Sunday, June 12, 2011

Italian Cooking and a Timballo Recipe

I love Italian food; the simplicity, the flavours and the sense of passion and tradition. Italy and its food also happen to be a big part of my heritage which might explain my love of it also. With that in mind my Mum and I escaped to Italy last weekend for 4 days to learn how to cook traditional Tuscan food. We stayed in a lovely hotel in the little town of Figline Valdarno; a wonderfully typical sleepy Italian town with one main square, a train station and not much else. IT did however, have one of the best Gelatorias I've ever been to and I highly reccommend it for one very specific reason; frozen yoghurt. Unfortunately I find myself unable to eat ice-cream anymore so I was a bit worried there would be nothing there for me... Luckily the Italians have taken pity on the likes of us and I found a small selection of frozen yoghurt flavours including Morello Cherry! I've never been happier to be ice-cream intolerant :P The taste and the texture were fantastic; the cherries weren't overly sweet and the yoghurt was perfectly in balance with them; giving a light and refreshing cherry taste. If anyone is planning on taking a trip to the Florence area this wonderful shop is 30 mins on a train to Figline Valdarno and just on the main square :)

Aside from our morning excursions to Florence and Arezzo (2 other wonderful cities I suggest visiting), we spent 2 afternoons in the kitchen with Paola, the mama, and Daniella, the translator. We learned to cook many delicious things including Chicken Ripieno, Cacciatore, Cantuccini, gniocchi and fresh egg pasta and Ragu. We also learned a very traditional Tuscan starter known as Timballo; similar to a fritatta with a creaminess given by the addition of beschamel sauce. This recipe is very Italian in its preparation which means no measurements but I'll do my best to roughly approximate what they should be :P Obviously if you have a tried and tested Beschamel sauce recipe fell free to replace mine with it :)

Makes 1 9" pie
  • 5 medium red onions
  • 4 eggs
  • nutmeg
  • 100 mls of milk + 50mls extra
  • 2 tsp cornflour
  • white wine
  • 1 tsp oregano
  • salt and pepper
  • 1/4 cup of stock (beef, veg or chicken)
  • 1-2 tbsp grated parmesan
Preheat oven to 190 C
Chop onions roughly in to medium pieces
Fry gently in some extra virgin olive oil (you can use other oils if you want, I'm just being traditional)
Add oregano and cook until onions begin to go clear
Add 2 tbsps of stock and a glug of wine (no measurements for that, it's really just to your own liking)
Cook for a further 7 mins, until your beschamel is completely finished, adding more wine and stock if the pan dries out too much
For the beschamel sauce, add the cornflour to the 50mls of milk and mix to remove any lumps
Bring 100mls of milk to a near boil in a pot and add the cornflour mixture
Stir quickly to prevent lumps and season with salt, pepper and nutmeg to taste

Beat your eggs in a medium bowl and add your onions and beschamel and grated parmesan
Mix and turn out into a 9" tin greased or lined with baking paper.
Bake in the oven for 20-30 mins; until golden and quite firm to the touch

You can use many different types of vegetables in this recipe; I'm planning courgettes and grilled peppers next.  Use whatever you fancy and happy Timballo making :D

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