Tales beyond the Alps

Drum roll please!!! I would like to dedicate a special foodie tribute today to a country where I will be exporting  part of my Italian food affair starting from very soon. For those of you who will be visiting Paris, or indeed are based there, I will be coming and going there very often in the upcoming future as part of a clandestine kitchen and pop-up project. Curious? I will be telling you more about it over the next few weeks. If you're interested in joining and get your hands buttered and splattered, don't hesitate to drop me a line here or head over my workshop page. A little comforting food always helps establishing the cross-cultural patterns right. One of the first times I've ever been invited to a parisian diner, I stumbled upon the gorgeous simplicity of the pâté des pommes de terre... A speciality of the Limousin region in central France, it is prepared according to family traditions, thus can be decorated  with parsley, onion, garlic and meat even. Before potatoes started to be greatly used in France at the turn of the 19th century, this dish was made with leftover bread dough, then baked with a simple decoration of roughly chopped garlic, bacon and parsley. Below is the light version. This incredibly fluffy pie (which is oven-baked until golden-brown) was served as a side dish to an orange-glazed duck (just like the one I made at Taste of Roma Food Festival some time ago) but is also perfect for lunches on the run with a green salad, for aperitifs sliced in tiny pieces, for pic-niques in an adventurous panier... not only boulot-metro-dodo.

Pâté des pommes de terre

Serves 6 people as a main course/side dish:

  • 400 gr. of shortcrust pastry
  • 800 gr. Charlotte potatoes
  • 1 dl. of dry white wine
  • 1 room temperature free-range egg
  • 1 dl fresh double cream
  • 80 grams of unsalted dairy butter
  • 1 sprig of fresh thyme
  • a sprinkle of grounded nutmeg
  • a sprinkle of salt
  • a sprinkle of pepper

Pre-heat the oven at 180°. Peel the potatoes, wash them, put them in a saucepan with cold water and cook for 15 minutes after boiling. Drain and cut into thick slices of around 1 cm. Arrange them in a bowl, season with 70 gr. of butter, the wine, the thyme leaves, some salt, pepper and nutmeg, then stir gently.

Pick up two-thirds of the shortcrust pastry and roll it out with a rolling pin into an oval formed baking paper sheet. Grease an oval baking dish (of around 22x18 cm diameter) with the remaining butter and recline the dough prepared in order to cover the edges. Prick the bottom with a fork and fill with the seasoned potatoes.

Knead the remaining dough into an oval shape and make a 3 cm wide well in its center, then roll it over the potatoes. Seal the edges , making sure to eliminate the excess dough with scissors and use it to decorate as you wish.

Brush the pie with the beaten egg (the very French so called royal) and cook in a preheated oven at 180 °  first in the lower part, for  about 35 minutes, then pour the cream into the center hole and continue cooking for 20 minutes further. Serve warm.



At home in the Amalfi Coast - part 2

Suddenly yesterday it started raining. I'm talking pouring down like nothing else. Raining cats and dogs. Since I'm always at the right place at the wrong moment, just about ten minutes earlier I decided to take a walk, unaware of the possible meteorological shift. I obviously found myself in the middle of it all without the occasional umbrella, so I started to dance with it. I opened up my arms and drank the tears of water. I couldn't quite believe it but they tasted something like limoncello (the typical lemon liqueur produced in this area), probably because they went through the terraced lemon groves before touching the ground. The smell of citrus fruits literally filled the air. That’s when I started to be hungry. arienzo3

A few minutes later, I found a clearing along the coast, with a pretty little beach in the middle. An indication on the road pointed towards “Bagni d’Arienzo”, but didn’t precise exactly how long or what would it get to finally arrive there: 243 steps later, I had my feet on warm sand (it was sunny again), and I met Amalia. arienzo2

This young, extremely kind woman (who is obviously already married and has her husband working with her in the premises) is the daughter of Ada, the cook and behind the scenes queen of this family run snack bar turned restaurant on the way between Positano and Praiano. This immaculate beach is nestled under the splendid former Zaffirelli’s holiday villa now turned 5 star resort Treville. arienzo4

You can either access the Bagni  by foot or, more simply, there’s a free boat shuttle service departing from the pier of Positano every half hour.

foto-224There’s only a few umbrella on the beach, sorted out by Peppe, Ada’s husband, who is also the one who makes sure all the guests get on and off the boat safe and sound when they reach this paradisiacal destination for a scrumptious meal.Processed with VSCOcam with f2 preset

These tentalising little anchovies were served to me on a bed of fresh lettuce and wild rocket salad, the very bitter and crunchy kind, to be found only when organic cultivation applies. While Ada is busy producing hundreds of ravioli (a Neapolitan fresh pasta typically filled with cheese) every morning for the hungry customers, Peppe goes to their 16 hectares plot of land, located just on top of the bay, to pick up the daily vegetables. A perfect family team, which I’m  starting to understand, seems to be the winning rule around this area.foto-225

People from all over the world greatly appreciate this kind of informal, warm hospitality, so much so that they come every year for more. Peppe gracefully showed me a stone sculpture representing their whole family, a creation offered to them by a Russian kid who spent a couple of weeks here last year. Upon his return a few days ago, this young boy couldn’t believe his eyes as he found out that Peppe had kept his gift with such care – “We remember people, and they remember us”. This sentence alone tells a lot about the incredible humanity that one breathes around here.Processed with VSCOcam with f2 preset

As I breathed out, here came the desserts (two for me, oh yeah!): a delicious pastiera napoletana (a typical festivities cake – but then again here is always a celebration!) and freschezza amalfitana - Amalfi style freshness, a trumphal chocolate sponge cake topped with almonds mousse. An unmissable spot near the path of the gods. Wanna find out more about my Amalfi Coast project run in collaboration with Pasta Rummo? Click here to enjoy the first episode.

With love and a hint of lemon zest,