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Cetona, Province of Siena, Italy
Extra virgin olive oil producer, cook, recipe writer, pop-up restaurant caterer, insiders tours

Wednesday, 30 April 2014

Pici with Asparagus ...

Something old, and something new....

It's nearly May, thinking of touring in Tuscany..?  Maybe I can tempt you...
What's interesting about what's happening with the indie food scene here in Tuscany is that it is beginning to get a little adventurous.
We have great ingredients: they're seasonal. from local farms. we have the possibility to hunt & forage in our woodlands.  we've got great bodied red wines...  And now we've got wonderful fresh biodynamic whites. The best organic goats' cheeses and a forest of wild herbs. Tuscany is on the move. We're keeping what's good. And embracing what's new & good.
So, here's the pici we all know and love.  just not with rag├╣....because this is the time of year to be eating snappy tasty asparagus, not meat sauce!!
and i'm not going to even write the recipe because it's too easy. pici. good evo oil, fresh asparagus. grated cheese of choice. black pepper.
#italianfoodietour #tuscany #foodtour #wildfood #foodietour
indie food & wine tours

Wednesday, 23 April 2014

Borage Parmigiana - this is my dish of the week!

Featuring wild Borage (Borragine)

I've just spent 4 days in Puglia, and all the food was simple and sublime, but this dish beat the rest.  If when you think Puglia, you think fish, well you could also think wild herbs ... in fact you could think Borage! 
I had gone to track down the chef Beppe Zullo at his restaurant/cookery school inland of Foggia in Orsara di Puglia; "simple food for intelligent people" is his thing, and this recipe checks all my boxes.
So, instead of trying to make Parmigiana di melanzane when the aubergines are out of season and tasteless (which for most of us is all year round, with the exception of August); let's make it using wild, seasonal, unbelievably good borage!!

Ingredients for 4 people: 

g 500 tomato passata
g 250 borage leaves
g 200 caciocavallo cheese
2 eggs
g 100 grated cheese (parmesan, pecorino or canestrato which is a mixed sheep/goat's cheese)
1 garlic clove
Extra virgin olive oil
Borage flowers

Heat the olive oil with the whole garlic clove, remove the garlic and add the passata, salt to taste, bring to the boil and cook for 20 minutes until reduced.
Collect wild (or your local farmers' market may have it); wash the borage leaves, pat dry.
Whisk the eggs with a fork and dash of salt.
Heat the oil in a frying pan. Dip each borage leaf into the egg mix and quickly fry.
In an oven dish start by covering the bottom with passata, then layer the borage leaves and thinly sliced caciocavallo-type cheese; then borage, cheese, passata. You need at least 4 layers and should finish with passata on top and a sprinkling of grated cheese.
Put in the oven at 180 °C for 20 minutes.
Serve with a drizzle of olive oil and fresh borage flowers.

Suzie's Yard is committed to supporting small local producers (we are one of them) and if you take part in one of our tours you will get to try their products for yourselves. Read about our Suzie's Yard Insider food & wine tours

Tuesday, 15 April 2014

Seasonal Italian food - maximum taste, no waste, our very green Asparagus Soup

I love FRESH asparagus.  

I had my first this year about 10 days ago from local farmers Luciana & Martino.  I just couldn't wait to get home & snap their heads off ... so to speak.
So, how do you enjoy them..? Apart from steamed with eggs?
I do a kind of "no waste" asparagus soup (makes enough for 4):-
Take 1 bunch, wash & then snap the asparagus stalks, where it gives easily (about half way along).
In a saucepan boil 1 litre of water with a carrot, a courgette, an onion, a celery stalk, salt & pepper to make veg stock (you can eat the boiled veg with a swig of olive oil and some lemon juice), remove the veg and put to one side.
In another saucepan (a steamer if you have one) heat a sliced potato and an onion in a glug of olive oil.
Take the bottoms of the snapped asparagus stalks, peel them, chop up the white stems and add to the potato & onion once soft.
Add the sieved veg stock, season, bring to the boil. Place the asparagus stalk tops over the soup pan in the steamer, cook until tender.
Remove the asparagus tops & put to one side.
Blend the soup and push through a sieve to remove any obstinate bits before adding a swirl of natural yoghurt.... goat's if you're lucky enough to know where to get it!

Suzie's Yard is committed to our small local producers (we are one of them) and if you take part in one of our tours you will get to experience the freshness for yourselves. Read about our Suzie's Yard Insider food and wine tours ...

Thursday, 21 April 2011

Minestrone alla Primavera

Spring is here and with it some of my favourite vegetables.  How about this fresh green soup brimming with asparagus, chicory, fave broad beans, peas and artichokes?  So simple, and so delicious...it just shouts "I'M ALIVE!!"

Ingredients for 4

1 bunch of fresh or wild asparagus
1 bunch of fresh or wild chicory, blanched
2 spring onions, chopped
2 handfuls of shelled fave broad beans
2 handfuls of shelled peas
2 artichokes cut small

Cover the bottom of a soup pan with olive oil and slowly soften the onion.  In another pan cook the chicory for 5 minutes in boiling water and then chop finely once cool. 
To prepare the rest of the vegetables take each asparagus and snap off & throw away the bottom part, peel up the stalk a couple of cms and then cut what's left into 2 cm pieces. Shell the fave beans and peas. Peel the hard outer leaves of the artichokes, cut the heads into quarters, remove the hair from the centre and slice the remaining part quite finely.
Now add all the raw vegetables to the onions and cook for 5 minutes to flavour together.  Cover with water, add salt, bring to the boil, turn down and leave to simmer for 20 minutes or until the vegetables are cooked.  Add in the chopped chicory.
Serve tepid with a good olive oil and some country bread.

Friday, 25 March 2011


I haven't abandoned my blog!! 
What I have been doing is lots of cooking for big groups.  As soon as I can work out how I will download some photos from our pop-up restaurant "the 3 disgraces". 
I've also been commuting to Siena to become "food legal". 
I will be back ... with regular seasonal recipes starting next week. 
Watch this space!

Monday, 21 February 2011

Lemon curd

Although it's got lots of vitamin C, it's probably very bad for you ... but who cares??  Lemon Curd is the ultimate in nostalgia / comfort food... And right now we have the most unbelievable organic lemons available from our boys in Calabria, so in response to huge demand - let's go for it:

Lemon Curd
zest & juice of 4 lemons
zest & juice of 2 blood oranges
1.5 cups of fine sugar
12 organic egg yolks
1.5 cups of unsalted butter cubed

Make sure you have about an hour available and put on a good CD, it's a long stirring process.

Mix the lemon & orange zests and juice, sugar & egg yolks in a heatproof bowl until well combined.  Stand bowl over pan of simmering water.
Stir continuously with a wooden spoon until the mixture begins to thicken.  DO NOT LET IT BOIL OR IT WILL CURDLE.
Once thick enough to coat the back of the spoon stir another 7-10 minutes, then remove from heat.
Stir in the butter piece by piece. Strain curd with fine strainer into clean bowl or warm sterilized jar.
Cover or seal & store in fridge, will keep for a week or so....think not somehow.  Enjoy on warm buttered (more butter?) toast, yes!

Thursday, 17 February 2011

Stir fry with pitta bread

If you like your veg slightly 'al dente' .... stir fry is for you.  Yesterday I wandered over to Damino, my local veg farmer, who said he had next to nothing (due to the frost), and what did I find? A whole host of wonderful veggies: turnip greens, white cabbage, savoy cabbage, carrots, onions, leeks, rucola and of course our lovely cavolo nero (nothing indeed!)...got to be a stir fry I said!

Make the pitta befiore starting the stir fry. Turn oven on to top temperature.  For 4 pitta breads mix 400 g flour, 210 ml water & 1 tsp salt. Knead together & put dough to one side.

Now to the stir fry, and the key here is to line your veg up in order of hardness or cooking time.  So, put oil in the bottom of the wok, maximum flame and in this case start with sliced carrots and cook for a bit, then add sliced onions and leeks & cook for a bit, next the slices of white cabbage...keep stirring over a hot flame.  Then, one at a time, add in turnip greens, rucola and last but not least the savoy cabbage and kale. (I also threw in some lettuce i had left over from lunch.)  You can use pretty much any vegetable, just slice it finely.

Divide the pitta dough into 4 and roll each ball out thinly with a rolling pin. Once the oven has reached temperature put the pittas in one at a time on a tray on baking paper.  They take about 2 minutes each.

Once all the veg is in the pan season with salt and a good soya sauce.  If you want to keep the stir fry as a side dish then serve once everything is cooked 'al dente'.  If you are waiting for the pitta to cook turn off the gas.  When ready to eat turn the heat back on and add in thin slices of seasoned chicken or beef  and serve after 2 minutes.