Sunday, April 26, 2009

Nocino (Green Walnut Liqueur)

Would you call a liqueur "preserve"? Actually alcohol is a great way to preserve things, but in this case you're throwing away the "ingredient" and keep the alcohol (the "preserver")...
Whatever you call it I will post this anyway!
Nocino is probably one of the very few Italian recipes that are prepared in most regions from the far North down to the South. I heard people from Veneto, Modena and Naples claiming that THEIR recipe is the one and only original one.. This one comes from a Neapolitan family friend, I hope that the rest of Italy will not feel offended! ;)


24 green walnuts
1 litre alcohol (95%)
4 cloves
2 cm cinnamom stick
300 gr sugar

First: the green walnuts... Traditionally the walnuts should be collected between Midsummer's eve (June 23rd) and Saint John day (June 24th) Witchy night, when wild herbs used for potions reach their maximum power... if you do not want to meander and stumble around the fields at night any of the two days will do!
The walnuts should be green and should not have formed their wooden case, but not be too mushy inside.
Cut the walnuts into two or three pieces (use gloves if you do not want your hands to turn a nasty shade of brown... green walnuts were also used for hair dyeing!).
Put in a glass jar (airtight) with the alcohol, cloves and cinnamom stick.

Leave in the sun for 2 months shaking a few times.
Boil 1 litre water with the sugar and let cool.
Filter the alcohol, mix with the syrup and filter again (I use paper filters, but any cloth or very fine filter will do).
Bottle and cork up.
Now wait patiently until next year's Midsummer's eve and enjoy!

Thursday, April 23, 2009

No knead bread

The idea was posting recipes of preserves... but I keep thinking of other recipes I would like to share, so here's my version of the famous "no knead bread"!


Flour 1050 gr
Water 750 gr
Yeast 25 gr
Salt 3 1/2 tsp

Warm up the water (not more than 40º C), add the salt and yeast and mix until undone.
Add the flour and mix (no need of kneading.. that's the point, isn't it?). It should be very sticky. (Next time I make bread I will take pictures and post them!)
Let rest for approx 3 hours (or until the bubble formed by the rising of the dough starts to collapse). Put in the fridge in a closed (not airtight) bowl.
You can start using the dough after 24 hours in the fridge, but it gives the best results between 3 and 7 days. ..Yes, you can leave the dough in the fridge for as long as 7 days and more (bread savys say 14) but it never lasts that much!
When you want to bake bread take some of the dough and form some rolls (50 gr) or long buns (200-300 gr) and lay them on baking paper. Let rest until when you lightly press the dough, the surface doesn't spring back quickly and you leave a small indent in the bun.
Put a baking stone or the oven's dripping pan in the oven and heat it (240º). Put a small bowl with about 100 gr water in the oven.
Brush the rolls with milk and cut them with scissors or a very sharp knife (deep is good!) and, when the oven is hot and steamy, let the baking paper slip with the rolls on it on the hot baking stone or dripping pan (this takes some experience but I'm sure you'll master the wrist-flip fast!)
Let bake until golden (10 to 20 minutes depending on size of the rolls and your oven).
Try and resist the gorgeous smell and let cool a bit before cutting and enjoying!
This photo: © lucy Pope 2009

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Urbania "vs." Urbino

Do not mix up Urbino and Urbania..
Urbino is where Raphael was born, famous for the Ducal Palace and it's Torricini (it's the first example of a Renaissance Palace) and Federico da Montefeltro, the guy with the "interesting" profile.
Urbania is a pretty little town, 20 minutes drive west of Urbino, surrounded by the river Metauro and it's known for its pottery.
Yes, it is quite weird having two places with such similar names nearby... the fact is that the two places' names have nothing to do with eachother!
The name Urbino comes from the Roman name Urvinum Metaurense while Urbania was called Castel delle Ripe until 1284 when it was called Casteldurante (name that still appears in Museums where Urbania pottery is displayed). In 1638 the Pope Urbano VIII thought that his name was so pretty that it was worth sharing so he changed the town's name again and called it Urbania.
Of course he could not imagine how confusing this would be to foreign travellers visiting the area almost 4 centuries later!
Anyway.. Urbania is a really interesting little town (by the way, there are a couple of nice restaurants, and a great gelateria and pasticceria with tables in the main square to sit and watch the world go by) and you should not miss it if you visit Northern Le Marche.

If you visit Urbania, do not miss the stunning everyday-use pottery collection inside the Ducal Palace (yes, there's Ducal Palace in Urbania too... you didn't want things to be too easy, did you?).

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Old and new

If you ever travelled to Italy you will know Ape car... maybe you will not know its name, but you'll have seen hundreds of them "darting" around Italian roads (very common in rural Central Italy), usually with an elderly man at the wheel (well... rather at the handlebar), and probably driving you nuts because they rarely exceed 30 km per hour (approx 18 miles per hour) and tend to stay right in the middle of the road. Ape Car are those three weels little mix between a car and a motorbike with little space for people and a big open boot.
They are used as tiny vans carrying things around the countryside and villages.

If you drive around Le Marche you will not only see the "normal" ones sometimes carrying cages with truffle or hunting dogs inside or with husband and wife squeezed in the tiny passenger compartment, but you'll also see modern, cool ones driven by teenagers. In Italy you can pass your driving test and thus drive a car when you're 18, but many kids living in the countryside get a "motorino" when they are 14... if you're lucky you get an Ape instead, but of course you would not want it to be old and dull looking!

This photo was taken on a Saturday night in Urbino and the building that you see is the very same Ducal Palace! Old and new always blend in funny ways in this country!

Thursday, April 16, 2009

I'm grateful (warning: this post is only partially serious!)

Today is a cloudy and grey day, it's cold and windy outside and the only thing I would really love to do is cuddling up like one of my cats and let the day pass, it's not a bad day, it's just that I've had better days.
... but I'm grateful... Thank you Gloria, Letizia, Diana and Megan (fellow professionals and friends) to be there and a double thank you Gloria for sharing something that, once more, makes me remember how grateful I am for the wonderful guests I have... have a look at this and share this good laugh with us!

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Vet photography

Our vet is an artist. He's an artist because of the human and caring way he takes care of our big and small animals, but he's also an artist because of the great photos he takes. Those of you who stayed with us in 2007 enjoyed his photos as part of the decoration of the Locanda that season, and those of you who stayed at La Casina dei Tordi had the possibility of looking at some of the surrounding landscape from a different angle in the photos that we have there.

For all who weren't lucky enough to see his works (yet) I'm posting a few photos here for you to enjoy.

Yes, the first picture was taken at the Locanda, it's the small hill that stands just in front of us.
If you want to see more of his works click here.

Wednesday, April 08, 2009

Urbino: Raffaello degusteria

Are you in Northern Le Marche and you're looking for gorgeous local food?
You have different options: one is staying at the Locanda and enjoying our home grown and home made goodies and the yummy things we buy from local organc producers such as an amazing orange-peel flavoured pancetta, pecorino di fossa and the best sheep ricotta cheese you've ever tasted, one is running up and down the province and Le Marche region to buy those products directly from the producers (Doriano Scibè in Grottazzolina (AP) for the pancetta and Luca Pala in Tavoleto (PU) for the cheeses).

... if you find this a bit too strenuous during your holiday, than go to Raffaello degusteria in Urbino and you will find first quality gorgeous local organic products!
They share the aims and philosophy of the Slow food movement, support local and organic producers and they sell great wines, oil, pastas, preserves, ham, salamis, great variety of cheeses and much more: they definitely know their products!
Hope you'll enjoy.

Thursday, April 02, 2009

Go Slow Italy

Go Slow Italy (by Alastair Sawday and Jackie King) is being released today!

"Italy, the birthplace of the Slow movement and the home of Slow Food, is the second destination in our new Slow series. We have handpicked 46 exceptional places to stay – places where attention is lavished on some of the most important things in life: convivial meals, community, friends and family, a respect for the environment and a celebration of regional distinctiveness. From the mountainous north, through cypress-dotted Tuscany and on down to the gutsy, colourful south, you'll discover an unmatched passion for Slow Food and Slow Travel. You will meet farmers, literary people, wine-makers and craftsmen – all with rich stories to tell.
Go Slow Italy celebrates fascinating people, fine architecture,history, landscape and real food."

Locanda della Valle Nuova is one of the 46 "exceptional places to stay" :)

"The Savinis' commitment to organic farming and to the environment is almost unequalled. In 1980, while living in Milan and running a tiny farm in Piedmont, Augusto and Adriana decided they should search for a bigger farm further into the countryside in Le Marche. Northern Le Marche then was some way behind much of the rest of Italy and that attracted the Savinis. That the farm was within sight of Urbino delighted them, for being close to the city would add a cultural dimension.

"In the early 80s certified organic farming was in its infancy," says Giulia, their daughter. "Our beginning was not easy. We arrived with a deep respect for the soil - we didn't want to break the surface more than we had to - and we were regarded as townies who were nuts!" Undeterred they pressed on and are now respected for the dynamic farm they have created.
There are DOP cheeses, lamb, their own beef, prize-winning extra virgin olive oil, excellent salamis and a "heavenly" pancetta. All are paired perfectly with local wines: sangiovese from their own grapes, or maybe a bianchello, a rosso piceno or the visner dessert wine made with morello cherries. They make bread, pasta, cakes, pastries, salamis, jams and jellies and grow many herbs for the kitchen and for home-made liqueurs. They mill their own grain and forage for nuts and white truffles. They are a dynamic threesome: Augusto with his knowledge of architecture, local history and culture, Adriana with her love of gardening, cooking and herbalism and Giulia with her gift for communication."

The book, with gorgeous properties and great photos, is available for sale from Sawday's.

Photo by Lucy Pope.