Escape to Alto Adige, cooler climes and comfort food.

As I write this morning it is a cool 26.4°C in Milan which after the humidity of the past week feels positively fresh! The Milanese are renowned for their “friday exodus” in a bid to escape the heat of the city and spend their weekend in the cooler climes of the mountains, lakes, or sea and I’m no exception.

The weekend before last we packed up the car and headed to the Dolomites to soak up the fresh air and cool nights of the mountains and this weekend we opted for our surf board and the waves of Liguria. Not only do we get to escape the heat of Milan but for me its also a return to the comfort foods of Alto Adige and Liguria both of which serve soul food for foreigners.

Alpe di Siusi, Alto Adige, Dolomites

The Dolomites have long provided a refuge to my husband whos family are lucky enough to own a small apartment in the resort town of Alpe di Siusi and from Skiing to Trekking the mountains provide the perfect playground for a weekend away. For me, Alpe di Siusi is tantamount to having a mini break outside of Italy as the autonomous region of South Tyrol (Alto Adige), annexed from Austria in 1919,  is largely german speaking with some locals still speaking the local dialect “Ladin”.  The rich mountain diet offers a cuisine packed full of Austrian influences with dishes such as Canederli (bread dumplings), kaiserschmarren (rich egg pancakes), strudels, salamis, and many seasonal specialities which all spell hearty comfort food for a British girl like myself.

                                  Local Salami with garlic

Our culinary adventure starts from the moment we set off in the car with our customary picnic of panini, fruit and iced tea to keep us refreshed on our journey. Milan to Alpe di Siusi takes on average three and a half hours and we arrive just as the sun is setting over Sasso Piatto which is burning a majestic orange in the night sky, welcoming us to the Dolomites. There really is no better way to start a weekend than with this view.

                                   Sasso Piatto, Dolomites

On our first morning we always like to stock up on some local produce starting with apple juice, some of the best in Italy thanks to the acres of orchards in the region, Speck (a locally smoked ham), salami, dark crusty fennel bread and butter with the unmistakeable taste of Alto Adige milk. The Dolomites are home to the largest area of meadow and grazing land and the mountains ring with the sound of cows and cow bells.

Beef, veal and dairy products form a key part of the mountain diet and this steak, which I literally had to wrestle away from my husband so I could take a photo, shows justs how tender and moist the beef is. Luckily for me the locals love a good potato and in this case we were given not one but two jacket potatoes, bonus!! Another favourite of ours is Veal Head, or more precisely the meat from the cheek, which has been boiled till tender and is then served with pungent  onions,oil and vinegar. The region is renowned for the quality of its milk and many derivative products such as butter, cheese and yoghurt are sold across Italy and in neighbouring countries by brands such as Sterzing-Vipiteno and Tirol milch.

                                  Beef Entrecote served on a bed of summer vegetables with jacket potatoes

On saturday night we made the vigorous trek up to our favourite hut and restaurant Di Baita which sits in an unrivalled position at the top of the alto piano with fabulous views of sunset over the mountain. The 30 minute walk is strenuous but well worth it for the location, food and overall experience of being alone with nature. We were one of three tables so literally got to enjoy the sunset in an exclusive group. The staff greet you in traditional Tyrolian dress and guests have the choice of a fireside seat inside or a mountain vista from the balcony. We opted for the balcony and snuggled under a blanket watched the sun set as we tucked into a feast of local dishes including an antipasto of locally cured meats and rotwein cheese served with fennel bread. We then opted for ravioli filled with broccoli and almonds served in a light broth infused with chives and to finish we shared a apricot canederli served on a raspberry coulis which was to die for! See the recipe below.

                                  View from Di Baita, Alpe di Siusi

Before heading home on sunday we stopped for dinner just outside of Bolzano and I made the most of the cooler temperature to endulge in a dish of minted lamb on a bed of basil infused vegetables. Comfort food at its very best! I love summer and summer food but something about a hearty plate of meat and vege appeals to the English me and Alto Adige always gives me that little taste of home.

Recipe for Apricot Canederli

Ingredients:

300g Ricotta

80g butter

20g sugar and 9g vanilla sugar

pinch salt

2 eggs

100g flour

8 apricots

Preparation:

  1. Put the ricotta in gauze and let it drip dry for 20 minutes.
  2. Cream the butter, sugar, vanilla sugar and salt together until light and fluffy and then add in the eggs, ricotta and flour. Once mixed leave to rest in fridge for 15 minutes.
  3. Wash and dry the apricots and then without opening fully slice and remove the stone.
  4. Roll out the ricotta mix and cut into rectangles large enough to cover the whole apricots.
  5. Place the apricots in the centre of each rectangle and wrap and seal well.
  6. Cook the canederli in simmering, lightly salted, water for 15 minutes.
  7. To serve, melt a good helping of butter in a pan and toss the canederli in it.
  8. Roll in brown sugar and cinnamon and serve hot with vanilla custard.

                                                                                 Foto from Schaer.com

For more recipes from Alpe di Siusi vist the official website.

http://www.alpedisiusi.info/it/piacere/ricette.html

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