Tag Archives: Truffle

Supper’s Ready

DSC_0285

Italy is well known for its wonderful food, using fresh, local ingredients. When Mariella – a beautiful Italian mamma – offered to share the secrets of her kitchen, we did not hesitate.

IMG_2355

Mariella arrived carrying a huge wooden board, an enormous rolling pin and all of the ingredients required to make ravioli filled with ricotta cheese and spinach.  First she prepared the filling, using a hand stick blender to mix 300g of ricotta with a large handful of spinach, a good grating of fresh nutmeg, a generous pinch of salt and an egg.

IMG_2356

Next she heaped up 400g of Type 00 flour and made a well in the centre, into which she cracked 4 eggs. Using a fork she mixed the eggs into the flour at the speed of light, gradually drawing in the dry flour from the edges. Then she used the heel of her hand to knead the dough.

IMG_2357

The dough was formed into a ball and left to rest for 5 minutes before being kneaded a second time.

IMG_2361

One third of the dough was broken off, leaving the remainder wrapped in a tea towel. The smaller portion was rolled out, using only a light dusting of flour to prevent sticking. This was tough work, requiring long, fast strokes, keeping the dough moving. Not a pasta machine in sight!

IMG_2369

When the pasta is rolled as thin as possible, use a glass to cut out a small circle. Insert a teaspoon of the filling in the centre and crimp the edges together to make a half-moon shape. Line up the completed pieces of ravioli on a clean cloth. Repeat the process with the remaining dough. To cook, pop the lovely little parcels in boiling water for just one minute and serve with a sauce of your choice or simply with a dusting of parmesan cheese and a drizzle of olive oil. Mmmmm. If you have made too many, freeze flat before storing in freezer bags. Don’t defrost when cooking: put straight into boiling water for about 2 minutes.

IMG_2372

It is all very well watching and learning, but getting similar results in your own kitchen can be a challenge. We followed Mariella’s instructions and made ravioli parcels, this time filled with a ricotta cheese and beetroot mix. These ones are ready for the pot and look pretty good for a first attempt….

Ravioli with beetroot and ricotta

Apart from the ravioli – which was, incidentally, delicious – I made a traditional Umbrian dish using Umbrian strangozzi pasta with slivers of fresh, earthy truffle….

IMG_2416

….and zucchini (courgette) flowers stuffed with ricotta cheese and herbs, gently warmed for 5 minutes in a medium oven then garnished with fresh peas, tomatoes and parmesan. A colourful feast for the eyes which tasted just like summer….

Zuccini flowers, stuffed

Thanks to Mariella for her inspiration and education. Recreating dishes you have eaten in particular places certainly brings back memories of sharing food, wine and happy times with friends and family.

Have you ever recreated food memories and, if so, how well did they turn out?

DSC_0496

 

 

Advertisements

I Dug Up A Diamond

Some women lust after diamonds and pearls. Not me. What I really wanted was my very own fresh truffle: a “black diamond”. Or as the Italian composer Rossini called them “the Mozart of mushrooms”.

We were in La Bottega di Teresa (see earlier post “Bringing Home the Bacon”) choosing a little cheese, when Ascanto unscrewed the lid of a large glass jar and invited us to sniff its contents. It was an unmistakeable aroma: earthy, musty, black truffles. “How much would the smallest one cost?” I enquired in my best Italian, expecting it to be a very large number. “Four Euros” Ascanto responded.

And that is why yesterday I fulfilled my truffle-owning dream.

Spello: Black Truffle

Spello: Black Truffle

The truffle has long been prized. The Romans ate them, no doubt with a lark’s tongue chaser. Premium truffles are found in France, Spain and Italy. Umbria is the best known Italian truffle region, although they are found elsewhere in the country.

It is a subterranean fungus that grows amongst the roots of trees in dense woodland. Truffles are normally found buried a few centimetres underground, so they cannot be spotted with the naked eye. Pigs were commonly used to sniff out these treasures, however pigs like a nice truffle so they often ate their discoveries. Now it is more common for trained dogs – who don’t enjoy the taste – to hunt for them.

The fruit of the truffle is a tuber, covered with a tough but edible skin. Nine varieties are recognised in Italy as being edible, but the black and white truffles are the most widely known. Black truffles can be harvested for most of the year, but the Winter variety has a more pungent aroma and a stronger taste, so they tend to be cripplingly expensive. I assumed mine was a black Summer truffle based on the season and the reasonable cost.

We have eaten truffle in many different ways since arriving in Umbria. My only previous experience of them had been at superior restaurants where it was used as a garnish rather than an ingredient. Here in Umbria it is lavished in pasta dishes, added to salami and, in salsa form, spread thickly on bruschetta.

I soaked my precious truffle in cold water and cleaned it gently. I thinly sliced some of it and roughly chopped the remainder.

Spello: Sliced and diced fresh truffle

Spello: Sliced and diced fresh truffle

I mixed the chopped fragments with a good olive oil and seasoning, then tossed it into some fresh pasta. Finally I added the sliced truffle – e vai!  Eaten with a glass of crisp white wine. Four euros well spent.

Spello: Pasta with fresh truffle

Spello: Pasta with fresh truffle