Newsletter February 2014 from Ferentino

View from terrace at Ferentino

The last month has just flown. I have been following news of the dramatic weather all over the world and feeling very grateful that in Italy the sun still shines and I have seen no ice or snow so far. We did have some flooding in Rome when the Tiber burst its bank in some places but the centre was not affected and Fumicino functioned normally.

I spent a few days in Budapest and even then I was lucky with the weather as we missed the icy week with temperatures below freezing. I have fallen in love with Budapest and I now look forward to my twice yearly dental visits. I am still planning a Gourmet Adventure for September 2015 so each visit I do more research. This trip I had a very interesting meal at Café Bouchon and sampled more delicious wines, fortified by a strong sense of duty ! I loved teaching English literature but my present occupation brings its own rewards.

When I was at university I remember being a little perplexed when one of my fellow students announced that she would never get married because she couldn’t bear anyone touching her books. Her books ?  I have books all over the house and there are certain books I won’t lend because I couldn’t bear to lose them. There other reference books that I bought out of a sense of duty and rarely touch. Earlier in the month I took down a book on the history of food to check out something and found a cache of crisp bank notes. It was so exciting, nearly seven thousand lire, obviously hidden in haste and then forgotten. I was thrilled until I discovered the Bank of Italy will no longer accept the old currency –  a great way to help shore up the struggling economy.

The first cook book I ever owned was Elizabeth David’s French Provincial Cooking.  It had just been published and it was a birthday present from my future husband. It was probably the most important present I was ever to receive. I had just left university and although I enjoyed cooking I had been limited by student penury. Suddenly my life was changed, changed utterly, and as I embarked on married life with its round of dinner parties I had this enticing book to inspire me. My original first edition eventually disappeared but I bought a new copy and even today it is my favourite cook book.
Elizabeth David’s  Daube de boeuf ( Beef casserole)
This is an incredibly comforting winter dish, cooked slowly for about 3 hours. The aroma as it cooks is a subtle hint of the rich delight in store. I usually serve with some plain boiled rice.
1 k braising steal, cut into thick slices
1 thick slice smoked bacon, chopped
2 onions, thickly sliced
2 tomatoes, peeled and chopped.
2 garlic cloves, flattened
1 piece orange peel
1 bay leaf, sprig of thyme and parsley
4 T brandy250 ml red wine
2 T olive oil
Salt and black pepper
Heat the oil and add the bacon. When the fat begins to run out of the bacon add the onion and tomatoes. Place the meat on top with the garlic and herbs tucked in the middle. Season and add the orange peel. Leave on a low heat for a few minutes. Heat the brandy, pour over the pan and flame, tilting the pan until the flames die out. Heat the wine and add to the pan with about 250 ml. hot water. Cover the pan with two layers of foil and a tightly-fitting lid. Cook slowly in a 110 F oven or on a low heat with a heat diffuser.

Saint Agatha’s day at the beginning of February is marked in an unusual way in Catania in Sicily. These round white cakes with their cherry on top are baked to commemorate the mutilated saint’s breasts – Minni di Sant’Agata.

1140 minne stant'agata

This is all my news this month.

Next week I am traveling to India to enjoy some peaceful  days with Simon and Charlotte in their lovely hotel in Goa.


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