If you go for a walk in the woods one of these crisp Piemontese autumn mornings, you may meet a man carrying a wicker basket. In it, a few small mushrooms on a bed of fern. ‘Oh,’ you will say, ‘not so lucky today?’ – ‘No,’ he will answer, with a rueful look into his basket. ‘Not much luck today. Or maybe I just don’t know where to look.’ And, with a slight shrug of the shoulders, he will say: ‘Maybe this wood is not good for mushrooms. Good luck to you though.’
But if you were to come to the house of this man in these days, you will find him sitting at his kitchen table, carefully cleaning porcini mushrooms the size of his fist. He will be surrounded by several wicker baskets, full of glorious nut-brown and stone-grey specimens, resting on their bed of fresh green fern.
Julia Child (1912-2004) was an American chef, author and TV personality. Actually, her first career was in the Secret Service, which is pretty cool. She met her husband in the Service, who became a diplomat and was posted to Paris. That’s where Julia decided to learn cooking. She began also to teach cooking and eventually published her debut cookbook Mastering the Art of French Cooking, which is famous for making complex French dishes accessible. Her personal style helped matters greatly: she is hilarious and did not take herself too seriously, not even on TV.
A few Sundays ago, I made my first jam. Orange marmalade to be precise, from untreated Sicilian blood oranges. It took me a few hours, and I had to wash the kitchen floor and myself afterwards because everything got a bit sticky, but I did it. That evening I was sitting on my couch just looking at those glorious five jam jars with their orange-red filling. Proud as if I’d laid an egg.
Since then, I’ve made my own apple sauce and taralli (sort of pretzels), and there’s a box of orange peel in my freezer waiting to be candied. I am a bit surprised myself by my recent domestic adventures. But there is a reason behind all this. What inspired me to the jam-making…well, actually, that’s the point. I was not inspired, I was pushed. By 10kg of beautiful Sicilian oranges sitting in my hallway. My colleague’s brother has an orchard somewhere at the south-eastern corner of Sicily, and she organised a delivery of oranges up to Piemonte, for a good price, but you had to take 10kg minimum. What are you going to do with so many oranges? Marmalade, that’s what. Because you don’t want a single one of them go to waste… Continue reading →
Are you intimidated by risotto? Have you heard people saying that it is complicated and a lot of work? Then you probably are a victim of the Very Secret Risotto Cooking Society. It exists, I can only presume (it is Very Secret), to scare people off preparing this very delicious and simple dish and thus making the people who do prepare it (probably all sworn members of the VSRCS) look all the more accomplished and fabulous. It’s a conspiracy. I know it.
Because making risotto is neither complicated nor any more work than your average dish of pasta (there aren’t even a lot of dishes to wash, because we need just one pan and one bowl to hold the stock). And you can adjust it in many ways to suit your taste, with seafood or vegetables or meat… Continue reading →
I had been well-trained in the art of composing a cheese board: combine fresh with aged cheeses, cow milk with goat and sheep, soft textures with firm, subtle aromas with pungent. Add wine. Achieve satisfaction. I was even getting rather proficient in remembering the curriculum of particular cheeses: this one from high mountain ranges, covered in luscious pastures, that one from craggy hills where sheep roam freely nibbling on wild herbs. But I hadn’t yet quite understood cheese. Continue reading →
This one is about simple pleasures. The pleasant and civilized feeling of grabbing a bite to eat after work on your way to a meeting, and that bite being a slice of fresh pizza made with good ingredients, served hot on a board, with a glass of red wine – for 4 Euros. Served in 5 Minutes. Good food IS possible, even in a hurry and on a Neukölln street corner. They have a few choices – one of them, to my absolute delight, is ‘nduja, the chilli-spiced soft pork sausage from Calabria. It sits on top of the rocket-covered pizza slices, like an orange-red devil’s egg. In the oven, the pork fat melts and the ‘nduja becomes a little chunky puddle of heat on top of your crispy steaming slice of dinner. Fantastic. Though I recommend beer with that.
There is ample place to sit at wooden tables, and in warm weather they open all the windows wide and serve you and your friends hot delicious pizza with your umpteenth beer of a summer evening.
What do you call walnut-sized amorphous pieces of soft yet solid something? Not chunks, as in bread. Not balls, because they aren’t. Clump sounds to heavy, so does clod (plus would you want to eat a clod? I certainly wouldn’t). Nearly a glob, though that would be too soft, like mashed potatoes, and you don’t spoon ‘nduja, you dig it out with your fingers…but I digress. Must be the wine.
Pizza a Pezzi, Weserstraße 208, 12047 Berlin-Neukölln.