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    FAVE DEI MORTI: ITALIAN COOKIES FOR THE DAY OF THE DEAD     While Halloween is a very popular day, there are other Italian holidays that take precedent this week. The 1st of November is all Saints Day (Ogni Santi), with the Day of the Dead following straight behind on November 2nd.     To celebrate the feast of All Saints and All Souls, it is tradition throughout Italy to eat a particular type of almond or pine nut biscuits called “fave dei morti”, literally meaning beans of the dead, the preparation of which changes slightly from region to region, sometimes only with almonds and egg whites, other times with add-ins such as dried fruit, lemon zests or spices. The Italian writer Pellegrino Artusi, in his "The Science of Cooking and the Art of Fine dining" included three recipes from central Italy and called these biscuits “fave alla romana”.   In Venetian pastry shops and bakeries, instead, we usually find two different varieties: the Venetians and the Triestine, more colourful and different in size and texture. As you may have imagined, these biscuits recall the shape of broad beans, which, in ancient tradition, were considered a direct means to communicate with the dead, able to transfer their souls to the living. For this reason, broad beans used to be eaten after funerals not only in Rome, but also in Greece, Egypt, India and Peru, probably because of their white inside. Although the feast has much older origins, the date of the 1st of November can be traced to Pope Gregory III, who in 731-741 ordered the foundation of an oratory in Saint Peter’s for the relics of all saints, martyrs and confessors, thus moving the date from May 13 to November 1 and making it almost coincide with the pagan feast of Samhain, the Gaelic festival that marked the end of the harvest and the beginning of winter and that gave origin to Halloween. In Italy we don’t celebrate Halloween and in Venice the local kids get to go around their neighbourhood to ask for their trick or treat about 10 days later, on the 11th of November on the occasion of San Martino, when we eat another bigger biscuit shaped as a poor knight on a horse with his spade.   Anyway, going back to our beans of the dead, a fun fact is that in Venice there is a church called “della fava”, built in the early 16th century and located in a small campo with the same name between Rialto and Saint Mark’s. Originally, the church was called “della Consolazione”, of the consolation, because of a nearby palace with an allegedly miraculous icon that would offer consolation to believers. But then, the locals soon started calling it “della fava” because just after the bridge opened, a pastry shop specialising in these biscuits opened and the name stuck. The beans of the dead are sold only the days that precede All Saints and are usually white, red and brown. They are quite simple to make and you can easily adapt the recipe to your taste. Almost every city uses almonds, while in Venice we use pine nuts. I’m not sure which version I prefer, what I can suggest is to use almonds if you prefer softer biscuits and pine nuts if you’d rather them crunchy. To add colour use Alchermes for a soft red tone and cocoa for brown. The important thing is for the dough to be smooth and lump-free, for the rest their preparation requires less than ten minutes.   If you happen to be in Venice for All Saints, the pastry shops that make the nicest “favette” are Dal Mas and Pitteri in Cannaregio, Rizzardini and Targa in San Polo, while when it comes to bakeries, my favourite are always Fratelli Crosera and Colussi Il Fornaio. There is a quite notable difference in price, in fact in bakeries 100 gr of these colourful biscuit will cost you between 2,50-4 euros, while in pastry shops it’s about twice as much!!!! What I do is make a big batch at home and prepare little bags to give to my friends the days that precede the festivity and keep some to enjoy at home either dipped in coffee in the morning or, much better, dipped in sweet wine after dinner. To accompany the fave, a dry white wine like a Soave would be an excellent option, although I confess I don’t mind opting for a sweet wine, like the local Recioto della Valpolicella (a sweet red wine produced near Verona, characterised by a round and velvety perfume, a must try in our region) or for a German Eiswein (ice-wine); men, instead, go directly for the grappa!   At this point, there is nothing left for me to do than wish you a happy long weekend and to say buon appetito! Talk to you soon!   RECIPE:   INGREDIENTS:   150 gr pine nuts (or almonds)   100 gr sugar   100 gr Italian 00 flour   10 gr cinnamon powder   20 gr butter   1 egg   1/2 coffee cup Alchermes   1/2 coffee cup cocoa powder   lemon zest   METHOD:   1) Pre-heat oven at 170°   2) Mix the pine nuts in a mixer until they look like flour, combine with the sugar and sift, then add flour, cinnamon, the softened butter, the eggs and the lemon zests.   3) Mix well using your hands until you get a compact and smooth dough with no lumps that you will roll lengthwise and divide in three smaller balls.   4) Add cocoa to one, Alchermes to the other, knead until they reach a uniform colour without overworking them and then roll and cut your small biscuits.   5) Grease some parchment paper and bake for about 15 minutes. When ready, if you like, roll in sugar.   Excellent with a glass of sweet white wine, like the Recioto della Valpolicella  Thank you Nicoletta at https://www.naturallyepicurean.org for this great blog post.

 

FAVE DEI MORTI: ITALIAN COOKIES FOR THE DAY OF THE DEAD

While Halloween is very popular, there are other Italian holidays that take precedent this week. The 1st of November is all Saints Day (Ogni Santi), with the Day of the Dead following straight behind on November 2nd and on these special days, we eat these delicious Pine Nut or Almond Cookies. 

        
  
 
  
    
  
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  WHAT IS THE REAL DIFFERENCE BETWEEN WILD AND FARMED SALMON?   Let’s say you are at the fishmonger and you see two types of salmon that look relatively the same but one is called Wild Salmon with a much higher price tag than the other; Farmed Salmon. What is the reason for the price difference?  Typically, Farmed Salmon is raised in specially-designed aquatic farms where they are fed with a high fat combination of fish oil and grains to fatten them up. They are also fed additives to give them a nice pinkish color otherwise they would de a dullish grey because of the food they are fed. Wild salmon on the other hand obtains its pink color naturally from feasting on a diet of Krill in their natural environment where they are grown.  There has been a lot of controversy about the treatment and additives fed to farmed salmon however wild salmon has also come under fire for some of their destructive fishing methods. Additionally with Wild Salmon, there is simply not enough wild fish to supply the demand for it, so in reality if we want to carry on eating fish, we will have to take the pressure of Wild species by developing sustainable legitimate farming practices.  These practices in the past few years have significantly improved and measures are being taken to ensure farming is being done in a more sustainable and ecological way. Small Artisanal fish farmers have actually been practicing responsible farming for centuries. The problems came with the farms who are producing on a large scale for commercial export. Like farms who are working to bring grass-fed beef and pastured chicken to the market, there are fisheries doing the same thing.   Price Difference:  In a good quality Fishmonger, Farmed Salmon will be around £20 a Kilo where as Wild Salmon can be up to £35 a kilo.   Which to buy:  Between May and July is when Wild Salmon is in season and then you should absolutely adjust your budget to get Fresh Wild Salmon whilst it still exists. For the rest of the year though, we recommend that instead of going by ‘wild-caught’ or ‘farm-raised’, rather shop by sustainability. By this we mean buying Salmon from sources, either fished or farmed, that can exist over a long time without compromising the species’ survival or the health of the ecosystem. The best way to make sure your salmon is eco-friendly is to go to a fish seller who does the homework for you. It really helps to shop at a place that cares enough to make the right choices for you.     Check out our favorite Recipe for Wild Salmon :    Fresh Salmon Tartar with Crème Fraiche, Spring Onion and Fresh Dill    Ingredients:   ·       100gr of wild salmon filet finely chopped into small cubes   ·       1 spring onion, finely chopped   ·       1 handful of fresh dill, finely chopped   ·       1 tablespoon of crème fraiche   ·       1 splash of lemon juice   ·       Salt and pepper for seasoning  Method:   1.      Combine all ingredients into a bowl and mix together   2.      Serve on a dish with grilled bread and fresh dill   

WHAT IS THE REAL DIFFERENCE BETWEEN WILD AND FARMED SALMON?

Let’s say you are at the fishmonger and you see two types of salmon that look relatively the same but one is called Wild Salmon with a much higher price tag than the other; Farmed Salmon. What is the reason for the price difference and is there a way to buy Salmon sustainably without the huge price tags attached? Find out everything you need to know here. 

 

      SELECTING OLIVE OILS  The easiest way to ensure that you are cooking great dishes is to stock your kitchen with quality ingredients. And this includes all the basics from your salt (I only use Maldon sea salt) and pepper to your Olive Oils.  Italy produces thousands of Olive Oils so choosing a good one can be a daunting task. To start you off here is some information on the three types of olive oils that you see in shops; extra virgin, virgin, and olive oil.  Extra Virgin Olive Oil: Olives go through three sets of pressing in order to extract as much oil as possible. Extra Virgin Olive Oil is the first pressing making it the purest and giving it the strongest flavour. It is great for salads and drizzling over cooked food such as fish.  Virgin Olive Oil: Virgin Oil is the second pressing of the olives. It has a weaker flavour and is best used for cooking. This is because when olive oil is heated over 60 degrees Celsius you loose most of the flavour and and goodness of the oil so it is not worth wasting extra virgin olive oil for this.  Olive Oil: When you see bottles of oil that only say Olive Oil or Pomace Olive Oil it means that this is oil from the third pressing of the olives. Personally I would recommend avoiding this. Simply because in order to extract the final drops of oil from the olives both chemicals and heat are added to process taking away from the healthy and natural benefits of oil.  A mistake that people often make when buying olive oil is to judge the oil by it’s colour. The colour of olive oils does not have a direct relationship to it’s flavour, it is simply a reflection on the percentage of dark to green olives that were used to make that oil. If an olive oil is cloudy, however, it means that this is a newer oil and will often indicate a stronger flavour. These oils are good for salads, rich sauces, soups and heavier meats such as lamb.  Oils from various Italian regions will vary in flavour. For example olive oils from Sicily have a grassy flavour whereas Tuscan oils have a more artichoke like flavour. The best way to determine which oil to buy is to decide what you mostly use extra virgin olive oil for and then buy one that you think will best compliment this. Below are the different strengths of olive oils and should help you to determine which strength of oil you should buy.   Strength:  Low Intensity/Delicate   Flavour:Smooth and mild, delicate, light, elegant flavor, mellow yet rich with a slight bitterness and fruitiness  Goes well with: Fish, Eggs, Mayonnaise and Tender Salad Greens     Medium    Flavour: Intensely olive fruity, pleasant bitterness and pungency with flavours of artichoke, avocado and a peppery finish  Goes well with: Salads, Grilled Chicken, White Meat, Lamb, Vegetables, Fresh Pasta and great for dipping with bread.     Robust/ Intense    Flavour: Intensely bold and assertive, pungent and spicy with grassy flavours of artichoke, tomato and herbs.  Goes well with: Rich Pasta Sauces, Bitter greens, Spicy dishes, Soups, Stews, Grilled meats & roasts and lastly Bruschetta   I cook a large variety of things so I have a great extra virgin olive oil that I feel comfortable serving with pretty much everything. It’s from a great producer and family friend called Marina Colonna and her estate is between Molise and Puglia. She produces very high quality oils and is extremely passionate about her products. You can order her Extra Virgin live Oil directly from the farm. Check out her website for more information.  http://www.marinacolonna.it/en/

SELECTING OLIVE OILS

Italy produces thousands of Olive Oils so choosing a good one can be a daunting task. In this post we explain to you the three different types of Olive Oils you most commonly find and how to match different Olive Oils with different dishes. 

 

      SHOPPING FOR BALSAMIC VINEGAR  Shopping for Balsamic vinegar’s can be complicated and with a price range of up to £150for a 100ml bottle it’s tough to know which ones to buy and what to use them for. So below is little bit of information and some tips to help you choose which ones to buy and how to use them.   The most expensive balsamic vinegar’s are the Traditional ones produced only in Modena and Reggio Emilia. They are made from grape must- whole pressed grapes- and then cooked over an open flame until it has reduced by roughly half. This is then left to ferment for three weeks followed by a minimum of 12 years of aging. The vinegar is fermented in barrels and as the vinegar ages it becomes thicker and more syrup like because of the evaporation process that takes place.  These barrels will vary in size and once a year the vinegar is bottled from the smallest cask in the sequence. Each barrel is then topped up with vinegar from the next cask up, with the largest cask getting filled with the new yield. None of the casks are ever completely drained meaning that it is very hard to tell exactly how old the balsamic vinegar is. This task is therefore left up to a tasting commission of five expert judges who convene to taste the vinegar’s and determine an appropriate grade and no age is printed on the label.  Traditional vinegar’s from Reggio Emilia have three different grades  affinato  (fine), with a red cap, which roughly corresponds to a 12-year vintage;  vecchio  (old), with a silver cap, which roughly corresponds to a 15-20 year vintage; or extra vecchio (extra old), with a gold cap, which roughly corresponds to a 20-25 year vintage. In Modena there’s just affinato, with a white cap, or extra vecchio, with a gold cap. These vinegars are always labelled with D.O.P.  (“Denominazione di Origine Protetta”) stamp — a European Union certification that guarantees an ingredient’s quality, production, and place of origin.  Traditional vinegar’s are not made for cooking with as heating them will destroy their complex flavour. Instead they are best used for drizzling over cooked foods or eaten with a piece of Parmesan where the flavours can shine.  The next grade down of Balsamic vinegar’s is Condimento Vinegars. These are vinegars that have been made in a traditional manner but cannot get the traditional or D.O.P. title as they don’t meet standards of maturity or weren’t produced under the correct supervision. They are however often great products that were made outside of Modena or Reggio Emilia or from traditional producers however only aged for 3 to 7 years.  Condimento Balsamic vinegars tend to be much cheaper, however, can be of great quality making them much better value for money. You have to be careful when you buy “condimento” vinegars as the term is not protected and therefore can be found on lower grade vinegar. A good way to identify the better quality ones is to look at the ingredient list. If the vinegar is made only from grape must it is a very good sign. Some condimentos might contain a little wine vinegar to balance the acidity but if wine vinegar is the main ingredient it means that this is a generic vinegar sweetened with balsamic vinegar and therefore not of good quality. They should also carry the IGP stamp “indicazione geografica protetta,” or protected geographical indication.  The next grade down of vinegar is Balsamic vinegar of Modena and this refers to the vinegar commonly found in supermarkets and used for salads.  As demand for Balsamic vinegar grew there was a rise in derivative products which is what led to the D.O.P stamp. It was a way of protecting the true Traditional Balsamic vinegar producers. It doesn’t however offer any level of distinction among mass market balsamic vinegar’s which is where the IGP stamp comes in. It was introduced in 2009 by the European Union and guarantees that the product is made from grape varietals typical of Modena (Albana, Ancellotta, Fortana. Lambrusco, Montuni, Sangiovese, and Trebbiano), though the grapes can be grown anywhere and only have to be processed in Modena. This was the only way to meet the rising demand for balsamic vinegar.  Balsamic vinegar of Modena is cooked in pressurized vats and aged for a minimum of two months. I.G.P. vinegar’s all contain wine vinegar to bring the acidity level to 6% and can contain up to 50% wine vinegar. You need to be careful when buying these vinegars because often they contain thickening agents, caramel and other colourants to make them look more like traditional vinegar.  You also need to be aware of Imitation Balsamic Vinegars which are often in supermarkets pretending to be I.G.P Balsamic of Modena. Unlike I.G.P. vinegar these do not contain wine vinegar and cooked must, but instead are just vinegar with added sweetener and colouring and are industrially produced to make it look like I.G.P. Balsamic vinegar. Some of them will claim to be made in Italy but without the I.G.P stamp they could come from anywhere. Again a clue is always to look at the ingredient list; The higher the percentage of grape must the better the quality of the product.  Another common product is balsamic glaze. It’s a thick syrup made with grape must, I.G.P balsamic vinegar, guar gum and xantham gum and is essentially a way of making cheap balsamic the consistency of expensive balsamic. It is used in a similar way to the Traditional ones- as a drizzle or finishing sauce.  We have a great producer of Balsamic Vinegar in Modena called Acetaia Malpighi that we use. It is a family run business and they have specialised in Balsamic Vinegar since the 1850’s. They produce a wide range of Traditional vinegar’s including flavoured ones. Check out their website for more information.   http://www.acetaiamalpighi.it/en/about-us    

SHOPPING FOR BALSAMIC VINEGAR

Shopping for Balsamic vinegar’s can be complicated and with a price range of up to £150for a 100ml bottle it’s tough to know which ones to buy and what to use them for. So below is little bit of information and some tips to help you choose which ones to buy and how to use them. 

      Where to stay in Venice   Venice has a huge selection of hotels to choose from but here are a few suggestions of hotels that will also offer you packages that include my cooking classes. Each package is different and personalised.   I have specially selected these hotels because each one in its own way has something very special to offer and will make your stay boutique, bespoke and unforgettable.         VENICE PRESTI  GE   I have known Ann-Marie for many years - she is that most unusual combination an English person with great Italian flair! She started offering rental properties in Venice almost 30 years ago, offering only the best private properties Venice has to offer. For short-term or long-term rentals,  visit her website  www.veniceprestige.com . If you are looking to purchase a property then visit her other website  www.venicesothebysrealty.com       VIEWS ON VENICE   My childhood friend, Filippo Gaggia, runs a fantastic operation for apartment’s rentals in Venice. All the accommodation he offers is specially selected to guarantee maximum comfort and service. There is a huge selection to choose from, including luxury Palazzo’s, 1 to 4 bedroom apartments all beautifully furnished and offering modern facilities.   www.viewsonvenice.com       METROPOLE HOTEL   What can I say about Gloria, a great friend, a bubbly, spontaneous, enthusiastic and more then charming woman who runs a wonderful home away from home. Velvets, candles, spices and classic antiques are her signature style: her hotel is warm, welcoming and her service impeccable. Staying with her is like staying with your new best friend and you will not want to leave...and only few hundred meters from San Marco Square   www.hotelmetropole.com       CA' PISANI   The Serandrei family manages 2 hotels in Venice, but this last one is by far my favourite...Modern, design and warm. As Marianna Serandrei, said, “Design puts us together, the fact we both lived in London, and the fact I can’t cook makes me jealous”. So as I believe, joining strengths makes us stronger... Go stay with her and come cook with me! Putting a perfect world together can be easier than you think.... Also only few hundred meters away from the Peggy Guggenheim museum, the Academia of Belle Arti and from Palazzo Rocca.  CLICK ON THE LINK BELOW TO GO DIRECTLY TO ENRICA'S SPECIAL OFFER WITH THE CA' PISANI.   www.capisanihotel.it       CA MARIA ADELE   Ca Maria Adele is located in the area of Dorsoduro, where tranquillity and peace prevail. Its twelve rooms were realised respecting a rigorous concept of comfort and style, where every element is defined by its own space. The common areas follow a main theme and reveal four settings where styles contrast but combine in a deep care for details in a delicate and thin atmosphere.   www.camariaadele.it       THE GRITTI PALACE    The Gritti Palace, Venice  has now re-opened after an extensive handcrafted restoration. An historical treasure where heritage and culture have blended with renewed Venetian style. Among exceptional art and elegance, the restored Gritti Palace retains its reassuringly intimate and familiar feel. With attentive service, a delectable culinary experience and new avenues for relaxation and pleasure, the hotel is now a refined version of its iconic self.   www.thegrittipalace.com       CA' SAGREDO   A Private Palazzo, a Noble Residence, a Museum, a Luxury Hotel and much more… this all is Ca’ Sagredo.  This palace was originally owned by the Morosini family and was purchased at the start of the 18th century by the Sagredos, a noble family who had lived in the Santa Sofia district for centuries.  The façade onto the Grand Canal is proof of the Byzantine origin of the building, which was altered several times in subsequent centuries.  Nominee as One of the 500 Best Hotel in the World2013 by Travel+ Leisure. Nominee in the 2013"Gold List" by Condé Nast Traveler   www.casagredohotel.com       OLTRE IL GIARDINO   The six rooms in this charming hotel all look out over green plants and trees. All are tastefully and individually furnished, with paintings and portraits from the family's personal collection and an eclectic mix of restored furniture and brightly coloured bedspreads. Each room has its own personality and atmosphere, as the colours used range from vibrant turquoise to dark chocolate, from dove grey to palest ivory. Our guests will find warmth, simplicity, good taste and attention to detail. All the rooms can be double or twin-bedded, and all except the Ivory and Grey rooms can accommodate a third person or a couple of children.   www.oltreilgiardino-venezia.com          ENRICA ROCCA VENICE COUNTRY APARTMENTS   If you are wiling to visit not only Venice but also other cities or areas in the Veneto region then our Enrica Rocca Venice Country Apartments are the perfect choice for your holiday. You can reach reach both Venice and Padua by public transports and for other locations just rent a car and drive wherever you wish. Vicenza, Verona, Bassano del Grappa, Asolo, Treviso, The Euganean Hills, but also Ferrara, Bologna, Trieste, the Soave and Valpolicella wines regions, the Prosecco area are all relatively close to our apartments. The farthest is maximum 1 e 1/2 hours drive away.   Ask our manager a list of the suggested activities and make the best of your stay with us!   www.venicecountryapartments.com

Where to Stay in Venice

Venice has a huge selection of hotels to choose from but here are a few suggestions of hotels that will also offer you packages that include my cooking classes. Each package is different and personalised.

I have specially selected these hotels because each one in its own way has something very special to offer and will make your stay boutique, bespoke and unforgettable.