My happy moments from 2014, New Year’s resolutions and snow

The Snow Queen Milla.

The Snow Queen Milla.

It’s snowing from yesterday. Italy, the land of the sun around here looks pretty much like Winterfell, but I’m not Arya Stark even though I got her short hair and her surly attitude.

town hall square in Campobasso, Molise, Italy

Town hall square in Campobasso, Molise, Italy.

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Quite a lot of snow I would say.

Milla, my 9 year old cocker spaniel is snoring at my feet enjoying her cozy blanket. I guess in a perfect wintery scenario the only things that are missing in the picture are the sound of crackling fire and a hot chocolate with marshmallow. Too bad I don’t have either of them, but I can fake it with the virtual fireplace sound on a 5 hour long youtube video and a Nutella jar.

Usually the end of December leads to make new resolutions for the next year, but they almost never work, at least for me, like the classic losing weight, or spending less money on unnecessary stuff. Because let’s face it, these two are the hardest promises to keep for a woman, am I right?

The last couple of months have been really tough on both G and I, so there’s not as much enthusiasm to start a new year as the previous New Year’s Eves. However, I feel it’s necessary not to give up to negativity, so the one and only resolution I am making for 2015 and my future as well, is to work really hard on myself in order to start finding happiness in every little thing.

2015 will be a year of change and I know it for sure. It’s not just the holidays’ atmosphere to do the talking, but the recent circumstances that are pushing me to do something, more like a make it or break it kind of situation.

I like to keep this blog as a drama free place, so I want to start my important resolution from here.

As you might have previously read on The Weird Frittata, every month I like to write a chart/bucket list of products/places I loved and recommend. This time it’s different, because I’m going to write what made me happy during 2014 even what it looks like to be negative, because I want to believe there is a bright side in everything.

So, here it is:

  • The early months of 2014 spent at home in Italy with my family. Even the unemployment has its own bright side, because I could treasure every moment with my parents and relatives (you know, Italian families are quite big). I had the wonderful experience of reconnecting with my family and enjoy my Nonna’s cooking, which I tried to recreate and practice as much as I could. Needless to say that her special recipes will always be in my heart for ever.
  • Moving back to the UK. This time I discovered London from a new perspective experimenting with ethnic restaurants, discovering new recipes and hipster places, just what I needed after a long Italian winter. This rediscovery made me realise how much I love food and the industry that gravitates around it, to the point that I would like to blend in and be part of it. Even though I’m thankful to London for each life experience I had, my love-hate relationship with this city keeps going on, and I’m afraid it’s not going to last that long. It’s like when you get back with your ex and you know that after the initial happiness the old problems will rise again. In fact, here I am again in a “It’s not you, it’s me”, kind of phase and I am grateful for that, because I know that I need to look for something else in my life. Rather than something, it’s somewhere.
  • House sharing again, Thank you London rental prices! Seriously how could this be positive? You might ask, but I’m now more convinced than before of what I want for 2015. Respect is the first answer and I could go on, but anyone who has shared a property knows, for example, how hard it is to keep it clean without ending up in an argument with the other flatmates.
  • All the job interviews gone wrong. You can learn from your mistakes, they say and I’m sure to have learned something about myself and how to deal with these kind of situations. Luckily, it’s not all about me. There are lot of jerks who think they are entitled to treat applicants like trash, because they are in a position of power. I am thankful I don’t have to deal with them on daily basis.
  • Now something not about me. G. finally entered the career field he chased for a long time and I’m happy for him to have found his own path. It’s just the beginning and will be difficult but seeing the person I love being happy makes me want to work hard as well and pay him back with the same positivity he gives me every day.

I saw on Pinterest something called resolution jar and I believe it’s a nice idea to keep the positive mood throughout the year. What you have to do is just fill an empty jar with notes about all the good moments you have during the year and then, around the end of December, you can empty the jar and go through all of your notes to remember those positive moments that we tend to forget in favour of the negative ones.

Now for all of you lazy people out there (including me), this is a lovely idea but also a commitment as well, so find whatever works best for you: a notebook, a board, a calendar or just an app on your smartphone, but never stop staying positive!

I’ll try my best, you should too.


Happy New Year, guys!

Sunday pastries, an Italian classic

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Memories come back unannounced, unexpectedly, leaving us amazed at how daily routine distracts us.

I was in Norwich, packing my suitcase to fly back home in Italy the next day, but I desperately needed a padlock, because some nice guy at Rome airport cut the one I had, apparently to do some security checks. Just to clarify, I wasn’t smuggling anything else than Parmigiano.

So while I was looking for a suitable padlock at the hardware store, I started talking to the owner who was happy to help someone who – you could definitely tell – was not in her usual context. He asked me where I was going to and as soon as I said I was going back home in Italy, he said: “Well then bring me back some Sunday pastries, that’s how they’re called, right?” Sunday pastries? Bam! epiphany! and I’m back to my childhood again.

Sunday pastries are all those desserts, namely pastries or monoportion cakes that are covered and/or filled with cream, custard or fruit just to name a few. These pastries are usually eaten after the Sunday lunch with the entire family and represent a childhood memory common to many Italians. Well, at least until metabolism or diabetes strikes.

I remember I couldn’t wait for the priest to pronounce the end of the Mass, so we could go straightaway to our most trusted Pasticceria (patisserie) where the ritual could get started and my senses awaken. First, as I opened the door I could smell the reassuring fragrance of sugar and vanilla, a promise of what was going to happen next. Then I used to spend a couple of minutes staring at all the types of pastries because I was fascinated by their shapes and their bright colours, as I couldn’t believe they were handmade only using simple ingredients. I didn’t give much thought at this at the time, but maybe that’s how my passion for baking started.

My mother knew I loved that moment, so she allowed me to chose and indicate to the nice lady what pastries we wanted to end the meal with: cannolo for me, millefeuille for my father, my mother’s favourite sfogliatella (shell shaped pastries filled with sweetened ricotta) and a fruit tart for Nonna.

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Without any doubt, every child like myself waited patiently the end of the lunch, to finally tear up the wrapping paper around the cardboard tray and then resume the ritual of the senses that was suspended in Pasticceria. I used to take my cannolo and then enjoy the sound of puff pastry cracking under the fork and followed by the eruption of sweetened ricotta. The actual taste of the pastry was of course excellent, but it was the whole experience that made it special.

Unfortunately, growing up and leaving home changes the daily life, so moments become memories buried in some hidden angle of our minds until someone or something makes us remember. There we are, again, older and nostalgic but with our bellies always full.

Enjoy your Sunday.

And now in Italian.

I ricordi tornano senza preavviso, inaspettatamente, e ci lasciano stupiti di quanto siamo distratti dalla routine della vita quotidiana.

Mi ricordo che ero a Norwich e stavo preparando la valigia per tornare a casa in Italia il giorno dopo. Avevo un disperato bisogno di un lucchetto, perché prima del viaggio di andata, qualche addetto alla sicurezza dell’aeroporto di Roma ha tranciato quello che avevo, apparentemente per fare alcuni controlli di sicurezza. C’è da dire, però, che non stavo contrabbando altro che del Parmigiano.

Così, mentre cercavo un lucchetto adatto alla mia valigia, ho iniziato a parlare con il proprietario della ferramenta, che era felice di darmi una mano, anche perché si vedeva che ero come un pesce fuor d’acqua. Mi ha chiesto dove stessi andando e appena gli ho risposto che sarei andata a casa in Italia, mi ha subito risposto: “Beh, allora quando torni portami le paste della domenica. Si chiamano così, giusto?” Paste della domenica? Bam! che ricordo! ed eccomi di nuovo bambina.

Non vedevo l’ora che il prete pronunciasse: “La messa è finita, andate in pace.”,per andare subito alla nostra pasticceria di fiducia, così che il rituale potesse iniziare e coinvolgere tutti i sensi. Per prima cosa, una volta aperta la porta della pasticceria già il solo profumo rassicurante di zucchero e vaniglia mi rendeva felice, perché era una promessa di ciò che stava per accadere. Poi stavo lì un paio di minuti, a fissare tutti i tipi di paste, perché ero affascinata dalle loro forme i loro colori vivaci. Non potevo credere che fossero fatte a mano utilizzando pochi semplici ingredienti. Non ci ho dato molto peso a quel tempo, ma forse è così che è nata la mia passione per la pasticceria.

Mia madre sapeva che amavo quel momento, così lei mi faceva scegliere e indicare alla simpatica pasticciera quali fossero le paste che volevo consumare con la mia famiglia: un cannolo per me, la diplomatica per mio padre, la sfogliatella per mamma, e una crostatina con crema e frutta per Nonna.

Senza alcun dubbio, ogni bambino come me attendeva pazientemente la fine del pranzo, per strappare finalmente la carta che avvolgeva il vassoio, e quindi per riprendere il rituale dei sensi che era stato sospeso dal pasto domenicale. Ricordo che prendevo il mio cannolo e mi godevo il suono della sfoglia croccante a contatto con la forchetta, seguito da un’eruzione di ricotta zuccherata. Il sapore vero e proprio della pasta era ovviamente eccellente, ma era tutta l’esperienza che rendeva speciale il momento.

Purtroppo, crescere e andare via di casa cambia la vita quotidiana, così i momenti preziosi diventano ricordi sepolti in qualche angolo nascosto della nostra mente, fino a quando qualcuno o qualcosa ci fa ricordare. E all’improvviso torniamo indietro nel tempo, ma più vecchi, più nostalgici e con la pancia sempre piena.
Buona Domenica.

“Agnello Cacio e Ova” (Lamb, Cheese and Eggs) a typical Molisan recipe for Easter

I started The Weird Frittata with the intention to talk about food and the industry that gravitates around it.This means I have deliberately chosen not to write recipes, first because there are millions of blogs that outstandingly do this already. Secondly, because I am a perfectionist and I think that I still have a lot to learn before giving directions and advices. However, I promised myself to share with my readers stories and traditions about Molise, the Italian region I come from, and this time it’s a recipe. This could be seen as a contradiction, but I actually chose to share a particular recipe not only because it’s an important part of Easter traditions in Molise, but also because the dish I’m going to talk about, is unlikely to be translated into English or even in Italian cookbooks.

The recipe takes its name from three fundamental ingredients, in fact Agnello Cacio e Ova can be translated from dialect as Lamb, Cheese and Eggs. Lamb and eggs are strong symbols of the Easter traditions, in fact Lamb represents the young generation of the flock and it is therefore associated with Jesus Christ. As for eggs, they were considered as the symbol of life since the beginning of human history, assuming the metaphorical meaning of eternal life in the Christian tradition later on. As a lucky coincidence, lamb and eggs are typical products of Molise, whose mountainous landscapes have allowed, throughout the centuries, the development of an economy largely based on agriculture and farming.

And what about cheese, you may ask. Sheep breeding in Molise was, and still is aimed at dairy production, therefore pecorino cheese is mainly used in this recipe as a traditional ingredient. However, as it often happens, each family has their own variation, so the cheese may differ according to the recipe. For example, in my Nonna’s recipe pecorino is substituted with grated Parmigiano but I assure you the final result won’t lose to the original one.

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“Agnello Cacio e Ova” 

Ingredients for 6 people:

  • 1 whole deboned and diced lamb leg
  • 10 eggs
  • the juice of 1 lemon
  • 2 cloves of garlic
  • 300 gr of grated Parmigiano
  • 300 gr of breadcrumbs
  • white wine
  • rosemary
  • salt and pepper
  • olive oil

Directions:

Take a medium cake tin and sizzle the diced lamb, garlic and rosemary in olive oil. When the meat looks nice and brown, add a splash of white wine and wait for it to be evaporated. Then set aside and wait until it cools down. Take out both the rosemary and the garlic but leave the meat in the tin.

While waiting, beat the eggs with the lemon juice, Parmigiano, salt and pepper. Add the breadcrumbs little by little, so that the final mixture would result neither runny nor dry.

Pour the egg mixture over the lamb into the cake tin until the meat is covered and give it a stir.

Bake in preheated oven at 200° until the cake becomes amber coloured. At this point low the temperature to 140° and cook for another 10 minutes.

The final result has to look like a sponge cake. Or a giant, meaty frittata.

Happy Easter!

And now in Italian.

Ho iniziato a scrivere su The Weird Frittata con l’intenzione di parlare di cibo e le varie sfaccettature del mondo che gira intorno ad esso. Tutto ciò significa che ho volutamente scelto di non scrivere un blog di ricette, per due motivi: primo, perché ci sono già milioni di blog su cui trovare tutte le dritte per realizzare piatti straordinari. Poi perché, fondamentalmente, sono una perfezionista e penso di avere ancora molto da imparare prima di dare indicazioni e consigli su come preparare un determinato piatto. Tuttavia, mi sono ripromessa di condividere con i miei lettori storie e tradizioni riguardanti il Molise, la regione da cui provengo, e questa volta si tratta di una ricetta. E’ una contraddizione direte, ma in realtà ho scelto di condividere una ricetta particolare, non solo perché si tratta di un piatto fondamentale nella tradizione pasquale molisana, ma anche perché è impossibile trovare questa ricetta nei libri di cucina. E anche quelle che ci sono in rete, indicano un piatto simile, ma della tradizione abbruzzese.

La ricetta prende il nome dai suoi tre ingredienti fondamentali: agnello, formaggio e uova. L’agnello e l’uovo sono importanti simboli delle tradizioni pasquali, infatti l’agnello rappresenta la giovane generazione del gregge ed è, quindi, associato con Gesù Cristo come figlio di Dio. Per quanto riguarda le uova, esse sono considerate il simbolo della vita fin dall’inizio della storia dell’umanità, assumendo, con il passare dei secoli, il significato metaforico di vita eterna nella tradizione cristiana. Per una fortunata coincidenza, agnello e uova sono i prodotti tipici del Molise, i cui paesaggi montani hanno permesso, nel tempo, lo sviluppo di un’economia quasi interamente basata su agricoltura e allevamento.

E il formaggio? vi chiederete. L’allevamento di ovini in Molise era, ed è ancora mirato non solo alla macellazione, ma soprattutto alla produzione lattiero-casearia. Per questo motivo il formaggio pecorino viene utilizzato nella ricetta come ingrediente tradizionale del territorio.

Come spesso accade, ogni famiglia ha la sua ricetta che spesso presenta delle varianti. Per esempio, mia Nonna preferisce usare il Parmigiano al posto del pecorino, ma vi assicuro che il risultato finale non perde affatto di sapidità. Questo è ciòche accade quando si può contare su materie prime di qualità.

Agnello Cacio e Ova

Ingredienti per circa 6 persone:

  • 1 cosciotto di agnello disossato e tagliato a cubetti
  • 10 uova
  • il succo di 1 limone
  • 2 spicchi di aglio
  • 300 gr di Parmigiano grattugiato
  • 300 gr di mollica di pane finemente tritata
  • vino bianco
  • rosmarino
  • sale e pepe
  • olio d’oliva

Procedimento:

Prendete uno stampo rotondo per torte e fate soffriggere l’agnello tagliato a dadini insieme all’aglio e il rosmarino in olio d’oliva. Quando la carne si colora, aggiungete una spruzzata di vino bianco e attendete che evapori. Poi mettete da parte e aspettate che si raffreddi. Lasciate la carne nello stampo, ma non dimenticate di togliere l’aglio e il rosmarino.

Nel mentre sbattete le uova con il succo di limone, il Parmigiano, sale e pepe. Versate la mollica poco alla volta e regolate la quantità, poiché Il composto non deve risultare troppo liquido ma nemmeno troppo asciutto.

Versate il composto di uova sopra l’agnello nella tortiera fino a coprire la carne. Date una mescolata e fate cuocere in forno preriscaldato a 200 ° fino a quando la “torta” diventerà ambrata. A questo punto abbassate la temperatura a 140 ° e cuocete per altri 10 minuti.

Deve assumere l’aspetto un Pan di Spagna. O una frittata gigante.

Buona Pasqua!

Christmas Cicerchiata, memories and Nonna

As I previously mentioned in the last post about my Christmas Eve dinner, I am strongly attached to my family’s traditional food, because it reminds me of the happiest childhood that I could possibly have. Let’s say that, in a Proustian way, I have wonderful memories linked to Christmas food, so these holidays I spent as much time as I could with my two Nonnas in order to understand the secrets of their recipes.

Apart from anchovy fritters, I am also emotionally attached to Cicerchiata. This is a dessert composed by small fried marble-like balls made of sweet dough, dipped in hot honey and decorated with dried or candied fruit.

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Easy? Definitely not, as it requires a lot of work. Kneading the dough is the first thing to master, in order to ensure the ideal texture: not soft, but not hard either. “How do I know the right consistency?” I asked my Nonna, and she just replied: “You don’t, you’ll feel it and learn with experience.” The answer I would expect from someone who prepares delicious dessert without using a kitchen scale. Experience, this is the word.

I believe these moments must be treasured because they are precious, and I hope to pass these memories on to my children one day, maybe while preparing or eating some Cicerchiata together.

And now in Italian.

Come ho già scritto nel post precedente, riguardante la cena della vigilia di Natale, sono molto attaccata alle pietanze tradizionali della mia famiglia, perché sono legate all’infanzia più felice che potessi avere. Diciamo che, come accadde per Proust, ho dei ricordi meravigliosi legati ai piatti di Natale, perciò in questi giorni sto passando molto tempo con le mie nonne, in modo da tentare  di capire i segreti delle loro ricette.

A parte le frittelle di alici, sono molto attaccata alla Cicerchiata. Questo dolce è composto da piccole palline di impasto dolce (tipo frolla), fritte e passate nel miele caldo. Il dolce è poi decorato con confettini, frutta secca e/o candita.

Facile? proprio per niente, perché è un dolce che richiede tanto impegno. Una buona lavorazione dell’impasto, assicura la giusta consistenza delle palline, che non devono essere né troppo morbide, né troppo dure. “Come faccio a sapere quando sono arrivata alla giusta consistenza?” ho chiesto a mia nonna, e lei mi ha risposto: “Non lo sai, lo senti e poi impari con l’esperienza.” Proprio la risposta che ti aspetti da chi prepara dolci buonissimi senza misurare gli ingredienti, o come dice lei, “facendo a occhio”. Esperienza, questa è la parola chiave.

Credo che questi momenti siano molto preziosi, e spero che un giorno io possa passarne i ricordi e le emozioni ai miei figli, magari preparando o mangiando un po’ di Cicerchiata tutti insieme.