I’m so excited. In just three teeny tiny little sleeps I’m off to Italy on holiday (whoop, whoop!) and it goes without saying that the thing that’s at the forefront of my mind is the food. As I mentioned in my recent PDO post, in Italy produce quality is paramount and celebrated. The very best Italian meals, the ones that really stay with you, are the simplest, where the finest quality ingredients are prepared humbly, allowing the flavours to shine. Two such ingredients, which I’m lucky enough to be ambassador for, are the distinctive and historic products, Grana Padano Cheese and Prosciutto di San Daniele.
On Friday night Sven and I were lucky enough to go to Delicious by DS5 – a pop-up restaurant hosted by Citroen for their new car, the DS5. The five-course tasting menu was created by 2011 Masterchef winner, Tim Anderson, and was inspired by the five senses. According to Tim, “this project really allowed me to stretch my creativity and try some new gastronomic approaches… we’re creating a dining experience that will surprise and delight on a multi-sensory level.” I was really excited to be invited, and the event didn’t disappoint at all. When we arrived, we were impressed by the venue, Hoxton Art Gallery, which had been redressed as a very swanky restaurant, complete with Eames chairs and trendy exposed filament light bulbs. After a couple of glasses of prosecco we were all (around 50 guests) seated at once. And before too long the food started rolling out.
Anyone who watches Masterchef will no doubt remember Tim Anderson. He was last year’s Champion (Masterchef 2011) and in my opinion has caused Masterchef a bit of a problem. You see, he was so creative, so talented, so ‘out there’… simply put, so good, that anyone following him just seems a bit, well, meh! Thanks to Tim, and the relative blandness of the contestants, I simply forgot to watch this year’s finals, and although I tried to get cross when my Dad revealed the winner on Facebook before I’d caught up, I didn’t really care. So, aside from to tell you that he ruined, perhaps forever, one of my once favourite TV shows (Thanks Tim!), why am I talking about Tim Anderson?
As I think I’ve made astoundingly clear over the last two years, I’m a great lover of Italy and, more specifically, Italian food. The thing that I love about Italian food, which sets it apart from other cuisines for me, is the way it respects and celebrates produce. You very rarely sit down to a complex Italian dish. A typical Italian plate of food is simplicity at its best. Few ingredients, simply cooked, allowing the intrinsic qualities and flavours shine. In fact, when I’m in Italy, which I try to be as often as possible (roll on June and Puglia, whoop whoop), my absolute favourite meal is the lunch we serve every day, no cooking required, only beautiful local produce. Just bread, the most beautiful red ripe beef tomatoes, a selection of cheeses and (my own personal heroin) prosciutto, all served with an ice-cold beer. So, when I was approached by Consortium of Prosciutto di San Daniele and Consortium of Grana Padano Cheese to be ambassador for these two iconic Italian products, it wasn’t a hard sell.
Over recent years the changing of the clocks has not only heralded the arrival of British Summer Time, but also the ever unexpected though increasingly reliable burst of gorgeous summer-esque weather. The last week or so has been a scorcher, which has led me to crave light and fresh summery dinners of salads and, well, salads to be honest. It’s been a bit salad heavy up in Feed & Gastro towers, much to Sven’s chagrin probably (never a particularly professed lover of salad). So when I thought Sven was about up to his eyeballs with chicken salad, Greek salad, and cous cous salad, and every other salad under the sun, I thought it was about time to turn to meat.
I often dither in the supermarket at certain key stations. 1) Eggs. Happy eggs. Free range farm eggs. Organic eggs. Which represents the best value for money and taste, whilst being ethically sound? 2) Loo roll. Comfort is important no matter what anyone says, but considering the sheer disgusting waste it represents, there should be some kind of ethical consideration. That usually means buying recycled. Ouchy. 3) Bread. I’m a bread whore, by which I mean I have zero brand loyalty and pretty much pimp out my bread purchase to whoever is willing to give me a good price. As long as it’s wholemeal for Finn’s cheese and ham sarnies, I’m in. (*of course, we also buy artisan bread from our local bakers, blah, blah, blah). Well, I shall dither no more because One brand has swooped in and brought a killer two-birds-one-stone solution to solve all my dithering needs.
Spaghetti Carbonara is a long running obsession in my family. My Dad’s obsession, that is. He must have tried every recipe under the sun and we must have sampled dozens of versions. With cream. Without. Some claggy. Some too wet. Some too eggy. Just never quite right. Alway nice, but never reaching the dizzying heights of perfection. Then not too long ago, Dad finally served the ultimate rendition and it reminded me of the pure and fantastic simplicity of Spaghetti alla Carbonara. Eggs and bacon. Perfect in every language.