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Wednesday, 29 August 2012

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There's more to Italian Cuisine than pasta

There's more to Italian cuisine than pasta, as you'll discover in the Marche. With delicious cheeses, cured meats, truffles and speciality dishes this is gourmet heaven.

"Few people seem to go on vacation to the Marche, the region of Italy that lies between Umbria and the Adriatic. Yet it is a delightful area, with rolling hills, great beaches, long stretches of undeveloped coastline and cultured hilltowns such as Urbino. If you take a cheap flight to the Marche – you can fly to Acona from London - you’ll not only escape the tourists who flock to Tuscany and Rome, you’ll be able to try the region’s delicious cuisine. As Fred Plotkin says in his fascinating book Italy for the Gourmet Traveller (Kyle Cathie £14.99), ‘the combination of sea, hills, and mountains’ in the Marche means that ‘there is superb seafood as well as excellent truffles, mushrooms, meats, olives, grapes, and especially cheeses. Dishes to look out for on your vacation include vincisgrassi, a rich lasagne made with cream, veal ragu and black truffles; brodetto, a fish stew made with garlic and herbs and served over slices of bread; lumache a nove erbe, which is snails cooked with nine herbs – a speciality of the northern Marche; and sarde alla Marchigiana, a dish of sardines which are baked with breadcrumbs, rosemary, parsley and lemon. As you explore the Marche, you will also find speciality cheeses such as Casciotta, a cheese made from a mix of sheep’s milk and cow’s milk, that Fred Plotkin says was Michelangelo’s favourite cheese. Apparently the great Renaissance artist used to eat keep supplies of casciotta handy so he could eat it while he sculpted. Michelangelo liked it so much he eventually bought land near Urbino and grazed sheep on it, so that he would always have casciotta to eat. Other traditional cheeses from the Marche are Formaggio di Fossa, a pecorino cheese stored in caves, and Pecorino Sotto le Foglie di Noci, a pecorino cheese wrapped in walnut leaves. In Italy for the Gourmet Traveller, Fred Plotkin suggests restaurants where you might like to eat when you visit the Marche. He also provides some recipes for classic dishes of the region. This recipe for Shrimps Wrapped in Prosciutto, which appears here with permission, is a speciality of Ristorante delle Rose in Marina di Montemarciano. It uses prosciutto from the town of Carpenga, but if that is unavailable you may substitute it with prosciutto from Parma or San Daniele. Prosciutto from Carpegna is saltier than the others."

Tuesday, 14 August 2012


If you have the chance to be near Bolgheri in Tuscany, don't miss to visit the Winery:

Le Macchiole

Le Macchiole is a story of men and human endeavor. And of one man in particular.

Eugenio was strongly convinced of his passion for wine that, when it entered his life, took it over and proceeded to profoundly transform it. Always one for experimenting, he decided to become a winegrower; following his instinct and wholeheartedly committing himself to hard work, he became a very successful one. Cinzia, his partner for years, was his accomplice in this new and challenging adventure.

Outlets in Le Marche

Thursday, 9 August 2012

Eating Sea Urchins in Apulia

Article first published as Eating Sea Urchins in Apulia on Technorati. 

"Buy the sea urchins!" This exclamation can be heard every morning at more or less the same time. When the fishermen are back with their booty. Have you ever tried these spiny sea animals? If not, Apulia, the "heel of the Italian boot", might be the perfect place for an introduction. Sea urchins can be found along the whole of the stunning Puglian coast, and you will hear that cry everywhere you go.

It is commonly said that fruti di mare (seafood) are best savoured during the months containing an "r", therefore mainly in the winter, for freshness. You will however have no trouble finding sea urchins while on holiday in the summer. It might even be fun to go and collect some yourself, but be careful not to walk on them! The spikes breaking into your flesh will be very painful, and it takes a long time for them to come out. Use thick gloves or tongs to haul the ricci di mare out of the water, and put them straight into the large bag you will have taken with you.

If you purchase them, the fishmonger will show you how to open the sea urchins or do it for you. It might be a good idea to learn the proper way if you are having a go on your own. As the edible part is nesting on one side only, it would be a shame to destroy it by tackling the wrong part. Special pliers dedicated to that job exist and you will get the best results that way, but a pair of sturdy scissors or simply a sharp knife can also be used for that purpose.

Once open, you will marvel at the delicate orange colour. The edible part, called the roe, can be rinsed with fresh or salt water first. You can also skip that part: Just tip the shell to drain it and start eating with a knife or a spoon. Its foamy consistency is surprising at first, and then the salty, subtle taste hits your taste buds. Add a piece of fresh bread to the equation and you will get one perfect combination of food heaven.

Eating it raw is not to your taste? Not a problem. Try one of the several existing pasta or risotto recipes in the comfort of your own kitchen for a special lunch or dinner.

Sadly, a new report that ocean acidification is affecting shell growing in sea creatures, therefore rendering them more exposed to predator attacks, has now been published. Which impact will this consequence of climate change have on the marine food chain, and also on human seafood supply? Will the simple pleasure described in this article disappear one day?