Wednesday, 27 October 2010

Tuscan Meals

Is there such a thing as a typical Tuscan meal? That is the question and a difficult one to answer. The Tuscan Region is large, has a long coastline and hills, mountains and rivers.  The agriculture is as diverse as the landscape although there is a common denominator: Cucina Toscana is “cucina povera”, which means local ingredients and simple cooking. Generally Tuscan food is earthy and filling, especially in our part of Northern Tuscany.

We are surrounded by mountains and woodland. Agriculture is hill or even mountain farming. Life in the past was hard and people are still sturdy. In Lucchesia where we live ingredients are beans, spelt, corn, chestnuts, black cabbage, mushrooms, olives, honey, ricotta and meat, a lot of meat: wild boar, beef, rabbit and pork.

A Tuscan meal is always momentous. Most locals still retain the traditional attitude to transform what the land can offer into something memorable.

Recently we had a few excellent home made feasts. We were invited by our friends, we cooked for our friends, cooked with them and had people cooking for us all.
In one particular occasion the meal was lucullan at the very least and I am going to list the courses and through my future posts recreate the recipes.

To give you an idea this is a selection from various menus:

Drinks and Stuzzichini (nibbles): mini crostini and olives

Zucchini flowers stuffed with ricotta and herbs
Bruschetta with fresh tomatoes
Crostini with chicken liver paté
Crostini with soft cheese and sausage meat
Potato cakes
Marinated eggplant
Cured meat: Prosciutto, Pancetta, Soppressata, Salame
Farro Salad
Mildly hot red peppers stuffed with tuna and caper sauce
Pecorino served with chestnut honey

Home made egg pasta with ragù sauce
Risotto with local wild Porcini mushrooms

Then a home made limoncello liqueur, acting as a lemon sorbet to prepare the palate for the next stage

Rosticciana (pork ribs) with olives
Roasted vegetables

Frutta & Dolce
Fresh fruit Tart served with a dessert wine, Vino Fragolino, made with strawberry grapes, an antique variety that is still popular in our hills.

When confronted with the Tuscan feast it’s important to remember to pace oneself!

On another occasion we had a really spectacular three colour pasta with mushrooms. The Red came from tomatoes, the white was plain egg pasta and the green was achieved by rubbing nettles into the dough. Nettles is something to investigate further in the future.

Wines on the tables were mostly earthy Chianti, Colline Lucchesi red and white. We also drunk Prosecco, which not being a Tuscan wine, was a concession to the modern age.

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