Monday, 29 June 2009

Ramen. Summer style

By default the hot summer days tend to suppress cravings for warm, soft, and usually heavy comfort food. The warmth of the air takes the role of comforting, freeing food from its responsibility and opening the door for experimental attempts, like preparing ‘Hiyashi-chuka', a cold ramen noodle from scratch (Including jumping on the dough for 15 minutes to form the gluten that gives the dough and thus the noodles, elasticity). 
Such an endeavor took most of the morning and early afternoon, during which people came and left, bottles of prosecco were emptied, and the sound of empty stomachs was getting louder.

Alas, when ready the plate was a technicolor  display of cold ramen noodles, stacked with thin slices of tamagoyaki (a Japanese omelet), shitake mushrooms, poached chicken, carrots, cucumbers, sprouts, lettuce, cured meat and ginger, all of which echoed the noodle form. A dressing of sesame, soy, miso- esque sauce helped to wash it all down in a steady rhythmic motion . Why, it was like summer in a bowl.

Dessert, in keeping with the theme, was strawberry Daifuku Mochi. Mildly sweet, the Daifuku is a strawberry coated in Azuki (red bean paste), and glutinous rice dough capturing within it a pleasing stickiness, a gentle sweetness and a balancing tartness, all of which benefit from the pairing of a whipped cream and a pot of green tea.

We thought 1 each would be more then enough. 

We finished the entire plate. 

A Saturday has gone by.

Wednesday, 24 June 2009

Coffee. Variations on a theme

1 coffee. 1 shot. 1 espresso. 1 Euro.

Espresso, Multi- way, made easy:

Café lungo

Café normale

Café shakerata

Café macchiato

Café con ghiaccio

Café cortado

Macchiato lungo

All the same. All different.

Why I love this place.

Saturday, 20 June 2009


The 24 of us are now used to sharing the confined space of the bus. It is a quiet journey. 5 days in Veneto, highlights in pictures.

Perbellini, a modest looking pasticceria on the outside is a mammoth factory behind the scenes. Our visit coincided with the making of millefoglie; layers of butter filled pastry spread with thick whipped cream and amaretti crumbs, then coated in more whipped cream and crumbs. That’s plenty of cream, butter and sugar. There were also éclairs, colorful pastries, custards of sorts, cakes, creams and biscuits. The tour ended with a tasting of all the pastries on show, served with bottles of coke and sweetened coffee. No. more. Sweet. 

A typical Padovan street food is the squid poached in wine and seasoned with garlic, olive oil, and lemon. The squid is fished out of the steel cooker onto a plastic plate, its arms and tentacles chopped, as well as the head, revealing the less appetizing brain and innards. This is accompanied with bread designed to soak up all the juices and remaining sauce.  Cunning.

Melotti rice farm, La Montecchia winery, San Cassiano winery and olive oil producer, Bertani winery, Albertini restaurant, Sorelle Bronca winery,  32 Via de Birrai, Bibanesi artisanal grissini company.

Friday, 12 June 2009

Food miles Brunch

A sunny Saturday, the first weekend of June.

The morning began with an Arancini, an orange size and color deep fried ball of rice filled with cooked ham and mozzarella. This was the fuel that provided us with enough energy to arrive at the organic Market for the weekly dose of good old organic Cannolo. Within minutes of arrival we found ourselves sitting outside a café, enjoying the morning sun with espresso and fresh cannoli, living the dream.

We headed home, weighed down by our goods filled bags and began the mission of preparing brunch. Fast-forward to several hours later of peeling, boiling, frying, chopping, squeezing, poaching and drizzling in a kitchen far too small to occupy more then one person, and brunch was ready.

Kicked off with a Mojito, there was rice cooked in asparagus and vegetable broth, laid on a bed of green leaves and topped with a poached egg (naturally) and Sriracha sauce. A spicy apricot ginger salad, a speck coleslaw, a Burrata, (a form of insanity, this is a fresh cheese made of mozzarella and cream. While the outer shell is solid Mozzarella, the inside a creamy stratchiatella), a Tete de Moine, A pecorino, fried Plantains wrapped with prosciutto, pork fried with Yuzu, Baklava, an organic Nutella ice cream and ricotta pancakes topped with red bean paste and strawberry, green tea and plain whipped cream.

While none of the dishes were local, the ingredients covered all the continents, with Indian spices, a Cretan phyllo pastry, hazelnuts from Sicily, green tea and red beans from Japan, rum from Cuba, cheese from Switzerland, to name but a few.

The food miles on the table were out of control. They could be regarded as seasonal and local SOMEWHERE in the world, just not necessarily close to Parma… but that was where they all found themselves , plump, crisp and ready to be eaten, laid out on a sunny Saturday in the first weekend of June.

Here is the recipe of the ricotta pancakes topped with red bean paste and strawberry, green tea and plain whipped cream I prepared with Naoya, to satisfy my Azuki paste craving.

Ricotta pancakes with Azuki bean paste and 3 whipped creams

(based on Nigella’s Ricotta hotcakes, makes about 25)

For the pancakes

250 grams fresh sheep’s milk ricotta

½ cup semi skimmed milk

2 large eggs, separated

100 grams flour

1Tsp baking powder

pinch salt

butter for frying

For the whipped cream

Whipped cream

Matcha green tea*


Azuki red bean paste**

The pancakes

Put the ricotta, milk and egg yolks into a bowl and mix well to combine. Stir in the flour, baking powder and salt and gently whist to make smooth batter.

Beat the egg whites until they become foamy. Fold into the ricotta mixture.

Heat a little batter in a frying pan and drop heaped dessertspoons of batter.

Cook for about 1 minute until golden then flip them over and cook another minute.

The whipped cream

Divide the whipped cream into 3 bowls. Puree the strawberries, (sweeten to taste if needed) and stir into 1 bowl.

Dilute a teaspoon of Matcha powder in a little water and blend until smooth. Stir into to the second bowl of whipped cream and blend until smooth.

Serve the pancakes, Azuki paste and whipped cream for an individual assembly.

* Matcha green tea comes in powder form and can be purchased online and in specialty shops.

**  The Azuki bean is boiled with sugar then made into a paste. Can be purchased online and in specialty shops.Instruction to make your own bean paste can be found here

Friday, 5 June 2009

Italian Sabich

I had a craving the other day. For Sabich. Say what? Precisely. 
The fried aubergine, French fries, hard boiled egg and salad in a tahini and Amba dripping white flour pita bread, Sabich???  I actually managed to crave a dish I never had in my life and one of the staple street- foods the Israeli cuisine has to offer. I simply never allowed myself to have it.

I like holidays mainly because of the food. Any holiday, any reason, any religion,  is a good enough a reason to prepare, cook and eat, so how convenient that this week was Shavu’ot! 

I decided to make my version of a Sabich, a la Italiana, as any attempt to cook any food in Italy undergoes a modification process in order to adapt to the available ingredient, giving any dish that local terroir  twist.

It may be a valid point that eating Mexican in a pizzaria in Crete is a syndrom of what is wrong with our food culture, but cook any dish particular to a place outside of its context and you have just fused 2 food cultures to an honest expression of a new reality. For example, lets take Indian food. I already did this week. Parma is known for its cuisine, as long as its Parmesan cuisine. Steer away to a side road in search of other food and you’re in no man’s land. On Friday Kate and I decided to splash out and get an Indian take out from THE Indian restaurant. The only one.

We walked in and ordered the dishes we recited excitedly on our way, as this was going to be a festive fiesta of curry and rice, spinach and paneer, dahl and chapatti, whatever the cost.

The menu states Indian dishes that are made to fit the Italian perception of food. Primi, primi secondo, main course, etc. again, strange. Its almost unlikely Italians go here, and if they did, surely they understand and for that reason go to, an Indian restaurant, in which they will not be served anything remotely close to Italian food. And yet the menu is dressed up in Italian outfit, made to feel familiar and less intimidating..

We took our dinner home, aluminum take-out containers, wrapped in cling film and then foil, clearly, this system has room for improvement. We ate our dinner with a good wine from Piedmont, as this was a special dinner. An Indian Take-out dinner. This was a ‘good china dinner’. A take- out curry put on a pedestal.

How removed an experience is this from a curry take-out in London, or NY? It’s the parallel universe of the order of things, turned inside out and spoken in Italian.

sabich, Essentially, a meal in a bread. 

the Ingredients required for a self assembly of a Sabich are as follows:

A flour tortilla

A chopped salad (copped tomatoes, cucumbers, raw onion, parsley seasoned with S/P, olive oil and lemon)

Olive oil Roast potatoes ( my method involves steaming potatoes in their own juices, then roasting them in sizzling olive oil, seasoned with S/P and paprika.)

Hard-boiled egg, sliced

Roasted aubergine salad


Sriracha chili sauce

Once all the ingredient are prepared, pile them on the tortilla. You should be looking as a colorful assembly of goodness. There is no way you can fold it close, so give up trying, improvise a way to lift it of the plate, and reach out to it.

I don’t know what the real stuff tastes like, but I have satisfied my craving for it.