Saturday, 23 July 2011

Vincisgrassi vs lasagne al forno and chef Antonio Nebbia

Lasagne al forno are an Italian dish made of layers of egg pasta, tomato sauce with beef meat and besciamella sauce. Historians suggest that its origin dates back to the Roman Empire, and Cicero was very fond of it.

Vincisgrassi are a younger variant of lasagne that sprang out of poverty and ingenium in the region Le Marche, Central Italy. The main difference with respect to lasagne is the use of poultry meat, including offals, rather than beef, and the addition of Marsala wine or vino cotto to the pasta dough.

The chef Antonio Nebbia from Macerata offers to future generations a unique recipe of the dish in his recipe book "Il Cuoco maceratese". This is a milestone of Italian, and more broadly Mediterranean cuisine, as well as of food habits in the 19th century.

Why were vincisgrassi not simply called pasta al forno alla Marchigiana? They owe their name to Joseph-Niklas von Windisch-Graetz . He was a general in the Austrian Army who freed Ancona from the siege by the French Army in 1799 ca, although for a very short period of time before the French Army took the city back.

Wine tip: Rosso Conero and Lacrima di Morro d'Alba ;
Dessert tip: Cicerchiata .

Thursday, 21 July 2011

A welcoming courtyard in Pinerolo along stage 17 in the Tour de France

Stage 17 in the Tour de France has been a very intense one, with riders crossing the Alps from France to Italy and reaching a summit at 2000m (picture on the left).

After three hard climbs uphill, the final sprint was downhill to eventually reach the end of the stage in Pinerolo (photo below).

Curiously, two riders: Jonathan Hivert and the holder of the maillot jaune Thomas Voeckler stepped out of the road on a difficult curve and entered the couryard of a house by the side of the road: perhaps to say hi to a relative or accepting the very welcoming hospitality by locals!?

An amateurial video seems to suggest that the owner of the house felt glad not to have parked the car in the courtyard that day!

Movie tip (from Check out a famous Italian b-series movie in which the main character and his colleagues engage in a clumsily ironic bike race in Pinerolo!

Wednesday, 6 July 2011

A walk from from Vetta d'Italia to Finis Terrae and beyond

1600km from perennial snow on the Austrian border to Mediterranean sea life in Southern Sicily is how far Italy stretches North to South. A similarly stark change in landscape is what you get if you travel from the North Western border, looking onto France, to South Eastern one, looking onto Albania and Greece.

The geographical differences, and some of the socio-economic ones that spillover fro such different lands have been nicely collated in a photo album by Nat Geo

Headphone tips to complement the landscapes: Lou Dalfin , Agricantus , Abies Alba and Taranta Power

Friday, 1 July 2011

New Labour leader or CD album!?

Ed Milliband the Labour party leader in the UK has recently been interviewed about the strikes by public sector employees. In his attempt to revive the little harsh opposition by the Labour party lately and prepare it for the next elections in 2014, or earlier, he discussed in the interview a broad number of issues, ranging from economics to party politics and social challenges for the country.

Thanks to the editing of the interview, what may have gone unnoticed in his preparation for the interview is the low level of details that Ed was prepared to give on a number of issues, which a disappointed interviewer could not help disclosing.

This may suggest how hard it is for a politician to competently span in no time across Philosophy, Politics and Economics (not by chance a popular degree in Social Science in the UK), and the harder the younger and less experienced the politician is. On the other hand, not all interviews by a journalist, who may repeatedly interview a person over time, can be as abrasive as sandpaper!

Hat tip for both Ed and the disappointed journalist for future interviews: The Best of Jeremy Paxman !