Cooking Italian in Hanoi’s rainy season – Get Inspired

I found a wonderful article written by author Darren Gall, while under the deluge of rain in nearby Cambodia: He creates a setting, a feeling and emotion,; it’s all about drinking the wine while cooking and definitely listening to great Italian opera to set the scene…



Cinghiale in dolceforte – Wild Boar in Red Wine and Bitter Chocolate


This traditional Tuscan recipe dates back to the early 1500s, evolving between the Renaissence and the Baroque. Cinghiale in Dolceforte is a complex dish involving nearly twenty ingredients, creating multiple layers of flavor. It’s a great supper dish for cold weather, or a very impressive dinner party main dish, and it can be served with Creamy Polenta. The dish has an exuberant layering of flavors and use of candied fruits, nuts, bitter  chocolate and red wine, Italian chefs often prefer using half and half: Port and Tuscan red wine for cooking, and the choice of a Tuscan red wine to drink with this dish in an interesting one,  Un Chianti Classico oppure, perché no?, un Brunello di Montalcino…. From Chianti Classico to Brunello di Montalcino….. Read Darren Gall’s wine choices…

The Blood Of Jove:




  • 2 cups red wine
  • 1/2 cup red wine vinegar
  • 1 medium yellow onion, peeled and halved
  • 1 carrot, coarsely chopped
  • 1 stalk celery, coarsely chopped
  • 1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 sprig fresh thyme (or 1 teaspoon dried)
  • 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • 2 teaspoons ground nutmeg
  • 2 teaspoons ground allspice
  • STEW:
  • 4 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 clove garlic, finely minced
  • 1 medium yellow onion, peeled and finely chopped
  • 1 carrot, finely chopped
  • 1 stalk celery, finely chopped
  • 2 teaspoons dried red chili pepper flakes (or to taste)
  • 3 1/2 ounces (100 g) prosciutto, finely chopped
  • 2 1/2 pounds wild boar, (if unavailable: stew beef, pork shoulder or other game meat, cut into 2-inch chunks
  • (Strained marinade liquid; see above)
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1/2 cup dried prunes, coarsely chopped (plumped in a small amount of warm water, then drained well)
  • 1 tablespoon brown sugar
  • Grated zest of 1 orange
  • 1 tablespoon raisins (plumped in a small amount of warm water, then drained well)
  • 1 tablespoon pine nuts
  • 2 ounces bittersweet chocolate (70% cacao), grated
  • Fine sea salt, to taste
  • Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
  • Freshly parsley leaves, finely chopped, for garnish

For the marinade:

In a large, heavy-bottomed pot, bring all of the marinade ingredients to a boil, then remove from heat and let cool completely. Submerge the chopped raw meat in the marinade and refrigerate, covered, for 48 hours.

Strain the meat and vegetables out of the liquid (retaining the marinade liquid). Separate meat from vegetables and discard vegetables and bay leaf.

For the stew:

In a large, heavy-bottomed saucepan or Dutch oven, heat the garlic in the olive oil just until it turns lightly golden. Add the onion, carrot, and celery and saute until vegetables are softened and onion is transparent, about 6 to 8 minutes. Add the chili pepper flakes and saute for another 30 seconds. Stir in the prosciutto and saute for about 1 minute.

Pat the pieces of meat with a paper towel until dried well, then add to the pot and stir just until browned. Pour in the strained marinade liquid and bring to a simmer, scraping the bottom of the pot with a wooden spoon to loosen any browned bits. Add the bay leaf. prunes and sugar and return to a simmer. Cover and let simmer over low heat until meat is very tender, about 2 hours.

When meat is tender, stir in the orange zest, raisins, pine nuts, and grated chocolate. Stir until chocolate is melted and all ingredients are well combined. Taste and adjust seasoning with salt and pepper, as necessary.

Serve over creamy bowls of polenta, sprinkled with finely chopped fresh parsley or nipitella.


Buon appetito da Jess Andrenelli

Rigatoni al Granchio – Recipe

Rigatoni sugo granchi

This recipe celebrates all that is delicious about crab. The combined sweetness of the crab and tomatoes is a great flavour match for the fresh, aniseedy kick of the fennel.


olive oil
2 large fennel bulbs
4 cloves of garlic, finely sliced
1 bunch of flat-leaf parsley, stalks finely chopped
1 tsp dried chilli flakes
½ teaspoon fennel seeds
2 lemons
2 x 400g tins of chopped tomatoes
250 g cherry tomatoes, on the vine
500 g rigatoni, dried or fresh
250 g undressed brown crabmeat, from sustainable sources
250 g white crabmeat, from sustainable sources


Place a frying pan over a medium heat and add a good glug of olive oil. Peel and finely chop the outer layers of the fennel. Set the leafy tops and inner hearts aside to make a salad later. Add the chopped fennel and garlic to the pan and cook for 2–3 minutes, or until soft.

Add the parsley stalks, chilli flakes, cinnamon and fennel seeds to the pan and fry for 2–3 minutes. Finely grate in the zest from your 2 lemons (reserve the lemons) and add the tinned tomatoes. Sit the cherry tomatoes, vines and all, on top to poach. Cover, reduce the heat to low and leave to simmer for 15 minutes.

Meanwhile, cook the pasta according to packet instructions.

While the pasta and sauce are cooking away, crack on with the salad. Push the reserved fennel hearts and one of the zested lemons through the thinnest slicing attachment on your food processor – or use a mandolin (or a knife). Tip into a bowl and season with a good pinch of salt and pepper. Add the reserved fennel tops and gently toss with your fingers. Put aside until you’re ready to serve.

Check the tomato sauce – it should look rich and glossy and the tomatoes should be soft and squashy. Carefully pick out and discard the vine, leaving the tomatoes in the pan. Gently stir in the brown crabmeat and let it heat up.

Drain the pasta, reserving a cupful of cooking water, then gently fold it through the ragù with the white crabmeat, adding a little of the reserved pasta water to loosen the sauce if needed. Serve the pasta on a lovely big platter with the fennel salad bang on top so you can mix and toss the two together as you serve. Chop the remaining lemon into wedges and serve on the side for squeezing over. The mix of flavours is a knockout!


Polpette Di Melanzane


The cooking of Puglia, the region that encompasses the ‘heel’ of the Italian peninsula on the Adriatic Sea, deserves to be much better known. It practically defines the Mediterranean diet, with a strong focus on simply prepared fruits of the sea and fresh produce like fava beans, cime di rape and eggplant. Puglia produces some of the best olive oil in Italy, of the deep green, fruity kind, which is used with abandon in the region’s dishes.



1 medium eggplant
100g grated parmesan cheese
1 egg
1 clove garlic
A handful of parsley
Salt and pepper
Bread crumbs (as much as needed)
Olive oil for frying

Roast the eggplant, whole and unpeeled, in a hot (200°C/400°F) oven for 15-20 minutes. Remove the eggplant from the oven and let it cool a bit. Skin the eggplant and place the flesh into a food processor. (If you find the flesh is watery, gently squeeze out the excess liquid with some paper towels.) Add the remaining ingredients (other than the bread crumbs) and process until well amalgamated and fairly smooth.
Then, spoonful by spoonful, and using the pulse function on your processor, mix in bread crumbs until the mixture holds together into a soft but workable paste. (Use only as much as you need, no more.)
Take a bit of the mixture at a time, form little ‘meatballs’. Shallow fry the meatballs in olive oil, or a mixture of olive oil and vegetable oil, until golden brown on all sides.


Recipe – Sarde in Saor – an antipasto with fresh sardines

One of my favourite Italian antipasti, perfect for an aperitif is sarde in saor – fried fresh sardine fillets marinated in softly cooked white onions, usually with vinegar, raisins and pine nuts, all preferably prepared the day before serving. sarde-in-saor-feature-101

The sharpness of the vinegar wakens the tastebuds, while the sweetness of the odd raisin here or there and the creamy nuttiness of the pine nuts balances the sourness. It is the ultimate sweet and sour, or agrodolce, dish.

Sarde in Saor
12 fresh sardines, cleaned, heads and backbone removed and butterflied
Flour for dusting
Vegetable, seed or olive oil for frying
Some white wine
a handful of raisins
1 white onion
250 ml of white wine vinegar
1 clove, ground or crushed
1 tsp coriander seeds, ground or crushed
freshly ground black pepper
a handful of pine nuts
Dust the sardine fillets in flour and deep fry in plenty of oil until golden and crisp. Season with salt and set aside on some paper towel to drain until needed.
Soak the raisins in some white wine to soften them. Meanwhile, slice the white onion finely and saute gently in some olive oil until they are transparent, then add the vinegar, pepper and spices. Let it cook for a few minutes then remove from heat.
In a small terrine or deep dish, place a layer of sardines, top them with some of the onions, some of the raisins (drained) and pine nuts, and continue layering until the sardines are used up, then top with a layer of onions, raisins, pine nuts and finish with the vinegar sauce poured over the top. Cover with plastic wrap and allow to marinate at least 24 hours before serving.
Serve as part of an antipasto, together with a selection of olives and crostini. These are best eaten at room temperature, removing from the fridge a couple of hours beforehand.

Recipe – Saltinbocca Alla Romana – Veal escalopes wrapped with prosciutto, sage & lemon

To celebrate September’s food tour to Lazio, we have chosen one of the special dishes from the menu:piatto-pronto-bicchieri-tovagliolo-azzurro_dettaglio_ricette_slider_grande3

SALTINBOCCA This classic Italian recipe for veal means ‘jump in the mouth’ – serve it with crusty bread to soak up the delicious pan juices. Buon appetito.

Bash out the escalopes until they are about 5mm thick. Place a sage leaf on each one, wrap with the prosciutto, then press another sage leaf on top and flatten out with your hand. Dust lightly with the seasoned flour. ( flour seasoned with black pepper and a pinch of salt) Heat the oil and the butter in a large frying pan until foaming, and fry the veal for 4-5 mins on each side until the prosciutto is crisp, then remove from the pan. Add the Marsala wine to the pan and sizzle to make a sauce. Add the lemon juice to taste. Put the veal back in the pan to heat through, then serve with a green salad and crusty bread.


3 veal escalopes, about 150g each
6 sage leaves
6 slices prosciutto
50g plain flour, seasoned
splash olive oil
small knobs of butter
200ml marsala wine
juice ½ lemon

Venetian recipe: Baccalà Mantecato – Whipped Cod Mousse

news-dried_salted_cod_fishYou cannot talk about Venetian food without talking about the ‘chicheto’, that wonderful ritual bite to eat with a sparkling glass of Spritz or an Ombra, a glass of local wine. And you cannot talk about the ‘chicheto’ without mentioning the Baccalà Mantecato: Dried Atlantic cod, soaked, poached and whipped into a mousse, then spread on a slice of baguette or grilled polenta.


700 gramms of unsalted Baccalà (stockfish already soaked) or if unable to source the dried fish, fresh Cod maybe used. 2 Cloves of garlic, half a cup of extra virgin olive oil, sea salt and black pepper.


Place the Baccalà in a large saucepan and cover with cold water, add garlic and bring to the boil and simmer for 15 minutes until the fish is tender. Drain the fish and keep aside a little of the water, remove the garlic and the skin and any bones, then place in a bowl. While the fish is still hot begin whipping the fish into a cream, using a wooden spoon and at the same time add a thin slow drizzle of olive oil. Continue whipping until the fish reaches a creamy mousse like consistency. This is easiest with two people, otherwise just pause now and then to add the olive oil in stages. You might need to add a spoon or two of the cooking water if it is too dense, this will depend on the quality of the stock fish and how long it was soaked prior to poaching. After season to taste with fresh ground black pepper and sea salt.

Serve on Polenta or slices of Baguette, garnish with chopped parsley leaves scattered on top and a little ground nutmeg.


Molise Recipe – Minestra Maritata, Wedding Soup

minestra_maritata-300x225This delicious traditional recipe from Molise is for a wedding soup with meatballs, chicken, endive and escarole.


For the meatballs – 1 lb of ground beef or veal, 1 egg, half cup of bread crumbs, 1 clove of minced garlic, sea salt and black pepper. For the soup – I chicken (cleaned. heart, liver etc removed), 1 escarole head and 1 endive (or use other greens such as cabbage, kale or spinach) 2 medium chopped onions, half a cup of chopped celery, half a cup of chopped carrots, 1 cup of grated parmesan cheese .


In a large soup pot place the chicken, chopped onion, celery, carrot and a pinch of salt then cover with water and simmer for 1 hour. Prepare the meat balls: Mix the ground meat, egg and bread crumbs, garlic, salt and pepper, and shape into little balls, then bake the meat balls in the oven for 25 minutes at 350 F or until browned. Boil the endive and escarole until tender then drain and set aside. Remove the chicken from the pot and bone the chicken and return the meat to the pot. Add the meatballs and endive and escarole and heat, then serve with grated parmesan cheese and fresh ground black pepper with crostini-toasted bread garnished with olive oil.


Cannelloni Alla Sorrentina – Stuffed Pasta, Sorrentine Style

Delicious cannelloni with a rich tomato sauce, topped with melting cheese.To celebrate this week’s food tour to Campania, we are posting a classic recipe from Sorrentina. The southern Italian region of Campania has much to offer food lovers:
Pepperonico and buffalo mozzarella reign as kings, fresh seafood is abundant and the pizza is the best in the world. Campania is home to the gorgeous Sorrento Peninsula and below is one of the most popular recipes for Cannelloni Alla Sorrentina.

You’ll need:

1/2 cup olive oil

*1 clove garlic, chopped

*4 anchovy fillets, chopped

3/4 lb cubed lean beef or pork *400g minced beef and pork

1 medium onion, finely chopped

1/4 cup dry white wine

1 2/3 cups tomato paste

1/4 cup shredded basil

2 cups ricotta

6oz fior di latte cheese, cubed *170g

*50g baby spinach, chopped

1/2 cup freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano

12 squares fresh pasta 5-6 inches to a side.(* I used the fresh lasagne sheets)


Preheat the oven to 400F (*200C). Heat the oil in a large pan and add the garlic, onion and anchovies.  Then add the meat. Cook until the meat is browned and the onion is golden.  Pour in the wine and let it evaporate, then add the tomato paste, a pinch of salt and basil.  Add 1 cup of water and cook until the meat has broken down nearly to a paste (if you use mince, it will take less time then cubed meat).  Remove from heat and add the ricotta, fior di latte, baby spinach and a little parmigiano-reggiano. Cook the pasta squares a few at a time in lightly salted boiling water, removing them from the water when they rise to the surface and aligning them on a counter top (preferably marble) dampened with cold water (*You don’t need to pre cook if you use the fresh lasagne sheets that are ready to go).  Put a tablespoon of the meat and ricotta filling across the centre of each square and roll them up to form cannelloni.  Spoon some of the meat sauce in the bottom of a rectangular baking dish, then align the cannelloni in the dish in a single layer.  Cover the cannelloni with more sauce, sprinkle with Parmigiano-Reggiano, and bake for 15-20 mins until the sauce is boiling.

Remove from the oven and garnish with parsley.

Makes 12.

Sardegna – Traditional Desert Sweets – Caschettas & Aranzada


To celebrate our Culinary tour, this week in Sardinia, we have posted two desert recipes: The traditional Sardinian sweets are an important part of meals, and in many homes a large platter of ‘Dolci Sardi’ will appear at the end of lunches and dinners accompanied by a local liquor normally Mirto ( made from Myrtle Berries). There are a huge variety of cakes and sweets, and every region in Sardinia has its own recipes, ingredients and traditions for baking, but in general the main ingredients are almonds and honey.


CASCHETTAS   Given to the bride on her wedding day, pastry as thin as the veil of a bride that contain within them honey, saffron, almonds and hazelnuts, this cake is especially prevalent in the Barbagia region, and the local villages vie for supremacy.

Ingredients: 300 gr of Almonds, 100 gr hazelnuts, 4 oranges, ½ cup of honey, 200 gr flour, 1 egg, 1 teaspoon of saffron, 50 gr. of lard


Begin by preparing the filling. Boil, peel and dry the Almonds, then finely chop them. Peel the oranges and lightly bake the peel in the oven and then chop finely. Add the orange peel and the Almonds to the honey in a sauce pan, cooking on a low heat, stirring until you obtain a creamy paste. Then Remove from the heat and leave to cool.
Now it’s time to prepare the pastry leaves: Mix the flour, egg, a pinch of salt and the lard and knead into a ball and then leave it to rest in a cool place. After take the filling paste and roll it into little snakes, about 1 cm thick and 10 cm long.


Then take the pastry ball and pull away small lumps of pastry, stretching them into strips which are wafer thin and almost transparent. For those of you who find this difficult, a cold bottle can be use to roll the pastry into thin strips. The strips should be 3 cm wide and about 10 cm long. Then fold the strips around the ‘little snakes’ and then form into different shapes such as spirals or flowers. Then place the Caschettas on a baking tray and put in a warm oven for about half an hour, until the pastry leaves turn golden.caschettas appena fatte_145




There are even Italian cakes that use oranges as the main ingredient like the famous Aranzada from Nuoro. Aranzada dates from the late 1800’s and was patented by Battista Guiso. Aranzada is thin threads of orange peel that is candied in honey with addition of almonds. The original maker of these cakes Battista Guiso served many important customers, even the Royal Family.


500 gr. Orange Peel

500 gr. Toasted Slivered Almonds

500 gr. Honey

The secret to making this delicious authentic cookie is the attention to peeling the oranges. All the white pith must be removed full a richer taste of the orange zest. The orange peel wants to be sliced into stripes as thin as possible as this will make the overall cookie sweeter.


Once the orange strips are prepared they need to soak in a bowl of water for two days. Change the water at least once a day and preferably twice. After the peel has soaked drain off as much as possible. Place the honey in a heavy saucepan and heat gently without boiling, add the orange peel and leave it to cook for about half an hour. Finally add the toasted almonds and give it all a good stir. Then place little drops of the mixture into baking cases, leave to cool and serve.