Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Olio Nuovo - This years Olive Oil

The labour intensive Olive harvest

Olive harvesting Italian style

Ripe and immature Olives together

In Tuscany the Olive are usually harvested in the first two weeks of November, and thus the freshly pressed Olive oil is available - Olio Nuovo. The olives are pressed before they have reached the full maturation giving the Oil a dark greenish colour and slight grassy flavour.

Friday, November 11, 2011

L'estate di San Martino -an Indian summer in Tuscany

Fall in Tuscany

Questi ultimi giorni sono stati degni della così detta “estate di San Martino”, definizione legata alla leggenda del santo che divise in due un mantello per coprire un povero mendicante nudo e freddoloso. Il Signore «ricompensò» il santo inviando un clima mite e temperato quando ormai si andava verso il freddo dell'inverno.

Saint Martin dividing his cloak - Martini Simone

In Italia, per tradizione, il giorno di San Martino si aprono le botti per il primo assaggio del vino novello, accompagnato dalle prime castagne (da qui il motto «a San Martino ogni mosto diventa vino). Questa tradizione viene celebrata anche in una famosa poesia di Giosuè Carducci, intitolata appunto «San Martino».

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Frittelle di castagne - Chestnut Fritters -Easy!

Chestnut flour, water or milk, olive oil, pine nuts, raisins.
Prepare a mixture with 250 g. flour, water or milk and 1 tablespoon of olive oil and work it into a dough.
Add pine nuts and raisins. Pour 1 tablespoon of dough in a pan with hot oil and fry it till it becomes golden.
After frying all the dough sprinkle with sugar.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Autumn colours - colori d'autunno

The olives are ready to press

Autumn has arrived in Tuscany and brought colours as recompense for the the falling temperature. The vines have given up their harvest and the work at the vineyard moves inside.
Every month brings change to the landscape, but the change as October starts is bold and cannot be ignored.

Friday, September 30, 2011

Bottling day at Montefioralle

The Lamborghini tractor

De-stemming the Sangiovese

Bottling day at the vineyard is when all friends and family are called to lend a hand. The small producers like the Sieni family at Montefioralle do not have the space or money for their own bottling plant so rely on the mobile bottling unit which is hired once a year to do the job. It can cope with 2,000 bottles an hour and within the day every wine from the Chianti Classico to the Supertuscan is corked and labelled and ready to ship

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Fagioli borlotti freschi

Pasta integrale e fagioli freschi per salutare l'arrivo dell'autunno.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Not on the label

I noticed a few days ago that not many of the jars and bottles found in our kitchen have labels. None on the olive oil. None on the jam. Certainly none on the conserva di pomodoro. As for wine, the bottles with labels usually make an appearance only with guests. The reason? Well, we don't need labels. I know where the olive oil comes from, the trees on which the olives grew, the person who who picked and pressed them. What more reassurance could a label give?

For those not lucky enough to be on first name terms with their local producer of wine the Italian government brought about the regulatory structure of Denominazione di origine controllata DOC in the 1960's as a means of quality assurance. Later a more restrictive denomination DOCG was introduced to identify those products of a particularly high quality. All Chianti Classico wine bottles earn their DOCG only after being analysed and tasted by the government licensed inspector.

The 'Gallo Nero' or black rooster is a registered trademark of the Chianti Classico consortium, allowing purchasers an easily recognisable symbol with which to identify the wine. If you want a Chianti Classico, look for the black rooster.

But don't take my word for it...come to Italy and find out for yourself on the Slow day in Tuscany.

Friday, September 2, 2011

Conserva di pomodoro

Anche se l'estate sembra non voler finire noi pensiamo già alle conserve per l'inverno.

pomodori succosi,
basilico fresco,
barattoli riciclati
e un pò di pazienza.

Quando nei prossimi mesi i barattoli verranno aperti, il loro profumo ci ricorderà questa calda estate in città.

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

The Wines of Montefioralle

Montefioralle must be one of the most beautiful parts of Tuscany to sit down with a glass of wine. It's all there in the name: Monte- meaning mount or small mountain and fioralle - of the flowers.
The south-east facing slopes at around 300m above sea level are ideal for the Sangiovase grape which by law must make up at least 80% of a bottle of Chianti Classico. It will come as no surprise then to learn that the church once owned these slopes and used them for exactly the same purpose. Whatever else can be said of the Catholic church in those times you can be sure it would have had its pick of the best locations for starting a vineyard. But all this was a long time ago...well, about 600 years ago.
The wines produced by the Sieni family are Chianti Classico (of course), a Riserva Chianti Classico, SuperTuscan and Vin Santo. If you do come for a wine tasting here remember to pace yourself; there are at least 4 vintages of the Chianti Classico to compare and wines get stronger as you progress from the Riserva to Vin Santo.

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Insalata di seppie

Amo cucinare ma non sono mai stata brava a descrivere con precisione le mie ricette, mi limiterò quindi a raccontarle. Quest'insalata, per esempio, nasce da una manciata di seppioline fresche comprate al mercato. La prima idea era stata quella di preparare un primo piatto con un sughetto alle seppie ma il caldo dell'ultima settimana mi ha fatto desistere.
Un pò di foglioline di radicchi misti, una carota, una patata, un cipollotto e un ciuffetto di prezzemolo, tutto del nostro orto, hanno fatto il resto...

Dopo aver fatto dorare leggermente la cipolla in un tegame con un filo d'olio di oliva extravergine, ho aggiunto la carota, la patata a tocchetti e un pò di pepe nero e infine le seppie. A fine cottura ho "sfumato" con una spruzzata di vino bianco. Ho preparato un letto di insalatina sui piatti e adagiato sopra le seppie. Prezzemolo è il gioco è fatto!
Un piatto leggero, veloce e buono anche freddo.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

The heat goes on.

Florence is hot. Tuscany is hot. I can't remember the last time it rained, moreover I can't seem to remember the feeling of rain. The vines and olives survive, even thrive, when put to the test of producing their crop in the driest of clay soils.
The roots of the olive trees get their moisture by spreading out far and wide; their renowned hardiness proven by some living more than 2000 years. The vines send down roots to ten or fifteen feet where the dampness remains year round.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Insalata di trippa



Piacevole domenica estiva passata fuori dalla città'.
Un posto fresco, gli amici e una bottiglia di buon vino, cosa volere di più'?
All'ombra di un pergolato abbiamo cominciato il pranzo con una serie di antipasti da intenditori: fiori di zucca, dell'orto di Angelo, fritti in modo insuperabile da Lino, melanzane grigliate condite con pomodorini secchi preparate da Alberta e poi, avete mai provato l'insalata di trippa?
Si, lo so, che molti storceranno il naso, ma vi consiglio di provarla almeno una volta.
Ecco la ricetta per i piu' coraggiosi: 500 gr. di trippa cotta, 1 cipolla rossa, 1 cuore di sedano, 250 gr. di pomodorini, sale, pepe e olio d'oliva. Mescolate tutto e lasciate riposare al fresco.

...And then the question of which wine to go with it...any Chianti Classico or pure Sangiovese for a typical Florentine meal however the Primitivo di Manduria (yes, someone brought wine with a label!) was most welcome and received few complaints.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Vintage Italian Cars Day.

Something a little different this week. When a friend Riccardo suggested we take a couple of classic Italian cars out for a tour, how could we refuse?
The baby-blue Fiat 127 and navy Alfa Romeo Alfetta are both in pristine condition and stepping inside takes you suddenly back to a by-gone era. No satellite navigation, radio or airbags here...though both are fitted with the latest up-to-date safety features of their belts. The air-conditioning is operated by rotating a small handle attached to the door which lowers or raises the side windows. But we're not here for modern gadgets: it's the feel of these cars and their ability to raise a smile wherever they go that makes it an unforgettable day.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

It is time to replace the barrels at the vineyard. At Montefioralle only French Oak is used for producing Chianti Classico, and never fresh 'first cycle' barrels which would impart too strong a flavour on the wine. After the barrels have be used to store a more robust grape variety, say Cabernet Sauvignon for the first cycle, they are then ready to be used for the Sangiovese.
The barrels then undergo several cycles; a year for the regular Chianti Classico, two years for the Chianti Classico Riserva. At the end of the their lives the barrels may find a life of retirement by being sawn in half and used as flower planters....if not, they become some of the most costly firewood know to man.