Thursday, May 26, 2011

Caffe' o Acqua Sporca

"Coffee or Dirty Water" - it seems that is what we get sometimes when we go out to Cafes for our cup of coffee. When you really feel like a nice coffee, particularly an espresso you just want that nice coffee taste with the crema of the coffee on top. Not too much bitterness and coffee is a bitter product, a nice smooth finish to digest that big meal you have just eaten. Just when you start to dream of the taste you take one sip and almost spit it out. The nice enjoyment of the lunch has just gone out the window. Did they just bring a cup of dirty water to me? How much did I have to pay for it? If you are in QLD or WA $4. And of course we won't go into which state actually should make the best coffee (Victoria), however I'm stumped as to why QLD and WA have to charge so much, there are a few good baristas in QLD but I don't think that can extend to every establishment. But the problem really lies with the general public as they are the ones who should speak up and tell the Cafes what they really think of the dirty water that they are paying for. In Italy not only would you get abused if you served such a thing to the customers but you'd close up shop in a few months. Why are we here so more accepting of things that really lets face it, are "crap" and pay for it???

Next time, are you drinking a Caffe' o Acqua Sporca?

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Risotto - To Stir or Not to Stir

Risotto ai funghi

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

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

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

Enjoy making your next risotto. Alla prossima.

Thursday, May 12, 2011

Capsicums - Roasted

What about roast capsicums, well one thing I’ve learnt from my in-laws and Italians in general that what is in season you use, what isn’t you wait. However if you are lucky enough to have a garden that is very abundant in its vegetable or fruit, you probably know how to store a lot of it when it is out of season.

Capsicums is one of the many vegetables I’ve learnt to keep during their non growing season. A Signora Le Mura taught me this, who learnt from another Signora Le Mura (her mother-in-law). When capsicums are in season you roast a whole lot of them, pull the skin off, deseed and chop them and then store them in containers or plastic freezer bags and keep them in the freezer. You do not need to add anything to them. Pull out a container or bag when you need and defrost it. You will be very surprised at how they taste, I’ve not come across anyone who knew they have been frozen.

"Frozen roasted capsicum"

Next time when you think about buying or growing capsicums, why not roast a whole lot at the same time, that way you will always have some on hand. So the day you are time poor or could not be bothered to roast “a” capsicum, just pull it out of the freezer. ciao for now.

Some people might not know how to keep their herbs fresh for longer, a lot of people I know keep them in a jar with some water in the fridge, only to find that they start drooping straight away, or they shrivel up and dry out. Or rolled up in a wet paper towel. Even if you do keep them out of the fridge they don’t seem to last that much longer. Well I’ve taken a few photos of some coriander that I’ve had for almost 2 weeks now and they look and taste just like I just brought them.

So how come they still look so fresh? This is what I find keeps most of my herbs fresh the longest.

After washing them and letting them dry, I store them into an airtight container with no water or anything.

I hope now that you can all enjoy your herbs for a bit longer. Ciao

So you are probably wondering what I’m talking about. In Le Marche, it is very common for people to call the dessert that most of us know as Tiramisu as Mascarpone. So what is the difference? In my opinion it is very similar however the Marscarpone version may have more mascarpone filling and less sponge fingers or only 1 layer of sponge fingers. Either way both are very yummy and “very light on the hips”…… not. Once a friend of ours brought over to our place a very large dish of Mascarpone and was very kind of him to leave the rest with us. We called this dish the “Monster” as just looking at it we could only see how fattening it was, but it was beckoning us to eat it.

Okay I think the title says it all! Our Sunday Easter lunch really was a feast. We had our adopted family over “The Ursi” the only other family in Melbourne with the same surname as us, maybe related way, way, way, way, way, way back down the track… there was 5 of them and 2 of us.

Fortunately it was a beautiful sunny day in Melbourne so we were able to make use of our outdoor area with the roses blooming .

To start with we had an antipasto platter: Figs with goat’s and mascarpone cheeses, marinated split green olives, white anchovies (yum), capsicum pesto, bell peppers stuffed with goat’s cheese, and bruschette – traditional garlic & olive oil, tomato, and a cannellini bean dip and of course the cold cuts of prosciutto crudo and salami.

First course we had to have lasagne with lots of layers of pasta (hand made by yours truly). Second course, roast potatoes with roast rabbit, we even fired up the B.B.Q with pork and fennel sausages and aged rump steak. Served with a radicchio and fennel salad and focaccia pugliese (again made by me!). Dessert was tiramisu and bigne’, the bigne’ were filled with a vanilla bean creme patissiere, some were dipped in dark chocolate sauce and others were with toffee (just like Venice….). And there was a cheese platter of soft goat’s cheese, saracino (sheep’s cheese from Italy), montasio (from the Fiuli-Venezia Giulia & Veneto regions). What is Easter without Vin Santo (a dessert wine from Tuscany meaning “Holy wine”) and biscotti and easter eggs!!

So hopefully our guests weren’t too hungry when they left. Buon appetito. Alla prossima.

So Easter is almost here or Pasqua. This is one of those times of year that Italian families all get together. Church is always full, you will definitely not find a seat, standing room only. There are parade successions around the villages with Christ on the cross. And at the end of the church service olive branches are given out to everyone to symbolise peace. These olive branches are kept in your house and exchanged the following easter for the new branch.

Then there is lunch of course Easter lunch what do they eat, well as most people are aware Italian cooking is regional cooking so it will vary. However the centre of Italy like Le Marche, Tuscany, Emilia Romagna and Umbria. They will no doubt have for the first course cappelletti with ragu’. Meaning “little hats”, made with fresh egg pasta and filled with 3 different types of mixed meats generally pork, veal & chicken, the pasta is then made into the shape of little hats and served with a mixed meat or wild boar ragu’.

Above “Cappelletti” Marchigiana style – made by my mother-in-law Gabriella

Second course can vary but traditionally it would be roast rabbit or pigeon with roast potatoes, again this will depend where you live.

Like Christmas there is now a bread cake eaten afterwards at Christmas time it is Panettone. Which can also be eaten at Easter but these days there are so many varieties. The Easter one is La Colomba, more sugary and generally covered with almonds.

La Micia Cooking wishes everyone a safe and happy Easter – Buona Pasqua.

Is enjoying the glorious weather that Melbourne is currently giving us, very tired after the weekend however looking forward to some more classes again this weekend. Buona Pasqua a tutti.

Monday, March 2, 2009

Where did it start

Where did Roberto and I met? In Italy - no, in Australia - no.
It was sunny ole England - London to be exact. Nearly 13 years ago, I went to England on the typical Aussie working holiday visa, during that time I worked at one of the Hilton hotels - Langham Hilton as a hostess in one of their restaurants called Memories. I had been working there for about 3 months and during that time we had a lot of casual staff, nearly every morning there was someone new working and they were always asking the same questions of where do they find this etc, etc. One morning I walked in and there I spotted another new person - a male, however this male was running around like they knew what they were doing. So I marched up to him and asked "how come you know what you are doing?". He turned to me and answered in his broken english and thick Italian accent - "I've been off work for the past 3 months as I had broken my wrist." And from there it started the beginning of a new romance.....

Monday, January 12, 2009

About La Micia

La Micia Cooking is run by Keryn Ursi (that's me) who is married to Roberto, an Italian from Piandimeleto in Le Marche region of Italy, for the past 6 years. Le Marche is famous for its Truffles, unspoilt beauty, authentic cuisine and longevity of its residents.

Since 1997 I have been influenced and immersed in Italian culture and its cuisine. My Italian in-laws (Franco & Grabriella) have owned bars across Italy - Milan, Trani (Puglia) and Piandimeleto (Le Marche) for the past 30 years. My brother-in-law Marco is a chef and of course there's Nonna Marianna (now 93) who started making pasta by hand herself at the age of 8.