Friday 29 May 2009

Lucullus and Bacchus - From the field to the table

Autumn - The Queen of seasons. Biking tours, beautiful walks in the mountains-the surrounding environs are even more packed with activity. Let´s enjoy all the outdoor adventures in this rich area without forgetting its food, oil and wine. Ligurian people love to dine. That is why there are often served up to 15 courses. And what makes a wonderful menu perfect? Of course, the olive oil and the fine wine!
The Ligurian wines are still a best kept secret although Napoleon had already favoured the Rossese from Dolceacqua. The following recipes taste as great as they smell.

Though chestnuts were once used primarily to keep the peasants alive, chestnuts are very good and the aristocracy was quite happy to enjoy them, provided they were elegantly prepared.
Let´s start with an easy recipe for home use. To make enough for 6 you'll need:

· 2 1/4 pounds (1 kg) chestnuts
· 18 ounces (500 g) sugar - this is a little more than 2 cups
· 1 quart (liter) of water
· A vanilla bean (optional)
· Salt

Peel the chestnuts and add them to a large pot of boiling, lightly salted water. Boil them for about 20 minutes, then remove the pot from the burner, and let the chestnuts steep five minutes more. Remove them one at a time with a slotted spoon, peeling off the thin skin that covers the nuts but being careful not to damage the nuts themselves (they'll be soft). Once you have skinned them put them in a broad stainless steel skillet.

Take another pot and dissolve the sugar in the water over low heat. Add the vanilla bean if you are using it, and simmer the syrup, stirring it gently with a wooden spoon, until the syrup thickens somewhat (you want it to remain fairly fluid). Pour the syrup over the chestnuts and simmer them over a very low flame for a half hour, then turn off the flame and let them sit for ten minutes more.

Remove the chestnuts one at a time and arrange them on a serving plate and serve them with unsweetened whipped cream (if you like it). You can also sprinkle them with brandy, or serve them in cups, with a little of their syrup spooned over them.

A jar of chestnut jar makes a fine gift.
You need large perfectly blemish free chestnuts, sugar and a kitchen scale.

Take nice, large chestnuts and peel them, then boil them until tender in water that barely simmers. Drain them well and remove the inner peel. Weigh them, and put them in a bowl. Measure out as much sugar as the chestnuts weigh and heat it with the same weight of water until it comes to a boil.

Pour the resulting syrup over the chestnuts and let them rest for 24 hours.

The next day, drain the syrup back into a pot, bring it to a boil, reduce it some, and then pour it back over the chestnuts. Repeat the process five more times. The last day bring the syrup to a rolling boil, add the chestnuts, and cook them for 20 minutes, then transfer everything to a clean sterile jar, cover it, and let it cool.

Store the jar in a cool dark place.

This plum tart is quite simple, and is also is one of those things one can bring on a walking or biking tour with impunity, because at the most it will crack a little - not something one normally looks for in a tart or pie, but when one stuffs it into a picnic hamper it's an important consideration. To make a tart for 8:

Prep Time: 30 minutes
Cook Time: 50 minutes

3/4 cup (150 g) unsalted butter, at room temperature
3/4 cup (150 g) sugar
4 eggs, separated
3 1/3 cups (400 g) flour
A pinch of salt
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 3/4 pounds (800 g) plums, blanched, peeled, and pitted
More butter and flour for the pan

Preheat your oven to 360 F (180 °C)

Cream the butter and the sugar. Lightly beat the yolks and work them into the creamed butter. Next work the flower into the mixture, a handful at a time.

Beat the whites to snowy peaks and fold them into the mixture with the baking powder and the salt. Turn the mixture out into a buttered, floured 9-inch (22 cm) round baking pan and stand the pitted, peeled plums upright in it, arranging them in the pattern you most prefer. Bake the cake for 50 minutes.


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