Food & Cooking

With Hallowe’en having come and gone, you’d think we’d seen the last of the pumpkins but here the scary celebration heralds the importance of a season of zucche in all shapes and sizes. We thought we’d buy one of these knobbly beauties and create a couple of dishes from it … well that was the idea anyway.

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It’s the evening of the 24 June and I am standing under our walnut tree looking at the green walnuts, counting to see if there are 23 at a reachable height. I’m deciding whether to make Nocino, the sticky, brown sweet liqueur and today, being the day of St John (The Baptist), is the only day I can pick these fruits if I am to stick to the legend.

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It’s often true to say that when you think of Italy … you think of its wonderful food. Italians are extremely passionate about cooking and eating, from the ingredients found in their ‘orto’ to the do’s and don’ts of the final touches … ‘To parmesan or not to parmesan?’ Food is such a passion that it is included in many phrases – some to compliment and some to insult – and in today’s post I thought I’d share a few of my favourites with you.

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I found a recipe in one of my old notebooks at the end of last year – a recipe I don’t think I’d ever made in England but which I must have jotted down from somewhere to have on hand for the right moment. That right moment is apparently during the restoration of an Italian farmhouse in below-zero temperatures.

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As you would probably expect here in Italy, the Christmas build up starts with food. Be warned: if you’re reading this on an empty stomach you may want to grab a little something to put you on, and I advise you to also have a tissue to hand – there are photos and descriptions of cakes and other sweet treats and I will not be held responsible if you drool on your screens or keyboards!

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I thought I’d finish off, what has become a decidedly foodie themed Summer, with a list of foodie dos and don’ts that we’ve discovered whilst living here in Italy. We’ve had our fair share of finger wagging and tut-tutting about some of our choices whilst eating or drinking with friends so I’m paving the way for all you future visitors to Liguria to be aware of the pit falls when dining out.

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My ‘cantina’ is far from full (the photo above is the dream, sadly not the reality) – unless you count the various new ‘Quattro Stagioni’ and ‘Kilner’ jars that tempt me whenever I amble around Ipercoop (there’s always a new size or shape that I know I couldn’t live without – in England my obsession was handbags, in Italy its glass jars!) We’ve also started saving jars and bottles to put to one side for future preserves but that has just made me more awkward to supermarket shop with – if I buy anything in a jar now, I have to like the jar as well as the contents!

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With thirteen kilos of plums sitting in the freezer at one point, and only so many crumbles you can eat in the heat of Summer we’ve been enjoying our plums, cooked down with a little sugar into a compote type affair with Greek yogurt as a cool pudding after dinner. I’ve decided against making jam at the moment as we still have a couple of jars of mulberry and grape to turn to (and to be honest we’re not big jam eaters anyway). So I wanted to find something new to do with my bags of purple fruit and, with the help of the Internet, I started reading about leather!

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Yes today we have another Foodie Post – the ‘orto’ and the herb bed have certainly kept me busy this Summer and without wanting to resort to supermarket shopping over Winter we’ve been tucking a little something away every time we’ve had a rush of growth on our various plants. This week we’ve been picking … and pickling … our ‘peperoncini’.

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