Friday 8 August 2014

Pane frattau

It is quite difficult for me to describe "pane frattau". It is the quintessential Sardinian dish: to me means home. Sic et simpliciter. Simplicity is actually they key word of this meal: few ingredients, attention to details and timing. That is about it. To cook this dish in Prague, and cook it properly, is not easy. Luckily i got hold of the right basic ingredients ( such as pane carasau, the typical Sardinian flat bread) and, with the help of my friend Nina (a fantastic hair stylist with a joyful and contagious passion for good food), i gave myself the present of a little trip back to the roots. 


sheets Sardinian flatbread 
2 tbsp
finely sliced basil leaves
150 gm
aged Pecorino Sardo, grated
For drizzling:
extra-virgin olive oil

Mutton stock (brodo di pecora)
1 kg
mutton bones, chopped (ask your butcher to do this)
carrots, roughly chopped
large onion, roughly chopped
celery stalk, roughly chopped
Roma tomatoes, quartered
2 tsp
tomato paste
fresh bay leaves
bunch flat-leaf parsley, torn
black peppercorns

20 ml
extra-virgin olive oil
onion, finely diced
garlic clove, finely diced
1 kg
very ripe tomatoes, chopped
basil sprigs, leaves picked, torn
For mutton stock, place bones in a stockpot or large saucepan, cover with water and bring to the boil, then strain and rinse well. Return mutton bones to a clean stockpot or large saucepan, cover with about 3 litres of fresh cold water – the bones should be completely submerged – then bring to the boil. Reduce heat, skim off any froth that rises to the surface, then add remaining ingredients and ¼ tsp sea salt flakes and simmer for 6-8 hours, skimming regularly to prevent the stock from going cloudy. If the liquid level drops so that the ingredients are uncovered, top up with a little cold water. Set aside to cool, then ladle through a sieve lined with muslin, discarding solids.
Meanwhile, for passata, heat a saucepan over low-medium heat, add oil and, when hot, add onion and garlic and cook until soft but not coloured. Add tomato and basil, season to taste and bring to the boil, then reduce heat and simmer, stirring occasionally, until tomato has completely broken down into a thick sauce (1 hour). If it dries out so much that it starts to stick, add a couple of tablespoons of water to loosen it up. Pass the tomato sauce through a mouli (see note), discarding skins and seeds. Store covered and refrigerated for a couple of days, or pack into sterilised jars and store in a cool, dark place for several months.
Place passata in a saucepan and bring to the simmer. Keep warm over low heat.
Combine 1 litre stock (freeze remainder for another use) and 1 tsp sea salt flakes in a small saucepan and bring to the simmer. Crack an egg into a cup and carefully slide it into the simmering stock. Repeat with a second egg. Cook eggs for 3 minutes then remove, using a slotted spoon, and place on paper towel to drain. Repeat with the remaining eggs.
Transfer stock to a large, tall saucepan over low heat. Using tongs, dip a sheet of Sardinian flatbread in and out of the hot stock to just soften it. Place on a platter and spread about 4 tbsp of the passata over the top. Scatter about 1 tsp of the basil and 3 tbsp of the pecorino on top of this. Dip another sheet of Sardinian flatbread in the hot stock, place it on top of the pecorino, top with more passata, basil and pecorino and continue the layering, finishing with a final layer of pecorino and a scattering of basil. Cut the stack into quarters, top each quarter with a poached egg, then place on plates. ( You can also make single plates, making less layers and placing just one poached egg on top of it). Drizzle with oil and serve.

Friday 1 August 2014

Cucumber and avocado cold soup with ricotta and bottarga

I am a fan of cold soups. During summer they are a great source of vitamins, minerals, fatty acids and freshness. I like to play around with ingredients which come from different culinary traditions and sometimes the result is really great. I had some leftovers of ricotta and bottarga and i thought that combining with avocado and cilantro could make an interesting marriage
This one is very simple as execution and yet very rich in flavor and deepness. Elias, my 10 month old son, loved it and literally feasted on it. here is the recipe. Some inspiration for the weekend.


2 ripe avocados

2 cucumbers

2 cloves of garlic

15 gr of cilantro

teaspoon of EVO oil

juice of half lemon

pinch of salt

pinch of freshly ground pepper

1/2 cup of water

100 gr of sheep ricotta

5 gr of ground cumin

40 gr of ground bottarga


Peel cucumber and garlic cloves. Cut the cucumbers in dices and place in a processor. Add 10 gr of cilantro, the flesh of two ripe avocados, and some lemon juice. Process until smooth. 
Add salt and pepper to taste and water to reach the desired consistency ( you want a soup, not a thick cream). Add a teaspoon of EVO oil, process for 30 seconds more and then set aside in the fridge.
In the meantime, chop finely the rest of cilantro. Mix together in a non reactive bowl with the ricotta, the ground cumin, the bottarga and a pinch of salt and pepper.
Form quenelles with the ricotta and place them in the plate. Pour the cold soup around and you are ready to serve. You can garnish with some flying fish roe and some "pane guttiau".

Sunday 27 July 2014

Lorighittas with bottarga, courgettes and ricotta

Right up there with the White Alba Truffle in reputation , Bottarga is one of the true gastronomic gems to hail from Italy. It is a very simple product born out of the need in prerefridgeration days to preserve foodstuffs using salt. Bottarga is the egg sack of certain marine fish. The roe is prepared by salting, pressing and drying for up to 6 months in cool well aired rooms. There are two types, Bottarga di Tonno (Tuna) and the more prized Bottarga di Muggine (Grey Mullet). Tuna bottarga is mostly produced in Sicily (it is sometimes referred to as Sicilian Caviar) and in Carloforte, where the now much declined Tuna fishery is based. It is grey in colour and has a stronger, saltier more robust flavour than that of the Grey Mullet. The best examples of mullet bottarga come from Sardinia.
Grey Mullet is one of the staple fish harvests all over the Mediterranean. Looked down on by some due to its distasteful habit of congregating by sewage outlets to feed, it has a lovely delicate white flesh. The Sardinians claim to have the fattest most flavoursome examples in Italian waters and the best time to harvest them is in August and September, when the hen fish are full of roe. The egg sacks are removed with the utmost care to avoid piercing; they are then salted and pressed in to the characteristic oblong shapes before drying. The finished product is amber to dark brown in colour and firm and waxy in texture. They are delicately flavoured, unmistakeably fishy but more subtle than the Tuna bottarga.
The best way to eat bottarga is raw. Sliced thinly and drizzled with good unfiltered extra virgin olive oil and lemon it makes a delicious, fresh and clean tasting antipasto. It also tastes, for the more profligate, wonderful with pasta. Here's a recipe to pair bottarga with another gem of Sardinian's culinary tradition: lorighittas! A beautiful type of pasta which, thanks to its shape, works perfectly with this type of ingredients.


Lorighittas 400gr

Bottarga crumbles  40 gr

Courgette 1 large

Sheep Ricotta 160 gr

Garlic 4 cloves unpeeled

Extra Virgin Olive oil 

White wine  1 dcl

Dried chilly pepper 2 small


Freshly ground pepper

Vegetable stock 2 dcl


In a deep saucepan heat some EVO Oil and toss in garlic cloves. Cut a courgette in 4 parts and then in thiny slices. Add to the saucepan. Crush the chilly and add it as well, then stir frequently the courgettes. Cook for about 15 min.
In the meantime, in a large casserole, bring water to boil and then add salt and throw in the lorighittas. Cook for about 11 min. 
In the meantime add white wine to the courgettes and let evaporate alcohol. Lower the heat. Add the vegetable stock and 1/3 of the bottarga crumbles.
Once the lorighittas have been cooked for 11 minutes, drain them and add to the saucepan, making sure there's enough vegetable stock.
Cook for 4/5 min untill lorighittas are aldente.
Turn off the flame and toss in the ricotta and let it melt stirring frequently. Adjust with some freshly ground pepper.
Serve adding the rest of the bottarga crumbles and a drizzle of EVO oil.

Thursday 24 July 2014

Frankie goes to Oliwood

Once in a while i am going to upload posts (mostly photos) about traveling and, more importantly, about people. To travel, even more so when it's driven by gastronomical interest, is in first place a matter of meeting people, know their stories. Those stories are going to tell me everything i need to know about a certain culinary tradition, especially when this tradition is embraced and loved with such pure passion as it's done by Maria. Together with her husband Erik and their two kids, they moved from Slovakia to Vicopisano, near Pisa, and they created Oliwood, a little gem on the Tuscan hills. They make an amazing extra virgin olive oil and Maria cooks using herbs and fruits of her garden (speak of "zero miles").

I spent a week there with family and friends and i had the pleasure to cook together with Maria: she's got such love for italian cuisine and for the quality of basic ingredients that i forgot that she wasn't born and raised in Tuscany. Of some of the dishes we prepared together i am going to post the recipe on this blog in the future. For the moment enjoy the vibe of Oliwood.

Monday 21 July 2014

Polp allada: sous-vide octopus Catalan style

Since a lot of people seem to be adopting sous-vide cooking at home with Sous Vide Supreme I’m going to post some easy recipes of traditional dishes, such Polp Allada, a typical dish of the Catalan tradition of the northwest of Sardinia, with the technological improvement offered by the progress. Sous-vide cooking is a method that was developed in France in the 1970′s but that has gone mainstream only  in recent years. I think where sous-vide excels is at maintaining the integrity of ingredients in a way that was once impossible, and that’s achieved by cooking food in air-vacuumed bags for an extended period of time at relatively low but tightly controlled temperatures.
Octopus is a notoriously tricky ingredient, one wrong step can lead you to chew on a cephalopod chewing gum – and it’s just as bad as it sounds. When you get it right though, it’s pure bliss. Sous-vide is a great technique to use on octopus as it produces perfectly tender tentacles without the hassle. You can then finish them up on the grill for a little bit of char just before serving or, as you do in this recipe, deep frying before combining with the sour and spicy depth of the allada sauce.


  • For the sous-vide octopus:

    • 1 medium-sized octopus
    • 1 carrot, roughly chopped
    • 1 onion, roughly chopped
    • 1 celery stalk, roughly chopped
    • 2 bay leaves
    • 2 sprigs of thyme
    • 1 tablespoon red peppercorn
    • 1 tea spoon cilantro seeds
    • 1/2 cup white wine vinegar
    • Zest from a bio lemon

    • For the allada:

35 gr sundried tomatoes

5/6 cloves of garlic

150 gr peeled tomatoes

2/3 bay leaves

1/3 cup of white wine vinegar

1 chilly pepper

pinch of salt and pepper


  • For the sous-vide octopus:

    • Place 8 cups of water and the carrot, onion, celery, bay leaves and parsley stems in a large saucepan and bring to a simmer for 15 minutes. Add the white wine vinegar and keep at a simmer. Wash the octopus in plenty of cold water and remove the tentacles with a sharp knife. Blanch the octopus for about 45 seconds and remove from the poaching and into an ice bath to cool rapidly. Drain. Cool the poaching liquid.
    • Place the octopus in two separate sous-vide bags. Add a few tablespoons of the poaching liquid to the bags, then lemon zest, red peppercorn and cilantro seeds and vacuum-seal on high.
    • Place the bags in the sous-vide machine for 4 hours at 185′F (85′C). Cool in an ice bath. Remove the octopus from the bags, cover with rice flour and deep fry for 30/40 seconds in rice oil. Drain and set aside on paper to absorb oil.

For the allada:

Cut the garlic and place it in a hot saucepan with olive oil. Add the sundried tomatoes finely chopped. Stir gently then add the the peeled tomatoes which have been finely chopped too previously. Add bay leaves and vinegar and let evaporate. Then lower the heat and let the sauce reduce. Throw in the octopus (either whole tentacles or you can cut them in small pieces before), adjust with salt and pepper. Stir for a minute or two and then turn off the flame and set aside to cool off.
Place the polp allada in a non reactive bowl, making sure that the sauce cover the octopus and let it rest in the fridge over night.
You can serve it cold or quickly reheat before serving.

Monday 14 July 2014

Coffee butter

I know, i know: Italians are supposed to deal with coffee just for espressos, moccas or for Tiramisu'. But being a curious Italian i keep looking for new tecniques and new flavor combinations. I stepped into this idea looking for new ways to enhance my sous-vide steak and i just got blown away.
To respect at least a bit the tradition i got the coffee beans from my friend Aldo who is from Naples, the Italian capital of coffee.


Coffee beans, whole 250 gr
Butter unsalted, 500 gr


Vacuum package the whole coffee beans together with the unsalted butter. Coffee beans are fairly buoyant because of the large volume of CO2 they contain, so remove as much gas as possible during the vacuum packing step. I recommend adding a heavy weight to the bag to help it sink.
Cook sous-vide at  90 °C for three hours. Shorter cooking times will yield a milder coffee flavor. Strain the beans from the infused butter through a chinois or a sieve. Agitate the beans to extract as much of the infused butter as possible, then discard the beans. Vacuum pack the coffee butter and keep refrigerated until needed.


Coffee butter works amazingly with a sous-vide steak ( in this case a boneless rib-eye steak ). The tecnique is very easy:

Vacuum package the steak with enough coffee butter to coat the steak as it cooks. Cook the steak sous vide to your desired core temperature. After cooking the steak, briefly sear it again to refresh the crust. This can be done in a pan, on a grill or on the stone.  Brush the steak with warm coffee butter, season with salt, and then slice into few portions.