Recipe: Dreamin’ of #JamieOliver’s Sweet Potato Muffins

They say “you are what you eat” hence we thought that recipe testing could be a tasty way to freshen up.

The A-Team always on top! Località Majelletta | photo: ©GiuseppeMarone
The A-Team always on top! Località Majelletta | photo: ©GiuseppeMarone

We were prepared for “Curiosity killed the cat” – “but satisfaction brought it back” was what we were hoping for 😉

You need to know that it’s a rather complex task to persuade Italians to test and/or taste “foreign” cuisine, yet after an intensive confabulation – kind of pugnacious process in and out of Appetibilis circle – we decided to go for one of Jamie Oliver’s healthy recipes. Here’s the original recipe: Sweet potato muffins via – Thank you Chef!

Read on Lonza65’s notes of our endeavor, from shopping time on.
Bon Appetibilis!

Appetibilis team is ready to start... | photo: ©Lonza65
Appetibilis team is ready to start…
photo: ©Lonza65
When three Italian women go for grocery shopping at the local supermarket, the time it takes to choose the ingredients may vary from a few minutes to hours. We have already printed out our list, so what’s so complicated about taking off the shelves what is needed for the recipe?

Ah! ah!, the vast gamut for every single ingredient is amazing, so is our imagination, food-pairing talent and love for discussion.

For instance, what about eggs: medium, big, the biggest you can find on earth? “Parmigiano” or “Grana padano”, and for either one, 8/12-month, 18/24-month, 36-month aged? Cottage cheese or ricotta? All right, the text is very detailed and the instructions are very easy to follow, you can’t go wrong. But there is no fun at all in following it to a tee, because we actually love spending time discussing each ingredient (and jumping-off points just to experiment). On top of that, the three of us are very talkative people so the shopping for ingredients took far more than it should. But what a blast! (Sorry, no selfie!)

Undoubtedly we started putting our hands on the recipe far before we reached the kitchen: the actual cooking process starts among the aisles.

The main variants to the recipe... | photo: ©MateldaCodagnone
The main variants to the recipe… | photo: ©MateldaCodagnone
The main variants to the recipe are that we did not use self-raising flour but a gluten-free one (two out of three of us are gluten-sensitive), fresh ricotta instead of cottage cheese and dried chilies instead of fresh one.

So the Appetibilis team is ready to start: one cooks, one takes pictures, one helps both the cook and the photographer. Easier said than done, the photographer helped the cook, the helper became photographer, the cook … well the cook is the cook.

The recipe difficulty level is easy, so we all have time to chat, laugh, and have fun together. No doubt this is the gist of cooking food: enjoy other people’s company while working together (and later savoring the outcome).

Hands-on time! | photo: ©MateldaCodagnone
Hands-on time! | photo: ©MateldaCodagnone
The mix is ready – sweet potatoes, eggs, cheese, onions, flour – so it’s time to put it into the oven (2 ramekins and 2 cocottes). We soon realize that we can make some “quenelles” with the remaining mix. Sunflower and poppy seeds complete our muffins and off they go into the pre-heated oven, as per recipe instructions.

Cooking time for muffins is a little bit longer than the time suggested in the recipe – at least for sweet potatoes, I don’t know about squash – but perfect for quenelles. Every so often we look through the oven glass panel and watch our muffins get a wonderful golden colour.

Timer rings, and the big moment has arrived. Tasting time!

Muffins are great when served warm, soft inside, top pleasantly crunchy... | photo: ©MateldaCodagnone
Muffins are great when served warm… | photo: ©MateldaCodagnone
As far as I am concerned, every time I try a new recipe, this is the moment I fear the most. But, at the same time, the one I like the best. Fear, curiosity, hunger are all waiting to be satisfied. Yes, we are all without food since breakfast and it’s almost 3 p.m., our stomachs moan in a worrying way. Let’s go!

Muffins are great when served warm, they are soft inside and the top is pleasantly crunchy. In spite of the onions and the cheese, their taste is definitely sweet. Our faces look a little hesitant – maybe a bit disappointed, too. We did not expect them to be sooo sweet.

Panino-style with "Ventricina"... | photo: ©MateldaCodagnone
Panino-style with “Ventricina”… | photo: ©MateldaCodagnone
How can we fine-tune them to our Italian taste? Easy! Just cut lengthwise our quenelles in panino-style, stuff them with a slice of “Ventricina”, this exquisite and savoury local “salume” and here you are. Still healthy? Dunno! Nevertheless a sweet-and-savoury combination that will make your tastebuds really happy. And if you want to make them even happier, cut the muffin and spread on some “Confettura di Peperone dolce di Altino” (Altino mild pepper jelly).

Thumbs up to this “foreign” recipe – adapted/adopted!

Dreamin’ of Jamie Oliver’s Sweet Potato Muffins – Photo Gallery

Racconto diVino :: The taste of words

“It is already difficult to express a scent, a taste, a sensation with the words of one’s own language, let alone transporting the baroque and imaginative descriptions, which the authors do not skimp on, with the strict German precision or with the sharp English simplicity … it is a thankless task. As the authors Fruttero and Lucentini say, he [the translator] is asked to consider as his greatest triumph that the reader does not even notice him.”

It’s a wine story, where words become flavors and adjectives turn into scents … [Read more (in Italian) :: Il sapore delle parole via Verba Volant]

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Italian Flavours :: In Vino… Venea

§dd04 143_venea_Collage_©MateldaCodagnone
Venea, a family story of wine and “spirito abruzzese”| photo: ©MateldaCodagnone

The English Idiom “good things come in small packages” translates the Italian “nella botte piccola c’è il vino buono” (small casks carry top-quality wine). If this holds true for “things” in general, it should be truer for wineries.

Venea is a 25-acre winery on the hilly backcountry around Fossacesia (Chieti). The name recalls a former Roman temple dedicated to Venus Conciliatrix (“the peace maker”), on whose ruins the Abbey of San Giovanni in Venere was built in the IX century A.D.

§dd02 184_venea-paolucci-family-portrait ©MateldaCodagnone
Paolucci’s family | photo: ©MateldaCodagnone

This is just one instance of how Paolucci family is strongly and firmly tied to this stretch of land, caught between the sea and the Maiella massif. Nicolino, Serena, Michele and Elena are the kings and queens of this tiny kingdom, a treasure chest where you can find excellent wine and extra-virgin olive oil.

Nicolino Paolucci spent some years in the local cooperative winery and then he realized it was high time to run his own wine business. He and his wife Serena merged the lands both families owned since four generations ahead and started their own “cantina”.

However, with such a rich and important background, one should not think that Venea is tied to bygone days. Their approach to wine-making is updated to the new trend, e.g. it is respectful of the environment through the implementation of the integrated pest management. Even the choice of the name for their rosé wine comes from the title of the one of the most popular Italian rocker’s songs – Vasco Rossi’s Albachiara. But again their roots come up again with a tribute to a local noblewoman, who gives her name to Venea’s Trebbiano and Chardonnay white wine – Spinalba.

Venea’s style mixes old and modern references but keeps its focus on the land. Venea’s estate is included in the upcoming Parco della Costa dei Trabocchi (Trabocchi Coast Park), whose aim is to protect this unique area from unauthorised building development and other land violations. The Trabocchi Coast Park setup could be another asset for the Paolucci, whose love and respect for their land is the leading inspiration for their activity.

Contact: Nicolino Paolucci
Telephone & fax: +39 0872 60303
Azienda Agricola Venea – Via Piano Madonna – 66022 Fossacesia (Chieti)

#PastryNotes :: “Bocconotti di Castelfrentano” A bit of Heaven

To put it bluntly, I don’t like cakes, sweets, pastries and so forth. If I needed a treat, I’d rather go for a slice of pizza, some “pane bruschettato” or some focaccia. But. (There’s always a “but” in a categorical statement as the one above).
I didn’t like sweets much until someone (may he be blessed a thousand times) introduced me to a pastry tart called bocconotto.

dd DSC_4965_bocconotto ©MateldaCodagnone
Classic Bocconotto di Castelfrentano – Plate: Abruzzo Creativo
photo: ©MateldaCodagnone; food styling: Orsola Ciriello Kogan

The name itself recalls a single morsel (“boccone”) of sheer delight. This tiny tart – no bigger than a mouthful – is typical of the Frentania, the area between the Sangro and Biferno rivers, but it is popular throughout the Abruzzo region. The village of Castelfrentano (Chieti) is the proud birthplace of bocconotto (or “castellino”) where almost every family has its own recipe for it – and, needless to say, each family says their bocconotto is the best you can have on Earth.

Basically, the bocconotto is a pastry tart filled with a mixture of dark chocolate, ground and toasted almonds, eggs and cinnamon plus some “secret” ingredients that any confectioners will never reveal, not even over their dead bodies.

The size of the bocconotto is “the perfect type of a perfect pleasure. It is exquisite, and it leaves one unsatisfied. What more can one want?

There’s no evidence that Oscar Wilde tried a “bocconotto”, but his words fit perfectly both for the cigarette and the tiny pastry. What more can one want? Maybe a second one, to be enjoyed after a sumptuous fish-based dinner on a trabocco. Want to know more about? Stay tuned. Some time soon I’ll take you on a trabocco.