Posts tagged ‘Italy’

August 14, 2011

Travel: Sassi di Matera, Italy

Sassi di Matera, Italy


When I started writing The Wonderingchef, just a little a year ago, I wanted to create a travel-food-recipe-restaurant blog, but lately I`ve been concentrating more on the recipe part of the blogging. Even thou I did travel (cruise ship, holiday etc) I have been taking the pictures, collecting information, just the posts never happened. This one i been planning to send just about a year ago, and a few months ago, when i finished the whole editing, writing, wordpress played a cruel joke with me and deleted my draft. So Matera Sassi post Volume 2 here I go again and hopefully will make it this time!

Italy, this amazing country, struggles with weird politics and leaders, constant financial crisis and unemployment, with its problems could be anywhere in the world. Still it`s tourism is glowing like always, I mean a country which can call the cities Rome, Milan, Florence, Venice their own, must be proud..even if their are not. I listed the most popular tourist sites, but still it has much more to offer. Much much more! It would be difficult to name a region, or a small city that has nothing unique to offer, like making the best bread, or balsamic vinegar, or have amazing views, castles or churches. Some of them are right on the map, some of them are a bit more isolated and hidden from the masses, some of them have not much more inhabitants then a few hundred people, still when you arrive will be treated with friendly, welcoming hospitality.

Only recently I started discovering south of Italy, and just cant wait to go back and learn more. One of the most favorite places I found was Matera Sassi, in Puglia. As you can see from the pictures the view is magnificent, the atmosphere is just peaceful. Now I could give you a short history lesson about the place, but you will find the background in Lonely Planet or on Wikipedia. The city is most lilley to be one of the first human settlements in Italy, the houses are dug in the stones, which is characteristic for Basilicata and Apulia regions. When you walk around…and you should take this one seriously..try to avoid the siesta, as it will be completely empty and very very very hot! Of course I mean summertime.. if still you pick the 12-16.00 hour time, bring a hat and plenty of water with you.

When you are here make no plans, its easy to spend hours around the little hills/streets/houses, getting lost finding better and better views for photography. Some people still live here, there are coffee shops, churches  (of course), restaurants, galleries everything a tourist needs.  Still the strange thing for me was, there were no tourists, I was wondering did no one ever heard about this place? Is it really so isolated? And people apparently did hear about it, and to be honest it is easy to reach. You either sign up for a day tour at a travel agency, or rent a car and on the way you can visit other fantastic places as well.

For movie geeks just like me, its a big treat as Mel Gibson`s “Passion of the Christ” was shot here, among a few other films.

In case you were wondering which region to visit again in Italy, Puglia and Basilicata is highly recommended!

August 9, 2010

Recipe: Apple Risotto with Veg puffs

First I should say “Thank You” for my fellow college friend/chef Marco who gave me this idea. We were in culinary school together in Sydney and for a final “exam cooking” we had to create 3 dishes within 1 hour, also it had to be creative and some sort original. I was already thinking about a risotto, but of course as there was a big budget cut, I couldn`t really use anything that is you know..fancy.  He asked me “why don`t you make apple risotto?” I said “huuuuh???” – He knew about my love to Italy, and the amount of time I traveled there.  “You never heard of apple risotto??? It`s a traditional northern recipe? Ah I can`t believe You…” . To be honest I haven`t heard of apple risotto ever since….

But what should I serve it with? I wanted to make it as a vegetarian dish (also cos our chef at the time was vegetarian and I wanted to impress him). Apples would be too much,cheese is very avarage, and I knew most of the fellow students were doing parmesan chips for garnish-cos it looks good and it`s easy. The competition was pretty big as it was 27 of us in that class, so, i didn`t want to copy anyone or wanted my idea to be stolen. Also the dish had to be different texture from the risotto, preferably cheap and fast to make. So in this case the easiest ideas are always the best. And I don`t really remember how, but I remembered my fathers corn-puffs. I loved them as a kid and i like them still, it`s easy, cheap, and fast to make. Thou I wanted my dish to be a bit more gourmet so, I decided to use 3 different kind of puffs- corn, zucchini, and parmesan.

The recipe is simple and fast.


For the risotto

  • 1 apple
  • 1 onion
  • 3 cloves of garlic
  • 10 g of butter
  • 1 small cup of arborio rise
  • 1dl white wine
  • 2 tbs of sour creme or creme fraishe
  • salt
  • white pepper
  • 3tbs of parmesan cheese
  • Veg stock

For the puffs

  • 1 small can of sweet corn
  • 1 small zucchini
  • 2 eggs
  • 100 g of white flour
  • 7g dry yest
  • salt
  • parmesan

First make the puff mix. In a bowl mix together the flour the eggs and the yeast. Divide in 3. Add the corn, the shredded zucchini, and the parmesan in the separate mixes. If the dough looks a bit wet, you can add more flour. Set aside to rise.

Risotto. In a saucepan melt the butter add the brunoise onions and garlic and fry until golden brown. Add the small cubes of the apple (witout the skin of course), and stir it constantly so it wouldn`t burn. When the apple got a bit softer, add the wine (use good quality white wine, one wise traveler once said, don`t cook with wine which you woudn`t drink..he is right) and add the rise. Stir it a little bit and allow to cook before You add the stock. The stock has to be warm. Pls try not using water, your risotto will not be as tasty as it should be. If you don`t have fresh stock at home, it`s even better to use the ready made ones from the supermarket. Also If you make stock once, you can easily store it in the freezer. Always add just a small amount of stock at the same time, just enough for it to cover the rise, Reduce the heath to minimum, put a lid on it, and let it cook. Stir it frequently, if the liquid disolves, add more stock. You don`t want to end up with overcooked rise, or rise soup-which is even worse. When it`s almost done, add the sour creme, the parmesan and the seasoning. Cook for an other minute. Take it off the heath, and cover it with a lid.

Heat up the oil, or turn on the deep frier. You need to have enough oil so it would cover the puffs.  Form small balls with your hand out of the mixes and drop it in the hot oil. It`s ready when it has a nice golden brown colour. Don`t for too big balls as they wont cook trough properly and during the frying it will double it`s size anyway.


July 28, 2010

Eggplant, Parmesan and Mushroom Cannelloni in Tomato sauce

It`s been a while since I was planning to use the pack of cannelloni tubes hiding in my kitchen since a nice Roman holiday. Many times, I had the plan in my mind, what sort of exciting things I`m going to try for the fillings. Had a few ideas (I still have them, soon will try them out as well), but something always came up, and we never had the cannelloni dinner. Today, before a few days holiday, my dad asked me to use up the remaining stuff from the fridge. Well, I wasn`t really spoiled whit choices, all we had was half of an eggplant and few mushroom cups. Luckily, there was still some milk (good thing we have cats), and some remainings of the puglian parmesan cheese, which made the British boarder control incredibly excited at the security check-in. Because of the recent Italian influence on my cooking, pasta it is I thought. And while digging for the last small can of tomato pure, I found the cannolli tubes on the shelf. The day has come, I thought. Cannolli dinner it is!

The recipe is easy, but there`s a bit of hustle with it, especially with the washing up. If you try it, you need to make tomato sauce, besamel, and fry the vegetables.

Ingredients (4-5 persons) usually about 4 cannolli tubes/person

  • 1 small eggplant
  • 4 medium mushroom cups
  • 15g of butter
  • 20g flour
  • 400ml milk
  • grated parmesan cheese
  • 1 small can of tomato pure
  • herbs (preferably fresh)
  • 2 spoons of sugar
  • salt, pepper
  • cannolli tubes
  • 1 pinch of nutmeg
  1. Preheat the oven for 180C.
  2. Slice up the eggplant and the mushroom for small cubes. Make sure they going to fit in the cannolli tubes
  3. Fry the vegetables in some olive oil, in a frying pan. Set aside.
  4. In a saucepan mix the tomato-pure with some water, the sugar, salt, pepper and herbs (basil, thyme, oregano, rosemary), cook over medium heat. Cook for 10 minutes. Set aside.
  5. Make besamel sauce, using the butter, flour and the milk. Take it off the heat, mix with the vegetables, parmesan cheese, ad some salt and the nutmeg.
  6. Using a piping bag, or a small spoon fill the canolli tubes.
  7. Butter the sides of your oven tray, put the tubes firmly close to each other.
  8. Poor over the sauce, make sure the cannollis are covered with it.
  9. Put some grinded cheese on top and bake for about 30-40 minutes.
  10. Serve it with some side salad.

July 28, 2010

Bari, Italy-Market Photography

Firts time ever, during the World Cup, when Italy was still in, I visited Bari. Ive been to Italy before, many many times, but this was the firts time I saw a place which is not crowded with tourists, and You can see the local side of the citizens. Bari itself isnt really interesting, its a port and university town, with a beautiful old-town area, and of course a seaside. But if You are a chef like me, or just like to eat and enjoy food, and You want to learn a lot, its almost perfect. Puglian cooking is nice, also very healthy. All around the city theres plenty  olive-farms, and fisherman`s huts, and daily markets in the city center. There are panetterias, cafes, restaurants on every step, You can easily tell, these people like their food.

Now well, my boyfriend took me to one of these markets, which is walking distance from their apartment, and conveniently closed down one whole street in the city. I love markets, I love their vibe, how people argue, and shout, and make fun out of each other. Also I like the look of the goods, going to a market for me is very inspirational, also sometimes I get a littlebit crazy, and I want to try everything at the same time, and I just keep running around the isles. This time, Im a bit extra excited, I havent been to a nice market since ages. After spending way too much time in an industrial city, where the only available food was the ready made microvawe stuff in the supermarkets, with “fresh” fruit and vegetables only known from fairy tales.

Ok, I have to admit. I think Im the first tourist these people saw in a long time. They dont understand why Im taking photos, am I from the goverment? Or the maffia? They keep talking to me, and I dont understand a word. I dont know whats going on, what have I done wrong? My boyfriend tells me, its not really common to have foreigners here with a camera, and barese people are not really trustworthy, as somebody always wants to screw the other. Ok, well we are in Southern-Italy anyway.  I keep taking photos, some people pose for me, and want to be in the picture, some people tell me off. Either way, its fun.

The goods here are fantastic. Some things are just so mediterranean, the figs, the zucchini flowres, the fresh mussles from the sea, and the big green olives. From where I`m from these things cost a fortune, and we re lucky if they are available. I wish I had a kitchen to cook at, I could feed an army with these.  At some things I just stop and stare, like the massive basils, that the guy is just throwing down the ground from his truck, or the massive fresh mussles from a very generous 2Euros/kg price. Also at this moment there are about 30 people making fun out of me or staring at me. Luckily I`m not alone.

July 21, 2010

Panzerotto heaven-Di Cosimo pizzeria

Di Cosimo pizzeria Bari

A few weeks ago i visited Bari, which is located South of Italy. I have to admit i had amazing food there, also I learned a lot, and was very much impressed about the city and its surrounding. So far Apulia/Puglia was very much unfamiliar, and was very surprised about the lack of tourism in the area. I’m very sure im going to refer to Bari in my upcoming posts, but first of all I would like to introduce you to the Panzerotto!

Many of you know Calzone, which is a pizza folded in half-baked in an oven. Theres not much difference with the panzerotto, but instead of the oven, its deep-fried in oil. Its dough is also a bit different, it’s somehow a bit lighter-but correct me if im wrong! Not only in Puglia, but all around in the country you can meet with the dish in different panetterias and forno-s (which means the oven itself). Most of the time they offer small panzerottos, 3-4 of those in the heath and you have a nice filling meal, also if you don’t pay attention, you can have some of the filling on your nice clean shirt-and im speaking from experience!

The filling itself can be very simple, a tomato sauce-mozarella duo, and as conservatives the italians ca be with their food, if we do a home made addition, we can be creative with inside.

So one night my boyfriend took me to this place called Di Cosimo pizzeria, in Bari. When i first saw the place i knew we are not talking about a romantic candle-light dinner. The place itself located on the bottom of a big concrete building, the only way you could actually spot it, was the crowd infront of it. Inside its even worse, there are people everywhere and the shop itself is pretty small, ofcourse you need to pick a number. The chefs shout out the number who is next, there are about 20 orders infront of us..ok at least i can take a better look on, what makes this place so popular. Theres not much choice on the menu, You either order the deep fried panzerotto or its oven baked partner, or some pizzas, theres about 6 different kind on the menu. Later on an other night i tryed the gorgonzola pizza…. if you like the cheese, its a must try! Its so many of us in there, some people already taking some place in the kitchen right behind the deep frier. Most of the orders are for take-away, but theres a small room behind the kitchen, you can have your meal there if you want. Its steaming hot, some people scream for beer or water while they wait. It sure has its atmosphere. To be honest i wasnt really hungry before we got there, but looking at all those amazing pizzas in and out of the owen for hal an hour, sure brings my apetite! Also they are increadibly fast, a pizza is ready within 3-4 minutes in the steaming hot forno, and You can see, the people who work there have experience.

My boyfriend tells me his been coming here since he was a boy, and always the same people ran the place, everybody having their own section and duty. One of them is making the pizzas, other two gets the panzerotto dough ready, somebody fries them, an other guy is responsible for the goods inside the oven, and there’s one person talking with the public and collecting the money. I’m being shy with taking photos, of course nobody speaks english and they are making fun of me in italian. “If you live in Bari, You know this place” explains my boyfriend to me, the popularity also comes because of the “big-size” panzerotto they make, eating one of those is almost like a complete meal.

After all of this i wasnt even surprised to find even Youtube videos about the place!

Mult heten Del-Olaszorszagban, Bariban jartam. Nagyon jokat ettem, es rengeteget tanultam, illetve teljesen lenyugozott a varos es megyeje.Szamomra idaig teljesen ismeretlen volt Apulia/Puglia kornyeke, es meglepoen keves turistat lattam ezalatt a 10 nap alatt mig ott voltam. Bari-ra meg biztosan vissza fogok terni mas posztokban de most elsosorban a Panzerotto(i)-rol szeretnek irni

Sokan ismerik a Calzone-t ami igazabol egy felbe hajtott toltott pizza. Ez a Panzerotto eseteben sincs maskent, de a kulonbseg az, hogy olajban sutik ki. A tesztaja is egy kicsit mas, konyebben emesztheto. Nem csak Pugliaban hanem orszag szerte is lehet vele talalkozni panetteriakban vagy fornokban (a forno maga a kemencet jelenti, igy is szoktak nevezni a peksegeket). De legtobb esetben a kicsi panzerottikat talalhatjuk ott, 3-4 darab belole mar eleg is. A toltelek nagyon egyszeru szokott lenni, paradicsomszosz es mozarella parosra eskusznek de egy kreativ szakacs tehet hozza barmit. Amugy az olasz peksegek nagy rajongoja vagyok, imadom a focacciakat, a supplikat, imadom a crocchetta di patate es a mindenfele rantott dolgokat .Receptek hamarosan

Aztan egyik este a baratom elvitt a Di Cosimo nevu kis pizzeriaba. Amikor eloszor meglattam a helyet, tudtam hogy nem romantikus vacsorarol lesz szo. Az uzlet egy lakotelepi haz aljaban talalhato es mar elotte hatalmas tomeg gyult ossze, mikor el kezd esni az eso, ez a sok ember mind probal a kis pizzeriaba beferkozni. persze szamot kell huznunk. Nem sok valasztasi lehetosegunk van, vagy rantott panzerottot kerunk vagy kemenceben sultet, illetve van kb 4-5 fele pizza is. Minden szo szerint az orrunk elott keszul. Annyian vagyunk, hogy mar mi is a konyha reszei leszunk, egyesek mar csak az olajsuto mogott kapnak helyet. A legtobb ember elvitelre rendel, de hatul helyet is foglalhatunk ha gondoljuk. Rekord mennyisegu embert szolgalnak ki, kb 3-4 perc alatt kesz egy pizza a forro kemenceben. Hiaba a gyorsasag, fel orat biztos, hogy sorban allunk, kozben be-kiabalos modon lehet uditot vagy sort rendelni, mivel bent biztos van vagy 40 fok, szuksegunk is van ra.

A baratom kozben elmondta, hogy o mar gyerekkora ota jar ide. Es mindig ugyenezek az emberek vittek a helyet, es mindig mindenkinek meg volt a maga feladata. Az egyik kesziti elo a pizzat vagy a  sult panzerottot a masik ki-be helyezi a kemencebel, az egyik csak penzt szed, harman pedig rantanak es csomagolnak. A tomeg engem kozben olaszul szivat, hogy miert is fenykepezek, meg se fordul a fejukben hogy nem vagyok helyi. “Ha Bariban elsz, ismered ezt a helyet” nepszeruseguket meg az fokozza, hogy ok nagy panzerottot keszitenek, ami egy kiados vacsoraval er fel.

Amikor  hazajottem, mar meg se lepodtem nagyon, hogy a helyrol mar youtube-on is talalunk videokat.