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We were very lucky to be able to go back to the restaurant La Scottiglia in Pescina near Seggiano in Tuscany. Last year, 2018, we wrote about the wonderful dish La Scottiglia that the restaurant has been named after since 1972. This year we arrived early for a Saturday lunch and were welcomed like long lost friends by the owner. He immediately started to talk about the recipe and blog we had written last year when we had tried to recreate La Scottiglia (see here). He offered his congratulations for our efforts and his apologies for not writing something on the website as it would have been difficult to do so in English!
We were shown down to the terrace so we could eat outside in the dappled early autumn sunshine and were immediately met with a Prosecco aperitif, clearly we were going to have a good lunch!
The menus were newly printed and now carried English translations which was nice. More staggering was that on the back page was a new description of the history of the restaurant. We were pleased that the information that we had managed to piece together from the internet seemed to be largely correct – if only it has been present before it would have saved us hours of searching (but then, where is the fun in that!!).
Jackie ordered a Tuscan Pâté, and then ricotta filled Tortellini with truffles. For a main course I had the wild boar – but for my starter there could only be one choice – La Scottiglia. It was with a degree of ‘bated breath’ I tried it – had we got close with our recipe or had I deluded myself? I needn’t have worried (too much)!! Our interpretation was close, though not identical! This was ‘softer’ with a little more liquid. I think there was just a slight hint of chilli which ours did not have and probably a little less tomato. Also the bread at the bottom of the dish was thinner – and had soaked up less of the glorious juices. So overall a slightly more ‘gentle’ taste than ours – but I think we can be pleased as we have only been making it for a year rather than for more than a century! I think we can be reasonably comfortable that ours was a suitable ‘homage’ to this most regional of dishes!
And our plans for this autumn ……………….. to get closer still!!
Focaccia is a great bread to make on the EGG and works really well on the large BGE. We have also made it on our Mini BGE when travelling, but that is more an act of bravado than practicality because of the size of the loaf you can make!! The real advantage when cooking bread on the large (more…)
In the summer of 2018 we were in Italy with the Big Green Egg and thoughts again came to bread making. We love Italian food but bread making does not seem to be their greatest triumph!. We have to be straight before we start – the Mini Big Green Egg is not designed for bread making – it is really too small! The fire ends up too close to the cooking vessel and there is not enough space in the dome to cook a decent size loaf. So that should be the end of it – but of course it wasn’t! (more…)
Whilst visiting the local supermarket in Tuscany we spied a box of plumb tomatoes ostensibly for preserving. They looked lovely, and at €3.80 for 8Kg clearly too good to resist. Inevitably, therefore, we are eating a lot of tomato based meals – and what easier or more appealing than Bruschetta al pomodoro!!
This was very quickly cooked on the BGE – we were going to cook a small joint for our meal in the evening and so the EGG was already warming. Four pieces of slightly stale bread (better if stale) were toasted on one side on the EGG whilst the tomatoes were chopped and piled on a pad of kitchen paper to soak up any excess liquid. The toasted side was gently rubbed with a clove of garlic which was quickly abraded by the rough toast surface – no need to peel it.
The chopped tomatoes were then piled on the toasted side and the Bruschetta placed back on the BGE to both toast the other side of the bread and warm the tomatoes slightly. Salted and peppered, all that was left to add was a few torn basal leaved and some good olive oil.
Recipe and further details can be found here!
Porcini are really fabulous and I still find it very exciting to walk into a little shop here in Tuscany and see a basket of newly picked Porcini. This is something I am yet to see in the UK – but although (more…)
Although I don’t do a great deal, I do like bread cooked in the Big Green Egg – and bread cooking in the Large BGE is a real pleasure (more of that in future posts). I had always been told that bread cooking in the MiniMax was something of a compromise – though I know Adam from The Cook’s Digest has had some really great results with the MiniMax. Nevertheless, I have not heard of anyone cooking bread in the Mini BGE and I am sure for good reason!! However, we were away on holiday, we only had the Mini BGE with us and so there was the challenge!!
The real problem with bread cooking in the Mini and MiniMax BGE is getting the bread as far away from the charcoal heat source and into the “dome” so that the heat differential between the bottom and top of the bread is minimised. Otherwise, it is burnt bottoms and undercooked tops! Making it worse we only had the platesetter with us and no sort of pizza stone to further separate the bread from the direct heat!! Our plan therefore was to use the platesetter in the feet up position with the cast iron grill in place. On top of this we put a couple of 3 inch cast iron frying pans that we just happened to have with us in place of the pizza stone. This lifted the bread a little further from the heat source and a little further into the dome. The bread would be initially cooked in a heavy round 7 inch pan and once “firm enough” flipped over – to cook the top a little more and the base a little less!!
Focaccia is probably one of the easiest of all breads to make and cook and as we were in Italy and had enough challenges with the BGE set-up, that was where we were going to start! Getting the flour was easy enough, but hunt the local supermarket as much as I could, I couldn’t find any yeast – but then I was looking for dried yeast as I use at home. This is Italy, and so every supermarket – no matter how small clearly sells fresh yeast – you just need to know where to look or how to ask!
The Recipe was a simple one which is shown below and has very few ingredients. Focaccia flour (also suitable for pizza bases), fresh yeast, olive oil, water, sugar or honey, salt and rosemary. The basic ingredients were mixed by hand in a bowl and kneaded for 5 mins. As the BGE is small – the quantities were kept small so around 250gm of flour, to 150 ml of warm water and about 7gm of fresh yeast (these were all guessed as we had no scales or measures to hand). This was then left to rise in a bowl covered with oiled clingfilm for around an hour and then knocked back. Taking less than half the bread dough, this was flattened into the base of the 7 inch pan. Olive oil was poured liberally over the dough and then it was “prodded all over with fingers” to flatten further and introduce the oil into the dough. Finally the top was salted with large grains of sea salt and sprinkled with fresh rosemary from the garden. The dough was left to rise again for about 20 mins.
Meanwhile the BGE was set up and a little home cured pork was fried off in a small pan on the Egg, to which was added some finely chopped onion and some garlic – for use later.
The BGE was then set as described above and when the temperature reached 180C the 7 inch pan, with the focaccia, was put in the Egg and left for around 20 mins to bake.
Once the base was clearly browning the focaccia was flipped out and put back in upside down and cooked for a further 4-5 mins to brown off the top. All that was left was to remove it, allow to cool a little and sprinkle with some more oil and serve
– fresh bread cooked in the Mini BGE!!
But why the frying pan and the onions and garlic? – well Focaccia’s close cousin is the French “Fougasse” the same dough as Focaccia but often made into a leaf shape with slashes in the leaf like those falling off the trees in autumn.
Sometimes their shapes are a lot more “rustic” and often they have meat, onions, cheese ….. running through them. So that was our plan. Cook off a little cured pork with some onion and garlic, flatten out the dough and add the fried mixture and some crumbled cheese – roll the whole thing up into a ball and pop it in the 7inch pan dish to rise a little.
Then into the Egg to cook and when firm enough, flip out of the dish and cook ‘free standing”, flipping it over so the base didn’t cook too much. Then it was taken out of the Egg and allowed to cool a little, ideally on a wire rack or something similar.
……………served with a ‘bold red wine’ – beautifully simple!
Simple focaccia recipe used for focaccia and fougasse
The bread we have found in Italy certainly goes hard quickly! Partly the weather and partially the absence of additives in the bread. You quickly realise why there are so many Italian recipes that include the use of “stale bread”!!
Well here is ours ……….
Focaccia rinascere (Focaccia Reborn!!).
Toasted focaccia with olive oil By: Mark
Toasted focaccia with olive oil
These were simply prepared as the Egg was heating up to grill a main course. The bread was sliced 1cm thick and toasted on the cast iron grill – but it would have worked just as well with the stainless steel grill (it actually works best of all with slightly stale bread too so perfect for those moments when you’re trying to use up the loaf!).
Whilst the toast was cooking it was time to chop up a couple of ripe tomatoes – if they have lots of seeds squeeze some of them out and discard and chop the tomato flesh into chunky pieces. Take the toast off the grill and rub the “most toasted side with a clove of garlic – don’t peel it first simply cut off the base and use the toast to act like sandpaper and wear away the garlic (this is why slightly stale bread works best!)
Add the chopped tomatoes to the toast, glug a little olive oil on the top and pop back on the BGE around the edge (now with the least toasted side facing the flame) this will help to warm the tomatoes a little – this is more important doing this in the UK than in the warmth of Italy!
After two minutes remove from the Big Green Egg and add some torn basil leaves and some fresh salt and pepper. If you are feeling very Mediterranean then add a little more oil and a touch of vinegar.
Fresh tomatoes on garlic infused toasted bread with olive oil
My name is Mark and these pages reflect some of the enjoyment my wife Jackie and I have with our outdoor cooking. The idea of cooking over wood, or charcoal has a certain primeval appeal and we have been through a whole series of outdoor cooking devices and different BBQs over the years to get to where we are now!
That change to “where we are now” came with discovery of the ‘Big Green Egg®” inspired by clay cooking vessel developed around 3000 years ago in China, it now embraces the Japanese name “Kamado” actually meaning oven or fireplace.
The Big Green Egg really transformed our outdoor cooking and indeed led us to move a lot of our “indoor cooking” to our “outside oven”. So when warm enough in the UK we cook and eat outside – when cooler – we often cook outside and eat-in!
The versitility of the Big Green Egg will hopefully become apparent as you “flick though these pages”. This blog started as a simple repository for ideas and to record our cooking “experiments” but is beginning to expand to include some “tried and tested” recipes as well as those used in the cooking experiments which are included in the Blog pages!
As well as being versatile the Big Green Egg is a very “forgiving” cooking device but one which also encourages surprising consistency and opportunities for experiment.
We do hope you enjoy the site and enjoy experimenting with some of the recipes!