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Second week – Campagna

October 14, 2011

Chef Antonio

 I can’t believe we’re more than halfway through the second week already. Time really flies here, well, at least for me. There’s so much to learn and try everyday.
Every week we are introduced to 2 regions. The first region for this week is Campagna. Frankly, before the class, I didn’t know a lot about this region other than Naples being the main city. After just 2 days, I felt like I knew a fair bit about the region and Italy in general.
According to Chef Antonio, the cuisine in Campagna, or often referred to as Napoli cuisine, actually traces its history back the last couple of centuries, and is representative of the south of italy. The regions were divided as such today, only in the 19th century. So once upon a time, all the regions in south Italy was one big region, and many areas of their cuisine are similar.

Zuppa di Zucca

With Chef Antonio, speed and clarity of mind is of the essence. He prepares ingredients for many dishes concurrently, and it’s hard to follow which ingredients are for which recipes, as he changes most of the recipes, and some of the dishes don’t even have recipes! Guess the thing I learnt from chefs like him, are Improvise and Create!
So, I’m just going to introduce the dishes according to the order we ate. Firstly, we started with the Pumpkin soup. His Pumpkin Soup is no ordinary pumpkin soup. It is flavored by many ingredients, and enriched by boiled potatoes, and he even added an orange distiilate just before serving.

Coniglio all'ischitana

Next up, one of the dishes that I’m beginning to like more and more. Rabbit! I can’t believe I’m saying this, as I was pretty hesitant the first time I tried, and now, I find it’s one of the sweetest meats!
This is a fairly simple dish, and can also be made with chicken, which is great, because, I don’t think I’m going to find any rabbit in the market, when I get back

Gatto di Patate

 Next up, we had a Potato Tart, which was made up of mashed potato, and had a filling of cheeses and salami, very strong flavors, not quite what I expect from a potato tart, but… this is Italy.

Mozarrella Carrozza

 We have yet, another traditional dish, Mozzarella Carrozza. A piece of mozzerella cheese sandwiched between 2 slices of bread like sourdough, but peculiar only to that region, and dipped in milk and coated with flour before frying. We also made Panzarotto which is like a huge fried ravioli.
What I learnt from Chef Antonio and the other chefs is that we should have a respect for the food we prepare and eat, by preparing with care, even if it’s something simple.

Riso Brusciato

 Then, we have a rice dish made with a tomato based stock. The name Riso Brusciato actually means burnt rice, but we didn’t really burn the rice. Wasn’t I just talking about preparing our food with care?

Pasticciotto Mele e Rosmarino

 Finally, the dessert.. and this is only for the first day!
 What was interesting about this apple pie was that  Rosemary was used to flavor the apples. I never thought of using rosemary for desserts, it had always struck me as a savoury herb, and mainly for meats. Well, we learn something new everyday.
This recipe called for a certain type of apples that were very tart and is usually available in winter. Since it is not in season, we substituted with other green apples that were in season, and increased the tartness with lemon juice. It wasn’t quite the real thing, but it still taste good to me. Ahh… apple pie for breakfast the next 2 days.

Lunch on day 2

 We couldn’t be more prepared for day 2, we made 11 dishes in one morning(well the morning lasted till almost 2 when we had our lunch).  There was no time even for the usual mid morning coffee break.


 We had a dish that was a by product of another. The meats, and lovely gelatinous pork rind, were braised in an onion sauce for another pasta dish. But, the meats were removed at its peak, so the flavor and tenderness is just right, absorbing the flavors of the herbs and sweetnes of the onions, while imparting the meatiness to the sauce. It’s a 2 in 1 dish.
The sauce we made by simmering the onions(and it was a lot of onions that we had to slice!) for hours, was used to make Paccheri alla Genovese.

Paccheri alla Genovese

 With all that flavor and caramelised onions, we didn’t need any meats in the sauce. We just let the pasta soak up all that sauce, and sprinkle some grated parmesan over it.

Baccala alla Napoletana

And then, my favourite dish from an unexpected ingredient, Baccala. Baccala is a salted cod, that has to be soaked for days before preparing, else you can imagine how salty it’s going to be. The week before, we had a few Baccala dishes which I wasn’t too fond of, because it was too salty and because I didn’t like the smell. Somehow, the baccala in this dish was neither salty nor strong in smell. Maybe because it was deep fried before being cooked in the sauce.
Whatever it is, it tasted good to me because the taste was quite similar to what my mom used to cook at home. Hmm… nostalgia? It just goes to show that different countries and culture can have very similar ways of cooking.


 Another pasta dish we had, well actually 2 versions of the same type of pasta, is the Timballo. Here, in this picture, I have the Timballo made with Cozze and Vongole. (I was so tempted to pop a few Cozze into my mouth when we were shelling them just after they were cooked.) The other one was made with Mushrooms.
Apparently, Italians used to make this for banquets as a sign of their riches. Later, it was still made by mothers on Sunday mornings, and after they have gone to church and returned home, they eat it together. This is one pasta dish that is meant to be eaten at room temperature.


 Another traditional dish is Cresciuta where little dough balls are dropped into hot oil to deep fry to almost a golden color. These chewy balls are then drained and tossed in some salt and pepper. Best when eaten fresh and hot.

Filettino alla salsa di Nocciole

 Another meat dish, is Pork Fillet with Hazelnut Sauce. The fillets are gently seared with bay leaf, and then covered with a hazelnut sauce before finishing in the oven. Hazelnuts are very common and popular in Italy, and I believe much of the supply has been channeled to make Nutella, a national bread spread and gelato flavor.

Scaloppa di Pesce alla Cacciatora

 Now, another fish dish. We have more dishes than we have stomachs.
Fish steaks of grey mullet were used in this dish. ‘Cacciatora’ means this dish was done ‘hunter’s style’. It can be prepared with other types of fish. Again, it’s quite similar to what we eat back home, except that spices used are a little different.

Prime rib of pork

Next up, is a prime rib of pork which is filled with a mixture of chestnuts, salami and a host of ingredients. It wasn’t part of the recipes given, so it was probably a spur of the moment inspiration that the chef had. We made so many fillings and sauces that we couldn’t keep track of them, and this dish was one of the more compliacted ones.

Sartu di Riso

 Still not done yet, we also made a dish that was similar to the potato tart, except that rice was used in place of the mashed potato. The filling of mozzerella and salami was perfect with the rice. the bread crumb on the top gave a crispy crunch while protecting the rice from drying out in the oven.

Lombata di Agnello in Salsa d'uovo

 Finally, the last dish, lamb loin in egg sauce. The lamb loins are seared and then finished in the oven, while the egg sauce is being made. The food today is great, but when there are so many dishes and we are so full, we can’t fully enjoy and appreciate each dish. The most important ingredient in any dish is appetite. When we were hungry, the simplest of snacks tasted great. But when we were so full, even a mouthful of the best dish is too much for us.
 Although we were very tired, and very full after our 2 days with Chef Antonio, we were very satisfied, having learnt quite a lot.

After a hard day's work

 Thank you Chef Antonio, for teaching and sharing so much with us over 2 short days.

From → Culinary Journal

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