Grazie, Nadiya Hussain

I’ve said it many times before and I’ll say it again, Italy has some great food. I love the fact that there’s a wealth of great eateries and restaurants around here. I love the fact that it’s mostly seasonal and that our supermarkets haven’t succumbed to the need for all fruit and veg to be uniform. I love Italian food and always have, be it pasta, polenta or pizza but I also like other cuisine. I was introduced to Japanese food by a friend and love it now, I’ve travelled and eaten authentic Indonesian and Malaysian food. I like Thai cuisine and the occasional Chinese meal. But the one thing I miss living in Italy is a good curry.

I went to school with a friend who’s family hailed from Bangladesh so experienced their food and culture, his mother taught me how to make ruti (chapati) and often fed us as hungry teens on homemade pakora or sweet malpua. Living in England there was no need to make a curry at home as there’s a plethora of good takeaways and restaurants, and anyway homemade curry always tastes like homemade. That was until I saw Nadiya Hussain make her 30 minute bhuna on TV and it’s the only one I’ve made that tastes like it was cooked for me not by me. If that makes any sense?

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For Nadiya’s recipe Click here

The only difference to Nadiya’s recipe is, I use red peppers rather than green as I’m not keen on the taste of green peppers, also it gives the sauce a more reddish colour. The recipe makes enough sauce for 4-6 people so when I make it I store half in the freezer, for those days when the desire for curry strikes.

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And strike it did this week, so out of the freezer came a bag of sauce and once defrosted the spices were cooked and chicken was added to create an authentic dinner. This sauce works well with lamb, goat and also veal. I cooked some rice the same way I’ve always cooked it, the way an Afghan friend showed me.

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Many people struggle with rice so I’ll share his method with you as it never fails. Add cold water to the rice to just cover it and bring to the boil, let it boil for 3 minutes then cover the pan and turn off the heat and let it stand for 10 minutes and the rice will perfect as it’ll absorb all the water.

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I added some flat leaf parsley to butter and garlic salt and smeared it onto some Italian flatbread and wrapped it in foil and popped it into the oven for a few minutes as I served up Nadiya’s bhuna and rice and once it was all assembled on my plate I sat down and devoured it with gusto.

So I’m taking this opportunity to say Grazie, Nadiya Hussain for sharing your recipe, now I’ll always be able to have a taste of Bangladesh here in Italy.

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Chasing Ghosts

It’s well past the time most people are in bed. I’ve turned the DVD player off after three episodes of Dynasty, the 1980’s American soap that involved actors hitting their marks and delivering their lines with very little actual acting taking place. I’m not really into TV where you have to invest large chunks of your life before you reach the conclusion, but back in the 80’s I loved Dynasty, the glamour, gloss and dubious storylines were all part of my Saturday night. My group of friends would all gather at someone’s house prior to going to a club, we’d all watch Dynasty, the Linda camp on one side of the room and the Joan (my camp) on the other. We’d have a few drinks and revel in the absurdness on the screen, hoping for a cat-fight between the two leading ladies, before we dressed for the evening and hit the town. As I watch the show again, (season three) thirty years later, the memories drift by like ghosts.

I open the front door, the night air is warm, there’s a slight breeze covers me with a welcome hug across the shoulders. The dogs race out into the darkness, their black coats making them invisible in the night-time. I hear their paws as they race up to the top of the road, there’s a rustle of grass and they break into barking mode. Olive has a typical terrier bark, short bursts of high pitched yelping and Alfie has a baritone bark followed by a drawn out howl. I reach the top of the road where there’s a street-light and I can see them, they’re among the olive trees, obviously looking for something. Olive darts behind a tree quickly followed by Alfie, they both stop and stare into the distance. I peer into the greyness wondering what they are looking at but see nothing but trees. Suddenly they both jerk their heads to the left and start barking, neither one moves, they remain stationary as they shout at nothing, suddenly Olive breaks away and she runs, Alfie is still a pup so follows her lead and he bounds off between the trees, his long legs making him look like a stilt-walker who’s become unstable. They reach the spot that spooked them both, give a few half-hearted barks and pad back towards me, satisfied that whatever was in the trees, they’ve seen off.

We stroll back down the road towards the house, Alfie sees something and barks again, Olive joins him and they’re off again, back up to the olive grove to chase ghosts. I sigh and wander back towards the dogs, knowing tonight will be one of those nights when getting them back into the house will take longer than usual.

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Olive and Alfie

Emmerdale

Despite living with sawdust and the noise of the house restoration, six days a week I’m really enjoying being in Italy. It’s always felt right for me to be here and without sounding like some blurb on the dust jacket of a paperback, it’s always felt like my spiritual home. Now don’t get me wrong I’m not devoutly religious, or mystical: in fact it takes me half my time to recall my own name in the morning, let alone a handful of saints and multi-limbed divinities.

So here I am and last week my builder asked me if there was anything back in England I miss, obviously it goes without saying that there are family and friends, special people in my life. Thankfully we can stay connected due to the wonders of Facebook and Skype, and I know that when the five bottles of HP sauce I have brought with me run out then I’ll miss that. Or as my builder calls it, English sauce. I like a nice dollop of the brown stuff on my bacon and eggs, and maybe i could find it over here at a vastly increased price.

The more I thought about it, all I could recall was things that I wouldn’t miss. Stationary traffic at junction 10 of the M6, the neighbour who plays drum and bass at full volume, every Sunday morning from 07.00 and vomit on the pavements outside kebab shops. I shook away all my negative thoughts of England and tried again to think of the things I miss most, one thing was English television. As we have limited internet allowance it’s not practical to use it watching TV, so we’ve been watching films and television shows on DVD. (Don’t get me started on last nights offering, the film, Sliding Doors – what was that all about, okay, it was a pleasant enough story with some nice acting thrown into the mix, but if there was a message in the film, I missed it completely, as the credits rolled I just thought, Huh! But I digress.

Now the problem with DVD’s is that once you put a disc in and pour the wine before you know it you’re three episodes in of some American drama. Now don’t get me wrong, there are some really good American shows out there, but I do prefer English dramas. So It’d be fair to say that I will miss English television – that is until we get a decent broadband connection and monthly limit.

Talking of television, there is one thing that I do miss already, the Yorkshire television soap, Emmerdale. In fact so far I’ve missed so many episodes It’ll take me ages to catch up. Now people may think it’s a bit sad to say I’ll miss a TV show, but I do. Yes I know they’re all fictional characters and that the storylines are dreamt up in offices possibly overlooking the ring road in Leeds but of all the TV shows shown in the UK, it was the only one I watched religiously.

I may not know the names of all the prophets but can name you everyone who has lived at Home Farm or worked behind the bar at The Woolpack.