Italian chef and Sawday’s hotel owner Giancarlo Polito uses traditional techniques to create authentic Italian dishes with locally grown ingredients. Here he shows us how to create a dish worthy of world-class restaurants at home.
· Soak the Cicerchie for 12 hours and wash under cold water
· Chop the onion and the celery into squares and sauté over low fire until golden brown
· Add the Cicerchie and cover with stock
· Whencooked, blend and then strain in a small hole colander in order to obtain asmooth and shiny consistency
· Cut the Calamari in tagliatelle-shaped strips and marinate with Extra Virgin Olive Oil, green pepper and lime rind
· In the oven dry out the red pepper together with a few slices of Prosciutto San Daniele (½ cm thick). Once they are completely dry blend them until powdered
· Serve in a soup plate: ease down the Cicerchie velvet sauce, add the Calamari tagliatelle, a quenelle of Squid Ink, sprinkle with Prosciutto and Pepper Powder and finally decorate with Watercress.
Try Giancarlo’s signature dishes at La Locanda del Capitano and enjoy one of the 400 wines on offer. Take a cooking class, go on a truffle hunt and take a visit to local wineries and producers.
Paolo Ciccioli, professional truffle hunter and owner of Agriturismo Ramuse in the Italian region of Marche, shares his journey from city centre truffle trading to running a remote agriturismo.
What inspired you to start your own Agriturismo, Paolo?
It has always been my lifelong dream to build Le Marche Agriturismo Ramuse on the grounds of my Grandmother’s fruit farm. Starting in 2004 and finishing on 2007 I used the finest materials to completely reconstruct the two buildings you see today.
What were you doing before this project?
Before I started the Agriturismo business, I was selling my truffles to many top chefs in London and Oxford and in London’s Borough Market.
Why did you choose the Ascoli Piceno area to set-up?
I was born and bred in the Ascoli region and so this is where my heart is. After my experience in London, I decided that the best solution is to taste the truffle in the place where it is found to appreciate the maximum fragrance and the magic of their perfume.
Were there any challenges that you faced getting started?
The main challenges were having the right craftsmen available at the right times, along with sourcing proper materials such as vintage bricks and stones. Sometimes bureaucracy slowed the project down.
What has been the best bit about your new life?
Although it is hard work, running an Agriturismo allows me to always follow my heart. Each morning I wake up to a truly beautiful panorama of nature.
What tips would you give anyone else trying to set up a hotel/B&B?
You need to plan and re-plan. Also, whatever your budget is, you will need 50% more!
What do you think makes your place a really special place to stay?
Le Marche Agriturismo Ramuse is set in a tranquil beautiful valley that brings you close to nature, being ideally placed between the Adriatic & the Sibillini mountains.
I only use local products, many from my own farm such as Oliva Ascolana Tenera (a tasty olive), eggs from the free range black Ancona chickens, and our special pink apple the mele rosa dei Monti Sibillini. We have fresh peaches, cherries, apples, homemade jams and nuts to eat throughout the year. Having worked in the wine trade, I also have a very good knowledge of the local wines and have a selection available for any time of day or night.
Tell us about your truffle hunting, what does a typical day as a truffle hunter involve?
A day in the life of a truffle hunter begins with checking the weather. It has to be dry so that Trilly my truffle dog can smell the truffles. Next we have to dress in the hunters outfit and with our special digging tool we are ready to set off.
What we bring back depends of the time of year. Truffles are seasonal with the stronger smelling White Truffle (Tuber Magnatum Pico) being found around Ramuse between October and November, and the Black summer truffle (tuber aestivum) from May to October.
How do you use the truffles in your cooking?
My favourite meal is freshly scrambled eggs with grated black summer truffle on top, simple but delicious!
Inspired by a trip to New Zealand in 1990, it was another 20 years before Mark and Sarah swapped life in the big smoke to take the great leap into wine production on the soils of Sussex. They offered an insight into the trials and tribulations of starting their own vineyard…
Why did you make the big move into wine-making?
Inspired by a trip to New Zealand in 1990, it took a further 20 years before we found the perfect site for a vineyard and Mark had retired from the city enabling a new venture in wine production. Following a two year course in viticulture at Plumpton College the dream started to take shape. An initial planting in 2012 produced the first harvest in 2014 and an expectation of our first Sparkling wine in 2017.
Out of all of the places that you could have set up in, what was it that made you settle in Alfriston?
The South Downs share the geology of the “Paris Basin”, a triassic geological feature that also encompasses the vineyards of Champagne. Our vines should flourish on the South facing chalky soils that are so essential to the development of the great sparking wines. Rathfinny was the perfect site in terms of size and location to realise our ambitions. Sussex isalso an important location for the development of the English wine industry as a whole. We hope to be contributing up to 1 million bottles a year by 2020 to English wine production.
Has the venture turned out how you expected it would?
We always knew it was an expensive, long term investment. We are on track with our plans in terms of the development of the Vineyard and buildings on site. We have also established a strong team with key members including New Zealand viticulturalist Cameron Roucher, who has left New Zealand to join the new venture, while Epernay-born Jonathan Médard is Rathfinny’s winemaker. It’s challenging and a huge learning curve.
It sounds like you’ve been pretty busy! Do you have any new projects coming up at the site?
We are about to open our Flint Barns – seasonal workers accommodation during pruning and picking but available for special interest groups and schools to visit as well B&B visitors. Our Cellar Door in Alfriston, which sells locally sourced and wine related products, will stock a small release of our first still wine in May and is the starting point of the Estate Tours. The Rathfinny Trail is due to open in May.
We are also holding a three-day Chamber Music Festival in June which will be the inaugural weekend of many for our resident ensemble, the London Conchord Ensemble.
Seasonal workers are invited to stay at Flint Barns during pruning and picking as well as B&B visitors. More “poshtel” than hostel, find chunky doors, reclaimed oak floors, view-filled windows, bedrooms with luxurious mattresses, crisp white cotton, good lighting and shower rooms worthy of Babington House.