Posts Tagged Montepulciano


What we do in Italy, is: Eat. Drink. Make merry. For­get where we put our glasses…. both sorts.

A rowdy group — yoga stu­dents and gen­eral good-time bon viveurs — came round to Santa Lucia last week for a food spree hosted by Suzie Alexan­der and her hus­band Anto­nio Santaniello.

The menu that night con­sisted of warm sour­dough bread made by Suzie, anointed with their freshly pressed olive oil of impec­ca­ble pedi­gree, chick pea and rose­mary soup, ribol­lita (see below for RECIPE), deli­cious nutty pecorino and sub­lime, sub­tle, sweet ricotta — which hith­erto I had always con­sid­ered a sen­sory white hole, a sort of flavourfree spackle use­ful for plug­ging pro­tein short­ages — which they mar­bled with sun­flower honey warmed by the fire. Spritz­ing our taste buds the while with organic apple juice, red Mon­tepul­ciano le Berne, and white wine pro­duced by a trio of artists.

Of course they’re empty

Start­ing as a per­sonal quest for the best and most tooth­some local organic pro­duce, and snow­balling as an ever more com­pli­cated busi­ness, Suzie and Anto­nio began Suzie’s Yard — see less than a year ago, and since then they have been pro­vid­ing Umbri­ans with all the neces­si­ties of the good life sourced within a 40km radius of their home: spelt flour, farro and upmar­ket carbs; fresh organic veges in sea­son, not flown in from Zanz­ibar; unsur­pass­able Chi­an­ina beef as chomped by Roman sol­diers con­quer­ing the world; mmmmm cheese; cit­rus sliv­ers and other gor­geous things drenched in dark­est chocolate.

Cheese made in Heaven

Umbria is in a state of per­ma­nent foodie renais­sance. La nonna, of course began it. Any nonna, doesn’t mat­ter, but woe betide you if your melan­zane alla parmi­giana does not share the iden­ti­cal thick­ness of aubergine slice, con­sis­tency of tomato sauce. Quite rightly, we are all in awe of tres­pass­ing on the culi­nary tra­di­tion that rev­o­lu­tionised French cui­sine from the time of Cather­ine de Medici and which still causes eyes to glaze — all over the world — moist with desire, at the drop of the word ‘pizza’.

A feisty cheese mate, to be approached with caution

But there will always be mav­er­icks, fear­less icon­o­clasts who labour in their kitchens — known as lab­o­ra­to­ries — to per­fect new­fan­gled con­cepts such as jewel-bright, intensely-flavoured velvet-textured purees of pear and mus­tard, straw­berry and corian­der, green tomato and vanilla, red onion and bal­samic vine­gar, apri­cot and saf­fron, which act as star­tling and piquant condi­ments for your tra­di­tional mild, deli­cious sheep’s cheese or ricotta fresh from its whey drain­ing bas­ket. Small, pas­sion­ate pro­duc­ers for whose obses­sions we can all be grate­ful. Thanks to Suzie and Antonio’s research and energy, this event pro­vided a lit­tle bou­quet garni of new flavours, ideas and recipes to chew upon.

Francesca shows you

how a real Italian

Suzie’s Ribol­lita

Recipe serves 8

eats spaghetti


250 g split peas soaked in plenty of water overnight

2 onions, finely chopped

1 dried red chilli crushed

1 cel­ery stalk finely chopped

2 car­rots peeled and chopped small

3 small cloves of gar­lic crushed

small bunch of sage

2 pota­toes peeled and chopped in small cubes

sea salt & freshly ground pepper

125 g farro decor­ti­cato (hulled spelt grains) rinsed

1 tblsp tomato puree

350 ml tomato passata

1 bunch cavolo nero (kale), thick stalks removed, finely chopped

a good Tus­can olive oil to serve

Drain the soaked split peas and rinse, cover in ample cold water, bring to the boil and cook for 1½ hours. Drain once cool.

Cover the bot­tom of a thick soup pan with olive oil and over a low heat sweat the chopped onions, chilli and salt, until soft.

Add cel­ery, car­rot, gar­lic and sage (tie 5 stalks together with cot­ton to make removal eas­ier) and cook on a low heat for 20 min­utes to release flavours.  Add potato & farro and a cou­ple of min­utes later the tomato puree, then the pas­sata, turn up the heat.  Cook for 5 min­utes whilst boil­ing some water on the side. Remem­ber to stir to avoid pota­toes sticking.

Add in the drained cooked split peas and cover with ample hot water, enough for a thick veg­etable broth.  Stir in the cavolo nero and reduce the heat.  Sea­son with salt and pep­per. Cover and cook for at least an hour stir­ring every now and then.

Remove from the heat and let cool com­pletely.  Let the soup stand for a cou­ple of hours for flavours to infuse and reheat before serv­ing and driz­zle with a good extra vir­gin olive oil.

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