Brunetti, a tale of Nostalgia, good food and Italia!

From the second you walk into Brunetti’s you are under the influence of its atmosphere;

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brunetti-city-squareItalian, rustic, old school, savoury (feat; tomato and meat) countless sweets littering every window, and rustic woven baskets and old bottles littering the shelves! A geletaria, a cafe, a restaurant… it encompassed all! With savoury options starting from quick delicious bites of $9-11 foaccias to higher priced mains consisting of typical Italian fare: Pizza, pasta and of course pancetta abound! While having  a decent price bracket settling from $35-55 for two people (depending on types of dish ordered, you definitely get assured authentic quality. Hard not to, Brunettis success built itself of remaining true to its authentic Italian personality.

The ambiance of the place put you in the mind of an Italian soap opera – you got that old school charm from the tiled floor, the cafe/alcohol bar and of course the antique pictures on the wall. The crowd fit right in like a puzzle piece. While there was a large variety, there was always a group of older Italian men speaking Italian passionately spread throughout the place. The music, mostly consisted of old classic Italian hits…Mini-Italia indeed!

Even the style of ordering remained true to Italian style. Ordering in a place separate to collection, it reminded me of a method I had only encountered in Italy, from some eateries to service stations.

I chose a Chicken and Pancetta toasted focaccia and uno Cappacino!

The smell of it was divine – fresh bread, based on a Turkish style bread. The first taste is of the crunchy bread, followed by a immediate burst of succulent pancetta. That salty and delicious flavour was intermittent with the juicy authentic sun-dried tomatoes. The chicken taste lay low, a pleasant texture, but offering limited taste in favour of the cheese, sun-dried tomato and pancetta.

The overall tasting experience, strongly centring on these three overpowering ingredients reminded me of a toasted sandwich my mother used to make us on weekends. Sort of akin to the sunday food tradition, the nostalgic ritual of having toasted focaccias like this hit me close to home.

Similar to Sylvana,  I remember standing by my mothers side passing her ingredients to make  these common yet always memorable and  satisfying lunches.While coincidentally also on either Turkish like bread or Casa Lingua at times,  we sometimes used pancetta, or prscioutto and cheese but always sun-dried tomatoes, (always authentic Italian from a giant bottle we would always have in the fridge from the European import markets).

Being from a Croatian background, and having lived close to Italy and visiting it a few times this whole experience made me as if I would walk out and find myself in some small Italian town.

Next…the cappuccino was perfect! Again, it hit a nostalgic note – growing up our family activities always centred around going out for coffee whether it be in our home town or wherever our travels took us, a source of conversation and a ranking method.

Overall a beautiful Italian experience of culture, food and drink connected to my experience with my family and Italy.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Macarons Rustique?

I chose to make the delicious and elegant Macarons. Studying French for a few years and being blessed to visit Paris and tasting the delicate joy of the macaron… I fell in love.
I recalled a couple of years ago deciding on whim to make Macarons, remembering it easy, flawless and successful…

*cue black & white montage of me in cute 50s French style baking gear cutely presenting the tray of PERFECT Macarons I had made.

Only later as I glumly threw the first batch of burnt macarons into the bin it occurred to me that I may have…potentially…just slightly…raised that successful macaron memory to…well, I don’t know…Mythic proportions?

Now don’t get me wrong – Making the macarons was fun. I blasted French music from my laptop like it was a machine gun; Edith Piaf and the cast from the French musical Notre Dame de Paris (a personal favourite) roared as the soundtrack to my tranquil mixing of the ingrediants (40 folds exactly!)

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Everyone is familiar with Notre Dame de Paris. Quasimodo, Frollo and Phoebus are all obsessed with a beautiful Macaron…here they sing the song ‘Belle’ of the Macarons beauty and their desire for it.
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40 folds et voila!

It was going well, I hadn’t skimped on ingredients and followed instructions carefully. Oh I banged that tray…loudly…on the table…so the air bubbles were released. Cracks? I’d like to see you try I thought, smugly.

The first batch was in and that’s when the challenge became apparent. The oven was not adequately strong! The macarons refused to come off the tray and had already been there twice as long as the recipe said. Frustrated I turned the oven up even higher.

Then 5 minutes later I checked the oven only to find my light blue macarons were a lovely shade of burnt. Chucking them into the bin, in damage control I put the next blue batch on. These ended up not burnt but cracked. So cracked…Oh well.

C’est la vie right?

Sighing, I had half given up by then. I’d try make the pink batch, hardening my heart to the inevitable disappointment.

The blue batch had been runny. I assumed this could have been due to the measurements not being quite right as a result of me losing some ingrediants due to the nature of the sifting. (Integral, we don’t want chunky macarons!) With the rose pink batch, I added a little bit extra icing sugar and almond meal.

Skip to the end result…

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Magic. They were out, cooked perfectly in the required time. Not following the recipe exactly but gut intuition was amazing!

I fell asleep thinking of Macarons and awoke likewise. Next morning I warmed up the ganache.

It burnt.

…I tried again that evening…

Success!

For presentation, I piled them on a white plate with along with a sheet describing them.

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Macaron Rustique

This is the presentation result. Sure they’re cracked and bulky and chocolate is oozing out like dangerous lava for ones hips…but still didn’t this just add a rustic charm? These are  the macarons a grandma would serve in her Nancy house in Lorraine. Grand-mere Maria indeed!

So…being pretty, bucolic and befitting of its name I decided on the name of ‘Macaron Rustique!’

It seemed to be received well by people at the food fair. As I wondered around nibbling on the delicious food my fellow classmates had prepared, I kept an eye occasionally checking the gradually diminishing plate. Until just one was left…and then none at all! Talking to people about the macarons resulted in many people telling me that macarons are tricky to make and giving me many overly generous compliments about the ganache filling and the success with the macaron feet that made my heart swell with pride.  I’m glad they appeared to be well received, but despite the drama involved in making I felt humbled when put in perspective with the effort my fellow classmates went to to make such wonderful and tasty dishes!

Bisou xx

 

 

Frittelle = Felicita?

Fritelle are small Italian doughnuts and most famously are associated with the Venetian Carnival.

“The fritole, which held the sceptre of the art of confectionery of the people”

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At Carnival time Windows fill up with these little dolci sweets!

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Within Italy, their name varies from region to region, from galani to chiacchiere and castagnole…! (Unsurprising with the diversity of the Italian Dialects!)

But this blog post focuses on the traditional version of Frittelle alla Veneziana

Ingredients:

  • 500 g. plain flour
  • 20 g. yeast (dissolved in warm water)
  • 80 g. sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • milk
  • the zest of 1 lemon
  • 80 g. raisins (immersed for 1 hour in a bit of grappa or rhum)
  • oil to fry
  • icing sugar

*The filings can vary -filled and unfilled, raisens and pine nuts to chocolate cream! But  Frittelle veneziane feature no filling, just raisins and pine nuts.

The producers of the “fritole” were the “fritoleri”. They not only produced but sold the frittille. They, to”emphasize their exclusivity to produce them, in the ’600 formed an association, composed of seventy “fritoleri”” It resulted in allocated areas for their business in addition to the ability to keep the business tradition exclusively within the family. It remained highly active until the republic fell, then the traditional production method diminished drastically.

Yet  traces of it remain…for  when one visits Venice, one will find each Bakery creating their own unique version of Frittelle.

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Probably due to their unique cultural association with the Venetian Carnival these little beauties are hard to find in Melbourne. Therefore I challenge you! Take out that dusty dictionary or pop open Google translate and see if you can make them!

 

Best enjoyed with a glass of Prosecco 😀

Buon Appetito xx

Madeleine! (The Cake, not the t.v. show!)

In a country where no meal was complete without a dessert, the delicious buttery sponge cake that was the Madeleine was a shining star! (Or rather, a shell…)

They have a deep connection with the French town of Commercy. Legends of their exact origin vary. One popular story is that King Stanislas named them after the young chef who made them for the court from a Commecy recipe.

Recipe:

  • 3 eggs
  • flour
  • sugar
  • butter
  • milk
  • vanilla
  • baking powder
  • lemon zest

There was a traditional method prior to 1939. It consisted of six main producers, each getting ingredients from the local markets, each producer having his own variation considering the ingredients where the same.

What is interesting about the Madeleines recipe is that the strict nature of these essential ingredients allowed variation between recipes to only really be the ingredients amount and unique methods that resulted in these separate producers. This ties into  Poulains insightful statement of French cuisine being “a cuisine where the combination of ingredients became an art governed by rules very similar to that of musical harmony or pictorial balance.”

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Concerning nostalgia and food, Madaleines make an adept example in Prousts novel, “In Search of Lost Time,” where the narrator laments over how a stationary Madelaine had not meant much until he tasted it, and then the senses involved summoned a strong memory and consequent nostalgia…”The taste was that of the little piece of madeleine which on Sunday mornings at Combray” (Proust, 1982, In Search of Lost Time)

This is an adept example of a unique common food within a country and the memories and nostalgia it can produce! I’m sure you’re all familiar with something like this, care to share any memories in the comments?

In Paris they are all over the bakeries and sold in packs for decent prices. Alternatively they are sold at supermarkets in bags by authentic brands such as St Michel Madeleines.

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But if you’re interested for a taste locally, I’d recommend Cummulus in Melbourne. While heavy on the powdered sugar, they seem to mostly stick to authentic methods, offering lemon curd  on the side (madeleines à la crème au citron – sweeter and more of a Commercy version, Parisian Madeleines favouring the plainer versions.) and offering an authentic shape and style of the Madeleine! 🙂

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Cummulus Inc. Madeleines

 

Bon Appetit! xx

Pa amb tomàquet – Literally, Bread with Tomato! YUM?

 

Bread, tomato, olive oil, salt….for a Catalan, great eating starts and ends there” 

Pa amb tomàquet is a Catalan dish.  A simple dish, it consists of bread garnished with tomatoes and seasoning.

This simplicity results in the quality of ingredients being undoubtedly the key to the dishes success.

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Pan de crista

These specific ingredients are;

  • Day old pan de crista

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    Tomate de Ramallet – ripe and ready!
  • Vine tomatoes/hanging tomatoes)
  • Sea salt
  • Extra virgin olive oil

 

The method? Rub that tomato onto that bread!

History & Catalan Identity

The regional popularity of this dish and how it highlights products of the region have resulted in it developing deep ties to Catalan Identity, for some an every meal affair and for others,  nostalgia.

Interestingly, specific actions involved in its preparation speak volumes within Catalan cuisine culture. For example,  Andrew in his book, Catalan Cusine states that moistening only one side of bread indicates to Catalans that you grew up in a large family. This interesting perception can potentially be  reminiscent of its history; it essentially developed as an useful/effective alternative to nourish oneself with easily available and common ingredients in the households of the Catalan region and prevented excessive wastage of stale foods. Maybe this moistening of one side was to leave enough of the ingredients to share among the remaining family members?

Through these perspectives it is possible to get a glimpse of how “this gesture of rubbing tomato on a piece of bread is a sign of Catalan identity.”

Yet Pa amb tomàquet is an interesting Catalan dish when examined within the overall context of Catalan cuisine.

While occasionally disputed,  the common view is that it is relatively new. Nèstor Luján a historian specializing in Catalan cooking, states its first written reference is in 1884. Additionally he contends that this recipe was created in the rural area during abundant tomato harvests with people using the tomatoes to soften the hard and dry bed, achieving as mentioned before a successful use of overly available ingredients and prevention of wasting stale food.

While nonetheless proclaiming an incredibly strong connection to Catalan culinary identity, Pa amb tomàquets ‘newness’ is interesting notably when compared to how Catalan cuisine focused and prided itself on its dishes having a very long tradition in culinary historical writings, the oldest being  Francesc Eixemenis’s medieval Com usar be de beure e menjar (1384).

Pa amb tomàquet can’t really be found in Melbourne Restaurants. Maybe due to its’ simplicity not being very marketable.

Regardless, so simple to make! Next time you have some bread I challenge you to make this!

Bon Profit!