Kitchen essentials

Kitchen essentials

By
Luca Lorusso, Vivienne Polak
Contains
0 recipes
Published by
Hardie Grant Books
ISBN
9781742708775
Photographer
Alicia Taylor

Although our recipes are complete, we encourage you to add a dash here and a pinch there to make them your own. Use your senses to determine when something is ready, or if it looks right. Extra-virgin olive oil, salt, pepper, garlic and definitely chilli should always be used according to personal taste. Here are a few useful notes on some of the ingredients used in this book.

The ‘Pugliese blessing‘ – Extra-virgin olive oil

When a dish is completed it usually receives a final drizzling of extra-virgin olive oil. This is affectionately known as the ‘Pugliese blessing’.

Extra-virgin olive oil is the bedrock of the Mediterranean diet and the cuisine of Puglia. Technically speaking, extra-virgin olive oil is the juice of the first crushed olives with no other chemicals added and the bitter watery residue eliminated. It is best consumed within six months of pressing. We mainly use extra-virgin olive oil for dressing salads and vegetables. Use regular olive oil for all frying, being careful to not bring the temperature too high.

Vinegar

We have consciously kept the use of vinegar to a minimum in our recipes. When dressing a salad, we prefer to use red wine vinegar, as we like the freshness and fragrance of the red wine grapes. Of course you can use other types of vinegar as a dressing, as well as vincotto (cooked wine), which is thicker and sweeter than regular vinegars. Even though it's not a form of vinegar, we call it the ‘balsamic vinegar’ of Puglia.

Salt and pepper

We use sea salt for all of our recipes, unless otherwise stipulated. Sometimes we use rock salt when we need greater quantities, but feel free to use any other salt that is available in your own area. When cooking pasta, salt should always be thrown into the water just as it comes to the boil. When dressing a salad we always add salt first, then extra-virgin olive oil, followed by vinegar. Use freshly ground black pepper to taste.

Flour

Semolina flour is used extensively for most pasta and bread-making in Puglia. It is slightly coarser than other flours and produces a light yellow hue when baked. Bread such as the Altamura and Laterza breads are examples of this product.

In Italy flour is rated by using zeros. The 00 type is widely used for making pasta, pizza, focaccia and cakes. We have used this for all of our baked goods, unless otherwise stipulated.

Bread made with durum wheat or semolina flour is always our first choice. However, there are some other types of tasty breads made with spelt, rye or barley, which have similar crunch and texture. We like breads with seeds, olives and herbs added, which are chewy and full of flavour. These breads are excellent for making bruschetta or panini (sandwiches).

Pasta

When buying pasta there are many international brands, but make sure you buy durum wheat semolina pasta from a reputable brand, such as Benedetto Cavalieri, from Maglie (Lecce). This pasta is still dried using the ‘delicate method’ and the shapes are extruded using bronze dies, which results in a coarse texture.

You can find these quality products in good delicatessens all around the world. Please note, there are differences when cooking packaged dried pasta and fresh pasta. We recommend using large saucepans full of water when boiling pasta, as this allows the pasta to circulate freely and cook evenly. Add the salt just as the water comes to the boil.

Olives

We recommend always buying olives with pits, as they retain their flavour better than pitted olives. We are very fond of the following Pugliese olives: Bella Cerignola, Leccino, Cima di Bitonto, Coratina and Ogliarola. These varieties are not usually available outside of Puglia, but if you can source them, they are ideal for all of our recipes. If you are buying olives in jars, make sure they are preserved in olive oil, unless a recipe specifies otherwise.

Chicory (cicoria) and witlof/belgian endive (indivia)

Leaf chicory is a leafy vegetable with dark green leaves, which is eaten both raw in salads and blanched or stewed. Witlof or Belgian endive, sometimes also called chicory, has a tightly packed, tear-drop shaped head and is best eaten raw in salads. Both of these vegetables come from the same botanical genus and have a varying degree of bitterness.

Lampascioni (wild Hyacinth bulbs)

Found in the wild and much sought after, these edible bulbs of an onion-like plant are used as a starter or part of an antipasto. They are purchased in glass jars, in olive oil or brine. When buying lampascioni from good Mediterranean suppliers, make sure they are from Puglia or Basilicata, are preserved in extra-virgin olive oil and have a light pinkish colour.

How to prepare an artichoke

Cut a lemon in half and squeeze the juice into a glass or ceramic bowl. Add cold water and throw the squeezed lemon half into the water.

Using a large knife, cut off the top 5 cm of the artichoke stem, making sure to leave at least 3 cm of the stem. Trim the rough, fibrous stem and the base with a paring knife.

Pull off and discard the outer artichoke leaves and make your way around the artichoke, pulling the leaves off until you come to leaves that are more tender, a little softer and yellowish. Chop across the artichoke where it begins to change colour.

Pull out the tops of the centre leaves and you will see the heart of the choke, which is yellow and very furry. This needs to be scooped out firmly using a teaspoon, as it is inedible.

We recommend using kitchen gloves in order to prevent your hands from discolouring.

Pangrattato – ‘the parmesan of the poor’

You can use breadcrumbs to make the delicious topping, pangrattato, also known as il parmigiano dei poveri, or ‘the parmesan of the poor‘. Pangrattato is often used to flavour pasta dishes, especially Orecchiette con cime di rape (Orecchiette with broccoli rabe,).

To make pangrattato, place pieces of stale bread in a food processor and blitz until coarse. Then sauté the breadcrumbs lightly in a pan with crushed garlic, chopped basil, flat-leaf parsley, oregano and some lemon zest. Season well and store in an airtight container. (Make sure the breadcrumbs are toasted fully before storing.)

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