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Caffè Shakerato – with a nod to Frank Sinatra

April 8, 2014

It’s with a heavy heart that I bid a fond farewell to a new-found summer friend.

The Caffè Shakerato has been my drink of choice lately, but is meant for long, hot afternoons rather than our current autumn weather.

Not quite a frappé, and certainly not an iced coffee, the Caffè Shakerato is made from espresso coffee, sugar and ice cubes shaken vigorously to create a chilled coffee with a frothy crema.

The Shakerato has been popular in Italy for a few years but I had trouble finding one in Sydney. There’s a smattering of newish inner-city cafes offering it, but the three old-style Italian cafes I visited had never heard the term and, judging by their baristas’ shrugs of indifference, weren’t in a hurry to embrace it.

Keen to make one myself, I needed to ramp up the sultry atmosphere to accompany all the grinding and shaking.

I remembered a novelty coffee tune with an uptempo beat and absurd lyrics that I first heard decades ago and had stubbornly stayed with me.

The Coffee Song was first sung by Frank Sinatra in 1946 and seemed perfect for exercising my samba legs. Also known as They’ve Got an Awful lot of Coffee in Brazil, it lampoons Brazil’s coffee glut and the inventive ways the Brazilians found to consume it. It starts off  …

Way down among Brazilians

Coffee beans grow by the billions

So they’ve got to find those extra cups to fill

They’ve got an awful lot of coffee in Brazil

 

You can’t get cherry soda

’cause they’ve got to fill that quota

And the way things are I’ll bet they never will

They’ve got a zillion tons of coffee in Brazil

… and The Coffee Song  gets even nuttier further along, ending with signor Sinatra attempting an indistinguishable foreign accent.  I couldn’t help thinking he had an awful lot of Spanglish in his words.

For a Caffè Shakerato, you’ll need:

. 1 espresso coffee – hot

. 1/2 tsp caster sugar (or sugar syrup)

. 6 small ice cubes

~Shake ingredients in a cocktail shaker for about 30 seconds until ice is almost ~melted. Strain into a statement glass. (You could add a dash of liqueur too).

This now completes my list of summer coffee favourites including the affogato and granita di caffè con panna (with cream on top).

 

Screen shot 2014-04-07 at 6.54.12 PM

 

Here’s a full version of the tune (which was later covered by Sam Cooke and The Andrews Sisters among others: The Coffee Song/They’ve Got an Awful lot of Coffee in Brazil 

Any other sightings of the Shakerato are welcome.

 

 

 

 

 

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An Excuse for a Haiku

March 5, 2014

~~~

A blog name inspired by film director Sergio Leone

A kick-ass cocktail in his honour

Spaghetti Western – I’m a little drunk on you

~~~

~~~

Recipe for this killer drink courtesy Food Republic using the new (to Australia) SOLERNO Blood Orange Liqueur

Giddyup!

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Lurking in the Cupboard #8: Bomboniera with Bite

February 17, 2014

A decommissioned ashtray turns out to be anything but …

It’s been a while since I attended a wedding where bomboniere were given to guests. Even so, I doubt they’d look anything like this vintage gem once used as an ashtray by my father.  retro bomboniera

My late aunt and uncle’s choice of a German short-haired pointer* for their late 1950s’ wedding bomboniere is intruiging. Maybe handsome hunting dogs that are bold, boisterous, intelligent, affectionate and trainable were more fashionable in Italy than pastel tulle and ribbons. Perhaps it was their take on the sentiment attached to the traditional five sugared almonds in bomboniere: fertility, long life, health, wealth and happiness.

The giving of bomboniere (or ‘favours’) dates back to early European history when honey-coated almonds, dried fruits, aromatic seeds or pine nuts were given to guests by wealthy aristocrats to celebrate marriages, birthdays and christenings. Almonds later became the nuts of choice and sugarcoating them symbolized the bitterness of life and sweetness of love.

On the sightseeing list for my next trip to Italy is the Museum of Sugared Almond Art and Technology in Sulmona, the birthplace of sugared almonds. The town, 160 kms east of Rome, has been producing them since the 15th century.  Now popular at all manner of celebrations, they’re ‘confetti’ in Italian, ‘Jordan Almonds’ in the US, ‘koufeta’ in Greece and ‘mlabas’ in the Middle-East.  sugared almonds

How coincidental then that prior to Christmas I bought a sizeable bag of sugared almonds. I have no idea why. I threw them into the shopping trolley in the pre-Christmas madness just in case somebody dropped by. What? Who ‘drops by’ in the 21st century? Or was I expecting to conduct a mini wedding ceremony or impromptu christening at my place?

Really, I just fancied the pastel colours that reminded me of a recent post about tutti frutti.  

There’s really not much you can do with sugared almonds except suck the sugar off and bite into the nut. The inventors must have had a Plan B, but if so, it’s a secret. Why does covering a nut with pastel-coloured sugar render it unusable in cooking?

But something called Candy Cane Chocolate Bark turned up everywhere last Christmas and I was keen to try my version of this thin layer of chocolate covered with crushed candy canes.

I used this How to Make Chocolate Bark without a Recipe recipe and added a slurp of Amaretto …  Sugared Almond Liqueur Chocolate Bark was born.

Almond Liqueur Chocolate Bark

*Thanks to Twitter pal Rom @smartdoggus for dog breed identification

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A Fine Kettle of Fish

January 30, 2014

If anyone ever calls me ‘sardonic’ – assuming they don’t mean I look like a fish – I’d almost take it as a compliment.

I love fish talk. You can almost smell the turns of phrase devoted to fish: A big fish in a small pond; crooked as a barrel of fish hooks; drink like a fish; fish in troubled waters; having bigger fish to fry; like shooting fish in a barrel; plenty more fish in the sea; like a fish out of water.

And my favourite – which is also shared in Italian – neither fish nor fowl. Does this mean it’s not a ‘surf n turf’?

A high school friend used to say that someone had “a smile like a deep sea mullet”. Cracked me up, but I’ve never heard that expression since.

A couple of evocative expressions belong to one of my favourite fish, the highly (in some quarters) unfashionable mackerel.

There’s a mackerel sky…

mackerel sky

And a mackerel tabby cat… 

mackerel cat

Vincent van Gogh thought enough of mackerel to paint them in his lovely Still Life with Mackerels, Lemons and Tomatoes

Van Gogh Mackerels  

The Portuguese do a damn fine job of canning them

tinned mackerel

And ‘Holy Mackerel, Batman’ says it all.

The word mackerel may be derived from the Old French maquerel (c.1300) meaning a pimp or procurer and as the fish species spawns enthusiastically near coastal areas, it’s plausible.

My family’s always been big mackerel eaters and bought it from Trieste’s glorious waterfront fish market, an imposing 1913 structure with a bell tower. Nicknamed Santa Maria del Guato, it was the Adriatic city’s shrine to fish of all denominations.

Here in Sydney we bought our fish from less salubrious fishmongers. We cooked our mackerel on my father’s jerry-built brick BBQ and although not a pretty piece of handywork it did the trick. The whole mackerel were cooked until slightly charred and then the laborious de-boning process began. That was my mother’s job and she patiently be-headed and opened the fish and picked them clean. Bone by bone. They was then seasoned, sprinkled with chopped garlic and parsley and spread with a layer of home-made mayonnaise.

Last week I found some super fresh smallish blue mackerel at the fish markets, chock full of Omega-E fats and sustainable in Australia. Simply grilled with a squeeze of lemon, they were a knockout. And I’m not fishing for compliments.

Grilled Mackerel

Neil Perry is a mackerel fan too and does a nice pan fried version with a spicy sauce. http://www.lifestylefood.com.au/recipes/300/pan-fried-mackerel

Related posts:

Working out for our Mussels - http://tinyurl.com/kf3go8m

Spanish Cuttlefish with Italian Attitude - http://tinyurl.com/mxkqbuv

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Panettone: the fruitcake that keeps on giving

January 5, 2014

Another festive season has come and gone, but something still lingers on, and on, and on …

The whiff of the Christmas panettone is still in the air long after column inches have been devoted to it and radio hosts have expressed their opinions. Never before have I seen so much discussion about the humble Italian celebratory fruitcake from Milan.

TheGuardian.com journalist Julie Bindel called it “a monstrosity” and 702ABC Radio presenter James Valentine made no secret of his dislike for it and couldn’t be convinced otherwise despite listeners’ serving suggestions. Old traditions die hard, James.

My 89–year-old mother and her 84-year-old friend exchange panettoni every Christmas and until one of them has the courage to say “basta!” (enough) they will continue to feign surprise for many years.

Cat and panettone box

I quite like it and prefer it toasted, spread with thick slabs of butter. But after a fortnight, the novelty wears off. My mother receives many panettoni each year and thrusts great portions at me when I visit. Hasn’t she heard of re-gifting? By mid January, even sandwiching it with sweet ricotta topped with berry sauce brings on an urge to donate the lot to charity.

A straw poll on the online Friends of Italy group suggested most of the those who responded to my “Do you like panettone” question were big fans. And they like it unadulterated. Only a few preferred pan d’oro. (Must be that nasty mass-produced citrus peel in panettone – causes angst every time!)

Italy still loves them and sales in 2013 were expected to better those of previous years. Despite the country’s longest recession in 60 years, cash-strapped Italians refused to give up their expensive cakes baked in upmarket pasticcerie. I guess they have to keep buying it to justify the annual film industry namesake ‘Cinepanettoni’ – Italian movies made specifically for the festive season and derided by critics as plotless, vulgar comedies rich with sexual innuendo. (Damn … so many years of working at the Sydney Film Festival … so many lost opportunities in suggesting these films be programmed.)

It seems Australians can’t get enough either. A delicatessen in Sydney’s inner-west has a panettone display that gets bolder each year. The handful on sale in early December swells to a pre-Christmas Wall of Panettoni, where a heady choice of brands is stacked like concrete blocks, dwarfing all other food aisles.

I don’t remember eating panettone as a child. My mother and her friends baked traditional north-eastern Italian festive cakes, filled with raisins, nuts and chocolate and rolled up strudel-style. It’s only in the last 15 or so years that my family embraced the panettone, the long hours of preparation and baking becoming less attractive to my mother.

panettone gelato and berry sorbet

So, with panettone ennui fast approaching, I’m happy to have found a clever way of disguising it. After sampling some lovely panettone gelato at Cremeria De Luca in Sydney last week  I  tried a recipe for  ‘no-churn’ panettone gelato adapting it to include my own candied citron and Mandarinetto liqueur (included in previous posts). I look forward to a new tradition. Happy 2014!

No-churn Panettone Gelato (translated from the original Italian recipe) http://www.flickr.com/photos/plumdumplings/11768965403/

Related posts: 

Candied citron peel - http://tinyurl.com/mq2t6fg

Mandarinetto liqueur - http://tinyurl.com/k2redeq

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Ice Cream, You Scream: the Tutti Frutti story

December 16, 2013

Little Richard, Pat Boone and Elvis sang about it in the mid 1950s, but where is it now?

When quizzed about ‘tutti frutti’ my friends mostly knew it as a flavour for lollies or icy confections, but confessed to not having heard of it for decades.

In Italian the words mean ‘all fruit’ (in a word-for-word translation) but are not used in the Italian language at all. In fact, the correct way of saying it would be ‘tutti i frutti’ or even better: ‘tutta la frutta’.

The invention of tutti frutti ice cream, with its small pieces of glace fruits and nuts, is attributed to Kentucky ice cream factory owner Roy Motherhead who named it after his daughter ‘Toodie’ in the late 1940s-early 1950s. However, I discovered an image of a bold neon Tutti Frutti Ice Cream sign on a building in Soerabaja (Surabaya, Indonesia) dated 1929-32. Am I questioning the Wikipedia editors here?    Tutti Frutti sign in Surabaya

Entertainment-wise, the expression appears in the 1943 Busby Berkeley film The Gang’s All Here when Carmen Miranda wobbles her bananas in the musical number ‘The Lady in the Tutti Frutti Hat’.  

CarmenMiranda sings 'Lady in the Tutti Frutti Hat'  

It’s given the mangled Italian-English treatment in the Marx Brothers’ A Day at the Races filmed in 1937. In one of the film’s best scenes, Chico loudly invites punters at the racetrack to “getta your tootsie frootsie ice cream” while really trying to sell Groucho (Dr. Hackenbush) horse betting instruction manuals hidden in the ice cream cart.

Chico and Groucho Marx Brothers

So, what happened to tutti frutti? Apparently Leopold’s Ice Cream in Savannah, Georgia (established in 1919) still sells it. And it appears to be one of the 50 flavours for a designer jelly bean brand. What a sad end to something that inspired so many magical moments.  Tutti Frutti Jelly Belly

But all’s not lost. The cassata siciliana, on which the tutti frutti flavour is surely based, endures. Usually a glace fruit, nut and ricotta mixture covered with cake and suffocated with marzipan, it’s a rich, sweet concoction. I prefer a simpler cassata-type gelato and recall having it for dessert at the dozens of Sydney Italian weddings I attended in the 1970s-1980s. This cassata recipe (from The Illustrated Kitchen Bible) reminds me of these (especially the cherry-flavoured top layer), but I’d substitute the commercial glace fruit with my own candied peel and Maraschino cherries (included in previous posts).  CassataGelato

Further viewing:

Carmen Miranda – The Gang’s All Here (The Lady in the Tutti Frutti Hat): http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gloYcISsyHA

Marx Brothers – A Day at the Races (Tootsie Frootsie ice cream racetrack scene) : http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9LBIsDBC848

 

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Spanish Cuttlefish with Italian Attitude

November 27, 2013

 

Food writer/journalist Rachel Lebihan* wrote in the Australian Financial Review last month about her visit to ARZAK, San Sebastian’s Michelin three-star restaurant. She mentions going into the kitchen with chef Elena Arzak for a lesson cooking hake’s throat.

Reminded of my first accidental trip to San Sebastian in northern Spain in 1983, I promised her some anecdotes – and a tenuous Italian connection.

SanSebastianBar_2_2

After boarding a train in southern France, my travel companion and I set out to find the owner of the sweet trumpet notes wafting through the carriage. Californian musician Doug was heading to San Sebastian to join its new Basque National Orchestra and he made it sound appealing. The city wasn’t on our itinerary but two weeks later we were in Basque country.

On the way to our friend’s concert on the city’s outskirts we passed an inconsequential restaurant with killer fish fumes coming from the kitchen. We’d arrived too early for Spanish dinnertime but that didn’t stop me enquiring about the possibility of eating during siesta. A combination of no English on the restaurant owner’s part and bad Spanish on my part was getting us nowhere. Body language saved the day and we politely elbowed our way into the kitchen to taste test what was on offer.

Something dark, thick and shiny was bubbling in a large pot. Blacker than a Basque’s beret. The two plates of inky stew (chipirones en su tinta) delivered to us in the deserted dining room were exceptional. We ate the cuttlefish (which is more unctuous than squid or calamari) with chunks of bread washed down with the local Txakoli wine.

We enjoyed San Sebastian’s pinxtos bars, nightlife, food markets and beaches so much we stayed longer than intended, ditching yet another town for this privilege.

I’ve been back since 1983 and eaten fancier meals (including an 11-course extravaganza at the media launch of the 1997 San Sebastian Film Festival), but this adventure is the one that resonates. I’d be very keen to try the ‘taste before you dine’ idea here in Sydney. Hah! Imagine that … asking the chef if you can have a look-see into the pans he/she is rattling.

The Fish Stall, 16th century. Oil on canvas

Bartolomeo PASSEROTTI – The Fish Stall (late 1500s). The woman is questioning the fishmonger about the fish. As she should be.

Which brings me to this post’s Italian connection. Italians love their cuttlefish, and in the north they’re cooked as a stew with polenta (sepe in umido co la polenta or brodetto di seppie) but it’s not always as black as the Spanish version. Cuttlefish is not easy to find in Sydney and testing for freshness can be tricky. My mother used to ask the fishmonger for a poke of the flesh, testing for springiness and iridescence. Once cleaned at home, the interior chalky bone went straight to the budgie cage.

This luscious recipe for chipirones – or calamares – en su tinta is from Elizabeth Luard’s cookbook La Ina Book of Tapas’ and includes cleaning instructions. But beware. An industrial strength plastic apron is essential – cuttlefish ink is indelible.

Buen provecho. And buon appetito!

*Rachel Lebihan blogs at thefoodsage.com.au

Top image: R.Stacker

 

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