Posts Tagged With: biscotti

The Good Life in Emilia-Romagna: Part 3 – Cantinas and Ciambellas!

Buongiorno a tutti!

Part 3 of the Settimana del Buon Vivere Pentalogy covers the preparation side of food and wine in Emilia-Romagna. The thing that struck me most about our tour around the region’s cities and countryside is just how passionate everybody we met was about their area of expertise. Italians love good food and they love their wine. There’s a growing trend for eating locally sourced, organic foods that have been farmed using traditional methods where possible to produce top quality ingredients. The Settimana del Buon Vivere really focused on that during their programme of activities for the week and we saw it in practice out in the field…

San Biagio Vecchio Cantina

Lucia, our host for one morning and early afternoon, owns the San Biagio Vecchio Cantina with her husband Andrea. The cantina is in the most perfect of perfect settings: resting on a hill, surrounded by miles of vineyards in all directions and across the next valley is an old church and tower perched on a neighbouring hill. There’s a restaurant on the property where you sit overlooking the vineyard and ponder just how many vines they have. They even have a couple of geese!

We sat down at a table at about 11.00 and started sipping wine with a delicious array of accompanying nibbles from the restaurant. Very decadent!

I won’t describe the wine too much. My level of expertise only enables me to answer the following questions: What colour is it? Do I like it? All I can tell you is that we had two wines (SabbiaGialla and MammaMia) which were both white and I liked them both. I was endeared by the story of their Mamma Mia wine which has a cute picture that their young daughter had drawn of Lucia on the label. The wine is made from the Albana grapes.

In addition to grapes they also harvest grain and I do love a good discussion about bread, particularly sourdough bread which is made using a sort of “home-made” yeast  – not these little sachets of dried yeast like I used in the UK! Sourdough bread is a bit more of an art form in my opinion and requires a bit more love and attention. I started making bread almost two years ago and never buy it now. I learnt on my own so it was really lovely to have a discussion with Lucia, a fellow bread maker about how she maintains her “starter” (that’s the name for the sourdough yeast mix which can sometimes be years old – in fact hers was originally given to her and is about 28 years old! It’s much less disgusting than it sounds, I promise!). Not only is it satisfying to make a loaf of light spongy bread out of just flour and water but what an amazing thing to be able to use your own grain in the production too. The grain they cultivate at San Biagio Vecchio is an old variety of grain, little used these days, called “Gentilrosso” which grows to well over a meter high.

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Here’s the bread with the flour, sourdough “starter” and grains…

Lucia and Andrea have not selected the easy route to success. Lucia described how they harvest their grapes- this particular type is harvested up to 3 times a year as opposed to many others. (I had the good fortune to be involved in a grape harvest this year -I’ll write about that in a future blog post – but it’s exhausting work). Their wine is also biological – the vines aren’t treated and they don’t use weed killer. It’s basically very hard work! And it took them a few trial attempts to get the old grain right too.  These people are not out to ‘make a quick buck’. They have a passion for what they do and they want to do it properly.  It really is very inspiring!

Il Piccolo Forno Marziali

Later that day we went to see how some of the traditional Romagnolo baked goods are made at the quaint “Piccolo Forno Marziali”.  Daniele, the owner, is a well known “Fornaio” – he makes sweet things using the oven – a baker (not to be confused with a Pasticcere, someone that makes sweet things in more of a general sense). Daniele is easy to like – he’s a passionate whirlwind of creativity – flitting from one end of the kitchen to the other, gesturing wildly whilst talking about how making a cake is like making love to a beautiful woman. He makes a couple of traditional “romagnolo” (Romagna) recipes from the region but everything else is basically of his own creation. His passion for the local Sangiovese wine which features in some of his “wine dipper biscuits” (as I’ve dubbed them  – they’re not like our tea-dipping biscuits!) results in some interesting tastes!

Daniele showed us how to make a ciambella in the traditional Romagnolo way (a bit too Romagnolo in my opinion as traditionally it is made with lard! I’m determined to make a ciambella with a lard substitute instead!). I was disappointed to note how he mixed up the ingredients on the table rather than in a bowl, and then scraped it all onto metal trays for cooking… where’s the fun in that?! This technique means there’s no bowl to lick! Far too efficient for my liking!!!

He told us how in the past when mothers wanted to check the suitability of a woman for their sons, they’d watch them make a ciambella or something similar so they could check their movement from behind, and from that apparently you can tell whether they’d make a good wife or not. One’s bottom must sway apparently.

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One’s bottom should move like this…

Once they were cooked, we tried our efforts with some pre-prepared ‘Wine Dippers’ (I hope this name catches on!) which certainly hit the spot: light, crispy and flavour-some!

All in all, it was a lovely day and I was absolutely stuffed by the end of it.

Watch this space for Part 4 where I’ll talk about some of the things you can do in Emilia-Romagna….

A presto,

x

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Language Swaps, Water Park Therapy and After Eight drinks…

Ciao a tutti!

Had a great week this week, alas not remotely productive but fun 🙂

Last Sunday there was a party downstairs in the garden for the block of flats and I had a lovely night chatting to everyone. They have a party every year and everyone brings something along – I made biscuits which they were a bit intrigued by. It doesn’t fit in with the usual “biscotti”. People seemed to like them but I think they could have been improved had I actually had scales to measure the ingredients rather than guessing!

I’ve been working my way through the language swap ad responses. I’ve got a “pen-pal” thing going on with one now – we use Microsoft word to write to each other in our non-native language and then use the track changes to correct the other’s errors and then add another letter/note. That’s been working really well actually – having someone correct your writing helps with the speaking too.

I met up with another language swapper a couple of times this week – Matteo. Thursday he came over and cooked a delicious veggie carbonara (“prima piatti”), with re-fried beans (“contorno” – basically means sides/vegetables). I’d made a salad (another “contorno”) and a lemon mousse for desert (“dolce”). My lemon mousse was unusual. Firstly, I forgot to buy lemons. Not having lemons is a definite oversight when making lemon mousse. I improvised with mint syrup instead which turns out to be the nicest thing ever (see ‘What’s a bit weird’ at the end). And secondly, the recipe required whipped double cream which seems to be something that doesn’t exist in Italy. Instead, I selected the closest sounding thing having shaken every available cream container assessing “thickness” and realised when I got home I’d bought sour cream (“panna acido”). Sour cream is officially better in fajitas than dessert (who knew?). However, I think my creation was a rip-roaring success. Weird yes, but tasty! Having said that, I suspect Matteo thought it was just weird and weird.  Here’s Matteo in action (he even volunteered to be in the blog – nobody ever volunteers!).

Cooking in action...

Cooking in action…

I went to a water park called Aquafan on Friday with an Italian friend and his family. Apparently it’s the biggest in Europe (the park, not his family!). Lots of fun and incredibly interesting in terms if people watching and actually one of the most liberating places I’ve been to! Aquafan should be prescribed as a form of therapy. It emerges that I’m vain and lacking in body confidence: if I go to the beach, I’ve been working on the assumption that everyone on the beach looks around, takes note of my every lump, bump and blemish (I’m going to create an acronym – LBB) and feels a level of sickness as a result. But, at Aquafan it turns out a) everyone else has LBB’s, b) there are a lot of people that have more LBB’s than me and c) nobody cares – either about their own or other peoples! So, no more guilt inducing swimming costume wearing for me… So – feeling a bit unconfident? Find an Aquapark!!!

Aquafan...

Aquafan…

I went to another Sotto Le Stelle Cinema night in Camerano – W.E. – Edward e Wallis. Directed by Madonna and about the scandalous relationship between Edward III and his big love, a divorcee. This one was a difficult film to follow as it had two plots running through and I’m not sure I “got” all of it but it was a lovely evening again none the less. There’s only one more, next week, which is a shame. Meanwhile, there are a couple of classical concerts in the next couple of days which I’m hoping to get to.

I met up with my new artist friend in Ancona this week too with a view to going on mass (in two at least!) to the Azienda Entrata to sort out a Tessera Sanitaria for me and to see where her Codice Fiscale and Tessera Sanitaria have got to. They told us we’d come to the wrong place (despite it being the right place a week or two back!) so we did a bit of window shopping instead and visited an art shop where she’s now got some pictures on display. Very interesting – I’ve never had any art displayed publicly so it was an enlightening experience! We both got a free calendar out of it so all in all, it was a good visit.

I’ve also been over to Mezzavalle (The Beach of Naked Men) again with the American students but I can’t believe how busy it’s got – a couple of weeks ago it was positively empty apart from the sporadic naked man. This time, it was packed (with costume cladded people I should add). I definitely preferred it before (for the remote emptiness as opposed to the naked men of course).

Mum has been researching (thanks Mum) and has come to the conclusion that I should just buy healthcare insurance on the basis that she thinks becoming a resident is mandatory after 3 months (ah my 3 month “being in Italy” anniversary will be Tuesday!). So, I’m going to buy it. I’m too de-motivated with it to fight it any longer!

I had another “care package” from home arrive this week too with a delicious chocolate assortment – thank you Jo!!! 🙂 I’ve been disappointingly less controlled about rationing this lot!

Monday, I’m heading to the Summer Jamboree event in Senigallia. I usually get annoyed at music on websites – it’s a bit invasive eh? However, the music on this website has had me dancing around the kitchen. Italian swing music is fantastic! I’ve been trying to download the songs on the website but alas, I can’t find them to buy.

What’s a bit odd? Well, I’m getting quite fed up now of plain water. I WANT SQUASH!!! I decided to try the “sciroppo” (Syrup) which is an insanely sugary, unhealthy Italian version of “squash” which is incredibly expensive and comes in stupidly small sized bottles. I used to have orange squash or something along those lines but I followed a recommendation and went for mint and let me tell you, it’s great! And versatile too – if you have it with milk, well, it’s like drinking an After Eight. Mmm….

Camera 360

Mmmm

Right, that’s about it for this week. Hope you’re all well!

Ciao x

P.S. Has anyone seen this bug?! It’s about an inch long with a horrible nothingness waist and a massive backside and buzzes around in an aimlessly erratic fashion.  I really dislike them! WHAT ON EARTH IS IT?!?!?!

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Bug Watch – Has anyone seen this bug?

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