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My Roman vacation or eating and drinking in Rome

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 This year I went for a short (for 10 days) spring holiday for Rome not only for pleasure but also to discover the Roman cuisine. I am a great gourmet so that I got already excited when my airplain took to the air. This time I haven’t thought yet that my food adventure would turn to a non stop fuming. Here is the story:

I tried out four different restaurants namely:  the Da Meo Petacca (Trastevere), the Suggestium (piazza Barberini), Cul de Sac (piazza Navona) and one Argentinian-Italian one the Carlitos Gardel 

At Da Meo Petacca’s: It was Sunday afternoon around two o’ clock. We were worn out of the 5 hours non-stop walking (being a tourist is sometimes hard istn’t it?). So it was high time for recharging our batteries so we decided to take a bus and go to Trastevere. But when we had found our right bus the driver told us that there is no public transport until 3 o’clock due to the 17th Roman marathon. Seeing our great disappointment he wanted to help us-but tell me where did you want to go?-asked he.  We answered that we would want to eat somewhere. He smiled at us and gestured just jump in.-I will take you to my favourite restaurant. And he did. He took us to the Da Meo Petacca. When we arrived at the piazza De’Mercanti he opened the door, bade farewell and drove away. 

The restaurant was housed in an ancient stable in the heart of Trastevere, (the left-bank section of Rome) and  at the first sight it cut a poor figure. From outside it was everything but not invited. And the surroundings? Oh my God!  It was dirty and filthy, the plants were about perishing. But we were in the end of our sources so we took the plunge and entered. What we saw after all it was another surprise. Nice stylish interior with beautiful, reminiscent decoration. We also revealed that much later that the Da Meo Petacca was not only a restaurant, but also a night club, a carefree beer parlor or we can put in that way an old Roman rendez-vous, depending upon the mood and inclination of the visitor. (The owner Remington Olmsted, former football star of Los Angeles, dancer and student of opera, after leaving UCLA,  when he arrived in Rome, he felt like coming home. In no time he married an Italian girl, Diana, daughter of Daniele Varè, the former ambassador and author of  the book “The Laughing Diplomat” and settled down in Rome.  His Italian friends, some  Trasteverini’s docs, encouraged him to start a restaurant the Da meo patacca.  His choice of the name explains much of the flavor and spirited activity of continuing fiesta and song that floats out on the night breezes from the Piazza Mercanti. Olmsted added several troupes of troubadours in the Ol’ Italian style who sing everything from naughty Trastevere songs to the romantic melodies of Naple and from grand opera to  American songs).

 So we stayed there and had a lunch.
 About the food: our primi piatti alias de horse d’oeuvres were: My husband’s pick was the typical Italian starter the bruscetta (garlic bread with tomatoes). He got a tiny, mini slice of bread with some squashed tomato (but they had a cheek to ask 3 euros for it) and I went for the pinzimonio (olive oil with pepper and salt in which raw vegetables are dipped). Other choises could have been the spaghetti alla carbonara, the stracciatella (broth with egg semolina and parmezan cheese) the Pasta e broccoli con cotiche (pasta with broccoli and the pasta e ceci (pasta with chickpeas) while Italians account dishes with spaghetti as a starter.

The second course: I ordered a Fetuccini pasta with porcini mushroom and my husband chose the famous Saltimbocca ( rolled veal and ham cooked with sage) they also had baccala fritto (fried fillets of cod) but we didn’t feel like eating fish while we eat enough at home. 

The first surprise was when my husband got his dish, a piece of meat and nothing else. He was not aware of the fact that side dishes in Roman meaning are never mere accompanying main dishes but ones in their own right so he got only bread and one slice of courgette. About the porcini: I should have known that March is not the best time eating porcini while the fresh ones are not yet available in the markets. Maybe that was the reason why my porcini was far away from the enjoyable one. They were soaked in water before cooking so that they tasted slimy. They were not bad but not good as well. For both of us the dessert -Tiramisu- was the most delicious dish but the portions were quite small for 5 euros. Good for our lines!

 

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Mardi gras

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mardi gras

Mardi Gras
Mardi Gras

Hungarian scone “pogacsa” recipe

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Hungarian scone “pogácsa” recipe

The pogácsa is a type of savory scone-patty in Hungarian cuisine. The Hungarian word derives ultimately from the Latin panis focacius, i.e. bread (panis) baked on the hearth or fireplace (focus), via the Italian  focaccia and, more directly, south Slavic languages (Serbo-Croatian pogača). The word, and to a greater or lesser degree the food itself, is related as well to the Turkish poğaça, the Greek μπουγάτσα, and the French fougasse. Pogácsa is also a typical product of other cuisines in the Pannonian Basin. It is known by similar names by the people of these regions like the Austrian German pogatschen, borrowed from the Hungarian.

Pogácsa, in Hungary are made from either short dough or yeast dough. As with scones and biscuits, eggs and butter are common ingredients, as is milk, cream or sour cream. Many traditional versions exist, with size, shape–the most common is round– typically 3 to 10 cm in diameter- and flavor variations in each region/city of Hungary. A dozen different ingredients can be found either in the dough, sprinkled on top before baking, or both: medium-firm fresh cheeses, aged dry hard cheese(s), pork crackling, cabbage, black pepper, hot or sweet paprika, garlic, red onion, caraway seeds, sesame seeds, sunflower seeds or poppy seeds. They are traditionally eaten as a snack or with soup specially the bigger ones, with a stew such as goulash or bean soup.

The imagery of a young boy or young man off to see the world with fresh “pogácsa baked on cinder” in his knapsack is a common scene in many Hungarian fables and folk stories.

The recipe:

Ingredients: 2 cups or 500 grams all-purpose flour, 1 pinch of sugar, 20 grams of yeast, 100 ml milk, 1/4 teaspoon baking soda, 1/2 teaspoon salt, 8 tablespoons or 300 grams butter, 1/2 cup or 200 ml cream, 2 large eggs, 200 grams cheese such as Emmentaler, Maasdam

Directions

  1. Add yeast into the lukewarm milk. Don’t forget to add 1 teaspoon of sugar! Wait until yeast is raised.
  2. In a large bowl, mix flour, raised yeast-milk, baking soda and salt. Add butter or margarine into flour mixture, and using clean hands, blend until mixture resembles coarse meal (mixture should resemble coarse meal).
  3. In a small bowl, whisk cream and egg until smooth. Add egg and cream into flour, and mix until dough holds together.
  4. Grate cheese and add to dough.
  5. Use your hands to press the dough against the bowl into a ball. (The dough will be sticky in places, and there may not seem to be enough liquid at first, but as you press, the dough will come together).
  6. Cover and let it grow for about 2 hours. Then roll the dough with a rolling pin.
  7. the dough
  8. Preheat oven to 400 F or 220 degrees. Form dough into round balls with the pastry cutter.
  9. Place scones on a lightly buttered and floured surface or nonstick cookie sheet (preferably lined with parchment paper). Make a crosshatch design by pressing the back of fork tines on top of each scone. Scones should be spaced about 1-inch apart. Smear scones with egg white or oil.
  10. Bake in oven for about 25 minutes, or until scones are pale golden. Cool for 5 minutes and serve warm or at room temperature.
  11. The pogacsa is ready

Carnival feast

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Carnival, the  exciting time of the year is coming in two weeks!

Preface: The official beginning of Germany’s carnival season, the so called “Fifth Season” is on November 11th, at 11:11 a.m. The “Council of Eleven” comes together throughout Germany to plan the events for the upcoming carnival festivities. The official hats of the councils’ members this year is the Colorful fool’s caps with little bells. The real deal though won’t happen until March 7-9, 2011; in this year Germany’s costume balls and street parades take place between March 7-9, 2011, so mark your calendars and start planning!

Almost every German city celebrates carnival and organizes a street parade in its city center, but the best and most traditional carnival festivities take place in Cologne, Düsseldorf, Münster, Baden-Würtemberg, Aachen, and Mainz.

The celebrations kick off with “Women’s Carnival” on Thursday before Ash Wednesday. So ladies, this is your day: You can kiss any man you like after cutting off his tie.

The next highlight is Rose Monday: Marching bands, dancers, and floats parade down the streets, throwing confetti, sweets, and toys. The elaborate floats often show caricatured figures mocking politicians and other personalities. Thousands of dressed-up Germans are flocking the streets every year to watch this spectacle.

On Shrove Tuesday, costume balls are held all over Germany, while the quiet Ash Wednesday marks the end of the frenzied fun.

Carnival can not be celebrated without eating donuts (Krapfen in German). The name Krapfen comes from eaten on “schmaltzy Saturday” as “Schmoizana Samsda”, and arose from the custom of that day a large supply of fat noodles and donuts to bake, which had to reach up to Shrove Tuesday – following the motto: “It is funny the Fasenacht if the mother Kücheln bacht, but if they do not bacht, I whistle on the Fasenacht.

 So you do not desire to “Fasenacht” passes, we have to put together some recipes for the schmaltzy temptation.   

Part two

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ENGLISH CHEFS TEACH THE WORLD TO COOK

Delia Smith is the UK’s best-selling cookery author, and is known for her interest in teaching basic cookery skills. She had an oracle status in UK but when I was recently watching one of her latest up-dated shows –sorry for the metaphor- but I felt like having sex in the 80s. She did all the stuff right, but she did get the words all wrong. She’s the ghost of the past. I don’t want you to get bored talking about her whole program I’d rather give some examples: She used the word “cold cuts”. She repeated that double cream is highly calorific, and therefore should only be used as a special treat. Okay Delia was right. Cuts of cold meat are cold, and double cream is very fattening. I read that she has always been a big fan of béchamel sauce. This really is 80s, it might even be 70s. Nobody makes a “roux” anymore, it takes me back to my grandma’s kitchen but that’s not all! She just used corn flour in a custard sauce. That’s the bit that chefs disapprove of, apparently. I’m with the chefs here. Corn flour is a weird thing in a sauce. And the soundtrack, oh my God: Bob Marley’s Stir It Up, while she was stirring! In my opinion nowadays people want to be entertained not being taught how to cook.

Another celebrity chef: James Olivier. His specialty is the Italian cuisine. He is most proud of his rustic Italian recipes that have been tried, tested and loved but my question is why should we follow an English chef cooking Italian dishes? I have seen some of his cooking shows for instance when he was in USA.  His audience was almost fallen asleep when he prepared the English classic: Fish and chips (all right the chips were wrapped in newspaper, wow what a cool way of presentation) with peas puree flavored with mint. He also appeared in one of Martha Stewart’s show and came up with some boring Italian pasta. It was not bad but nothing special to show off with.

Anyway Oliver is a very nice guy I have nothing to say against him. His charity work and efforts to teach children eat better and healthier should be followed but in 2008 Oliver organized a school dinner campaign to improve the quality of food fed to pupils. While the campaign was arguably successful, it made headlines after a handful of parents revolted against Oliver’s lunch plan (in which all 1,100 pupils on site were fed two portions of fruit and three vegetables every day) by delivering junk food from local shops to the pupils through the school fence. One parent dismissed Oliver’s food as “disgusting rubbish” and declared- “Food is cheaper and tastes better at the local takeaways”-. I didn’t say that, the parents did!

The next on my list  is the notorious swearing chef Gordon Ramsay: he is one of only four chefs in the UK who maintains three Michelin stars for his restaurant (the others being Heston Blumenthal, Alain Ducasse and Alain Roux). But maybe it doesn’t mean anything: I tried once one of his turkey recipes but Oh my God! However I followed the instructions step by step the turkey turned out of a disaster (later I read in the you tube that lots of others had the same result). So probably I have to go along with the loudmouth Mario Batali Italian chef when he labeled Ramsay’s culinary fare “dull and outdated” and also said Ramsay didn’t get New York at all!

Heston Blumenthal: He was preparing sweet and savory bacon-and-egg ice cream in the early 2004, and the news about the intriguingly odd confection quickly spread through the food world. Soon his restaurant “The Fat Duck” became credited as instigators of the bacon dessert “craze”. In my opinion he is rather a culinary alchemist (for his innovative style of cooking) than an ordinary cook. Or it could be said that he is a molecular gastronomist, (though he dislikes the term, believing it makes the practice sound “complicated” and “elitist). One of his signature techniques is the use of a vacuum jar to increase expansion of bubbles during food preparation. This was used in such dishes as an aerated chocolate soufflé–like dessert. I tried that soufflé and it tasted like a watery chocolate.

In his In Search of Perfection series, (you can find in the you tube) he cooks a Bresse chicken at 60 degrees Celsius (140 degrees Fahrenheit). He explains that ultra-slow cooking does not melt the fat or release many juices, making the creation of gravy impossible, but Blumenthal says that gravy is unnecessary as the meat itself is sufficiently moist. In the case of Beef steak he uses another method the so called sous-vide, when the steak is held at around 60° Celsius or 140° Fahrenheit for a minimum of thirty minutes. Then we should remove from the bag and sear in a very hot pan. Searing the outside of the steak not only improves the flavor and texture of the meat it but also kills the harmful bacteria on the outside of the steak that survived the water bath.

I have to admit nevertheless his programs are really fascinating and animated I don’t think that ordinary people can afford to follow his expensive techniques.

PS: According to reports, James Oliver’s restaurant suffered from low bookings.

It just came a year after Ramsay was forced to close another branch of Maze in Prague and in the USA as well.

Blumenthal’s restaurant the Fat Duck was shut over food poisoning scare. 400 people got sick with salmonella!

 

My question is: Did they become famous because their mother tongues are English or because of their cooking skills?

sources: wikipedia

January

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Knut the icebear

 I like decorating and collecting things. This picture was made before my children guests had arrived. The plates are from Italy, the icebear candles from the Depot decoration shop.

Guinea-fowl with brusselssprouts and polenta

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Since my childhood I’ve loved guinea-fowl. My grandma prepared the best dish ever from that little, fragile bird.

In Belgium it’s very popular to eat with caramelized endives or when you are just simply tired of the chicken dishes.

Here is my own recipe:

Ingredients: four guinea-fowl filet or legs, 150 gr bacon or pancetta, four carrots, some celery, 2 cloves of garlic, 1 bay leaf, 1 teaspoon thyme, 1 tbs butter and 1 tbs oil, 1 dl red wine and 4 tbs porto wine, chicken or wild broth, 1 tbs of flour, salt and pepper

for the brusselssprouts: 200 grs brussel sprouts, 1 onion, salt, pepper, 1 tbs brown sugar, 2 tbs red balsamic vinegar or sherry

Method: Clean the fowl by plucking out any additional feathers. Rub with salt, sprinkle with thyme. Clean vegetables, chop them.

First, melt the butter with the oil in a casserole and, keeping the heat fairly high, fry the guinea fowl until they are a good golden brown.

Then turn them over and brown the other side, which should take about 8-10 minutes altogether.  When they brown, remove the joints with a draining spoon and keep to one side.

Brown the pancetta in the same greese for 5 minutes, followed by the shallots. Then return the guinea fowl to the casserole, tuck in the sprigs of thyme and the bay leaf, then add the crushed garlic. Now season with freshly milled black pepper and just a little salt, then pour in the wines. Put a lid on and simmer over a very gentle heat for 45 minutes. Then add vegetables and wild broth and continue to cook for another 15 minutes. When the vegetables are tender remove the guinea fowl, pancetta, shallots and vegetables and transfer to a warm serving dish. Keep warm.

Discard the herbs, bring the liquid in the casserole up to a fast boil and reduce by about one third. Next, mix the arrowroot to a paste with a little water, then add a little of the hot sauce. Now add all the arrowroot mixture to the rest of the liquid and bring to the boil, whisking all the time until the sauce has thickened. Pour the sauce over the guinea fowl and serve with the brussels sprouts.

Brussel sprouts caramelized in sugar

Method: Clean the sprouts, cut them in two. Heat butter and oil mixture in a large frying pan and gently cook the shallots and the sprouts together.

 Sprinkle them with salt, and add sugar. Let them caramelized in the oil and butter mixture. Continue steaming adding some water for 4-5 minutes or so, which should be enough to just half-cook them.

When the shallots have softened, remove them from the pan. After that, turn the heat up under the frying pan. Add sherry or balsamic vinegar; let it bubble and reduce  liquid while you constantly turn the sprouts over and over to soak up the flavour of the vinegar. If it’s necessary add some water. Flavour with salt and pepper. When the sprouts are tender add to the guinea-fowl as a sidedish.

Bon appetite!!