Saturday, 1 March 2014

Cross-Country Cooking

Carpaccio di Manzo, Puntarelle, Cimmaron e Pinoli
Beef Carpaccio, Puntarelle, Cimmaron and Pine Nuts

I just couldn't resist the puntarelle today at Nina's stall at the market hall- especially as I know how lucky and blessed I am to be able to buy them here in Frankfurt... at the same time- you know me well enough by now... I always like to do something different and new if I can! 

So into my bag they went, along with a few other goodies, and onwards I went. on my search for other ingredients- and lo and behold, Mrs. Wong had more of that lovely cimmaron that I have now grown to love, with its intense coriander flavor. 

Great. 2 ingredients that don't necessarily belong together and still no idea what to cook for supper! There was only one thing for it... to go on shopping and pick up a couple more ingredients until things fell into place...

I decided to pick up a fresh package of pine nuts whilst I was at it, as they always are nice to have and then decided I should maybe just save those things for another day and just make something simple instead. A nice beef carpaccio for a change- a hunk of bread, a little Parmesan on it and a glass of wine- maybe that would be the best idea for a change- just keep things simple and have a stress-free evening- why not?

Well, of course there was no reason "why not" at all- but there was also no reason why I couldn't combine those ingredients after all... because variety IS the spice of life- isn't that what they say?

So I had pine nuts and thinly sliced beef carpaccio, which are pretty Italian in their nature... even more so are the puntarelle, a truly roman ingredient. But then I had the cimmaron as well, which was very fresh and fragrant and more Asian tasting... and that was the thing that made me decide to make a very different kind of carpaccio...

First of all though, just a short word on the subject of carpaccio. Just ask your butcher to slice it for you- he will be pleased to do so- at least mine was today! Do not start banging it flat with a hammer or a glass- that just ruins the structure of the meat. If you want to cut the meat yourself, pop it into the freezer for an hour or so, so that it will become firmer and then slice it as thinly as you possibly can. When you lay it out onto your plate, take the back of your knife and smooth it out- almost as if you are spreading imaginary butter- this will flatten the meat down in a more gentle way. 

Once the beef has been evenly laid out on your serving dish, sprinkle it very lightly with sansho pepper- you really don't need much of it! Don't underestimate how strong it is, as it will literally knock your tongue out if you do! It has a wonderful but incredibly intense citrus flavor which is great in small doses, but will actually have an anesthetic reaction on your tongue if you add too much... and I am not kidding!

Next, finely chop the puntarelle and lay them decoratively atop the meat and then season the meat with a nice drizzle of Hoisin sauce. You can always add salt later as well, or even a little soy sauce, but I wanted to keep things tasting clearly and freshly of what they were, without adding too many outside seasonings.

I then popped a little handful of pine nuts into a hot pan to toast, and whilst that was happening, I finely chopped the cimmaron to go on top of the puntarelle and the carpaccio. I added the cimmaron, a light drizzle of sesame oil and the toasted pine nuts and patted myself on the back for doing something other than the typical, beef, arugula and Parmesan. That's a nice combination at the best of times- but this Asian influenced one ain't bad either! 

The best thing about it was that the sansho pepper was a great, invisible but really tasty spice that totally elevated the flavor of the meat. The puntarelle were slightly bitter but also very refreshing and the combination with the Hoisin, sesame oil and crunchy pine nuts was lovely and well rounded. But oh! That sansho pepper! That's the make-or-break ingredient here!

Go out and get some- be careful- but be daring! And take it from me- you are going to like it too!


  1. Puntarelle with hoisin sauce... Francesco, you're blowing my mind!

    1. Seriously, though, this looks delightful. Your creativity never ceases to amaze. And I'm so jealous you have ready access to puntarelle!

  2. :-D Oh, Frank- vegetables are just... vegetables! You can do whatever you want with them- meaning seasoning with Asian ingredients even if they are veggies that are grown in Italy... Thankfully 1984 came and went and we still are free to do as we please! Haha! I love, love, love that you keep things traditional - but being as you do it better, I stick to doing the "cloud-cuckoo-land" dishes ;-) Glad you like them! Saluti da Francesco