Posts tagged ‘Piemonte’

October 27, 2011

Birthday cake: pear mousse, walnut biscuit, chocolate icing, praline

60 Birthday cake

I hope you’ll bear with me. I have no camera, or rather, I brought my point and shoot, but of course, since I neglected it so badly after the arrival of my wonderful DSLR, the point and shoot is stubbornly refusing to work now. The picture of the cake I took with my phone is nothing short of awful,  however this cake is so good it makes up for an ugly picture; in real life, it was also very pretty, almost professional looking.

I don’t want to forget about this cake. The primary purpose of this blog is for my own reference. I like to have all my favourite recipes here, tried and tested, and go back to it when I need them. Besides, not only is this cake fantastic as is, it contains no less than four distinct elements that turned out perfect, useful building blocks for future dessert projects.

It gives me great pleasure to have all the special things I cook gathered here, a sort of diary: I do now and again remember that awesome something I did on that occasion before I started with this blog, and of course I don’t recall the recipe details. Being with my parents when they turned sixty is definitely a moment I want here. I also want to celebrate the exciting news about one of my closest friends being pregnant – I can’t be with her chatting and spoiling her with cake, but she’s in my mind so much these days.

The recipe itself comes from an idea of Laduree’s book, a chestnut and chocolate delight called duchesse. I changed the recipe completely, using it as a starting point, because of two reasons: I did not have the equipment to try the original meringues (and the guts! meringues have always been my biggest kitchen failures), and the recipe called for four different chestnut based components without explaining what they were supposed to be, and what ratio chestnut to sugar they were supposed to have. That was so annoying, I decided to ditch chestnuts in favour of another autumn treat, pears; I replaced the meringues with chopped praline on the sides of the cake. The result was a beautiful layered mousse cake that was rich and festive without being overwhelming, a rewarding project easy to adapt to a busy schedule, since it is made of several steps, but none of them takes very long. A make-ahead dream.

February 24, 2011

Tonno di coniglio

Rabbit 'tonno'

This recipe is likely to push some of you out of their comfort zone. The meat I am presenting you today is rabbit, and you are welcome to go elsewhere if this disturbs you in any way. If it doesn’t, I hope you are inclined to consider this recipe. It is a quintessentially Italian recipe, not because it is very common,  nor because the method is widespread, but because of its combination of simplicity, style and intense flavours: a combination at the heart of what makes Italian cooking stand out from the crowd.

September 23, 2010

Not for vampires

Bagna Cauda garlicThere is a love/hate relationship between garlic and Italian cooking. Many foreigners are surprised when I claim that the equation Italian food = garlic is just plain wrong; not that there is anything wrong with garlic, but abroad I have seen (and eaten, unfortunately) dishes  called ‘Italian’, where the Italian touch was simply adding an inordinate amount of garlic.  It is true that the most part of typical Italian recipes contains some garlic, but there are huge differences in quantity and preparation methods, and in most recipes garlic is a soft whisper.

To give you an example, I was brought up by being a garlic hater. One of the worst comment my father can do about food is: ‘e’ impestato d’aglio’, loosely translated as ‘it is plagued with garlic’. However garlic was not banned from our home cooking, far from it: it was one of the staple ingredients. Garlic cloves, peeled, were gently heated  in oil until they released their fragrance, and then removed. With the years my attitude has changed. I love garlic and I eat much more of it, but I have become much more picky towards it. Most international ‘Italian’ food will contain loads of garlic, and taste of barely anything else. Horrible. My rule of thumb when it comes to eating garlic is this one: it is ok to smell of garlic afterwards, with moderation; but it should not overwhelm the food you are tasting and above all, it should not be in any way bitter, sour or rancid.  Most dishes where garlic gets fried are too heavy for my taste, including the ones my parents prepare. I prefer to add it raw in very small quantities, or make it cook in the sauce, after adding some liquid ingredients, not just fat.  I don’t mind mashing and eating it. Actually what converted me to call myself a proud garlic eater is hummus, where the addition of some garlic really brings the dish to another dimension. What would happen to pappa al pomodoro if you removed garlic from it? Or could you ever consider eating escargots without garlic? (yes you can: I had wonderful ones in a tomato, bacon and hot chilli sauce in Bilbao, but this is a different story).

So, in my new role of garlic eater, I had to try it all. The quintessential, ultimate treat for garlic lovers in Italy is bagna cauda.

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