Mellowing in Italy - Siena, Monday 2007 May 7

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May 7th 2007
Published: April 8th 2018
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My usual breakfast of cereal and ham sandwich was quickly followed by the walk to the Cooking School of Siena, via the six escalators (I counted them again). The advertising says the elevator building dates from 1200, but it looks brand new to me.

At the school, we were greeted by Leila, the instructor (world famous apparently) and Jessica, her translator, a Londoner who has lived in Italy for seven years and who used to be with Leila’s son (as we learned later). The room was a large kitchen with a wide, long counter/table where most of us sat. A few sat in a second row. We were given the recipes, and very quickly the action began.

The dessert was made first, because it was panacotta, which could set as long as overnight in the fridge. Leila used the freezer to set it, but warned us not to do this. Panacotta is essentially heavy cream and sugar set with gelatin. For the lunch it was served with fruit compote (not demonstrated).

Then we saw chicken liver crostini prepared. This is an old Sienese dish. Finely chopped vegetables were added to hot olive oil and stir fried (not browned)
The intricate carvings!The intricate carvings!The intricate carvings!

Il Duomo di Siena
using two wooden spatulas. I hope I can find these as they looked easier to use than our turners. Then chicken livers were added and cooked until no blood came out. These were removed, cooled, and finally chopped with a mezzaluna. They were returned to the pan and broth added, and this was slowly simmered for 15 minutes. Later I helped spread this on this pieces of bread similar to baguettes.

Then we were taught to make pasta which today was used to make ravioli. The secret is to use cake flour, because it is so finely ground. It was good to actually see how thin the dough must be rolled. The filling was spinach and parmesan, although other fillings were also suggested. We put very little balls of the stuffing in well -separated rows onto our sheet of dough. We gently rolled the rows of filling over to make sort of envelopes and firmly cut between them Later a butter, sage and parmesan sauce was made for the ravioli.

Finally Leila demonstrated roasting a leg of lamb (de-boned). She made a crust of fresh herbs that we picked from the garden mixed with Wonderbread in a Cuisinart.
Ceremonial doorsCeremonial doorsCeremonial doors

Beyond the human dimension
Yes! Wonderbread is used here for this purpose and is packaged in slices along the length of the loaf instead of across. The paste makes the herbs stick to the lamb! A considerable amount of olive oil covered the bottom of the roasting pan and it was roasted for about 40 minutes.

All of this was served to the class for lunch, with lots of red wine and good cheer. A lovely lunch! I returned to the hotel for a nap. The three-hour lesson scheduled lasted 4 ½ engrossing hours.

About 4:00 I walked through the town taking photos. The light was warm, good for pictures. In Siena you are either walking up-hill or down-hill – steeply. Old Siena, a relatively small space, is formed by these hills. Today cars were on the narrow, curved streets – on Sunday cars are restricted. I rested for a short while on Il Campo and wrote a post card for Emilia, my Italian teacher. My Italian is getting easier, and I do use it whenever possible. At the fountain on Il Campo, the doves (or pigeons) were splashing about and drinking. More nice pictures.

I got a bit lost finding
Duomo di SienaDuomo di SienaDuomo di Siena

Consecrated 1215, completed 1348. A different perspective on time.
my way back, but I made it just in time for our departure for the restaurant “Due Arches”. A delicious meal - antipasto: cantaloupe and prosciutto, three types of crostini, bruschetta (too course and not flavourful), and roasted vegetables. Pasta: tagliatelli in butter mushroom sauce and penne in tomato sauce. Secondo: deep fried vegetables in a very light batter, veal scaloppini in a dark brown sauce and pork liver in a sausage. Dolce: varieties of tarte. WOW!

Crostini with Chicken Livers

1 red onion

1 stick of celery

1 carrot

Handful of Italian flat leaf parsley

400 g cleaned chicken livers

Extra Virgin Olive Oil

Handful of capers

1 anchovy

1 – 1 ½ cups chicken broth

Finely chop the vegetables and parsley. Simmer in olive oil over a high flame, taking care not to brown the ingredients. Add the chicken livers. When the chicken livers are browned on both sides, add a glass of sherry or white wine and leave the liquid to reduce. Add finely chopped capers and anchovy. Taste and if necessary, add salt. Remove the pan from the heat. Remove the chicken
Stairs to the Baptistry Stairs to the Baptistry Stairs to the Baptistry

Il Duomo di Siena
livers from the pan and chop them, not too finely. Return them to the pan and add chicken broth. Simmer for 30-40 minutes, checking occasionally and adding chicken broth if necessary to maintain a slightly liquid consistency. (They should have enough liquid to soak into but not through the crostini when served.

Crostini: slice stale Tuscan bread and spread with a generous amount of chicken liver mixture.

Fresh Egg Pasta

For 4 people. Generally, to increase amount of pasta, allow 100 grams of flour and 1 egg per person.

300 grams cake flour

3 eggs

3 tsp water

pinch of salt

Sift the flour onto board. Make a well in the flour and add salt and whole eggs. (Can add a little extra virgin olive oil.) Using a fork, gradually mix the eggs and flour, starting at the centre and mixing in small amounts of flour in circular movements, until the eggs have absorbed as much flour as yields a workable dough. The dough should be smooth and even. If the dough is too stiff, add a little luke-warm water before the flour bonds completely with the eggs. Knead the
Fountain and bird bath on Il CampoFountain and bird bath on Il CampoFountain and bird bath on Il Campo

Refreshing and joyful relaxation
dough energetically for 15 minutes until the dough is elastic. Roll into a ball and leave to sit under a plastic bowl for 30 minutes.

Cover the working surface with a thin veil of flour. Roll about a third of this quantity at a time. Flatten the dough with your hand and then roll out as thin as possible with a rolling pin. Dust pasta with flour often, and pick it up and turn it over often. (Use the rolling pin to gently assist in turning as the pasta becomes thinner.) Let the pasta dry slightly before cutting into the desired shape.

For fettuccini or tagliatelli, use bread, brown or all-purpose flour for the dusting. For ravioli, use the pastry flour for dusting to ensure the edges stick to each other.

Butter-sage Sauce

Per person

20-30 g of unsalted butter

1-2 large sage leaves, roughly chopped

1 tsp parmesan cheese


Squeeze of lemon juice

Melt butter slowly and stir in sage leaves, parmesan and pepper. Remove from heat and carefully add lemon juice. Serve with homemade pasta.

Roast Leg of lamb in a
Peeking through an archwayPeeking through an archwayPeeking through an archway

The mystery of Siena streets
herb crust

For 6 people

1 tbsp chopped fresh thyme

1 tbsp chopped fresh oregano

1 tbsp chopped fresh Italian parsley

1 tbsp chopped fresh rosemary needles

any other herbs available fresh

4 tbsp olive oil

2 tbsp breadcrumbs

salt and pepper

2 kg de-boned leg of lamb

Preheat the oven to 475F.

Mix all the crust ingredients into a paste. Cover the bottom on the roasting pan in olive oil. Cut the meat where necessary to make it even in thickness. Place the meat in the olive oil and then turn over (coating both sides). Spread the herb mixture over the meat, and roast for 15 minutes. Lower the oven to 350F, add ¾ cup warm water and roast for 15 minutes more. Cover with foil and let stand for 10 minutes. Carve the meat into slices, and spoon the pan juices on top.

Panna Cotta with Chocolate Sauce

For 6 people

600 g fresh cream

150 g sugar

6 g gelatin sheets or 4 g gelatin powder

3 Tbsp cocoa powder

1 Tbsp flour

3 Tbsp sugar

200 g milk or cream

50 g butter

Soak the gelatin in cold water for five minutes then melt in a bain marie. In another pan, melt the sugar into the cream. Add the gelatin and stir over the heat for one minutes. Pour the cream mixture into small moulds or a large dish. Allow to cool, then place in the refrigerator for at least 4 hours.

Sauce: Melt the butter in a pan and add cocoa powder, sugar and flour. Mix well over the heat. Add the cream or milk and cook for a couple of minutes.

Remove the Panna Cotta from the refrigerator about 20 minges before serving and drizzle with chocolate sauce.


9th April 2018

A perfect day
Cooking, eating, taking photos, napping, getting lost AND found - What more does a day need to be perfect? I'll try your panna cotta recipe. Anything with chocolate is worth trying.
13th April 2018

Let me know how the panna cotta turns out.
13th April 2018

Thanks for the recipes
13th April 2018

They all work and are fairly simple, although sometimes time consuming.

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