23 June 2012

Noccino (Ticino Walnut Liqueur)

Everybody who makes Noccino in Ticino, the Italian-speaking Swiss canton, swears by their recipe being the best and the only one. I am pretty sure this is not the only one, but it is undoubtedly the very best --  and I’m not even Ticinesi.

What you need now

  • 1l grappa (at least 40% alc.)
  • 24 green walnuts quartered (with the juice)
  • 2-3 cloves
  • 1/2 vanilla stick
  • 1 tsp lemon zest (only use organic fruit!)
  • 1 tsp orange zest (optional)
  • 1 handfull of fresh raspberries

What you need in August

250 g sugar
100-300 ml water


What you do now

  1. Put all ingredients into a sealed jar and shake well.
  2. Leave the jar in a sunny place for a biblical 40 days or 2 months.
  3. Shake daily.

What you do in August

  1. Strain the mixture and do not taste it. It is horribly medicinal at this stage.
  2. Boil the sugar and water up into a syrup and add to the murkily green liquid.
  3. Store in a cool place for at least 6 weeks, better till Christmas, as with age this metamorphoses from a vilely cough-syrupy concoction into sheer smoothness.
Warning: Drink with caution and in moderation; it slips down sooo easily, but it is pretty lethal.

22 June 2012

Strawberry Gratin

We are lucky enough to have strawberry plants in the garden and they are doing rather well. Although they taste lovely fresh off the bush with a dusting of powder sugar, a fine sprinkling of Grand Manier and a breath of cayenne pepper, this is rather nice too.

What you need

  • 400 g strawberries, halved
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • vanilla sugar to taste
  • 100 ml cream, whipped
  • 1 dash of port
  • 1 dash of sloe gin or Cointreau (optional)
  • powdered sugar to taste
  • a sprig of lemon balm, finely chopped
  • a sprig of fresh mint, finely chopped

What you do

  1. Lay the strawberry halves, cut side down in one layer into an flat oven-proof dish. Dust with powder sugar and sprinkle with chopped lemon balm.
  2. Beat the egg with the vanilla sugar and the port (and liqueur if using). (alternatively you can separate the egg and only do this with the yolk. Whisk the egg white until it is stiff.
  3. Whip the cream.
  4. Fold in the cream (and the egg white) and pour over the strawberries; sprinkle with fresh mint (alternatively you can both herbs at the end).
  5. Put under the (superhot) grill and allow a light-brown crust to form (should be less than 5 min). Serve immediately.

17 June 2012

Conchiglie (Pasta) with Stingy Nettle Tips

This works just as well with stingy nettle tips, which, when blanched are very much like fresh spinach. As an alternative you can use fresh spinach. Both are actually very seasonal.

What you need

  • 200 g nettle tips or spinach leaves
  • 4 tblsp olive oil
  • 6 cloves of garlic, sliced
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 2 small dried red chillies (more if you like it hot)
  • 1 handful fresh herbs (lovage, flat-leaved parsley, sage, rosemary, oregano, etc.)
  • salt to taste
  • 500 g pasta (conchiglie)

What you do

Wash the stingy nettle tips or spinach leaves without shaking them afterwards and place them in a large pan. Stirring occasionally allow them to collapse.
In a frying pan heat the oil and sauté the onions, the garlic slices and the chillies, allowing them to brown slightly and the garlic slices get a little crispy.
Lift out the greens, draining them and keeping the liquid for the pasta water.
Add them to the frying pan and stir.
In the meantime add enough water for the pasta to the juices from wilting the leaves, salt, bring to the boil and add the pasta.
Drain when they are a al dente and add to the frying pan. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
Sauté until the mixture is hot and serve with freshly grated pecorino romano or parmesan.

14 June 2012

White Asparagus Grilled (last asparagus recipe, honest!)

This is the last asparagus recipe this year, but I am including it despite the asparagus bias in the last few weeks. Two reasons: one, my sister lives in Northern Germany and apart from her many talents, she is also into food and, being in an asparagus-growing, she is well placed to supply the stuff fresh out of the ground when she comes to Switzerland, which she did last week, the asparagus kept so fresh by being wrapped in a wet linen cloth. The second reason: I had dinner with a journalist in Geneva – no, I am not dropping any names – and she mentioned how she had been served asparagus in Northern Italy. This is a development of her description, really easy, really fast…
So, one last time: asparagus.

What you need

  • 1 kg fresh (white) asparagus peeled and with the woody bits trimmed off
  • 50 g butter cut into small slivers
  • salt and pepper to season
  • 1 sprig of fresh tarragon, chopped
  • 50-100 ml dry sherry
  • freshly grated parmesan

What you do

  1. Lay out the asparagus in an oven-proof dish, ideally one layer deep.
  2. Spread the slivers of butter evenly over the asparagus and season with salt and pepper.
  3. Drizzle with the sherry, sprinkle with tarragon and cover with a dusting of grated parmesan.
  4. Put under the hot grill and check after about 10 minutes for the consistency of the asparagus (al dente or soft). If the cheese gets too dark, cover with silver foil.