Sunday, October 31, 2010

Italian home cooking - Of Laura's Risotto and Giorgio's Picante Pepperoncinos!

All delegates attending Terra Madre are hosted by the Slow Food organisers for the entire duration of the event but unlike other conferences, in this case, delegates may be hosted in hotels farmstays, B&Bs and homestays in the surrounding areas. So while we knew we were to be hosted, untill we actually got there we had no idea where we were staying.

We left India on the 21 night, changing planes at Munich to go on to Turin with only 45 minutes to transfer. We missed the connection, of course, there was no way we would have made it. So we were forced to cool our heels at the Munich airport untill we boarded a flight to Milan, from where we transfered straight to the location of the opening ceremony for Terra Madre in Turin by bus. At the conclusion of the ceremony we got back on bus number 48 and were driven to various locations around Turin. I was to be hosted by a family in Piscina, about an hour from Turin. Which essentially meant that I got to my accomodation exactly 26 hours after I left my home in Mumbai. You can imagine how I felt by then. So coming home to the warm inviting home of Laura and Giorgio was a blessing.

Giorgio is an architect and Laura is a housewife, they live in the little village of Frocessco about 10 minutes from Piscina in a gorgeous house of provincial design with two dogs and two cats. Both of them went totally out of their way to make me and the other lady guest they hosted, comfortable. In the three nights that we spent with them, we quickly became a 'family' unit and Laura's warm hospitality and 'Ciao Bella' when I left and returned home went a long way in easing the aches and pains of long days.

Fresh Pane or bread!
The lovely, loving Laura!

There is a big difference in the experiences one will have in interacting with locals, when living with them in their homes and living at hotels. Staying with Laura and Gorgio gave me an ingight into Italian home cooking. Each night we would return home to hot freshly cooked dinners at home that were mini feasts. Not only did they warm our tired, cold bones, but more than filled in gaps between language stunted gesture filled conversations. And for me personally, they went a long way towards alliviating the lonliness and seperation anxiety I always suffer when I leave my family to travel somewhere. The first night, when we arrived at their doorstep after 26 hours of travelling, Laura hustled me into a hot shower as soon as I arrived. While we were freshening up, she get about making Pasta. We came down that night to the aroma of hot Penne Pasta simmering in a simple tomato sauce.

Fresh Past in Toma
I already knew that the Italian order of dining is different from most others in the world but it was lovely to return to a home cooked Italian meal after so many years. The proper order of courses served in a full Italian meal follow a pattern; begining with Antipasti which literally means “before the meal” which is the appetizer course. The Primi piatti or “first course” follows, usually consisting of a serving of carbohydrates in the form of a hearty soup, pasta or risotto. The Secondi piatti, or second course that comes next is a serving of protein in the form of meat or fish accompanied by Contorni, side dishes of vegetables meant to compliment the meat or fish. Surprising as it is to some, Insalata or the Salad course is served at this juncture, because it is considered refreshing for the diner after a heavy course and also serves to cleanse the palate prior to the desert course. Frutta or fruit, usually served fresh and chilled in ice water come next, and dolci or deserts come at the end of the meal which winds up with coffee - usually an Espresso - in tiny cups.

Pasta and pickle.
Giorgio's picante Pepperoncino and local grissini!
Pasta and Parmiggiano!
Braised chicken and peppers.
Tipsy choco;ate pudding!
Giorgio loved his wife's cooking, here he licks the bowl!
sweet local grapes
Laura adds a handfull of rice to the pot for the house's resident angels
Pumpkin stock
Laura's Pumpkin Risotto (with a swirl of chilli salt from Giorgios pickled chillies by me that she would not approve of!) (Serves 4, Time 30 mins)

I was lucky enough to come home in time to watch Laura cook this. It was delicious but slightly under salted for me. So when Giorgio suggested giving me the piccante pickle of chillies again, I was hopefull, but Laura did not approve of that idea and it was nixed. Heres a spiked version!


4 cup diced pumpkin
3-4 cups stock from cooking pumpkin
2 c Arborio rice (Lauras measure is 1 handfull for each person eating + 1 for the house angel!)
15 g butter
1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese
salt and freshly ground white pepper

For Chilli Salt
1/2 cup sea salt
1/2 cup oil
1/2 cup chopped fresh chillies
Combine everything and allow to stand.

Cook the pumpkin in a preassure cooker. Strain out pulp and reserve. to the hot Pumpkin stock salt add rice. Cook, stirring often until the liquid is almost all absorbed. You don't want the liquid to be boiling in with the rice, just a gentle simmer until the stock is all absorbed and the rice is tender (about 20 minutes) Mash the pumpkin pulp and combine with butter parmiggiano cheese,seasoning stir into cooked rice. It will go lovely and sticky with the cheese. Serve immediately with a tsp full of spicy chilli salt.
mixing risotto

Selection of salami
Chocolate yumminess!

1 comment:

Sanjeeta kk said...

Love to see the pictures of those delicious Italian dishes. Good to have dropped here from FB. Best wishes.