Archive | November 2012

Arrosto di maiale al Latte

–   Pork loin braised in milk –

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This dish is also known as “Arista al latte” in Tuscany and quite a favourite in our house for a long time.

The best ‘Arrosto’ I have eaten so far is in one of our Italian friend’s restaurant in, of all places, Rapperswill, just outside Zürich in Switzerland.

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Piero, who originates from just across the border to Italy owns one of the most wonderful Italian Restaurants “La Scala” right at the shores of Lake Zürich. From his first floor Restaurant and his large terrace the view of the lake and the mountains beyond is quite spectacular in summer as well as in winter.

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No ‘nouvelle cuisine’ here but true Italian cucina at its best. People drive for many kilometers to spend some time at ‘La Scala and many, like us who do know better, hardly ever bother with the written menu – we eat happily what Piero or his wonderful crew recommend.

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And if we are  lucky, after most guests have left, Piero brings out his beloved guitars (one of which was part of our hand luggage all the way from India) and we all enter into the most joyous sing-song, loudly, happily and frequently off-key, but what does it matter. Dolce far niente!

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For: 4 (with a very lean appetite)

1.5 – 2 kg boned pork loin, skin removed

4 Tbsp Olive oil

3 Tbsp butter

5 fat cloves of garlic, peeled and cut in half

Some fresh sage or ½ tsp of dried sage or rosemary

6 strips of lemon peel

1 cinnamon stick

3 fresh bay leaves

1 l full fat milk, hot

Sea salt & black pepper

String (to hold your meat together)

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Method:

Trim the pork of excess fat and make random slits into the meat and stuff the garlic and the lemon peels in each and rub all over with salt, pepper and sage.

Now string your piece of meat so that it does not fall apart during the slow cooking process.

Place a large, heavy saucepan over medium heat and add the olive oil.

Wait for the oil to be hot before adding the pork and seal the meat from all sides until golden brown. You neither want the oil to be smoking nor the meat to be dark in colour.

When done remove meat onto a plate and keep warm. Pour off any excess oil, add the cinnamon stick, bay leaves and the very hot (but not boiled) milk and bring to a gentle simmer, turning down the heat if needed. You can also do what I always do, throw a few more slices of lemon peel in for extra good measure, but just make sure you do not cut off the white flesh underneath, which is bitter.

Return meat to the pot, and cook slowly with the lid 1/3 off for an hour or so (just check your meat).

Stir gently occasionally and keep scraping the bottom of the pot in order to loosen the curds or they will burn.

Because of the interaction between lemon and milk you will get those wonderful golden coloured curds. Trust me, it’s going to be delicious – I have been cooking this dish now for over 20 years or so, and never were there any complaints or left-overs for that matter.

By the time the pork is done, you should have most of the liquid reduced into a wonderful caramelised sauce.

Remove the meat and let it rest on a warm plate for 10 minutes before removing the string. Discard the bay leaves and cinnamon stick.

Slice your pork into slices and once on your pre-heated serving plate drizzle some of the sauce and the curd over this. The rest can be served separately at the table.

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Ciao, Carina

(All photos: CS-Manningtreearchive)

GNOCCHI ALLA ROMANA

Or:  – Gnocchi the roman way

This week did not start well, in fact not well at all!

It is always said, that ‘bad things come in three’ and they most certainly did.

First, after 1 am at night our bedroom Airconditioner blew up with a bang – Compressor gone. The heat was unbearable – sleep? We had hardly any.

Next day, whilst waiting for the Repair crew to arrive and we were working in our study on our individual blogs, very tired, hot, and not in the best of mood, wondering why this room was not refreshingly cool – we discovered that the

Airconditioner here too was sickening with something; hot air came in instead of cold! Our hearts sunk – oh no! What else could go wrong?

So today, Thursday, when I was all geared up preparing my above recipe and some others which I wanted to prepare in advance, I discovered that I ran out of Gas in my kitchen. A quick call to the Gas Agency and I was given the ‘cheerful’ news that no delivery could be possible until the end of next week.

And so, since I had my share of ‘the bad three” I try to cheer up and plot on with the original task intended.

Thursday is Gnocchi day in Rome and the first time I have eaten these Gnocchi here was in a lovely little Trattoria in Trastevere a few years ago.

They were not even on that day’s menu but when I saw the Patrone having those as part of his lunch I became curious and asked for them. He was quite pleased and before long the most delicious Gnocchi arrived on my plate straight from the pan. But the funny thing is that they look more like little fried cakes then soft squishy Gnocchi.

Unfortunately, before I could ask for the recipe the Patrone had left and it was closing time. For a while I forgot all about this recipe until by chance I found it in one of the most enjoyable Italian food sites I have come across for a long time.

Memories di Angelina’ is owned by Frank Fariello, who in his own words is ‘a Lawyer by day and cook by night’. His blog is in memory of his beloved grandmother Angelina and the site is also very knowledgeable and educational. Go and log in so you too can read his wonderful memories and his more than delectable recipes.

With his kind permission I now pass on his recipe for Gnocchi alla Trastevere (as they are now called in our house – grazie tante, Francesco and I hope you don’t mind).

For: 4

Ingredients

1 l of milk, hot but not boiled

Dash of salt and a little butter

250 g Semolina (Rava)

And a generous helping of grated Parmesan cheese.

Method:

Heat milk with salt and butter and in a slow stream – in Italian they say ‘a poggia’ or ‘like rain’ – add Semolina into the simmering milk, stirring all the time.

Lower the heat and let the mixture cook until it has become quite stiff.

Mix in some grated parmesan cheese and spread the mixture out thinly, about ½ cm, on a lightly oiled or buttered baking sheet. A wet spatula is ideal for this operation. Allow the Semolina mixture to cool completely by keeping your baking sheet in the fridge for a while.

Take a glass or biscuit cutter and cut out disks of the mixture. Arrange those disks in a buttered baking or gratin dish, layering them in slightly overlapping rows like so many roof tiles.

Top with copious amounts of grated parmesan cheese and melted butter.

Bake the gnocchi in a hot oven (200 c, 400 F) for maybe 15 minutes or pass them under the grill until nicely browned on top. Let the sizzling gnocchi ‘settle’ for a few minutes and then serve them in their baking dish.

(Because of my gas problem I was not able to do those gnocchi inside my oven but had to do them in a frying pan. They should really look a bit lighter, more golden coloured, but I hope you forgive me, since I was determined to get this recipe out to you)

In our house we often just serve this with a nice bowl of very slightly wilted spinach, tossed for a couple of minutes in only some good olive oil and 2 cloves of garlic finely chopped, a pinch of sea salt and rounded off with a generous squeeze of fresh lemon juice.

Our Andrea making her promise “I will return!”

Ciao, Carina

Schiacciate con l’Uva

–     Grape Harvest Cake from Tuscany      –

For more than 8 years now, Jo and I have been visiting Florence once and even twice a year, but still we have not managed to be there during September for the Grape Harvest time. We always dream and talk about driving out into the Tuscan Country Side during that time and participate in the actual harvest, taking endless photographs, help everybody sampling the wine (!) of course and eat their delicious ‘Schiacciate con l’Uva’, which will mainly be eaten only during that time.

I know, Kerala is not exactly Tuscany, End of November is not September, wine….. oh forget wine for a moment, but at least our sweet little blue Grapes, which have now appeared slowly on all the fruit stalls all over the city, are very similar to the Tuscan grapes……small, sweet and full of seeds!

This cake (some refer to it also as ‘bread’) is actually very quick and easy to make. The only delay here in gobbling up your finished product is….. the seeds have to come out!! Don’t let it put you off from making this, after all it only took me around 30 minutes to deal with 1 kg of grapes.

When our friend Maria-Rosa in Florence heard of our dilemma she smiled and just said “ok, come for Coffee in two days”. So, two days later we went to “Mannelli” on the Ponte Vecchio to have Coffee with her and some friends and to our absolute delight she produced her home-made ‘Schiacciate con l’Uva’. And ever since I am making this little cake every year around this time – but I confess, it never lasted for very long.

Here now is her recipe for you to share with me.

You will need:

1 kg of the sweetest and juiciest blue grapes you can find, washed

200 g of white flour

1 large egg, very slightly beaten

½ sachet of baking powder

2-4 large sprigs of fresh rosemary (or 2 tsp of dried rosemary)

150 g walnuts, smashed into small pieces

110 ml extra virgin olive oil

150 g light brown sugar, reserve some for sprinkling over the top.

Method:

Preheat oven to 175 C

In a large bowl mix together flour, sugar, baking powder and the egg.

Heat up Olive Oil in separate pan on slow heat. Add Rosemary ‘needles’, stir for a few seconds only, until aroma tickles your nostrils. Ahhhh, inhale that delicious smell.

Add hot rosemary oil into the flour. Mix everything together. It is best to use your clean hands in order to work in the grapes and the nuts, popping some of the grapes between your fingers.

Line a baking dish with baking paper or butter the dish well and still using only your hands spread the mixture evenly.

Sprinkle some sugar over this mixture.

Now pop the cake into the pre-heated oven for 45 – 60 minutes (maximum).

Allow your cake to rest for at least 15 minutes before cutting.

Tips

Taking out all the seeds is worth the effort

When popping the grapes watch out – they do like jumping on your clothes, especially if you happen to wear ‘white’. (Jo just said while proof-reading “In your case, any dress will do!). Cheeky-so-and-so. 🙂

Experiment with the amount of rosemary ‘needles’ you want to use. Above measurements are the ones I use in my kitchen.

You can have a dollop of vanilla ice cream on the side, if you so wish.

This is not a very photogenic dish to produce, but I will be surprised if you would not want to make it again and again.

Ciao, Carina

HAPPY THANKSGIVING

To all my friends wherever you are in this world and who celebrate this joyous occasion

and with thanks for dropping into my site whenever you do.

I will be thinking of you.

Ciao, Carina

(Photos: CS/Manningtree Archive)

THE ROYAL CONNECTION

Saturday was earmarked as a potential day of rest – meaning doing just this and a little bit of that, like a quick visit to my hairdresser, like trying to bake a cake, doing some housework, checking out some clothes which possibly could be packed for our one month long trip to Bangkok early next month, etc.etc. etc. when my husband found 2 small articles in some of our local newspapers.

About one exhibition I wrote yesterday and this second one was about a small painting exhibition which was being held by Niranjana Varma, who is a member (on her father’s side) of the proud and ancient Royal family of Cochin, to be precise, of Tripunithura the capital of the former Kingdom of Cochin.

Painting exhibitions are to be found in our city a-plenty, and history is mostly read from books, but what really aroused my interest here was that Niranjana had painted scenes from the daily life in this area, especially around the famous Sree Poornathrayeesa Temple, considered one of the greatest Temples in Kerala, directly onto the Silk Sarees which were on display and up for sale. Ad since it is Festival Season at the Temple buyers for those unique hand painted silky works of art were aplenty. The artist used acrylic paint to immortalise her vision on silk.


She grew up in this area and knows how to capture the daily routine of the people living there, including the beloved Aana’s (Elephants) like no other artist.

I have to admit – I could not resist and so I bought 2 of her long hand painted silk shawls, one for each daughter. And since both are traditionalists I know they will like their little gifts. And should they not want to wear them they can be framed like paintings – which in fact they are.

All over the world, in every city or village somewhere we find something which should be rescued from men and the elements of time and preserved for posterity. But most of the time funds are short or don’t exist at all in order to go ahead and do the necessary and before one knows time has taken its toll on those buildings etc. and before long they have fallen completely into disrepair.

The same thing is happening here too. I did not know, that there are still 33 such old buildings in Tripunithura alone, and everyone of those buildings is classified as a Royal Palace. And as Niranjana explained to me “… since I cannot rebuild those ancient palaces, I at least keep them on paper for posterity…”

I did not have time to photograph all of her 33 water colours, but I do hope you enjoy the small selection of her work.

When I finally had to say good bye for the day since Niranjana and I had to rush off to some other appointments, we were joined by her very charming parents and I promised to return soon for a lengthy talk (or better, listening!) on Tripunithura’s history and tradition and who would be a better source than K.T.Ravi Varma Sir and his wife Hemalatha Varma.

Namaskaram,  Carina

(Disclaimer: The review is published on the basis of my visit to the exhibition and it is expressly stated that I have no dealings whatsoever with the artists or items displayed. CS)

(Photos: CS/Manningtreearchive)

“SOUL SISTERS”

Swetha, Rima, Neetha

Two little school girls, Swetha and Rima from the same town called Thrissur here in Kerala became best friends and remained thou even after they moved to Bangalore to attend College in order to get their Bachelor Degree in Journalism. There they were joined by Neetha, another student.

They grew up, sharing similar dreams, ideas about fashion and life-style – a common outlook on life in general. In January 2012 the three friends got together and decided on a joint business venture and so “Soul Sisters” was launched with a successful exhibition in, where else? – Thrissur of course. The name was the only obvious choice for those close young women. And as Rima said “…Swetha is my childhood friend and Neetha my bosom buddy…”

Rima is of course Rima Kallingal, an Indian model and film actress, predominantly appearing in Malayalam cinema, through which she shot to fame.

We have in our own library a couple of her films, viz., “Happy Husbands” and “22 Female Kottayam”, of which especially the latter caught our attention – very well acted and we feel that she certainly is a talent to watch out for here on our own silver screen .  I have to admit we have seen this film now twice and maybe tonight we watch it just once more for good measure.

Rima is currently in Cochin for the filming of her new film “Kamath & Kamath” and yesterday she and her two best friends, the trio known as the “Soul Sisters” launched a small but very exquisite exhibition at the ABAD PLAZA Hotel on M.G Road in Ernakulam.

I was on my way to my hairdresser but when Jo telephoned and told me of the small article in one of our local papers, I simply had to delay my ‘touch-up-appointment” and pop into the exhibition, only feeling a little bit sad, that Bianca could not be with me to see this – obviously she would have loved it.  

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But once there I took a few shots and even bought a little Christmas gift for her (shhhhh….secret!).

All the Sarees, Shalwar Kameez, Skirts and little blouses are the original ideas of the “Soul Sisters” who work closely with their designer in the final execution of the garment.

I leave you now with a glimpse of a very hectic and satisfying shopping day for their customers.

 

(My personal favourite pencil grey silk chiffon saree)

Ciao, Carina

(Disclaimer: The review is published on the basis of my visit to the exhibition and it is expressly stated that I have no dealings whatsoever with the artists or items displayed. CS)

(All photos: CS/Manningtree Archive)

OLD TOOLS – NEW THOUGHTS

An Installation Exhibition by Surendran Karthyayan

By the end of October Andrea, our younger daughter, had to once again return to her College to continue with her studies. So, a few last minutes errands had to be run and we set off to Ernakulam. Our shopping was done fairly quickly and we decided to go to the Durbar Hall Art Centre right in the centre of town; off M.G. Road (the main shopping mile!) to look at the latest Exhibitions.

Durbar Hall Art Centre has always been one of the most popular, if not the most important, place for established- , budding- and also new artists to show off their ‘labour of love’, their art work. And from here many have gone to greater heights, within India and abroad.

Anybody who is even slightly interested in the arts will assure that at least once a week they will go and see who is there and what is on display. Kerala (and in fact India) is blessed with many a great number of excellent painters et al. So, when tourists ask me ‘…what else from the obvious sightseeing can we do in Cochin…’ I invariably will send them to Durbar Hall Art Centre and frequently one of the paintings on display will be bought and given a new home somewhere in Europe or so.

Andrea and I were lucky to catch this exhibition before she left Cochin – the only sad thing was that the artist, Surendran Karthyayan, was not available that day to show us around and explain each one of his works since he had to travel back to Thiruvananthapuram (the capital of Kerala). So therefore now without further ado let us take you on a brief walk around the first exhibition hall, where he had so skillfully displayed his latest work, back-lit in supple soft colours which made his creations really stand out.

 

The medium this artist has chosen can be found in nearly every single house! Shovel, insulation wires, PVC pipes and connectors mostly used by Plumbers, machete, knives as used on the land by farmers.

 

 

And as he explained to me when I telephoned him later that day, “…when viewed in a different context even the most common objects that we use in our mundane life have a different meaning….”.

The following works go under the collective title of just “Tools”. Take the swirling multicoloured wire work for example – it signifies the panic inside a traumatised mind.

A tableau of small ‘parcels’ tied to the wire-backdrop caught our eyes – on closer inspection we found that each one contained one kind or another of various wood-chippings – different sizes, different forms, but all waste products of carpentry work in maybe constructing a house or furniture.

 

 

And Surendran Karthyayan explains further “….while making a house, each and every object counts. Even a small piece of stone is important for laying a strong foundation and if that piece falls out of place the whole construction will shatter. Same is the case with our life too….”

Ciao, Carina

(Disclaimer: The review is published on the basis of my visit to the exhibition and it is expressly stated that I have no dealings whatsoever with the artists or items displayed. CS)

(All pictures, except the photo of artist, are by CS/Manningtree Archive)