Signs London

During a recent trip to the UK I spotted some signs in London that made me smile and so thought I’d share them with you all.

IMG_2151

The first one is quite boastful claiming they serve ‘’delectable’ ‘tantalizing’ (oh dear with a z) and ‘sumptuous’ food. Isn’t this rather setting themselves up for a fall? I was a little confused by their claim to serve Indian Chinese and the list of countries.

IMG_2153

Another food related sign, this restaurant claims to be specialists in out door caterers not outdoor, and surely if you have a hall isn’t that really indoor catering? And do you think it should have read, we have a specialised outdoor..?

IMG_2140

Apologies if anyone finds this one in poor taste, but there’s a show at London’s Olympia that I’m hoping no one forgets to attend.

IMG_2156

Finally, heaven forbid you’d need these lawyers. I can forgive them the over use of capitals but the spelling mistake means, sorry but if it was down to me I’d be saying, you’re fired.

Recycled Indian Relish

I hate to throw anything away and last week when I had half an onion and half a cucumber I made that English classic, of cucumber and onion steeped in vinegar. As I’m in Italy I couldn’t use malt vinegar like in the UK so I used a white wine vinegar.

I grew up with this; I remember Sunday teatime having cold beef sandwiches with the cucumber and onion mix adding a sour zingy taste. It’s lovely after a day or so languishing inside the fridge to have on a cheese or ham sandwich, or as an accompaniment to a salad.

Well today I used the last of it up at lunchtime and stood looking at the vinegar, coloured pink from the red onion and rather than throw it away I thought I’d recycle it and make an Indian relish. So as the iPod shuffled and Antony and the Johnsons played Cripple and the Starfish, I started to assemble the ingredients.

Now I’m not good at measurements, as I’ve said before I tend to be a chuck in the ingredients and have faith in the cooking gods. But I’ll try my best to give you an idea of the quantities I used to make this spicy, hot relish. 100_8879

Ingredients:

7 garlic cloves. 1 medium sized onion. 1 medium courgette. 1 aubergine. 6 small dried cayenne chillies (you can use whatever you like according to how hot you want the relish to be). 1 tablespoon of turmeric. 2 tablespoons of a curry powder mix. 1 tablespoon tomato puree. 100 ml white wine vinegar. Olive oil for frying.

First chop the onion, courgette, aubergine and garlic. Add a little oil to a deep pan and fry the onions until they start to soften but not brown. Add a little more oil to the pan and then add the aubergine and courgette and after a further 3 minutes add the garlic. Stir in the chillies and turmeric and stir the mixture giving the vegetables a coating of the yellow powder. Then add the curry powder, distribute evenly in the pan and add the vinegar.

100_8877

Bring to the boil and cook on a rapid heat for about five minutes, then turn to a rolling simmer and add the tomato puree and stir through. Continue the cooking for a further 15 minutes until it reaches a thicker consistency. The aubergine and onion should be soft but the courgette should still have a little bite to it.

Wash and sterilise 3 x 300g jars by drying in a hot oven, (be careful when taking hot jars from an oven) Make sure the jars have a coated inner lid for the storing of vinegar, plain metal lids will tarnish. and fill them while the relish and jars are still hot, screw on the lids and let them cool down before storing in the fridge. (They should pop and seal as they cool) The relish will keep for around 6 weeks in the fridge, (2 weeks once opened) and is delicious with warm flatbread like chapatti.

Asia in Italy

Last week here in middle Italy there’s been somewhat of an Asian influence.

First I spent a day making some spicy chapattis. As around these parts it can get difficult to find wholemeal flour let alone authentic chapatti flour, I make mine with a mix of Italian tipo oo and semolina flour. I first tossed some black mustard, coriander and cumin seeds along with a couple of chillies into a dry pan and heated them until the spices began to dance in the pan and perfume the kitchen air. I then ground them and added them to my flour mix before making the chapatti in the traditional way, even if they are often not perfectly circular.

100_8826

The following day I received an email telling me that a local bar was staging an evening of Indian food. Locally there’s been several of these events and despite people’s negativity they have proven quite popular with the younger population.

I open my fridge on this particular day and realise I have still got an aubergine that I haven’t used yet, so in keeping with the Indian theme I chop an onion and several garlic cloves and make a couple of jars of Brindjal chutney, which is a perfect snack accompaniment to a warm spicy chapatti.

100_8827

 

The Asian theme continues on throughout the week with my making a hot Thai green curry, obviously there’s a few ingredients that you can’t find in rural Italy, but with a can of coconut milk from inside the kitchen cupboard, some pureed ginger, a couple of cubes of frozen spinach and my imagination it all came together splendidly.

100_8828

The following morning, with the kitchen clinging to the Asian aromas still, I turned on the iPod and the first song to shuffle was, Crazy Kiya Re from the Bollywood movie Dhoom2.

This week it’s felt like Abruzzo has been twinned with Delhi and heve we felt the better for this?… You bet we do.

Octopus and Oyster

I’ve always considered myself adventurous when it came to food and like most people growing up in the UK I’ve been lucky enough to sample dishes from all over the world. Whether its Indian, Chinese, Turkish or Greek. I recently tried Japanese food for the first time, because England is a great country for international restaurants. I’ve also been lucky enough to travel and in doing so I’ve eaten durian fruit in Kuala Lumpur, nasi goreng in Bali, tabouleh in Oman and a thousand year egg in Singapore. Some of these have been culinary delights and others horrors, In fact some of the worst food I’ve ever had the misfortune to be served was in the US. But there is yet one thing I have an aversion to trying, and I’ve been up close and personal with it several times and each time I tell myself I’ll give it a go, and each time I shy away from it. It, being the humble oyster. I’ve been given them fresh in the shell in France and smoked in New Zealand, but for some reason I am just unable to put the darned thing in my mouth. And believe I’ve had  number of unmentionable things between my lips over the years.

tumblr_legwb9DCDU1qzbxpb

I’ve always had a passion for Italian food, which is I suppose a good thing considering I chose to live in Italy. I’m not talking about just pasta and pizza, not that there’s anything wrong with a slice of pizza. I mean traditional Italian food. I’m knowledgeable enough to know that there’s no tomato in a ‘proper’ bolognaise sauce and that mussels are served with fettuccini and clams with spaghetti. For many people back in the UK, their first experience with Italian food comes from and encounter with a lasagne; whether pre-packed or in a restaurant, but is it authentic? probably not, in Italy a proper lasagne isn’t made with minced beef, but with  minced pork or sometimes a mix of pork and lamb. funghi-trifolati

Back in the Britain, TV chefs and celebrity restaurants have made Italian cuisine cool again, and plates are leaving kitchens with miniscule portions of ravioli served with truffle oil complete with a top draw price. At one of these restaurants, belonging to a celebrity chef who’ll remain nameless I was served a simple but costly dish of pasta con funghi trifolati. Was it authentic? Was it buggery. (Apologies for my northern roots.) In Piedmonte, funghi trifolati is served with spaghetti or polenta, this was served with pappardalle and the sautéed mushrooms should have chopped parsley in abundance, as it’s a key ingredient not just for garnish. But is this detail important? Yes, especially if you’re paying a chef to prepare it for you while you apply to the bank for a mortgage to pay for it. This said in Italy there’ll be regional variations of most of the dishes we see in restaurants and on supermarket shelves, but what we see in the UK is just a tiny portion of the Italian cuisine. As most of it is regional it would be impossible for suppliers and manufacturers to provide a concise catalogue.baby-octopus-salad-550x403

I live just eighteen minutes from the coast so as you’d imagine seafood and fish features highly in the local diet. Now I’ve always been a meat eater and not a big fish eater, I do like some seafood but am not too keen on prawns, so imagine my surprise when recently I was served up squid and octopus. I looked at the baby, purple-coloured octopus on my plate and thought I was in for another oyster moment, but no I popped it into my mouth, chewed and swallowed without any problem. In fact the only problem was I liked it so much I’ve eaten it several times since, who knows maybe one day that darned oyster will go down and stay down.