The Friday 5 #8 (or, rather, the Saturday 6)
How to eat like an Italian …
I’m sorry the Friday 5 has morphed into the Saturday 6 this week. It was a bit of a scramble getting packed up from my week in the Abruzzo yesterday then Ryanair, in typical fashion, managed to delay our plane by 2 1/2 hours . . . But there’s an extra tip to compensate.
Anyway I was there for a working holiday, partly to learn about the food and drink of the region which I’ve never visited before and partly to host a few wine tastings for my fellow students as part of a crowdfunder for the Square Food Foundation in Bristol, about which more in due course. (You’ve heard of fundraising dinners? Well, this was a fundraising cookery course!)
I hadn’t realised quite how mountainous the region was. We were staying near Penne at a beautiful villa called the Casa de Colle which is owned by Square Food supporter Stephen Hughes and could see the snow-capped mountains from our bedroom window. Many of the producers we visited, like the cheesemaker D’Agostoni were also up in the hills surrounded by the most breathtaking scenery.
Many of the ingredients we used and dishes we cooked are familiar from elsewhere in Italy. There was pasta, passata and olive oil which the Abruzzesi use in copious quantities but also sweet and hot dried peppers (peperoncini) which tend to get added to everything.
On the coast there is fish and in the mountains lamb and veal (see below). The markets are full of brilliantly colourful fruit and vegetables - tomatoes, courgettes, artichokes and apricots as you can see from the picture above. It’s impossible not to eat well.
The trip also reminded me how perfect the structure of an Italian meal is. A couple of crostini or antipasti, a small pasta course, a meat course with a salad and accompanying veg rather than more carbs and a light dessert which could well be - in fact often is - ice cream with a bought or home-made biscuit (again, below).
All credit to our two resident chefs Rosie Sykes and Barny Haughton for so generously sharing their knowledge and enthusiasm. Here are six things I’ve learnt which you could apply to your own cooking and entertaining.