Tasting Europe: Round 5 – Some Good Fare?

There was some absolutely beautiful fare at the fair and good fun to be had by all!

Originating in Paris in the late 1800s, the financier was created by a French baker named Lasne who owned a bakery on the Rue St-Denis – conveniently situated near the Bourse, the financial centre of Paris. Unsurprisingly, his bakery was frequented by financiers who were eager to digest something tasty and comforting on the run. The financier was born!!

financiers

Personally I think it resembles a rather bland bar of gold and perhaps this has accounted for its many variations. My eternal love for anything colourful motivating me, I was eager to turn it into something more appetising. Luckily, when searching for variations, I stumbled upon the absolutely delicious blueberry financier topped with sliced almonds!

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I love anything relating to French baked goods and these were not at all difficult nor time-consuming to make. Baking these cakes was quite a nostalgic experience for me as I recalled the times when I assisted mum with her own baking – indeed reiterating the importance of ‘shared food memories’ (Belasco 2008) as we reconnected with my childhood experiences of cake mixture flying everywhere! However, with mum as the sous-chef this time it was nice to take the lead for a change!

The simple cake is mainly comprised of ingredients such as egg whites, icing sugar and flour and a dash of vanilla extract and salt. It also features a beurre noisette (brown butter) to give it a distinctive flavour – a certain je ne sais quoi!

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Having made around 40 individual cakes for the Food Fair, I was pleasantly surprised to see that most had been eaten! I was thrilled with the positive comments – although, between bites, I think we all agreed that they would be better with a good cup of tea (as I come from a British family this made me very happy)! This feedback really reiterates the emphasis that people place upon food to act as a source of comfort – which was, after all, a central factor for choosing these unassuming little French cakes!

Image 1 credit:

http://joepastry.com/pics/financiers20 

 

Tasting Europe: Round 4 – Say ‘Ciao’ to Italy Down South

Cleverly (and neatly) situated on the lower end of Mornington’s bustling Main Street, D.O.C. Mornington is probably one of the most authentic (and popular!) Italian culinary experiences you’ll have this side of Melbourne.

In fact, as a local of the Mornington Peninsula, I have even heard of some people travelling from inner-city suburbs just to come here to eat! Or maybe, as I reflect upon my own sense of nostalgia, they simply wish to create some beautiful memories by soaking up some sun at the beach and finishing up with a pizza…who knows?

Inscribed on their business card, D.O.C. proclaims itself to be a ‘celebration of heritage. A joy in sharing. Authentic, exuberant and outrageously Italian’. Some people may view this as hyperbole, but I think this claim to authenticity absolutely captures the essence of what they attempt to provide for their customers.

Ital-0911-gastronomy-DOC-Group-630

From the moment you walk in, you enter into a more-than-slightly frenetic atmosphere comprised of good conversation, friendly banter between the all-Italian staff and the sight of cured meats hanging in a small room to your left. If, by the end of your meal, you haven’t already been overcome by this ‘outrageously‘ Italian display, on your right is access to an in-house deli and fresh food store which (you guessed it!) contains nearly all imported Italian foodstuffs and freshly made pasta.

DOC Mornington

However, the culinary experience is what really distinguishes D.O.C. Mornington’s approach to Italian fare. With customers all packed together on long tables, this is not a place for romantic gestures nor for having a deep-and-meaningful with your dinner buddy. As such, you will often find you and your neighbour surreptitiously glancing at each other’s meals. Yet in cultivating ‘a joy in sharing’, perhaps D.O.C. wants us to question or discuss our meals with person next to us – emphasising the ability for food to act as a ‘system of communication’ (Barthes 1979, cited in Belasco 2008) between people.

On the two-sided menu – which prides itself on offering about 15 types of different gourmet, Roman-style pizzas – the back side features a map of Italy outlining the different regions that the ingredients originate from (e.g. Cerignola Green Olives from Puglia). Regionality and authenticity are clearly core focus points for D.O.C.

I opted for the Pizza D.O.C. ($22.90) which was exactly the same as the Pizza Margherita ($18.90) except the extra $4 netted you some rather exotic-sounding ‘Buffalo Mozzarella’. Arriving with a friendly ‘prego‘, my pizza was impeccably presented and with its base so soft it could melt-in-your-mouth, I departed D.O.C. Mornington with a thoroughly full stomach and Italy in my heart.

DOC Pizza

Buon appetito!

Images sourced from:

(Image 1) – https://www.beanscenemag.com.au/uploads/italianicious/articles/Ital-0911-gastronomy-DOC-Group-630.jpg

(Image 2) – http://visitmorningtonpeninsula.org/members/uploads/5801380552111.jpg 

(Image 3) – https://c2.staticflickr.com/8/7550/15951146799_8360199b2d_b.jpg 

 

 

Tasting Europe: Round 3 – I Am-a-triciana

I like pasta. A lot.

Pasta all’amatriciana (or bucatini all’amatriciana depending on whether or not you use bucatini pasta) is a bonafide Italian classic – a veritable blend of rusticity, fresh and local ingredients and a simple combination of flavours.

Although it is generally considered as one of the archetypal Roman dishes (together with spaghetti alla carbonara), amatriciana does not hail from Rome, but rather from the town Amatrice – around 100 miles from Rome in the north-eastern Lazio region. Lazio is renowned for its agriculture and vegetable production – owing largely to its rich and fertile hills. The distinct impact of amatriciana on Italian cuisine and Lazio’s regional identity is evident through its inclusion as a Prodotto agroalimentare tradizionale (PAT) – an official recognition for significant and traditional Italian regional foods.

amatrice

Historically speaking, the dish is believed to have descended from pasta alla gricia – a shepherd’s dish featuring pepper, cheese and smoked pork jowl (guanciale). However, with the introduction of tomatoes during the Columbian Exchange, tomato was added to this dish and it evolved into amatriciana!

Amatriciana is, above all, a classic pasta sauce centred around four key ingredients: cured pork (or bacon), tomatoes, pecorino cheese and hot peppers (recipe here!). Yet this is only the traditional sauce at a basic level and is subject to much variation. Given Rome’s proximity to Amatrice, they have had a tendency to claim amatriciana as their own and, consequently, they have often added onion, garlic or herbs.

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Although the sauce is traditionally served with bucatini (a very thick, hollow spaghetti), the versatility of this dish is exemplified by the potential for varying the type of pasta to suit your preferences (ie. spaghetti, or rigatoni – which I highly recommend!).

bucatini

Given its esteemed position as a Roman classic, pasta all’amatriciana can certainly be found down under and here in Melbourne, specifically. Speaking from experience, La Camera in Southgate does an excellent take on the this dish (rigatoni, albeit with a slight variation to the sauce), as does Grossi Florentino (if you want the traditional bucatini).

Buon appetito!

Image credits:

(Image 1) 

http://media-cdn.tripadvisor.com/media/photo-s/01/7f/84/2f/amatrice

(Header/Image 2)

http://cookdiary.net/wp-content/uploads/images/Spaghetti-All’Amatriciana_15655 

(Image 3)

http://www.taste.com.au/images/recipes/agt/2013/02/32497_l

 

 

Tasting Europe: Round 2 – La Bouillabaisse ou quelque chose? Moi, je préfère ce qui est plus obscure…

If regional French dishes from the South of France were films, the bouillabaisse would be the Oscar-winning blockbuster while its equally-attractive and engrossing younger sister, the bourride, would be the indie smash hit – popular amongst the cool kids and those who are disenchanted with the ‘status quo’.

With various incarnations – the Bourride de Baudroie (Monkfish Stew) or Bourride Sètoise hails from not one, but two (!!) southern French regions: Languedoc-Roussillon and Provence. Yet bourride has, historically, particular roots in the port town and seaside resort of Sète (say bonjour to the Venice of Southern France!). Surrounded by the Thau Lagoon, which is home to an abundance of oyster and mussel-beds, the town (supported by its network of canals) is an ideal base for fishing and the exportation of delicious seafood!

port-SETE

Bourride acts as a unique representation of Languedoc’s regional identity – with its specific regional ingredients imbuing it with a distinct ‘individual character’ (Ripe 1996) when compared with the more famous Provençal bouillabaisse which is strongly tied to Marseille. Indeed, bourride exclusively uses fresh monkfish from the region and is significantly less complicated and expensive than bouillabaisse which requires an assortment of fish and more preparation.

Bourride (recipe here!) is, at heart, a fish stew cooked with vegetables and white fish, whilst being distinctly thickened with aioli and egg yolks. The first reference to this stew was presented in Jean-Baptiste Reboul’s La Cuisinière Provençale’ in 1897. However, the traditional incarnation from Sète features fish stock and filleted monkfish with vegetables and garlic. Aioli, herbs and toasted bread are then added to complete the dish and add flavour. Today, the version that has spread throughout greater Languedoc and Provence often features saffron or white wine.

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Emphasising French cuisine’s ability to interweave both ‘luxurious and humble’ dishes (Davis 2011), bourride’s place in history is as, above all, a workingman’s dish. Unlike bouillbaisse, which has succeeded in transcending the boundaries of humble and haute cuisine, bourride remains firmly rooted in its peasant origins.

bourride bread

Owing to its distinct regionalism, bourride has yet to impact Australian shores. Yet according to a Languedoc local myth, when the Greek Gods got bored with Olympus they specifically came to the South of France to eat bourride as it was so delicious. Well, if it’s Zeus-approved…tout est possible!

Bon appetit! 🙂

Image credits:

(Image 1)

https://www.cruisingexcursions.com/imgCrop/Ports/4/port-SETE.jpg  

(Image 2)

http://www.elledecor.com/life-culture/food-drink/a5918/bourride-fish-stew-1/ 

(Image 3) 

http://img.sndimg.com/food/image/upload/w_555,h_416,c_fit,fl_progressive,q_95/v1/img/recipes/21/00/87/pic6wE9vN.jpg 

Tasting Europe: Round 1 – Some Spanish Flair and Flavour

Looking for some Spanish cuisine with flair and flavour? Then look no further than this very tasty, very healthy, vitamin-loaded, vegetable-based dish originating from the central Spanish region of Castilla-La Mancha!

vegeta-pisto

Essentially a vegetable stew at heart, pisto or pisto manchego (to denote its regional identity and and heritage) is based primarily around the core ingredients of tomatoes, onions, eggplants and peppers (see a tasty recipe here!) – typifying the traditional, rustic regional fare that emanates from central Spain. Amidst its captivating plains and mountains and with agriculture being a distinguishing element of Castilla-La Mancha’s culture and regional identity, the region itself therefore facilitates the quick accessing of these fresh, local vegetables of which the dish is comprised.

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Fascinatingly, we can trace pisto back to 822 (!!) when it was served at a royal wedding at the time when the Moors occupied the Iberian Peninsula. Possessing many different appellations, the Moors originally referred to pisto as alboronia, and the little difference to the ingredients used throughout its history (with the exception of tomatoes and peppers prior to the Columbian Exchange) affirms the long-lasting appeal of a simple, tasty dish.

Excitingly, however, is that you can modify it to suit your food preferences! If you’re like me and have a passionate dislike of your food being topped with anything egg-related (such as pisto con huevos), you can opt for chorizo, fish, meat or bread to give it something extra! It may be even be served warm or cold, as an appetiser, accompaniment (it is often used to fill empanadas!), or as a main dish. Pistos evolutionary potential is, I believe, linked to its versatility.

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Since 822 pisto has become a firm favourite throughout Spain and is generally considered a close relative of the perhaps more pre-eminent French dish ‘Ratatouille’. Such is the influence of French cuisine – the ‘benchmark’ of modern cuisine (Anderson 2013) – that pisto seems to sadly have lost some of its individuality. It is now often simply referred to as ‘Spanish Ratatouille‘.

Closer to home, pisto is unfortunately quite hard to track down on many of Melbourne’s current restaurant menus – although MoVida Aqui had offered pisto-style vegetables and scallops in 2010.

Buen provecho!! 🙂

Image credits:

(Image 1)

http://www.spanish-food.org/images/vegeta-pisto

(Image 2)

https://c2.staticflickr.com/8/7392/9735220095_48027fbe80 

(Image 3 – slightly cropped)

http://2.bp.blogspot.com/-yChbRfGwAf4/VX3X5UEo_2I/AAAAAAAAKko/H6-JnSDq8v8/s640/empanada2