In­flu­ences traced to grand­par­ents

Pro­duc­ing and eat­ing or­ganic food an ev­ery­day way of life

Central Otago Mirror - - NEWS - By SUE FEA

Hil­ton Queen­stown’s Ital­ian chef Mauro Battaglia has his 102-yearold grand­mother to thank for his pas­sion for all things food. Battaglia grew up in the moun­tain re­gion of Berg­amo, north of Mi­lan, spend­ing all his spare time in the coun­try with his grand­par­ents who lived off the land. ‘‘They grew ev­ery­thing they ate. They had pigs, chick­ens, cows, rab­bits, a huge veg­etable garden and fruit trees.’’ he said. ‘‘I would lit­er­ally spend my whole three-month sum­mer hol­i­days there.’’ Battaglia has very fond mem­o­ries of those child­hood days which have had a huge in­flu­ence on his cook­ing. ‘‘When you’ve got a me­mory like this you really start to ap­pre­ci­ate good food and re­spect the an­i­mals and all the pro­duce you cook with. You need to care for them.’’ His grand­par­ents gave him the knowl­edge and taught him how to re­spect the prod­uct. Ev­ery­thing was to­tally or­ganic. ‘‘We’re in that era when ev­ery­thing now is mass-pro­duced. They’re try­ing to go back to this

Hil­ton Queen­stown’s Ital­ian chef Mauro Battaglia. ‘or­ganic’ food. Hon­estly it made me laugh when I first heard that here. It’s like our ev­ery­day food back home. It’s an ev­ery­day way of life and eat­ing,’’ he said. His most fond me­mory from home is his grand­mother’s zabaglione, best made with fresh farm eggs, still warm from be­ing laid. The egg yolks were beaten with sugar over a water bath on the stove. ‘‘Ev­ery night af­ter school at 4pm we had this for a snack. We’d run down­stairs to the chicken coop and grab the eggs and have it with fresh cow’s milk. We used to dip bis­cuits in it.’’ Battaglia has his grand­fa­ther to thank for his skills in debon­ing and mak­ing the best out of ev­ery cut of meat. Ev­ery Sun­day they’d tuck into his grand­mother’s rab­bit and po­lenta. ‘‘It was so good. She’d caramelise the roast rab­bit so well to get the meat crispy.’’ The po­lenta was cooked on an open fire in an old black­ened pot. ‘‘My grand­fa­ther stirred it with a big wooden stick from out­side for 45 min­utes to an hour, even in sum­mer. I can still see the sweat coming off him in front of the fire.’’ As kids they’d scrape down to the crust around the edges of the pot. As he de­scribes squares of po­lenta with roast rab­bit and gravy on top, Battaglia is clearly long­ing for home. ‘‘When I look back I con­sider my­self very lucky. ‘‘I have a son two years old and I say to my wife – I wish I could give him an ex­pe­ri­ence like that.’’

Photo: SUE FEA 627503984

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