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Insalata di Mare and a House on Phillip Island – Casa dell’Isola

There is an air of excitement as bags are packed and esky's filled with food.It’s the 1960’s and the family pack the Ford XY with enough belongings to see them through their annual summer break to Phillip Island.A frequent drive down the southern coast to Cowes was not unusual for the in laws. Zio Pino and his wife owned a beach bungalow he built for the extended family to gather and spend not only the Christmas and Easter breaks, but also any other long weekends they could get away.
There are many photos shared and happy memories recounted by my husband of times spent on this Island.The food cooked, the trips to nearby farms to buy fresh milk so that they could make their own ricotta; popping down to San Remo to buy freshly caught fish off the boats and the many swimmer crabs caught off the pier.
I suppose it was only natural that today we find ourselves here at our own bungalow in Cowes; our peaceful home away from home nestled among Australian native plants.  We fell in love …
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Torta Rustica (Rustic Savoury Pie)

Torta rustica, whose name derives from the tortiera or cake tin in which it is baked in, literally means 'rustic pie’ in Italian.  Rustica, because of the myriad of ways it can be easily filled. The choice of filling is based on preference and what you have in your fridge.  It can be filled with sausage, tomatoes and cheese like a pizza, or with eggs, cheese, cured meats and vegetables as this one. This versatile torta rustica is both a seasonal staple and perfect make ahead dish that can in fact act as an appetizer or feature as the main dish.  The outer olive oil pastry makes it the perfect casing for a portable picnic lunch. With boundless recipes and fillings, this savory rustic pie was initially intended as a thrifty way to clean out our fridges by adding bits of leftover vegetables to a mix of cheese, cured meats and an egg or two to bind it all together in a pastry shell.
With an abundance of bietola (chard) growing in my parent’s garden, and nearing the end of season befor…

Strascinati with Broccolini & Peperoni Cruschi (Crispy Peppers)

Durum wheat is an important crop in the Basilicata region of Italy.  Better known as semolina, this coarse-ground durum wheat with its characteristic amber colour and coarser texture, has a higher protein content than soft varieties of wheat. Used to make their famous bread – pane di Matera and Altamura, it allows the production of necessary gluten to attain the characteristic texture in this regions bread. It is also highly favoured in the use of pasta making in the south of Italy when eggs are not used.  
History documents that Basilicata was the first region in Italy where pasta was recorded and there are over 10 kinds of typical fresh pasta produced here, each one unique in the way it is formed. The most well-known due Basilicata’s geographical position bordering Puglia are orecchiette aka recchietelle in the Lucanian dialect, and tapparelle a larger version of the afore mentioned.   The other well-known pasta types are lagane – a short and wide type of tagliatelle typically served…

Basilicata - Polpette di Fave & Cicorie (Broad bean & Chicory Patties)

Our visit to the Basilicata region of Italy was just as important for my parents as it was for my family and I. Hearing papa` say "non voglio dimenticare" (I don’t want to forget), brought forward the sad realisation that with age this is most often inevitable. I am thankful though that at 88 years of age he still remembers a lot.
I grew up hearing many stories told by him of his childhood in Acerenza, where my paternal grandparents raised a family of 8 children, worked the land and ran a general store.They then moved to the nearby larger capital city - Potenza where papa` and his siblings began their own lives and settled.Papa` and his eldest brother later moved up to the north in Domodossola, my birth town for work reasons where commuting to and from Germany and Switzerland became necessary to support his young family.The desire to migrate to a faraway country that promised a better future is what we now call home.
As a teenager hearing these recounts didn’t mean so much…

Recipe Card: Potato Zeppole (doughnuts)

Zeppole anyone?!  These sweet morsels are also known as sfinci in Sicilian or simply nonna's doughnuts in our family.  My maternal nonna would make her pizza dough with added potato in the mix to render it soft and light. She always made extra dough for us to enjoy the doughnuts while we waited for the pizza to come out of the oven.
300 g boiled & mashed potatoes 500 g flour 1 tbsp sugar 200 ml warm water 1 sachet active dry yeast 1 lemon zest (optional) 1 tsp vanilla extract vegetable or canola oil for frying sugar to cover the doughnut

Boil the potatoes until cooked through. Drain fully and crush the potatoes with a fork or pass through a potato ricer.
Dissolve yeast in a glass of warm water and set aside.
Sift the flour on a board in a shape of a mountain, make a well in the center where to put the dissolved yeast, the rest of the water, a pinch of salt, sugar, the smashed potatoes and the zest of one lemon.
Mix all ingredient together and knead till you get a …

Torta Margherita (Artusi's Pasta Margherita)

I must admit, I was late in the game with discovering Pellegrino Artusi’s book or owning my own copy of Science in the Kitchen and the Art of Eating Well(originally published in 1891).Unbeknownst to me, it was mamma’s go-to cookbook in the years before we migrated to Australia. This was a book papa` had resurrected from a pile of old discarded editions that the local library was giving away.  At the time he was working there as a painter and decorator and was given first choice to the books; this one just happened to catch his eye. It now sits in my kitchen and has become my most referred cookbook.
This copy whose spine is held together by tape is one of the oldest cookbooks I own; it was given to me by mamma four years ago.As it is quite fragile, it sits between newer cookbooks that have been collected over the years. But whenever mamma comes over, it is this one she pulls out glancing through the pages and reminiscing of her own food memories, musing over Artusi’s little stories th…

Cooking the Season: Lombrichelli with Zucchini & Blossoms

Buon Anno! and welcome to my first post for 2019 with the focus on ‘Cooking the Season’.  I hope you had a delightful festive period cooking your wonderful traditional family dishes and hopefully explored some new recipes to add to your table. I spent time with the family away, time in the garden and catching up on some reading from recipe books purchased at the end of last year; but more about that in another upcoming post.
The year begins with an emphasis on growing our own food the way my grandparents did.My roots have instilled a connection to the land, planting fruits and vegetables that have allowed us to carry on traditions as well as sustain our family. It has taught me to slow down, be patient and appreciate natures time frame in this ever fast paced world; reminded me about the importance of sharing the surplus and not to waste; to be frugal and most of all to respect the land. These underlying values I owe to my grandparents first and foremost and my parents who still choo…