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Fricot Feature | Who is Killing the Cheese Makers? Part Two


Formaggio-di-Malga-Stravecchio-36-mesi2-lowres
36-month old Malga Stravecchio

Producing cheese from raw milk and natural rennet, heat and fermentation is older than history. Archaeologists and historians have an idea when it started. That idea, or story if you prefer, is based on a presumption.

The story involved a merchant in an ancient caravanserai – a camel train – on a journey under the hot sun across ancient lands. When the merchant arrived at the destination, milk carried in a bag made from a sheep’s stomach was discovered to be lumpy, churned into curds by the constant jogging of the camel on uneven ground under the heat of that sun.

The same argument has been made for the discovery of yoghurt. Same principle.

Of course it is possible it might have been a deliberate experiment. Meat was tenderised under the saddles of the horsemen who travelled long distances, a tradition that continued until horses became sports stars and lost their natural status in society. Our ancestors never ceased to discover methods to preserve their food, using microbial fermentations and elaborate techniques that are still in use today and cannot be replicated fully by modern methods.

It is the old cliche, if it isn’t broken …

Reportáž z byndziarne vo Zvolenskej Slatine.© Dušan Kittler
The Making of Bryndza, the soft sheep’s cheese of Poland and Slovakia

Whether it was accidental or deliberate is no longer relevant. Somewhere, somehow, someone realised that the character of milk could be altered to produce a food with a longish life – cheese!

Whether this happened 5000 years ago or 3500 years ago is relevant for one reason. The pasteurisation of milk is modern – very modern, a speck in time.

This leaves us with a dilemma. In the countries where cheese has become an integral aspect of the character of farming – ancient and modern – there is a strong raw milk tradition in its preparation.

This includes many European countries, in fact mostly European. That should not be a shock to anyone who knows the history of food. It is also not a surprise that cheese making is a mountain and valley occupation, that goat’s milk rather than sheep’s milk and certainly not cow’s milk has been the driver through time.

The environment is the medium.

Goat’s milk makes fresh cheese, sheep’s milk makes cheese that is adaptable, and cow’s milk makes cheese that has a relatively long life, certainly in the maturation period. Each has a tradition that is unique in the countries where these animals graze the fields and meadows and upland slopes.

It is not a surprise that some of the best cheese in the world comes from countries with high country snow, where the flora is rich in the organoleptic qualities that are transferred to the cheese via the milk.

Adding-the-Rennet.lowres
Pouring the Rennet

America does not appear to have a milk or a cheese tradition, yet it is the Americans who are driving the campaign, if it can be called that, to eradicate cheese made from raw milk. They would prefer to ban all products made with raw milk.

Deaths from food poisoning have generally come from mass-produced industrial food or from food that has been contaminated by industrial processes or food tainted by toxic waste. Deaths from eating cheese made with raw milk do not compare.

Is there an agenda? People who know cheese believe there is.

It starts with the microbes that inhabit the world, the single cell organisms called bacteria. They are present in the milk and are present in the rennet, the enzymatic preparation that clots milk, changing it into curds. These microbes digest the lactose in milk and, in the process, produce lactic acid, which acts as a preservative.

The enzyme is called chymosin. It is found in the stomachs of ruminants – which is why the milk curdled on that famous journey.

When chymosin is introduced to the milk as rennet it converts the proteins from liquid into solid. This coagulation process is the result of a catalytic action. Casein makes up the majority of milk proteins. There are four casein molecules in milk – alpha-s1, alpha-s2, beta and kappa.

Without kappa casein, milk would spontaneously coagulate. Milk proteins are soluble because of kappa casein. When chymosin interacts with kappa casein it converts it into a protein called macropeptide. The milk can no longer hold its liquid state. It clots and changes into curds.

Bacteria are maligned, yet not all bacteria are malignant, many are beneficial and without them our food web would disintegrate. We would have no fermented food, including the aromatic cheeses that allow you ‘to taste the animal’.

The secret of cheese making is the skilful management of microbes, and the management of moisture before and after the process. Therefore cheese should be made with milk that is as fresh as it comes, before any kind of harmful microbial activity can take place. It should be stored in conditions that are not receptive to microbial activity. And, ideally, cheese consumers should be knowledgable when they buy and store cheese.

The pasteurisation of milk will destroy harmful bacteria but it will also produce a different kind of cheese. In their book, Reinventing the Wheel – Milk, Microbes and the Fight for Real Cheese, Bronwen and Francis Percival are typically patronising in their approach to this issue. If the book was less about them and more about cheese, it would be educational. It is not the first book on cheese to patronise its potential readers and it won’t be the last. There is knowledge and wisdom in the Percival book, unfortunately it is hidden among the paragraphs that state ‘look at us, aren’t we clever when we write about cheese?’

Campaigners for real cheese, they are not!

This is the problem and sadly it is not confined to the likes of the Percivals. Ignorance of ‘real’ cheese among the general population has allowed supermarket chains to sell ‘cheap’ cheese, especially in the English speaking world. In their profit before people behaviour, supermarkets dictate what the people purchase. Cheese connoisseurs naturally go elsewhere and are not typically concerned about those who have no understanding of ‘slow food’ and no informed knowledge about artisanal products. That said, not everyone can afford to shop at Neal’s Yard Dairy, where Bronwen Percival is the cheese buyer.

Rene Ryser manages a cheese grotto and a cheese shop in the Swiss Alps

Real Cheese from Bern country in south-west Switzerland, where farmers are strongly supported by the Swiss government and local cantons

Sadly we now live in a world where ‘real’ cheese is for those with purchasing power and ‘plastic’ cheese is for everyone else. If there is concern about the demise of ‘real’ cheese makers in the English language-speaking countries, it is not manifest among those who are used to hopping over to France, Italy or Switzerland to buy the cheeses that do not travel, like the best Abondance or Appenzeller or Fontina or Malga or Tomme or Sbrinz – all cheeses with strong local traditions, that become expensive when they are purchased at specialist outlets in Dublin or London or New York.

Cheese, as Bronwen Percival is not slow to demonstrate, is a continental European sensibility, where cheese can be bought from a dedicated artisanal shop – a fromagerie – or from a market stall, sometimes from the cheese maker themselves, or from a supermarket chain that is sensitive to the desires of its customers.

In Britain and Ireland it is difficult to find a supermarket that has on its shelves ‘real’ cheese. Abondance, the wonderful cheese of the Savoyard region of the French Alps, found its way into the Tesco chain in Ireland, interestingly at a price lower than at Auchan and Carrefour in France and Italy. Miracles do happen!

But we digress.

Reinventing-the-Wheel
Published by Bloomsbury

The most interesting chapter in Reinventing the Wheel is chapter seven. For those not as knowledgable about the cheese world as Bronwen Percival, this chapter is worth the price of the book.

When the Percivals state that the regulation of cheese – ‘deciding what is and what isn’t safe to eat’ – is ‘caught up in the fraught discussion of milk hygiene and safety,’ they make a very important point, which they are not slow to elucidate: ‘cheese is not liquid milk’.

As someone who is lactose intolerant and was forced to drink warm milk in school as a child, I find it difficult, 50 years later, to trust those who are entrusted to look after public health. Anyone with a brain, who was forced to drink raw milk as a child during the middle decades of the 1900s in certain countries, worked that out and were told to keep quiet. The pasteurisation of milk solved one problem, authority and morality remain.

Food safety has been an issue since the first nomads settled down in central Anatolia over 11 000 years ago, it came with civilisation and remained all the way into the modern era. Those with knowledge might argue that the French and the Swiss have better standards of food safety than the Americans, yet there is an argument that American-led laboratory science has been let loose on a world that is now scared of its own shadow – rightly so in many instances, but not with cheese made with raw milk and prepared in traditional ways. The Reblochon story in the Percival book is an example of the kind of ‘rational pragmatism’ that should be adopted toward raw milk cheese making.

ReblochonCheese-Ice-T.lowres
This is the Swiss reblochon

If the Americans want to impose a zero risk regulation to ensure food safety, that is their prerogative. For those of us who love raw milk cheeses, from the Camembert of Normandie to the Reblochon de Savoie – two cheeses singled out by the Percivals, we will continue to take our chances. Thankfully not everyone lives in the USA.

Unfortunately the future of raw milk cheeses in Britain and Ireland is bleak, because of the American influence. A tradition that is young and weak cannot compete with a tradition that is old and strong. Elizabeth Bradley makes a cheese just as good as any of the similar cheeses made in France and Italy. Her years do not compare with their years. America’s baleful influence on other countries is a worry to those who care about ‘real’ food, never mind ‘real’ cheese.

Of course we here in Fricot are biased. We have absolute faith in traditional methods. All the preserved foods come from an ancient lineage of expertise that resulted in techniques that have been passed down the generations and work as well today as they did thousands of years and countless generations ago.

Mechanisation does not produce good food, that is obvious to anyone who understands the lack of an organoleptic characteristic in anything that is mass produced. It certainly does not produce food as good as cheese made from raw milk.

So what is the real issue?

It might be obvious to say it is about food corporations and their desire to make profits from the mass production of cheese made with ‘safe’ milk. Certainly making money is a strong criteria for those who need to make money.

That would be the easy explanation, the truth this time is hard and complicated.

For now we should celebrate those who want to make cheese because they have a strong desire to produce a product that has organoleptic qualities, that has a unique taste and a depth of flavour, that is the consequence of its environment and their skill.

Tète de Moine (Photo: Ezequiel Scagnetti)

Fricot Feature | Who is Killing the Cheese Makers? Part One

Goat farmer Elizabeth Bradley is a cheese-maker in Ballybrommel in the flatlands below Mount Leinster in east Carlow, south-east of Dublin. A few kilometers away in Shillelagh under the gaze of the mountains in west Wicklow dairy farmer Tom Burgess uses a portion of his summer milk to make cheese.

They make two of the most aromatic cheeses in Europe, one with goat’s milk, one with cow’s milk. In industry parlance they are artisanal, making hardly enough to mark the shadow of an impression in the billions of exports in dairy products. That is because they sell to local markets. That is one of their problems!

They have other problems, that have nothing to do with making and selling cheese. These problems are shared by most cheese makers across Europe, especially artisanal producers who are not concerned with packaging and supermarkets, with dairies, commerce and exports, and with the glossy promotional images of farmers and cheese that have nothing to do with reality. People who like to be small and be very good at what they do.

Cheese-making in Ireland was an ancient activity. It was part of the fabric of society. Michael Ó Sé, writing about old cheeses (and other milk products) in the Journal of the Cork Historical and Archaeological Society in 1948 referred to the traditional coagulants used in cheese-making. Binit (calves rennet) and binit uain (lambs rennet) were used as animal rennets, and mothan (bog violet) as a vegetable rennet. Sadly this tradition died with many of the old ways and for several hundred years Irish cheese-making was just another myth.

By referring to the old methods, using the same raw materials, farmers returned to cheese-making in the 1900s and within two generations Irish cheeses were back on the shelves. Bord Bia, in their promotions for farmhouse cheese-making, noted the fact. “The cheese-makers developed their craft, and enthusiastic friends, enlightened local chefs and shopkeepers put in orders for cheeses and the amateurs slowly evolved into professionals. Experience and knowledge passed to other interested farms and slowly a new food culture began to emerge.”

In Ireland, say Bord Bia (the governmental food department), our farmhouse cheeses are unique to each producer, expressing terroir in the true sense of the word. “This has the advantage of allowing for innovation and creativity, while still respecting the values of traditional cheese-making. Our European neighbours find it hard to believe that each cheese is only produced on one farm and is the result of the passion and dedication of one family.”

“The personality of the cheese-maker is often reflected in aspects of their cheese; from the wild and unpredictable to the precise and consistent. The large range of Irish farmhouse cheeses now available is exceptional considering the youth of the industry and the small size of our island.”

Elizabeth Bradley has just collected 500 litres of raw cow’s milk from a dairy farmer in Bagnelstown. She will pay the fixed market rate of 39 cents a litre. “Most dairy farmers will not sell their milk to small cheese-makers, because they are afraid of any consequences,” she says, driving back to her small farm with the milk in tow. She pumps the milk into her 500 litre vat, adds the starter culture and gradually brings the milk up to 32ºC. Several hours later the curds of cheese rest in containers under a press.

Over in Shillelagh Tom Burgess explains why the grass is the hero of his Irish cheddar. “It is made from grass-fed milk, other cheddars are not made from grass milk. So my cheddar is a yellow colour. English cheddars are white. It is still-growing grass, living, a natural environment.”

His 150 cows graze 200 acres. They calve in February and March, and milk through the summer when the grass is growing. Milking is stopped in November and December. For that reason he realised he needed a product with a long shelf life and decided on cheddar.

“There was already a demand for cheddar, and I felt the customer would move onto a stronger cheddar and pay more for a better sample. It melts well, cooks well, people know cheddar. It fitted my production profile, which was seasonal production.”

“It is a mature cheddar so I make the whole year’s production and then I store it. We make about 200-250 kilos a day over 80 days, that’s 16 tonnes. And we are still increasing. We are selling it but we would like to put it in the supermarkets where it will sell in volume.”

He employs two people to make the cheese. “I am able to pay them, instead of working on my own, the milk lorry arriving in the middle of the night, and still make a sustainable living out of my cattle.”

Pressing-the-Cheese-lowres

The Moo Man film makers Andy Heathcote and Heike Bachelier might come to Ireland to feature the work of raw milk cheese-makers. After the success of their film about Sussex dairy farmer Steve Hook and his small organic raw milk business, it is no surprise to hear that the next stage of the process – cheese-making – is on their agenda.

Heathcote was drawn to the story of Errington Cheese who were forced to close their business after the authorities in Scotland implicated them in an outbreak of ecoli and has decided that the wider issue of bacteria in raw milk cheese should be investigated. His initial investigations tell him that there are numerous agendas, and for those reasons there are genuine fears for raw milk cheese-makers like Bradley and Burgess.

Rules that do not apply to raw milk cheese makers in France, Italy or Switzerland, where raw milk cheeses are celebrated as part of a regional food culture that attracts tourists and customers, are being applied to Irish and Scottish cheese-makers.

Dubliner Ben Sherwood has just finished his thesis on the future of raw milk cheese in Ireland. He is optimistic about Irish cheese but not sure about the future. “We could end up losing all our raw milk cheese-makers unless we do something,” he says. “There do not seem to be many new cheese-makers. Between 1995 and 2015 we lost about two-thirds of our raw milk cheeses.”

Elizabeth Bradley has another theory. “Part of it is the fact that there are very few people depending solely on raw milk cheeses for a livelihood so are therefore not going to take the risk.”

Ben Sherwood wonders whether the Food Safety Authority of Ireland are taking a lead from the Food and Drug Administration in the USA, where soft raw milk cheeses are not allowed. “You cannot sell or import two-month old raw milk cheese.”

This policy is part of the precautionary principle and the FSAI believe they serve the public by being cautious. Earlier this year supermarkets removed a pasteurised cow’s milk brie from their shelves. “As a precautionary measure, SuperValu is recalling batches of Wicklow Blue, due to the possible presence of Listeria monocytogenes,” the FSAI stated in a public announcement.

In 2005 University College Cork food sciences professor Alan Kelly surveyed food scientists on the public understanding of food risk issues and messages, and found that these experts had “little confidence” in the public’s understanding of food risk issues. “The public under-assesses the risk associated with some microbiological hazards and over-assesses the risk associated with other hazards such as genetically modified organisms and bovine spongiform encephalopathy.” They also said that the “media tend to communicate information that is misleading”.

Another reason for FSAI’s concern.

Paolo-Verona-Cheeses.lowres

During his student years Ben Sherwood worked part-time in a shop with a specialist cheese counter. It gave him a window into the world of cheese consumers. “Only a small minority who come into the shop come up to the cheese counter,” he says. “People who know their cheeses know what they want, they have their favourites, the ones they are familiar with. Then there are people who haven’t a clue, but want to learn. Those are the best moments, that small interaction and the change in peoples outlook that one piece of cheese can make. They are the key to improving our culture.”

At the street markets across the country it is the same. Some people buy the cheeses they know, while other people want to know more about cheese. If the seller is also the cheese-maker they are in luck. “I think people do care,” says Elizabeth Bradley, “but are bombarded with information, have very busy lives, huge demands from the complex system around them.”

There is, according to Ben, a blissful ignorance about cheese. Despite attempts by the state, through Bord Bia, and others, like Sheridans cheesemongers, to promote Irish cheese, the medium does not convey the message.

Something is wrong.

Who is killing the cheese-makers? We all are, if you believe those who care about cheese, raw milk cheese in particular. From those in authority who display a “terrible arrogance” to those in the artisanal food sector who appear to be ruled by “arrogance and fear” to the consumer who has a “blissful ignorance” and sees food as an entertainment rather than a culture, to a media that has no excellence in food writing.


… continued in part two.

Legendary Dishes | Risotto alla Po Delta Melon con Gamberetti ( rice with Po Delta melon and shrimp)

ITALY

Go to Risotto for a slightly different version.

  • 600 ml vegetable broth
  • 1 medium sized Po Delta melon, de-seeded, peeled, cut into small dice, refrigerated
  • 300 g carnaroli rice
  • 250 g prawns / shrimp, shelled
  • 125 g soft cheese (optional)
  • 2 shallots, sliced thin
  • 15 g butter
  • 15 ml olive oil
  • Black pepper, large pinch
  • Salt, large pinch
  • Saffron, pinch

Liquidise half of the melon cubes, add saffron, refrigerate. Melt butter and oil in a large deep frying pan, sauté shallots over a medium heat. Add the rice, coat in butter-oil mixture for a few minutes. sauté until soft, about ten minutes. Stir in the rice and coat in the butter-oil-shallot mixture. When the rice starts to stick on the bottom, add a ladle of stock. When the rice absorbs the stock add a second ladle, repeat this process several times until all the stock is used up. Add diced melon and the shrimp. If using cheese add at this stage. Stir in the liquidised melon, adjust seasoning, cover and heat through slowly. After five minutes, remove from heat and rest for a few minutes.

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Legendary Dishes | Risotto con la Salsiccia (rice with sausage)

ITALY
  • 1 litre meat stock / 500 ml passata mixed with 500 ml water
  • 350 g garlic sausage, chopped into 1 cm and 2 cm pieces
  • 350 g vialone nano rice
  • 200 g cherry tomatoes, whole
  • 175 g onion, chopped
  • 80 ml white wine
  • 60 g butter
  • 30 g garlic, chopped
  • 30 ml olive oil

Brown sausage pieces in a little oil, set aside and keep warm. Heat the stock and keep warm. Melt butter and oil in a large frying pan over a low heat, add the onions and garlic, sauté until soft, about ten minutes. Stir in the rice and coat in the butter-garlic-onion mixture. When it starts to stick on the bottom, pour in the wine and allow to evaporate, then add the first ladle of stock or tomato juice. When the rice absorbs the stock add a second ladle, repeat this process several times until all the stock is gone. Add the tomatoes and sausage pieces, stir into the rice, cover and leave to heat through, about ten minutes.

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Legendary Dishes | Risotto al Tastasal / Risotto alla Veronese (vialone nano rice with seasoned ground pork, parmigiano, rosemary, cinnamon in beef broth and white wine)

ITALY

Tastasal is the term given to pork that is ground into a fine mince and seasoned with a copious amount of coarse ground black pepper and sufficient ground salt to give the meat a depth of flavour. The name derives from a tradition when butchers (and domestics) sampled the seasoned pork that was used to make salami, sausage and sopressa. In the northern region, around Vicenza, this mixture is called salami paste, because it resembles a paste after seasoning. Here they use it to make a sauce to go with pasta. In the low Verona plain they use it to make a risotto.

  • 1 litre meat broth
  • 320 g vialone nano rice
  • 300 g tastasal (ground pork seasoned with 15 g black pepper and 5 g salt)
  • 125 g white onion
  • 100 g butter
  • 80 g grana padano cheese, grated
  • 60 ml white wine
  • 3 garlic cloves, crushed, chopped
  • Cinnamon, pinch
  • Nutmeg, grated, pinch
  • Rosemary, chopped small, pinch

Heat the stock and keep warm. Toast the rice in a dry frying pan, set aside. Melt half of the butter in a large frying pan over a low heat, add the onions and sauté until soft, about ten minutes. Stir in the rice and coat in the butter-onion mixture. When it starts to stick on the bottom, pour in the wine and allow to evaporate, then add the first ladle of stock. When the rice absorbs the stock add a second ladle, repeat this process several times until all the stock is gone. In a separate frying pan, melt the remaining butter, add the rosemary and garlic, stir. Add the pork, increase heat and fry quickly. When the pork is browned stir in the cinnamon and nutmeg, spoon on top of the rice, leave to rest for ten minutes. Stir the pork mixture into the rice, serve, dress with cheese.

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Legendary Dishes | Peposa di Daino (vension in Roman-style aromatic red wine sauce)

ITALY

This Roman sauce – made with berries, herbs, spices and red wine – never lost favour, because it masked the smell of meat that was left to hang for too long. Nowadays it is a luxury, yet easily made. This is the light version, for the heavy version go to Salsa Peposa.

  • 1 kg venison
  • 750 ml Montepulciano D’Abruzzo red wine
  • 500 g red onions, sliced
  • 50 g black peppercorns
  • 30 g flour
  • 25 g lovage leaves and stalks
  • 25 g rosemary twigs
  • 20 g cassia bark
  • 20 g juniper berries
  • 10 bay leaves

Place vension into a large deep pot with the bay leaves, onions, peppercorns and wine, simmer over a very low heat for 24 hours. Strain liquid, make a gravy with the flour. Serve meat with the gravy and mashed potatoes.

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Legendary Dishes | Orecchiette alle Cime di Rapa / Broccoli e Acciughe (pasta with turnip tops / broccoli and anchovy)

ITALY

This ear-shaped coin pasta, associated with Bari on Italy‘s east coast and made in Naples using the Gragnano method, accompanies the sauces the people of the peninsula keep to themselves. One such sauce is anchovy and garlic flavoured vegetables in olive oil. Originally made with turnip tops, gradually the recipe evolved to include other vegetables, particularly broccoli. The amount of olive oil seems at first excessive but it is necessary to absorb the broccoli, cling to the orecchiette and hold the cheese. Fresh broccoli should be used. If the stems are tough, therefore fibrous, peel them. This is a melt-in-the-mouth experience that does not work with chewy vegetable fibres. In their delightful book, A Taste of Venice: At Table with Brunetti, Donna Leon and Roberto Pianaro describe the process of making home-made orecchiette and issue a warning:

‘Unless a person is born within half an hour‘s drive of the city of Bari, they should not attempt tomake orecchiette by hand. These dear little pasta pieces are a specialty of the region, and are made from a mixture of white flour and Apulian hard wheat flour to which no egg is added. The process of making them by hand involves mixing the two types of flour with salt and then gradually dribbling in water until the dough is malleable and neither too wet nor too dry.‘

To find out why and what happened when they tried to make it you will need to consult the book. Andrea Camilleri, creator of Inspector Montalbano, describes a scene in one of his novels that has the commissario so overwhelmed by the aroma of the mingling anchovies and broccoli that he forgets his task and partakes of the meal. An indication that this exquisite dish is popular throughout Italy, a rare achievement.

  • 1 kg broccoli / calabrese whole stalks
  • 500 g Gragnano orecchiette
  • 150 ml olive oil
  • 10 garlic cloves
  • 100 g anchovy fillets
  • 50 g parmigiano cheese, grated
  • 50 g pecorino cheese, grated
  • 15 g black pepper
  • 10 g peperoncini flakes (optional)
  • Salt, pinch 

Trim ends from broccoli stalks, leave heads whole. Boil broccoli, flower heads up, in a large covered pot of salted water, stems in, heads out of water. Remove to a large soup plate when the stems are al dente. Cut stalks into small pieces, leave flower heads whole. Cook pasta, about 20 minutes, drain. Heat oil in a large wide frying pan, sauté garlic for five minutes, add anchovies followed by the broccoli stalk pieces, season and cook for five minutes. Add broccoli heads and pasta into the mixture, leave to rest for five minutes, dress with cheese.

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Legendary Dishes | Pesto (basil paste)

Pesto has origins in several Italian regions. Like the pizza and its association with Naples, the most famous pesto is an iconic traditional dish of Genoa.

Pesto

  • 180 g parmigiano / grana padano, fine grated
  • 120 ml olive oil
  • 100 g basil leaves
  • 60 g pecorino / sardoor / toscano, fine grated
  • 4 garlic cloves
  • 30 g pine nuts
  • 10 g sea salt

Pound basil with garlic, about 30 leaves for every clove. Use salt to aid grinding.

When the mixture turns into a bright green liquid, add pine nuts. Pound until incorporated.

Add Italian cheese of your choice, then the oil a drop at a time until the consistency is just right.

Fresh pesto is dangerous. Use your imagination and don’t eat too much in one go.


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Indigenous Ingredients | Tørrfisk (air-dried cod)


Every year, between January and April, the Atlantic cod migrates to the nutrient-rich sea around Lofoten and Vesterålen off the coast of Norway in the artic circle.

And every year, since the 1100s, the fishers of this region have caught mature cod, brought it home, and hung it out to dry in the northern winds, the sun’s reflection in the snow tanning the fish a rich golden colour.

This natural process preserves the gutted and beheaded fish, reduces the water content and increases the protein content, 68-78% compared with 18% in fresh cod.

When fully dried the solid flesh has a concentrated aroma, and is stick-like, known as stockfish.

Once the stable of many coastal communities on the Atlantic fringe, cod need specific climatic conditions to dry completely in the open air. The people of northern Norway are the last to maintain this centuries old tradition.

Like the Norwegians, the Portuguese have a long tradition of catching cod in the north Atlantic.

Unlike the Norwegians, who fished off-shore, the Portuguese travelled further into the wide ocean to catch cod.

To preserve the fish they beheaded and gutted it on board and immediately immersed it in salt, completing the drying when they returned home.

This process resulted in a dried fish with a distinctive dark yellow colour, prominent flakes and an intense flavour.

The Portuguese have managed to continue this salting and drying tradition, safe with the knowledge that they are contributing to the longevity of an iconic food that is now truely legendary — Bacalhau | Bacalao | Baccalà!

Let’s start with the Portuguese tradition.

This is the basic version of their celebrated fish balls.

Bolinhos de Bacalhau

1 kg salt-dried cod, 
soaked for 48 hours in 12 changes of fresh water, 
skinned, deboned, shredded small
650 g potatoes, baked, mashed
2 egg whites, whisked into a stiff foam
30 g parsley, chopped
10 g white pepper, ground
Olive oil, for greasing
Vegetable oil, for frying
Salt, large pinch

With wet hands combine the cod and potatoes in a large bowl, knead for five minutes.

Add parsley, pepper and salt.

Fold in the egg whites.

Grease hands with oil, shape into small balls or croquettes.

Shallow fry, drain on paper towels.

Associação dos Industriais do Bacalhau

Baccalà Mantecato

In 2001 a calender event of significance was noted when an assortment of Venetian artists, historians, restauranteurs, writers and baccalà lovers launched the Dogale Confraternita del Baccalà Mantecato.

Their aim was the dissemination of the traditional recipe – cod, garlic and olive oil – because baccalà mantecato is not just food. ‘It is history, religion, adventure, secrets handed down from cook to cook, from mother to daughter: the pleasure of the palate, mind, heart.’

Stockfish is imported into northern and southern Italy, to Calabria, Campania, Liguria, Sicily and Veneto, taking two-thirds of the Norwegian production.

In northern Italy they like their stockfish lean and thin, in southern Italy they prefer it fat and thick but in Venice they demand the best and it is graded as such, imported by fish merchants from the Polesine, south of the lagoon city.

In 2014 packets of stockfish cost between €23 and €40 a kilo in the shops and supermarkets.

Baccalà is stick, mantecato is beaten, thus whipped stick fish.

Legend has it that Venetian merchant Pietro Querini and 68 sailors sought refuge from a storm on the Lofoten Islands, where they witnessed the art of air drying the north Atantic cod, turning it into hard stick-like fish.

It is not known whether they brought recipes as well as dried fish from Norway.

That was in the 1430s. In 1563, after the Council of Trent and the directive on a required abstinence from meat, dried cod dishes were served every Wednesday and Friday in parts of Italy.

Bartolomeo Scappi, chef de cuisine of Pius V, established baccalà mantecato as a traditional dish.

This is the original recipe and method as determined by the Dogale Confraternita del Baccalà Mantecato.

250g stockfish, 
soaked for 48 hours in 12 changes of fresh water, 
skinned, deboned
Olive oil 
1 bay leaf
1 lemon
Salt, pinch 
Black pepper, pinch

Put the cod in a pot, cover with lightly salted cold water and bring to a low boil, simmer for 20 minutes with lemon and bay leaf.

Whip the cod by hand with a wooden spoon, letting it absorb the drizzled oil ‘as if it were a mayonnaise’ to produce a shiny homogenous mass.

Season and finish with a little of the cod cooking water.

‘The dish is traditionally garnished with chopped parsley and accompanied by fresh or grilled Venetian white pearl polenta.’

Other Baccalà

Alla Bolognese

stockfish, butter, flour, garlic, lemon juice, olive oil, parsley, white pepper

Alla Cappuccina

stockfish, anchovies, bay leaves, breadcrumbs, cinnamon, fish stock, flour, milk, nutmeg, olive oil, pine nuts, raisins, sugar, white wine, seasonings

Alla Fiorentina

stockfish, flour, garlic, olive oil, tomato sauce, seasonings)

Alla Livornese – 1

stockfish, basil, garlic, olive oil, onion, parsley, red wine, tomato sauce, seasonings

Alla Livornese – 2

stockfish, chilli, flour, garlic, olive oil, parsley, tomatoes, salt

Alla Messinese

stockfish, celery, chilli, olives, olive oil, onions, potatoes, salted capers, tomatoes, salt

Alla Napoletana

stockfish, black olives, chilli, flour, garlic, olive oil, parsley, salted capers, tomatoes

Alla Romana

stockfish, bay leaves, carrot, celery, chickpeas, garlic, olive oil, parsley, rosemary, tomatoes, seasonings

Alla Triestina

stockfish, anchovies, breadcrumbs, butter, cream, parsley, white pepper

Alla Vicentina

stockfish, anchovies, flour, milk, grana padano/parmigiano, parsley, olive oil, onions, seasonings

Brandade de Morue

The tradition in coastal Provence suggests a relationship with the Venetian version, the differences being added milk and extra garlic.

300 g stockfish, 
soaked for 48 hours in 12 changes of fresh water, 
skinned, deboned
110 ml milk, warmed
110 ml olive oil, warmed
4 cloves garlic, crushed, chopped small
Salt, large pinch
Black pepper, large pinch
Water, for cooking

Put cod and a pinch of salt in a large pot, cover with sufficient cold water, bring to a low boil simmer for 30 minutes.

Flake, skin and remove any bones.

Warm milk and oil in separate saucepans over low heat, do not boil.

In a large bowl combine the cod and garlic, then gradually add the milk and oil, beating and breaking the flakes of fish with a strong wooden spoon to create a creamy mash.

Serve with a salad.

Brandada de Bacalao

This is an adaptation of Basque chef Martín Berasategui’s version.

500 ml cream
500 ml milk
300 g salt-dried cod, 
soaked for 48 hours in 12 changes of fresh water, 
skinned, deboned, shredded small
300 g potatoes, baked, mashed 
45 ml olive oil
2 cloves garlic, minced
10 g parsley, chopped
2 sprigs thyme
Salt, pinch
White pepper, pinch

Place half of the garlic and the thyme with the milk in a saucepan, bring to a low boil, add cod. Remove from heat, cover and leave for 30 minutes. Drain, flake cod.

Sauté remaining garlic in the oil in a frying pan over a low heat for five minutes, add cod and potatoes, stir, gradually adding the cream.

Reduce over a low heat for 40 minutes.

Season and serve with with toasted crusty bread, garnish with parsley.

Empanada de Bacalao y Pasas

Not every flake of cod is whipped into a frenzy. Some pieces go into these delicious empanadas from Galicia.

Dough
300 g flour
1 egg
50 ml water, warmed
50 ml lemon juice/white wine
40 g yeast
20 g lard
Salt, pinch

Filling
500 g salt-dried cod, 
soaked for 48 hours in 12 changes of fresh water, 
skinned, deboned
200 ml olive oil
200 ml water
2 onions, chopped
100 g raisins
2 red peppers roasted, peeled, cut into small pieces
1 egg
15 g tomato sauce
Saffron threads
1 tbsp chopped parsley
5 g pimentón
Black pepper, large pinch
Salt, pinch

Soak raisins in water.

Dissolve yeast in the water and wine.

Sieve the flour and salt into a bowl, add the egg and lard.

Fold out onto a clean surface, knead into a soft dough. Cover and leave to rise for an hour.

Fry onions over a gentle heat for 15 minutes, add pimentón, tomato sauce and parsley. Stir, then add the cod, peppers and saffron. Season.

Leave to cool.

Divide the dough into two pieces, roll each into a rectangle shape.

Place one sheet on a greased baking tray.

Preheat oven to 180ºC.

Place the filling on the first sheet, cover with filling, then the second sheet, crimp to seal the edges. Brush surface with egg.

Bake for 40 minutes.

Salt Cod Exporter

Frityrstekt Bacalao med Hvitløksaus

And back up in Norway they are just as inventive with their cod.

… recipes to follow …

Klippfisk Baller

dried cod balls

Klippfisk Grateng

dried cod gratin

Klippfisk med Grønnsaus

dried cod with green sauce

Norsk Bacalao Gryte

Norwegian bacalao casserole

Traditional Dried Cod Dishes

Stockfish photo courtesy of Norwegian Seafood.


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EDITORIALS     EURO SNACKS     FOOD CONNECTIONS     FOOD STORIES     
GLOSSARY     HIGH FIVES     LEGENDARY DISHES     
RECIPES     REVIEWS     STREET MARKETS

Legendary Dishes | Salsa Peposa (Roman-era sauce)

ITALY

This Roman sauce was revived by Giovan Francesco Rustici and his Company of the Cauldron in Florence in the early decades of the 1500s. In the centuries that followed the peposa could be found at the high tables of the aristocracy. And, living up to its schizophrenic reputation, was served with meat that needed a strong sauce.

Some might say the quantity of herbs and spices is excessive, but the strong pepper taste and the aromatic herb flavour are the reasons why it has endured.

Honey and garum (or a fish condiment like Colatura di Alici) add sweetness and saltiness.

These days peposa sauce is served with game meat. It also works well with beef, especially whole cuts.

This is the basic sauce, with the emphasis on onions and peppercorns. Wine is the essential ingredient.

  • 750 ml Montepulciano D’Abruzzo red wine
  • 500 g red onions, sliced
  • 50 g black peppercorns
  • 10 bay leaves
  • 30 g flour (optional)

Place ingredients in a large heavy-based pot, simmer over a very low heat for 24 hours. Strain liquid, make a gravy with the flour, or not, depending on your needs. Serve with game meat.

Peposa alla Fornacina

This is an adaptation of a peposa recipe by Giuseppe Alessi at the La Pentola dell’Oro in Florence.

  • 1 kg beef, whole piece
  • 750 ml Montepulciano D’Abruzzo red wine
  • 500 g red onions, chopped
  • 250 g celery, chopped
  • 250 ml olive oil
  • 75 g black peppercorns 
  • 1 pear, chopped
  • 50 ml fish sauce (optional)
  • 30 g juniper berries
  • 25 g lovage, chopped
  • 25 g rosemary 
  • 1 lemon, peel 
  • 10 cloves garlic, crushed
  • 1 nutmeg, grated
  • 1 tsp coarse salt (optional, omit if using fish sauce)

Sauté celery, garlic and onions in oil in a large pot over a medium heat for 15 minutes. Add juniper berries, lemon peel and rosemary.

Brown the beef on all sides in this oily mixture, about three minutes each side. Add nutmeg, peppercorns, fish sauce or salt and wine.

Simmer covered over a low heat for three hours. Strain liquid, leave meat to rest. Add pear to liquid, cook until it begins to thicken.

Cut beef into thick slices.

Serve with the gravy and mashed potatoes.


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Culinary Connections | Potato Dumplings

FRANCE ITALY LITHUANIA SLOVAKIA

To egg or not is the question good cooks ignore when making perfect potato dumplings or gnocchi as they are known in Italy and throughout the Mediterranean basin.

The addition of eggs is associated with Alsace and Piedmont where the technique aids the kneading process, but produces harder gnocchi.

The Alsace version calls for larger pieces, shaped between two spoons. A ratio of 2:1 raw grated potatoes to cooked puréed potatoes is mixed with two eggs and sufficient flour to make a smooth paste. These gnocchi are seasoned with salt and pepper and a pinch of nutmeg.

In Veneto expert gnocchi makers select potatoes that will not absorb too much flour and hold their shape while cooking. A 4:1 ratio of boiling potatoes to white flour should produce the light fluffy effect demanded by gnocchi aficionados but beware, there are some difficulties.

Marcella Hazan gives one of the best descriptions for shaping Veneto gnocchi using the prongs of a fork. She recommends small gnocchi, 2.5 x 2 cm pieces, which are pressed against the inside prongs and flipped toward the handle of the fork. ‘When gnocchi are shaped in this manner, the middle section is thinner and becomes more tender in cooking, while the ridges become grooves for the sauce to cling to.’ In Slovakia, where they marry old potatoes to a tangy sheep’s cheese called bryndza, the debate is also a matter of preference. The traditional method for making bryndzové halušky is without eggs and a high potato to flour ratio of 5 to 1. Then try eating bryndzové halušky with a 3 to 1 ratio made with egg, coated with grated cheese and sour cream, and served with more cream!

Bryndzové Halušky (potato dumplings with sauce)

  • 500 g gria / Bintje / Desirée potatoes, peeled, grated to a purée
  • 300 g Bryndza / sheep’s cheese, grated
  • 250 g smoked bacon, cubed
  • 200 ml smetana / sour cream (optional)
  • 100 g flour
  • 1 egg (optional)
  • Salt, large pinch
  • Water, for boiling

In a large bowl work potatoes, flour and salt (and if using the egg) into a light dough until it comes away from the edges of the bowl. Rub or cut into small dumplings.

Bring a pot of salted water to the boil, add the dumplings, cook until they rise to the surface, about ten minutes.

Drain, retaining the cooking liquid.

Spoon 100 ml of the liquid into a bowl with the cheese, fork and whisk into a thin sauce.

If desired mix half of the sour cream into the cheese sauce.

Fry the bacon until the fat runs, drain the fat and crisp for three minutes, turning constantly.

Arrange the halušky in a bowl, cover with the bryndza sauce, top with the bacon.

Serve with remaining sour cream.


Maneghi (sweet potatoes)

  • 300 g sweet potatoes, peeled, boiled, mashed
  • 200 g flour
  • 100 g butter
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • 30 g caster sugar
  • 30 g Grana Padano, grated
  • 10 g cinnamon, ground
  • Water, for boiling

Combine the potatoes with the egg and flour, form into large gnocchi.

Bring a pot of salted water to the boil, add the dumplings, cook until they rise to the surface, about 20 minutes.

Melt the butter in a large saucepan, fry the cinnamon for ten seconds, add sugar and grana.

Toss maneghi in the spicy-sweet butter.


Gnocchi (loose)

Gnocchi are not always dumplings, sometimes they are made like polenta.

  • 600 ml milk 
  • 120 g flour
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • Butter, for greasing and spreading
  • Hard cheese, for sprinkling

Boil milk, add salt and flour in small amounts. Cook for ten minutes, until the mixture thickens. Add the egg, stirring constantly to prevent it cooking.

Pour the mixture onto a clean surface and allow to cool.

Preheat oven to 180°C.

Cut into squares 4 cm x 4 cm.

Grease a small baking tray, arrange a layer of squares, dotted with pieces of butter and sprinkled with cheese.

Repeat until the squares are used up, finish with butter and cheese.

Bake until a brown crust forms.


Gnocchi (sweet)

This is the sweet version.

  • 250 ml milk
  • 2 egg yolks
  • 30 g sugar
  • 30 g vanilla sugar
  • 15 g potato starch
  • Butter, for spreading

Combine ingredients in a heavy based saucepan, and bring the hear up slowly, stirring constantly until the mixture thickens.

Pour the mixture onto a clean surface and allow to cool. Preheat oven to 180°C. Cut into squares 4 cm x 4 cm.

Grease a small baking tray, arrange a layer of squares, dotted with pieces of butter.

Repeat until the squares are used up, finish with butter.

Bake until a brown crust forms.


Gnocchi (with specialist potatoes0

Every Italian will tell you quietly that the secret to gnocchi is hidden in the choice of potato.

These would be the varieties of Agate, Agria, Amber, Arizona, Chopin, Finka, Marabel, Monalisa, Universa and Vivaldi grown in Viterbo, between Umbria and Tuscany.

The moderate Lake Bolsena climate and potassium-rich volcanic soils produce potatoes with a pasty consistency, ideal for preparing gnocchi.

That secret is out.

Since 1977 an annual Gnocchi Festival has been held in St. Lorenzo Nuovo.

  • 900 g Patata dell’Alto Viterbese potatoes, boiled whole in skins, cooled
  • 250 g flour
  • 10 g salt
  • Water, for boiling
  • Parmigiano / pecorino, grated fine, for dressing

Pass potatoes through a fine colander or potato masher.

Add half the salt salt.

On a clean surface combine potatoes with flour into a pasty dough.

Roll into a sausage 5 cm thick, cut into 2 cm slices.

Press each piece with the handle of a knife, to form a cup shape.

Bring a large saucepan with water and remaining salt to a rolling boil.

Add gnocchi in batches.

When they rise to the surface, remove with a slotted spoon.

Serve with a dressing of cheese.


Gnocchi di Castagne al Pesto (with potatoes and basil paste)

Also sweet but rich.

  • 700 g potatoes, baked, mashed
  • 100 g strong white flour
  • 100 g chestnut flour
  • 1 egg
  • Salt, pinch
  • White pepper, pinch

Pesto

  • 100 g basil leaves
  • 100 ml olive oil
  • 40 g Parmigiano
  • 40 g pecorino
  • 30 g pine nuts
  • 1 clove garlic
  • Salt, pinch

Combine potatoes, the two flours, egg and salt in a large bowl.

On a floured surface roll into a sausage 5 cm thick, cut into 2 cm slices.

Bring a large saucepan with salt and water to a rolling boil.

Add gnocchi in batches.

When they rise to the surface, remove with a slotted spoon into a bowl.

Toss in the pesto.


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Artisansal | The Marmalade of Tropea

Marmellata di Cipolla ITALY red onion marmalade

This red onion marmalade is one of the great delicacies of Europe. It is found in small expensive jars in delicatessens and grocers, yet it is easy to make in the home, and worth the effort.

Ideally it should be made with the soft red onions of Tropea.

Red onions, especially those grown in northern climates, are harder and require a longer cooking time.

  • 2 kg red onions, peeled, washed
  • 600 g brown sugar
  • 480 ml white wine
  • 240 ml brandy
  • 30 g raisins
  • 4 bay leaves
  • 3 cloves

Halve onions and slice roughly.

Place in a large bowl with bay leaves, brandy, cloves, sugar and white wine. Leave in a cold place to macerate, stirring occasionally until the onions have shrunk into the liquid, about five-six hours.

With one hour to go soak raisins in warm water. Add to onion mixture.

Leave a small plate in the fridge.

Put onion mixture into a large saucepan, bring heat up slowly to dissolve the sugar, then keep on a steady boil until the marmalade begins to form.

When there is a small amount of liquid left at the bottom of the saucepan, about 90 minutes, place half a spoonful of the marmalade on the plate. Let the marmalade cool. It is set if no liquid runs out when the plate is tilted.

While the onions are cooking wash a mixture of jars. Sterilise and dry in oven at 100°C for ten minutes.

Put hot marmalade in hot jars, seal and cool completely before labelling.

Indigenous Ingredients | Radicchio

Treviso Radicchio


A student contemplates the stoney space, sits gracefully and takes a bulb of Florence fennel from her satchel, begins to eat it raw like a forest animal content in its habitat.

She is surrounded by beauty and youth in the Piazza Giuseppe Verdi off the Via Zamboni in the cultural heartland of intellectual Bologna.

Then she munches on the purple-red radicchio of Chioggia, and suddenly we are at the southern edge of the Venetian lagoon, embracing the Adriatic, afraid to leave.

It is the end of October, festival time, the new harvest is in – amalfi lemoni, calabrian arancione, cachi mela, cipolla rossa, finocchio, marroni, porcini, the late radicchio! Fruits of field and forest.

Golden leaves fall and are quickly swept away, like her thoughts.

Our departure is also imminent, and her lunch has made us hungry.

The chicory and fennel of Italy compliment each other. They come together in risotto, are often baked, braised, stewed and stuffed, but mostly they make a crunchy aromatic salad or raw vegetable side dish.

There are two varieties of Chioggia radicchio (radicio de ciosa) – early (April-July), grown in and around Chioggia and late (September-March), grown further afield in Rovigo, Padua and Venice. Both are keenly desired and found in the groceries of Abruzzo, Emilia-Romagna, Lombardia, Marche and Puglia.

The rounded red leaves encase a spherical heart, shaped like a rose. Sweet and bitter at the same time, the Chioggia radicchio resembles its parent, radicchio Trevisiano, in flavour and taste and is sought after because it has a high mineral and vitamin content.

Radicchio is favoured over all other varieties of chicory (Belgian, French, red chicory, succory – which are all very bitter) in salads.


Radicchio e Finocchio

  • 1 bulb Florence fennel
  • 1 head Chioggia / Treviso radicchio
  • 10 sprigs oregano
  • 30 ml olive oil
  • 2 tsp black pepper
  • 1 tsp sea salt

Wash the fennel and radicchio thoroughly, cut into small pieces. Season with fresh ground black pepper and sea salt, a large splash of good olive oil and fresh oregano.

Dress with balsamic vinegar for a salad.


Calzone con Verdure

This crescent-shaped stuffed bread from Lazio is yet another traditional dish of Europe that is succumbing to competition from the fast-food industry’s obsession with meat.

Stuffed with summer vegetables, sweetened with raisins and spiced with chilli, the secret is with the seal, to allow the vegetables to cook evenly inside the baking dough.

Dough

  • 140 ml water, warmed
  • 100 g white spelt flour
  • 30 g whole spelt flour
  • 15 g olive oil
  • 10 g yeast
  • 1 tsp honey
  • Salt, large pinch

Dissolve yeast and honey in warm water, leave for ten minutes.

Sieve flours into a large bowl, add salt, yeast mixture and olive oil. Bring together, then knead into smooth dough on a clean floured surface.

Cover dough with bowl, leave to rise for 50 minutes, degas, leave for an hour.

Filling

  • 250 g chard leaves and stalks, cut into strips
  • 250 g radicchio / chicory, cut into strips
  • 200 g courgette, cut into strips
  • 30 g olive oil
  • 30 g raisins, soaked in 15 ml warm water for an hour
  • 1 tsp peperoncini / chilli flakes
  • 1 tsp black peppercorns, crushed coarsely
  • Salt, large pinch
  • Oil, for brushing and greasing

Preheat oven to 200°C.

Combine oil , raisins, vegetables and seasonings in a bowl, mix and leave for 15 minutes.

Roll dough to slighlty more than the diameter of a large plate.

Grease plate, place dough sheet on top, spoon vegetable mix into middle, fold dough over to form a crescent shape.

Seal edge tightly, brush both surfaces with oil.

Bake for 30 minutes.


Anguille con Radicchio di Chioggia

A traditional dish of Chioggia and the Po Delta is radicchio with eels on a bed of creamed black-eyed peas.

  • 800 g eel
  • 500 ml fish stock
  • 200 g black-eyed beans, cooked
  • 150 g radicchio, sliced
  • 120 g ricotta cheese
  • 80 g onion, chopped
  • 1 egg, beaten (optional)
  • 40 g carrots, cubed small (optional)
  • 40 g celery, cubed small (optional)
  • 40 ml olive oil
  • 40 g red cabbage, cubed small (optional)
  • 40 ml red wine
  • 20 g butter
  • 10 g black pepper, ground
  • Salt, pinch

For those wary of eating eel, filleted mackerel is a good substitute for this dish.

Radicchio, however, has no substitute.

Fry half of onion in butter, add radicchio and allow to wilt, about two minutes, season and braise with wine. Cook until wine is reduced.

Cool, stir into ricotta and egg.

Place fish in between two layers of greaseproof paper, flatten with a gentle pressing of a rolling pin, season with pepper. Arrange on a layer of foil, spoon sufficient stuffing on each fillet, roll tightly. Fold foil into a package, wrap in a second layer of foil and cook in stock for 15 minutes.

Fry remaining onion in oil with a choice of either cabbage, carrot or celery, add the beans and sufficient water to cover. Cook until the vegetables are soft.

Push the bean mixture through a sieve into warm oil. Spoon into an ovenproof dish and keep warm in a 75°C oven.

Serve creamed beans on a warmed plate, place eels on top, garnish with thin pieces of eel dried in the oven or (with mackerel) crispy onions.


Risotto alla Radicchio di Verona

There are four distinct geographical varieties of radicchio:–

  • Radicchio di Chioggia – small and large spherical, amaranth, soft bitter and sweet taste, crispy.
  • Radicchio di Verona – small and medium heart-shaped, dark-red, soft bitter taste, crispy.
  • Radicchio Rosso di Treviso – small elongated, wine-red, bitter taste, crunchy.
  • Radicchio Variegato di Castelfranco – medium and large open-round, white-cream, variegated violet-red, light bitter and sweet taste, crunchy.

As you can see each has a varying bitter taste which some cooks like to remove by soaking slices in water and vinegar for 30 minutes, then left to dry. Others prefer to add sugar to the risotto to counter the bitter taste of the vegetable. We don’t feel the need to soak Veronese radicchio for this dish, although a hint of sugar is an option.

  • 1.5 litres vegetable stock, heated
  • 350 g vialone nano rice
  • 1 head of radicchio di Verona, chopped
  • 100 g onion, chopped
  • 40 g Grana Padano cheese, grated (optional)
  • 30 g dry white wine
  • 30 g olive oil
  • 30 g sugar (optional)
  • Black pepper, pinch
  • Salt, pinch

Sauté onions in oil in a deep, wide frying pan saucepan over a low heat, about ten minutes.

Add half of the radicchio and the rice, toast, add the white wine and allow to reduce.

Add the stock a ladleful at a time to absorb the rice, about 20 minutes.

After 10 minutes add remaining radicchio.

Finish with seasonings and sugar. Rest for five minutes.

Garnish with cheese.



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Culinary Connections | Hot Sandwiches

ENGLAND FRANCE IRELAND ITALY SWITZERLAND

Croque-Monsieur

This Parisien snack has travelled to the four corners of Europe since it appeared in 1910.

The buffet car on the TGVs between Paris and Geneva once served grilled croque-monsieur as good as any Parisien café, proving the maxim that quality ingredients make the dish!

These being artisan bread, gruyère cheese and cured ham.

The deluxe version contains a gruyère béchamel topping.

A baked or poached egg on top turns monsieur into madame!

  • 16 slices (8 cm x 8 cm)
  • Gruyère 8 slices (10 cm x 10 cm)
  • 8 slices white bread, crusts removed (8 cm x 8 cm)
  • 8 slices ham
  • Butter, for spreading
  • 4 baked / poached eggs (optional)
  • 60 g béchamel (optional)

Place a slice of ham between two slices of gruyère, then between slices of buttered bread, grill for five minutes each side until the bread takes on a light toast.

For a rich croque-monsieur, spread béchamel made with gruyère on top after grilling one side, grill until a brown skin forms.

A baked or poached egg turns monsieur into madame!


Bookies Sandwich

The bookies sandwich got its name a long time after it was established as a packed lunch eaten by workers in various labouring jobs and people involved with hunt and race meetings.

In England it was a thick seasoned sirloin steak grilled, sometimes fried, and placed between thick loaf crusts spread with horseradish and mustard condiments.

In Ireland it was a thick seasoned rump steak grilled and placed between white soda farls spread with carmelised onions.

The English version was wrapped in paper and cold pressed for 30 minutes.

By the middle of the 20th century the ‘bookmakers sandwich’ was a pub food in Britain and Ireland, and in Irish pubs across Europe and America.

The Vienna loaf replaced the batch loaf crusts and soda bread, then the ciabatta replaced the Vienna.

In Ireland the Waterford blaa is used to hold the steak, because it is seen as the ideal bread bun for soaking up the juices from the meat and the flavourings from the condiments and seasonings

Elsewhere the condiments betray its origins, and the meat will be beef or veal tenderloins, the latter in continental Europe.

Batch Loaf Version

  • 700 g (4 x 175 g beef sirloin steaks, thick)
  • 8 (4 cm) thick bread crusts
  • 100 g creamed horseradish 
  • 100 g English smooth mustard
  • 15 g black pepper, freshly ground
  • 10 g salt

Spread four crusts with horseradish and four with mustard, according to taste.

Season steaks, heavy with pepper for a spicy flavouring, grill or fry according to preference.

Place a steak and juices between each set of crusts, wrap in greaseproof paper, leave each sandwich under a heavy weight for an hour.

Eat cold.


Vienna / Ciabatta Bread Version

  • 700 g (4 x 175 g beef / veal tenderloin steaks, thick)
  • 2 breads, side cut along length, halved
  • 100 g Dijon coarse mustard
  • 25 g soft butter
  • 15 g black pepper, freshly ground
  • 10 g salt

Spread four pieces of bread with mustard, and four with butter, according to taste.

Season steaks, heavy with pepper for a spicy flavouring, grill or fry according to preference.

Place a steak and juices on buttered breads, top with mustard breads, wrap in greaseproof paper, leave each sandwich under a heavy weight for an hour.

Eat cold.


Soda Farl Version

  • 700 g (4 x 175 g beef rump steaks, thick)
  • 4 farls, side cut along length
  • 500 g onions, halved, sliced
  • 25 g soft butter
  • 15 g black pepper, freshly ground
  • 10 g salt
  • Oil, for frying

Sauté onions in oil over a low heat for an hour, until they are brown and almost crispy.

Spread four farl halves with butter, four with onions.

Season steaks, heavy with pepper for a spicy flavouring, grill or fry according to preference.

Place a steak and juices on onion farls, top with buttered farls, press down with hands, leave to cool.

Eat cold.


Focaccia Panino / Focaccia Farcite

Cafes in Italy have offered focaccia filled with cheese, meat, vegetables and sauces for so long now it seemed inevitable that someone would think of baking the filling inside the flat bread – a tradition that is not new, especially in Asian Europe.

Stuffed focaccia is unlikely to rival the Napolese pizza anymore than the Genoese pizza did when their fates were shared. Technically focaccia farcite is not a sandwich but its popularity is increasing, especially among the young, so you never know.

Focaccia fillings include brie, emmental, fontina, gorgonzola, grana padano, gruyère, mortadella, mozzarella, pancetta, pecorino, porcini, prosiutto, ricotta, salami, spinach and whatever vegetable is available.

Therefore stuffed foccacia – made with potato dough, sweetened egg dough and plain dough, and hardly ever with olive oil drenched dough or traditional sweet dough – is a meal in itself.

Perfect for lunch!


Focaccia Farcite – 1

  • 400 g 00 flour 
  • 300 g potatoes, cubed, cooked, cooled
  • 125 ml water, tepid
  • 30 g olive oil
  • 30 g olive oil, for greasing
  • 25 g yeast
  • Sugar, large pinch
  • Salt, large pinch
  • Milk, for brushing

This potato dough focaccia will take any filling you care to put in it, suggestions below.

Dissolve yeast in sugar in water, leave for 15 minutes.

Sieve flour into a large bowl, add salt and potatoes, and gradually work them into the flour with a tablespoon of oil.

Pour in the yeast liquid, mix and knead, add another tablespoon of oil.

Fold out onto a clean surface, knead for ten minutes until the dough is smooth, add more water if necessary.

Cover and leave to rise for an hour, degas, rise for a second hour, degas again.

Preheat oven to 220°C.

Roll into a large rectangular to cover the base of baking tray, greased, leave to rise for 30 minutes.

Place fillings on one half, fold the other half on top, seal with milk, leave to rise for 15 minutes.

Bake at 200°C for 30 minutes, turning the tray once.

Suggested fillings and quantities:

125 g mozzarella / ricotta

90 g emmental / gruyère

90 g prosiutto / mortadella

75 g spinach / tomatoes


Focaccia Farcite – 2

This version produces a lighter bread, suitable for a thick cheese and ham filling.

  • 230 ml water, tepid
  • 200 g strong white flour
  • 200 g white wheat flour 
  • 180 g prosciutto
  • 45 g brie
  • 45 g fontina
  • 45 g gorgonzola
  • 45 g grana padano / pecorino, grated
  • 30 g olive oil, for greasing
  • 25 g yeast
  • 15 g sugar
  • 1 tsp salt

Dissolve yeast in sugar in water, leave for 15 minutes.

Sieve flours into a large bowl, add salt and work in the yeast mixture.

Fold out onto a clean surface, knead for 15 minutes until the dough is smooth.

Cover and leave to rise for an hour, degas, rise for a second hour, degas again.

Preheat oven to 220°C.

Roll into a large rectangular to cover the base of baking tray, greased, leave to rise for 30 minutes.

Place fillings on one half, fold the other half on top, seal with milk, leave to rise for 15 minutes.

Bake at 200°C for 30 minutes, turning the tray once.


Focaccia Farcite – 3

For sweet tooths.

  • 500 g 00 flour
  • 5 eggs (250 g), 1 separated
  • 250 g sugar
  • 150 g apricots, dried, chopped small 
  • 90 ml date syrup
  • 50 g vanilla sugar
  • 25 ml grappa
  • 15 g baking powder
  • 2 lemons, zest, grated
  • 2 oranges, zest, grated

Sieve flour and baking powder into a large bowl, stir in the plain sugar, vanilla sugar, lemon and orange zest, add the grappa and eggs (leaving the white of one egg aside), mix and leave to rest for an hour.

Preheat to 180°C.

Fold out onto a clean surface, knead for five minutes into a smooth dough.

Divide into two equal pieces, shape each into a rectangular shape, place on baking trays lined with greaseproof paper, brush surface with egg white.

Bake for 35 minutes.

Spread date syrup across the surface of each focaccia, stopping short at the edges, sprinkle apricot pieces on top, cut into squares, sandwich!


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Legendary Dishes | Headcheese

FRANCE ITALY EUROPE

Long distance truck drivers are creatures of habit. When they are required to rest they seek their creature comforts. Despite the attraction of fast food outlets in roadside buffets and cafes there are still some drivers who are more comfortable with the traditional high energy foods.

Headcheese or brawn, made with fat, jelly and meat from the pig’s head, is served according to the custom of the individual region to satisfy this demand. It is found in the buffets of many service stations on the national routes, but beware!

Charcuterie is no longer the skill it once was and pork butchers with the necessary experience are few and far between, even in France where the numerous preparations are often mediocre.

This is the original recipe. If you have access to a cheese press the result will be even better.

Soak the pig’s head in cold water for two hours, replace the water, add 50 grams of coarse sea salt and soak overnight.

This gives the meat a pinkish clour and adds flavour to the head.

Rub clean the head, especially the ears and around the eyes, and do a final soaking in cold water for two hours.

On a heavy wooden surface lay the head with the neck exposed. Chop the head almost in two, remove the brain and dispose. Place the two halves along with the tongue and two trotters in a large, heavy bottomed pot. Fill with water, bring to a fast boil and remove the scum that rises on the surface.

Add a variety of herbs, spices and vegetables – usually a combination of all or part bay leaves, carrots, celery, garlic, lemon peel, nutmeg, onions, orange peel, peppercorns, rosemary, sage and salt.

Cook over a low heat for four to five hours, until the skin falls off the bones. Strain and leave to cool.

Reduce the strained liquid by two-thirds.

Dice the meat, including the tongue, and combine with 60ml of stock, spoon into a cheesecloth or muslin bag, leave in a cold place overnight pressed down with a heavy weight, to push out the fat.

A more compact headcheese is achieved by moisting the cloth, laying the skin on the cloth, followed by the meat and bringing it together to form a bundle. Tie with string and place in the cooking liquid for a slow 30 minute simmer. Remove, press it, then unwrap the meat from the skin before cutting.


Fromage de Tête

In northern Europe headcheese accompanies pickles or potatoes. In central and western Europe it is set in aspic. In southern Europe, Italy in particular, the contents of the head are the basis for other pork cuts.

The French and Italians no longer make headcheese, they make a delicacy made from pork cheek and the jelly from the head bones, and some butchers enrich their product with bacon and pork belly. It is a delicacy that defies reason, and getting a recipe out of them is like trying to squeeze blood from a stone.

Their secret of is a combination of the method, quality of pig and the range of ingredients. But when they want a very special headcheese they adorn it with herbs, nuts and truffle.

Popular recipes include parsley, belly pork rind, thyme and white wine.

This is the modern adaptation of the traditional recipe.

  • 1 pig head, cleaned, soaked in brine, split with brain removed
  • 6 carrots, whole
  • 2 leeks
  • 2 onions, each spiked with 3 cloves
  • 150 ml white wine
  • 5 cloves garlic
  • 30 g parsley
  • 10 g salt
  • 10 g black pepper
  • 4 sprigs thyme
  • 2 sprigs rosemary
  • 4 bay leaves
  • Water

Place the head in a large pot, add herbs and vegetables, top up with water and bring to the boil. Remove any scum that floats to the surface. Simmer over low heat until skin starts to fall off the bone, about four hours.

Leave to cool.

Strain liquid, remove meat from bones and cut into pieces.

Reduce stock to a quarter, add wine and reduce by half.

Add stock to meat, season liberally and pour into bowls. Leave overnight in fridge.


Coppa di Testa

A delicacy in Emilia Romagna, Lombardy and Tuscany, the headcheese of Italy is seasoned with spices.

  • 1 pig head, cleaned, soaked in salt and spices
  • 100 g belly pork including rind (optional)
  • 100 g bacon (optional)
  • 8 garlic cloves
  • 15 g cinnamon
  • 15 g black pepper
  • 10 g nutmeg
  • 10 g salt
  • 1 tsp lemon / orange, zest
  • 4 bay leaves
  • 1 bovine bladder

Soak head in several changes of water, first cold water for two hours, then cold water with 60 gram sea salt for four hours, then cold water with 60 gram mixture of ground chilli, cinnamon, nutmeg and pepper for eight hours.

Remove the ears, trim excess skin, split in two and remove brain. Place in a large pot with the bay leaves, salt and sufficient water to cover.

Bring to the boil, remove scum, and simmer for four hours.

Strain liquid and while the head is still hot remove all the meat and discard pieces of bone, cartilage, fat and skin.

Mix the meat with the cinnamon, garlic, nutmeg, pepper, salt and zest. Push mixture into the bladder, hang and leave for three days in a cool place.

When cut, the meat should be marbled pink and red.

Serve with white bread and red wine.

For a pure headcheese omit the bacon and belly, and replace with cheek.

LEGENDARY DISHES


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Indigenous Ingredients | Bean, Broad | Fava | Fave

Used in Mediterranean cooking as a green unripe or brown ripe ingredient, as a dressed accompaniment or mashed with olive oil or with bacon and pasta, the broad bean is gradually reasserting itself as an essential ingredient.

Known by southern European countries as the fava, fave, haba or horse bean, modern recipes call for it to be used fresh.

The revival of the fava bean owes much to a disdain for old superstitions. Black fava were believed to contain the soul of the dead. The ancient Romans launched the Feast of the Lemures to chase away the ghosts of the departed, beating a copper pot while spitting out the vile beans.

The green fava bean, always eaten raw or cooked young, had only one function when allowed to dry in many countries, it was replanted to make the new crop.

Just in case!

The white fava or cannelini bean is a recent addition, from America, and is preferred in sausage and bean recipes throughout the Iberian Peninsula, Italy and the Balkans as a dried alternative to the broad bean.

Bacon, gammon, ham, pancetta, prosciutto, belly pork, pork cheek and sausages made with various cuts of the pig compete for the attention of the bean – especially when it is fresh.

In Italy sautéd onions in olive oil are followed by cubes or strips of pancetta until they are crisp. The fresh beans are coated in the oil, and seasoned with pepper. Several tablespoons of water allow the beans to cook gently until tender, between 10 and 20 minutes depending on the size of the beans. There should be no liquid left in the pan when the beans are done. A pinch of salt finishes the dish.

In France the beans are picked early in the season, boiled until tender, fried with bacon cubes in a little flour and some of the cooking water, and finished with two tablespoons of double cream. Béchamel sauce is often added when bacon is used, flour and milk with pork. The French are also inordinately fond of broad beans puréed as an accompaniment with pork.

The Belgians make a variation of the French method, bringing a 500 g piece of bacon or pork gradually to the boil, making a roux and adding some of the meat stock. They add one clove, one bay leaf, a pinch of thyme to the sauce, combining the meat cut up with the cooked beans, serving with boiled whole new potatoes

In Spain the beans are also combined with pork, in a slow-cooked casserole called Fabada featuring chorizo sausage, morcilla black pudding, salt pork belly, smoked gammon, saffron, herbs, spices and olive oil.

In the Balkans the beans are cooked, added to pork crackling, onion, smoked bacon and tomato fried in oil, and baked in a hot oven with chopped garlic, marjoram, parsley and thyme, paprika and pepper.

In Slovenia this recipe takes on a unique flavour with the addition of zaseka, smoked fatty pork belly pieces infused with bay leaves, garlic, peppercorns and salt. They serve their baked broad beans and zaseka sprinkled with sour milk on rye bread, chased by apple cider.

But it is back in Italy that the most traditional of all beans and pork dishes is still popular. Fave al Guanciale – broad beans and pork cheek features in many a Roman trattoria as an antipasto , served with crusty white bread. This is a seasonal dish, served in the spring when the beans are young.

In southern Italy and in Sicily, where the beans continue growing into the summer, it is a main course.

Fave al Guanciale

fresh broad beans with cured pork cheek

  • 1 kg fresh young beans, blanched in boiling water, chilled
  • 250 g cured pork cheek, sliced
  • 1 large onion, chopped finely
  • 50 g olive oil
  • Black Pepper
  • Sea Salt
  • Water

Fry the onion in the oil until it takes on colour at the edges. Add the pork, coating it in the oil and onion and fry gently for three minutes. Turn the heat down and carefully incorporate the beans. Some chefs like to remove the husks for a sweeter flavour from the beans but it is not necessary. Season with salt and pepper. Pour in enough water to half cover the mixture. Check the tenderness of the beans after ten minutes. They are ready when they are soft to the bite.

Dried fava beans are no substitute for the fresh beans, but you don’t have to visit the shores of the Mediterranean or arrive in Rome in the spring to appreciate this delicacy. Asian stores sell fresh fava and the dried beans are relatively easy to grow.

Tinned broad beans should be avoided. Cooked ham or pork are reliable options but the broad beans must be fresh.

The ratio of beans to bacon should be 2:1, beans to pork to 4:1. Some versions call for both bacon and pork.


Bazzoffia ITALY bean and vegetable soup with bread and cheese

Bigilla MALTA spicy bean paté

Botifarra amb Mongetes SPAIN sausage and beans

Fabada Asturiana SPAIN beans, bacon and sausage


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Legendary Dishes | Crescentina (bacon bread)

ITALY

Crescentina – 1

This focaccia-like bread of Bologna has also lost some of its grandeur, no longer a regular in bakeries and restaurants, largely because it is a home-baked food subject to countless variations.

And because it needs to be eaten fresh from the oven.

Some cooks swear by the lean bacon version, others insist the fat in the bacon is essential for flavour and appearance, and the odd cook in five believes in mixing all the ingredients together before proving.

  • 400 g strong white flour
  • 300 g water, lukewarm
  • 100 g fat / lean bacon / pork belly, minced
  • 20 g yeast
  • 1 tsp sugar
  • Olive oil
  • Salt, pinch

Dissolve yeast in the sugar and water.

Combine salt, flour and yeast water to form a dough. Turn out onto a floured surface, knead for 15 minutes until elastic and smooth, albeit still sticky. Leave to rise for 45 minutes, degas, leave to rise for 30 minutes.

Work bacon or pork into the dough, making sure it is distributed evenly.

Set oven to 240°C. After five minutes place a rectangular baking tray in the oven. Remove and spread a splash of oil over the warm tray.

Roll the dough out to the size of the tray and with a forceful finger action push it toward the edges. Be careful not to puncture the dough. It must be even across the tray. Cover and leave to rise for one hour.

Turn oven down 20°.

Bake for ten minutes.

It will be almost ready when the top and bottom take on a golden colour. This is the desired effect, as a consequence of the fat in the bacon/pork. The crumb should be soft.

Take the tray out and loosen bread free with two long spatulas.

Place a wire rack on top of the bread, flip over, slide back onto the tray and bake for another five minutes.

Cut into squares, eat hot.


Crescentina – 2

  • 400 g strong white flour
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 100 ml milk, lukewarm
  • 100 g mix of ham, mortadella, pancetta
  • 100 ml olive oil
  • 100 ml sparkling water
  • 20 g yeast
  • 15 g garlic, chopped
  • 1 tsp rosemary, chopped
  • Salt

Dissolve yeast in the milk.

Combine salt, flour, oil and yeast milk to form a dough. Turn out onto a floured surface, knead for 15 minutes until elastic and smooth. Leave to rise for 45 minutes, degas, leave to rise for 30 minutes.

Preheat oven to 220°C.

Divide the dough into 75g pieces, incorporate garlic, onion, rosemary and meat.

Roll each piece into thin sheets, cut into irregular shapes, score with a fork.

Place on two oiled baking trays.

Bake for 20 minutes at 200°C.


Crescentina – 3 (Gnocco Fritto)

  • 500 g strong white flour
  • 325 ml milk, lukewarm
  • 75 g vegetable oil
  • 20 g yeast
  • Salt, pinch

Dissolve yeast in milk. Add to flour and salt.

Work into an elastic dough and leave to rise for an hour.

Roll out into a sheet 5cm thick, cut into large diamonds and deep fry in vegetable oil.

Drain on paper towels.


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Bean, Common | Borlotti Haricot

FagioliSaluggia
The saluggia bean of north-west Italy

Borlotti is the general name in Italy for the varieties of beans cultivated from the common bean brought to Europe by the Spanish from America.

These include the fagiolo di lamon of Valbelluno and the fagiolo di saluggia of Piedmonte. Between them these two types of borlotti have captured the imaginations of chefs and cooks in Italy. As a consequence traditional dishes that were falling out of favour have made a resurgence.

In October 2013 lamon beans sold at €25 a kilo in the grocers and markets of Veneto.

Who would have thought that a common borlotti bean, once the only source of protein for upland herders and field workers, would become an expensive delicacy?

Not Pope Clement VII in 1532, that’s for sure. When he gave Piero Valeriano some of the bean seeds he had received from the court of Spain he optimistically expected the Venetian humanist to go forth and multiply.

Piero did just that, and now, almost five hundred years later, this unassuming brown bean has reached the heavens and the mountain farmers of the Lamon plateau are now eternally grateful.

They weren’t at first.

Lamon Bean

‘This legume is not as bad as some infer,’ wrote Valeriano in defence of the Pope’s bean. ‘On the contrary it is tasty and palatable as long as it is removed from the pod.’

Several varieties of the lamon are cultivated on the plateau. The frost-free, dry and warm climate produces a thin-skinned firm bean, high in protein, with a delicate flavour. Lamon is also larger than most borlotti.

The saluggia bean has similiar organoleptic properties and, like the lamon, has been a stable in the Piedmonte region since the sixteenth century. Climate, soil and timing also contribute to its success.

Borlotti with pasta, borlotti with sausage, borlotti in soup, borlotti in salad, each time these tender beans are desired.

Always popular among the cognoscenti, the lamon and saluggia beans stand high and mighty with chefs and cooks reviving traditional food.

Fasoi in Tocio, the aromatic beans and tomato sauce dish, has made a comeback.

Panissa, beans with rice and sausage, is also popular again along with its counterpart from the eastern reaches of the Po Valley.

Above all the lamon and saluggia beans are recognised as beans that absorb flavour during cooking.

Across the border in France the common bean took a different route. Also established in the 16th century – after Valeriano, again, gave a bag of the American beans to the Médici family to include them in the dowry of Catherine de Médici for her marriage to Henri, the son of the king of France, in October 1553 – they became known as haricot beans.

Haricot is now a catch-all term for all the beans known as borlotti, brown, coco, dwarf, flageolot, French, green, lima, lingot, navy, runner, snap and white.

These haricot beans became popular in France when they replaced the broad bean in cassoulet, the baked bean dish made in most French homes.

Numerous indigenous varieties are now established, significantly the haricot tarbais of Provence and the fagiolo di sorana of Pescia.

The cannellini or white kidney bean was developed in Italy (in Atina and Sarconi) and  Spain (in Asturiana and Lourenzá) from American varieties. It is used in soups and stews, and as a salad dressed with olive oil.

The broad bean, known by southern European countries as the fava, haba or horse bean, is a native of the Mediterranean – a different bean altogether.

Fasoi in Tocio

beans in tomato sauce

  • 300 g fagioli di Lamon (Lamon beans), soaked overnight / 600 g fresh borlotti
  • 150 g onions, chopped
  • 50 g bacon / pork rind, chopped (optional)
  • 50 g passata
  • 30 ml olive oil
  • 10 g black pepper, freshly ground
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • 6 sage leaves, whole
  • 3 bay leaves
  • Salt, pinch Water, for boiling

Cook beans until tender (an hour for fresh, three hours for rehydrated) in a pot of water seasoned with bay leaves, cinnamon and salt. Drain, set beans aside.

Brown bacon / rind and onions in oil over a low heat for ten minutes, add sage and allow to wilt.

Increase heat, add beans, stirring into the mixture, then the passata.

Reduce heat, simmer until the sauce thickens, about 20 minutes.

Serve, garnished with pepper.

Risotto alla Carnarola

rice with beans and cotechino / zampone

This cane gatherers risotto from Veneto is similiar to the panissa vercelli of Piedmonte. The first uses the lamon bean from Veneto, the second the saluggia or cigliano bean from Piedmonte. Cotechini is an integral ingredient in both dishes. Vercellese rice is used in the panissa, carnaroli rice in the carnarola.

  • 2 litres water
  • 1.5 litres stock, heated
  • 450 g cotechino / zampone, chopped or sliced
  • 350 g carnaroli rice
  • 150 g fagioli di Lamon (Lamon beans), soaked for 24 hours with one water change
  • 125 ml wine white 
  • 100 g onions, chopped 
  • 30 g garlic, crushed
  • 15 ml olive oil
  • 20 g butter
  • 10 g pepper
  • 1 tsp parsley, chopped 
  • Salt, pinch

Prick the cotechino / zampone (to stop it breaking up during cooking). Put the beans and water in a large pot, bring to the boil, remove scum. After ten minutes turn heat to low, slip in the cotechino / zampone and cook for three hours.

Remove cotechino / zampone, then the beans from the stock. Keep stock simmering. Mash beans.

Sauté onion and garlic in the oil in a deep, wide frying pan over a low heat, about ten minutes.

Increase heat to high, coat rice, toast for three minutes, stirring constantly.

Pour in the wine and allow to evaporate, decrease heat to medium, add a ladleful of the hot stock, simmer and stir until the liquid is absorbed. Repeat with ladlefuls of stock soaking up the rice for 12 minutes.

Add beans, more stock, stir until the rice is al dente, about five minutes.

Remove from heat, leave to rest for ten minutes. Season and serve with cotechino / zampone.


Traditional Bean Dishes

Botifarra amb Mongetes SPAIN sausage and beans

Cassoulet FRANCE bean, herbs, meat and vegetable casserole

Chorba / Ciorba BALKANS CAUCASUS bean, herbs, paprika, vegetable soup

Fasoi In Tocio ITALY beans in aromatic-sauce

Fasoulia BALKANS bean-olive oil mash

Paniscia / Panissa ITALY rice with beans, salami, sausage, wine and vegetables

Pasta ai Fagioli e Pancetta ITALY pasta with beans and bacon

Salata de Fasole Boabe ROMANIA bean salad

Tavče Gravče MACEDONIA bean casserole

Adapted from Traditional Tastes of Europe.


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Indigenous Ingredients | Anchovy

In Catalonia it is the ‘famous little blue fish’. In the Polesina the ‘healthy blue fish’. In Anatolia the ‘little fish with a big reputation’.

From Norway to Denmark, from France to Spain, and from Italy to Turkey, the loveable anchovy is the ingredient that makes a traditional dish memorable.

Collioure is a fishing port on the Catalan coast in south-east France. The blue anchovy is its symbol. The people of the port have anchovies in their blood, going back a very long time.

The preparation process is ancestral, passed down to those who would become Anchoïeuses – women who select the best of these little blue fish.

They are carefully beheaded, gutted, layered with salt in drums, and left to mature for several months. This produces a ‘fillet of dark brown colour, soft texture and with a mountain ham-like scent’.

AnchoviesJar-50-I-1
Anchovies in Oli

These days they also pack the anchovies in brine, in oil, in vinegar and produce anchovy cream, a product that is becoming a delicacy.

There was a time when this activity was commonplace throughout the coastal regions of the western Mediterranean Sea and the

Tyrrhenian Sea between Sardinia and the Italian peninsula, especially along the coast south of Naples.

Across the peninsula, in the Adriatic Sea, anchovies are still fished all year round. Where the alpine rivers flow into the lagoon, these small, slender, silver-blue fish grow fat on concentrations of plankton.

In the Polesine below Venice, chefs treat them with respect, knowing they are rich in fluorine, iodine, omega 3, fluorine, iodine, phosphorus, selenium and vitamins A and B.

Hamsiyi is the collective name for dishes containing anchovy in Turkey. Half of the fish caught in Turkish waters, mostly in the Black Sea, are hamsi, and every cook in the towns and villages of the Black Sea region knows what to do with them.

What they don’t do is cure them for later use. The basic recipe is hamsi cooked over a low heat in olive oil, parsley, salt and water, then served dressed with lemon for a tasty snack. Leave the hamsi whole, add vinegar and this is the concoction that is exported.

These Black Sea blue fish are also added to bakes, bread, soups, stews, meatballs and rice.


Orecchiette con Broccoli e Acciughe
ITALY
broccoil with ear-pasta and anchovies

Orechiette with broccoli, cheese, olive oil and anchovies

Orecchiette, the ear-shaped coin pasta associated with Bari on Italy’s east coast, is made for the sauces the people of the peninsula keep to themselves.

One such sauce is anchovy and garlic flavoured broccoli drenched in olive oil.

The amount of olive oil seems at first excessive but it is necessary to absorb the broccoli, cling to the orrechiette and hold the cheese.

Fresh broccoli should be used. If the stems are tough, they will be fibrous, so peel them. This is a melt-in-the-mouth experience that does not work with chewy vegetable fibres.

The anchovies should come in oil, of Mediterranean origin.

  • 1 kg broccoli, whole stalks, washed
  • 500 g orecchiette
  • 150 ml olive oil
  • 10 cloves garlic
  • 100 g anchovy fillets
  • 50 g parmigiano, grated
  • 50 g pecorino, grated
  • 15 g pepper
  • 1 tsp salt

Cut stem ends from broccoli. Boil broccoli, flower heads up, in a large covered pot of salted water, stems in, heads out of water. Remove to a large soup plate when the stems are al dente.

Cut stems into small pieces, leave flower heads whole.

Heat oil in a large wide frying pan, brown garlic, add broccoli and anchovies, season.

Cook pasta, drain and mix into broccoli, dress with cheese.


Traditional Anchovy Dishes

Escalivade de Légumes aux Anchois FRANCE summer vegetables with anchovy
Leverpostej DENMARK liver pâté with anchovy
Pissadadière ITALY flat bread with anchovy
Salsa Tonnata ITALY tuna sauce with anchovy
Tapenade FRANCE capers, garlic, lemon juice, olives with anchovy
Yaitsa Farshirovannye RUSSIA devilled eggs stuffed with anchovy