Pumpkin Gnocchi & Grandma’s Budino: Chef Michele’s Italian Christmas Memories
Chef Michele Prevedello of Park Hyatt Hyderabad walks down memory lane to tell us stories of his Christmas celebrations and feasts at home in Italy
I grew up in a small town nested under the hills in the heart of Veneto region, in the northeast of Italy. Christmas always meant a joyous family gathering with relatives and friends around. My favourite Christmas food memories go back to a few years from now when I had finished my hotel management degree and entered the fantastic world of food and hospitality.
Gifts and Celebrations
The memories I cherish from Christmas were of the entire family coming together to celebrate and joining in the preparations leading to the Christmas day. We had so much fun decorating the Christmas tree, lighting the star, recreating the nativity at a corner of our home during the days prior to the festival and looking for good musk to dry and use as a base for the display.
One of my favourite memories was the early morning of Christmas when I would get to open my gifts and then get ready to head to church for the Christmas mass with the entire family. I would also make it a point to meet my old friends and family and exchange wishes with them.
A Lavish Christmas Feast
We would eagerly wait for the Christmas lunch which was undoubtedly the year’s biggest feast. My mum would work a few days ahead to prepare the favourite dishes for the entire family. We would arrange the small living room to cater to about 20 people including my grandparents, uncles, aunts and cousins.
My mum loved growing pumpkin in the backyard which would be available throughout winter. We would use the pumpkins for decoration outside the house and then on the plate. Pumpkin gnocchi was one of the most important dishes on the table, with sage and butter, along with beautiful mushroom risotto, crepes and lasagna.
Growing up in a small town gave me the opportunity to own a little farm. We had pigs, cows, rabbits, chicken and turkey. We never purchased any meat from the market as we had always used our own farmed or hunted meat on the table at Christmas. We would use either the best pork cuts or prepare a wild boar stew or a ragout of hare served with hot piping polenta. There would also be some spit roasted birds such as quails and a variety of sides like roasted potatoes, stewed dandelion (also fantastic and picked just behind my house in autumn) and of course a chiodini mushroom stew and roasted pumpkin to decorate everything.
Dessert would normally be brought by any one of my aunts but my favourite was my grandma’s budino with butter cookie. It was a take on tiramisu with butter cookies dipped in coffee and layered between a vanilla and chocolate budino topped with coloured sugar zests.
Amidst all the conversations during Christmas Day, a mocha of coffee would be made, a bottle of grappa circulated to help digest the feast and we would be sitting for almost five hours outside in the crisp cold air of winter. A white snow covered mountain just behind us would be a perfect frame for a beautiful Christmas Sunday lunch.
Recipe: Tre-Forni’s Portobello Carpaccio
1No Portobello mushroom
150ml olive oil
50g burrata cheese
3No garlic clove
10g parmesan cheese shaving
Winter black truffle
Marinate the Portobello mushroom with salt and pepper.
Heat the olive oil at 72 degrees Celsius. Add the garlic, rosemary and the Portobello mushroom.
Cook it in confit for about 15 to 20 minutes.
Bland the burrata with salt, pepper and few drops of truffle oil.
Once the Portobello mushroom is cold, slice it and arrange on the plate.
Add the mousse, sliced truffle, rucola, radish and parmesan shavings.
This dish is available at Tre-Forni Restaurant & Bar, a luxurious space serving Italian classics at Park Hyatt Hotel in Banjara Hills, Hyderabad.