Home-cured meats

 

Home-cured meats

A staple of any Italian antipasti menu is the meat platter. Cured meats have been hugely popular in Italy since the dawn of time and go amazingly well with everything from regional cheeses to artisan breadsticks. Also, as we produce as many dishes as we can completely from scratch, we were set on making home-cured meats a feature of our catering menus this year.

We’ve written about some of our favourite cured meats from West Lombardy in the past, but this year for the first time we decided to start curing the meat ourselves. However, we needed some training from an expert beforehand!

This spring, Giordano travelled back to Italy to visit his dad, who is the head chef at the Antichi Maestri – L’Osteria in Milan, to learn all about how to cure meat as they would have done in medieval times.

Giordano’s dad is an expert in medieval cuisine and has reinterpreted many ancient recipes in his career. His method for curing honey-glazed pork loin has been around since Roman times.

The quality of the meat is the most important aspect of the whole process, which is why we only use top quality meats from local suppliers.

We currently cure lonzino al miele (honey-glazed pork loin) and antica carne al sale (silverside of beef) using salt, sugar and a blend of more than 20 spices. It’s a secret family recipe though, so don’t try and ask us about it! 😉

We even have a professional meat slicer to cut the cured meats ourselves!

These meats are already available on our catering menus as part of our Italian antipasti buffet, and soon we’re planning to serve filled focaccia and panini using the meats we’ve cured paired with interesting regional cheeses and sauces.

Here you can see the finished meat platters on our latest buffet table! We recently catered at a private event in Cheshire where the platters were hugely popular with the guests.

We served them alongside provolone and Grana Padano cheeses, pickles, preserves, mixed leaf salad, bread and artisan breadsticks.

We are starting to receive enquiries for private events next season already and have several more projects on the go for this winter! Right now, if you’d like to find out more about our Italian antipasti buffet, you can have a look at our latest catering menus HERE.

A presto!

Laura and Giordano

La nostra pasta artigianale – Our artisan pasta

 

La nostra pasta artigianale – Our artisan pasta

As part of our commitment to creating our staple dishes from scratch, we now make all of our own bronze-die pasta!

We are incredibly proud of our pasta and spend a lot of time thinking about it – how we can create the perfect recipes, the flavours we can add to the dough, the best shapes for certain sauces – and so a lot of care and attention goes into making it too.

To make the perfect pasta, we use a mix of premium flours – we perfected a mix of durum wheat and “00” Italian soft wheat flour – and only natural ingredients. We also make it without eggs!

We currently make several kinds of pasta that can’t be created by hand, so we have a very hard-working pasta machine to help us whip up large quantities! If we have an event at the weekend we start making the pasta a couple of days before; this way it has time to dry and we’re sure we have the quantities we need.

The pasta shapes we can make right now are:

Conchiglie – these are literally “shells” of pasta and work best with sauces that are made with smaller vegetables, for example a rich tomato sauce with petits pois.

Gemelli – known as “twins” because they come out of the machine looking like two strands of pasta twisted together. All summer we’ve been making spinach gemelli with fresh cherry tomatoes, basil and pangrattato breadcrumbs and it’s quickly become our most popular pasta dish!

Sedanini – similar to rigatoni (straight pasta tubes) but thinner, the name translates as “little celery stalks”. These are a perfect match for the meatier sauces on our menu, such as our traditional white beef ragout and roasted chicken alla cacciatora.

Reginette – reginette were created in the early 20th century to commemorate the birth of Princess Mafalda, daughter of Vittorio Emanuele III, hence they are known as “little queens”, or sometimes mafaldine (little Mafaldas). These are perfect with chunkier vegetables like broccoli or cime di rapa (turnip greens).

Very soon, we’d like to expand the list of pasta we can create to include firm Italian favourites such as fusilli, gigli and gramigna.

We make pasta in a whole range of flavours too, from classic to wholewheat, chilli to chocolate, and beetroot to red wine. The list gets longer by the week!

As well as serving up our pasta dishes at plenty of events this year already, last weekend we also travelled to Altrincham Market and had our very own stall selling fresh pasta, meaning that for the first time people were able to take it home and cook it themselves!

Cooking our fresh pasta couldn’t be simpler or faster. Just pop it into salted, boiling water and cook it for around 4-5 minutes. Our pasta comes in 200g boxes, which is enough to serve 2 hungry people!

We’re planning to visit more markets in the very near future, and we’re also looking into selling our artisan pasta through local businesses. We will of course keep you updated about this!

If you have any questions about our fresh pasta, feel free to contact us – we’d love to hear from you!

A presto!

Laura and Giordano

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3 years ago today…

 

3 years ago today…

 

…we had our first ever day of trading as Tigellae!

Back in July 2014 we’d just finished work on our kitchen, we’d received our 5-star food hygiene rating, we’d given the Vanstaurant its first ever makeover and we were ready to go. We decided, so that it was easy for the people we cared about to come and try our food for the first time, to trade locally outside Casa Tigellae, our official base in Hyde, Greater Manchester.

For our very first menu, we served handmade pizza, riso freddo (summery Italian rice salad) and tiny cannoli for dessert. Lots of our friends did come down and see us and they loved our food, especially the margherita pizza! After four days of trading outside Casa Tigellae, we were happy with how things had started but were very aware that this was just a trial run. Bigger and more exciting adventures were to come!

Fast-forward 3 years and we’ve definitely found our feet. We now specialise in colourful, flavoured fresh pasta which we couldn’t be more proud of, and we’ve created an entire range of tiramisu which is unlike anything else you’ll find on a food truck in the UK. We’ve got some brand new menus for private events, built a mobile bar and also have plans for a brand new venture which we’ll tell you all about soon.

This is what we looked like in July 2014…

…and this is what we look like now!

See you soon!

Laura and Giordano

A fresh start – Our brand new mobile bar

 

A fresh start – Our brand new mobile bar

This year, we’re branching out. We’re getting serious about proper restaurant-quality food, lining up and taking part in some great events that we can’t wait to tell you about, and putting the finishing touches to our latest project which will take centre stage in our everyday set-up. That’s what we want to tell you about today.

Milan: Cafe in the Galleria Vittorio Emanuele (Photo by Kallabis/ullstein bild via Getty Images)

Have you ever been to an Italian bar? We’ve been to loads of them, and we love them. A relaxing atmosphere, a great group of friends, a whole array of snacks and some proper amazing food. Can you guess where we’re going with this?

Meet the brand new addition to the Travelling Trattoria – our beautiful mobile bar!

Designing a bespoke new feature of our Travelling Trattoria that would be in use every day was not a job we could do in an afternoon. We wanted it to fit both in front of the Vanstaurant and under our gazebo, and it needed to have a multitude of functions – we want you to see the food you’re going to get, we want you to get excited about it, and we want to talk to you as you’re getting excited about eating it!

To help us design and make the bar, we enlisted the help of Laura’s dad, a fellow Italophile and a very experienced and talented carpenter. With his help, Giordano designed not one, but two separate bars, so we can choose the best set-up depending on the event.

The first bar has a fridge underneath where we’ll keep our wines nice and fresh, and a second display fridge on top where you’ll be able to see exactly what we’ve got on offer when you come to visit us! It also has a sneaky detachable shelf for all manner of useful trinkets!

The second bar contains a tall, beautiful, round fridge where we’ll store our desserts. If you love our tiramisù, you’ll really love looking at this and deciding what to have for pudding!

We put the bars together over at Jack Badger in Glossop. Giordano painted them black and fitted some red castors to the bases so they’re easier to manoeuvre! We also spent a morning adding some silver brackets to the edges of each counter to protect them as we’re taking them in and out of the Vanstaurant.

Finally, we fitted the fridges and shelves into each section of the bar and added the beautiful wooden counter tops, and we had a visit from the Manchester Sign Co. in Failsworth to add our logo to the two bars and make them look as amazing as our Vanstaurant!

Look out for chief mobile barkeep Laura at a food fair near you in the not-too-distant future, or ask about hiring us for your next private event! Also, if you want to see the full journey of creating our mobile bar, from the first bits of wood to the finished product, just visit our Instagram page.

A presto!

Laura and Giordano

 

A fresh start – Our new logo

 

A fresh start – Our new logo

When we first started talking about Tigellae in the summer of 2011, the first thing that we created was our original logo. The little heart with the chef’s hat was the beginning of our adventure.

Fast-forward to 2017, and after a series of fantastic events over the last couple of years we are planning a bit of a fresh start. We’re bringing in some new dishes (more on that later) and changing our look and set-up for private events and food festivals. We want to stand out and be known for great-tasting Italian food, and for having a look like no other caterers out there.

We started to alter our look last summer by launching a brand new, fabulous Tigellae logo. This one!!

For some time now we’ve been known as “The Travelling Trattoria” – we are a little restaurant on wheels where you can come and find great food, good company and one or two nibbles to tide you over until the food arrives. For sentimental reasons, we’ve kept the little heart with the chef’s hat from our original logo.

Last month we introduced the new logo for our amazing Vanstaurant – we may be a bit biased, but we think it’s too fantastic not to have its own logo! – which we’ve added to our social media pages recently and are hoping to add to the van itself very soon.

Both logos were created by our very talented friend Alex, who runs Snowdon Design & Craft. She makes all sorts of pretty designs into wall prints, tote bags and amazing logos for local businesses 😉

Thank you again for your superb designs!

In other exciting news for 2017, we are getting some new kitchen equipment and are delighted to announce that we will be serving FRESH PASTA and HOME-CURED MEATS from this season onwards, so expect some brand new menus in the near future! We’re REALLY excited about the year ahead and have so many new things to share with you!

A presto!

Laura and Giordano

Finding out about GRUB

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Finding out about GRUB

GRUB table at Runaway

Spring is officially here and we’re itching to get the Vanstaurant back to our beloved Manchester, so it’s time for a bit of undercover adventuring!

At the end of last year we discovered a street food collective called GRUB, who organise events in and around Manchester – perfect for us, then! We’ve been following them with interest for a little while now and in the last couple of weeks we’ve finally had the chance to see what they’re all about (lovely street food and delicious beer, as it happens!)

Our first street food adventure as customers with GRUB this year was at Runaway Brewery in central Manchester!

GRUB at Runaway

The photo above was taken in the middle of the day, by which time it was absolutely packed! We decided to stay outside as lots of people were queuing up for the tasty beer!

Here we are trying a pint for ourselves 🙂

Laura and Giordano at Runaway

It’s not all about the beer, though. Last week GRUB also hosted a spring fair at Sadler’s Yard, close to Victoria station. We got that early this time and, whilst the weather wasn’t brilliant, the food certainly was!

GRUB at Sadlers Yard

The pizza we tried from Honest Crust was so good that, after scoffing our own pizzas, we went back and got this beautiful margherita to share!

Margherita pizza from Honest Crust

We got a great impression of GRUB – their events are filled with (and run by) happy and relaxed people who love great food and drink! GRUB also make a point of getting together an eclectic, international mix of traders in one space, to be sure there’s something for everyone!

We will be back!!! 😉

Vanstaurant before in Glossop

Our amazing Vanstaurant is getting a makeover at the moment, to upgrade its potential and to make it look even better than before. Big news coming up!

Ciao, a presto!

 Laura and Giordano

A true street food adventure in Palermo

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A true street food adventure in PalermoPalermo Teatro Massimo

Today we want to share with you one of our favourite adventures to date – our journey to Sicily! It had been a dream of ours for several years to visit the island together, and it didn’t disappoint; as well as being incredibly beautiful, it really is one of the best places for street food that we’ve visited!

Vucciria entrance

Our Sicilian journey started in the island’s capital, Palermo. Giordano’s grandfather was from the province of Agrigento, making Tigellae’s head chef 1/4 Sicilian! His grandad’s youngest brother, Salvatore, lives in the centre of Palermo with his daughter and her family, and they were really happy to let us stay with them for the first night of our holiday – in fact, we know that they wouldn’t have had it any other way! It was a brilliant start to the holiday; Laura got the chance to learn about a side of Giordano’s family that she’d never met before and we also got to see some photos of Giordano’s dad – who has been a chef himself for almost 40 years – as a young boy. We chatted for hours, enjoyed several glasses of wine and a whole host of fried specialities from their local takeaway, including chips, mini pizzas, fritters, mozzarella balls, potato croquettes and a whole lot more besides! A huge THANK YOU must go to Salvatore, Giusy, Piero and Rosemary for looking after us!

Salvatore Laura Giordano Palermo

The following morning we woke up to find that Salvatore had sneaked out early to a stall in the local market to buy us breakfast. He arrived with a brown paper bag containing a Sicilian speciality known as an iris. It was deep-fried, lightly crunchy on the outside and looked a little bit like an oversized doughnut, but instead of being doughy on the inside it was stuffed full of sugary ricotta with a tiny blob of jam right in the centre. It was not a light breakfast, but it was gorgeous!

Laura Iris Palermo

We’re told by a friend from Catania (Palermo’s rival city) that where he comes from the iris are usually filled with cream instead of ricotta. Laura is already planning another extensive visit to Sicily so she can check this out! The iris was the perfect fuel for a half day of sightseeing around Palermo with our tour guide Salvatore! It was a gorgeously sunny day, around 35° and no clouds in the sky. Here’s Laura and Salvatore in Piazza San Domenico (which was also Giordano’s grandad’s name!).

Piazza San Domenico Laura Salvatore

We started with a walk through some of the city’s side streets, where one of the first things we found was a copy of a famous painting that we’d been hoping to find. In 1974, a Sicilian artist called Renato Guttuso painted his most famous work, a depiction of La Vucciria, Palermo’s famous food market. There are copies of the painting to be found throughout the city and it depicts all sorts of lively characters and their interactions, plus the wide variety of food on sale in the market stalls.

Vucciria Guttuso

We found the entrance to the Vucciria and walked right through it to see whether it still bore any resemblance to the painting. We weren’t disappointed – this was the amazing fruit and veg stall!

Vucciria fruit stall

On the same stretch of road we found the Vucciria Taverna Azzura (the blue tavern), one of the oldest bars in Palermo. Salvatore told us a story about himself, Giordano’s grandad and a priest all getting drunk together in this bar, which to us sounds a bit like the start of a joke!

Vucciria Taverna Azzurra

A word of warning: by all means hire a car to get around and see Sicily, but for the love of cheese DO NOT drive in the middle of Palermo unless you are Sicilian and used to the roads. Cars overtake each other left, right and centre and people on scooters cut straight across you, or block the roads entirely like these people. There are no rules!

Palermo traffic

Religion is hugely important in Sicilian culture and Salvatore gave us an extensive tour of Sicily’s many beautiful churches, including the Martorana, which is filled with gold details and beautiful mosaics like the ones below.

Martorana interior

We also got to see the Quattro Canti, a stunning Baroque Square in central Palermo which sits at the crossing of the city’s two main streets. Four near-identical buildings face each other, decorated with fountains that have statues of the four seasons, the four Spanish kings of Sicily, and the patronesses of Palermo.

Quattro canti Palermo

After a lovely morning of visiting churches, learning about Palermo’s famous landmarks and digesting our ricotta-filled breakfast, it was time for a spot of lunch! This was where Laura got to experience proper Sicilian street food from a roadside vendor for the first time. A friend from Palermo had told us that no visit to the city was complete without trying pane e panelle.

Chiluzzo friggitoria

Panelle are Sicilian fritters made with chickpea flour, served in a sandwich with your favourite filling. We got ours from the Friggitoria Chiluzzo, a brilliant, no-nonsense street food stall right in the heart of Palermo, in a beautiful square by the sea.

Laura pane panelle Palermo

Laura had a delicious pane e panelle con melanzane (aubergines) Salvatore went for a pane e panelle with cazzilli (small potato croquettes with parsley) and Giordano ate the biggest arancina we’ve ever seen – here’s the recipe for you to try at home!

Chiluzzo Giordano arancina

Did we mention that they love deep-fried food in Sicily? As if that wasn’t enough, they also threw in some broccoletti (marinated broccoli florets in batter) for us all to try. They were perfectly cooked, not too greasy and absolutely amazing! 2 pane e panelle, one massive arancino, broccoletti, two soft drinks and a beer for the grand total of 8 euros (around £5.60)!! We love Sicily!! 😉

Chiluzzo arancina broccoletti

After lunch we were joined by Salvatore’s granddaughter Rosemary, and together we headed up to the Santuario di Santa Rosalia, a beautiful shrine built into the side of a mountain above Palermo. Santa Rosalia is the patron saint of Palermo and this place of worship was built in her honour in the 17th century.

Palermo Santa Rosalia interior

Many people come to the santuario to pray to Santa Rosalia, asking her to bring them important things they have longed for, such as marriage and children. This is the reason why the entrance to the shrine is adorned with many gifts of thanks to Santa Rosalia including a graduation hat, baby clothes and a wedding dress.

Palermo Santa Rosalia

The shrine is also close to a steep, wooded road known as the Salita Monte Pellegrino that leads even further up in to the mountains, until you come to a point where you can look down of the city centre and the beautiful blue sea below. It’s a big, uphill walk, and definitely worth it for this view!

Palermo view

After a wonderful 24 hours in the company of Palermo and Giordano’s family, we hopped in our hire car – which would come to be known as the Adventure Panda – and headed west on the next stage of our Sicilian journey.

Adventure Panda Marsala

A presto for the rest of our journey!

 Laura and Giordano

Introducing the foldable Vanstaurant!

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Introducing the foldable Vanstaurant!

Foldable Vanstaurant ICCM

This summer, we went on our first street food adventure with an indoor set-up as part of the Moretti Gran Tour in Leeds. The venue was fantastic, our pulled pork pasta dish went down a storm and we really learned a lot. We want Tigellae to work as a mobile restaurant whatever setting we’re in, being able to create Italian street food for all kinds of UK events.

With this in mind, we recently decided to invest in an alternative set-up, one which will be brilliant both indoors and outdoors and one which can be dressed up and fitted out however we like.

Ladies and gentlemen, behold…the world’s first ever foldable food truck!!!

Foldable Vanstaurant setting up

We realise that, at first glance, it looks a lot like a gazebo, but it is much more than that! It means we can bring you the same Tigellae experience in more places than ever before. Not only that, it’s really easy to put up and take down and it all fits into these 3 bags!

Foldable Vanstaurant bags

Next, we needed some menu boards which were free-standing and would look at home in our brand new (and very tall) mobile kitchen! We already had two long boards which we took to the Moretti Gran Tour with us, but to make them stand out a little more and fit the new space we’d be working in we asked Laura’s dad to help us modify them so they stood up vertically. Here he is modelling one of them!

Rob board workshop

Yesterday our foldable Vanstaurant went to its very first event in our home town. This year we’ve enjoyed a regular collaboration with our local pub, the Harewood Arms in Broadbottom, meaning that many of our friends and neighbours have been able to try our Italian street food on a regular basis. This lead to us being booked to provide the food for this year’s Incredibly Crafty Christmas Market, a lovely craft fair which takes place each November in the local community centre.

Stella natale ICCM

For this event we created a lunchtime menu for people to enjoy as they started their Christmas shopping! This included the Bari focaccia with cherry tomatoes and Italian olives and Lecce focaccia with onions and oregano which have been popular throughout the year.

Menu board ICCM

This was also the perfect event for our Arancellae – our take on Sicilian arancini and one of our favourite new recipes which has made its debut recently. Here they are!

Laura arancellae

On the day we served up Arancellae with four different flavours: Tomato and mozzarella, tuna, olives and capers, spicy salami, and spinach and Grana Padano cheese. We had sold out of our Sicilian rice balls of wonder by the end of the day!

Giordano frying

Finally, we had a tiramisu’ menu for the very first time!!! The Torino tiramisu is made with Italian espresso coffee and dark chocolate, the Vignola tiramisu is filled with black, syrupy cherries from Modena, and our brand new Amalfi tiramisu’ is infused with Limoncello and topped with white chocolate stars.

Tiramisu Torino

Thank you to everyone who braved the cold to come to the event and especially those who stayed outside and chatted with us for a bit. It was really, really cold but we had some beautiful sunshine!

Laura Giordano gazebo

We’re just coming to the end of our first full season of street food and it’s gone wonderfully well, but next season we want to be even better. We’re sure that the foldable Vanstaurant will help us to do just that!

Ciao, a presto!

 Laura and Giordano

Our Italian Holiday and Food Festival Tour 2015

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Our Italian Holiday and Food Festival Tour 2015

Pineapple stall Isola

Ciao! If you are a regular visitor to our Facebook page (and if you’re not, welcome!) you’ll have seen that we’ve been away again recently. After a very successful first season of Italian street food we decided to reward ourselves with an Italian holiday. However, this was not the average Italian holiday; it was about much more than that. This was about seeing a part of Italy we’d never previously explored, about discovering true and authentic street food and, most importantly, about visiting as many Italian food and drink festivals as we could!!

Cous cous fest

Food festivals are huge in Italy and the tradition of celebrating a particular dish, ingredient or type of wine or beer forms an important part of local Italian culture. If a town is famous for a particular product or plate of food it creates a festival around it that lasts for days or even weeks and often involves not just the food, but the traditions of the town or village where the festival is held. It’s a great way of bringing a community together and, even though we have great traditions such as village fêtes and baking festivals over here, it’s something we don’t see celebrated in the same way in the UK. In this blog post we’ll tell you a bit more about the festivals we visited and the food and drink we tried!!

Festa uva Monzambano

Our first stop on the festival tour was the Festa dell’Uva (grape festival), which takes place every year in Giordano’s home town of Monzambano, close to Lake Garda. As the name suggests, it is a celebration of wines from local cantine (wine distilleries) and producers in the Mantova region. At the centre of the festival were different wine tasting stalls. At the first stall we paid €5 each and received a small bag containing a wine glass, plus six coupons which allowed us to sample the local wines.

Festa uva Giordano

There was a separate stall for food where we tried gorgonzola with polenta (yes, it was a whole slab of gorgonzola with polenta around it!) and capunsei, a dish from the province of Mantova made with breadcrumbs, cheese, stock and a sprinkling of parsley.

Festa uva Ilya, Milena, Victor, Laura

We visited the festival on two consecutive nights with friends and family and saw a traditional parade through the town, market stalls, local rock stars, fancy dress, juggling with fire and historical reenactments. It was all happening!!

Festa uva sbandieratori

On our third day in Italy we embarked on a true adventure, to a place Laura had never visited before – the beautiful island of Sicily!!!!!!

Laura San Vito

We will talk about our Sicilian adventures in a separate blog post, but right now we want to tell you about our visit to the Cous Cous Fest, which takes place every September in San Vito Lo Capo in north-western Sicily. The festival is all about showcasing the different types of cous cous that are served not just in Sicily, but across the world.

Tenda cous cous

For €10 per person we each got a glass of wine, a Sicilian dessert and a proper plate of cous cous. We had to pick carefully as there were more than 30 dishes to choose from!! Giordano decided to have a local cous cous trapanese (from the province of Trapani) with tuna, sardines and wild fennel, while Laura went for a spicy cous cous with Mediterranean vegetables.

Cous cous

There was so much good food that we had to have a walk around the town in order to have space in our bellies for something else! This was because our friends who work close by had told us about a Sicilian pasta dish that we had to try. Busiata is a long, twisty pasta from the province of Trapani, and ours was mixed with a tomato sauce and topped with loads of vegetables. It was delicious!

Busiata

We’re not sure how, but we found room for a few of these little Sicilian desserts afterwards too!

Dolci San Vito

After our Sicilian adventure there was still time for two more festivals! Our next journey took us back up north to the province of Modena, where we attended the Sagra del Lambrusco in Castelvetro with a group of our friends. This worked in the same way as the Festa dell’Uva; again, we each paid a set price for a wine glass and a set number of coupons, but this time we got twelve, one for each stall!

Laura Alex Castelvetro

There was some tasty food and drink from the Emilia-Romagna region on offer too, and Laura even managed to track down and eat some tigelle (the inspiration for our name), which are traditionally from Modena.

Tigella Castelvetro

As you can imagine, a food festival involving friends and wine-tasting is great fun, and Castelvetro is really, really pretty!

Gruppo Castelvetro

Our final food festival, on our last day in Italy, was the Fiera del Riso in Isola della Scala, near Verona. It’s a town famous for risotto and also the place where Giordano lived when he was little. The Fiera del Riso is a 3-week-long food festival – a huge event for a small town – and is all about great-tasting risotto made the traditional way. We visited the event with some good friends who have lived in central Verona for many years, and we were all looking forward to seeing which rice dishes were on offer!

Laura Nathalie Isola

The festival’s main dish was risotto all’isolana, a traditional risotto from Isola della Scala made with pork and veal, which is so popular locally that most of the stalls around the main hall were serving it! There were around 20 stalls in one huge hall, each one fitted with industrial kitchen equipment capable of producing risotto for thousands of people each day! 

Festa riso Isola

Although food festival organisers love keeping with tradition, they also change the dishes on offer each year to allow visitors to sample a whole variety of rice products. When we visited the Fiera del Riso a few years ago we got to try arancini (Sicilian rice balls with all sorts of tasty fillings) and this year Laura got a pre-Halloween treat with some risotto alla zucca – pumpkin risotto!

Risotto zucca

Now we’re back, we’re dreaming up new ideas for menus and dreaming of delicious Italian cuisine. Expect some new dishes in the not too distant future and expect another blog post all about Sicily very soon!

Laura Giordano giardino

A presto!

 Laura and Giordano

Our first Moretti Gran Tour

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Our first Moretti Gran Tour

Laura serving pasta Moretti

Today we want to share our experience at the most amazing and inspiring weekend of street food we have ever had as traders!

The Birra Moretti Gran Tour, which took place between July and August 2015, covering three cities – Edinburgh, London and Leeds – is a celebration of regional Italian street food from some of the best traders across the UK. We were invited to attend the final leg of this tour, which took place in Leeds Town Hall over four days.
Leeds Town Hall Moretti
We were advised by the event organisers that we would trade from a stall inside the venue (sadly they don’t let Vanstaurants, however amazing they are, inside Leeds Town Hall), so we got together everything we needed for our inside set-up – tables, indoor lighting, coolboxes, bigger menu boards, etc. – and made the hour-long journey up the M62.

Giordano Vanstaurant Leeds
When we arrived, we saw the most beautiful space we’ve ever traded in. A collection of Italian lights, olive trees and crates bearing the event’s name were scattered around the hall!
Moretti Leeds setup
Each stall had their own sign and a description of their dish, plus the name of the region we were representing. Given Giordano’s heritage (he was born in Parma and his father is a Michelin-star chef from Modena) we were doing our bit for the Emilia-Romagna region!
Tigellae sign Moretti
As you can see from the description above, we gave our popular pulled pork pasta dish an authentic Italian twist, slow-cooking the pork for 12 hours and braising it in Birra Moretti. On the first night, which was attended by Yorkshire’s most famous food bloggers, street food magazine editors and journalists, this dish was among the most-tasted plates of Italian food on offer – we made nearly 250 portions on the first night alone!
Fusilli pulled pork Moretti
The objective for those attending the event was simple: complete the Gran Tour! On arrival guests were given a passport and a wristband of tokens entitling them to two dishes, one ice cream and two drinks. They could sample all of the dishes on offer by paying a little extra to the traders directly if they had run out of tokens. If they tried our food, they collected a stamp from us in their passport. If they managed to try everything on offer, they got themselves a goodie bag (with lots of beer in it)!  

Tigellae passport Moretti

We also met some inspiring traders and were lucky enough to taste their food ourselves. London-based duo Arancini Brothers made some beautiful, all-veggie arancini, and cheese-obsessed Laura also enjoyed a couple of plates of beetroot gnocchi with crema di gorgonzola, crushed hazelnuts and rocket from Pasta e Basta. It was also great to hear their stories of street food trading and it’s really made us think about how we can go forwards and make a whole variety of regional dishes in the future. Grazie mille! 🙂

Tigellae sign Italia Moretti

If you want to see more of what the Moretti Gran Tour was like, just have a look at our Facebook and Instagram pages or use the hashtag #morettigrantour. You’ll find a LOT of photos!

Laura and Giordano baffi Moretti

Grazie di cuore 🙂

 Laura and Giordano

Creating Casa Tigellae

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Creating Casa Tigellae: building, painting and lots of cleaning

Laura cleaning dishwasher

If you’ve visited our website or followed our journey on Facebook you will have heard us mention the place where the magic happens: Casa Tigellae! Today marks exactly a year since we finished working on our biggest project ever, something that took almost 14 months to design, install, construct, paint, furnish, clean, repair, decorate… you name it, we did it!

Casa Tigellae keys

After finding our amazing Vanstaurant, the next major stage of our Tigellae journey was to find our new business a home. One day, whilst searching for premises Giordano came across an industrial unit close to our house in Greater Manchester.

The first time we saw what would soon become Casa Tigellae, we knew it was the right space for us. The only trouble at that stage was the leaky roof, uneven floor and complete lack of a commercial kitchen!

When we moved in it looked like this:

Casa Tigellae April 2013

We weren’t daunted by the huge task ahead of us – by this stage we’d seen a few different places and knew what our best course of action was. In July 2013 we moved in and set about creating our kitchen from scratch.

Building the kitchen

The first step was to divide up the room into an entrance hall, commercial kitchen, office, bathroom and workshop (this is why we chose this particular unit – there was a lot of space to work with!). We sourced our kitchen equipment from far and wide. I am especially pleased with the polentera, the gigantic beast of a machine which we use to make polenta, and our Angelo Po pizza oven.

Pizza oven cleaning

Once the walls were up and we’d bought most of our bulkier kitchen items, it was time to get painting. Here at Tigellae we don’t believe in jobs for boys and jobs for girls, but we do believe that some jobs are best left to tall people like Giordano, who is not scared of standing on stepladders like I am, and other jobs like painting skirting boards are more suited to people like me (I’m 5’1″):

Laura painting skirting board
As well as this, we’ve cleaned the whole unit, watched various herbs grow and grow (and, in some cases, start to take over a little bit!), we’ve sanded, scoured and made countless trips to Ashton-under-Lyne’s DIY and homeware stores. We’ve learned a lot and now have our very own space in which to create our regional Italian food, which we’re really proud of!

Laura kitchen

From moving in to finishing it took almost a year to the day. One of our proudest days ever was when we received the maximum Food Hygiene Rating of 5 for the kitchen we’d designed ourselves and created with the help of friends and family.
Giordano rating 5
We are also eternally grateful to our friend Big G for all of his hard work in getting our unit ready. We really can’t thank you enough.
So that’s Casa Tigellae! If you fancy a sneaky peek inside, head over to our Facebook page where you can see the journey of Casa Tigellae from start to finish, including me in a fridge and Giordano doing his best Bruce Willis impression with a jet washer!
Laura air compressor
Look out for more stories of our journey, plus some exciting news on our next events and adventures on the Tigellae blog!
Ciao for now!
Laura

Michele – Gelateria Borgo Antico, Borghetto

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Michele – Gelateria Borgo Antico, Borghetto

Michele con mamma

Italian food is made special by the people who are passionate about creating it. Whether we’re talking about pasta, pizza or regional dishes known only to one city, you can be sure that the chef at the heart of it will use the finest ingredients to make it as tasty as possible! There is also one famous dessert which, in our opinion, is best consumed on a hot summer’s day in Italy, preferably as part of an afternoon walk with friends. We are talking about Italian gelato – ice cream!

As we mentioned in our last blog post, during our Italian holiday we met up with Michele Ravini, a friend and passionate gelatiere who runs the Gelateria Borgo Antico, a family business in Borghetto, close to Verona. Borghetto itself is a place very close to our hearts; it’s almost too small to be a village but it still has room for several restaurants, ice-cream parlours and even a quirky cocktail bar! Giordano and I have been coming to Borghetto for seven years, and we find an excuse to go back there every time we’re in Italy because it’s so pretty! 🙂 

Borghetto

Gelateria Borgo Antico is tucked away in a little corner of Borghetto in a hugely popular tourist spot. We caught up with Michele at his place of work to ask him about his journey and his passion for great Italian ice cream. We also got a a tour of his immaculate and organised kitchen, where he prepares his ice cream for the following week and experiments with new recipes and flavours.

Gelateria exterior

There is also a pane of glass in the kitchen floor where you can see the river rushing past beneath your feet. Look at Laura the daredevil, standing on the glass! 😉  

Laura pavimento gelateria

Michele’s journey as a gelatiere began in the late 1990s, when his family decided to get a fixed ice cream parlour for their already-established family business.  He spent three months studying with a master gelatiere by the name of Arnaldo Conforto, who also helped to fit out the family’s gelateria. At the beginning of the course, Conforto gave Michele a choice: did he want to learn how to make ice cream, or did he want to learn how to create new recipes? 

Michele chose the recipes.

Michele pelatura zenzero

Following these three months of study with Conforto, Michele began working at the Borgo Antico gelateria in 1999. Before too long he was confident enough to begin experimenting with his own recipes and created his first new flavour, the “Veleno” ice cream, which is still a firm favourite in the ice cream parlour today. Veleno is the Italian word for poison, so-called because the strong crema di caffe’ – a rich coffee syrup –  cuts beautifully through the pure taste of the milk-flavoured fior di latte ice cream. We have tried this recipe and can confirm it’s delicious!

Veleno ice cream

Michele’s two favourite original ice cream recipes are “Crema Catalana” – a creamy recipe flavoured with burnt sugar, orange peel and cinnamon – and “Malos Cantores“, made with peanuts, caramel and chocolate. We can also confirm that the latter goes very well with the “Veleno” and is equally delicious!

Michele is also passionate about Asia and molecular cooking, and in the last few years he has slowly begun to introduce this passion into his gelato recipes. Only in Borghetto can you find an ice cream known as “Lost in China“, flavoured with green tea rice and mixed with a goji berry and ginger syrup. We love that he’s not afraid to experiment with new flavours!

Gelati misti

As well as this, Michele regularly attends ice cream workshops and has opened several ice cream parlours across the Veneto region. His passion is reflected in his recipes; he told us that he feels it was his destiny to become a mastro gelatiere. He says he isn’t quite sure what he’d be doing if he hadn’t discovered ice-cream, but he’s pretty sure he’d still be working in a kitchen!

Next time, we’ll tell you a bit more about Michele’s family business and its history, and the methods they used for creating the best gelato. We will leave you this time with a picture of us in the gelateria, enjoying some spectacular ice cream!

Giordano e Laura con gelati

Ciao for now! 

Laura and Giordano

5 foodie things you should do on an Italian holiday (like we did!)

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5 foodie things you should do on an Italian holiday (like we did!)

Vista Gargnano

We’ve just returned from a ten-day holiday in northern Italy, which has been wonderful and has filled us both with ideas and plans for the future! Some of it was spent in Gargnano, where Giordano’s mum has a flat with beautiful views of Lake Garda.

Based on our trip, we wanted to share five foodie things with you which we can highly recommend trying during an Italian holiday. If you can think of any more, leave us a comment at the end!

Have a cake breakfast

We have talked before on the blog about the wonders of cake breakfast, and no country does it quite like Italy. On one particularly hot and sunny day we got our walking shoes on and headed to Salionze, the next town over, for a bit of cake and, of course, the perfect Italian coffee to go with it. It was a 6km round trip, and it was well worth the trek – a tiny roll of sponge filled with jam and cream, a chocolate-covered bigne’ (a bit like a small profiterole) with chocolate mousse inside, and a mini fruit tartlet with a gigantic strawberry on top!

Laura at Tiffany's

Seek out a good pizzeria (or two, or three…)

We lived together for three years close to Lake Garda and, during that time, compiled a fairly extensive list of our favourite pizza parlours in the area. When we arrived in Italy at the start of the holiday we wasted no time in going to our favourite local pizzeria for a “verde e patate”, an extremely thin pizza – so thin it’s probably better to tear it than to cut into it – topped with little cubes of potato and a generous helping of gorgonzola – ‘blue cheese’s sexy Italian cousin’ as someone once said!

In contrast to the pizza mentioned above, we ended the last full day of our holiday by consuming the thickest, doughiest, pizza-iest pizza we could find! It doesn’t even fit on the plate. Amazing!

Laura Mariangela pizza

Have a LOT of ice cream (preferably in a beautiful setting)

Gelateria Borghetto

This country knows its ice cream, and you’re never too far from delicious gelato while you’re on holiday in Italy. You can try rich and gloopy chocolate, creamy vanilla, a million different varieties of fruit sorbet and a lot more besides (ever tried Smurf flavoured ice cream – gelato Puffo?!). During our holiday we met up with Michele, a friend and the passionate gelataio (ice cream maker) behind Gelateria Borgo Antico in Borghetto; we asked him about his recipes, inspirations and favourite flavours and will be publishing our interview with him on the blog very soon!

Michele e mamma gelateria

Visit Modena

This city is famous for slow food and fast cars (it’s home to both Maserati and Ferrari!), and we love it for so many reasons. It’s found in the Emilia Romagna region of northern Italy, about an hour from where we used to live, and it’s also the home of the tigella, the bread that gave us the inspiration for our name. We will write about Modena in more detail one day because it’s so important to us, plus it’s full of amazing regional food and beautiful squares!

Modena centro piazza

This time we found a place that makes great panini, Generi Alimentari Da Panino, and specialises in matching the right kind of bread with the perfect filling, all made using premium ingredients. Laura even got to try two vegetarian panini! This one was made with green pesto and fantastic smoked buffalo mozzarella.

Laura da Panino

Go to an Italian wedding

Ok, we know this is a bit of an unrealistic and silly one, but we’re sure you can imagine the sheer quantity of amazing food you can find at an Italian wedding reception. On the last day of our Italian holiday we were lucky enough to see two of our closest friends get married, and the reception took place at a beautiful villa close to our ‘home’ town. Even before the sit-down meal there was a buffet with amazing fried treats like frittelle (fritters) and mozzarelline (balls of mozzarella fried in breadcrumbs), and during the meal itself the guests ate risotto, ravioli, beef Wellington in peppercorn sauce, potatoes and roasted vegetables. Here’s a great picture – taken by Andrea, the super-talented photographer of Verona Wedding – of the bride and groom and their delicious wedding cake – layers of fresh fruit, cream, sponge and chocolate pieces. It was like a fluffy cloud!

Ilya Milena wedding

 

All in all, we had an amazing time – having lots of people to visit and catch up with while you’re on holiday makes everything even more fun. We hope to come back soon, but for now, we have even more exciting plans for Tigellae! Did we tell you we’re going to the United v Bayern all-stars match on the 14th June?

Grazie ragazzi, a presto!

Laura and Giordano ready

Laura and Giordano

The Vanstaurant loves MCR!

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The Vanstaurant loves MCR!

Laura Vanstaurant

Exciting times here at Tigellae! We are well aware that it’s been a few weeks since our last blog post about street food adventures in Manchester; the truth is that, since then, we’ve had a LOT MORE street food adventures in Manchester!!

Giordano Vanstaurant

Since our first event at the end of March we have revisited the Urban Food Fest no less than five times, and have had two different menus to share. For the first three evenings we served up our trademark panini with crunchy Altamura bread and a variety of hot and cold fillings, including our Maremma chicken cacciatora in a tomato and red wine sauce, and a buttery Bergamo spinach panino with provolone and Grana Padano cheeses, both of which proved very popular on cold and rainy Mancunian evenings!

Panino assembling

We change our menu on a regular basis to provide as much choice as possible, and in the last couple of weeks we’ve also introduced two different types of pasta to our street food menu. We know that the UK loves a bolognese sauce, so we decided to create ‘Bologna 1859’, based on one of the oldest-known recipes for it using beef, and pork “spalla” (shoulder) and “coppa” (neck) all braised in Sangiovese di Romagna red wine. We had something for the veggies too – a spicy tomato arrabbiata with plenty of sauce!

Pasta arrabbiata

As well as becoming a regular at the Urban Food Fest, a couple of weeks ago the Vanstaurant also spent the evening at AWOL Studios, close to Ancoats in central Manchester. We were approached by the organisers of an art exhibition at the studio and were asked to be the sole traders. It was a fantastic event, showcasing the work of many talented artists in and around the city. It was all put together by the brilliant Stef (aka Yorkshire Terrierist!) who was friendly, funny, helpful and just a joy to work with! You can get more information on the studio and the artists involved over at AWOL Studios’ Facebook page.

Finally, if you want to get a great idea of what our food looks like, follow Vanessa @crossinglimits on Instagram. She’s a student and foodie from Singapore who was first in the queue at Urban Food Fest on Saturday. Her pictures are beautiful and even before we met her we had a lot of fun following her food adventures online!

Thanks also to Jonnie B for his wonderful pictures and to everyone who has come to see us and try our food over the last few weeks. Last Saturday alone our visitors to the Vanstaurant were from Greece, the Netherlands, Japan, Singapore, Monaco and (of course) Italy. The picture below was sent to us by our friend Raffaella, the lovely lady on the right of the photo, who comes from southern Italy and said our focaccia reminded her of home!

Laura Raffaella Vanstaurant

We are off to Italy on the 20th of May and will be back in early June with a new delivery menu and order system, plus more events throughout the year. Watch this space!

Vanstaurant board

See you soon,

Laura and Giordano

Street food adventures in Manchester

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Street food adventures in Manchester

Urban Food Fest traders

Ciao a tutti! Hello everyone!

March has been a brilliant month and Giordano and I have been busy bees recently! As well as dreaming up new ideas for future menus and for the blog, we’ve been immersing ourselves in Manchester’s street food community and have had some very interesting adventures. I had a lot of fun exploring different events; as a street food trader visiting various events as a customer, I sort of feel like I’m working undercover! We also got a taste of what it’s like to trade at a big city centre event; more on that later!

First, we had a look at B.EAT St at the Great Northern Warehouse on Deansgate, a weekly event known as the Friday Food Fight. We got there quite early and, while we couldn’t stay long, we enjoyed being swept along by the beats and sampled some delicious beer! It would be great to go back when it’s a bit busier. While we saw a wide variety of customers and a mix of couples, families and students, it definitely feels like B.EAT St is the sort of event to visit with a big group of friends. I was also disappointed by the lack of vegetarian choice at this event; unless I wanted some cake for my tea there wasn’t really anything for me to eat! If you squint you might be able to see us with our beer at B.EAT St in the picture below:

B.eat street Giordano Laura

Another street food event I’m really interested in is Guerrilla Eats. Open every Saturday night, they have taken up a 12-week residency at The Wonder Inn at Shudehill and have a rolling list of traders at each event. The venue is divided up into street food stalls spread across several different rooms and floors, and definitely has that quirky warehouse feel about it. We went as customers on their second week of opening and tried both some lovely craft beer and some delicious pizza, which will definitely keep us going until we next visit Italy! Here I am with my beer and a big grin on my face:

Guerrilla Eats MCR Laura

Finally, a few weeks ago we visited the opening night of Urban Food Fest at the end of Deansgate. This was actually the first street food event we went to as customers, but I’ve saved it until last for a reason. We didn’t get great weather on the night, but the atmosphere was fantastic. We had such a good time that we decided to enquire about a pitch for an upcoming event as soon as we could. The event organisers came straight back to us with available dates, and I’m extremely pleased and proud to say that, exactly a month after visiting Urban Food Fest as customers, we went back as traders!!

Urban Food Fest Vanstaurant

On the night we served a tomato and black olive focaccia which proved very popular at our Broadbottom street food event last autumn, plus four different panini with a variety of hot and cold fillings:

Urban Food Fest Tigellae Menu

We had another evening of Mancunian weather (boo!), but had lots of visits from friends and family (hooray!), plus we met some lovely fellow traders and street food enthusiasts. We would love to go back very soon!

I’m going to finish off this blog post with one of my favourite photos from the event. Nigel and Lorraine are friends who I used to work with on Lake Garda. They had an epic journey from Yorkshire by bus, train and on foot to come and try our food. Thank you again, and thanks to our friend Jonnie B for the brilliant pictures! x

Urban Food Fest Nigel Lorraine

Laura

Laura, Verona

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Laura, VeronaVerona Castelvecchio

When I think of ‘my Italy’, the place I’m usually daydreaming about is the city of Verona, which can be found in north-east Italy in the Veneto region.

Verona’s not one of Italy’s largest cities, but it is, in my opinion, one of the most beautiful. In 2004, when I was still at university, I spent 5 months in Verona as part of my languages degree, so I have a lot of wonderful memories connected with this city.

Piazza Erbe

Verona makes a lot of people go a bit mushy and dreamy as it’s famously one of the most romantic cities on earth. Juliet’s balcony has been a tourist attraction since the 1930s and thousands of people flock to the city each year to see the casa di Giulietta (Juliet’s house) and the endless declarations of love that adorn the external walls. There’s a club of agony aunts who answer all of the letters written to Juliet each year – known as the Club di Giulietta – and in the courtyard you’ll find a bronze statue of the lady herself. Legend has it that if you touch her right breast it will bring you good luck! 

EPSON scanner image

One of my favourite things to do in Verona in the summer was to take a walk around the city centre and watch people enjoy the city. From the university I would head across the river Adige and into the city centre, past Juliet’s balcony and into Piazza Erbe, a lively square filled with bars, shops and stalls. From here I’d walk down Via Mazzini, sometimes stopping to browse in Fiorucci, my favourite shop (which sadly no longer exists) and finally I’d spend some time watching the world go by in beautiful Piazza Brà, home of the Arena di Verona.

Verona Arena Natale

Amongst other favourite memories, I regularly used to go out for drinks with my Erasmus buddies at El Tropico Latino near Piazza Erbe and at Campus Bar on Via XX Settembre, where they never bothered to change their background music – I think I listened to Beyoncé and 50 Cent on rotation every Thursday for 4 months! I had two great groups of friends in Verona – a big group of Italians and these lovely people below who were on their Erasmus year at the same time as me. I’m still in touch with Leila (far left) and Alison (middle left) and I’m still holding out for some sort of Erasmus reunion in Verona in the not too distant future! Here we are having a serious cultural evening in Pavia, near Milan (not really, we’re at a cheesy pop concert!):  

EPSON scanner image

This blog post has also left me dreaming of ice cream from the Venchi gelateria on Via Mazzini (gorgeous, flavoursome ice cream and they don’t scrimp on scoops!), and amazing stone-baked pizzas cooked from scratch in the university canteen! I also remember visiting a friend’s house in the hills above Verona for pasquetta (Easter Monday) and having a huge spread of food. I’m sure this included something like parmigiana di melanzane as I remember being lightly told off by an Italian friend for not cutting aubergines properly!

EPSON scanner image

Now it’s over to you! We want to hear about your Italy. If you’d like to write your own post for our Tigellae blog just get in touch with us via the contact page or leave us a short message in the comments.

EPSON scanner image

Ciao for now! I’ll leave you with this picture of me and my dad with Verona city centre in the background!

Laura

4 steps to the perfect Italian coffee

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Make the boot fit

4 steps to the perfect Italian coffee

Tazzina caffe

Don’t we all love a smooth, rich and lava-hot Italian caffe’? It’s not surprising that the Belpaese is famous for it, given that 96.5% of Italian adults drink coffee (or coffee-based drinks like cappuccino) regularly, drinking an average of 18 coffees a week, 2.5 a day. That’s probably why we shout at each other all the time! 🙂

Interestingly the favourite place where Italians like to enjoy a good cup of coffee is in the comfort of their own homes (89%) rather than at the bar (78%). Over the last 100 years we’ve perfected the art of making great coffee to start the day. Let’s have a look together at the 4 steps for a real Italian espresso at home.

1. WaterAcqua

Use tap water (the softer the better) that should always be cold. Never use water from a boiling kettle to speed up the procedure: it will make the coffee taste acidic. Take your time, making coffee is a ritual that deserves a bit of patience!

2. Moka pot

Caffe

If you don’t own one, I would personally recommend buying the simplest Bialetti you can find. Give it a run out first with 3 coffees that you’ll throw away. Once you’re ready to use it, don’t wash your moka pot with soap or it will affect the taste, simply rinse it under the tap. Remember to fill the water tank only up to the valve.

3. Coffee blendTostatura caffe

Look for a blend that’s rich, full bodied and medium roasted. It will give your coffee an intense, defined taste and a great aroma. If you can’t use freshly ground coffee beans, keep your ground coffee sealed in a jar: it can quickly pick up other food’s smells. Nobody likes an ‘onion espresso’! Put the ground coffee in the filter basket without pressing, trying to create a little dome. It will help the water to come through easily and evenly.

4. ProcedureMoka con caffe

Make sure the upper part is always firmly screwed to the water tank. Keep the flame low so the water has time to come to the boil slowly. Here’s a tried and tested tip for you: many people keep the lid closed but it should be kept open! It will avoid condensation in the pot and help your coffee to achieve a sweeter aroma. If you’re afraid of getting piping hot coffee all over your stove top, you can put a spoon over the chimney. Turn the flame off once it starts bubbling, don’t let the coffee start to boil or it will taste too bitter.

Caffe Salionze

You’re now ready to enjoy your coffee however you like. I like mine with a cake breakfast!

Buon appetito e buon caffe’!

Giordano

7 deadly sins at an Italian table

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Make the boot fit

 

7 deadly sins at an Italian table

Dante

Food in Italy is a serious matter. Thought it was OK to order cappuccino with your lunch? Think again!

Let us be your guides and avoid Tourist Hell!

LUST

Thou shalt not drink coffee with thy meal

Coffee should be the first thing you drink in the morning and the conclusion to a meal. You’re allowed a cappuccino or latte with breakfast but, after that, only espresso and macchiato is permitted. No fancy flavourings like caramel, cinnamon or pumpkin either, maybe just a sprinkle of cocoa if you’re feeling cheeky.

GLUTTONY

Thou shalt not serve a salad with thy pasta dish

A plate of pasta is considered a thing of beauty, a stand-alone dish to be savoured. A salad should not stand in its way; it should wait patiently to be served afterwards, simply dressed with olive oil and a little salt and vinegar.

GREED

Thou shalt not stuff thyself during the first course

Especially if you are a guest at an Italian home, expect to be served a multitude of courses. Leaving food on your plate might lead your host to assume you didn’t enjoy your meal. Also, it would be a shame to fill up on antipasti and discover later on that you don’t have space for a slice of homemade tiramisù!

SLOTH

Thou shalt not leave a table undressed

Italians like to have main meals sitting down, enjoying the company in a relaxed environment. Good food is a starting point for conversations – often very loud ones! To fully appreciate the experience, you need to put in a little effort, take a little time and dress your table with love.

WRATH

Thou shalt not fight with spaghetti

The correct way to eat spaghetti is to take a small amount each time and twirl it around your fork until you make a nest. Italians never use a spoon for extra twirling assistance and, unless you are under five years old, it is assumed that you do not need to cut your spaghetti with a knife. If you take a manageable amount of spaghetti each time you twirl we guarantee you will master the art in no time!

ENVY

Thou shalt not fancy a full English breakfast

Italian breakfast is minimal. It can consist of coffee, brioche, cereal, yoghurt or the nation’s favourite, latte e biscotti (trad. milk and biscuits). For a special occasion, pasticcini (little Italian pastries filled with cream) are little clouds of perfection, ideal with a hot and frothy cappuccino. We’re big fans of a good cake breakfast!

Cake breakfast

PRIDE

Thou shalt not be afraid of asking

Most regional dishes have rather unusual names. You really don’t want to miss the chance to have a panzerotto because you are not sure what it is. Italians love to talk about food and don’t mind mispronunciations. Give it a go!

Buon appetito!

Laura and Giordano

10 Best Italian film directors of all time

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10 Best Italian10 Best Italian film directors of all time

Benigni

What to watch: Life Is Beautiful – La vita è bella (1997)

 

Pasolini

What to watch: Mamma Roma (1962)

 

Zeffirelli

What to watch: Romeo and Juliet – Romeo e Giulietta (1968)

 

Leone

What to watch: One Upon a Time in the West – C’era una volta il West (1968)

 

Rossellini

What to watch: Rome, Open City – Roma città aperta (1945)

 

De Sica

What to watch:  Bicycle Thieves – Ladri di biciclette (1948)

 

Visconti

What to watch: The Leopard – Il Gattopardo (1963)

 

Bertolucci

What to watch: The Last Emperor – L’ultimo imperatore (1987)

 

Antonioni

What to watch: Blow-Up (1966)

 

Fellini

What to watch: La Dolce Vita (1960)

 

Giuseppe Tornatore, Gabriele Salvatores, Dino Risi and Mario Monicelli all deserve a special mention here.

Shall we try to do at least 14 Best Italian… next time? 🙂

Giordano

Chiacchiere di Carnevale

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Street food school

Carnevale in Italy

Carnevale Viareggio

We have a two-part blog post for this week’s Street food school: Laura is going to talk about the Italian tradition of Carnevale (Carnival), while Giordano will give you a simple recipe for Chiacchiere, in our opinion the best way to enjoy the festivities! Laura, you start!

Carnevale was my favourite way to kick off the new season when was doing seasonal work on Lake Garda. I had usually just returned to work after a couple of months at home with my family and the weather was not always at its best, so it was a great pick-me-up! I also come from Broadbottom, a very small village in Greater Manchester which, for a few years when I was little, had its own carnival tradition. When I was about six I dressed as a bluebottle and rode on the float with the rest of my class 🙂

Every year in Italy, Giordano and I would put on our Joker and Batgirl costumes and head to a procession or carnevale-themed party. One year we went to a rock club in Reggio Emilia where the MC referred to me as ‘Batman femmina‘ – female Batman! Wrong!!! Look how cool we looked! BIFF! ZOK! KAPOW!!

Carnevale Tempo

I was also lucky enough to go to Cento di Ferrara for Carnevale. I get the feeling it’s on quite a small scale compared to Venice or Rio de Janeiro but it’s still pretty spectacular! I especially love the colourful floats and their variety of characters (the real ones and the ones that are made of papier mâche):

Carnevale Cento

It’s not just the floats and the costumes that make Carnevale special, though. This time of year also has its own food traditions. As it falls around the same time of year as Shrove Tuesday (martedì grasso) I still associate Carnevale with pancakes, even though it’s not particularly Italian. One year Giordano and I managed to combine all of our personal traditions together on Shrove Tuesday by inviting ourselves to a Swedish friend’s flat in central Verona, dressed as Joker and Batgirl, and eating a small mountain of pancakes. It was brilliant!

I’m going to hand you over to Giordano in a second as he’s going to talk about my favourite Carnevale tradition and give you a wonderful recipe. This is a real treat for this time of year as it’s crunchy, fried and covered in icing sugar. They are known by different names across Italy, but to me they will always be chiacchiere!

Chiacchiere di Carnevale

Chiacchiere

Carnevale is the period that leads up to Lent (starting on Ash Wednesday – Mercoledì delle Ceneri). The name derives from the Latin carnem levare that we can literally translate as ‘avoid the meat’: meat was indeed forbidden during Lent! Carnevale was first celebrated by the Romans as a pagan festival dedicated to Saturn, father of Jupiter. During the Saturnalia that were held in March, people would wear masks to drive away evil spirits, make sacrifices, participate in orgies and invert social roles. Parades and masquerade balls appeared in medieval Italy, at first in the Serenissima Repubblica di Venezia, the Republic of Venice. This is also when most of the typical food of the Carnevale period – often sweet and deep fried – was invented. Chiacchiere – trad. chats, small talks – are the most well-known Carnevale treat across Italy and sold as street food during parades almost everywhere. They are sweet crisp pastry made of dough that has been shaped into thin ribbons, deep-fried and then sprinkled with sugar. Chiacchiere have also many other different regional names: frappe, sfrappole, bugie – trad. little lies – galani, crostoli, fritte, cenci.. really too many to name them all! Regional variations in the recipe include sprinkling orange or lemon zest on top or to use regional spirits or rum as the alcoholic base. I’ll give you the recipe for the most simple ones, made with grappa!

Chiacchiere di Carnevale (around 40 – seems a lot but they’re never enough!):

  • 500g plain flour (better if 00 – double zero)
  • 50g butter
  • 70g granulated sugar
  • 6g powder yeast
  • 3 whole eggs + 1 egg yolk
  • 1 vanilla pod (or a little of vanilla extract)
  • 30ml grappa

For frying use any good quality oil, garnish with confectioners sugar

1. Sift the flour onto a flat work surface, make a well in the centre and then add the sugar, the yeast, all the beaten eggs and the grappa. Make a dough.

2. Now you can add a little vanilla and the butter. Knead the dough by hand for about 15 minutes. If you feel that the dough is getting too hard too mix, you can add a little water (no more that 10ml). Make a dough ball and wrap it in cling film. Set aside to rest at room temperature for 30 minutes.

3. Divide the dough in pieces of 150g each and roll them out using a rolling pin or pasta machine. You should try to make them around 2mm thick.

4. Cut the flattened dough pieces into squares of 5×10 cm, creating two parallel long cuts in the middle. These cuts will make them twist as they fry!

5. Deep fry the dough in boiling oil at around 170°C. The dough should be completely submerged in the oil. Once golden – it should take 1 minute top – drain and pat them dry with kitchen towels. Now sprinkle on top as much sugar as you like!

 6. Enjoy your chiacchiere with friends, family and some sweet spumante or Moscato wine. Nothing too fancy!

Chiacchiere Monzambano

Buon appetito, salute a tutti e buon Carnevale!

Laura & Giordano

Milano and West Lombardy – Day 2

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Map Tigellae West Lombardy

Milano and West Lombardy – Day 2

West Lombardy - Lake Como

Welcome to the Italian Lake District! Our journey to West Lombardy has started near Milano and continues today in one of the most beautiful areas in the whole of Italy. The Northern Lakes combine great tourist attractions and facilities with fantastic scenery, especially where the lakes reach deep into the Alps. The climate here is mild in both summer and winter, producing Mediterranean vegetation, with beautiful gardens growing rare and exotic plants. The area around Lake Como, in particular, has been always very popular with North European tourists since the 19th century. Its atmosphere and natural surroundings have inspired countless painters and architects that contribute to the region’s history and notoriety abroad. This unique mix between dramatic nature and ancient splendour it’s what impresses most visitors. However tourists are also attracted by the vast range of activity available all year round on the mountains, famous worldwide for their ski slopes – and, of course, their manned huts providing gorgeous hearty food, warm drinks, heat and shelter. Polenta – a golden-yellow cornmeal made from dried, ground maize – is the staple food of the region, always served with local cheeses and cured meats. I’m feeling hungry already!

Bergamo

Bergamo

Bergamo – or Bèrghem, in the Bergamasque dialect – is just 25 miles from Milano, with the foothills of the Alps that begin immediately north of the town. Very close to both Lake Como and Lake Iseo, it was founded as a settlement by the Celts. Thanks also to the many rivers crossing the province, it has always been one of the main points of trade between Northern Europe and Milano. An interesting fact about the city is that Bergamo has two centres: Bèrghem de sura – Bergamo di sopra, the upper city – a hilltop medieval town, surrounded by 16th Century defensive walls built by the Venetians, and Bèrghem de sota – Bergamo di sotto, lower Bergamo. The two parts of the town have been connected by a very cute cable car since 1887 – definitely worth a ride!

Funicolare Bergamo

After the climb to the upper town, you’ll find numerous places of interest like the Duomo, Piazza Vecchia – the old square – or the Cittadella, a citadel built by the Visconti family of Milano in the mid-14th Century. The local cuisine is very rich and complex, in some regard quite similar to the Milanese one, and combines typical produce with ones from the region around Venezia (Venice) and the Alps. The great variety of ingredients and techniques – brought by the different rulers of the city across the centuries – it’s what makes Bergamo a city not to be overlooked by foodies.

Como

Como

The area around Como has been inhabited since the Bronze Age. The town centre of Como was actually situated for many centuries on the nearby hills, but it was then moved to its current location by order of Julius Caesar. The Romans had the swamp near the lake drained and laid the plan of the walled city in their typical grid of perpendicular streets. Lake Como has been indeed a popular retreat for aristocrats and wealthy people since Romans times, with many villas and palaces still open to visit. At least the ones not owned by celebrities like Richard Branson, Madonna, George Clooney, Sylvester Stallone… You really don’t need me to tell you why Lake Como is regarded as the most beautiful lake in Europe! I can tell you however that the best way to visit the lake is by ferry. I suggest a long stop for a coffee and ice-cream in the picturesque town of Bellagio, situated on the promontory between the two ‘legs’ of the lake. Here’s a picture taken by me and Laura in Bellagio a few years ago:

Bellagio

Tempted? 🙂

Lecco

Lecco e Resegone

The origins of the second largest city on Lake Como can be easily found just thinking about its name: Lecco – in the local dialect Lech – sounds a lot like the word lake! Lecco was indeed founded by the Celts. Another town founded by the Celts in this area is Nesso, on Lake Nesso – Lech Ness in dialect… can you spot a connection here? While in Loch Ness you might not be able to fish a ‘monster’, in Lecco you can definitely find a great variety of fish – trout, sturgeon and carp over all – widely used in the local cuisine. The local restaurants serve very refined and delicate dishes, mixing often expensive ingredients from the city of Milano with more simple and hearty ones from the mountains. Don’t forget that one of the produce of the region is Taleggio! Have you tried it with pear yet? 😉

This concludes our visit to the region of West Lombardy, some of its cities and local produce. Hope you’ve enjoyed this quick guide and I’m looking forward answering any question you might have!

Buon appetito!

Giordano

8 More funny Italian sayings about food

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Parli italiano

 

How to save goat and cabbage

Goats

A few weeks ago I wrote about some of my favourite Italian phrases involving food and drink. I had picked up a lot of the sayings in that first blog post through years of studying Italian, but there were one or two in there that I’d never come across before. Because I’m not Italian I couldn’t just rely on my memory, so before putting the post together I did a bit of research to see exactly how many phrases I could find. I knew perfectly well the importance of food in Italian culture, but I was still amazed at how many everyday sayings revolved around food and, in particular, around bread, wine and cabbage – but not all three together! The following are phrases that were new for me whilst researching for the blog.

1. Salvare capra e cavolo  To save goat and cabbage

This saying is often used in difficult situations. It’s the ability to make decisions that allow you to protect what you have in one particular situation. It makes reference to the tale of the farmer on the riverside who has his goat and his cabbage, but there is also a wolf on the same side of the bank. He has to bring his goat and his cabbage to the other side of the river by boat, and he can only bring one out of the three (wolf, goat, cabbage) on each trip. There is a solution that allows the farmer to ‘save goat and cabbage’ without risking that when he is on the other side that the wolf eats the goat, or that the goat eats the cabbage.

2. Mangiapane a tradimento  Bread-eater in betrayal

This dramatic phrase describes a person who lives at someone else’s expense without doing anything. I get the feeling some Italian politicians will have heard it before!

3. Dire pane al pane e vino al vino – To say bread to bread and wine to wine

A lot of Italian sayings also involve bread and wine as they are staples of the national diet. In this context, someone who says bread to bread and wine to wine is someone who is always honest and tells the truth, the exact opposite to a bread-eater in betrayal. Maybe it depends on how you eat your bread? 🙂

4. Come un cavolo a merenda – Like a cabbage as a snack

Cabbage as a snack? What madness! This describes a situation that doesn’t work at all.

5. Come il cacio sui maccheroni – Like cheese on maccheroni

This phrase, on the other hand, talks about two things that go really well together, like cheese and pasta!

6. Il miglior condimento del cibo è la fame – The best accompaniment to food is hunger

Does this need any more context? Is there any better time to eat food than when you’re really, really hungry?

7. Avere sale in zucca – To have salt in your pumpkin

This is the phrase I’ve learned most recently, and I’ve added it to this list because I’ve spent a lot of time around the province of Mantova, where I’m pretty sure the locals would eat pumpkin tortelli until they came out of their ears! It translates as “You’re smart as a whip”. To an Italian, an intelligent person knows the right way to bring out the natural sweetness of a pumpkin (or any other winter squash) is to sprinkle a little salt on top.

8. Finisce tutto a tarallucci e vino – Everything ends with crackers and wine

I thought this was a nice saying to round off this post, which I’ve had a lot of fun writing! It means that a situation ended with a positive outcome.

 

Laura and goat

I’ve only touched on a few phrases here; if you spend time searching (or, even better, spend time travelling around Italy for a bit) I’m sure you would find hundreds of sayings like this. If you can think of any phrases I’ve missed out, leave me a comment at the end of this blog post or send me a message – I really love to learn new Italian phrases, it brings me a tiny bit closer to my favourite country! 🙂

Ciao a tutti!

Laura

Cured meats from West Lombardy

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The Italian pantry

 

Cured meats from West Lombardy

The plains of Lombardy are an ideal location to raise cattle, so beef has always been an important part of the local cuisine. Along with cattle, introduced in early Roman times, pork has also been raised in the plains of Lombardy since the age of the Longobardi – the Lombards – who ruled over the region between 568 A.D and 774 A.D. Food curing was already known at those times, as several sources describe the salting of meat in the ancient Mediterranean world. Preserving pork meat was crucial in times of scarcity or famine, or during voyages over land or sea, and this is why Lombardy has a long tradition of meat curing: there are 8 DOP (PDO – Protected Designation of Origin) and IGP (PGI – Protected Geographical Indication) specialities in the region, but it’s possible to find over 40 other different varieties of cured meats which have at least 50 years of manufacturing history behind them. Let’s now have a closer look at three of our favourites.

Coppa (Capocollo)

Coppa

Coppa (also known as Capocollo) is a traditional pork cold cut made from the dry-cured round muscle running from the neck to the 5th or 6th rib of the pork shoulder. The name Coppa comes from the contraction of the word Capocollo, simply the capo – trad. head – and collo – trad. neck – of a pig. There are records of Coppa being made in Lombardy since the 18th Century. As many other salumi – trad. cured meats – Coppa can change a lot in flavour depending on the breed of pig or curing conditions: to ensure consistency, it was awarded PDO status in 1996. This cured meat was considered a very special product to be eaten on holidays or important events, so much so that it was even used by landowners as an incentive to workers to encourage them to work more! Coppa – that should always be cut very thin – is esteemed for its delicate flavour and tender, fatty texture and is often more expensive than most other salumi.

Prosciutto cotto

Prosciutto cotto

Prosciutto cotto is such a famous product that I’m feeling a bit embarrassed talking about it! Its name literally means cooked ham in Italian but differs from British cooked ham in several ways. First, the skin is left on the top of the product to keep in moisture and flavour. Second, the prosciutto is cooked very slowly creating a unique flaky texture. Third, the spices used are more aromatic and there is no smoking or sweetening making it more delicate. It is also very low in sodium, always a bonus. It was traditionally made only from the hind leg of a pig but I personally prefer the prosciutto made from the shoulder – called spalla cotta – as it’s made of a better balanced ratio between muscular fibre and fat.

Salame Milano

Salame Milano

The Milano variety is one of the most well-known Italian salame. It’s fairly big in size and made exclusively with pork that is seasoned simply: just salt, pepper and garlic. Salame Milano doesn’t have an overpowering flavour and this makes it perfect for a variety of uses and pairings. The fat and lean parts are first refrigerated to harden them and are then passed under the cutter before they are minced and then mixed. To achieve its grana fine – trad. fine grain – a special device is used to spread the particles of fat and lean meat evenly. This finely minced mixture is then stuffed into a stitched natural pig’s intestine casing and strung tightly together. Maturation varies from a month to 70 days depending on size. When cut across the grain, the surface is characterised by a myriad of white and red coriandoli – trad. confetti – that give this great salame from Lombardy its special and distinctive flavour.

If you’d like to know more about these great meats, other products available on our menu or their pairings, just leave a comment below and I’ll be more than happy to answer your questions!

Buon appetito!

Giordano

Cheeses from West Lombardy

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The Italian pantry

 

Cheeses from West Lombardy

West Lombardy cows

Lombardy, as we seen in the first part of our journey, is the most populous and richest region in Italy and one of the richest in the whole of Europe. Its fertile, well irrigated soil has made breeding cattle possible since Roman times. The region soon became renowned for its dairy products and quality meats. In the local cuisine butter is still often used for cooking rather than olive oil. The ready availability of milk makes Lombardy the most prominent cheese-producing region in Italy, with some of the country’s finest cheeses made here. Let’s have a look together at four of them.

Gorgonzola

Gorgonzola and pear

As for many staple foods in Italy, Gorgonzola has a funny story connected to its origins. Legend says that it was invented by a lovesick cheese maker who, in his haste to meet his lover, forgot the curd in a cauldron overnight only to mix it up the following morning. The resulting cheese, given that the more acidic paste from the previous evening would not mix perfectly with the morning’s paste, encouraged the growth of moulds inside the cheese as it ripened. I’m not too convinced by this ‘lovestory’ but I can tell you that this lovely cheese, named after a small town near Milan, was first made in 879 A.D. Interestingly, it only became marbled with greenish-blue mould in the eleventh century. Gorgonzola can be buttery or firm, crumbly and quite salty, with a ‘bite’ from its blue veining. The Piccante version should be distinguished from the better known sweet Gorgonzola – Dolcelatte – which is soft and creamy, as the former, traditional, version has a firmer paste with less serum content due to a longer ‘baking’ period.

Grana Padano

Grana Padano

Grana Padano – or grana as Italians usually call it – was created by the monks of Chiaravalle’s Abbey, just a few miles south of Milan, in 1134 A.D. as a way of preserving surplus milk. Its name comes from the Latin noun grana – trad. grain – which refers to the distinctively grainy texture of the cheese, and the adjective Padano, which refers to the Pianura Padana valley where it’s still produced. Grana Padano is a semi-fat, hard cheese which is cooked and matured slowly, generally for up to 18 months. It’s produced by curdling the milk of grass-fed cows, milked twice a day; the milk is left to stand, and then partially creamed. Grana is produced year-round all across Northern Italy and its quality can vary seasonally as well as by year. Generally similar to Parmigiano, it’s less crumbly, milder and less sharp-tasting than its famous relative from the Emilia region.

Provolone Valpadana

Provolone Valpadana

Provolone is a stringy cheese – you can think of it as an ‘aged-mozzarella‘ – typical of Southern Italy. Introduced to Lombardy in the first half of the eighteenth century by Neapolitan cheese makers, nowadays it’s considered a traditional product of Lombardy under the name of Provolone Valpadana. It’s an interesting cheese because it is produced in a great variety of formats. The largest ones, most suitable for a long ripening period are called mandarone – trad. big tangerine – due to their similarity of form to the fruit, and pancettone – big belly. We can also find very big ones that can weigh in excess of 100 kilos – the largest existing cheese both in Italy and, possibly, the rest of the world. Provolone can also be eaten fresh but its most interesting features develop after a long – more than one year – ripening that gives it a distinctive piquant taste. This is called Provolone piccante, our absolute favourite!

Taleggio

Taleggio

Taleggio takes its name from Val Taleggio, an Alpine valley – with a spectacular 3 km gorge! – that lies between the cities of Bergamo and Lecco, where it has been produced since Roman times. Similarly to Gorgonzola – until a few decades ago there were both generically called stracchino – it used to be made only during the autumn and winter months, when the cows were tired – stracche in the local dialect – after they returned from the summer pastures. Taleggio is now produced all year round but ripening still takes place in natural caves. Taleggio has a strong aroma, but its flavour is comparatively mild with an unusual fruity tang. Its crust is thin and studded with salt crystals. Perfect with pear, someone could say!

If you’d like to know more about these great cheeses, other products available on our menu or their pairings, just leave a comment below and I’ll be more than happy to answer your questions!

Buon appetito!

Giordano

Milano and West Lombardy – Day 1

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Map Tigellae West Lombardy

Milano and West Lombardy – Day 1

Milano Expo 2015

If you’ve already decided to visit Italy in 2015 but you’re not sure where to go yet, West Lombardy should go on your short-list. Milano in particular will be the host of this year Universal Exposition (Milano Expo 2015, I’ll soon write a post about this extraordinary and unique opportunity): six months of events across the region that will welcome more than 20 million visitors! The 2015 Expo will be the first Exposition in history to be focused around nutrition, not only in terms of local products and techniques but also for its role towards education and the use of the planet’s resources. I’ve always been very interested in the sustainability and origins of the food we consume and I really hope I’ll be able to attend this occasion! You too should consider a visit to Northern Italy, as West Lombardy has a lot to offer to the informed traveller. Let’s take a closer look at Milano, the capital, and a couple of the other great cities in the area – Monza and Lodi.

Milano (l’è on gran Milan)

Giovanni D’Anzi, who in 1935 wrote music and lyrics of “O mia bela Madunina” – the city’s unofficial anthem – described his beloved hometown with these words: “Tutt el mond a l’è paes, a semm d’accòrd, ma Milan, l’è on gran Milan!” (trad. “It’s a small world, I agree, but Milan is so big!”) He is certainly still right as Milano is the second biggest city in Italy after Rome, with an urban area that is the 5th largest in the EU: more than 5 million people work and live in the Hinterland Milanese. Milano is the true powerhouse of the Italian economy, always divided between Northern Italy’s ancient agricultural traditions and the rich industries of Continental Europe. As the Italian city with the highest average wealth, the most industries and the biggest urban development, Milano may at first feel like a noisy, polluted and crowded mess of tarmac and concrete. That’s because it’s a city that has to be known before being appreciated – does Manchester ring a bell? Even more than the Mancunian city, Milano is a city of fashion and culture: it offers a vast quantity of art. Some of its art is well-known worldwide (The Duomo, Teatro alla Scala, Castello Sforzesco, San Lorenzo, Leonardo da Vinci’s Il Cenacolo, the many paintings by Caravaggio, Botticelli, Michelangelo and Raffaello for example) but most is left a bit hidden, like a precious gem, that one can found in the city’s many galleries, clubs, ancient shops and private collections, often open to the public.

Considered often as an art form, the food now consumed in Milano’s many restaurants is also rich, sometimes even opulent and indulgent. Even a couple of the most famous dishes from the city – the risotto alla milanese and the cotoletta, golden in colour – are made of ‘bling’! The modern and rich cuisine comes, in reality, as a reaction to a very humble past. Milano grew thanks to its agricultural roots and fertile soil, something that is reflected in the typical dishes of the area. Very common in the Milanese culinary tradition is indeed the use of off cuts and offal, wild herbs and simple grains like corn and rice. Cow’s milk cheese is also one of the most used ingredients, with local specialities like Gorgonzola now known worldwide. I’ll have a post soon exploring the great cheeses of Lombardy, they’re some of my favourites!

Mmmmmmmonza (to be read as if it was a passing car!)

Arengario di Monza

Monza is just a few miles away from Milano’s city centre and very much part of the Hinterland Milanese. You’ve certainly heard of Monza because it has one of the most famous tracks in the world – the autodromo di Monza – originally constructed back in 1922, and still known as “the temple of speed” for its long stretches and the Parabolica curve. A legendary circuit that grew in popularity thanks to the passion and emotion of the fans, especially the ones following the Scuderia Ferrari F1 team. A visit to the autodromo is a must but don’t forget the beautiful park that surrounds it: the Villa Reale park, one of the largest enclosed parks in Europe. The Royal Villa of Monza lies on the banks of the Lambro and was originally built in 1780, when Lombardy was part of Austrian Empire, for the Archduke Ferdinand of Austria. Almost a century later, with the new Kingdom of Italy, it became a palace of the Italian Royal Family Savoia. In Monza you can also find the Romanesque-Gothic Duomo, the Cappella Espiatoria – Expiatory Chapel – from the Savoia period and the Arengario, the 14th century palace of the civic commune (in the photo above). The best known typical food product of the area is the Salame Milano. It’s a fairly big salami made exclusively with pork that is seasoned simply with salt, pepper and garlic and doesn’t have an overpowering flavour. You’ll discover soon that Monza’s not just about ‘shiny fast toys driving in circles’ after all!

Lodi

Lodi Piazza Duomo

I always thought Lodi was one of those boring cities in the immense Pianura Padana with a big church, a big empty square, some sleepy cafes, hundreds of closed wooden windows, fog and bloody cats everywhere… But it isn’t: Lodi has a lot to offer in terms of art and history – it is around Lodi that most of the famous battles in Northern Italy’s tumultuous history were fought. The food tradition is excellent: you can think of it as an ancient Milanese one, still preserved and treasured as integral part of the city’s culture. Many home-made products, fresh greens, cured meats, smelly cheeses, artisan breads. Lodi is a fascinating place to be: surrounded by early Medieval architecture, placid rivers, rich country colours, deliciously simple hearty food and friendly people. After a while you’ll really feel at home here.

Buon appetito!

Giordano

P.s. If you’ve enjoyed this first part of the journey, don’t miss our second trip to West Lombardy, when we’ll visit the Alps and some of the great Northern Lakes with the cities of Bergamo, Lecco and Como!

Panzerotto pugliese

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Street food school

Panzerotto pugliese

Panzerotto forno

I got the inspiration to write this post of Tigellae’s Street food school yesterday, by looking at a very bright crescent moon. This fact can tell you just how much I’m absolutely obsessed with the lovely panzerotto pugliese! Panzerotto (or calzone fritto, as known in the province of Lecce) is a pocket of dough – similar to the one used for making pizza, just a bit softer – folded into a half moon and stuffed, then deep fried and served steaming hot. Common fillings are tomato and mozzarella, but olives, spinach, mushrooms, pesto and ham are also used. Onions fried in olive oil and seasoned with salted anchovies and capers also make a very popular ripieno – filling. The name panzerotto comes from the Italian pancia (panza in the local dialect) and simply means small belly. Well, this must obviously refers to a traveller’s belly BEFORE visiting Puglia!
I have now an embarrassing confession to make: I have never actually been to Puglia! I know, I know… unforgivable! Come on, just look at this stunning view for a second and tell me you don’t want to be in Puglia NOW!

Puglia sea

Despite never been to Puglia, I’m very familiar with the panzerotto as is traditionally sold in many rosticcerie – rotisseries with baked products as well – own by Pugliese families in the North. Pugliesi count for more than 15% of the population in metropolis like Milano and Torino. It’s clear how their mass migration during the industrial boom of the Sixties has had a great impact in the wide diffusion of this and many other typical products from Puglia. Panzerotti, pucce, rustici, focacce baresi… trust me when I say that entering a traditional rosticceria pugliese is always a feast for the eyes – and the nose!

Rosticceria pugliese

Panzerotto in Puglia

Alberobello

This great street food speciality should be considered originating in various bits of the Puglia region at similar times, rather than in a particular city – as we’ve seen happened for other dishes in this section of the Tigellae blog. Panzerotto was invented during late Medieval times, probably as creative use of flattened surplus dough. Similarly to the Sicilian arancino, this product was foremost created to be practical, as fishermen and farm workers used to take this portable and easy to eat food with them to work. They were also exclusively filled with leftovers, proving once again how the best Italian food has very often humble and popular origins. The panzerotto is a very close relative to the Neapolitan calzone and has originated a lot of regional variations in Southern Italy, where the panzerotto/calzone is often baked in a wood fired oven rather than deep fried.

I prefer the most traditional tomato and mozzarella, deep fried panzerotto. So here’s a simple recipe for you to try at the weekend!

Panzerotto pugliese (serves 6):

  • 500g plain flour
  • 200ml water
  • 25g brewers yeast
  • 5g sugar
  • 10ml extra virgin olive oil
  • 5g salt

Ripieno (filling):

  • 200g mozzarella (of the best quality you can reasonably afford!)
  • 500g ripe tomatoes (or 400g tinned plum tomatoes)
  • a little extra virgin olive oil
  • a pinch of salt, black pepper and oregano

For frying use 1lt of any good quality oil, Pugliesi use extra virgin olive oil

1. In a bowl, mix the brewers yeast with the sugar and a glass of warm water. Add 70g of flour and keep mixing for a couple of minutes. Make a dough ball, cover the bowl with a damp towel and set aside to rest for around an hour.

2. Sift the rest of the flour into a large bowl, make a well in the centre and then add 10ml of olive oil and 5g of salt. Stir the mix, adding 200ml of water a little at a time. Knead the dough for 15 minutes.

3. Combine the two dough balls together, keep kneading till you’ll see some little bubbles appearing on the surface. Form a smooth ball, make a cross on the top (for good luck!), cover with a damp towel and set aside to rest in a warm place for a couple of hours.

4. Divide the dough into 6 equal pieces and stretch them with a rolling pin to form discs of around 10cm. Put a couple of spoon of squashed plum tomatoes on top of each of them and add a small pinch of salt, black pepper and oregano. Add a little mozzarella (in small cubes) and dress with a very little olive oil.

5. Fold the discs in halves, creating a parcel. Make sure to close the gap between them by pressing the edge with your thumbs and then with a fork. Deep fry the panzerotti (two at a time, don’t rush!) in plenty of oil, making sure it’s always at around 160°C and turning them at least once. Drain and pat them dry with kitchen towels and pronti, they’re ready to eat!

Panzerotto Tigellae

6. Enjoy your panzerotto with a Primitivo – a great red wine from Puglia – or a Lambrusco from Sorbara (Emilia). And this song from a Pugliese DOC, Caparezza!

Buon appetito!

Giordano

8 Funny Italian sayings about food

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Parli italiano

 

Got pears with your cheese?

Formaggio pere

By now I’m sure you can imagine how important food is to Italians and their culture, so it’s only natural that many everyday sayings should involve food too. One of the more recent phrases I learned from Giordano? One year we were watching an AC Milan game on TV not long before Christmas and their manager at the time was in a bit of trouble following a string of bad results. Giordano remarked that this manager was not going to see the panettone, meaning that he would probably get the sack before Christmas – non vedrà il panettone! I remembered this saying again when we started up the blog and also got to thinking about some of the brilliant phrases I’ve read about or picked up from Italian friends and colleagues over the last ten years. Here, in my opinion, are some of the best…

1. Al contadin non far sapere quant’è buono il formaggio con le pere Don’t tell the farmer how well cheese goes with pears

This phrase refers to something good that not many people know about, so it’s a bit of a secret! However, I can attest that the above is absolutely true. Cheese and pears are a match made in heaven. One day I’ll tell you about the first time I ever tried gorgonzola and pear pizza. It was so good I think it merits a blog post of its own at some point!

2. Nella botte piccola c’è il vino buono  In the small cask there’s good wine

Being 5’1” this saying is rather close to my heart! It’s the Italian equivalent of saying that good things come in small packages.

3. Avere il salame sugli occhi – To have salami on your eyes

This describes someone who doesn’t want to see the reality of an unpleasant situation. Being a vegetarian, I also find this phrase quite odd!

4. Avere le mani in pasta – To have your hands in dough

This saying is an excellent way of describing a multiple business-owner – Berlusconi, anyone? We would say they had their fingers in a lot of pies!

5. Essere un pezzo di pane – To be a piece of bread

To be a general, all-round good person and a pillar of society. I like to imagine him or her as a nice crusty piece of Altamura bread!

6. Cercare il pelo nell’uovo – To look for the hair in the egg

To always find fault with everything. Personally, I don’t find chickens to be THAT hairy!

7. O mangi questa minestra o salti dalla finestra – Either eat this soup or jump out of the window

This phrase describes a situation where there are no alternatives, but I think it paints a wonderful mental image of someone hurling themselves from an open kitchen window because they can’t stand the idea of eating another bowl of minestrone. It all sounds rather over-dramatic, doesn’t it?!

8. Vuole la botte piena e la moglie ubriaca – He wants a full barrel and a drunk wife

This is probably my favourite ever Italian saying. I once heard it translated very literally – and very loudly – by a lovely Italian colleague who was dealing with a rather difficult individual! It describes someone who wants more than they are entitled to – they want to have their cake and eat it!

Laura in Padova

Keep your eyes peeled – that’s quite a nice phrase in English! –  for a cheese and pear themed panino, coming your way in a couple of weeks as part of our new menu!

Ciao a tutti!

Laura

Arancini siciliani

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Street food school

 

Arancini siciliani

Arancino ragu'

Our Street food school continues with the most famous and widely available Sicilian street food: the arancino (plur. arancini).  For many proud Sicilians – especially from the city of Palermo – the name ‘arancini’ will always prompt the same reaction: “It’s arancinE beddo mio, ARANCINE!” This because the name of these fried rice balls of wonder derives from the Italian word for orange – arancia (plur. arance). I’ll here use the term arancini as it’s the most used nowadays and because I’m cheeky like that!

ArancinI o arancinE.. Have you ever heard of them before? If you have, probably you need to thank Andrea Camilleri, the author of Inspector Montalbano. Montalbano is an unconventional detective, obsessed with women and food, lover of arancini and good wine, who lives in a little town near Agrigento, in western Sicily. We’ll probably have soon a blog post about Montalbano and the strong relationship between Sicilian food and the environment. Camilleri – who was born near Agrigento – has contributed greatly for making arancini and the beauty of West Sicily known worldwide. I mean, just look at this picture from the Egadi Islands!

Levanzo, Egadi

Rice balls stuffed and coated with a light, crispy batter, arancini are based on recipes known in the Middle East during the Medieval period. The rice – which was brought to the island by the Arabs – is always flavoured and coloured with saffron. Though cultivated in antiquity in Greece and Sicily, the widespread use of this yellow spice – used even for painting! – came to Italy only with Arab cuisine in the Middle Ages. Think about a bright yellow Spanish paella and you’ll see the connection between the two Mediterranean countries influenced by the Moors! Arancini became immediately very popular because they made the perfect portable, high-energy snack for a day’s work in the fields or out on fishing boats – yes, they are indeed the Sicilian equivalent of the Cornish pasty! Making arancini is also a very tasty and clever way of using leftover cooked rice or – in Northern Italy – risotto.

Arancini are often stuffed with ragù (a simple meat sauce), tomato sauce, mozzarella, and/or peas. Many local variations have created over time a very broad range of flavours and shapes: in eastern Sicily, for example, arancini have a more conical shape, similar to a pear. We can now find more than 100 different kind of filling across the region, some freely – or madly! – inspired by traditional Sicilian flavours like pistachios, almond milk or squid ink. The best ‘strange’ arancino I’ve ever had was on the island of Ustica, off the coast of Palermo: it had sea urchin in it! But let’s talk about the original ones, the arancinE from Palermo, the regional capital.

Arancini in Palermo (The Arancin-E!)

Teatro Massimo, Palermo

In Palermo arancine are kind of a big deal. They can be found in bars and restaurants all over the city but the best ones are usually prepared in very small kiosks. I once had an amazing arancina with ragù out of what it felt like a random kitchen window! Soft and crispy at the same time, the best arancine are a bit messy, because the filling is very juicy and they’re not made from risotto like elsewhere. Always remember to take a couple of extra napkins if you have them at a stall! The best time to have arancine in Palermo is around the week of the Santa Lucia festival, on 13th December. There are religious processions with statues, flowers and candles, parades, sport competitions, fireworks and outdoor markets selling handmade products, candies and indeed lots and lots of delicious arancine! Inspired to give them a try? Here’s a simple recipe for a traditional arancina from Palermo.

Arancine al ragù (around 12):

  • 400g Arborio rice (don’t tell anyone from Palermo: sushi rice would be even better!)
  • 100g Parmigiano Reggiano
  • 50g butter
  • 1l beef stock
  • 2 eggs
  • a pinch of saffron, salt and ground nutmeg

Simple ragù:

  • 250g minced beef
  • 150g peas
  • 100g tomato passata
  • 1/2 onion
  • a little extra virgin olive oil
  • a pinch of salt and black pepper

For coating and frying:

  • 150g plain flour
  • 150g breadcrumbs
  • 2 eggs
  • 2l oil (you can use any good quality one, Sicilians use extra virgin olive oil)

1. Boil the peas for a few minutes – keeping them quite firm – and then drain them. Now you can make a simple meat sauce (ragù): fry the onion on a low heat with a little olive oil for 10 minutes, then add the minced beef on a higher flame, just for 5 minutes. Turn the flame down, add a pinch of salt and black pepper, and add the passata. After 30 minutes add the peas and keep cooking the sauce till it’s nice and thick. Set aside to cool.

2. Boil the rice in the beef stock, keeping it ‘al dente’. Drain the rice and add butter, Parmigiano, saffron, nutmeg and the eggs, briefly beaten. This mix should be sticky and quite gluey. Let it cool down by spreading it out – if possible – or simply by having cold water around the mixing bowl/saucepan for a few minutes. This operation is important to not let the rice overcook.

3. You’re now ready for the fun bit! Take a small portion of the rice mixture in the palm of your hand, squeeze it firmly and put a spoon of ragù inside each ball. It’s easier than what it might sound, you’ll get the hand of it in no time! You should be able to make around 12 arancini with the mixture but don’t worry if the arancine seem too small or too big: as long as they’re fairly similar in size, they’ll be fine and charmingly wonky! Close the rice balls and then roll them in flour first, then beaten egg, then breadcrumbs last.

4. Deep fry in plenty of oil, making sure it’s always at around 160°C, turning your arancine often to make sure they get crispy and golden. Drain and pat them dry with kitchen towels. Eat them hot or cold but exclusively with your hands, no knife and fork allowed on the streets of Palermo!

Arancini Casa Tigellae

5. Enjoy this amazing street food with a glass of Nero d’Avola, a lovely red wine for the South-East of Sicily. More of a ‘white wine’ person? These arancine will go really well also with a glass of Lugana or Prosecco (both from the Veneto region)

Laura arancino Isola

Here’s Laura eating a vegetarian arancino with Gorgonzola and walnuts at the annual Fiera del Riso (The Rice Fair) in Isola della Scala (Verona). Experiment with different kind of filling, be creative! They’re a fantastic way of using leftover risotto. Arancini have conquered the world. Will they conquer your kitchen as well? Buon appetito!

Giordano

Bread in Italy: spoilt for choice

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Know your dough

 

Bread in Italy: spoilt for choice

Pane campagna

In this section of the Tigellae blog (Know your dough – Natural yeast and wheat intolerance) we’ve already mentioned Italy’s love for good bread. Italians have developed a wide range of breads over the centuries and many ancient types are still produced – in most cases on a local or regional basis. The selection nationwide ranges from extremely large loaves, once intended to keep a household supplied for a full week, to small rolls and crackers. Most of them are leavened but many are not, like the Sardinian carta da musica (thin as sheets of music paper) or carasau. From focaccia to grissino (breadstick), ciabatta to piadina, some of these regional specialities have already made it into British supermarkets and are widely known to the international public, at least for their ‘commercial variation’. There are over 350 bread types officially recognized in Italy of which around 250 readily available in bakeries, restaurants and supermarkets across the country. Let me introduce you to the history behind three of them.

Altamura bread – Puglia

Pane Altamura

Altamura bread has been baked in the area near Bari since Roman times; even the poet Horatio knew of it and described it once as “the world’s most delicious bread”. This bread is traditionally made from durum wheat (the same wheat still used to make pasta) and in very large loaves. In ancient times it was customary to knead the dough at home and then take it to public ovens to be baked. In order to distinguish the loaves, the bakers would stamp them with a mark from the family that owned the dough before placing them in their ovens.

Altamura bread is very crisp and fragrant. Its crumb, the soft part of the bread, is bright yellow in colour and soft to the touch. It keeps for a very long time, an essential quality that allowed peasants and shepherds to consume it even after more than a week from baking, dipped briefly in boiling water and dressed with olive oil and salt.

Panino Tigellae

A particular variation of this kind of bread – the Altamura Filone – is what we use to make our delicious panini on the Vanstaurant (they soon also be available for our new delivery service). Our filone is made with Mother Yeast, reground durum wheat flour and a slow, long and natural leavening. We hope you’ll love it as much as we – and Horatio, of course – do!

Grissino – Piemonte

Grissini

I find the origins of this speciality from Turin quite fascinating. The grissino was invented in the 17th Century by the Turinese Crown’s doctor as a result of the little prince’s frequent indigestions and frail health! Doctor Pecchio, suspecting a case of food poisoning, asked to see the kitchens of the royal palace and found them dirty and in poor hygienic conditions. After a deep clean, he ordered the Court’s master baker to bake all bread served to the Prince twice, making it as thin as possible. The grissino was born! Vittorio Amedeo II, miraculously healed by the grissino, grew to become the first Savoy king. His dynasty laid the foundation for the Italian Risorgimento and the creation of the Kingdom of Italy in 1861. Greatly appreciated by Napoleon – who called it “Le petit bâton de Turin” – is no wonder why the grissino is also known as The Bread of Kings and King of Breads!

Piadina – Romagna

Piadina

The genuine and homemade Romagna piadina has lost its legendary roots in the mists of time. One of these legends has it that it was none other than Aeneas, the hero in Virgil’s poem, who on landing on Italian coasts after escaping from Troy had to eat unleavened biscuits that the sailors used for plates. According to other sources, the recipe was handed down to the ancient Romans by the Etruscans, who prepared an unleavened bread using flour and water, cooking it on scalding hot tiles. Closer to the present day, the debate as to who can boast paternity of the piadina is still disputed amongst the villages and towns of Romagna. Those from Rimini, who prepare a version that is thin and low in fats, are those most convinced that it was of their own invention. But each area of Romagna has a local variation: small, thick and soft near Ravenna, large and thin elsewhere.

In any case, it is unleavened bread without yeast and its name would seem to derive from the Greek plakous, which means flat bread and bring us back to the days of the Byzantine domination of Romagna. It is a specialty made of a disk of pasta that can be substituted for bread. It can be eaten with a soft cheese (squaquarone, a delicacy of Romagna similar to stracchino, is probably the most common in Italy) or with prosciutto – either cotto or crudo. It is best served warm, and must be cooked on the proper flat iron pan called a testo, on a lively flame.

 

Keep following our blog for more adventures, recipes, Italian words and stories from Tigellae! Buon appetito!

Giordano

How we got our Vanstaurant

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How we got our Vanstaurant

Vanstaurant at Wilkinson 2012

This is one of the first chapters in our Tigellae story and begins back when Giordano and I were still discussing ideas for a new Italian food business. We knew that the UK had some idea of just how delicious Italian food was, but we wanted to move the general image of Italian food away from pasta and pizza and onto something new and exciting. We knew from travelling around the country that there were many delicious dishes, some very specific to certain regions, that this country had never experienced, and we thought it was time for all this amazing food to be discovered.

The question was, how were we going to do it? With a restaurant? Did we go for a small takeaway business?

Then we hit upon an idea. A tigella – the inspiration for our name – is a round, flat bread, a perfect little alternative to a sandwich and ideal as street food. The more we looked at it, going mobile seemed like the best way to put our favourite food on the map. We could get ourselves a van and take our beautiful bread and sauces anywhere we wanted!

Once we’d started our research into getting a mobile kitchen, it didn’t take us long before we found the right company to make the unit for us.

Wilkinson Mobile Catering Systems gave us some excellent advice on mobile catering and put together a plan with us, so we could tell them exactly what we wanted the unit to look like. They sourced and installed some great, restaurant-standard equipment – like our heat lamp – in our mobile kitchen. The whole thing took about two months to build – which gave us plenty of time to invest in lots of gorgeous, shiny kitchen equipment – then one day in summer 2012 there it was….our Vanstaurant!

Vanstaurant in Broady 2012

The name ‘Vanstaurant’ comes from a good friend in Italy, who referred to our shiny new vehicle as a ‘furgorante’ – somewhere between a ‘furgone’ (‘van’ in Italian) and a ‘ristorante’ (restaurant) – which is how we got to ‘Vanstaurant’ in English. It feels a little odd now to look at it in its new and shiny, pre-branded state, before we started cooking on it!

We also got to have a lovely little adventure getting up to Lancashire (in the rain of course!) to pick up the Vanstaurant. Here is Giordano driving the van back from Darwen with a little smile on his face:

First journey on the Vanstaurant

I will do a few more posts about the Vanstaurant in the very near future, including its very first street food event, and a little more about how we made it our own.

Ciao for now!

Laura

10 Best Italian hidden gems of the North

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10 Best Italian10 Best Italian hidden gems of the North

Italy provides an amazingly diverse travel experience – no wonder it’s a dream destination for many.

Off the beaten track we found these charming little villages and towns on our adventures across Northern Italy.

How many of these will you discover?

Borghetto is just stunningly beautiful. A small hamlet south of Lake Garda, it has lots of nice shops and restaurants. And waterfalls!
Borghetto is just stunningly beautiful. A small hamlet south of Lake Garda, it has lots of nice shops and restaurants. And waterfalls!

 

Asiago, in the province of Vicenza, is famous for its gorgeous mountain views and delicious local cheese.
Asiago, in the province of Vicenza, is famous for its gorgeous mountain views and delicious local cheese.

 

Carnevale in Cento (Ferrara) is an experience not to be missed. Where else can you see a 10m tall purple chicken?!
Carnevale in Cento (Ferrara) is an experience not to be missed. Where else can you see a 10m tall purple chicken?!

 

Time stands still in Grazzano Visconti, near Piacenza. A corner of medieval Italy in the heart of the countryside.
Time stands still in Grazzano Visconti, near Piacenza. A corner of medieval Italy in the heart of the countryside.

 

Just look at Lago d'Idro! It's amazing and not as crowded as most of the other Northern lakes.
Just look at Lago d’Idro! It’s amazing and not as crowded as most of the other Northern lakes.

 

In Malcesine, on Lake Garda, you can take a panoramic cable car to Mount Baldo, the most distinctive mountain in the region. The town has a castle and gorgeous little streets full of life.
In Malcesine, on Lake Garda, you can take a panoramic cable car to Mount Baldo, the most distinctive mountain in the region. The town has a castle and gorgeous little streets full of life.

 

Maranello (Modena) is the home of the Ferrari factory, test track and museum. Not just for petrolheads, the area is worth a visit for the stunning squares and variety of local foods.
Maranello (Modena) is the home of the Ferrari factory, test track and museum. Not just for petrolheads, the area is worth a visit for the stunning squares and variety of local foods.

 

Merano (near the Austrian border) will surprise you for its stunning views, historic buildings and gardens.
Merano (near the Austrian border) will surprise you for its stunning views, historic buildings and gardens.

 

Sabbioneta, near Mantova, was created during the Renaissance era by the local prince as the ideal city. It's also a UNESCO world heritage site.
Sabbioneta, near Mantova, was created during the Renaissance era by the local prince as the ideal city. It’s also a UNESCO world heritage site.

 

After the road that Winston Churchill called “the eighth wonder of the world” you'll arrive in Tremosine. Caves, hairpin bends and stone bridges lead to breathtaking views of Lake Garda.
After the road that Winston Churchill called “the eighth wonder of the world” you’ll arrive in Tremosine. Caves, hairpin bends and stone bridges lead to breathtaking views of Lake Garda.

 

Giordano e Laura

Focaccia genovese

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Street food school

 

Focaccia

Focaccia al rosmarino

Some food historians consider focaccia even more ancient than bread itself. I think they might be right, as cooking flattened and thin dough can be done on a flat stone, close to an open fire. The name focaccia itself comes from the Latin word focus – fire, suggesting its very distant origins. The first focacce could have been indeed made before the discovery of fermentation and the invention of the clay oven. The very basic mix of flour and water has evolved during the centuries, creating different specialities all across Europe and Asia. Pizza, for example, is one of these numerous variations, first found on books in Medieval Latin around the 9th Century A.D. in Southern Italy.

Focaccia has always been proved very popular in Italy. This has led to many interpretations of the original recipe according to the availability of local produce. All modern focacce in Italy are made with leavened dough, with some of the most popular created around Genova (with wheat flour, olive oil and sea salt), Bari (similar to the Genovese one but enriched with black olives and cherry tomato), Como (with onions) and in Sardinia (with anchovies). Many small Italian towns have their local variations that include adding cheese (focaccia di Recco), meat (like in Bologna), herbs, vegetables and even sultanas (a common focaccia in Emilia and Tuscany).

 

Focaccia in Genova

Genova

In Genova focaccia was so popular that during the 16th Century Bishop Gambaro had to forbid people from bringing tray after tray of aromatic focaccia inside S. Lorenzo Cathedral! Genova is still regarded – arguably, we are after all Italians and ‘food parochialists’ – as the best place in Italy to have focaccia on the street, a place where every bakery has its little secrets and special techniques. A slice of freshly baked focaccia is a lunch break favourite amongst children and adults, with the most hard-core city residents even having it with their cappuccinos! They swear it’s delicious; I couldn’t quite bear myself to try! Fancy trying? Here’s a simple recipe for you.

 

Focaccia di Genova (quick and simple):

  • 500g type 0 wheat flour (W200/240) – you can use average plain flour as well!
  • 20g brewer’s yeast
  • 300ml water
  • 25g extra virgin olive oil
  • 10g salt

Emulsion:

  • 50ml water
  • 50g extra virgin olive oil
  • 5g salt

1. Mix all the ingredients but the oil in a large bowl, adding the salt last after you’ve formed a large dough ball. Knead in a mixer for 10 minutes or vigorously by hand for 15, adding the olive oil in small quantities during the process. Leave to rest in a warm place for 30 minutes in a bowl smothered in oil and covered with a wet cloth or cling film.

2. Spread the leavened dough evenly on a baking tray with your fingertips, being careful to press the mixture rather than stretch it. Leave it to rest for 30 minutes.

3. Make an emulsion with 50ml water, 50g oil and 5g salt. Pour around 2/3 of it on to the spreaded dough. With your fingertips make some deep dimples in the dough and pour the remaining emulsion over it. Your focaccia should look like this!Focaccia with emulsion

4. Bake in a pre-heated oven for 15 minutes at 240°C (gas mark 8)

5. Enjoy with a glass of white Vermentino or Pigato wine. Or indeed a cappuccino!

Eating focaccia in Genova, March 2011

This is me on the street of Genova, ‘researching’ this recipe for the benefit of you all. Buon appetito!

Giordano

Natural yeast and wheat intolerance

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Know your dough

Good bread is good for you

Tigellae filone

Italy simply loves bread. Each Italian annually consumes an average of almost 70 kilos of it, almost double compared to the average British person! However only a very small percentage of Italians shows wheat intolerance, a far smaller percentage compare to the UK. Want to know why? The secret is all in the quality of what they eat. With more and more British people now turning to artisan breads, it’s time to make things clear.

Bread is one of the best loved and oldest foods created by humans. Archaeologists found starch residue on rocks used over 30,000 years ago for pounding plants and further studies revealed that fermentation was discovered more than 5,000 years ago by the Egyptians.

Did you know that the English word bread (common also in various forms to many other Germanic languages) derives from the root of the word brew? That’s because most bread (as beer does) contains yeasts, unicellular microorganisms (Saccharomycetes) that can convert carbohydrates to carbon dioxide and alcohols.

 

The history of yeast

Egyptians making bread

When our ancestors made bread, they used wild sourdough yeast that was found on leaves, grapes and berries. They knew natural yeast would make their bread rise and drinks ferment. They also knew that gluten grains prepared this way made their digestion more efficient and provided their bodies with high amounts of nutrients. Using the wild sourdough yeast, our ancestors had to wait several hours for their bread to rise. Nothing really changed for thousands of years: this was the way you made bread.

Using a microscope, Louis Pasteur discovered in 1857 that yeast was a living organism. He found a way to isolate the yeast in pure culture form, and a way to make bread rise in only 30 minutes! This new yeast gave the commercial bread making industry its trigger. They called it commercial yeast.
The problem with commercial yeast is that, since it is the isolated version, it only artificially raises bread, expanding the gluten fibre net, without breaking down any of the phytic acid or anti-nutrients to aid with digestion.

The main cause of wheat intolerance: phytic acid

Wheat Field

Grains have a special protection on them called phytic acid. The role of phytic acid is to prevent the grain from being digested, ensuring its survival for reproduction. We eat grain for the high quantity of nutrients, fibres, minerals and enzymes; however the human body doesn’t have the means to separate phytic acid and grain. We can’t get very much of the grain’s amazing nutrients unless the phytic acid is broken down before we eat it. Quite simple, isn’t it?
When a whole grain is ground into flour, then some nutrients are released. We do get benefits from eating whole grains plain, just not as much. But it also causes problems: all the phytic acid that we eat with that whole grain becomes an aggressor of the digestive tract. Phytic acid’s job is to “hold on to nutrients” until its death. And it won’t simply protect you from having all that fibre, nutrients, mineral and enzymes! It will start snatching up any available nutrients it can find! It will even steal nutrients from other food currently in your digestive tract. Our digestive system can become really upset from all the chaos phytic acid created! This is the main cause of what we commonly call wheat intolerance, which many people have to some degree depending on their sensitivity.

How to avoid most wheat intolerances? You guessed right, eat bread with only natural yeast!

To conclude, natural yeast has several health benefits that you simply can’t get from commercial yeast:
1. Natural yeast breaks down harmful enzymes in grains.
2. Natural yeast takes the nutrition in grains – vitamins and minerals – and makes them easily available for digestion.
3. Natural yeast converts dough into a digestible food source that will not trigger your body’s defences. It predigests sugars for diabetics, breaks down gluten for the intolerant, and turns calcium-leaching phytic acid into a cancer-fighting antioxidant.

These are some of the reasons why at Tigellae we only use and bake bread, focaccia and pizza made with 100% natural yeast. They also taste a lot better too!

Filone e focaccia

Next time in this section of the Tigellae Blog I’ll talk about some of the different kind of bread common in Italy, their origins and often funny names. Know your dough!

Giordano

Our name, our heritage

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Why Tigellae then?

Tigella e Tigellae

Pronouncing the word Tigellae correctly can be a bit of a challenge for a native English speaker. I’ve now heard so many variations to it – sometimes with really amusing local twangs and inflections, my favourite will always be Ty-g-eee-laaay proudly proclaimed in a broad Mancunian accent – that I really wonder at times if it had been a good idea choosing this name in the first place. Maybe a classic “Da Giò and Laura” would have been better? Nah, we didn’t want to be another run-of-the-mill “Italian” establishment, with their spageti bolognaise’ and proskuito and fungi pizzas’. We wanted to be authentic, truthful, original – maybe a bit quirky? – and what better way of proving our commitment than choosing a name taken from a virtually unknown medieval flat bread from Northern Italy, where I come from? That’s how Tigellae was born.

Our name, our heritage

Tigelle e contorni
Picture courtesy of Jobellprize

 

Tigellae gets its name from an ancient medieval instrument used to cook a very special kind of flat bread, originating from the hills between Modena and Bologna, in Northern Italy.

Tegere is the Latin word meaning to cover as these flat clay discs called tigelle covered the fresh dough, were wrapped in chestnut or walnut leaves and then left close to an open fire to cook. The clay discs were shaped and then carved to decorate the bread during the cooking process: the most typical figure is the Comacina rose, an Etruscan icon dating back to the IV century B.C. but other traditional patterns include coats of arms and crests. 

Today tigelle are still consumed and appreciated even after more than six hundred years because of their simplicity, adaptability and unforgettable taste. Tigelle are for sharing, with friends and family, eating together and enjoying life. That’s why I love them and couldn’t think of a better word for expressing all I wanted our new venture to be. Tigellae, what a great little word!

Giordano con tigella
Picture courtesy of Jobellprize

 

Next time I’ll give you a bit more insights on this Modenese speciality, along with a simple recipe to make them at home and serving suggestions. And, of course, how to pair them with great Italian wines!

Giordano

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How we started our journey with Tigellae

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How we started our journey – L’inizio del nostro viaggio

Gardone

I’m Laura and my Italy adventure began in 2000 when I visited Lake Garda with my mum for a two-week holiday. On our first night in Gardone Riviera I remember looking out over Lake Garda and not quite believing I was there, in such a beautiful place. During our stay we visited Verona, Venice and a large part of the lake and were completely taken with the food, people, language and scenery. My love of Italy took me on to a four-year languages degree, including 5 months living in Verona as an Erasmus student, where I learned never to drink cappuccino after 12pm and to always remember to put a little olive oil and vinegar dressing on my salad to avoid any funny looks! When I was ready to leave the UK for Italy again in 2008, I knew without a doubt that I wanted to return to Lake Garda, where it all started. It was here, whilst working as a campsite courier that I met Giordano, the lovely security guard with the orange car, and the true adventure began.

Borghetto 2008

During our travels around Italy – and I will tell you more about those in later posts – we discovered more about the variety of beautiful food available and I learned a lot about how integral these different dishes are to an Italian’s cultural identity. We’ve eaten capunsei in Valeggio sul Mincio, borlenghi, tigelle and gnocco fritto in Modena and ribollita in Florence.

When we were ready for a change of scenery, we got to thinking about how great it would be to bring some of our favourite Italian food back to the UK and start up a food business there. We decided against opening up another Italian restaurant as we felt the UK already had plenty and that the majority of them offered very similar dishes. We also thought there was another more effective way to tell everyone just how much more amazing stuff was out there. With a catering van, we weren’t limited to one town or city – we could go anywhere we wanted. You can read more about this on our blog – How We Got Our Vanstaurantor on the website.

 

 

What we do

Vanstaurant Broady 2014

We do delicious, honest Italian street food for everyone to enjoy. We want to tell you our own story of Italy and bring you some truly delicious food at the same time. We want you to come to Italy with us.

We provide a local delivery service at lunchtimes with a selection of panini, focacce and a choice of Italian soft drinks.

Launching in 2015, our delivery service will begin in the Broadbottom and Glossop area from Monday to Friday between 11am and 2pm. Just order online and we’ll bring the food to you. How exciting!

 

Laura

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