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Chocolate brownie with chili olive oil

Here are some brownies with a kick. You can make them with the ingredients of our special Father’s Day ‘Babbo’ gift box. Or just make them for your Babbo.

Ingredients

Plain extra virgin olive oil – drizzle

Eggs –  3 large

Sugar – 1½ cups/340g

Extra virgin olive oil with Sicilian chillies – half a cup/120ml

Vanilla extract – 2tsp

Flour – 1½  cups/225g

Cocoa powder – ½ cup

Salt – 1tsp

Chocolate fondente with chillies

Dried chillies

Chocolate brownie with chili olive oil ingredients

Preheat oven to 350oF/180oC. Cut a piece of parchment to fit the bottom of your tray, and grease that and the tray with a drizzle of olive oil.

Crack your eggs in a bowl and beat them on low for a minute. Increase the speed to medium and add the sugar ½  a cup at a time. Stop once the eggs are pale, thick and creamy. Decrease the mixer speed to low again and slowly add the oil in a thin stream, like if you were making mayonnaise. Also add in the vanilla extract.

In another bowl sift together the flour, cocoa powder and salt. Stir into the egg mixture until just incorporated. Transfer the mix into your baking dish and bake for 25 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center of the brownies emerges with some moist crumbs.

Turn onto a rack to cool, and once cooled cut up into serving sized pieces. Spread a dollop of fondente on top and top off with a chilli (for decorative purposes only unless you’re very macho).

Tiziano Aleandri in the Nudo Adopt an olive tree Aleandri grove

It is pruning time and here in rural Italy, pulses quicken at the thought of the annual Campionato Nazionale di Potatura dell’Olivo. The prize? The famous “forbici d’oro” – the golden secateurs. The final kicks off just after dawn in an olive grove on the north west coast of Sardinia. Regional champions from all over Italy come primed to prune 3 trees in 30 minutes, which are then judged on a series of arcane measures: the equilibration of the primary branches, the number and deposition of the secondary branches and the balance between vegetative growth and production.

Participants in the Italian national pruning competition

This year saw some particularly tough competition but we are very proud to report that this year’s Prince of Pruners was our very own Tiziano Aleandri of the Aleandri grove. Adoptive parents and Aleandri olive trees: hold your perfectly coiffed heads high – the judges have decreed yours the best hairdos in Italy (and that’s saying something).

Tiziano busy pruning trees in the competition

We’re reaching the end of the pruning season, with just 214 trees left to do in our Rosalio grove. Have a look at the animation below to see how Antonio prunes our trees; the key is to maximise the light getting to all the vegetative branches and lose any excess wood – which wastes the tree’s energy. But it’s not as easy as it sounds.

The Nudo Italia guide: How to prune an olive tree

Mamma knows best

Gianluca's Mamma cooking her famous pasta.

Do you know what a scarf is?’ my friend Gianluca asked me. I gave him a quizzical look. ‘…A scarf is something I have to wear when my mother gets cold’ he joked. Gianluca is 37.

As we all know, the Italian mamma is queen of the cotton wool, mistress of the mollycoddle – and her kids reaching adulthood is no deterrent. On May 12th we get the chance to say thanks to our mothers (in North America) for all that effort – and how better to say it than with a Nudo gift box?

Mamma knows best - find her a special gift at Nudo-Italia.com

Pouring olive oil in little tasting cups

Tasting oil is really very subjective. The most important thing is whether it gives you a warm glow inside, but of course there’s much more to find if you care to search it out. It’s a bit like going to an art gallery – by just looking, you know which paintings touch you or leave you cold, then you listen to the audio guide and get a whole different perspective. Well if you want to delve the oily depths, follow our suggestions below…

How to taste in five easy steps:

1.  Find a small cup, about the size of an espresso glass. The best thing is actually a disposable plastic espresso cup.

2.  Cup it in your hand, put your other hand over the top and swirl the oil around. You’re warming the oil to release the flavour. The volatile aromatic compounds will evaporate out of the liquid state.

3.  Stick your nose into the cup and inhale deeply, like someone about to make a great speech. What do you smell? Your nose can detect maybe 10,000 different smells, whilst the rather pathetic tongue can only taste 5 things so this stage should give forth some riches.

4.  Now slurp the oil – sip a bit of oil and a bit of air to help spread the taste. What’s there? Grass, artichoke, almond, tomato leaf, hay, straw, spice and melon are all terms officially recognised by the International Olive Oil Council.

5.  Swallow the oil and wait for the tingle – a gentle stinging in your throat; this is a sign of freshness and is caused by the antioxidants/polyphenols which make olive oil so healthy.

You’ll see that on the back of each of your tins, there are tasting notes from the olive farmer who made your oil. Do you agree with them? Or do you taste lemon when they taste almonds?

Olive oil tasting expert Barbara Alfei smelling some Marchigiani olive oil

What to do next?

Now you know the basics, why not invite some friends round for a tasting of your oil? Suggest it really casually, as if everyone has their own olive estate. Do a bling tasting, and compare your oil to a supermarket oil and maybe another good extra virgin olive oil. Observe the colour, the nose and taste the night away. And do let us know what you – and your friends – think.

Olives, still green, in Nudo Adopt an olive tree's Rosalio grove

A few important things to remember:

• Olive oil never improves with age. It’s not like wine.

• The Italians say you should have your ‘wine old and your olive oil young’.

• Colour has no bearing on taste or quality.

• The bitterness at the back is from the antioxidants and a good sign.

• Olives all start green and then turn to black or purple or dark brown.

 

Nudo chili olive oil in Vegetarian Times magazine

Pizza night? Remember to add a good drizzle of Sicilian chili olive oil to give your pie a bit more bite.

We are honoured to have been featured recently in Vegetarian Times magazine’s gorgeous ‘pizza night’ shoot, complete with handy hints on the best tools to get the job done.  We’re definitely getting out our red olivey tin tonight – get yours from the Nudo Italia shop.

A traditinal beef and lamb Marchigiani lasagne.

I admire Corrado, our olive press maestro, in many ways but just for starters let me tell you about his admirable attitude to lunch. Even when he and his team are at their busiest and working late into the evening,  a decent lunch break is not compromised. Work stops at 1pm and won’t restart until 3:30. That’s time, sacrosanct time, for everyone to go home and have a proper home cooked meal. Civilised. One of Corrado’s favourites is a generously-layered, succulent lasagne which takes a good few hours to make but is worth every minute.

Ingredients for one large lasagne

Extra virgin olive oil – 100ml

Onion – 1 (130g/4.5oz)

Carrots – 2 (130g4.5oz)

Celery – 2 sticks (130g/4.5oz)

Rosemary – 2 sprigs

Bay leaf – 1

Minced beef – 400g/14oz

Minced lamb – 400g/14oz

Red wine – 1 cup

Tinned chopped tomatoes – 400g/14oz

Sun dried tomatoes in olive oil – 50g/1.8oz

Milk – 1 litre

Onion – 1

Bay leaf – 1

Nutmeg – 1 pinch

Butter – 100g/3.5oz

Plain flour – 70g/2.5oz

Fresh pasta sheets – 500g/18oz or about 25 sheets.

Parmesan cheese – 40g/1.4oz grated.

Salt and pepper to taste

Heat the olive oil in a frying pan. Finely chop the vegetables and put them in the hot oil as they are chopped – start with the onions, then the carrots and celery. Add the chopped rosemary, season with salt and pepper and leave gently frying for 20 minutes.

Add the minced meat and fry for another 10 minutes, stirring often. Next add the wine and the tin of tomatoes – rinse out the tin with a bit of water and add that. Finally throw in the chopped up sundried tomatoes and simmer this all for a good hour and a half.

Now make your béchamel – pour the milk into a saucepan, and add the onion chopped into half, a bay leaf, the nutmeg and salt and pepper. Bring to a gentle boil. Meanwhile make the roux by melting the butter in a separate saucepan, add the flour and cook for a 2 minutes. Take the pan off the flame and add in the sieved milk. Use a whisk to make a smooth sauce and season with salt and pepper.

Preheat the oven to 180oC/350oC/GM4. Find a lasagne dish about 20cm/8inch by 30cm/12inch and spread a layer of béchamel on the bottom. Lay some sheets of lasagne on top, with minimal overlapping. Spread these again with béchamel, and then a layer of meat sauce. From here on it goes lasagne, béchamel, ragu. You want about 7 layers of pasta so don’t add too much sauce on any one layer. Top it off with béchamel and the grated cheese. Now cook it in the oven for 30 minutes or until it’s golden brown on top.

Corrado Corradini in the oleificio in Macina, Italy.

It’s a time of great excitement here at Nudo. We’ve been going around all the Nudo groves, collecting this year’s harvest of delicious extra virgin olive oil . Some of the farmers find it quite a wrench to wave goodbye to their oil, but are cheer up by the knowledge that it is going to loving homes. Now it’s over to our bottling team. So now may we, just like in the break-it-down interlude to namecheck the players in the jazz band, introduce you to our team and who is up to what.

Olives are pressed in groups, and each batch is clearly marked so that the right Adoptive parents get their own tree's olive oil.

Corrado – il capo. At this time of year, having finished cleaning the olive press, which will now remain closed until October, Corrado and his team of two can concentrate on bottling and packing. All the available floor space is taken up by the ordered chaos of boxes, tins and labels. Corrado is the hands-on ringmaster (photo above).

Tirenzio makes sure the olive oil pressing process runs smoothly and that all olive oil gets to the right Adoptive parents.

Terenzio – master bottler. It is Terenzio’s job to carefully sort the oil, to make sure the right person gets the right oil, filter it and then fill each tin by hand, one at a time.

Sabrina the packing meistra.

Sabrina – the packing maestra. Once the oil is bottled it’s Sabrina’s job to make sure it goes in the correct box, with the correct address. Once all the boxes are packed they go on a pallet to the UK or on a long boat journey to the east coast of America.

Spring delivery packages packed to the ceiling.

If all goes according to plan, you should start receiving your Spring delivery at the beginning of April. Dodgy weather and over-keen custom officials have delayed our shipments in the past, but we have a good feeling about this one.

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