Tuesday, 15 January 2013

STIRRING THE SENSES - my book is finally here

STIRRING THE SENSES is a book for everyone - whether you like to travel by transport or in an armchair or cook or just read about amusing incidents which could happen even to you if you are in the right place at the right time. STIRRING THE SENSES is the result of 30 years travelling and cooking in Italy with the most talented Italian cooks. It takes you from my favourite exotic Sicily where all the flavours and colours of the Middle East blend with those of France, Spain, Greece and Italy truly stirred my senses, up the boot through central and northern Italy with equally delicious food. Even now as I gaze out the window at towering gum trees in my mind's eye I can visualise the pasta made lovingly by hand golden from the richest of yolks, flavoured with tomatoes with an incredible richness and sweetness or with the most inventive of fillings, the savoury crostata and breads lifted from the ordinary by adding anchovies or olives the truly exotic watermelon gelo brilliant in colour studded with dark bitter sweet chocolate, pistachio nuts and the glace cedro which comes in a range of beautiful greens. I have grapes ripening in my garden nearly ready to form the base of the sapori dei sapore. This is truly a magical concoction. Neither a jam nor a condiment like mostarda, it can be used as both and in so many other ways. This precious recipe was given to me by a wonderful cook in Forli from her grandmother's collection. It can only be made in the autumn when new season apples, pears, quinces and citrus arrive yet ripe figs are still with us. At least 10 fruits are needed but its flavour will enthral you. STIRRING THE SENSES is available for $50 on collection (or add $15 for postage). Just contact me on belpane@optusnet.com.au for details.

Saturday, 15 October 2011

The serpent Saint and an almost unbelievable festival

This week in the bank and in the dentist's chair I have been entertained by snake stories which brought to mind a wonderful story I heard many years ago. This concerned a religious festival which took place each year in a small village near Sulmona, a town in the Abruzzo a mountainous province in Southern Italy. The Saint in whose honour the festival took place was St Dominic who has always been associated with snakes. For weeks before the Festival the snake catchers would hunt the snakes in the mountains and bring them back alive. If they were dangerous they would make them attack a piece of rough material which would then be dragged quickly away pulling out their teeth. Before the Mass commenced the faithful parishioners pinned lira notes on the Saint and two women brought in large baskets covered with flowers and placed them on each side of the statue. When the Mass was over several strong men lifted the Saint shoulder high and paraded him around the town accompanied by a brass band. The lure of the music was too much for the snakes who crawled out from under the flowers and entwined themselves around St Dominic. Some dropped off to be replaced or wound around the arms and necks of the faithful. The statue continued on its merry way in a confusion of money and serpents until it reached the church doors again. Where those snakes went I dont know though one onlooker on his way back to Rome in the bus felt a slight movement in his coat pocket. Of course it was an escapee. He dislodged it onto the floor of the bus which stopped at several tourist stops before the Rome depot where the snake was nowhere to be seen. It could still be living quite comfortably in the Coloseum on those juicy Roman rats. Who knows?

Saturday, 3 September 2011

RHUBARB often overlooked but so versatile

I had always believed rhubarb leaves were poisonous which, if you believe the experts who compiled Larousse Gastronomique, the French food bible, is only an old wives' tale. Not that they advise cooking them They just say the leaves are a laxative. Just how much of one I can't tell you. Maybe its this medicinal property which gave rise to the story. Rhubarb was in fact used as a medicine for hundreds of years until some enterprising cook decided to cook the stalks and sweeten them. I wouldn't be surprised if the cook was English and knowing their passion for pies used the rhubarb as a filling with a little powdered ginger or cinnamon.

My preference is for rhubarb cooked with strawberries or even raspberries which really is a heavenly combination and the colour enough to gladden anyone's heart. Perfect with cream, yoghurt, icecream, meringues and even in a pie or open tart. But have you tried rhubarb cooked with a little fresh ginger with duck? Its so good. Of course it must be sweetened with
sugar or even honey and only cooked for a minute or two. You can even combine it with fennel cut into small pieces. And don't forget to lightly slit the duck skin and rub in some spices for a real taste sensation. And by the way just ask the fruiterer to cut off the rhubarb leaves.

Wednesday, 31 August 2011

Another Australian icon down the drain

A letter arrived not so long ago informing me that Simarloo, the only remaining manufacturer of Australian glace fruits had closed down. As long as I can remember and even long before Australia has produced superlative glace fruit and exported it to discerning buyers. I remember a shop in the rue St Honore in Paris well known for its select products from foreign lands putting a wooden box of plump glistening glace apricots labelled Made in Australia in pride of place in their window for all the passers by to admire. I was very proud of those apricots. The little shop is still there - you can tell it by the sacks of coffee beans in the window - instead of a wooden box of glistening apricots. I hope someone in Australia will be brave enough to restart the glace fruit production and I will be their first customer.

Tuesday, 5 July 2011

Welcome to Belpane Cooking school