Ding Dong!


Mum and I stood in her kitchen just waiting for the doorbell last night. We were so excited to be hosting our first Marisa's Kitchen Cooking Class. What we weren't expecting was to open our home to 10 vivacious and dynamic ladies and one extremely enthusiastic young man. This alone made the night a success!

 

'Gnocchi All Sorts' was a hit! We covered 5 diverse flavours and methods and had a lot of fun taking it in turns to make them and of coarse taste the final product.

We hope everyone will be loading their freezer with delicious gnocchi this weekend. The night was capped off with a glass of wine, an espresso and a tour of John’s veggie patch. We also discussed our next class........

 

THE ART OF ANTIPASTO

2ND JULY AT 7:30PM COST $65 +GST

 

This class will demonstrate how to construct a Marisa's Kitchen Gourmet Antipasto platter. We will also be making various components from scratch such as mini arancini, stuffed mushrooms, Crunchy Parmesan artichokes and olive marinades. We will be sampling cheeses and home made salami and discussing all things 'Antipasto'. One of Marisa's favourite topics!

Thank you Teresa for booking a private class in your home. We are looking forward to going mobile and bringing our antipasto platters into the heart of your home.

PLEASE CALL MARISA 0407526440 TO CONFIRM A PLACE or PLEASE EMAIL BELINDA - belinda@marisaskitchen.com.au

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‘Where are the Pockets?!’

 

Since selling Cardamone, there has not been a week that goes past that we don’t hear questions like ‘Where are your spinach gnocchi?’, ‘are you making cannelloni’ and my favourite – ‘Can I order an antipasto platter please?’ Mum and I put our heads together and came up with an interesting idea…

As you know, now that we are a manufacturer, some of our products are just too labour intensive, and expensive, to sell to our stockists and expect them to then on-sell to their customers. Because we are not willing to compromise on quality, we have only chosen our most popular items to manufacture. But that leaves us with a portfolio of recipes that we are unable to use. Which leads me to our ‘idea’?

Keeping within my blog theme of organising your kitchen, Marisa has decided to help you do just that. Rather than following our recipes on the website, she is giving you the opportunity to learn her techniques at intimate cooking classes.  We will prepare some of our treasured recipes with you; such as our famous range of pasta pockets, spinach and ricotta cannelloni, flavoured gnocchi, eggplant parmigiana and many more. Closer to cup weekend we will cover canapés and I will be holding a special class – how to assemble and present a Marisa’s Kitchen Antipasto Platter! By Christmas, not only will your freezer be jam packed with wonderful handmade dishes, you will also be able to wow your family and friends with your new presentation skills.

As well as cooking, we will also be giving some great tips on how to stay on top of your weekly meals. Freezer essentials and must have stocks and sauces.

Our first class will be –

GNOCCHI ‘ALL SORTS’

Thursday 19th June at 7.30pm

COST - $35

Please email your interest to belinda@marisaskitchen.com.au or Marisa can be contacted on 0407 526 440

 Gnocchi of various flavours, styles, regions - including stuffed and cooking techniques.

We will also take the opportunity to use the chicken stock recipe we posted in our last blog to demonstrate how to make a delicious risotto and risotto balls.

There will be sampling and a glass of wine to accompany our dishes.

All participants will go home with a Marisa’s Kitchen gourmet dip valued at $7.99

 

Not only will these classes be “life changing” (one of Marisa’s favourite phrases) they are also going to be full of laughter and fun. A fantastic opportunity to master our traditional family recipes, and tap into Marisa’s vast knowledge of Mediterranean cuisine.

We will also be taking group bookings and theme them according to your groups specific requests.

 

Back at Marisa’s Kitchen HQ we have been very busy adapting two of our most popular products to our wholesale kitchen. In the coming month, keep an eye out for our delicious ‘Creamy Olive Dip’ and our wholesome winter warmer ‘Chicken, Vegetable and Barley Soup’. Both were favourites in Fairfield for many years.  As you know, we make fresh stocks for all our soups and do not add any preservatives, stabilisers or thickeners to any of our products. All our dips are also gluten free.  If you don’t see one of your favourite MK products at your closest stockist, be sure to ask them to order it in for you.

 

#TIP 5

Crunchy Parmesan dip is delicious on toasted ciabatta with sliced avocado and tomato, add a sprinkle of sea salt and cracked pepper --- YUM

 

 

Stock up

 It’s amazing how I can always walk into my Mum’s house and within minutes she can have a meal cooking on the stove. There’s not much my boys could ask for that they couldn't be eating within the hour.  I used to wonder how she did it so fluently and without fuss.

 It’s not hard to work out why mum is so incredibly efficient. She ran a business full-time and raised three extremely active children; we played instruments, numerous sports and attended dancing classes. She had to be organised and constantly on the go. 

 Today I am starting with one of the most nutritious and versatile ingredients you can always find in her freezer which is a classic Chicken Stock (broth). She vows that this ingredient can enhance any dish as well keeping the next cold or flu at bay. Once we have mastered this stock, we will be able to move onto some delicious winter staples and some quick family meals. But first we have to tick the basics off the list.

 It is a fact that the yellow fat from the chicken holds immune boosting powers which are released into a properly prepared chicken stock. There are also many minerals in the bones that are also released into the broth such as; calcium, magnesium and phosphorus. This calcium is easily absorbed into your body, which is perfect when fighting osteoporosis or weak bones. It is also the perfect way to enjoy ginger and garlic which are also amazing immunity boosting foods.

 

The basic Ingredients you will need for 'Marisa’s Stock' are:

  •       One Organic or free range Chicken
  •       2 Carrots
  •       1 Parsnip
  •       1 Stalk of celery
  •       Half a Leek
  •       Parsley
  •       2 Ripe tomatoes peeled and seeded
  •       1 Sweet Potato
  •       One Small piece of ginger/garlic (optional)
  •       2 tablespoons salt

 

There are two methods and two different outcomes with this recipe. You may decide to make a chicken Soup to eat that night or keep it as a stock to store in the freezer.

They both start the same way; place your chicken in a pot with eight 8litres of water, ensuring the whole chicken is submerged.  Bring to the boil and once all the scum starts rising to the surface you will start to scoop it off. Once you see that there is not as much (or none) coming up, you can chop all your vegetables in cubes and add to the water. Add ginger (optional) and salt and simmer for two hours. Remove chicken from the soup and discard all skin and bones. Chop up chicken and return to the pot. This will give you a delicious Chicken Soup. For a nutritious stock you would leave the veggies whole and simmer with the chicken for min 2.5 hours. Then separate the broth from the veggies and chickens via a colander. You could freeze the stock in small containers, bags or ice cube trays - and have them at hand for future dishes. 

To test if you have cooked your stock long enough, place the liquid in the fridge overnight. The next morning it should be gelatinous (lumpy jelly). The gelatin is a cooked form of collagen, which actually makes up half of the protein in our entire bodies. So you are truly body building when you consume this broth. A hot steamy mug of broth is packed with protein and will instantly make you feel warm and content on a cold winter’s day.

 If you are freezing stock, you will have all the leftover chicken and vegetables. When my kids were babies, I used to make this weekly and use the veggies as puree diluted with this nutritious stock. If I knew I was making only baby food from a batch of stock, in the last half hour of cooking, I would add other vegetables such as zucchini or cubed pumpkin. You can just make up different flavours by mixing different combinations. As they got older, I would vary between using a chicken or a lamb shank and adding this delicious soft meat to their purees and later chunky soups.  

Alternatively, I have often used the leftover chicken to make ravioli or Asian style wontons that can then be added back into the stock with bok choy, mushrooms and a splash of soy. This is a fabulous winter meal! If you would like some suggestions for these fillings please leave a comment below.

 The most popular dish in my house that is made with stock is 'Nonna Rosa's Pastina'. My boys enjoy this weekly at their great grandmother’s house. I think it is the Italian version of 'Mac and cheese'. All you need to do is simmer risoni pasta in some stock, add 2 squares of Kiri cheese per person and a tablespoon of butter and cook. Then you place in big bowls and Nonna always adds a splash of cold milk to cool it quickly. My boys absolutely adore this comfort food, and Nonna loves making it for them.

This winter you will be able to find in stores Marisa's Kitchen delicious 'Chicken, Vegetable and barley Soup'. This soup is made from a traditional chicken stock and is 100% preservative free. A simple way to ensure you are looking after your body is to always have one of these in the freezer. 

 

Now that you are 'stocked up', next week we will be adding this ingredient to some easy meals to help keep you organised during the week. If you have any helpful tips or questions please leave it in the comments section below.

 

As promised I have some details about Marisa's Pop up restaurant:

MARISA'S TABLE

Saturday 17th May @7pm

Four Course Degustation Menu $95 per person

For this first dinner we will be taking one group booking of 10 people. A wonderful opportunity for a small group of friends to enjoy a rustic meal in the comfort of Marisa's home. The menu will be seasonal and completely handmade by Marisa and her assistant (me!). We will be providing mineral and still water, however we ask that all alcoholic beverages be BYO

 

Please express your interest via email (include contact number and queries) over the weekend and I will call you on Monday:

belinda@marisaskitchen.com.au

 

TIP #3 People often ask me if they can just eat Crunchy Parmesan Dip with a spoon. The answer is YES! 

Oil vs Houses

I couldn't tell you how old I was but this is definitely one of my earliest memories. I was perched on a wine barrel, I looked down and contemplated the space between my feet and the floor, could I jump? Would I hurt myself? Or more importantly would anybody notice? I thumped the wooden panel with my heel, definitely hollow. I noticed my dad rushing towards me, but he only passed with a small smile. Through the noise and people and all the commotion stood the shortest man in the room with the loudest voice (and the best suit). His hair was carefully slicked and his mouth full of food. His very presence sent men in a spin, and women scurrying. That man was Orlando Cardamone, he was my nonno, and the room was his kitchen.

 Carefully placed on my barrel where I couldn't fall, and I wouldn't be underfoot, I watched every member of my family execute and distribute meals to hundreds of people. Under my mothers watchful eye I sat and without knowing, I absorbed the energy and the passion swirling around me. It was at this time I joined the Cardamone food journey, which has swept up every member of my family at some stage.

 

The intention of this blog is to help you learn how to bring warmth to your table whether it be on Christmas Day or on a blustering winters afternoon. You will learn to cook slowly, gradually and with purpose. There will be quick meals and shortcuts that will organise you, nourish your family and it will make your kitchen your domain. You will take the last bite of one meal and start dreaming of the next. Without apprehension or dread - it will become your life’s passion and be at the forefront of your mind. You will learn a very important lesson: if we are to eat three times a day, seven days a week and snack excessively - do it well and savor every bite. The recipes I will post are not mine, not my mums or my grandfathers, as soon as you make it and enjoy it, it will belong to you. A tradition is something someone does well and consistently; start today and one day it will be your tradition too.

 This is seriously starting to sound like '50 Shades of Food Porn'.  Now that I have caught your attention, tune in next week to gather Marisa's first recipes in step one of changing and organising your kitchen. You are going to love this journey! Feel free to make any requests in the comments sections and please leave any suggestions for other readers.

 What has any of this got to do with oil and houses? That came about because I was feeling extremely nostalgic. I had Nonno Orlando on my mind and I remembered a story my dad once told me. In the sixties a house in Arthur Street, Fairfield cost the same as a pallet of MORO Olive Oil. My grandfather thought it was a sounder investment to buy the oil and not the houses, he could double his money in a month! What would he do with a house in Arthur Street?! Well Nonno, the median price today of the houses is $1m and one tin of oil averages $20. Sigh! Best not to dwell on what our life would be like if we owned a row of houses in Fairfield today!  

 

To all the people who attended Marisa's Gnocchi Making Cooking Demo on Sunday at The Tomato Smash Festival (The Fruits of Life) the quantities I promised to post are as follows:

  •  1 large Egg
  • 300g Hot mashed Potato
  • 400 - 500g plain flour  

Tip #2 How to eat Crunchy Parmesan

I received this tip this morning in the school playground. A friend made a tuna casserole last night and didn't have any Parmesan to toss through the toasted bread. But she had a tub of Crunchy Parmesan! She used it and said it was delicious!! Thanks Brooke!

Where's Johnny?

There isn't a day that passes that I don't hear the question 'Where's John?' 'How is he?' It's almost like we sold 'the shop' and he vanished. Well he kind of did.......

Twelve months before we sold Cardamone's we made the big decision of moving our commercial kitchen off site and to take the plunge and try wholesaling our products. Obviously Mum couldn't be in two places at once so she trained my little (massive) brother Damian, set up the kitchen procedures and let him spread his wings. During this time Romilda moved the office to our new premises and my husband, Stiven, and I went out looking for wholesale customers. 

It was a difficult time for Mum and Dad; they had lost their support system and were also itching to join us. However, they had to sit tight and try to sell the other business. One night before the big move we all found ourselves in the old kitchen making a batch of Crunchy Parmesan. We laughed when we realised we had never made this dip in front of anyone outside 'the family' and the recipe was not written down anywhere. It was a genuine family secret. We were like Oompa Loompas...... not quite! This dip is a family secret and we hoped it was a sign of a great future in wholesaling. It was the last time we made this dip together. 

Ok, so the mystery needs to be solved. No, John is not laying on a beach in Costa Rica, much to his utter disappointment. He has embarked on a complete career change. He now assists Damian in the kitchen, following all of mum's recipes as well as delivering to all of our stockists. This frees Mum up to develop new products and spend time talking to customers and doing in store tastings. On the weekends dad does his gardening, reads the paper from cover to cover and hangs out with his grandsons. The complete opposite to his weekends 12 months ago. Two things haven't changed he still works hard and plays Tatts religiously, he knows that one of these two things will eventually let him visit that beach in Costa Rica he has been dreaming about for years.

People often wonder how we all work together, three stubborn, highly-strung and crazy siblings with their eccentric, extremely passionate parents. It’s because we were born into this situation and we know how to fight. Seriously, we yell and carry on and then five minutes later it’s like nothing ever happened. It took my husband years to get used to it. Luckily he has moved on into Real Estate (Barry Plant Ivanhoe) and we can be as dysfunctional as we want haha.

If you think it’s strange that two people can do all our weekly production alone, including packaging and deliveries, you obviously haven't met my brother. He has the strength of three people and is completely obsessive compulsive - in a good way. When he leaves the kitchen at night it looks like nobody has cooked in it. Except for the two times he dropped huge pots of sauce everywhere, thankfully I wasn't there that day.

Not sure how long we will be an exclusive little family business, hopefully we grow and over time are able to welcome more into our fold. But for the time being it works.

Signing off with another way to serve Crunchy Parmesan:

One slice of witlof topped with Crunchy Parmesan, crispy pancetta, mini croutons and anchovy (optional) - the perfect pre dinner canapé - YUM!!

Have a great weekend! 

 

To sell or not to sell.....

On September 1st 2013 Marisa Cardamone, my mum, closed the doors of her family business - Cardamone Gourmet Supermarket - for the last time. After 52 years it would be the final time an actual family member would do it.

We had been debating for years 'should we sell?’ It was only until we saw the contract of sale that we knew it was the right thing to do. Unbelievably, the buyers had chosen the 1st of September as the settlement date. Not only was this Father's Day, but it is also the birthday of mums late brother. Mum knew this meant that her dad and brother were guiding her and encouraging her to move forward and embark on a new journey. The excitement started to build.

What would life after 'the shop' be like? Could our new little business, Marisa's Kitchen, be able to stand alone? We were consumed by fear and dread but also overwhelmed by the upcoming lifestyle change. Our life and choices would not be controlled by retail hours anymore. The simple planning of a birthday would be a pleasure not a burden. Also knowing that your parents are home all weekend pottering around the garden and catching up with friends, instead of working 12 hour shifts, is a huge relief.

As a family, the first few months were difficult, we felt confused, lost and surprisingly flat. But then it was Christmas..... We spent Christmas Eve together as a family, cooking, laughing, and enjoying each other. Nobody was exhausted, nobody was at work and everybody was happy. Most importantly we only had to cook one ham and one porchetta! That night when I tucked my six year old son Julian into bed he whispered ' That was the best Christmas Eve ever mum'. I never thought he had been affected by the chaos of previous years. Hearing those words reassured me that we had made the right decision. Although it will be strange that one day, my children will not have any memories of a business that has been all we have known for so long.

Where to from here? 

Marisa's Kitchen started when our loyal customers at Cardamone’s would bustle in after work and call out 'Marisa what’s cooking?' Mum would be in the back preparing dinner for her own family and call out 'Lasagna, want some?'. Week by week the word started spreading and mum was doubling and tripling her 'family dinners'. My sister and I encouraged her to do more. So she started making batches of her luscious pestos, handmade pockets, and slow cooked sauces.

Next she needed a logo and then things started to take off. Mum didn't stop at that, in her free time she studied hard and also became a certified chef, something we are all extremely proud of.

People often ask us why are our meals frozen? I wish I could tell them - that’s what Italians do!! We cook as though we are feeding an army, we cook in batches and we are always prepared for a visitor (even if no one is coming!) We always have Bolognese in the freezer, a tray of lasagna, some meatballs and the super organised will have brodo and gnocchi too. However I always give my 'professional' reason. We use fresh eggs in some of our products and there are no added preservatives. Basically our meals cannot sit in a fridge with a three week expiry date. They would not last. We would rather eat something that has been freshly frozen. 

Everything we sell we feed to our families so it has to be the best. People often say to mum 'It's just for the kids' her response is always 'so you give them the best, right?' We are hoping our customers will be able to see and taste the love that goes into our food.

My sister still calls me some days and says 'I can’t believe we sold the shop'. I still panic before I feel a wave of relief. Yes we definitely had some good times and met some wonderful lifelong friends but....................... We are ready for the next chapter.

 

Stay tuned……..