Frittata con le vitalbe (Clematis Vitalba. Old man's beard or Traveller's joy), local organic pecorino cheese, home made sweet and sour pickled cucumbers, quince jam, home made cured black olives.
A typical early summer antipasto at Valle Nuova.
WARNING FOR FORAGERS: If you have never collected Traveller's joy, please make sure that you only collect the very young tops... or do not collect it, just in case... some parts of this plant are slightly poisonous.
I'm working on maps for guests to see the best of Northern Le Marche and bits of Emilia Romagna, Tuscany and Umbria that are within reasonable driving time from us ("reasonable" being 1.30 hours that is what I consider a distance I can drive when I'm on holidays).
At the moment this project is still in its early stage, but few days ago I completed a Foodie Map for guests and whoever is in Le Marche and loves food.
It contains my personal suggestions to eat out and buy great food in the area (+1 gelateria), I'm sure that I'm missing some great places, but these are my favourites in the area so far. Please send me your opinions and suggestions to try new places.
I hope you enjoy!
Today we spent some time collecting herbs for decoration and eating: oats and another wild herb for drying, wild flowers, new olive branches for liqueur and vitalbe (young shoots of Old man's beard or Traveller's joy) for delicious omelettes.
We're delighted to announce that this season we're going to have a new apartment!
The Casina Nuova apartment is my old apartment and we are currently renewing it for guests. It stands in the same building as Casina dei Tordi, 500 metres away from the main house and the swimming pool, that can be easily reached (walking or driving) along an internal road in the farm (you will meet our cows along the way).
It's located on the ground floor and it features an amazing and cool porch where you'll be able to dine al-fresco and relax after a long day discovering the wonders of Northern Le Marche (btw, have a look at LE MARCHE PHOTO BLOG to see some of the places that you can visit during your stay!).
You enter into a sitting and dining room with kitchen. The kitchen is fully equipped with fridge, gas stove, oven, microwave, coffee machine and everything you need to prepare and enjoy your latest food market discovery or our vegetables directly from the kitchen garden next door.
There are two bedrooms, one with queensize bed and complete en-suite bathroom with shower, the other one with two comfortable twin beds (that can be made into a kingsize - and you will not notice that it's two beds put together!) and next door a full bathroom with shower and washing machine.
The apartment has wi-fi access for those who can't live without it and it's very cool, even during the hottest seasons due to its orientation.
I will soon post some photos of the real thing!
We have 166Kw of photovoltaic panels installed on the roofs of our cowshed, barn and stables (or we will shortly have them again after the snow crashed some of them last February).
In 1 year our solar panels produced 184000 Kwh of electricity, enough for 18 U.S. or 52 Italian households (average data).
This means that every year we have 100000 kg of CO2 less in the athmosphere thanks to our plant.
It's difficult to calculate how much CO2 our farm and Locanda produce (data available online are usually referred to industrial farming, not smallholding, let alone organic farming), but I think I can say that we're carbon neutral.
I posted my Nocino (green walnut liqueur) recipe some time ago but, having started this new series about foraging, having just collected my nuts for 2012 nocino and being about to try the one I made in 2011 (I leave it rest for 1 year), I think that today is the perfect time to remind you that you should be picking your walnuts!
You can find the recipe here.
This is a very busy time of the year if you collect wild herbs, flowers and fruits... so do not miss my next posts about St John's Wort and Lime Tree!
Ever since I discovered how Taraxacum officinale is called in English, I thought that it's a funny name... Dandelion is originally Dent de lion (Lion tooth), the French name for it. It's called the same in Italian (Dente di leone) and I guess that it refers to the toothed shape of the leaves.
But the really funny name is the other French common name (as well its name in Northern Italian dialects): Pissenlit (pee in bed) that refers to its diuretic properties.
Its freshly grown leaves are collected in spring and early autumn, boiled and eaten along with other wild plants. They are known in Northern Le Marche as Erbe di campo (lit. Field herbs) and they are usually sauteed with olive oil (lard in the traditional version) with garlic.
The roots are collected, dried, ground and used as a (not very interesting) substitute for coffee.
But my favorite use is Dandelion flowers liqueur!
100 dandelion flowers (collected when fully in bloom)
A syrup made with 250 g of water and 300 gr of sugar
2 whole lemons cut in pieces
Juice of 2 lemons
750 g of water
750 g of 95º alcohol
(you can use Vodka and reduce the amount of water accordingly)
Make a syrup with 250 g of water and 300 g of sugar and let cool.
In a glass jar that you can close tightly put the flowers, lemons, lemon juice and syrup.
Close, store in a warm place and let rest for 1 week.
Add the 750g water and the alcohol and leave for about 3 months.
Filter and enjoy!
In my opinion one of the pleasures of living in the countryside is getting in touch with nature in many different ways.
I love having the possibility of meeting the little creatures that inhabit our world without us realizing. Today, driving along a white road by the farm, I saw a blackbird in the middle of the road carrying a huge worm and struggling to fly away when it saw my car. Hurrying to fly away it lost the worm and panicked, trying to decide between its prey and dear life. I slowed down allowing it to run back (blackbirds tend to run instead of flying), get the worm and run away. A few months ago I had the funniest meeting with a very cheeky dormouse who was as curios of understanding what kind of animal I was as I was of seeing how near was it going to come.
The other great pleasure is redescovering the countryside traditions, things that people did for centuries and that we, contemporary town people, lost completely. I still remember my first sausage and the day that I made cheese using fig leaves as rennet (it worked perfectly but the cheese was dreadful). This also includes foraging: flowers, leaves, berries, sprouts, buds... and of course experimenting old and new recipes to prepare dishes, liqueurs, syrups, jams, jellies, preserves, medicines and much more.
This year spring is early, so elder is blooming right now here in Northern Le Marche. The first instalment of this new series about foraging (and preparing yummy goodies), after this long introduction, will be two links to gorgeous recipes using elder flowers. Enjoy!
From April 6th to July 8th 2012 the Ducal Palace in Urbino will host The Ideal City - Renaissance Utopia in Urbino between Piero della Francesca and Raphael.
The painted panel of The Ideal City in the Galleria Nazionale delle Marche
is one of the most fascinating enigmas of the Italian Renaissance. We
do know neither why is was painted nor by whom, yet it is a compendium
of art, science and philosophic speculation, one of the highest
achievements of the civilization that flourished at Urbino in the
second half of the fifteenth century, at the court of Duke Federico da
Montefeltro, one of the most learned and enlightened lords of his time.
In the exhibition at the Palazzo Ducale in Urbino, curated by
Lorenza Mochi Onori and Vittoria Garibaldi, the Urbino panel is finally
open to public view along with another "ideal city", similar in style,
from the Walters Art Gallery in Baltimore (unfortunately, a
third in Berlin cannot be moved due to its poor state of conservation).
A unique opportunity to broaden our knowledge of such singular and
mysterious works, to explore the meaning behind the idea of a city as
it is reflected in the architecture of the paintings, and to understand
the meaning of the utopias depicted in them.
Alongside this panel, many other works are on display, about 50 in
all, including paintings, sculptures, wood inlays, drawings, medals,
illuminated manuscripts and architectural treatises, which give us a
global picture of one of the high points in the history of this small
capital city, set in the mountains and hills of Montefeltro, in the
midst of the lands of Tuscany, Umbria, Marche and Romagna.
There are works by Jacopo de Barbari, Piero della Francesca, Luca Signorelli, Fra’ Carnevale, Domenico Veneziano, Sassetta, Mantegna, Perugino, Bramante and finally Raphael,
who, having learnt his art in the cultural climate of Urbino, was to
become one of the great architects of 1500s. Two works by Raphael
feature in the exhibition: a drawing and the predella of the Oddi Altarpiece exceptionally loaned for the occasion by the Vatican Museums.
The venue, and at the same time a constituent element of the exhibition, is the splendid Palazzo Ducale in Urbino,
built with the contribution of architects who invented the very
language of the Renaissance: Leon Battista Alberti, Luciano Laurana and
Francesco di Giorgio Martini, all three of whom have been attributed
the painting of the Urbino panel.
(Text from the official page of the exhibition)
Sorry vegetarian friends!
Ciauscolo, cotechino and salame meats ready to go in their casings.
Cotechino will be cured for one week and then in the freezer to be enjoyed later, boiled along with other mixed meats or with lentils.
Salame and ciauscolo will be hung for a few months until they develop their amazing aromas. YUM!
The temperatures are unusually high, we haven't had any rain for over 40 days, September is being quite unusual this year... but luckily, as we do every year in September, we are enjoying the best sunsets!
Sour cherries (a wild local variety called visciola) sitting in the sun.
To prepare an amazing syrupy preserve fill a jar with sour-cherries leaving some space between the cherries and the ridge, top it up with sugar, covering throughly. Close the jar and let sit in the sun for a couple of months shaking (during the hottest hours) during the first days to dissolve the sugar.
Serve with Panna Cotta!
It's been a long and busy spring, well, actually it's been a long and busy winter, spring and summer is not proving anything easier...
We are trying to survive the attack of all the paperwork needed to install photovoltaic panels and start putting energy back into the grid.
Yes, we installed more photovoltaic panels and the last one has been connected last week so now we officially have a 166Kw plant (divided in 5 plants, two for internal use and three for selling) that should be enough to provide energy to around 60 households.
Most important, all our plants are located on the roofs of existing buildings: stables, cow-sheds, barns. We think that producing green energy is very important but we do not want to stop farming to devote the land to energy production (we do not plant energy crops either) and we do not want our beautiful hills to be spotted with huge mirror-looking photovoltaic plants instead of the shades of green of alfalfa and the oak woods, the golden wheat or the geometrical patterns of the vines.
So, please celebrate with us that Valle Nuova is now making another tiny effort for conservation and a cleaner world!
Left to right: nocino wine (two steps and it will become an amazing syrup for mascarpone cream), artichoke liqueur, uva fragola (concord grapes) liqueur, quince liqueur (2010, it will be ready for drinking in 2014...), tangerine liqueur (my great grandfather's favourite recipe), (front) apple pip liqueur.
Le Marche: Locanda della Valle Nuova
You can’t help wondering what a woman like Giulia Savini—fluent in three languages and with two international master’s degrees—is doing living in Le Marche raising white Marchigiana cows and pampering guests on her 185-acre farm. But Savini and her parents, who also live on site, are as passionate about the environment as they are about hospitality. A short drive from the Renaissance town of Urbino, their 1980’s farm, with six modern guest rooms and three apartments, is as eco-conscious as it gets: crops are strictly organic, the stove is fueled by tree prunings, and electricity is generated by photovoltaic panels on the roof. If you don’t care for morning horseback rides or excursions to artisanal producers, stay here for the food. Loyal to her Piedmontese roots, Giulia’s mamma, Signora Adriana, makes an unforgettable beef bollito misto as well as a rich tagliatelle, made with eggs from her henhouse, that’s tossed in a deep-flavored wild-boar ragù. The best she saves for last: some two dozen house-made liqueurs culled from the pantry, crammed with colorful jars of elderflower and sour-cherry preserves.
Almost one month ago we sadly discovered that one of the farm cats had an accident and she had left 4 kittens all alone in the cow-shed.
When I tried to catch them I got lots of hissing and a bleeding scratch on my cheek, but they soon understood that I was not so bad when I fed them a wonderful mix of warm milk, cream and egg yolk (about 200 g of warm milk, 2 tbsp cream, 1 egg yolk with no white whatsoever, it's very bad for kittens!).
This is how they looked all well fed and relaxed on their second day at home:
They grew, they begun eating more and more milk, I started mixing some beef baby food to their milk, they destroyed 2 bottle nipples biting them with their sharp growing teeth, they started to eat soft food and to lick milk (so funny when they first tried!) and now they're lively, greedy eaters, playful and ready to find a new family and a new home.
Here's another of the liqueurs that I prepare for guests at Valle Nuova.This is a good herbal liqueur, not sweet that is made with herbs that can be found at Valle Nuova (wild or in our herb-garden) and spices that are easily found in any kitchen.
6 basil leaves (Ocimum basilicum)
6 sage leaves (Salvia officinalis)
6 laurel/bay leaves (Laurus nobilis)
6 mint leaves (Mentha) any variety (I use Mentha aquatica)
6 lemon leaves (Citrus limon)
6 lemon verbena leaves (Aloysia citrodora)
6 cloves (Eugenia caryophyllata)
6 cm long rosemary sprig (Rosmarinus officinalis)
4 juniper berries (Juniperus communis)
4 pinches of tea leaves
4 pinches of dry camomille flowers (Matricaria recutita)
2 pinches of ground nutmeg (Myristica fragrans)
2 pinches of saffron (Crocus sativus)
1 litre 95% alcohol
1 litre water
300 gr sugar
Mix the herbs and spices and alcohol and let rest in a cool and dark place for 1 week. Filter twice using a cloth or paper filter.
Mix the sugar and water in a pan, let boil for 2 minutes and let cool. Mix the syrup and the alcohol.
Bottle and let rest for 3 months before drinking it.
This is an important time of the year for wine producers, it's pruning time and pruning is basic if you want good quality grapes and thus good quality wine.
I have been willing to participate into one of Marco's food and wine tours for a long time, and a few days ago the occasion arose.
We started visiting Cantina Luigi Giusti that stands in the Lacrima di Morro d'Alba d.o.c. area (do not guess that this wine has something to do with Alba, Piedmont and read this article for more information).
The Lacrima is a very unusual wine that is only produced in Le Marche, after Luigi Giusti showed us how they prune the vines and explained why, the tasting began!
We tasted different wines all made with the same grapes including 2 beautiful Rosé and Vino di Visciole (a yummy dessert wine made with red wine and sour cherries).
The second visit was Caseificio Piandelmedico in Jesi, they produce cow and buffalo cheeses including a beautiful mozzarella and more unusual buffalo blue cheese and taleggio style cheese. They are so good that I didn't even think about taking a picture!
After a good lunch prepared specially for us, accompained by wines from different cantine of Le Marche, at Antiche cantine del Porticello in Jesi we headed to the Verdicchio dei Castelli di Jesi d.o.c. area.
Vallerosa Bonci farm produce some of the most awarded Verdicchio wines. We tried classical and excellent spumante and also a great (and not too sweet) Verdicchio Passito.
I normally prefer red wines but I really enjoyed those Verdicchios!
The last cantina that we visited is located in the Conero Natural Park near Ancona and produces mostly Rosso Conero wine: Moroder is probably one of the best known wineries in Le Marche but it's still a family business and visiting it with Marco (who worked here years ago) is perfect, actually everywhere we went we felt informally welcome, none of the officiality and stiffness, just people that show their love for what they do.
We visited the beautiful old and new cellar and tasted some wines sitting outside, chatting and drinking until sunset.
Farms in Le Marche are family run, not big businesses, the wineries of Le Marche produce some very fine wines, most of them still little known, but very interesting.
With Marco you have the possibility to get to know people, farms, wines and other typical products (not only cheese but honey, extra vergin olive oil) that would be difficult to reach without his kowledge of the area and the people.
Marco is a wine and olive oil producer himself, loves and knows Le Marche and speaks good English (he's been living in the UK and Australia for a long time) and he's the perfect person to show the best of Le Marche wines to experts and novices alike.
Visit his webpage for more information about the tours and have a look at the sunset that he prepared to finish our day with him! :)