If you like to cook with fire you need to have a wood fired oven in your life and now you can with PICCOLO!
If you own already one you know that it's not just an oven, it becomes part of the home, part of the week-ends and part of the Sunday family dinner!
Cooking with a wood fired oven is a proper entertaining way of cooking and a perfect excuse to riunite the whole family.
This Piccolo oven is a new generation, portable and high quality wood fired oven. Francesco is now the UK Piccolo Ambassador and the first to have one in the UK. He said it was Amore at first sight, " It's very easy and efficient to use and take about 15-20 minutes to reach very high temperature, it is faster then a normal kitchen oven and of course have an unique flavour and of course gives you the perfect atmosphere too! "
What is a Sourdough Starter?
A sourdough culture or starter is used to grow wild yeast in a way that can be used for baking. In Italy it is called "mother yeast".
It is a simply a combination of flour and water which is left to sit for at least 6 days until you have created a bubbly starter which is ready to use.
All you need is a jar, flour and some tap water!
The type of flour is totally up to you depending on what you have available BUT if you can buy a particular type of flour we would suggest buying wholegrain flour. Wholegrain typically refers to an intact cereal grain that has all its key parts: bran, endosperm and germ. This type of flour has a higher content of wild yeast which makes it easier to grow a sourdough culture (and gives a very nice aroma and fruity flavour to all your final baking goods!)
Nevertheless, if you don't have wholegrain flour you can still use any type of bread flour that you like, a simple strong white flour will do the job as well!
Oh, and for those looking to make a gluten-free sourdough starter?
Simply use gluten-free wholegrain options: Amaranth, Brown rice, Buckwheat, Corn, Millet and Quinoa.
Italy is known for it's very late meals - lunch is about 1.30pm (earliest!) and dinner depends on the season - it can be as late at 11pm!
One of the reasons for such late dinners, is so that the members of the family can wait for each other to come back from work and sit down at the table all together. In Italy, lunch and dinner are moments of reunion for all the family. It's a time to relax and share the stories of the day.
The biggest meal of the week is "il pranzo della domenica" (Sunday lunch), which is a very late lunch "at home" with the reunion of nonni, zii e cugini (grannies, uncles, aunties and cousins). Only about 5% of the Italian population go out for lunch. This is a bit different from the tradition of a Sunday roast in England, where people like to go out and eat with friends and family.
The Italian Sunday lunch starts at about 2pm and finishes around 4-5pm. We use this time to cook our favourite traditional family dishes, which vary from region to region. We like to think about this day as a day for keeping the traditions alive, with a menu based on the same dishes that our grandmothers use to cook around 60 years ago.
Now, the important bit. English people always ask - what about all the carbs though?!
In Italy we eat SO much pasta... and to the people that say it just isn't good to eat pasta that often, well the answer is - that's not true! You can eat pasta often only if you do it in the right way. As long as you match your pasta with a combination of fruit and vegetables, you'll get all the nutrients necessary for the body. We prefer to use seasonal vegetables, with a teaspoon of extra virgin olive oil to season and a sprinkle of cheese!
Cooking pasta "al dente" ("with a bit of bite") is important too, it makes the pasta easier to digest and it will make you feel fuller for longer. Overcooked pasta causes the starch from the pasta to release into the cooking water and means you lose the nutritional properties, while undercooked pasta is raw and indigestible.
So, the lesson of the day - pasta can be healthy but remember, always cook AL DENTE!
For pasta inspiration, head over our recipe page.
When it comes to using oil for cooking or for seasoning these days, there are so many different types to choose from. We're going to help you choose the best one and teach you how you can use olive oil for cooking.
If we speak about oil in Italian cuisine, we are mostly speaking about extra virgin olive oil (E.V.O oil).
You get the best from your olive oil if you try it raw first - such as on pasta or salad. Once you've found your perfect olive oil, you can use it in your pasta recipes - we love to add it to our basil pesto recipe because it adds a really deep flavour to the pesto. But most of all, it's perfect drizzled on freshly baked bread - like a rich Italian butter (but healthier, and full of vitamins and goodness!)
While you can cook with it, you must remember to keep your fire on a medium low hit (such as when you're making a beautiful soffritto like for our ragù pasta). If you do cook on a higher temperature, you will burn the oil and lose all the best nutrition.
We can recognise a good extra virgin olive oil first of all only by tasting it. If you ever have the possibility to try an extra virgin olive oil freshly made from a farmer you will notice that it is fruity, spicy, herbal and bitter. This is the only way that you can then compare to a good quality extra virgin olive oil bought in a supermarket.
If you have never had the opportunity to try a fresh E.V.O. oil then we suggest you consider two things when you are buying it:
1) Make sure on the label there is all the information about the method that has been used to make the oil. Cold pressing is one of the methods of extracting oil. It is undoubtedly the most natural and is the one that provides a superior quality product. On the label there is always written "cold pressed" or "extracted cold".
The cold extraction method allows the oil to maintain the quality of minerals and vitamins (that there are in the olives) and makes it rich in antioxidant properties.
2)A good E.V.O. oil has an extraction date an expiry date and that is usually within 12 to 18 months of extraction, (when it comes to buy it you want the extraction date to be as close as possible to the day that you are buying it) and keep this in your mind - a good extra virgin olive oil won't be cheap.
And remember again that the only way to know if the olive oil is a high quality is to taste it, so find one that has the true characteristics - fruity, spicy, herbal and bitter!