Your questions, Stefano Manfredi’s answers

Your questions, Stefano Manfredi’s answers

by Espresso Di Manfredi

Espresso di Manfredi recently asked you to join Stefano Manfredi in a live Q&A via the Espresso di Manfredi Facebook page. Below is a summary of your questions and some very honest answers from the taste master behind Espresso di Manfredi.

  • How do you make your cecina so crisp?

The recipe for necci (chickpea flour tart) is in my new book Stefano Manfredi’s Italian Food, in the Tuscan section. Best to have a really hot, non-stick pan. When the olive oil begins to smoke, then ladle some of the batter in to coat the bottom of the pan. It should be around 5mm.

  • I’m really looking to experiment with truffles this season. Do you have any tips or tricks when cooking with truffles?

Truffle flavour is very illusive. If you subject truffle to too much heat the flavour goes up in smoke. That’s why they’re usually shaved on top of hot things. That way the flavour is released slowly. Try grating a little truffle into your beaten eggs before scrambling or whisking into mashed potatoes after you’ve beaten in butter or shaved on a risotto before taking to the table. Make truffle butter by whisking into cold butter, place in fridge rolled in cling film and then used whenever you want as an addition to things like pumpkin soup.

  • What is your favourite dish to cook for your loved ones?

I seem to be doing requests these days. My daughter’s been away overseas on tour and gets back soon. She’s put in a request for saffron risotto. She’s always loved risotto and I’ve always loved making it for her. I guess that’s the great thing about cooking, making people happy.

  • What is the secret to the perfect meatball?

The secret to the perfect meatball is FAT. I use pork shoulder, pork belly and mortadella in mine. Great recipe in my Italian Food book.

  • I love to experiment with new ingredients when making bolognaise. Do you have any secret ingredients you add to yours to give it an extra flavour kick?

A good ragu is long and slow. I like to use duck meat or rabbit meat as well to give it lots of flavour.

  • What’s your favourite cuisine other than Italian?

There’s really only two types of food – good and bad. I like all good food.

  • Is there an Italian equivalent to the Pavlova, and if not, would you consider creating this hybrid? 

No Pavlova. It’s perfect as it is!

  • Do you often cook with Blood Oranges? I’m looking to incorporate them in a dessert this weekend – any recipe suggestions?

I love them cut into segments and any leftover juice squeezed out and used to make a dressing with EVO and a little wine vinegar. Toss the segments in a bowl with sliced fennel and chopped radicchio and dress.

Once made, granita keeps in the freezer for a maximum of 2-3 days. After that, the citrus will oxidise, develop bitter flavours and taste dull.
1.25 litres filtered or still mineral water
2 cups mint leaves
190g caster sugar
250 ml blood orange juice, freshly squeezed

Wash mint leaves thoroughly and dry well. Place them in an airtight container with a litre of filtered water and keep refrigerated for 24 hours. Cold infusion, to my mind, works better than heat with mint. It imparts the fresh flavour without the “stemmy” bitterness and doesn’t leech the green from the leaves, keeping the granita sweet.

Bring remaining 250ml water and sugar to the boil. Remove as soon as it’s boiling and let cool. Sieve mint infusion through muslin to remove any fine particles and stir into cooled sugar syrup, along with juice. Place in a clean, shallow, plastic container, with a lid, and put into the freezer. After an hour, it should begin to freeze. Remove and give mixture a quick whisk so it forms small crystals rather than setting hard. Repeat every 15 minutes until it has set. Serves 8-10.

  • What is your favourite dish from childhood?

It would have to be my mother’s tortelli di zucca. Pumpkin tortelli!!

  • What is your favourite dish and what inspires it?

Probably dishes from my childhood like risotto with porcini mushrooms or duck salmì with polenta.

  • What cooking method do you suggest is best for achieving a crispy barramundi fillet skin? I have tried a few methods but keep failing!

Let the barra come to room temp for a few minutes. Salt the skin well and place in a hot pan with hot olive oil. Leave skin side down and finish a few minutes in a hot, preheated oven.