Friday, 16 February 2018

How to cure olives, the Italian way

I've just finished the process of curing our own olives using the simplest local recipe from the Sabine Hills. It is so easy, that I wanted to share the local secrets on how to cure olives.


The olives (a 'carboncella' native Italian variety) collected from one of our trees back in December, were put inside a bowl, under layers of sea salt for 60 days.

Covered with large sea salt for 60 days

After rinsing off all the sea salt I left the olives to dry for 2 days on a cotton towel 

Then, I simply rinsed the olives and left them to dry on several cotton towels. I turned them every now and then to ensure they dried well.


I then chopped some orange peel and some garlic until I had a small handful of this mixture.


Finally, I put the cured olives in jars, mixing them with the orange peel and garlic and  finally covered them with our own olive oil. Fatto (done)!
Making sure all the olives are covered with extra virgin olive oil

PS: Nothing is ever wasted: for once all the olives are eaten, the olive oil from the jars can be re-used for dressing or cooking, with its wonderful flavour of orange and garlic.

Every Italian region have their own local recipes and methods on how to cure olives.

Let me know what way you cure olives as I would love to hear from you.

Convivio Rome conducts Rome Olive Tours, Italian Cooking Classes, 3 and 5 night Italian Culinary Vacations and Wine tours, all in the Sabine Hills, just north of Rome in Italy.



Friday, 9 February 2018

Amatriciana - Chef Guido's simple Roman Pasta Sauce



Amariciana, is named after Amatrice, a town that lies in the mountains of northern Lazio, famous for producing the finest guanciale (cured pork cheek). Amariciana is another one of my 'go to' Roman pasta sauce recipes, because it is simple, quick and full of flavour.

Amatriciana
Ingredients (serves 6): 50g of guanciale (cured pork cheek), 50 g of pecorino romano, 1 can of peeled S.Marzano tomatoes (no added sugar), salt, black pepper, extra virgin olive oil.

Method: Cut the guanciale into short sticks. Put a little olive oil in a pan and fry guanciale until crispy. Put guanciale aside and cook tomatoes with a pinch of salt in the juice that’s left in the pan for 10 minutes. Add crispy guanciale at the end. Mix this sauce with cooked ‘aldente’ pasta and grated pecorino cheese. Serve with extra pecorino and plenty of black pepper.

(Pasta shapes traditionally used: bucatini, rigatoni, mezze maniche)
Dried Pasta: 80-100g per serving

Chef Guido is an eighth generation Roman, who runs Italian cooking classes  and Convivio Rome, with Sally, his Australian wife, in the beautiful Sabine Hills, just north of Rome. Italian Cooking Classes, Culinary Holidays and Olive Tours, plus Wine Tours.

Cooking Holidays and Day Tours  with Convivio Rome, are available all year round
For further information
www.conviviorome.com (cooking holidays, cooking classes and olive tours)
www.winetoursrome.com (wine tours)

Friday, 2 February 2018

Cacio e Pepe


A true Roman cuisine classic, the Cacio e Pepe sauce recipe has been my family's favourite for generations.  During our Italian cooking classes, many of our cooking guests request for this additional easy-to-make recipe. It is very quick to prepare and uses pecorino romano cheese as a base. This cheese immediately acquires a creamy consistency as soon it's mixed with a little boiling water from the pasta pot.

Chef Guido's Tip:
A popular finishing touch is a little lemon zest on each plate, to lighten the flavour.

Cacio e pepe sauce
Ingredients: 50 g of grated pecorino romano, black pepper, extra virgin olive oil, lemon zest.

In a bowl: make a sauce by mixing a little water from the boiling pasta with pecorino and black pepper, quickly stirring for a few seconds. Mix in sauce with cooked ‘aldente’ pasta. Serve with a little lemon zest on top.
(Pasta shapes traditionally used: spaghetti, rigatoni, mezze maniche)



Culinary Vacations and Day Italian Cooking Classes, 
plus Olive Tours: www.conviviorome.com
Half Day Rome Wine Tours: www.winetoursrome.com

Thursday, 18 January 2018

Rome Day Trip: the Sabine Hills

The Sabine Hills: a perfect day trip from Rome 
Only 35 minutes from Rome's outskirts and just north of the Capital, perfect for a day out in the countryside or a longer stay as part of a relaxing holiday, the Sabine Hills (Sabina) will reward its visitors with ancient medieval history, unspoilt landscape, renaissance palaces castles and monasteries, cultural events, art exhibitions, hiking trails and of course the 'Sabina DOP' extra virgin olive oil from its olive groves.
Toffia, 930AD is the oldest medieval village in Sabina (the Sabine Hills)
Dating back to 1200's, this medieval hilltop village is a hidden treasure
Unspoilt countryside
The way the Sabine Hills are still today very rural and unspoilt is almost miraculous, despite its vicinity with a big city like Rome. The landscape of Sabina is quintessentially Italian, with its rolling hills covered by olive groves and fruit orchards and dotted with medieval hilltop villages and castles. Because of the olive trees and other evergreen mediterranean plants, the Sabine hills are always very green, all year round. A visit to one of the many hilltop villages in the area, will reveal beautiful views over valleys and mountains in the far distance. 


Views over olive groves and hilltop villages in the Sabine Hills


The Sabine Hills offers magnificent views over unspoilt countryside
History 
Sabina is an ancient land where civilisation started way before Rome and the local archaeological museum in Fara Sabina tells a story of walled cities, powerful kings and the development of fine art, pottery, jewellery and elaborate bronze manufacts from 2,600 years ago. Three of the seven kings of Rome, Tito Tazio, Numa Pompilio and Anco Marzio, were from here. 
During the middle ages, Sabina was part of the Holy Roman Empire and thanks to Charlemagne and his land donations, a local monastery called Farfa became a huge economic and military power in the area. The Farfa monastery owed its wealth to olive oil production for many centuries, as it was the largest landowner in Central Italy and it become an independent city state, its borders reaching well into modern Tuscany, Umbria and Le Marche.
500 year old streets run between the ancient monastery and artisan shops in Farfa

Sightseeing
National parks such as Monti Lucretili and vast conservation areas allow those passionate about hiking or mountain biking to explore the area using ancient  trails, walking through green valleys, woods and cultivated land. However, even just visiting some of the villages in Sabina will be an experience in itself. Medieval villages like Toffia, Castelnuovo di Farfa, Fara Sabina, Farfa, Bocchignano or Montopoli have impressive defensive walls, beautifully decorated renaissance palaces and ancient churches.
Toffia, one of the most beautiful hilltop villages in the Sabine Hills
A maze of picturesque alleyways, archways and little piazzas will welcome the visitor, almost resembling a movie set, without the mass tourism of other Italian regions. Impressive medieval castles can be seen in Rocca Sinibalda (Castello Cesarini, 1084 AD) and in Frasso Sabino (Castello Sforza, 955 AD).
Medieval streets and picturesque doorways in Castelnuovo di Farfa
 Great photo opportunities lie within the medieval streets
Culture
Today, Sabina is well known for its art and music festivals which are organised throughout the year. Toffia is famous for its "Festa del Centro Storico', an art, music and street theatre festival which lasts for 5 nights in mid-August and attracts more than 3,000 people every night. Toffia is also known for its very active theatre, run by 'Officina 33'. In Fara Sabina there is an international Jazz Festival in July and Casaprota hosts the interesting art and music 'Arterie festival'.
A local music trio, called 'Lamorivostri', keeps traditional music alive, with frequent concerts in the Sabina area and in Rome.
Sabina is well known for its music and art festivals 
Food
Sabina is famous for its extra virgin olive oil, the very first in Italy to receive the DOP denomination. Olive oil has been produced here for millennia (there is an olive tree that's 2000 years old) and is known for being light and flavoursome at the same time. The area is also well known for pecorino cheese, olives, salami and of course guanciale (cured pork cheek), necessary for any amatriciana or carbonara sauce. Cooking Holidays are run in Toffia. One day cooking classes, as well as olive oil tours, and wine tours are also offered in the Sabine Hills area.
There are many Restaurants to choose from in Sabina. For an interesting combination of traditional dishes with a touch of creativity there is 'La Taverna del Corsari' in Montopoli.

How to get there from Rome
Fara Sabina is the best place to begin to explore the Sabine Hills. There is an excellent direct train departing every 15 minutes from many stations in Rome (Ostiense, Trastevere and Tiburtina, for example) to Fara Sabina Station. It takes 39 minutes to get from Rome Tiburtina to Fara Sabina. Here there are buses to many different villages in the Sabina area. By car, the direct way is via Rome-Florence (A1) motorway, Fiano Romano exit, then following signs to Rieti and Via Salaria, then to Fara Sabina.
If you join any of our Convivio Rome Culinary Holidays, or activities such as our cooking classes, olive tour and wine tours, we include a free pick up and return service to our local train station.

Cooking Classes: http://www.conviviorome.com
Train information: can be found on trenitalia.com site
Bus information: can be found on cotralspa.it
© Guido Santi, 2018
Additional background information on Guido: Guido Santi is an eighth generation Roman who has a passion for cooking traditional Italian cuisine and for local, fresh, organic food and wine. As a follower of the Slow Food philosophy, he supports and promotes local farmers and the 'zero kilometres' philosophy. Guido runs "Convivio Rome" with his Australian wife Sally, offering cooking classes, 3 and 5 night culinary holidays, plus olive oil tours and wine tours in or nearby the medieval hilltop village of Toffia, Sabina (Italy), just north of Rome. You can follow Convivio Rome on Facebook and on Instagram
View from Guido's home and the Convivio Rome Cooking School

Tuesday, 9 January 2018

THE BEST OF ITALY: AMALFI COAST, CAPRI AND ROME, published in Escape travel magazine

Published in 'Escape*', an Australian wide travel magazine: 
Find out what Jane Armitstead,  an Australian freelance travel writer, wrote about her experience with Chef Guido and Convivio Rome. 
A guided tour of the medieval village of Farfa, is part of your Convivio Rome cooking day and culinary vacation

We hope Jane's article will inspire you to come along and visit us in this beautiful and unspoilt Italian countryside, just north of Rome.
Here is an extract from her article: 
"Among Italy’s most humble charms is how it’s ancient world bares such influence on the current lifestyle. This isn’t just seen through legends and landscapes but through the country’s next greatest obsession, food.
Even though the food culture is ever-changing, centuries-old recipes are still being used. There’s no better way to get to the heart of this tradition than to make it yourself.
An hour north by train from Rome is the little-known Sabine Hills, a place blissfully lost in time in the Italian countryside, dotted with medieval villages.
I’m in the family kitchen of husband and wife team, Sally and Guido, an Australian expat from Sydney and an eighth-generation Roman, who call this region home.
They’ve been letting people in on their secret hideout by hosting cooking classes for the past 16 years.
Out their kitchen window, I lose myself in the rolling mountains and the fields of endless olive groves....."
To read the full article,  called: "THE BEST OF ITALY: AMALFI COAST, CAPRI AND ROME " Just scroll down the article to find out about Jane's first visit to this area and her cooking-touring experience with us.
P.S. We welcome freelance journalists to join us and write about their Convivio Rome experience in hope that it will inspire others to join in the fun. We did not know that Jane Armitstead intended to write this article at all. This article was a wonderful surprise. Thank you, Jane.
*Escape  (as described by their website) "appears as a Sunday lift-out in News Corp newspapers across Australia and, along with our website, will help you plan your next dream holiday."

Friday, 15 December 2017

Guido's Seasonal Recipe: Filetto di maiale marinato (marinated Pork fillet)

This is a great Winter dish. Although you need to marinate the pork the night before, it is a very fast and delicious dish to make.

Chef Guido's recipe: Filetto di maiale marinato (Marinated pork fillet) Serves 1 to 20+

Ingredients: 1 pork fillet, 1 bottle of red wine, black peppercorns, bay leaves, sage, oregano, olive oil, sea rock salt, rocket to garnish, balsamic glaze, a clove of garlic.



Method: Marinate the pork fillet for 24 hours with a bottle of red wine, black peppercorns, bay leaves, sage, oregano, olive oil and a pinch of rock sea salt. Discard the wine, herbs and pepper.
Slice the fillet into thick slices and fry in a very hot pan with olive oil and a bruised clove of garlic until the meat is golden brown on both sides.
Serve with a drizzle of olive oil, a few drops of balsamic vinegar and some rocket to garnish
Buon appetito!

Chef Guido conducts Italian cooking classes, olive tours and wine tours, all year round, in the heart of the very beautiful and unspoilt Sabine Hills countryside, just north of Rome.

Contact : info@conviviorome.com
Culinary Vacations and Day Italian Cooking Classes, plus Olive Tours: www.conviviorome.com
Half Day Rome Wine Tours: www.winetoursrome.com

Thursday, 7 December 2017

Toffia, Toffia, Toffia: my discovery of this medieval village in the heart of the Sabine Hills

Many of our cooking guests, ask me, Why Toffia? How did you discover Toffia? Why did you choose to settle here? Yes, it is a beautiful medieval hilltop village close to Rome, but is it also one of many in the Sabine Hills....so again, why Toffia?
Toffia, dates back to 930AD and is perched on a ridge. Absolutely breath-taking
My Story: Being born and brought up in Rome, and living on the northern side of Rome, my family used to travel to this area for excursions to purchase the famous Sabina DOP extra virgin olive oil, the cured meats and the wonderful arrange of pecorino (sheep) cheese. So my introduction to the Sabine Hills started when I was young and always related to the wonderful quality food that was found in this region.
The beautiful and very green Sabine Hills, peaceful and relaxing, great for country walks
My discovery of Toffia came later when I took Sally,  who later became my wife, on excursions to rediscover the wonders of Sabina and the Rome countryside. On one of these many excursions we stopped to visit the historic centre and to enjoy a pizza making festival. I always had fond memories of that day, and how the village seemed so alive and the locals so friendly.
Toffia has many food and music festivals from May to October
So eventually, when we were looking to purchase a home near Rome, we settled on Toffia. We bought an apartment in the heart of the historic centre, near the main church, perched on one of the higher parts of the historic village, with amazing views over the olive groves, mountains and unspoilt valleys below. It was just magical.
View from our home, your accommodation, in Toffia
Spectacular views over unspoilt valleys from Toffia
We now use our home as accommodation for our 3 and 5 night Italian Cooking Holidays, in hope that our cooking guests will also discover the magic of this ancient Italian village, only 40 kms from Rome.

Toffia is one of the most unspoilt, lively and better kept medieval hilltop villages in Italy. It is conveniently situated between Rome and Umbria and is full of  ancient restored palazzos, churches and small piazzas  from which it is possible to admire sweeping views of olive groves and vineyards in the surrounding valleys. As other villages in the region, Toffia’s beauty has not been yet discovered by mass tourism and retains all its authenticity.
Toffia
Toffia was built in 930 AD on a ridge and it raises dramatically above two very green valleys. In medieval times two rival Roman aristocratic families, Orsinis and Colonnas, fought over Toffia for centuries. Our accommodation, Casa Convivio Rome, stands on the side once ruled by the Colonna family! Toffia is within Sabina or Sabine Hills, a region famous for its excellent 'DOP' olive oil. Many festivals, including art and music festivals, are held in Toffia between May and September.
Toffia, inside the historic centre
When you join us for a 3 or 5 night Convivio Rome Italian Cooking Holiday: We offer a free pick up and return service from our local train station, called Fara Sabina-Montelibretti
View from our Cooking School and home over the Sabine Hills, near Rome
General Information on Toffia
Travel times and transport to Rome: 
- By car: 35 minutes to the Rome's ring road (metropolitan area) via A1 motorway or 50 minutes to the very centre of Rome (Spanish Steps).
- By car and train (park and ride): 15 minutes to Fara Sabina Train Station, then 37 minutes to central Rome (Tiburtina Station).
- By bus from Toffia + train:  about an hour in total.
Travel times to Umbria:
-  By car: 30-40 minutes to the Umbrian "border".
Services in the village: mini supermarket, post office, pharmacy, doctor's studio, butcher shop, hardware store, theatre, infants and primary school, free afternoon child care, linen shop, library.
Theatre: it's set in a restored former 14th Century church and offers regular performances, live music, cinema, art exhibitions, poetry reading and various courses.
Just in case, you never wish to leave: The following courses and classes are available at the theatre: yoga, ceramic, dance, theatre, music classes for children and adults.
Sports field (covered): available for different sports, including free volleyball and football classes for children.
English speaking community:  The authenticity and natural beauty of the Sabina region and the village of Toffia and its close proximity to Rome have recently started to attract a small number of English-speakers as full-time residents and holiday makers.

Convivio Rome conduct 3 and 5 night cooking holidays in Toffia, all year round. For more information: http://www.conviviorome.com/cooking-holidays/your-cooking-holiday.html

Planning ahead: If you are planning a trip in 2018 or 2019 and cannot find suitable dates, please contact us via email on: info@conviviorome.com