A great many regions of Italy are intensely diverse; the food from one city barely even echoing that of its neighbour. Tuscany is a little different, and a common thread certainly runs through the food of its major cities – Florence, Sienna, Lucca & Pisa, amongst others – and through the countryside in between. This is an almost austere cuisine, with a strong focus on dried pulses, earthy vegetables, the finest olive oil in the world & fantastic meat; hearty fennel scented salamis, the delicate perfumed lardo di colonnata, and the fat juicy slabs of Chianina, the white cow of Tuscany, that are grilled rare over wood to form Bistecca alla Fiorentina. We don’t use Chianina, as we’re rather happy with our own beef – intensely flavoured meat from older ex-dairy animals, so we don’t call our steak alla Fiorentina. Instead, it is tagliata, cooked red (all’Inglese), and sliced finely, a method the Tuscans first took from us. So here we are; food from England to Italy and back again.
For your meal you will need:
A large pan for boiling water
A frying pan for the pasta sauce
A charcoal grill, or a griddle pan, or a solid frying pan for the beef
An oven tray for the pumpkin
The detailed recipes for the dishes are below, but in essence:
- Bring a pan of water to the boil for the pici
- Bring the beef up to room temperature, then cook it and let it rest
- Cook the butter & sage for the pici, and boil the pasta, then dress & eat
- Cook the pumpkin for 6-7 minutes, then plate both this and the beef
- Let the pie come up to room temperature, then eat this too
Pici with butter, sage & black truffle
The north of Italy, Piemonte in particular, celebrates white truffle in the autumn; the ethereal perfume flavouring dishes like tajarin, agnolotti or risotto. But come winter, and the frosts, and the white tubers recede for another year. In Tuscany, and Umbria, they celebrate a different truffle – the black tartufo nero. It is earthier and less aromatic than its white counterpart, but with a greater depth of flavour, and it peaks just as the white recedes; a ray of flavour in the depths of winter. If white truffles are a celestial pleasure, black ones are very much an earthly one. And don’t we all need some earthly pleasures about now…
Your pack serves two and contains:
- Handmade pici
- A bag of butter & sage leaveas
- A fat black truffle
- A little parmesan
- Bring a large pan of well-salted water (10g/lt) to the boil
- Roughly chop the sage, and place with the butter in a frying pan
- Grate a little of the truffle finely, and reserve
- Add the pici to the boiling water, and cook for 4-5 minutes
- After the first minute or two, add a ladle of the pasta water to the butter, and place on a high heat
- Bring this to a simmer, then cook to emulsify the butter and water
- Add the grated truffle to this pan, then the pici, and cook together for a minute or two until the sauce is glassy and thick
- Turn onto a plate, and scatter with the parmesan, then either shave or grate the remaining truffle (on a truffle slicer or mandolin or the small holes of a grater) finely on top
Tagliata just means ‘sliced’ – a steak which is sliced when grilled. Sometimes, they are served plain – other times, with porcini mushrooms, or asparagus, or butter and sage, or rocket & tomato, or…
At any rate, at Bocca di Lupo we buy whole sirloins of 28-day aged British ex-dairy cows, and cut them into whopping 800g steaks ‘for 2’, though they are big enough probably for 3 and serve with rocket salad on the side, everything garnished with rosemary oil, balsamic vinegar and parmesan shavings
The trick with steak is to get great, deep browning all over the outside, and cook the inside to an even temperature Most cooks like to cook all the way then rest. I like to cook a little, rest a little, cook a little, rest a little
For a 2.5-3cm thick steak, you get to blue in 2 minutes on each side (high heat), then 2 mins rest. Subsequent stages (rare, mid-rare, medium, etc) are each about 1 min each side & 1 min rest. I like to cook to blue and rest, then cook to rare and rest, then cook to mid-rare and rest. Then I serve it, cos I like my steak medium rare – but if you like it more cooked, continue in the same manner. For a steak twice as thick (5-6cm), double all the cook and rest times.
Your pack serves 2 as a main, and contains:
- A bone-in slab of sirloin
- Wild Rocket
- 24 month aged Parmesan shavings
- Rosemary oil mixed with balsamic vinegar
- Heat your grill smoking hot. You should be able to hold your hand 5cm above it for 5 seconds without burning yourself (don’t touch it, obviously)
- Take the steak from the fridge at least 30 minutes before cooking
- Season well with salt on both sides
- Warm your serving platter
- Grill the steak on 1 side for 2 minutes. Move it only if it starts to flare. Grill the other side, the same.
- Then rest 2 minutes and the steak is blue.
- Cook a further 1 minute each side and 1 minute rest for rare
- Same again for medium rare
- DO NOT BE AFRAID to carve your steak too raw – if it looks too bloody when you cut it, you can cook it more before or even after cutting
- DO BE AFRAID of overcooking it. There is no ‘wrong’ in liking your steak well done – but if you cook it more than you like, there is no going back…
- Carve the steak off the bone then slice thinly. If the bone is configured to permit standing it up in priapic glory, go for it. Arrange the meat slices carefully around.
- Mound the rocket up next to the carved steak. Sprinkle some salt over the rocket (and maybe a bit over the carved beef)
- Scatter the parmesan shavings over the beef and the rocket
- Drizzle the rosemary oil and balsamic vinegar over the lot
Steak isn’t cooked piping hot, so should be eaten soon after cooking, before it gets too cold.
Roast pumpkin with sage & balsamic
Pumpkin has a bit of a bad rep in this country – no doubt a result of watery specimens fit only to be hollowed and lit with candles. Not so in Italy; delica squash is regarded as the finest of all the orange fleshed jewels, and ours come from an obsessive by the name of Oscar Zerbinatti; a man who grows the world’s most beautiful melons in the summer, and the finest pumpkins the rest of the year. After harvesting they are dry aged for a number of weeks to reduce moisture and concentrate the flavour. Roasted until dark gold and sweet, then topped with bittersweet vinegar and rich, savoury parmesan, they are a delight.
Your pack serves two as a side and contains:
- Some large hunks of roasted pumpkin
- Parmesan shavings
- The finest butter, and some whole leaves of sage
- Aged balsamic
- Preheat your oven to 200C (fan) or 220C (static)
- Sit the sage on an oven tray, then the pumpkin on top
- Dot the butter on top of this, then place the lot in the oven
- Cook for 6-7 minutes, until the pumpkin is hot and browned, and the sage crisped
- Remove from the oven and plate, then pour the sizzling butter & sage over
- Scatter the parmesan atop, and drizzle the lot with the balsamic
Torta della nonna
The Tuscans don’t do much by way of desserts – most meals end with a little cheese, or one of the many biscotti esteemed in the region; cantucci, panforte, or Brutti ma buoni – the ‘ugly but good’ biscuits that could be the name of a whole host of Italian dishes, perhaps dipped into Vin Santo or warm Zabaione. Torta della Nonna is a notable exception; Nonna– Grandma – is, of course, held in the highest regard in Italy. The very word signifies comfort and care, an older and gentler way of doing things. This rich custard pie is a gentle and homely embrace of a dish – sponge like pastry encasing a rich filling of thick vanilla custard, the lot topped with delicate, aromatic pine nuts.
Your pack serves two and contains:
- 2 fat wedges of torta della nonna
- Remove from the fridge a half hour or more before eating, to allow the slices to come to room temperature
- Remove from the tub and place on plates
- If desired, dust lightly with icing sugar
ALLERGENS: all packs are prepared in a mixed kitchen, we cannot guarantee the absence of ANY allergen. All packs of this dish contain dairy, gluten, alliums, eggs, celery, and nuts.