Italian Artisan Produce At Provender Brown May 30, 2019 10:12

Salento has been supplying Provender Brown since we first opened in 2005. They have been operating their wholesale business for some 23 years, distributing only the finest, authentic Italian foods throughout the British Isles and western Europe.

One of the reasons we love working with them, is down to their ethos. They are dedicated not only to providing high quality produce to various business types but also to supporting small, hardworking, artisan food producers throughout a range of Italy’s most beautiful regions. Importantly for us, Salento is the only UK supplier for the vast majority of its artisan producers and, as such, these foods are not to be found in mainstream shopping outlets.

The company’s two Directors – Dimitri and Michel – have been firm friends and business partners throughout their entire adult lives. Early in their friendship, they discovered a mutual love of genuine Italian foods and a shared desire to develop the availability of foods from the Salento area (where Michel lives with his family) throughout western Europe.

The range of produce on offer has expanded greatly since those early days and, although strongly retaining its Salento roots, the company now sources its products across a far greater geographical area. Although Salento is truly a heavenly region for the gourmet food lover, the availability of its exceptional produce has remained sparse in comparison with foods from many other areas of Italy, partly due to its remoteness. Salento is doing its very best to remedy this.

These are just some of the great products you'll find at Provender Brown: 

Soft amaretti macaroons from Anticoli

Only the finest almonds (a perfect balance between sweet and bitter varieties) are selected for use in these intensely-flavoured, slightly chewy amaretti.

Perfect with tea/coffee or alongside other nibbles for guests.

Based in the Spa town of Fiuggi (or ‘Anticoli di Campagna’ during the middle-ages), the artisan producer Anticoli has spent the last 20 years producing a range of patisserie products with these amaretti being their flagship product.

Olio Extra Lizzanello from Gianni Calogiuri

This is a fine example of a very low acidity olive oil produced using traditional methods of cold extraction from local Ogliarola and Cellina di Nardo olive varieties harvested wholly from the Gianni Calogiuri family’s own estate. This small family business self-bottles and produces according to traditional methods passed through five generations. The estate is located in the village of Lizzanello (meaning small oak in Italian).

Good news – extra virgin olive oil is healthy! It is high in phenolic antioxidants, Omega 6, Omega 3, Vitamin E and Vitamin K. It contains anti-inflammatory properties, protects good LDL cholesterol and improves the condition of the lining of blood vessels. It is also strongly indicated that it can reduce unwanted blood clotting and lower blood pressure, both helpful protections against heart disease and stroke. Indeed, extra virgin olive oil features prominently in the diets of many of the world’s healthiest populations.

Olive oils are definitely not all created equal. Lower quality oils are extracted using chemicals or heat, and may be diluted with lower quality oils. Extra virgin olive oil uses only natural methods of extraction, such as the stone mills used by Gianni Calogiuri.

Extra virgin olive oil is unrefined. This means that it has not been treated or tampered with to remove any perceived imperfections and thus, unlike refined oils, retains a distinctive olive flavour, colour and aroma. Refining the oil also removes some of the nutrients and health benefits discussed above.

Its unrefined state makes it usual for extra virgin olive oils to appear darker in colour than their lower quality rivals but a much better indicator of quality relates to acidity level. The acidity level for all extra virgin olive oils must sit below 0.8%; this lovely Gianni Calogiuri oil has an acidity level of just 0.3%.

Although extra virgin olive oil is suitable for cooking, it has a comparatively low burn point, making it perhaps more appropriate to use less expensive oils in many instances.

There are endless uses for high quality olive oils such as this, including:

  • Dipping with Italian breads (and just about anything else)
  • Livening up any Lingue or bruschetta topping
  • Mixing with an equal measure of balsamic vinegar and then seasoning for a simple salad dressing or as a marinade for meat
  • Serving with a cheeseboard
  • Pouring over any cold meats
  • Adding as a condiment at the dining table to many meals (e.g. pasta dishes)

Product: Condimento Balsamico, pure unblended five year old balsamic from Giovanni Leonardi 

The term balsamic vinegar has a protected designation of origin (DOP) of Modena or Reggio Emilia and only products from these regions are true balsamics. As a balsamic ages, its flavour becomes sweeter and more intense and its consistency thickens. Indeed, some balsamics are aged for over 25 years and can be extremely expensive.

For everyday usage, this five year old Giovanni Leonardi balsamic is perfect. It provides a delicious, typical balsamic flavour whilst remaining affordable.

Produced from the cooked must of Trebbiano and Lambrusco grapes (as all balsamics must be), it is aged for five years in consecutive casks of ash, mulberry, oak, chestnut and juniper woods of decreasing size. This allows the must to acquire the distinct essences of each wood.

Four generations of the Leonardi family have handed down the knowledge of traditional balsamic production. The grapes are picked during September and October, when the sugar/acidity ratio is optimal. They are then pressed softly so as to avoid an excess of certain substances found in the peel, seeds and stalks finding their way into the end must product (which would introduce unwanted bitterness).

Cooking begins within 24 hours of harvest so as to avoid fermentation. It can take up to 48 hours for the must to reduce to a concentration level of 50%, at which point the mixture is cooled and rested until January.

The important balsamic ageing process now begins, when the must is placed in consecutive wooden casks to become concentrated by a process of evaporation. Transfer of the must from one barrel to the next takes place annually in winter when the mixture is ‘sleeping’ in the low temperatures. Evaporation throughout the year means that the must is always transferred to a barrel of decreasing size. The liquid is checked for consistency, flavour and colour annually.

The high summer and low winter temperatures of the Modena/Reggio Emilia area provide the optimum conditions prescribed by traditional balsamic methods.

If the lid is kept securely fitted after opening and the bottle kept in a cupboard away from heat, it will remain at top quality for three years but actually, kept properly, it should remain usable for many years more.

Of course, none of the Leonardi balsamics contain any caramel or E-numbers/colourings.

There are endless uses for balsamic, including:

  • Dipping with Italian breads (and just about anything else)
  • Livening up any Lingue or bruschetta topping with a few drops
  • Mixing with an equal measure of extra virgin olive oil and then seasoning for a simple salad dressing or as a marinade for meat
  • Serving with a cheeseboard
  • Enriching the flavour of stews and soups
  • Adding as a condiment at the dining table to many meals (e.g. pasta dishes)
  • Perhaps not for everyone, but a couple of drops can even be added to vanilla ice-cream

Handmade Lingue flatbreads from Fratelli Comino 

It is obvious from looking at this flatbread why it is named the Lingue (or tongue). It is stretched very thin by hand, making each individual flatbread unique in shape rather than uniform. Made using extra virgin olive oil, it offers a truly authentic Italian taste, following a recipe that can be traced back some 400 years.

Fratelli Comino is a run by two brothers based in Piemonte. They artisan-produce a variety of bread items, with the Lingue range being their flagship product.

Product: Patè di Olive from OrtoSalento and Casina Rossa

This delicious tapenade is made using only the finest produce.

The following are a few suggestions for serving:

  • As a topping for Lingue or bruschetta
  • As a dip for breadsticks or other Italian breads
  • Alongside a cheeseboard or charcuterie appetiser board in the place of fresh olives
  • Mix with pasta
  • With toast and butter for breakfast
  • Use a small amount to liven up dull sandwiches
  • Use as an accompaniment to pizza
  • For a milder taste and thinner consistency mix with olive oil, or thin it down substantially in this manner in order to create a salad dressing

Product: Crema di Porcini by La Madia Regale 

This is a high-quality product, containing 80% of the prized Porcini (boletus edulis) mushrooms.

Serving suggestions include:

  • As a topping for Lingue or bruschetta
  • As a dip for breadsticks or other Italian breads
  • Alongside a cheeseboard or charcuterie appetiser board
  • Mix with pasta or fill fresh pasta parcels
  • With toast and butter for breakfast
  • Use a small amount to liven up dull sandwiches
  • Use as an accompaniment to pizza
  • For a milder taste and thinner consistency, mix with olive oil or thin it down substantially in this manner in order to create a salad dressing