Some years ago (in 2005) I came across the intuition to make a dish with ox-tail and cocoa powder together. The idea was actually already written in a book of recipes belonging to the Ancient Roman Cuisine, in which it was explained that already a few centuries ago the Chefs were used to cook the ox-tail with chocolate, somehow. As I have always been a lover of ox-tail I had stored well its taste in mind, and when I read that, I immediately associated the sweet taste of cocoa powder with the subtle aftertaste, also sweet, that ox-tail has; as all its lovers know.
We therefore prepared some fresh pasta, fettuccine in this case, with eggs, white flour and cocoa powder at the 20% (out of which 10% dry powder and 10% sweet) therefore making the renewed Fettuccine al cacao (Cocoa Pasta), served with a ragu made with ox-tail; for which I always follow the orthodox preparation of its classic roman recipe “La Coda alla Vaccinara” (translated in English as Ox-tail Roman Style) but obtaining the meat for the ragu getting rid of the bones, otherwise normally served “on the bone” as a main course not as a pasta. We decided to finish the presentation of the dish stressing the importance of the essential vegetable element in the recipe which is celery, preparing a celery sorbet, served in a small martini glass on the side of the fettuccine (synonym in Roma of “Tagliatelle” used in the rest of Italy) in a large rectangular dish. This is been a very much appreciated and acknowledged dish at the Locanda in the Pigneto, a rosette-rated restaurant in Rome where I introduced a lot of signed dishes of mine to the regular customers and food critics that were hanging out at that restaurant .
When back to work in London, more recently, I reintroduced the idea of this dish during my time as a Chef at 5Pollen Street in Mayfair, filling up some ravioli with the meat of the ox-tail Roman Style ragu; serving them with the same sauce of the ragu and cocoa beans. So, changing somehow the idea but playing with the same elements at the same time.
Finally, I came close to the philosophy of K.I.S.S. and I decided to reintroduce again the dish, now, with penne rigate (similar to “Rigatoni”) and the ragu of the ox-tail Vaccinara, served with aged Pecorino from the region of Lazio (Pecorino Laziale) and spread around the dish with plenty of organic cocoa powder!!!!!!!
Tips for this recipe:
- I think is very important to add at the mirepoix of onion, carrots and celery some finely diced “best end of Parma ham” including its fat. Then, stir fry the mirepoix prepared as explained above, with the ox-tail and add a generous quantity of Italian red wine, before to continue cooking with vegetable stock. Let cook the meat for at least five hours (but six is better) to a very slow fire, and add the right quantity of salt, not before the fourth hour of cooking.
- Take the bone off before the meat gets too cold, it will be easier and also a “pleasant feeling of tenderness”, if you will wear kitchen gloves and use your own hands to do it!!!!
At the Quinto/Quarto in St John Street we were used to serve often this amazing appetizer; made purely out of the concept of “cucina povera” i.e. the food of our grand mothers&fathers in Italy.
a) Soak chickpeas over night (also in the fridge), but if longer is better, minding always to change the water.
b) I like to use pork belly without its skin, as I doubt I can reach the same perfection of what I ate at Tom Aikens in Somerset House, therefore I go for other dishes where I don’t need the skin (as “Borlotti beans Brisket&Pork Belly Stew”). I advise you to cook that skin in boiling water with salt&a touch of white vinegar for about 2 hrs. And cooling it down.
c) Keep ALWAYS the crust of Parmesan cheese in your fridge (also if it is for months).
Ok, we can go now! Stir-fry some onion&garlic (i.e. shallots if you have it) together with the pork skin (called Crackling in English and Cotica in Italian language) julienne cut, the chickpeas, and the Parmesan crusts cut into small cubes.
Slowly cook for several hrs, gently adding vegetable stock that you have prepared with the leftovers of carrots, onions and celery that you might have used for other preps.
I don’t think I need to clarify this broth, but you could do it if you want, maybe with potato’s amid obtained from the extract juicer.
Serve it for sure with few drops of “Prima Spremitura” of Taggia Olives Oil and some freshly chopped parsley.
& Buon Appetito!!!!!!!
If we are talking about seafood; I’m sorry, I wouldn’t like to look too classic, but I cannot do less to say that seafood recalls my childhood!!!
As I truly born and grown up on the West Ligurian Riviera (a part of the Mediterranean coast that lies between Nice and Genoa) elements as fresh vine tomatoes, dried oregano, fresh sage, fresh marjoram, Taggia olives (the “Olive Taggiasche” which can only grow in the microclimate of the West Ligurian Riviera), salted capers, salted anchovies and so forth, in my memory go always together with fish!!! Particularly when we are talking about line caught Sea Bass or Grouper.
As well as, sea urchins (“careful” when you step your feet into the water of Mediterranean Sea!!!!), fresh mussels, octopus, crabs and of course seaweeds are, to me, all seafood elements intrinsically connected in my way of cooking belonging to my childhood memory!!!
Therefore, once, I combined all of them together in a dish that I called Triplo Raviolo “Via dello scoglio” (its translation stays for: Triple Ravioli “Rock Street”; which is the address where I was born; along the seaside). The ravioli are made with three fillings: mussels, crab and octopus, but separated to each other, that’s why I called them “triple ravioli”, and they are combined with a delicious samphire, sea urchin and heritage tomatoes sauce; and with a foam obtained emulsifying the broth released by the fresh mussels when cooked with garlic, touch of chilli and dry white wine; in order to reach all the sensations of the Mediterranean landscape, included in a dish.
But because I also like to play with all elements, I mean products, coming from all over the world, once I came across the intuition of creating a foam mixing sea urchins and miso, to serve a classic international dish: the Monkfish medallion wrapped in Parma ham.
I love the fusion tastes that you can reach using miso together with some classic dish of my country. An other signed dish of mine is been, the Miso soup with “rabbit raviolini alla Ligure” (“small ravioli Ligurian style”). Rabbit is, as wild boar, a classic dish of the Ligurian Valleys (Prealps) particularly those ones from the area where I come from, like the Roya and the Nervia ones. And the old recipe for rabbit here include cooking also its pluck, together; with fresh thyme, bay leaves and the unmissable Taggia olives, to prepare the filling for ravioli. Please note; in this part of Italy we don’t usually cook rabbits or wild boar with tomato sauce!!!! We prefer to keep the sauce “in white”, preserving better the taste of this meat. And that’s why I came across the intuition that the aftertaste of salty seasoning of an oriental element as miso could spouse well with such a traditional recipe as theRabbit ravioli. I have been very happy to see that people has appreciated this combination of the two distant (only in origins) elements in a warm soup!!!
The Monkfish medallion wrapped in Parma ham with sea urchin and miso foam, is been an other well appreciated dish in the restaurants where I have presented it.
Tips x Seafood recipes:
- Always cook octopus with wines corks, it is a fisherman superstition, and I love to do it!!!!!
- Also add to the octopus court bouillon (don’t be afraid to cook the octopus for a long time if this is according to your taste): garlic (never put onions!!!), parsley, carrots, celery, black peppercorn and a shot of Port wine
- I love to chop the “three magic seafood elements”, as I call them, together; which are: salted capers, anchovies and Taggia olives (Olive Taggiasche) together, and use that as a base for nearly all the seafood sauces for pastas or main courses. Particularly associated to the use of tomatoes; either fresh vine tomatoes, or the classic (but always so good!!!) Italian sun-dried tomatoes. Which all combine perfectly together.
- Try an other fantastic fusion recipe: Spaghetti with samphire (in Italy we call them “Asparagi del Mare”), ginger and (pealed, please!) cherry tomatoes. Treat samphire as any other seafood, e. g. stir fried with garlic, bit of chilli and the “anchovies base” mentioned above, adding white dry wine and simmering until reduced. Adding at the very end, when “whisking inside the pan” (in Italy we call it “mantecatura”) the spaghetti with the sauce out of the fire, the ginger’s juice (obtained from a juice extractor), some finely chopped fresh parsley and a generous quantity of the excellent olive oil made from Taggia olives of the West Ligurian Riviera!!!!!!
I’m a chocolate lover I must admit it!!!!
The simplicity of a recipe that has always astonished me ,and the people dinning to my tables too, is the: Crespella al Cioccolato con lo Zabaglione fatto alla mano.
It’s wrong to believe that crepes are only belonging to the French Cuisine, as they are also part of the classic Italian one!!!!! Btw, we should also not forget the French Cuisine benefited from cookery books coming from Tuscany several centuries ago….
To make this dessert I make a long line of crepes (that in Italy we call “Crespelle”, which can be used for either salty or sweet preparations – of course using sugar for the sweet recipe and salt for the other one) as big as the size of half a table cloth. I drip over the best quality of chocolate I can find, diluted with some double cream over a very gentle fire, and then I roll the crepes with chocolate inside, cutting them in large slices, when they have cooled down.
To serve it I use a microwawe oven just for a few seconds before to be generously covered by the ”king” of this recipe which is the “Zabaglione alla mano” (“alla mano” means cooked at the moment) therefore the sabayon will be not prepared before and served in one of the modern ways as foams, or parfaits, or others; but genuinely and traditionally made by hand!!!!!! Cooked at the moment and poured on top of the Crespella straightaway!!!!! This to me, is pure bliss!!!!!!!!
Tips for this recipe:
- Always use a wooden spoon and a copper pan for doing the sabayon, on a very slow fire. And of course use the best Italian Marsala wine that you can find!!!