Many Italian descendants still love the opportunity to live off the land. Guy went hunting in the depths of winter with Daniel Airo-Farulla, who is the chef de cucina in the busy grill section of Grossi Florentino. Daniel’s family is from Calabria and Guy recalls how, at one stage, he was walking along in a paddock behind Daniel who had a gun ready for action and the next they seemed to be plunging over an almost vertical incline. We hadn’t told Guy he needed to be intrepid for this presenting job!
The reason that hunting and gathering is so much a part of the Italian existence is in the people’s dedication to sourcing clean unadulterated flavour. Everything tastes better when it's grown in the wild, away from chemicals and cities. And there is a primeval joy in seeking it out, gathering and eating it. As supermarket chains grow ever bigger and our connection to the land, the sea and the wild places diminishes, these traditions are something to treasure.
Guy and Daniel cook up a marvelous agrodolce with the rabbit they bring home that day. This is a real Sicilian dish described as "Italian sweet and sour", and revealing a lot of the history of trade centuries ago when many Arabic ingredients came to be used during the time the Moors ruled the island. The rabbit has a little vinegar added to the sauce as a souring agent and then sultanas and a little sugar as the sweet component. That then cooks in Daniel’s parents wood-fired oven until the beautiful aroma announces it is ready.
There are some fabulous recipes in this episode – Sydney's Beresford Hotel chef Danny Russo’s quail are nothing short of spectacular with their porcini stuffing. It was fascinating to see how Danny layers the porcini flavour through this recipe, crushing dried porcini mushrooms with salt to make a porcini salt that’s used to season the quails. These are available in more and more butcheries and are butterflied and ready to use.
Then there’s Stefano Manfredi’s minestrone from Lombardy. A recipe for everyone – it's delicious, heartwarming, vegetarian and achievable. A test of recipes is whether our crew make them – and we’ve all reproduced Steve’s minestrone.
He’s lucky in that he can stroll out of his restaurant at Bells at Killcare into the extensive garden filled with Italian vegies. The freshness and sweetness of all the produce is remarkable... from the freshly shelled beans to the handfuls of spinach that was so fresh it made a squeaky sound.
This episode features a great dessert recipe for panna cotta, a real restaurant favourite. We loved meeting Calabrian-born Adelina Pulford who loved sweets so much she qualified as a pastry chef. Her panna cotta is incredibly light because of her secret ingredient – Italy’s fastest growing wine variety, prosecco – the little bubbles making the wonderfully wobbly dessert light and delicious.
We also learn about Italian coffee; what makes it special and how it punctuates life. Aldo Cozzi from Sydney-based Di Lorenzo coffee shows us into his world and explains the dos and don’ts of coffee drinking.
Enjoy it all,