Rabbit with polenta

Polenta cuni finished dish

Polenta cuni finished dish

bergamo crestFrom Bergamo. Polenta e cüní. This is the most common Sunday lunch in Bergamo, and is one of the dishes I miss from my time living there. The are many variations on the recipe. This one comes from Slow Food Italy.  Serves 4

Polenta cuni ingredients

Polenta cuni ingredients

  • 1 rabbit, cut into portions
  • 50g lardo, guanciale or fatty pancetta
  • 100g butter
  • 2 glasses of dry white wine (Slow Food recommends Valcalepio)
  • 4 sage leaves
  • 1 sprig of rosemary
  • 1 clove

Put the rabbit in a pan large enough to contain it in a single layer. Place over a high heat for a few minutes to completely dry out the pieces.

Polenta cuni lardo

Polenta cuni lardo

Reduce the heat a little and add the lardo, butter, clove and sage. Brown the meat.

Polenta cuni browning the rabbit

Polenta cuni browning the rabbit

Add the wine and let it evaporate, stirring from time to time.

Polenta cuni with wine

Polenta cuni with wine

Reduce the heat to low, cover and continue cooking until the rabbit is tender. There shouldn’t be a lot of liquid while it’s cooking, but if it looks like drying out, add a little stock. The cooking time will vary according to the rabbit, but it will be at least two hours, maybe longer.

About five minutes from the end of cooking, add the remaining butter and the chopped rosemary. The rabbit should be quite dry, almost crispy on the outside, and moist on the inside.
Serve it with polenta made according to the instructions on the packet. If I don’t have a polenta machine available to stir it, I usually use the quick cooking variety. A lot of Bergamasci regard this as a heinous crime though 🙂

Neapolitan mixed fritters

Mixed fritters finished dish

Mixed fritters finished dish

Napoli crestPasta cresciuta. From Naples. My local pizzaria here in Bari is Neapolitan and cooks what the locals regard as “thick” pizzas. The Barese go there when they want some foreign food 🙂 They also cook a few specialities from Naples, such as arancini and this dish. Pasta cresciuta means “grown dough”, because the batter contains yeast. You can cook them without a filling, or with some of the more  traditional ones such as courgette flowers or anchovies. Alternatively experiment with what you have to hand. The batter will make about 60-80 pieces.

Mixed fritters ingredients

Mixed fritters ingredients

  • Sun-dried tomato halves, soaked to soften
  • Courgette (Zucchini) flowers picked over to make sure they don’t contain any insects etc.
  • Large sage leaves
  • Anchovy fillets
  • Oil for deep frying (traditionally olive oil, but sunflower oil is acceptable)

For the batter

  • 1 cube of fresh yeast
  • 320ml lukewarm water
  • 300g oo flour
  • A pinch of salt

First make the batter. Dissolve the yeast in the water. Sift the flour into a bowl and add the salt. Make a well in the centre and add the yeast mixture. Beat it with a whisk until smooth. Cover and leave in a warm place for 1 – 2 hours to rise. It should about double in size.

Mixed fritters batter

Mixed fritters batter

Heat a pan full of oil to a medium heat, about 180°c. If the oil is too hot the fritters will be raw on the inside and burnt on the the outside. If the temperature is too low they will be soggy. A litte experimentation may be needed to get it right.

Mixed fritters cooking

Mixed fritters cooking

To make plain fritters, drop tablespoons of the batter into the hot oil. Cook until they are lightly browned, turning once. You are aiming to keep a reasonably soft texture. Think savory doughnuts. Drain on kitchen paper. Dip the various fillings into the batter and continue as before.

They are best eaten hot, but may also be eaten cold.

Chicken cacciatore

Chicken cacciatore finished dish

Chicken cacciatore finished dish

LiguriaPollo alla cacciatora.  It is very common to find versions of this dish outside of Italy, especially in the United States, however they often bear little resemblance to dishes found here. Even the spelling has been changed, possibly reflecting a dialect spelling originally used by Italian immigrants to the States. The name translates as hunter’s style chicken. I am a bit unsure why as I am unaware of anybody hunting chickens 🙂 You can also prepare rabbit in this way so maybe that was the original recipe. There are many versions in Italy, but the common factor is the chicken is cooked with white wine and tomatoes. This version is from Liguria. As always, if you can find a really good free range, or at least corn fed chicken it will improve the dish no end. Serves 4-6.

  • 1 chicken cut into cut into 6 or 8 pieces
  • 2 cloves of garlic
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • Half a celery stalk, chopped
  • A sprig of rosemary
  • 2 fresh sage leaves
  • A bay leaf
  • A glass of white wine
  • 6 fresh tomatoes, peeled and deseeded (or an equivalent amount of tinned)
Chicken cacciatore ingredients

Chicken cacciatore ingredients

Brown the onions, the celery and the garlic in a large pan.

Chicken cacciatore browning the onions

Chicken cacciatore browning the onions

Add the chicken pieces, rosemary, sage and bay leaf. Season with salt and pepper and cook for about 10 minutes over a reasonably high flame.

Chicken cacciatore browning the chicken

Chicken cacciatore browning the chicken

Lower the flame and add the wine and cook until it has almost evaporated. Add the tomatoes, stir and cook until the chicken is done. About 45 minutes. Serve directly from the pan.

Variations

  1. Some people like to add a little chopped parsley at the end
  2. You can also add sliced fresh or reconstituted dried porcini mushrooms along with the chicken.

Fried sage leaves

Salvia fritta in pastella. From Friuli-Venezia Giulia. Around Italy the styles of eating vary quite considerably for a large meal. The basic form doesn’t change, how could it? 🙂 The unalterable form is Apperitvi, Antipasti, Primi, Secondi, Dolce, Caffe. What does change from region to region is the emphasis placed on each course. For example in Bergamo the bars compete to have the best apperitivi and you may be presented with a large selection. Here in Bari the antipasto is king. If you order the house antipasto you may be presented with up to twenty small dishes. Luckily you are not always expected to continue to primi, secondi etc. Bring your appetite with you if you go to a wedding though.

Fried sage leaves finished dish

Fried sage leaves finished dish

Sage plant

Sage plant

This recipe is from the north however. My sage plant is getting very big and I wanted a way to use it.

Fried sage leaves batter ingredients

Fried sage leaves batter ingredients

  • 20 g of large fresh sage leaves
  • 125 ml beer. A lager would be best.
  • 100 g oo flour
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • The white of 1 egg
  • Oil for frying
Washed sage leaves

Washed sage leaves

Wash the sage leaves well and dry them on kitchen paper.
Fried sage leaves batter

Fried sage leaves batter

Put the flour in a bowl and add the chilled beer. Add the oil and a large pinch of salt. Mix it together with a whisk until it is smooth. Let it rest for at least 30 minutes.

Fried sage leaves egg white

Fried sage leaves egg white

Beat the egg white until you have stiff peaks. Add a pinch of salt and carefully fold it into the batter.

Dip the sage leaves into the batter and fry then in hot oil turning once. When they are golden brown, remove from the oil and drain on kitchen paper. Serve immediately.


Bergamo style Casoncelli

Casonsei alla Bergamasca. When I lived in Bergamo we used to drive up into the mountains once or twice a year to eat polenta taragna. The starter was invariably casoncelli, or casonsei in the bergamasco dialect. Slightly sweet filled pasta dressed with sage and pancetta.  Makes a generous 8 servings.

Casoncelli finished dish

Casoncelli finished dish

For the pasta:-

  • 400 g 00 flour
  • 100 g durum wheat flour
  • 2 eggs
Mix together all the ingredients along with enough water to make a dough. Knead until smooth. Let it rest for half an hour or so and then roll out into reasonably thick sheets. A hand cranked pasta machine will be a great help with this.
Casoncelli filling ingredients

Casoncelli filling ingredients

For the filling:-

  • 125 g dry breadcrumbs
  • 1 egg
  • 70 g grated grana
  • 150 g sausage meat or minced pork
  • 100 g cooked roast beef
  • 1 amaretti biscuit
  • 10 g sultanas
  • 1/2 medium pear
  • Zest of 1 unwaxed lemon
  • 1 chopped garlic clove
  • 1 tablespoon of chopped parsley
  • Salt and pepper to taste
Chop all the ingredients together in a food processor to make a smooth paste.
Method 1
This method is used by people who need to prepare large quantities.
Cut the sheet of pasta in half lengthways.
Casoncelli pasta

Casoncelli pasta

Place a teaspoon of the filling at regular interval at regular intervals along the strip of pasta.
Casoncelli pasta with filling

Casoncelli pasta with filling

Fold over the pasta and press down to seal. Try to exclude as much air as possible to avoid them bursting when cooked.
Casoncelli folded pasta

Casoncelli folded pasta

Separate the pasta using a round pastry cutter. You should have a half moon shape.
Casoncelli half moons

Casoncelli half moons

Turn the half moon on its side and flatten it a little with your thumb.
Casoncelli shaped

Casoncelli shaped

Method 2
This method takes a little longer, but is a little easier if you haven’t had a bit of practice.
Cut out 7 cm discs of pasta using a pastry cutter. Place a teaspoon of filling in the centre of each disc. Fold over and seal to form a half moon shape. Continue as in method 1.
Cook the casoncelli in plenty of salted water. Meanwhile fry the pancetta and sage in the butter until it is well flavoured. Serve the pasta dressed in the butter and topped with the grana.
Casoncelli dressing

Casoncelli dressing

To dress the pasta:-

  • 80 g butter
  • 100 g cubed pancetta
  • 100 g grated grana
  • A few sage leaves

Spaghetti with courgettes

Spaghetti con le zucchine. Serves 4

  • 360g spaghetti
  • 3 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 clove garlic, peeled
  • 1 small onion,peeled
  • 2 fresh sage leaves
  • 1 stick celery
  • 3 plum tomatoes, peeled, seeded and chopped
  • 350g courgettes, thinly sliced
  • 150g mozzarella, diced finely
  • 25g parmesan cheese, grated
  • salt and pepper
  • Heat the oil in a pan. Add the whole garlic clove, the whole onion, the sage leaves and the stick of celery and cook over a low heat for about 5 minutes.
  • Add the tomatoes and increase the heat to medium. When boiling add the courgettes. Season with salt and pepper, cover and cook for around 15 minutes.
  • Remove the garlic, onion, celery and sage and discard.
  • Cook the spaghetti, drain and the toss first with the sauce, then the mozzarella and finally with the parmesan.

Soused chicken breasts

Petti di pollo in carpione. I got this recipe from the English translation of il cucchiaio d’argento – The Silver Spoon. This book is I think on the whole a clever marketing trick. It is a 1950s cookbook with a few modern recipes tacked on the end. Add to that an appalling translation, don’t trust any measurements! The recipes still appear in the original Italian alphabetical order even though they have been translated into English. I have met some people who have heard of it here, a bit like the good housekeeping books in the UK, but I have yet to find anybody who has used it. It can be useful for ideas if you already know what you are doing. The following recipe is in fact very nice 🙂 Serves 4

Soused chicken breasts ingredients

Soused chicken breasts ingredients

  • 4 skinless, boneless chicken breast portions
  • 2 eggs
  • 80 g breadcrumbs
  • 25 g butter(or use all oil)
  • 5 tablespoons olive oil (I usually use much less)
  • 1 onion, thinly sliced
  • 1 celery stick, thinly sliced
  • 1 carrot, thinly sliced
  • 350 ml white wine vinegar
  • 100 ml dry white wine
  • 4 fresh sage leaves (or a teaspoon of dried)
  • 2 garlic cloves, sliced
  • salt and pepper
  1. Beat the chicken with a meat mallet until evenly thin.
  2. Beat the egg with a pinch of salt in a dish, add the chicken and leave to stand for 15 minutes. Spread out the breadcrumbs in a shallow dish. Drain the chicken and dip in the breadcrumbs to coat.
  3. Heat the butter and 2 tablespoons of the oil in a pan, add the chicken and cook over a medium heat, turning occasionally, for about 10 minutes until golden brown on both sides.
  4. Meanwhile, heat the remaining oil in another pan, add the onion, celery and carrot and cook over a low heat, stirring occasionally, for 5 minutes. Season with salt and pepper to taste, add the vinegar and wine and bring to the boil, then immediately remove from the heat and add the sage and garlic.
  5. Place the chicken in a dish, pour the hot marinade over it, leave to cool, then chill in the refrigerator for at least 4 hours before serving.

Soused chicken breasts