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.
Tag Archives: Cheese
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.
I have literally dozens of cookbooks, and their usual fate is to sit forlornly on the shelf only to be taken down and flicked through once or twice a year when I’m really stuck for an idea (though this should not be revealed to my husband who already suspects this to be the case and is beginning to forbid me to buy any more – horror). There are however a few exceptions; books that are dog-eared and food splattered from constant and varied use. These books are as indispensable to me as my Le Creuset casserole or my favourite knife. And I have a sneaking suspicion that British Seasonal Food by Mark Hix is going to become one of these oft-opened books, always at hand to provide me with some interesting and more importantly seasonal inspiration. In the mere weeks it has been on my shelf it has already been taken down, and even cooked out of, way over its allotted number of times.
Most days I love my blog. Some days, I’ll be honest, it’s a bit of a time-sucking drag. Then every now and again I have a day that makes me want to jump for joy and give my blog a big fat smack on the lips. Last week I had one of those days. The clouds parted, the angels sang in immaculate chorus, and heaven’s benediction fell upon my head: I had been anointed as “the chosen one”. Thanks to my blog (I love you bloggy blog blog) I was invited to come down to the newly opened Brighton outpost of La Cave à Fromage and have a cheese tasting. If you don’t know, cheese is like the holy grail of food. And I was going to eat it all…
The other day I popped into Tesco (not my usual shop of choice) to pick up something quick for dinner. I had intended to go for something super lazy, perhaps even just opting for a can of baked beans for my jazzed up beans on toast (you’ve got to love baked beans). However, to my delight I noticed that they’ve started selling pick’n’mix tomatoes, which is an absolutely genius idea and one I hope Sainsbury’s will nick. As my husband utterly revels in anything tomatoey, I immediately resolved to abandon the lazy dinner I had planned and make him a special dinner treat of roasted mixed tomato risotto.
Part of the point of this blog is to get me to cook things that I don’t usually, for whatever reason. One such thing is cheese soufflé. Perhaps it’s my of a fear of failure or perhaps it’s because whenever I’ve thought of doing it, I’ve been cooking for friends and it feels like too big a risk: what if they don’t rise? I couldn’t possibly serve deflated soufflés to real people (real people being any one other than Sven or me)! Shocking isn’t it? I recently realised that the reason I don’t experiment too wildly with flavours or mess around with classic recipes is because to me food is all about feeding people (hence the name of the blog). I can’t take the risk that the food I put down on the table might be anything but delicious. I’m stopping slightly shy of saying food is love, but you get the picture.
My family has a long tradition of preserving. We’ve got jars of jams, marmalade and chutney from practically every branch of the clan. When we were kids, we would return from my grandmother’s house with bags of plums or gooseberries and my dad would get to making jam. Right now I have my aunt’s blackcurrant jam and my grandmother’s marmalade in the cupboard. It’s just what we do. However, to date my generation has not really got on board the preserving train. This weekend, that changed. For good.