Tuesday, April 21, 2015

what to do with 'ndjua

'Ndjua from Spilinga at Terra Madre

'Ndjua is an odd thing.  I've spoken to many people who mostly fall into one of two camps: they have either A) never heard of the stuff or B) they are completely infatuated with it.  Is it better to have loved and lost that never to have loved at all?  Regardless of your situation, neither is the ideal because, while the fullness of flavour it imparts to dishes makes it a 'must try' in my opinion, the fact remains that 'ndjua IS notoriously difficult to find.  I've read about it being smuggled in carry on luggage, but I believe, vacuum packed (or in a jar), it's a fine souvenir to bring back to Canada, no worries.
So, say you 'know a guy', have access to 'ndjua (contraband or otherwise) or you are making your own and are wondering what to do with it.  To this end, I had the opportunity to speak to some excellent producers from the undisputed home of 'ndjua, Spilinga in Vibo Valentia, while at Terra Madre.

I was pretty thrilled to get some insider tips on the pork product du jour.  Here are some favourites, courtesy of L'Artigiano della 'ndjua:

Ziti or penne sauteed with melanzane e 'ndjua.
Squid salad with potatoes and 'ndjua
Scrambled eggs with 'ndjua

Recipes to follow.

Monday, April 06, 2015

Per Pasqua - Crostata di fichi

Corsican fig preserves
This fig and walnut jam is a favourite treat that I indulge in once, maybe twice, a year.  When the jam is in stock, I usually pick up a jar or two for the purpose of making crostate. I was inspired by this version, but have to admit to not being able to part with my modest fresh fig harvest to bake them in a crostata and do not have quite enough to make jam.  Maybe if I had the abondance as they do in Corsica (from where this jam is produced) or the abbondanza as in Italy, figs aplenty, I'd indulge more often.   

Once you have your basic (pasta frolla) pastry lined tart tin (the type with the removable edge is my preference) you can dab the bottom with Nutella for a little bit of chocolate throughout or leave it purely jam. And, while our Zia in the Valle d'Aosta mainly bakes and fries her bumper crop of the tart local apple, she also cooks them down to a deep, caramel colour and thick, spreadable consistency.  Then, she cuts some of her fig preserves with that for yet another version of this tart. 

The walnuts in this jam are an added twist, earthy and complementary to the sweet fig. You could even enhance the pastry with some walnuts if you're partial.

Mid morning pick me up.
Use of fig preserves only begins at sweet as they can provide balance to many savoury partners too: a simple accompaniment to a piece of cheese, maybe a fresh to moderately ripened goat or sheep cheese and many styles of blue, gently warmed and mixed with the slightest bit of vinegar and finely minced shallot to be drizzled over salad, or to partner with a cheese and/or onion tart.  And if you're lucky to have fresh, figs partner well with some salty prosciutto and spicy radicchio or arugula. 

This crostata goes very well with an espresso after Easter Sunday mass, is a perfect nibble to have for company and also good as a take along dessert.  With dessert covered, we're off to deliver some sgute to the kids before Sunday lunch at Nonna's house.

Buona Pasqua a tutti!