The Bounty of Umbria
We are spoiled here in Umbria because every season brings such abundance of wild food. In autumn you are truly overwhelmed with the free food on offer. You don’t have to stroll far into the woods to find chestnuts, rose hips, sloes, wild grapes and the crowning glory, the mushroom.
Here in the kitchen at Il Borgo di Olive we are so lucky to be able to celebrate the bounty of the season and on tonight’s menu we are celebrating the porcini mushroom. These nutty-flavored mushrooms have brown caps and a thick white stalk. They can be huge, and some of these delicious specimens have caps reaching almost 6 inches (15 cm) – they are almost too pretty to cut into.
Chef Alessandro is treating our diners to chanterelle and pioppini mushrooms as well. The little pioppini with their dark brown caps and long white stems will feature in each course thanks to the depth of flavor offered by these mushrooms.
We start this feast with a little ball of deliciousness – a stuffed olive rolled in a truffle crumb on a bed of pureed ceci (chickpeas). This is followed by carpaccio of beef served with a delicious assortment of the mushrooms which have been marinated in lemon finally topped off with generous shavings of pecorino cheese.
For me the highlight of the dinner (ok, the savory part of the dinner) was the silky pasta made of buckwheat. In Umbria we are spoiled with amazing pasta made from many different grains. Prior to tasting this pasta my favorite pasta was made from farro. Watching Chef Alessandro effortlessly twirl the pasta using tongs was a treat, I shall only ever serve pasta this way! The luscious porcini, tomato and thyme sauce clung to each piece of pasta making each bite a real treat.
In our part of Umbria we are lucky to have some fabulous butchers and tonight our fillet of pork came from Sandro Tamburini in the neighboring town of Montecastrilli. This time we get a porcini sauce packed with flavor served on a potato rosti and a succulent confit tomato.
To me, the best dessert of autumn is a poached pear and when I walked into the kitchen to a tray of the most beautiful pears which had been poached in Rosso di Montefalco wine topped with a dusting of icing sugar (powdered sugar) I was over the moon. Rosso di Montefalco is a delicious red wine which is comprised of 60-70% Sangiovese, 10-15% Sagrantino, and the remainder from other red grapes which, in my experience, is often Merlot.
These delicate pears were served on a bed of chantilly cream with a crumble of tozzetti biscuits – these resemble what we know as biscotti in the UK and America. In truth, this was for me the highlight of the meal and a wonderful reminder of the autumn season now upon us.
What a lovely meal celebrating our autumn delights here in Umbria. I hear Chef Alessandro is planning a new menu so stay tuned as I will be sharing this in the coming weeks.
A presto, Marisa