For the past two weeks, I’ve been spending my days in Turin, Italy. Lucky for me, my husband had to travel there for work and instead of staying home alone, I decided to go with him. Who wouldn’t want to sit in a lovely Italian cafe and have a coffee and go shopping for beautiful leather shoes! I had a lovely time to say the least and just couldn’t get enough of the amazing gelato and pizza – my favorite foods!
On the weekend, we decided to get out of the city and drive south to the Piemonte countryside. It’s absolutely beautiful much like Tuscany with old medieval villages scattered across rolling hills of farmland. It was even better that Spring was in full swing and the blossoms were out all over the landscape. This corner of the world still has that untouched feeling that is fading slightly in other parts of Italy. Piemonte is home to the famous truffles of Alba, the famous chocolate of Torino and some of my favorite red wines in the world, Barbereso and Barolo.
I’m always eager to try the local cuisine of the places that we visit. Usually I spend ages finding the perfect places to go and dishes to eat as I’m never satisfied with tourist fare. One of my dreams is to cook in as many countries around the world as I can! Lucky for me, that the lovely Alessandra from Castello di Verduno agreed to spend one day teaching me some traditional Italian dishes from the region in her kitchen. To start the day off, we went shopping for ingredients in Alba. The whole city of Alba is actually filled with market stalls every saturday selling everything from fruits and vegetables to cleaning supplies and clothes. All the people from the surrounding countryside come to do their weekly shop and catch up with friends.
We headed straight for the farmers market which is tucked away in an open air shed across the road from everything else. Here, all the produce comes straight from the farm and is sold usually by the farmers themselves. It was beautiful to see such variety in produce from so many leafy greens to glossy onions. And did you know that during this time of year, most kiwis come from this region of Italy? Apparently even New Zealand has them shipped over since they’re out of season over there.
I just loved seeing the relationship between the customers and the farmers. Everyone searching for the best quality and the farmers eager to provide it. Now if only I could find something similar here in Köln!
After the farmers market, we headed back to Castello di Verduno to start cooking! We found so many seasonal goodies at the market that we had quite a lot of work to do in the kitchen preparing all sorts of different dishes.We spent quite a few hours learning and cooking the many dishes that follow and happily enjoyed it all after with lovely bottle of local wine.
The menu ended up starting with a fresh green salad with greens and radishes from the market accompanied by some fresh flowers that I picked in the garden. We then made Bagna Cauda which is an olive oil, garlic and anchovy sauce local to the area that goes perfectly with cardoon.
We also made a delicious stinging nettle soup with leek and potatoes. In the past, I’ve only had nettles in tea which I have a love hate relationship with. However, it came out the perfect color green and was surprisingly good!
After, we made some vegetarian agnolotti that were filled with cabbage, leek, green onions, and potatoes. These were fun to make and came out beautifully. The vegetarian versions were quite a bit larger than their meat counterparts but were the perfect size for a good bite and a lot of flavor. They tasted delicious with just a simple sage and butter sauce.
We also were able to find some fresh hops at the farmers market which are found only in the spring. These are gorgeous blanched and served with a poached egg yolk and a cheese zabaglione. They have such a unique flavor and texture thats different to everything I’ve tasted before. It’s amazing these hops are used later on in the season for beer!
Next for mains, we had some pan fried quail with sautéed artichokes and potatoes. With the little room we had left in our stomachs at this point, we finished it all off with the traditional Bunet – a Piedmontese steamed chocolate and amaretti cake.
Cooking in someone else’s kitchen is a treat for me. I’m always so excited to get out of my own and learn different cuisines and techniques. It’s amazing how similar ingredients can be used in so many different ways around the world. After a full day in the kitchen and overly satisfied stomachs we thanked our hosts and finally made our way back to our hotel. If you’re in the area definitely stop in to eat at this great place or if you’re feeling adventurous, try cooking your food too!
Where we cooked:
Castello di Verduno
Via Umberto I, 9, 12060 Verduno, Italia
Tel. +39 0172 470 125
Where we stayed:
The lovely Palazzo Righini is a luxuriously restored an old convent in the town of Fossano. The service is impeccable and the rooms and grounds are just beautiful. Definitely a perfect place to stay if you are in this area of Italy.
Via Giovanni Negri, 20, 12045 Fossano Cuneo, Italy
+39 0172 666666