Monthly Archives: April 2011

Little balls of loveliness.

Sometimes you come across an Italian food product that has obviously taken considerable effort to produce, and you wonder why someone has gone to all that trouble. Olive all’Ascolana are an example: large green olives from around Ascoli Piceno in le Marche, stuffed with finely minced pork and veal, then breaded and deep fried. A lot of work for something that’s gone in a bite. But then you taste them and understand that the effort was worthwhile, and you’re rather glad that someone has the patience to do it. Continue reading

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From necessity to art form.

Coppa, delicious on an antipasto platter

Italians are very proud of their centuries-old tradition of curing meat, especially pork. The practice especially provided a way of making full use of the meat of the pig, traditionally slaughtered in the autumn, given that the fresh meat had to be eaten within a short time. Preserving the meat by salting and drying it into hams, sausages and other products not only extended the period over which it could be consumed, but created different tastes and textures to be enjoyed. Continue reading

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Feeling hot, hot, hot.

Deep in Italy’s rugged south west – the ‘toe of the boot’ – the Calabrian summers are dry and hot. Very hot. Perfect conditions for growing the region’s best-loved ingredient – chillies. The fierce sun pumps the fruits full of flavour and chilli-heat and then slowly dries the picked chillies to intensify their potency even further. Come late summer, strings of home-grown fiery red peperoncini hang at almost every door and window; they’re traditionally reputed to ward off diseases.

Such is the passion for the peperoncino here that L’Accademia Italiana del Peperoncino (The Italian Chilli Academy) has been established to promote the gastronomical and medical properties of chillies. Each September it organises the annual chilli festival: a feast and street party not for the faint-hearted, and even less for those with sensitive palates. Continue reading

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