Tag Archives: Antonio Carluccio

Want to communicate? Then simplify, simplify

With Antonio Carluccio, Glasthule, April 2015.

With Antonio Carluccio, Glasthule, April 2015.

Antonio Carluccio knows it. So did Joey Ramone. So did Ernest Hemingway, and Leonardo da Vinci and Frederic Chopin.

Simple is best. As Henry David Thoreau put it: “Our life is frittered away by detail. Simplify, simplify”.

If only it were that easy. Confronted with vast amounts of information every day the task of refining, digging to the core or even finding it, is not an easy one.

Unlike Thoreau most of us don’t have the option of going off-grid to a hut in the woods. We have to engage with the information avalanche. And having sorted through it we then have to utilise the useful bits.

I do more of this than most. I work in the communication industry. As a journalist I process large amounts of information every day, filtering it down and then re-communicating the key elements to readers.

Books have been written, theses published and academic careers built upon analysing this process – how best to sort through the mound of content and find the ‘news hook’, the golden thread of the new or the interesting. It’s a constant process – as the news cycle changes day to day so must I.

Joey Ramone, 1980 Pic: Yves Lorson

Joey Ramone, 1980
Pic: Yves Lorson

After a day of such work I recently had the pleasure of attending an event and meeting Italian restaurateur Antonio Carluccio. I can’t cook like the 78-year-old but I can apply his method to the communication field.

In his autobiography Carluccio explains the culinary theory he formulated in the early 1980s. Finding that the nouvelle cuisine of the time amounted to much extravagant kitchen technique Carluccio argued that simple dishes were best.

He called his theory ‘mof mof’ – minimum of fuss, maximum of flavour.

In content terms this translates to ‘less noise, more nub’. It’s a practice those mentioned above applied to their own respective disciplines, like Ramone’s ‘Hey! Ho! Let’s go‘ or Hemingway’s “one true sentence“.

Like those declarations ‘mof mof’ is far simpler in theory than in practice. It requires distillation, refinement and constant revision to get to the purest message possible – to cut through the fuss and find the flavour.

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The quickest way to get to Italy

Have apron will travel

Have apron, will travel.

Why did you eat that last meal?

Hunger, boredom, routine?

I’ll bet your response is often linked to one of the above.

But since I met my wife (and made my own first tentative ventures into the kitchen) another answer has occurred to me.

I eat to travel somewhere else, or to be someone else, somewhere else. Most often I find myself opting for Italian, because cucina povera is one of our favourite cuisines and we love being in that country.

The sunshine of recent weeks in Ireland reminds me of visits we made to Italy last year. But the sun, even chased with Chianti, is not enough to transport me back there.

Enter cooking. A way to return, even for us infrequent fryers.

I figured the only way to get us to Italy while remaining in Dublin was to produce a meal as Italian as I could manage. Simple would help too.

One question then – what dish?

. . . . .

Chicken liver has been a poor man’s food for as long as poor men have eaten. Even in overpriced Ireland half a kilogram of livers will only cost you about €3.

One of my favourite chefs, Antonio Carluccio, has a recipe from the Piedmont region of northern Italy which, executed correctly, will put you in the foothills of the Alps in 30 minutes.

The dish is tajarin con fegatini, thin pasta ribbons in a chicken liver sauce, popular in the town of Alba. The specifics are here.

As a kitchen novice I seek out dishes that combine a maximum of authentic taste with a minimum of technical ability.

Luckily it doesn’t take a great degree of culinary skill to make tajarin, which are tagliolini – a variation on tagliatelle.

After making the pasta it’s simply a matter of getting down and dirty with the chicken livers. I’ve read that people are put off by the slimy texture and, er, unique, aroma of the offal.

Alba having some of that. Tajarin con fegatini - pasta with chicken liver sauce.

Alba having some of that. Tajarin con fegatini – pasta with chicken liver sauce.

My only problem with these organs is that they’re so small (or my technique’s so unrefined) that cleaning can reduce them to mush. Last weekend’s batch came from some mighty birds, though, and held their consistency nicely.

They cook in 4 minutes, in a pan with butter-browned onions and – another Italian taste ticket – porcini mushrooms. Add tomato puree and 50ml (a shot, for those who prefer to drink it) of Marsala. The latter balances out the nasal earthiness of the liver.

A couple of teaspoons of truffle oil finishes the sauce, which is mixed with the tajarin and garnished with grated Parmigiano-Reggiano.

. . . . .

The aroma hits you first. Chicken liver, porcini, truffle. Then the taste, earthy, mineral, moist. We had left our Dublin dinner-table and were sitting down to eat, halfway across Europe, in a hillside courtyard in Alba.

It was proof that food is the quickest, more authentic way to travel, if don’t want to leave your apartment. Check it out.

The wine was a Sangiovese though. You can’t get every local detail right. We’ll just have to go there for that.

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