Tag Archives: italy

World Cooking – Italy

List Item: Cook something from every countryCountry: Italy
Progress: 25/193

It’s been over a month since I last did a post about my journey to cook my way around the world with a surprisingly delicious saltfish dish from St Lucia. Since then I’ve been to Greece and to Taiwan… all the while trying to think of what country should be covered for this landmark number. So, here we are with Italy.

Right, so where do you even begin with what to cook for Italy. There are so many iconic and regional dishes to choose from that it was actually rather difficult to pick a main and a dessert. I mean not only is this the land of pizza, pasta and gelato – but risottos, bread, soups, stews, salumi and many other things. Hell, if you go to the north of the country, you find a lot of Italian dishes that most of us would be more likely to identify as Austrian or Swiss.

There is also the issue of appropriation with certain dishes due to the popularity of Italian cuisine. So many of us make something we identify as ‘spaghetti bolognese’ and it’s just not Italian food. In this vein, I found recipes that are as authentic as possible and thought it would be cool to make one thing I know how to make and one thing I haven’t.

Main: Spaghetti Carbonara

For a very long time, spaghetti carbonara would have probably ranked as my favourite dish. This was back when I was young, refused to eat vegetables and seemed to eat at a lot of Italian restaurants. However, this wasn’t proper carbonara – it was carbonara featuring a lot of cream and, sometimes, peas. It wasn’t until I covered guanciale nearly four and a half years ago that I made carbonara that could be described as authentic (although, to be fair, I have been making nearly-proper carbonara for about five years prior).

So, what makes carbonara authentic? Firstly, no cream whatsoever. Now that I’ve been making it with egg yolk, butter and cheese instead – the idea of using cream just feels wrong. Guanciale (or pork cheek) instead of pancetta as the meat and pecorino or parmesan as the cheese.

Now that I make this type of carbonara, this is my favourite pasta dish and would probably rank as one of my top ten dishes out there. This recipe by Antonio Carluccio was used for today’s recipe – and is pretty much the version I’ve made for ages, including the first meal that I ever cooked for my husband.

Main: Sbrisolona

List Item: Try as many of the 1001 Foods You Must Try Before You Die as possibleFood item: Sbrisolona
Progress: 766/1001

Like with Venezuela, I could hardly pass up this opportunity to unite the two food lists. There were a few options of things to make from Italy, but I thought I would go for this  crunchy and crumbly tart from Lombardy because it looked relatively simple to make. This is true as long as you don’t forget that your flan ban has a loose bottom which can send the mixture flying on its way to the oven. Oh well, at least I had enough left to cook – even if my fan oven was a bit overly zealous with cooking the top layer…

As the recipe from Mano’s Menu shows, the ingredients required for this dish are fairly humble and can be found in most store cupboards. It’s also one of those rare dishes that doesn’t take that long to put together and tastes like a lot more effort went into it than what actually did. Unless you do a crumbly juggling act like I did.

Sbrisolona is listed as a cake, although it feels more like the offspring of an overgrown cookie and the base of a cheesecake. It’s really satisfying to break off pieces (as it pretty much starts to shatter when you use a knife to cut it) and there is just so much of it that I can see this being dessert for the next 2-3 days. I wonder what it’ll taste like with some vanilla skyr yoghurt.

So that’s the first 25 countries crossed off and 168 still to go. There are still so many huge cuisines yet to touch and a lot of new things to try and make for myself (injera anyone?). Next time I’ll be back trying to make something from Africa, although I cannot help but think that Mozambique will be a tough act to follow.

Melting In Sicily – Arrival

List Item: Visit all EU countries
Progress: 12/28italy-flag-wallpaperCountry: Italy
Year first visited: 1997

Okay, so I have been to Italy of number of times since 1997 which included a school trip around the country in 2002 where we toured a number of sites including Florence, Rome and Pompeii. In early October of 2014 (this, once again, shows how far in advance I am writing these) we stayed in Catania, the second largest city on the island of Sicily. The fact that Sicily is ~20% larger than Wales still throws me for a loop.

I will be negating my regular postings this week (since Monday is usually a music post it is a bit redundant stating this I know) to write up my diary notes of the trip with some pictures as well as ticking a few things off of my list. So, here we are with Day One:

Day One – Arriving in Sicily

When we were choosing a place to go on a week long holiday in October there ended up being a four-way battle between Sicily, Sardinia, Malta and Venice. Sicily ended up winning for a number of reasons, a major one being that this is somewhere that gets really hot in the summer so visiting when it was milder made sense for us. All I can say is… it’s called an average for a reason. Where Catania has an average October high of 24°C we arrived in the late afternoon and it was at 28°C. Being able to write this in retrospect I can add that the hottest temperature we saw out there was 34°C but more about there when I write about that day.

After a rather manic taxi ride from the airport we arrived at the rather nice NH Bellini hotel which would be our base for the next five days… apart from we had accidentally booked for 4 nights instead of 5 for some completely unknown reason. The man at the front desk was really helpful and found us rooms and charged us the same rate that we had prepaid at so not the BEST start.

The sun was hanging low in the sky as we left the hotel to make our way to the Piazza Duomo. It was hanging even lower when we realised we had made an incorrect turning onto the Via Etnea (all recently paved in lava stone which gave the road and pavement a silvered black appearance) and when we were far down we agreed it would be a good idea to stop for a drink… when I noticed the first of two region specific food items from my food list: granita

Food items: Granita Siciliana and Black Mulberry

We stopped at the La Dolce Vita café on the Piazza Universitá (where we would keep going back since the prices were good and the view of the Piazza and its related foot traffic was perfect) and I was able to have by first taste of granita, a Sicilian iced drink which lies somewhere in the realms of slushie, shaved ice and sorbet. The one I had was the on the right of the photo and was lemon flavoured whilst my engagement partner had the mulberry on the left (if someone had told me that black mulberry was just blackberry/bramble I would have been able to cross it off yonks ago). During my stay in Sicily I tried lemon, mulberry, pistachio, orange, coffee, chocolate and watermelon granite from a number of different areas but none beat the lemon granita found at La Dolce Vita. One of the most refreshing things I have ever tasted and it is something that, writing this eight hours after landing back in the UK, I am already missing.

After eating these it was night time and we went for a quick around the immediate are surrounding the Piazza Duomo and we went for dinner at the Caffé del Duomo looking onto the square where I just could not decide what to have since Catania is basically a food heaven. We all decided on fish since it is what Catania is known for and from this I was able to gain a few more list items.

Food item: Baby Squid

I decided to go for an old favourite of calamari fritti (fried squid) and judging by the size of the fried tentacles I am more than happy to be able to tick off baby squid now. With a green lemon on the side this was perfectly cooked with the squid still being tender to the bite. I am not too used to having the tentacles too since most places tend to discard those (something I don’t get since I always include them when making my own).

 Food item: Swordfish

My mum had swordfish for her main and gave me a bit in exchange for some squid. I never imaginged swordfish to be so big as to provide a steak of this size (something which would be burned into my mind when I saw the decapitated head of one at a market stall later in the week) so when this colossal piece of fish arrived on her plate it was a bit surprising. The closest thing I can compare this to is a tuna steak, but more meaty and less fishy. For something so expensive over here in the UK  a giant steak fetched only 7€ at the market and could be found in nearly every restaurant we came across.

Food item: Red Mullet

My engagement partner ordered a platter which was basically described as small “catch of the day” fish fried… and he was presented with the above. The fact that he doesn’t like eating pork ribs or lamb chops will go a long way to explain why I was proud of him being able to finish this off (despite him gagging badly on a half-swallowed fish rib towards the end of the platter); minus the red mullet I spotted which I managed to trade for some of my calamari. The mullet I had was very easy to strip from the bone and had a delicate flavour.

To finish off I had to have my first (of four across the week) cannoli. Something I have heard a lot about thanks to U.S. shows like Everybody Loves Raymond and Sex & The City and I was not disappointed.

Despite the great food and getting to know Catania on a tiny level I do admit I went to sleep wondering if I had made a mistake pushing for Sicily. This is something my mum always has on the first day of a holiday before really loving a place but this was the first time I felt apprehensive about a new place… I am glad to say that after day two these feelings evaporated.

Around The World in 100 Films – Start Point

List Item: Watch films from 100 different nations
Progress: 22/100

Time for me to open up the second of my three film bucket list items with a rather arbitrary goal of seeing films from 100 different nations. Unlike the Oscar list item this is something that can be permanently crossed off unless I suddenly get the urge to add another batch of countries to keep this going.

Now, I have decided to count countries as long as I watched the film after I put this onto my bucket list which was (yes I made a note) on August 5th 2013. This means that some countries (e.g. Finland, South Africa, China and Israel) are not on the list yet despite me having seen them in the past. I figured using this cut off point would serve as a way to make this more challenging whilst also keeping Burkina Faso (still stoked about that one).

Whilst I was preparing this list I saw there were 21 countries on the list and instantly envisioned doing a really cool triangle number diagram as you can see below:WorldCinemaTriangleNotice the problem? Well in making that list I had forgotten that I saw a Polish film at the end of January which means poor Hungary (my most recent nation) has to lay on the outskirts since I decided to do this in order of seeing them. My inner math-geek is not impressed with this. It was later pointed out to me that a film I thought was Australian was from New Zealand, now my inner flag-geek is unhappy too.

Still 22 countries down, 78 to go. Not a bad place to start with, although there are not many of the big film nations left which will make this interesting.

Any film suggestions for yet unwatched countries will be VERY much appreciated. Bear in mind re-watches are not allowed here so films like Tsotsi, Drifting Clouds and Waltz With Bashir will not count.

  1. Germany – Das Cabinet des Dr. Caligari (The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari)
  2. U.S.A. – Robocop
  3. Netherlands – De Vierde Man(The Fourth Man)
  4. Czech Republic – Kolja (Kolya)
  5. Italy – La Strada
  6. Burkina Faso – Sarraounia
  7. Argentina – El Secreto De Sus Ojos (The Secret in Their Eyes)
  8. Japan – Zatoichi Monogatari (The Story of Zatoichi)
  9. Brazil  – Cidade De Deus (City of God)
  10. Denmark – Melancholia
  11. United Kingdom – Blowup
  12. Norway – Flåklypa Grand Prix (Pinchcliffe Grand Prix)
  13. France – La règle du jeu (The Rules of the Game)
  14. New Zealand – The Piano
  15. Poland – Popiól i diament (Ashes and Diamonds)
  16. Spain – El espíritu de la colmena (The Spirit of the Beehive)
  17. Sweden – Viskningar och Rop (Cries and Whispers)
  18. Belgium – Ernest & Célestine
  19. Greece – Kynodontas (Dogtooth)
  20. Canada – The Sweet Hereafter
  21. Algeria – Z
  22. Hungary – A torinói ló(The Turin Horse)

The Great E.U. Quest – The Starting Point

List Item: Visit all EU countries
Progress: 12/28

I am a very lucky person in a number of ways. Despite being the child of a single mother (who is the best mum a guy can ask for) we still managed to have the most amazing holidays. I still can not quite believe how many different countries I have under my belt at the age of 24.

This particular bucket list item is a curious one since it is another that has a potential to be completed and then become incomplete within my lifetime. The item being to visit every country within the European Union.

Europe Visited - 1

The map (see above) shows how far I have gotten so far (although due to scaling there is no way to see Malta but for this exercise it should be a yellow colour since I haven’t seen it).

So far I have had the privilege of visiting 12 of the current E.U. nations and they are coloured in as blue on the map, something that struck me immediately is how all the countries I have been to are linked together on the map; except for Portugal since I have not been to Spain yet.

At some point in the future I will write about visiting each one when I am up to date with all the items I have already since I did promise proof. But for now I am writing this to officially class this item as being in progress.

If you have any suggestions of trips I should make to help cross off some of the remaining 16 E.U. nations (Spain, Ireland, Greece, Malta, Cyprus, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Hungary, Bulgaria, Romania, Poland, Slovakia, Sweden, Finland and Luxembourg) I would love to hear from you since I have yet to book a holiday for this year :-D.