puglia

Puglia style fava beans purée

I always say that. My #foodhappiness is all about experimenting with senses and flavours, developing new, familiar habits, bringing gastronomical culture further. To participate, to share, to bring my enthusiasm on yet another level. I had been digitally acquainted with the talented Emiko Davies for a few months now. What I love about being part of this incredible global food community is its lively interaction, its exuberant mutual support and a sense of sharing that I've never seen in any other category. And that is such a blessing.

This fifty-fifty Japanese/Australian charming woman comes fully equipped with an adorable 2 years old toddler, Mariu, a camera which she masters to perfection and a strenuous dedication to the background history of Tuscan food. Just like me, Emiko will publish her debut cookbook too next year, and I cannot wait to do some promotional events together: here is her story. As I already did in the past with Rachel Roddy and Elizabeth Minnett, we decided to meet for a shared foodie experience. Here is her version of our exchange, along with a delightful recipe for Octopus and Potato Salad that we also made on our morning together.

We hugged like old friends as we met for a cappuccino and a morning pastry at Porto Ercole's local breakfast bar. This small town is located in the Argentario area, a place a little more than 100 km. north of Rome. It's a must visit if you want to get spoilt for either seaside, countryside, or thermal pleasures, you name it: the Silver Coast has it all. And that's where Emiko is currently living with her young family.

I let my dried fava beans rest in abundant water overnight. This is the classic fava bean purée of Puglia, enjoyed alongside olive oil-smothered greens.

In popular culture there are many widespread beliefs  related to the fava bean. In the lands of Gargano, in Apulia, on the night of St. John the Baptist, all girls of marriageable age put three fava beans under the pillow , one with the peel, another one without and the third slightly bitten at the top. During the night, each girl would take a random one: the first (the one with the peel), would hold the prophecy for a rich life; the second (without the skin), would destine the girl to a poor existence and finally the third (the bitten bean), would lead her to a mediocre life.

Because the fava bean has the tendency to swell during cooking, it has always evoked, in rural culture, the idea of a pompous man with an inflated self . There's a saying, still popular today, "to kill two birds with one stone", the literally translation of the stone being the fava bean, that is to say that you can get two benefits with one effort.

Try and find dried fava beans imported from either Italy or northern Africa, for the most legitimate gusto and texture. This has been sustenance food in Puglia for ages, and remains today one of the region's typical dishes.

Fava beans purée and friggitelli peppers (serves 4 people as a main course)

For the fava beans:

  • 250 gr. dried split fava beans
  • cool water to cover by 2 inches
  • 1 small Charlotte potato
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 50 ml. excellent extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 tsp salt flakes

For the greens:

  • 1 kg. Green Friggitelli Peppers
  • 3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 unwaxed organic lemon
  • 1 bunch of fresh mint

Soak the beans in copious cool water and cover with a cloth overnight at room temperature. Drain and rinse them well.

On a wooden board, peel the potato and dice it in small pieces.

In a large, heavy pot, place the beans, the potatoes, fresh water to cover by 2 inches and finally the bay leaf. Set over low heat and bring to a boil.

Simmer, covered, until very tender, for about 1 hour and 45 minutes, making sure never to stir it. Using a perforated spoon, skim off any foam that rises to the surface of the water.

You'll realize your fava beans are done once the whole water has been absorbed and the texture is very much like polenta: creamy and heavy, not runny. Using the handle of a wooden spoon, control that the base of the pot is slightly burnt, then shake the casserole manually up and down. This way, the puree will detach itself from the pot. If needed, add a bit of water to thin it out. Sprinkle with salt and oil.

In the meanwhile make the friggitelli: let the oil warm up in a large frying pan, then splash in the mini green peppers, the juice of a lemon and its zest. Cover with a lid and let cook for about 20 minutes, stirring continously. At half cooking, add some chopped mint.

Drizzle the fava bean puree and the peppers with some more olive oil.

Thoroughly enjoy until sated.

With love and fava beans,

Eleonora

Photo Credits © by the brilliant Emiko Davies

emikodavies6

A tale of orecchiette

My southern Italian origins, which I already explained in previous posts, provide for a constant longing for all things authentic, honest and reliable. My upbringing, as the one of many children coming from my same area, was one deeply interweaving  sacred with profain, guilt with pleasure. As part of this Dostoyevskian-like legacy, the orecchiette talk more than words. As kids, we were all called to order like little soldiers by my greatgrandmother, as I explained here. May we miss the call, our ears were pulled. Poor little ears. Yes, just like the orecchiette that we would have then enjoyed for lunch (talking of subtle metaphor). But, what are they? Orecchiette are a type of pasta typical of the Puglia region, the shape of which is approximately that of small ears, from which the origin of its name. Widespread in Puglia between the twelfth and thirteenth centuries from then capital Bari, where it still remains as one of the top most typical dishes. In Bari's colourful dialect they are also known as "L strasc'nat" (dragged), a term deriving from the creation method with which the pasta takes shape when it is dragged on the working table. Throughout the whole region, orecchiette are cooked mainly with turnip greens, with cauliflower, broccoli and other vegetables, or simply and somptuously, with red sauce (tomato based) and the accompaniment of a very salty thick ricotta (cacioricotta), also used in Sicily for pasta alla Norma, which I shared with you here.

Their size is about 3/4 of a thumb finger, and they appear as a small white dome, with the center thinner than the edge and with a rough surface. In all variants, they are produced using solely durum wheat flour, water and salt.

Oddly enough, their origins are not to be found in Puglia, but most likely in the French Provence where, since the Middle Ages, a similar pasta was produced using a durum wheat from southern France. It was a very thick pasta, round formed, hollow to the center through thumb pressure: this particular form facilitated its drying, thus its conservation to face periods of famine. It also seems that large amounts were loaded on ships that were preparing to travel long distances. Later, they would be spread by the Anjou throughout Basilicata and Puglia with their current name , in the thirteenth century dynasty that ruled the lands of the regions. According to the legend - orecchiette pasta originated in the territory of Sannicandro di Bari, during the rule of the Norman-Swabian, between the twelfth and thirteenth century. It is possible, following the attitude of protection against the local Jewish community by the Norman-Swabian, that their creation had been inspired from some recipes typical of the then current Jewish tradition, like the ears of Haman, to be found in some Sephardic sweets, or in the Croisettes, a type of pasta prepared in the Occitan valleys of Piedmont, a distant relative of orecchiette also likely influenced from the Middle East.

This picture was taken from my father during Christmas holidays. What he cooked them with will be the subject of next week's post. Stay tuned.

With love and orecchiette,

Eleonora

To each one their own madeleine

Marcel Proust, the autobiographical narrator of the most renowned multiple (oh, those tomes!) piece of French 20th century literature "In Search of Lost Time" has it, my grandmother has it, my favourite beekeeper has it, the laundry woman working and singing below my apartment has it and I have it too. It's the Madeleine, that is, that involuntary memory that arises once we are faced with the most eloquent elements reminding us of long times gone; suddenly, all our senses awaken and we are taken back in time to a moment so intense that we would have not suspected of it existing in the back of our mind, had we tried to remember it rationally. Proust's narrator laments that such memories are inevitably partial, and do not bear the essence of the past. Back in Italy these days for some pop-up projects, I can't help but being somehow drawn by these lines which I'm re-reading these days in my new Parisian life. My childhood days in Puglia gave me strenght, an unbearable feisty attitude, a love for the wild sea and loads of crunchy and creamy pasticciotti. I don't want them to be just partial memories but entire new memories to grasp for you, so here it is, the whole traditional recipe spread out for you. I love to devour 2 of them with my morning cappuccino. Pasticciotti with custard and black cherries

  • 330 gr. super fine OO flour
  • 150 gr. of dairy butter
  • 5 free range egg yolks
  • 1 free range egg
  • 1/2 vanilla pod
  • 2.5 dl. of fresh organic whole milk
  • 160 gr. of caster sugar
  • 120 gr. black cherries in light syrup
  • 50 gr. icing sugar

Prepare the dough. Arrange 300 gr. of flour in a large bowl, distribute the cold butter over cut into small pieces and work quickly the two ingredients with your fingertips in order to form a crumbled mixture. Merge then 100 gr. of sugar, 2 egg yolks and the whole egg. Mix together, form a ball, wrap it in plastic wrap and let rest in the refrigerator for 30 minutes.

Pre-heat the oven at 180°. Make the custard. Engrave half of the vanilla pod, lengthwise, put it in a saucepan, pour over the milk and bring to a simmer. Meanwhile, assemble the remaining egg yolks with the caster sugar, using a whisk. Add the remaining flour, a little at a time, alternating it with a ladle of milk. Stir with a wooden spoon and complete by pouring the remaining hot milk. Cook the cream over low heat for about 10 minutes, stirring constantly, until the mixture is quite dense. Butter and flour the moulds.

Arrange the ball of dough between 2 sheets of baking paper, flatten it with your hands and then, using a rolling pin, work it to obtain a layer about 3 mm. thick. Line half of the dough at the bottom of the molds and then fill them each with the cold custard. Lie in the center one or more cherries in syrup and cover the molds with the remaining dough, making sure to well seal the edges. Sting the surface with the prongs of a fork and bake in preheated oven at 180° for 20 minutes. Let your pasticciotti cool and cover them with icing sugar before serving.

With love and pasticciotti,

Eleonora

Bewitched, bothered and bewildered

September. Time for new season's resolutions, full body scrubs to keep our sunkissed skin tight...and preserves. Loads of them, may they be fruits or vegetables based. Over the summer I spent a good amount of time food researching in my native land, Puglia, and spent entire afternoons picking the most luscious gastronomic delicacies. Wearing a straw hat, which I often filled with enchanting tomatoes, I would go to my favourite fig tree and laid there with a book. It was full midday heat one august fine day when, after a few pages and far too many mosquito bites I headed back home, and I came across a recipe idea that could convey both the figs deliciousness and the summer freshness. I posted its result on my Instagram feed and I am now publishing its sought after recipe following my lovely followers request.

Figs Pie

For the shortcrust pastry:

  • 500 gr. all purpose flour
  • 250 gr. cold butter (not the spreadable version)
  • 1 unwaxed organic lemon zest
  • 4 egg yolks
  • 80 gr. caster sugar
  • a pinch of salt

For the filling:

  • 350 gr. fresh figs
  • 100 gr. almonds
  • 1 lemon

Start off by preparing the shortcrust pastry. In a mixer place the flour, a pinch of salt and the butter right out of the fridge, cut into chunks. Blend all the ingredients until the mixture is sandy and chalky-looking; place the obtained mixture on a work surface (or alternatively in a bowl) and add the sifted icing sugar.

Make a well in the center and pour in the lemon zest and egg yolks (you can also flavor with orange zest, the seeds of vanilla bean or cinnamon). Start to mix the ensemble with a fork first, then when the eggs have absorbed the flour you can continue by hand. Knead briefly, just long enough to compact the mixture so that the crust doesn't get too hot with the heat of your hands and thus remains brittle. Form a dough and flatten it before you wrap it in plastic wrap; store it in the refrigerator to firm up for at least 30 minutes.

Pre-heat the oven at 180°. Unwrap the figs from their skin and put them in a pan, leaving 3 fruits aside for decoration; with the help of a mixer, mince finely 80 gr. of almonds until floury, then add them to the figs, spray the juice of a lemon on top and let the whole ensemble cook on a medium-low heat for about 15 minutes.

Have a pie tin of around 20 cm. of diameter ready. Take the shortcrust pastry off the fridge, remove the foil and tap the dough with your own hands on the pie tin. Fill the pie with the figs conserve and decorate with slices of fresh figs and the remaining almonds, roughly chopped.

Bewitched, bothered and bewildered. That's how I remain, often enough, at the site of my Italy. Gaining access to astonishment is ever so easy, just by turning a corner from a tiny pedestrian sidestreet to a magnificent Renaissance style landscape, just keep my eyes ready for surprises over and over again. Knowing that the season will be delightful and the best... oh yes, the best is yet to come.

Love,

Eleonora

On the heel of the boot

What I'm about to share with you today has got a deep connection with who I am. Here is an irresistible well kept secret that I couldn't help but share with you, my lovely readers, finally. It's been three years since, twice a year, I spend unravelled quality time in this corner of heaven, in my very land of origin, the Salento area in the south of the Apulia Region, there where the heel rubs against the soil. And I come home. 66

The first thing that I like to do when arriving to this place where food, nature, and white raw linen meet with the unique intention of releasing the senses from the cares of the world,  is having a good talk with Maria Grazia, the heart and soul of this one of a kind mind & body escape. She would first treat me to a snack (which, in her language, is a table set with all kind of local delicacies and her worldy renowned marmalades - if only this computer could transfer that perfumed texture!) to then show me to my room, a lovely suite with a four-poster bed nestled in an arcade of tuff stone. The sheets, as if out of a chest of drawers, are of immaculate linen finely embroidered with laces and the Toile de Jouy curtains, which softness I go through with my hands, have a scent of lavender. We sit down in front of the private arabic garden, where Maria Grazia start cutting some calla lillies to present as a gift to my grandmother, that I would see later in the evening.

mamma

Maria Grazia, what is a masseria?

Masserias are ancient buildings, typical of southern Italy, particularly diffused in Apulia and Sicily. In the past these estates were exclusively devoted to agriculture with a rich extension of land owned by local nobles. In addition to the residence of the wealthy landowner, there were also the homes of farmers, stables, stores, forage and crops.

IMG_5790

Maria Grazia, what is your masseria like?

My masseria, the Tenuta Potenti, is a place of rebirth. It has its roots deep in the ground, carrying within itself a long history of traditions, warmth and humanity.

It is both the dream and desire of my husband Paolo and I to transfer the love for our land of origin, Puglia, to our children, Chiara and Walter, along with their friends.

Masseria potenti_esterni_corti

In fact, it’s nothing but our inextricable attachment to this land that led us to the purchase of the farm over ten years ago now. In the early days we solely dedicated ourselves to reclaim the uncultivated land and make it productive. It's about 4 years ago that we started to renovate the property with the idea of creating a place of welcome and absolute peace, a farm we would like to find on our way, had we been travelling from afar.

Masseria potenti_interni_salone

And so here I was, looking in every possible corner to create an atmosphere of hospitality for my guest, the weary traveller who stops by with the wish and curiosity to learn.

Masseria potenti_esterni_1

Is it true that you dance the pizzica (a typical southern Italian folk dance) for your guests? Tell us about the typical events occurring in an evening at the masseria.

I love to move to the sound of pizzica because it’s a traditional dance belonging to my roots. Dance for me is music for the body and dancing the pizzica puts me in connection with this wonderful land as well as with my fondest memories.

IMG_2913

Yes it is true I dance the pizzica for my guests because in addition to my enjoyment of it as a moment of liberation and source of pleasure, I also like the idea of wrapping my guests into music and the compelling pace of our cultural dimension. It's nice to see that these feelings, that go way beyond cultural and language barriers, are able to get us closer to our guests, thus making them feel at home.

foto-24

The evening is for me a sort of game with my imagination, when I create a unique atmosphere, which can arouse emotions and a feeling of well-being. What I love about the evenings at the masseria is the idea of always being able to create different ambiences in different areas , taking care of floral decorations and illuminations myself, strictly candlelight. I propose atmospheres that I seek for myself and I love to share.

masseriapotenti_tavola

What are the products that the land offers you in this spectacular estate?

We produce extra virgin olive oil and beautiful white and red wine, plus all kinds of fruits and vegetables.

IMG_5258

What are the best times of the year to visit the Tenuta Potenti?

Each month has a peculiar fascination for nature lives through different colors and phases in each season. I love May’s awakenings, the silence of June, September’s nostalgia, the wintery resistance, emblematic of October.

IMG_4748

What are the pasts and future projects you’re most proud of?

Looking back, the achieved project to have transformed an abandoned farmhouse, a ruin, into a big house where people can get to know my food and my wonderful land of origin.

122The farm has thus become a large container of my passions, starting from the kitchen, through the love for nature.

82

Additionally, I find it irresistible to share my immense love for antiques and forgotten objects such as trousseaux and antique fabrics with a wonderful crossroad of old and new friends.

Masseria potenti_giardino_esterni

Last but not least, can you share an original recipe with us?

Eleonora, I would be glad to give you the cake you most enjoyed during your last stay with us so much so that it never lasted on the table for more than a few minutes!  (And I may add, it's one of the most extraordinary pleasures to indulge in for an all year round breakfast. Just try and see for yourself).

Ricotta tart with candied orange and dark chocolate

torta

  • 500g organic ricotta cheese
  • 200 gr. sugar
  • 4 free-range eggs
  • 1 tbs of cinnamon
  • 50 gr. dark chocolate cut into small pieces
  • candied oranges

Mix all ingredients until a smooth cream is created.

Take a cake tin with a diameter of about 20 cm, butter and flour it and then pour the mixture previously obtained.

Bake at 180° degrees for about 25 min. Please note that it is essential for the ricotta cheese to be as fresh as possible. It 'an appetizing and tasty pie, but also quite dietary since it has no flour.

Enjoy!

Eleonora