This past January, snow lay sparse and scattered in the Adamello Alps, a phenomenon we will probably need to get used to in the coming years.
However, it’s not all doom and gloom, as this unseasonably cold spell had locked the local icefalls solid—no mere lacy formations of ephemeral ice, these falls dance with a multitude of blues, greys and whites that speak of their depth and thickness.
Climbing in cold temps requires calories, but as we’re in northern Italy, it would be a shame to miss out on all the amazing ingredients available in the local markets and supermarkets.
Local specialties include chestnuts in a variety of guises—flour, puree, pasta and roasted; buckwheat pasta, wild mushrooms, various grappa, polenta, cured beef, and ewe and goat cheeses that rarely, if ever, make it out of the country.
Below then are two recipes that speak to me of the mountains and the food from them.
Orange, prune, chestnut and dark chocolate porridge:
Reactor stove and 1.7 L pot
2 dessert spoons
Small sharp knife
Ziploc® bags or Tupperware® containers
1 wooden spoon (optional)
Insulated food flask (optional)
Ingredients: (Serves 2)
1 mug quick cook porridge oats
1 orange or blood orange
6-10 prunes, sliced and soaked overnight in black tea
50 g dark chocolate (70% or better)
1-2 tbsp chestnut puree
2 tbsp wildflower honey
2 tbsp maple syrup in place of honey
50 g almonds in place of chestnut puree
Pack the porridge oats in one Ziploc bag; the prunes and chestnut puree in another. Take a small squeezy bottle of honey along. Keep the orange and chocolate bar whole.
Bring water to the boil in the Reactor. Add the porridge oats. Turn off heat; cover and allow to soak for 5 minutes. Turn the heat back on. Add the prunes, chestnut and honey, slice the orange in half and squeeze the juice of half into the porridge, stirring all the time. Bring to a simmer. Taste and add more orange if desired. Shave the chocolate onto the porridge with the knife and serve.
Spinach, potato and ricotta gnocchi with smoked aubergine, tomato and fennel ragu:
MSR Reactor stove and 1.7 L or 2.5 L pot
Tupperware boxes/food container or Ziploc bags
Slotted or wooden spoon
450 g potatoes
125 g spinach
1 cup all-purpose/plain flour
salt and pepper
4 tbsp fresh ricotta
1 large aubergine
1 tin chopped peeled plum tomatoes
1/2 yellow onion
1/2 bulb fennel aged parmesan grated salt
Gnocchi: Peel and boil the potatoes until tender. Drain the potatoes, reserving the water. Pour the cooking liquid over the spinach and leave for a few minutes. Drain and place in a clean tea towel. Squeeze as much water from the spinach as possible then chop roughly, removing any stalks. Mash the potatoes, mix in the spinach and leave to cool. Mix in the remaining ingredients. Flour a work surface, then take small pinches of mix and roll into balls. Flour a Tupperware container, layer the gnocchi with a dusting of flour and greaseproof paper between layers.
Ragu: Heat an oven to 220c. Slice the aubergine in half, oil and season and place in the hot oven until blistered and charred on the base. Remove and when cool to the touch, chop roughly. Heat a saucepan and add a little butter. Finely dice the fennel and onion, sweat on a medium heat until soft. Add the tomatoes, heat and check seasoning. Add the smoked aubergine, simmer for a few minutes then add the grated parmesan. Turn off the heat and allow to cool before storing in a food flask, Tupperware or Ziploc bag (double bag for extra security).
Bring water to the boil in the Reactor. Add a few gnocchi at a time to the water, keeping it boiling. When the gnocchi rise to the top, remove with a slotted spoon to an oiled bowl and repeat. Drain the water from the stove, add the Ragu and cooked gnocchi, heat together and serve.