“A tavola non si invecchia”. - Italian proverb (At the table with good friends and family you do not become old).

Sharing authentic Italian recipes entrusted upon me through the privilege of being invited into many Italian homes and kitchen’s abroad. I travel, cook, eat, share, learn and photograph my experiences, a truly soul enriching journey. There are now over 100 recipes on this blog to search from. I am a Melbourne born girl who now resides in Pietrasanta, Italy. Sharing my love for food and all things Italian with you. I am not a professionally trained chef, just a person that really loves cooking and has made my passion my reality! Through talent and drive I now work as a private chef in some of the most prestigious private villa`s here in Tuscany, Italy!

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Il pandoro

What are the fundamentals for creating a child? Although I have never been pregnant nor given birth I can imagine that much patience is needed, time, care, sometimes discomfort and a lot love. These are also the basic fundamentals needed for making the perfect pandoro. And after all of these factors have been applied a child or should I say a pandoro is born! 
Pandoro is a traditional sweet yeast bread always found during the Christmas period in Italy. In fact you will find numerous varieties in multi coloured boxes in most Italian homes during Christmas. Last year I was gifted a minimum of ten, quite comical considering I live alone. They are often served and  dusted with icing sugar flavoured with vanilla. More recently some people hollow them out and place chantilly cream or ice-cream inside. I find that this serves well for the commercially purchased varieties. However in my opinion this is a complete injustice to the flavour and respect commanded for a homemade pandoro.
For all of those who have shared in my pandoro journey we now rejoice in the birth of my child- and we can also eat it!
STEP ONE to make the mother yeast:
15 grams of fresh yeast
60 grams of warm water
50 grams of flour 00
10 grams of sugar (a pinch)
one egg YOLK
In a large bowl add the warm water to the yeast and combine well, then the sugar, then the flour and egg yolk. Whisk together well ensuring there are no lumps.
Cover with a tea-towel and place in a dark and warm place for an hour. The liquid will become almost double in size and should become thick and creamy (featured above).
melted butter      this is 15 grams of fresh yeast
STEP TWO to make the first round of dough (featured above):
250 grams of flour 00
3 grams of fresh yeast
two tablespoons of tepid water
one tablespoon of sugar
30 grams of butter
one egg
Add the flour and the egg to the 'mother yeast'. In a small pan melt the butter, then add the yeast, water and sugar. Add this liquid to the mother yeast, flour and egg mixture. Use a spoon to bring all of the ingredients together. Once they are blended use your floured hands to then place the dough on a floured surface and knead together into a ball (as featured below). This will only take a minute.
Place the dough ball in a lightly butter bowl, cover with a tea-towel and allow to rest and rise for one hour in a dark warm place. This will double in size

STEP THREE to make the second round of dough:
200 grams of flour 00
100 grams of sugar
one teaspoon of salt
two eggs
one stick of vanilla (remove seeds)
140 grams of butter at room temperature 
To the first round of dough add all of the above ingredients but NOT THE BUTTER.
Use a spoon to bring all of the ingredients together. Once they are blended use your floured hands to then place the dough on a floured surface and knead together into a ball (as featured below). This will only take a minute.
Like with the first round of dough place the dough ball in a lightly butter bowl, cover with a tea-towel and allow to rest and rise for one hour in a dark warm place. This will double in size, or in my case triple in size.
Then place the dough in the fridge for half and hour
Roll out on a well floured surface a large rectangle shape with the dough. Place the room temperature butter in the middle
 Fold in the two longest outer edges into the centre
 Then fold the two longest outer edges into the centre
Then fold in two as displayed above. Place the dough like this is a lightly buttered bowl and allow to rest for half an hour. Then place in the fridge for half an hour.
Remove from the fridge and repeat the top three steps THREE MORE TIMES. Roll out, fold, fold, fold, then place in fridge for half an hour each time

Place the dough in a well buttered and floured pandoro tin (as featured below). Place the tin in a warm place to allow to rise for 8-10 hours. My house is really cold so I placed it in the oven with just the light on. The rising time will vary depending on the elements. Make sure you keep your eye on it during the final rising hours.
the dough in the mould and the risen dough after eight hours
Place the risen dough in a pre-heated oven at 170 degrees for fifteen minuets. Then reduce the oven to 150 and bake for a further ten minuets. Use a skewer to ensure it is cooked through. Rest for ten minuets then turn out the pandoro
Serve up-side down and sprinkle with icing sugar 
#pandoro #buonadomenica #christmas #dough #cibo #bambino #levito #yeast #italy #italia #stampino #forma #impasto #burro #butter

Monday, December 9, 2013

Liquore al mandarino- mandarine liquor

There is that old saying "when life throws you lemons, make limoncello". Well life has been throwing me plenty of lemons lately, probably enough to make a whole life time supply of limoncello. However, my very kind friend recently gifted me with a very large amount of these beautiful mandarin's (a friend that obviously understands my appreciation for produce). Every winter in Italy I am always pleased to see these shiny, colourful, orange balls highlighting the grime winter streets with their dark green waxy leaves. I love the perfume they expel as you walk past as they are displayed in ample abundance. This is a very easy recipe to make, a great way to preserve excess and a great idea for Christmas stockings! It's wonderful to enjoy the fruits of your labour throughout the year. Serve over ice after dinner as a digestive.
What you need (this makes about two litres):
About twenty mandarin skins
one litre of 90% alcohol 
one litre of water
600 grams of sugar
How to make:
1: Add the sugar and water to a large pan and bring to the boil, once the liquid boils reduce to a simmer for ten minuets. Take off the heat and allow the liquid to cool
2: Add the alcohol to the mix (I used vodka)
3: Place the mandarin skins in sterilised bottles, then pour in the alcohol mix. Seal
4: Place in a dark place for roughly a month
5: Once ready, strain the liquid into desired bottles. Keep in the fridge ready to serve 
#liquor #mandarin #mandarino #liquore #drink #vodka #buonadomenica #italy #italia #alcohol #sugar #homemade #fattoacasa

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

pesto alla Trapanese

We all are familiar with pesto, and usually it is the variety typically from Genova made with pinenuts (search this blog for pesto alla Genovese).  I personally am not the biggest fan of pinenuts and maybe for this reason I have not been the biggest fan of pesto.....UNTIL I discovered this version.  I recently spent five weeks in Sicily, a place where I found my soul. Sicily is a country abundant with the food types I love best: lemon, tomatoes, almonds, ricotta, pistachio, sardines, chili etc.
This version of pesto replaces the pinenuts with almonds which allows for a much more delicate flavour. Also by adding fresh tomatoes gives the pesto a fresh and slight acidic flavour. This pesto is light, luxurious and a exotic. 
This is a really lovely present to gift and a great idea for Christmas baskets.
What you need:
100 grams of fresh basil
1-2 ripe tomatoes (I used two)
100 grams of natural almonds
1/2 cup of pecorino cheese
One clove of garlic
A little salt and pepper
Good quality extra virgin olive oil (about one cup)
How to make:
1: First place the almonds in boiling water for a few minutes to remove the skins. This is a really easy step. Once the skins appear lose, place on a clean tea towel and remove whilst they are still hot
2: Cut a cross in the top of the tomatoes and place in boiling water, again for a few minutes. This step is also to remove the skins. Once the skins appear lose remove from the boiling water and place under running cold water. Be careful as the tomatoes are still hot, but remove the skins immediately
3: Place the tomatoes in a blender first and puree, then add the basil, blend together.  Now add the fresh basil and garlic, blend
4: Whilst running the blender pour a steady and even flow of olive oil oil into the blender so the pesto starts to form together
5: Once it has become the desired consistency (also taste to test), hand stir through the salt and pepper and pecorino cheese
6: Place in tight sealed glass jars which will preserve for 1-2 weeks OR
7: Serve with spaghetti. Once the spaghetti is ready stir through the pesto making sure every strand is coated evenly. Also preserve a little of the pasta water (about 1/2 cup), and stir this through with the pesto and spaghetti and keep on the heat for a further one minute- this will give you the creamiest pasta ever!!
#buonadomenica #viareggio #cibo #italia #italy #tourism #turista #versilia #toscana #tuscany #kara #bellavita #trapani #pasta #pesto #mandorle #almonds

Thursday, October 17, 2013

la mia stagione al mare- my season at sea

"The mountains, and the sea, render men savage;
they develop the fierce, but yet do not destroy the human".
Victor Hugo
A phone call changed my life, quickly and within the course of a day. One minute I was sitting in my kitchen cooking something I can't recall, the next thing my phone rang and my soon to be boss introduces himself as Fortunato ('the lucky one', not a common name for a person). I laugh and jokingly introduce myself also as Fortunata (well, I am fortunate). Within an hour we are having an interview at the bar across the from my house. I had attended a few interviews with local agencies in Viareggio and applied for a cooking jobs aboard luxury yachts for the summer, and these appointments were spoken in Italian. A dear friend, Gianluca, that lived in the apartment above from me is a Captain of a yacht. After relentless dinner parties and aperitifs at my house he encouraged me to for search work onboard a yacht. He helped with the clogs in motion.
With Fortunato there was never any doubt that the job was mine from the minute we meet, the only catch was that I had to be onbaord and ready to set sail the following day. This meant having to pack my entire apartment filled my obsessive habit of buying crockery, ceramics, linen's, and paintings (actually you can add anything to this list). I have to give thanks to my friends Claudia, Hayley and Aaron who all worked through the night to help pack up my apartment. The other thing that I had to urgently organise was getting my codice fiscale (an Italian registered number). The God's were shining down on me, what would typically take a few hours to queue in line at the local Italian office took two seconds. All of my documents were in order, my apartment was packed, and my carry on suitcase was ready (of course my pasta machine was packed). My emotions were probably the least organised, my gut churning with anxiety of the unknown. 
The rest is history. The saying "sink or swim" is the perfect analogy for this situation. Lucky my boat did not sink, literally. For the last five months I have been sailing between Italy and France, my eyes have seen some of the most magical places on earth. And yes, I FINALLY made it to St Tropez (I even managed to squeeze in a cheeky cocktail on land). Mind you, I have worked my tail off and have had little time to actually enjoy these places. Working 20 hour days with no breaks, a body filled bruises and arms covered in burn marks from the oven. The thing that made it all worth while was seeing the smile on the clients face when I cooked something wonderful or getting a glimpse of heavenly places only accessible by boat. My job was to cook for the clients and the crew. This meant a continuous flow of precisely timed courses exiting from the kitchen and around the clock. You all know my passion for cooking and to be able to this as a paid profession rendered me great satisfaction. A big part of this role was to ensure the boat was always stocked with supplies, doing the grocery shopping and cater for every ones dietary requirements. 
At times we were teamed with crew that spoke multiple languages but not necessarily the same one. This made for many comical and at times frustrating situations. 
At the end of a five month intense season I left feeling a little battered but content in the fact that I survived and with triumph my first season at sea. I left my last day with tears in my eyes for the memories I will take with me, lessons learnt, and the friendships and experiences that I formed along the way (notably my Benetti team, Emiliano, Matteo, Gabrielle, Simone and my Captain Carlo).

"It is like saying good-bye to a lover.  There are some fond memories but they treated you badly. But somehow you want more". 

Once again I would like to thank-you all for continuing to search and support my blog during my absence. For now I have posted some photos of the many dishes that I made during my voyage.
#buonadomenica #viareggio #cibo #italia #italy #tourism #turista #versilia #toscana #tuscany #kara #bellavita #sea #mare #lastoria #mystory #benetti