Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Christmas in Lucca

So it’s time I posted something of interest, Christmas lunch!

My sister Amanda arrived from Melbourne mid December to spend the Christmas and New Year period with us which was great, we also had our good friend Helen Booth join us from London – so we were 4. The menu had been discussed and approved by the Christmas committee back in November when I promptly made 2 Christmas puddings and 8 tiny Christmas cakes (or torta di Natale as I’ve been calling them). There was great interest from my Italian class mates when I’d told them (or tried to tell them in Italian) that the puddings were steamed first for 3 hours, and then another 2 on the day of eating – they’d never before heard of anything requiring so much cooking. For my last language class I took 2 of my tiny Christmas cakes to class for the insegnante (teachers) and a huge batch of my Cantuccini di Natale for the class to share, other students brought traditional foods from their countries and we had a grand festa!

Lucca during the Christmas period was very pretty. The narrow cobblestoned streets were hung with festive lights, the shops were beautifully decorated and there was an ice skating rink set up in the main piazza. A perfect Italian winter wonderland. Another Italian tradition is the ‘presepe’ a religious nativity scene set up in many churches and piazzas. Some have been amazing, others not quite worth the waste of straw, but we’ve had a lot of fun seeking them out. Amanda and I have even discussed bringing the tradition to Melbourne – stay tuned!

OK, back to our Xmas feast. We had decided to do a combined Australian/Italian style meal as there were things we couldn’t live without (ie. the pudding) and of course yummy local dishes we wanted to include - this is where we ended up:

The gorgeous table – courtesy of Amanda



We had these while we opened our pressies with a glass or two of prosecco. I’d made chicken liver pate which is a Lucchese specialty and quite different to what we eat in Melbourne. This one has heaps of capers in it and is deliiiicious! I then made some baccala which we’d been enjoying in Venice; it’s kind of a pate/dip made with the really hard dried stockfish that you soak for days and stinks the house out! Again served on warmed toast it was deliiiicious! The last addition to the plate was a potato and leek frittata (or torta) which I added a red pepper relish to. 

Thank goodness for the red pepper relish as Marino has just reminded me "that without it, it would have been an abject failure". Such kind words from my loving husband!

Mary Christmas at work ...

Something for you …..



and something for you!



Primo Piatto

Home made spinach and ricotta ravioli with a simple cherry tomato salsa – one of our favourites and always yummy!!

Next course please!



Melanie butchers the meat (literally)
I had intended to do a loin of pork and wrap it in pancetta, a dish I’d made when I attended the cooking class earlier this year and similar to Porchetta which we’d made previously, but Marino struggled at the butchers to ask for the right cut of meat and somehow we ended up with half a pig (skin and all). I then had to remove the skin and copious amounts of pig fat, filled it with heaps of fresh herbs, rolled it and tied it back up in the pig skin to roast – not really sure what I’d call it.

It was yummy, but not what I intended.





Wasn’t that bad!
Steamed potatoes with butter and parsley (no room for anything else in the oven with half a pig in there), and of course, my favourite, some steamed broccoli.





Chocolate Xmas Pudding with chocolate sauce and gelato. Had to add the chocolate because Helen our other guest had told me that the only good pudding was a chocolate pudding.  Of course I forgot she hates figs and loaded the pudding with them – she ate it nonetheless!

Mmm …Xmas Pud!

Looking back I can’t tell you what was so Australian in all that other than the pudding (Italians don’t do Xmas pudding...).  Anyway it was all wolfed down with copious amounts of carefully selected Italian wines courtesy of our local sommelier – Marino.

A wonderful day was had by all!

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