Saturday, 15 February 2020

Recipes from Rome

I experimented new recipes with my mum in Rome as usual. They were for the Christmas festivities but are good all-over winter time. Here they are:

Cake with ginger and dark chocolate

You need: 300 g of flour, two eggs, 100 g of Demerara sugar, 100 g of melted butter, one and a half tsp pf baking powder, one tsp of bicarbonate of soda, one tbsp. of ground ginger, 200 g of yogurt or four tbsp. of milk. To decorate: 100 g of dark chocolate, 75%, the peel of an orange, half a tsp of ground ginger and one tsp of Demerara sugar.

Warm the butter with the Demerara sugar and the ginger. Beat the eggs and add all the other ingredients together with the butter and ginger mixture. Stir until you obtain a smooth mixture. Pour the mixture in a greased round tin cake and bake at 180℃  for half an hour or until ready. Let it cool and prepare the decoration melting the chocolate with 10 g of butted and a tbsp. of milk. Cover the cake with the chocolate mixture and let it cool. Cut the peel of the orange in small pieces and boil it with two tbsp. of water, the ground ginger plus Demerara sugar. Let it boil for 10-15 minutes then decorate the top of the cake with the orange pieces and pour some of the water on the cake.

Small panettone

You need: 400 g of flour, two egg yolks, 50 g of raisins, 50 g of mixed peel, the zest of an orange, 50 g of melted butter, 50 g of sugar, 12 g of dry yeast, a pinch of salt.

Soak the raisins in warm water and some drops of liquor (optional). Beat the eggs with the sugar, add the melted butter and the rest of the ingredients. Add the raisins and the warm water as well. Knead the dough and cover it with a wet tea towel. Let it rest in a warm place for two hours.  Knead the dough again, divide it in small portions and place them in paper cases. Cover the cases with film and let it rest in a warm place for an hour. Bake at 180℃ for half an hour or till ready. Dust with icing sugar to finish.

Special carbonara

For four people you need: 400 g of fresh egg tagliolini, 100 g of prosciutto, 30 g of butter, four tbsp. of parmigiano, 150 g of double cream, black pepper, four eggs, some gin or cognac.

Cut the prosciutto in pieces and sauté it in a frying pan with the butter. Add the double cream and the liquor, let it simmer for a few minutes. In a bowl beat the eggs with the parmigiano and pepper. Cook the tagliolini in salted water. Drain them when ready keeping some of the water. Pour the pasta in the frying pan and add the beaten eggs and some of the water. Stir and mix the tagliolini until the eggs are cooked and serve with extra black pepper and parmigiano.

Spaghetti alla bottarga

A friend of mine, who is originally from Sardinia, prepared a special treat for me and my mum when we visited her. It is a simple delicious recipe with a Sardinian ingredient: bottarga di mugine, that is, the eggs of grey mullet.

For four people you need: 20 g of bottarga di mugine, three pieces of garlic cloves peeled and chopped, extra virgin olive oil, 300 g of spaghetti, fresh parsley.

Cut the parsley thinly, warm the oil in a frying pan and add the garlic. Let it simmer for 5-10 minutes without burning it. Add 15 g of bottarga, stir and turn off the heat. Cook the spaghetti in salty water and drain them. Add the bottarga sauce, the rest of the bottarga and the parsley. Serve warm with more fresh parsley on top.

My Sardinian friend also prepared special raw artichokes cut in pieces and seasoned with extra virgin olive oil, bottarga and shaves of parmigiano, it was delicious!

Some treats from Moldavia

My mum’s carer, Tania, is from Moldavia. She prepared a treat for us that they always make in Moldavia for festivities. We call it insalata russa (coleslaw or egg salad), Olivie in Moldavian. To have a successful dish, the secret is in balancing the doses of the different ingredients. She also brought a cockerel that we boiled to make chicken broth for our evening soup adding pastina (little pasta in the shape of stars or small squares).

Olivie (coleslaw or egg salad)

You need: three potatoes, three carrots, six small pickled cucumbers, four hard boiled eggs, one pepper, half of a chicken breast or some salami, salt, pepper and mayonnaise.

Boil all the ingredients except the pepper, salami and pickles. Cut all the ingredients in cubes and mix them. Add salt, pepper and mayonnaise. Mix well and chill for one hour before serving.

Brodo di gallo

Cook the cockerel in water with one peeled onion, a potato, a carrot, a stalk of celery and a tomato. Add salt and let it simmer for one-two hours. Cook the pastina in the broth and serve warm with parmigiano.


Friday, 31 January 2020

Amazing Naples

I spent one day in Naples with my husband, my parents in law and one of my boys. The trip is only one hour by train from Rome, very comfortable with Frecciarossa and Italo. It was a warm sunny day; Naples’ recently renovated railway station is modern, clean and welcoming, included the toilets, though a bit expensive (€ 1). The underground was spotless and looked new as well. The National Archaeological Museum was efficiently organised, though I found the captions a bit cryptic sometimes.

Visiting Naples was riveting and fascinating. The city has so many faces, all interesting, revealing cultural, artistic and social diversity that have been layered throughout centuries, as Pino Daniele brilliantly sings: This is well explained in the Museum with artefacts that date from the 4th century BC. Unique Attic black amphorae illustrating Greek myths, helmets and gold jewels from Magna Graecia time were on display as well as Roman statues, some of them copies of Greek originals. There were statues and bronzes rescued from the sea near the blue grotto of Anacapri and at Punta Licosa. At the entrance hall a beautiful Neapolitan Presepe welcomes the visitor. It is circular showing the activities and products of the region with the nativity on top. The Presepe in Neapolitan tradition not only represents the nativity, it reveals an identity that mingles culture, art, religion, agricultural production and food of the region. It is an artistic expression appreciated by all social classes from aristocracy to ordinary people.

One of the most interesting pieces was Atlante Farnese, a copy from a Greek original, who holds the earth on his back, one of the most ancient representations of the earth and sky with the constellations in relief. Among statues of Venus Kallipygos or Callypige, Hera, Ercules and busts of emperors there was the exhibition of contemporary sculptures in metal work by Riccardo Dalisi. He is an artist born in Potenza in 1931 who worked both at the Faculty of Architecture at the University of Naples and with young people at the rough Rione Sanitá in Naples. His approach aims to establish a dialogue between design, sculpture, craftmanship and painting. It is a very creative work, surprising, unconventional, commenting in an ironic way to the apparently serious Roman statues. It offers a captivating comparison with the past and a possible reflection to the viewer between past and present.

The museum also displays Roman paintings that reveal an incredible modernity in the movement of the figures, draping and the use of perspective. The legacy of still life paintings from 17th century on to Roman paintings is clear, though the arrangement of the objects is still embryonic in the ancient works. Mosaics from the Casa del Fauno in Pompei and the famous ‘Battle of Alexander’ (2nd century BC) were on display as well. This is another clear source of inspiration for many paintings of battles, such as Paolo Uccello’s battles, just to give an example. They are impressive unique works I was happy I could admire.

After the museum we had lunch at Lombardi pizzeria with a delicious pizza margherita and fantastic desserts: babá (rum baba), cassata siciliana and a special cassata covered with dark chocolate. They were extraordinarily delicious. I also bought some Neapolitan sfogliatelle and cannoli for my mum at pasticceria Rescigno, then we entered Naples’ old alleys to reach Chapel San Severo and Pio Monte della Misericordia.

Walking through the ancient alleys I could glimpse what Naples is. Cobbled streets not exactly clean, with heaps of rubbish here and there and occasional cigarette butts or cans. Some buildings are dilapidated and laundry is hanging from windows and balconies. There are graffiti everywhere,
scratched facades then suddenly a medieval tower, a baroque church, the statue of a saint on a Roman pillar looking at the sky, or the entrance to the exhibition of Andy Warhol. The streets were crowded with shops and stalls selling pizza a portafoglio (‘wallet’ pizza), garlic and pepperoncino and dried tomatoes, fish, roasted chestnuts, mostaccioli and scaccia guai (talismans). It was enthralling; a sense of authentic carelessness, spontaneity and diversity that impressed me. I think that there isn’t any other place like Naples in Italy, and I hope it will be maintained as it is without renovating the buildings or tidying up the streets. People are very warm; you can start chatting with everybody not just about the weather but on any subject you have in mind. I loved it.
We also visited the Chapel San Severo and admired the masterpiece of the famous Veiled Christ (1753) by Giuseppe Sanmartino, a marble sculpture representing a reclined Christ giving the illusion that the body is covered with tissue. It is an impressive work both in its conception and rendering where the sense of decomposition suggested by the abandonment of the head and the folding and wrinkles of the veil contrast with the roundness of the shoulders and legs.

The ‘Sette Opere della Misericordia’ (the seven works of mercy) by Caravaggio is located at Pio Monte della Misericordia, a Catholic Charity institution founded in 1602, with a Baroque church. In the painting the movement created by the different figures representing the seven works of mercy is unique. They gather in the painting in the form of naked bodies and draped ones exposing their naturalness and ordinariness under the vigil eyes of the two angels embracing each other and hovering from above. It is a revolutionary piece denoting originality in the composition and outstanding skills.

Around the church there was a display of interesting sculptures by the Belgian artist Jan Fabre made with coral dust in forms of crosses interweaving with flowers, hearts according to Catholic iconography. The coral was donated by Neapolitan producers and the artworks now belong to Pio Monte della Misericordia.

I loved visiting Naples but there was no time to see everything, so I hope we will have a chance to go back maybe stay a few days. Back to Rome, I visited the exhibition Bacon and Freud: the School of London at Chiostro del Bramante near piazza Navona. It was very interesting with works from the Tate Britain and explanatory captions. There were a good number of works by Francis Bacon and Lucian Freud and a few paintings by Frank Auerbach, Leon Kossoff, Paula Rego and Michael Andrews. I reviewed the exhibition here for London Grip:

At the bookshop there were intriguing phrases printed on tote bags and purses, such as ‘In Art we Trust’, ‘All I need is Love and WIFI’, ‘Tell the truth and run’, ‘I love dogs and some people’, ‘I am not crazy I am creative’ or ‘I’m a woman, what’s your secret power’. After the exhibition I had dinner with my mum and my friend Ornella who is a fantastic cook. She prepared spaghetti alla bottarga, the recipe will be in my next post.