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12/24/2011

A LEGENDARY CAKE: THE NEAPOLITAN PASTIERA


The Neapolitans, one day, wanted to pay homage to the mermaid Partenope which was delighted them with her wonderful songs


 They decided to bring her a gift, through seven beautiful girls, the seven most precious things that all them had:


ricotta chese (abundance),



wheat cooked in milk  
(the union between the products of the earth),




 

d’orange flowers (the scent of Campania),



 flour (wealth),


 
eggs (fertility), spices (the union of the peoples) and sugar (the sweetness of the song).


 
The siren it was ecstatic.
Then she laid the gifts at the feet of the gods, whom, surprised by the wonderful gesture, decided to knead  all those things together.
 
 The result was a delicious and very fragrant sweet:
The Neapolitan Pastiera.




It seems that this has also made a sweet little "miracle": it is said that Queen Mary
Teresa did not smile ever, but only after having tasted the pastiera offered her by her husband, Ferdinand II became a smile away.



 
It is said that the nuns had their own particular way of working the dough: it was chosen
the more shapely nun, who sat on the dough, put on the marble seats of the cloister.
So she was struggling on it for some time,
rhythmically, while performing the daily prayers ...


cloister of S. Chiara

Well, this is a traditional cake made during Easter days, but....
It's so delicious!! 
My mother made at least 14 "pastiere napoletane" this week. 
She gave gifts to friends for Xmas feasts...


 
Ingredients
300 grams of ricotta cheese
300 gr. flour
150 gr. of sugar
150 gr. lard (or butter)
200 gr. wheat
7 eggs
200 gr. of candieds
1/2 liter of milk
50 gr. orange flower water

Preparation
Keep in soak, in water, for a few days, 200 gr. of wheat, taking care about to change the water daily.
The day prior to the preparation of the cake, cook the well drained wheat in a 1/2 liter of milk for about 4 hours, adding the grated 1/2 lemon and a pinch of salt.
However exists a special grain for the preparation of Neapolitan pastiera, ready for use.
Let the wheat cook over low heat with the pot covered.
When cooked add to the wheat, the grated rind of 1 / 2 orange, 1 pinch of cinnamon and a bit of vanilla.
Wait to cool the grain and allow it to stand for a few hours.
Prepare a pastry with 300 gr. of flour, 150 gr. of sugar, 150 gr. of lard (or butter), 3 egg yolks and a pinch of salt.
Let the pastry to stand for about 1 hour.
Meanwhile, put in a bowl 300 grams of ricotta cheese and mix it well together with 250 gr. sugar, 4 egg yolks, 50 gr. orange flower water, 200 gr. diced candied fruit, wheat and, finally,  the 4 eggs’ white mounted until stiff.
With a part of the pastry line a well buttered baking tin, then fill the interior with the ricotta mixture and flavored wheat.
With the remaining dough make some strips of the width of a finger which crossed over the filling (as usually is done with tarts).
Bake the cake in a hot oven (about 180° C) for 3/4 of an hour.
Let cool and cover it plenty with the icing sugar.


 

12/17/2011

AOSTA. CHRISTMAS DAYS IN GOOD COMPANY


With the arrival of Christmas days Aosta prepares itself to  warmly welcome thousands of tourists, curious, and local inhabitants.

August arch
 Walking through the colorful and lighted streets in downtown 
 
...you reach Piazza Caveri, 
a  nice corner of the city transformed, for the occasion, 
in a mountain village that houses 
a large and picturesque Christmas market, 
called Marché Vert Noël.





There we can find just everything: local food, wine, all kinds of handworks, objects of yesteryear, gift thoughts, 







 Nordic inspirations, art objects and antiques, soaps and candles, traditional sweets and special chocolate, curiosities and tradition.





Immagine yourself getting lost for a few hours, 
in a village of lights and colors, 
waiting for Christmas in good company.


VIN BRULE’
Mulled wine 

 
The mulled wine (French word meaning burnt wine) is a hot drink made ​​with red wine and fragrant spices.  
Typical of mountain areas, the mulled wine is used to warm up but also to increase the energy during the cold winter days. 
In Valle d'Aosta is also considered a good remedy for colds.

Here,in winter, people uses to gather in the warm local village, sipping a cup of mulled wine with friends.

  
Ingredients:
1 liter and a half of red wine
3 cinnamon sticks
250 grams of sugar
10 cloves
2 organic oranges and untreated
1 lemon
1 apple
1 pinch of nutmeg

Procedure:
Wash the oranges and lemons, cut the rind, being careful not to cut even the white part (too bitter for the mulled wine).
Wash apples, remove core and cut it into thin rounds.
Put the wine into a saucepan with the cinnamon sticks, sugar, cloves, sliced ​​apple, citrus peel and a pinch of nutmeg.
Stir with a wooden spoon for a few minutes before lighting the fire, then simmer the mixture for about 5 minutes stirring constantly, until sugar dissolved.
Now comes the difficult time: a flame close to the surface of the wine so as to evaporate the alcohol.
Be careful because the wine will immediately fire and the flames will rise blue, but after a few moments will be gone and you can put out the fire.
Wait a minute, then pour the hot wine into cups and serve.
You can filter the mulled wine, or leave it, it all depends on your preferences.



12/05/2011

CUMA AND AVERNO LAKE. SINCE ALWAYS SACRED PLACES


The fame of the Sibilla Cumana is lost in ancient times.  
In Greek and Roman mythology, she was a woman of whom Apollo fell in love and from which she had been given the power of divination.
This girl has always been a mythical depicted as priestess, not only of Apollo (the Sun god) 
but also of Hecate (the Moon goddess).
Sybil is a name of obscure origin: the meaning seems to be that of "black virgin" to indicate the chastity of the Vestal, who lived in the den of a cave, in a dark forest. 
The old prophet was doomed to live in a state of great suffering, caused by the superior strength that characterized her gift: 


 in times of predictions it went into a frenzied trance and was struck with profound grief and anguish. In those moments of torment the voice of Sibyl merged with the god Apollo, and she became a messenger of the god  who wanted to communicate to his devotees.


The priestess usually wrote her responses in hexameters, on palm leaves, but the wind coming into the cave arranged to scatter everywhere, so as to make it very difficult to interpret the answer.
Its thanks to her that was reinforced, in ancient times, the worship of the god Apollo: people venerated her, because she was able to calm the turmoil that marked the difficult moments in the history of ancient Rome.

 
At Cuma,  in the Pozzuoli area (not far from Naples), you can visit the ancient home of the Sibyl: a funerary monument of probable source dug into the tuff, perhaps inspired by

Cretan-Mycenaean.
This is a gallery of the trapezoid shape, which has lost the original entrance.



The outer side has 6 large openings, through which light enters the tunnel.
On the east side is open a second gallery which consists of three rectangular rooms arranged in a cross, forming three tanks. 
These are supplied by a channel in which, they say, the Sibyl used to wash herself and, after wearing a long robe, she went into the inner room of the cave. 
Once came here, she sat on a throne, went into a trance, including pain and suffering, and wrote her prophecies.


At the end of the tunnel is a rectangular chamber with the highest "ceiling" and three large niches.  
There is a hallway on the left side, closed by a gate that leads into a room divided into 3 smaller cells: here, usually, the prophecies were uttered.
The first two sections of the gallery are now open, but the rest is very well preserved.


According to one of the many legends, who enters the cave of the Sibyl, and stay inside there exactly one year, is aware of all her secrets, but who remains there even one day longer he would remain imprisoned until the day of Judgement.


Right next to the famous "cave of the Sibyl" is the legendary Lake Averno, with dark green water and elliptical shape, which occupies a volcanic crater, where the Romans placed the entrance to Hades kingdom.



Jacob Pilipp Hacker, paint, Averno
The lake is partially surrounded by steep walls and covered by forests; 



but, in an area of gently sloping, its banks are covered with terraced vineyards.


 
The popular belief says that anyone who visits the shrine of the Sibyl, just came out, must throw in this lake a sheet of paper wrapped around a rock. 
In the note should be written a message for the deads, with requests for help with happiness, love and good fortune.


 It is said that once the water was exhaling carbonic acid gas which did not allow the lives of birds, hence the name Avernus, from the greek Aornon, a place without birds.
Averno in antiquity was synonymous with hell. 
In fact, Virgil, in the sixth book of the Aeneid, describes it as the entrance to the underworld.


 
Even in Roman times, under Agrippa, the lake was transformed into one of the ports of Cumae, the port Julius, in addition to other pre-existing, which was on the sea, where is the current lake Lucrino


 
At the same time of the creation of the new port, other two tunnels were dug: one, the Cave of Cocceius, connected the Julius port to the city of Cuma, while the other is
represented by Sybil's cave, dug into the hill that separates the Lucrino lake from the Averno Lake.

 
Coming here you feel like a magical place where, thanks to the ancient ruins, Nature combines with History, creating a superb spectacle.


 
Along the eastern shore of the lake are still visible remains of the great thermal hall known as the "Temple of Apollo."


Nearby Pozzuoli, you can also take a walk among the ruins of the Temple of Serapis (Serapeum more properly). It represents a rare example of the phenomenon of bradyseism (typical of this area).


 
ZUCCHINI WITH EGG AND CHEESE
Ingredients:
for 6 people
1 kg. Zucchini
Oil
50 gr. of lard
2 Eggs
Parmesan
Parsley
Salt
Pepper
Onion

Preparation:
Wash and cut in little pieces the zucchini. Saute the onion in the oil and pork fat and pour the zucchini. Cook slowly. Beat the eggs with the parsley, Parmesan, salt, pepper and add to zucchini. Leave on the heat a few minutes and serve.