Tuesday, 30 March 2010

'Nduja, where does it come from?

The ‘Nduja di Spirlinga was born as a humble dish prepared by farmers to use the remaining meat parts of the pig. The name ‘Nduja comes from the French word “andouille” that means “sausage”. Originally comes from the area of Vibo Valentia in the South area of Calabria, although nowadays is produced throughout the region.

The ‘Nduja origins are still not very clear, according to some historians it was introduced by the Spanish in the 1500’s together with the chilli, but as its name comes from the French word “andouille” it reminds of a French sausage that could have been imported in the Napoleon period around the years 1806-1815. It is believe that Gioacchino Murat Vicerè from Naples and brother-in-law of Napoleon ordered the free distribution of a cured meat very similar to the ‘Nduja.

In the town where the ‘Nduja was originated every year around the 8th of August takes place the Festival of the ‘Nduja. A gastronomic celebration where all the habitants of the town get together to prepare several stands offering many traditional dishes based on the ‘Nduja. Street celebrations take place around the town ending at the main piazza with the famous dance “camijuzzu i focu”. This festival is the oldest celebration of the Vibo Valentia town.

Due to its peculiarity on how is eaten and its characteristics of pork meat and a large amount of pepperoncino (chilli) the ‘Nduja has become one of the most traditional and widely known foods of the region.

Although similar to a cured meat the ‘Nduja is actually a soft chilli and pork meat spread, best eaten spread on warm toasted bread or as a base for sauces and casseroles. However, if you don’t like or cannot resist the heat of chilli then best to avoid as it can be very hot.

Tuesday, 23 March 2010

Is your olive oil good?

Being in the business of importing traditional foods from Calabria I had many people approaching me asking how to identify a good olive oil? Either whilst in Italy or here in the UK.

So in answer to all those questions I decided to write this article about how to identify and select a good olive oil for your table.

Sometimes when we’re standing in front of the olive oil section in the supermarket with about 30 types of different oils we think, which one should I get? Is the famous brand better than supermarket brand? Or is the green one better than the brown one? Or is it the yellow one better? Or is the one with bits more flavoursome than the one without bits? WHAT SHOULD I DO??!! Help please!!! I just want an olive oil to add to my salad bowl...!!!

Well the answer is very simple and complicated at the same time. Olive oils are very difficult to assess once they are bottled. Usually the best way to know if the oil you want is good is by tasting it, of course when we’re buying it in shop or in the supermarket we don’t have the leisure of asking Tesco’s manager to let us try the oil before buying it, so we need to guide ourselves by using the following recommendations:

1) In reality a good oil should not have a “best before date” older than 18 months from the date bottled. This is because the oil has to be new never from a previous year.

One of oil’s worst enemies is light. Olives contain chlorophyll which is a great preservative and antioxidant but quite bad for the preservation and quality of the oil if exposed to light. In exposure chlorophyll will transform in antioxidant making the oil go from green to yellow very quickly. Some olive oil producers add synthetic chlorophyll to “hide” this effect. So, if you see a green olive oil in a shop think that it contains synthetic chlorophyll unless you know it comes from a local producer down the road and therefore the oil is new.

2) When choosing an oil place the bottle against a source of light for a few seconds. This will tell how clean or not the oil is and its real colour. Oils can be either filtered or not. Some oil producers prefer to leave the oil unfiltered as these “bits” make the product more flavoursome and with a stronger olive taste, therefore, a better quality oil meaning a more expensive oil. However, this preference makes the “best before date” even shorter. Be careful though as sometimes these unfiltered results are not purposely made by the producer but the result of a bad filtration process which leaves nasty flavours meaning a bad quality oil. It is also important that you don’t buy an extra-virgin olive oil yellow or brown as this indicates a badly preserved product.

How to know if your oil is good after purchasing?

Well, let’s think that you finally managed to decide which olive oil you’re getting from the supermarket or shop. You got home and opened the bottle to taste that fantastic Mediterranean flavour you tried whilst on holiday, how do you know what you’re getting is really a good oil or just a “mock” of olive oil.

There many ways of testing this:

1) The acidity of the oil should not be more than 0.35%, however, by law producers in Italy are allowed to extend that percentage to up to 80%.

2) The “polifenoli” which are the bits that are good for the circulation system and in general for our bodies have to have the highest level possible. These “bits” with time will decrease, that’s why oils should not be consumed after the 18 months threshold, the older the oil the less or non polifenoli will have, rending the oil without any goodness in it.

3) The oxygen quantity absorbed by the oil which comes from the initiation of its own oxidation activity that with the pass of time will bring nasty smells and flavours should not be less than 20.

So, after knowing all this information, have you asked yourself what we need to have to produce a good olive oil? Well here are some of the aspects producers need to have to be able to make a good olive oil.

1) The olives have to be collected in the right period when they start to change from green to brown.

2) A good olive oil will depend of course on the quality of the olive. Every olive has its own flavour. Climate, type of cultivation and place also play an important part on this. For example in the North of Italy a more light olive oil is produced, but in the South the production is more accentuated because the olives mature better helped by the warm climate and the quality of the soil. That’s why the best olive oil produced in Italy comes from Calabria and Puglia.

3) The olives have to be nice, healthy and without any insect marks or wholes.

4) They have to be collected in crates with opening so air can circulate and taken immediately to the frantoio to be process as soon as possible.

5) The ideal temperature for the process to be done in is between 25º to 30º for a period no more than 20 to 30 minutes.

6) Then the oil is left to decant for a few days. After is passed onto another container to separate the oil from the bottom and elevate residuals. After a few months of repeating the same procedure all residuals are eliminated.

7) At the end the oil is preserved in air tight containers at a temperature of no more than 20º and in a dry and dark place.

Have you ever asked yourself why we normally find extra virgin olive oil and not virgin olive oil?

Well the answer is very simple. The virgin olive oil is normally used to be mixed with the extra virgin olive oil. The extra virgin olive oil is added to a low quality oil as is the virgin olive oil until obtaining an oil with the right parameters, 0.8% acidity per 100gr. This means a cheaper way of producing a good oil without compromising completely in the quality, but, meaning we are not getting a 100% extra virgin olive oil.

Types of olive oil

- Extra virgin olive oil

- Virgin olive oil

- Olive oil

- Olio di sansa di olive

Well I hope you all enjoyed this long but very informative article about how to choose the right olive oil when you’re at the supermarket or shop. Remember that the best place to buy your oil is at the producer; of course I bit difficult if you’re in the UK!

See you all the next time...

Sunday, 21 March 2010

My mums traditional Italian Lasagne

After posting the Tiramisu recipe I was looking out of the window and watching the nice and sunny day, suddenly it brought me back to remembering last year pick nick days, so I thought of giving you guys my mums delicious Lasagne recipe.
This is a great dish to take out on pick nick days for the whole family, and because is a one pot dish there isn;t much washing up to do after!!
Click on the title that will take straight to my recipes page, enjoy!!

Quick and Delicious Tiramisu

Hi all,

Now that spring and summer are coming we can start to enjoy those delicious summery deserts, so I decided to give out my traditional and delicious Tiramisu recipe for all of you who like light yet delicious treats.   This is a great recipe that you can prepare in advance and keep for a few days in the fridge.  Just click on the title that will take you straight to my recipe page.

So, with no more to add, enjoy!

Thursday, 18 March 2010

15th May Food Harvest Festival, Brighton

Hi all,

We are going to be this Saturday in New Road, Brighton, from 9am until 6pm.  We will be bring our fantastic cured meats, Pecorino cheeses, Pastas and our dried vegetables bags!!  Come along and check us out..!!

See you there...

Sunday, 7 March 2010

New recipes!

Hi all,

As promised here are some new recipes I've added onto my website for you to enjoy cooking..!

Green Risotto

Mushroom and cheese risotto

Sun-dried tomato risotto

Tuesday, 2 March 2010

The Taste of Calabria up coming events!

Hello all,

As promised these are the first dates of the up coming events we will be participating.

Spring Food Festival
13th March 2010
New Road, Brighton. Free entrance.  10:00am until 5:00pm

Brighton Food and Drink Festival
12 September 2010
New Road, Brighton.  Free entrance.  10:00am until 5:00pm

That's it for now, any changes in dates will be let you know through this site!
See you all

Monday, 1 March 2010

Celebrity chefs brands better?

The other day I was having dinner with some friends of mine in an Italian restaurant. After having a long conversation about foods from all over the world the topic of celebrity chefs own brand came up.

We were wondering whether these brands are really different and/or better than traditional supermarket and non supermarket brands. So, when I went to do my traditional weekly food shopping at my local supermarket I couldn’t resist the idea of checking these sort call premium celebrity chefs brands. Guess who I found first? Of course Jamie Oliver’s premium pasta. I checked his package to see the ingredients and of course the pasta is made from Durum Wheat Semolina (as you do) and is of course produced in Italy. Then I went to check Tesco’s own brand and what did I found? Of course made of Durum Wheat Semolina as Jamie’s, and of course also made in Italy.

Astonished of this discovery but not surprised I checked the actual product for colour, shape, size and hardness, and guess what? They were both exactly the same! Of course I didn’t buy the products because for start I don’t really want to pay £2.50 for industrially made pasta only because Jamie Oliver’s name is in the pack, and of course I don’t eat Tesco’s own pasta brand. However, I wanted to make a last check before making my decision, so I called a very good friend of mine in Italy which works in a pasta factory that makes Sainsbury’s own pasta, and guess what I found. Apparently they also do Jamie’s pasta (can’t confirmed this) but that’s the info I was supplied.

So, with this small research of the pasta world in the supermarkets it just puts to think, why do we have to pay premium charges for celebrity chef brands if they are exactly the same as supermarket own brands, or inferior that traditional pasta names such as DeCecco.

Then, if people gauge the quality of a product by its price then I should sell my pasta at £4.00 per bag? Because mine is absolutely 100% handmade, with the best semolina that you can get in Italy, and when you cook it is like having a bowl of 100% fresh pasta. Is this the case then? But yet I sell mine at £2.50 per bag even though mine is handmade and Jamie’s industrially made. So what does this tell us about consumer’s perception of good quality food? That they decide depending on the name in the bag and not buy the actual quality of the product? What do you think?