Saturday, August 29, 2009

Amalfi 3 - mmmm...Mozzarella di Buffalo

I dream of a farm where happy Water Buffalo roam, yielding milk rich in protein and essential minerals but low in fat and cholesterol. I dream of fresh milky mozzarella, Ricotta and Gelato Limone. I dream of a farm .......

......Back to reality, this dream was sparked by our day three in Italy. Packing, early morning, into Papa's car, we set of south to the Agricultural areas south of Salerno famous for all things Buffalo, but above all MOZZARELLA.

We met up with Angelo Braca, a cousin of Papa's, who took us on a guided tour of a slick modern cheese factory. What an amazing experience! We were astounded by the sterility of the facility and at the same time equally surprised by the fair amount of manual process still involved in making top end Mozzarella....

It all starts with the curds...

...add the renit and beat in a figure of eight...
Feed through the moulding rollers..
...and a series of whey baths...
in various sizes from the small Bocconcini... the plaits, that look disturbingly like space larva...
The Mozzarella are packed in bags with their liquid, by hand, and then packed in polystyrene boxes to ensure maximum freshness.
The day went from good to great at this point, as Angelo took us to an organic Buffalo farm, the exact same one I'd happened to have found on the net in my research, prior to us coming over. I was so excited to be at Tenuta Vannulo!
The original farm buildings are picturesque in the faded Pompeian red, honeysuckle and bougainvillea tumbling over the wall, while ivy scrambled up the wall from below.
The animals are kept in what seemed like buffalo five-star!
After watching the dexterity of the guys practising the age-old art of hand pinching the mozzarella balls into shape, we went to the Yogurteria for well deserved refreshments.
Very modern, yet authentic the interior is cool and crisp.
The boys were seduced into having Gelato di Buffola choccolato and Oumie an amazing Gelato Limone, which she maintains still is the best ice-cream she's ever eaten in her more than 60 years!
Soni and Papa both had Brioche, latte di Buffalo of course, with crema di limone and marmelade aranchia, respectively.Angelo and I both quenched our thirst with a deliciously tart Limonata. Thank you so very much Angelo! It was so great meeting you , and here's to years of friendship and having you guys visiting us in SA soon.
As a last thought to this post, a visual sampling of some of our fav dishes featuring mozzarella:
AntipastiGrilled bruschetta of prosciutto and mozzarella, with fresh nectarines and black figs.Fresh torn and seasoned mozzarella with bresuola and mortadella.Lastly, the ricotta. So creamy and luscious, which we mixed with some chopped prosciutto, stuffed into zucchini flowers, wrapped in prosciutto and the breaded and gently fried. Served with a squeeze of lemon these were the food of the gods!This was only the first half of day three, so more to follow....

Monday, August 10, 2009

Soni's quick Bread

This is so very simple and so unbelievably delicious! We make this almost every weekend and will find any reason, no matter how obscure, to throw one together.

Soni's Quick Bread Recipe

1 packet of white onion soup (or brown or tomato or mushroom or ....)

500gm packet of self raising flour
500ml carton of buttermilk (or yogurt or stock or water...)

Mix it all together, press into a small loaf tin.

Grate over some parmesean or sprinkle with coarse salt and rosemary.
Bake at 180deg for 45min or until a skewer comes out clean.
Let cool to room temp and serve with a choice of chutneys, pickles, cheeses and sausage.

Use this as a guide and be limited only by your own creativity.


Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Amalfi 2 - The Piazza in Cava di Terreni and dinner in Cetara

The charm of Cava is partly in it's relative obscurity, as it lies just off the Amalfi, about six kilometers from where Vietri perches at the southern end of the Amalfi coast, just before Salerno. We only know it because Son's dad lives here in the hills above the town. It is one of apparently only two villages in southern Italy that has colonnaded, arched walkways on either side of the main street.

The buildings surrounding the main piazza are mostly painted in the classic Italian ochre, with white trim and shutters. There is a charming central fountain, which also goes for a siesta when the rest of the town does and wakes with a gentle tinkle at 5pm to beckon all out for a passagare.

The Church on the square was destroyed and rebuilt after the war, but seems centuries old, displaying the notices of the upcoming Saints Feasts.
We had quick refreshments at Gran Cafe on the Piazza - espresso with very more-some little cheese twists, peach tea and gelato.

Well sated, we took a stroll through the park bordering the piazza, which was a cool oasis in the mid-day sun, graffiti on the park benched not withstanding. We were given a riotous welcome by the sprawling bougainvillea at the gate and were totally amazed by the massive old fir trees.

The wild life in the pond fascinated the boys, but I was sad to discover that the turtles weren't endemic to the region, they made good subjects though.

After a siesta, we set off to one our very favourite spots on the Amalfi Coast - Cetara. Unspoilt, not touristy and of the "blink and you'll miss it " variety, it's nested into the cliffs between Vietri and Maiori, at sea level.

We dined at Aqua Pazza, which despite it's contemporary take, still manages to maintain both an intimate and Amalfian atmosphere and aesthetic.

The starters consisted of sashimi di Mare, an assorted platter of raw sea food, lip-smacking fresh from the ocean, and maybe just a tad too sophisticated for the venue and occasion, but really good. The kids had a primi of simple spaghetti vongole, absolutely perfect with just a hint of lemon and garlic. Too Yummy.

We ordered a local bottle of white, Costa D'Amalfi - Terre Saracene, which with it's fresh citrus top notes, made for the perfectly paired wine for all choices for the meal.

The mains were simply a mixed grill of fresh local fish, spicy tomato based octopus, langoustine on parpadelle and a roughly chopped garden salad, all exquisitely delicious! The octopus did however take the proverbial cake...

After a very eventful and busy, long day we crammed back into Nonno's car (with Stef in the hutch at the back), and crawled our way back up the hill to SS.Annunziata.