cook them and am trying to think of different recipes – eggplant parmigiana, crumbed slices fritte, melanzane involtini, stuffed eggplant, melanzane in passata

Related articles…

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Pane Casereccio…

Pane Casereccio – delicious served warm – R made this Pugliese bread studded with salami and cheese, inspired after watching an old television series with Antonio Carluccio making it. I love how so many Italian recipes have been created to use leftovers.

For the recipe… http://www.antonio-carluccio.com/Pane_Casereccio

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freshly, baked bread…

“…whenever the loaf is put on the table, few foods will produce such joy and delight in others as when freshly baked bread appears, the aroma of fresh memories rising with every slice, and all things – poetry and miracles, friends and family, food and love – for a short time are as they ought be: one.”

Richard Flanagan, from The Food of Love.

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eggs in purgatory…

At home when I was growing up, we sometimes ate eggs baked in leftover pasta sauce which we called, ‘eggs in tomato’, not quite as evocative as ‘eggs in purgatory’ that I later discovered this dish is also called.

I’ve been told it’s origins are in Napoli {although the Abruzzo claims it too} and it is said that the eggs are like the souls in purgatory who are caught between the tomatoes {purgatory} and trying to escape to heaven.

 

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an edible bouquet…

il bouquet perfetto for Valentine’s Day
that by evening may become
dinner for two.

Recipe for carciofi alla romana…

Take four fresh artichokes.
Peel the tough outer leaves and remove the choke,
then trim the stem to about six centimetres.

Immerse in hot olive oil until golden brown and crisp.
{The artichoke will open like a flower.}
Serve piping hot, seasoned with salt and pepper.

On the side of the plate add a dollop of mascarpone
mixed with some lemon zest and
a couple of lemon wedges to squeeze over the carciofi.

Buon San Valentino!

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Italian Christmas treats…

CaggionettiCaggionetti/calcionetti are traditional Italian Christmas treats particularly popular in Abruzzo. They have a filling of almonds, walnuts, chocolate, chickpeas, lemon zest, cinnamon and honey enclosed in paper-thin ravioli casings fried in white wine and olive oil then cooled and dusted with icing sugar.

Perfect for eating in front of a fire with nighttime snow falling outside… far from the heat and humidity that Brisbane promises for me this Christmas….

Merry Christmas! Buon Natale!

 

{Photo courtesy of Gabriella of Teramo, Abruzzo}
Find her recipe and step-by-step photographs here… http://ilrifugiodigabry.blogspot.com.au/2011/12/calcionetti.html

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Roasted chestnuts….

Autumn means chestnuts, castagne and I always think of my Italian grandfather, Nonno Anni whenever we roast them. In the Abruzzo in the 1930s, Nonno Anni harvested chestnuts beneath Gran Sasso, later taking them to turn to flour at the stone mill with the wooden water wheel on the canal below his village of Fossa.

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Life in the Abruzzo in 1913…

Maria with cooking pots”, painted by Estella Canziani in Mascione, Abruzzi, 1913. Part of the Birmingham Museum & Art Gallery collection and printed in Canziani’s book, Through the Apennines and the Lands of Abruzzi.

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Freshly baked bread…

For many centuries, baking in most Italian villages took place mostly once a week or even a fortnight. Both my grandparents told me how they recalled the women of the village taking their dough to the forno (often the only oven in the entire village), and that each piece of dough had an identifying mark on it for when the women came back to collect their baked bread.

In Palmi, Calabria my great, great grandmother and bisnonna baked for their area in a large, wood-fired oven or forno in a room beneath their house.

While I’d heard these stories and have been to the village forno I had never seen any pictures so I was thrilled when photographer, Carla Coulson recently sent me this Henri Cartier-Bresson photograph. It was taken in 1953 in the Abruzzese town of Scanno as women were carrying their dough to the forno for baking.

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Pasta drying in Naples, 1897…

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