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Archive for the ‘Italian Cooking’ Category

Preserves

Yes it is that time of year that we are surround by ripe and in seasoned vegetables and fruit. Of course many of us will be making our lots of bottles of passata or other preserves that we like.

Some of mine are eggplant, capsicum & zucchini, but the King for me will always be the tomatoes and what better way to keep them is to make your own passata to enjoy in the winter months when tomatoes shouldn’t be bought let alone consumed fresh.

What are some of the important things about preserving vegetables apart from the tomatoes. Most Italians will generally pickle their eggplants, capsicums and zucchini plus many other vegetables. Of course preserving has been around for years.

Passata, melanzane sott'olio, peperoni sott'olio, zucchine sott'olio & corn relish

Salting and Pickling

Salting, especially of meat, is an ancient preservation technique. The salt draws out moisture and creates an environment inhospitable to bacteria.

Pickling was widely used to preserve meats, fruits and vegetables in the past, but today is used almost exclusively to produce “pickles”. Pickling uses the preservative qualities of salt (see above) combined with the preservative qualities of acid, such as acetic acid (vinegar).

Acid environments inhibit bacteria.

One of the dangers of not preserving food properly is bacteria. These tiny, hidden microbes can wreak havoc in improperly prepared food, leading to sickness and botulism.

If you want to join me in preserving and making passata, I will be running a Public workshop this Saturday 25th February at Collingwood College for the Stephanie Alexander Kitchen Garden Foudation.

http://www.kitchengardenfoundation.org.au/workshops-training/public-workshops/view/701A00000002sF8IAI/italian-summer-preserving-saturday-25-february

Hope to see you there.!

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Fresh egg pasta dough- resting

Lately in my cooking classes, I’ve been asked : do you leave the pasta to rest in the fridge after you’ve made the dough? At first I thought it was a one off, then nearly every class since they’ve all asked the same question. So I started asking them where did they hear that they had to put the fresh pasta dough to rest in the fridge. Most responses said from recipe books, but I soon discovered again a cooking show on TV they tell them to rest the pasta dough in the fridge. I’m not sure why this is other than to let it rest.

I’d been taught by Nonna (who had been making pasta since she was 8 years old now she is 95 years old) to always leave the dough to rest out of the fridge, but make sure it is covered or wrapped up with glad wrap as this stops the dough from drying out. If you have time to leave it up to 1 hour the dough will be even easier to handle and work with. The Chef that I worked with in Italy also left the dough just covered in glad wrap but never in the fridge.

But since Italy cooking is regional cooking, I thought maybe somewhere else in Italy puts it in the fridge. So I did some research  and asked all my Italian friends, what they do or what their nonna or mothers do. The response was unanimous, no-one puts the fresh pasta dough in the fridge to rest. However as I teach in all my classes, people will say their method is the right way and I tell the students this is what the Italians say and this what the cookbooks or TV shows say. Then they can decide for themselves which method to follow.

Since Le Marche is one of the traditional egg pasta making regions and having responses from friends of the Emilia Romagna region which is the “Queen” of the fresh egg pasta dough that they leave their dough out of the fridge, I’m going to stick with them.

Footnote:  I was taught that the egg dough to be rested only needs 20 minutes but can be left up to one hour (as stated above). Due to the fact it has raw egg in, obviously if you live in really hot places you shouldn’t let it rest in the sun or hot area, the idea of leaving it out of the fridge is to let the glutens in the dough to relax to allow it to become a soft pliable dough to work with, because if you are like me it makes it much easier to roll it out via a rolling pin (not pasta machine) and of course it tastes so much better as Nonna would say. If people do put it in the fridge I don’t agree on letting it rest overnight, I prefer the old Italian way – just like Nonna – who has now passed away 😦 – make straight away and cook straight way that is why their food  tastes so good it is made fresh and eaten straight away the way it is meant to be.

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Risotto ai funghi

This has been asked a lot from me lately. “Do you stir your risotto or do you leave it?” At first I was thinking, typical Australians what do they know… Only to discover that is what someone said on TV telling the contestants that you never stir risotto…. Oh boy wait until I tell my husband that one!! Anyway of course I got the reaction I was expecting from my adorable “wog” husband, not sure  if I can repeat.

So I decided to do a further research into this – by asking Italians, as I was taught by my mother-in-law, brother-in-law, husband, the chef I worked with in Italy and all the other Italians that I know in Italy that they all stir. However as things can change from region to region in Italy, that some of the northern Italians (particularly the chefs) don’t stir but flip the rice over and over in the pan, this process is called all’onda (the wave),  which is a bit like stirring it anyway. BUT one thing seems to be missing from all of this, that it seems it doesn’t matter if you stir or not (or the wave), that there is ONE thing that all italians agree on, is the most important part of risotto making is the “TOSTATURA”.

What is “tostatura”? Well it is exactly what it sounds like, “toasting”, when you add the rice to the pan, you should make sure the rice is toasted (this does NOT mean to brown) before adding the alcohol or stock. Making sure that the rice has been well stirred and well coated in the butter mixture and that the grains then start to become “brilliant looking” – this is the “tostature”. Then finish your risotto your way, to stir or not to stir, gluggy or creamy, runny or stiff, al dente or soggy.

Enjoy making your next risotto. Alla prossima.

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