My favourite fountain in Rome – la fontana delle tartarughe
It is good to be back in Rome. September started well with an idyllic time in Rhodes and Symi. The weather was glorious, the sea perfect and the company great. We swam, cooked, re-visited our favourite tavernas and had an outstanding meal at Stavros’ Mythos restaurant in Symi
In Rhodes at Stefano on Kiotari Beach, near Lindos, we had two very good meals and when I asked for my favourite Assyrtiko wine Giorgos introduced us to a blend with Sauvignon Blanc – Kthma Biblia Chora which was very good. It won the Decanter’s Gold prize for 2013. I searched out the wine because I wanted to bring home a couple of bottles and I was directed to Marinos in Rhodes Town where the owner, Theofilos , urged me to add a bottle from Santorini, the original home of Assyrtiko where the volcanic ash and pumice left by the 1650 B.C. eruption is kept moist in the summer by the evening fog from the sea and produces excellent, bone-dry whites. This wine has also won prizes and it can be obtained in the UK, US and Australia but alas, not in Italy. Theofilos urged me to try the only Olive oil he stocks, Lord Byron. I was a little scathing about the apparent marketing ploy and only a little mollified when I learned it was produced in Messalonghi where the famous English poet died of pneumonia while helping in the Greek War of Independence against the Turks. However I bought a bottle and I must say it is good. I will enjoy using it when I cook my Greek dishes in Italy.
I had a few classes in Rome and it was a pleasure to welcome back some familiar faces. I enjoyed shopping at my regular stalls in Campo dei Fiori, but I was dismayed to see even more stalls selling tourist rubbish. The market is changing fast and only 3 or 4 stalls and the surrounding long-established speciality shops save the day.
This week my daughter, Caroline, is working in England so I have my youngest grandson, Jamie with me. I always enjoy his company and his conversation at meal times is riveting – trench warfare, First World War poetry, detailed analysis of Napoleon’s campaigns balanced by intricate drawings of the interior of Nelson’s ship, the Victory. I begin to lose the plot as I sit at lunch, my break from the computer, planning cooking school menus and shopping lists in my head. He is a constant source of esoteric facts. To add to my slight mental confusion on this visit he comes complete with his two cats. I already have an elderly, pampered darling who will not permit any interlopers. There is also a courtyard cat, not mine, who is in love with my terrace and sits waiting to slip into any opened door or window. Jamie’s cats are settled in his courtyard bedroom but occasionally they slip out and join the courtyard cat in feline games of tag and hide and seek. It is reminiscent of Bedlam as plant pots get turned over and the cats evade every attempt to impose ‘divide and rule’.
My web pages are being updated and I was bemused when I clicked on ‘Andalusia’ to check some facts on my new adventure to see pictures of Goa and Kerala. I hope all will be resolved shortly but please have a little patience if you see more madness.
I am busy planning more travel for 2015. In April I will be taking a group to Andalusia and for anyone who wants a longer break it can be combined with a few days in Marrakech. The budget airlines have made this sort of travel very enticing.
In May I have arranged a three-day ‘Don Alfonso’ experience on the Amalfi Coast before our Sicily trip and again both of these can be booked separately. I hope details are already on my website. Next year I am abandoning Symi and settling on the Peloponnese for my Greek adventure. I feel it has been too long since I visited Delphi or Epidaurus so I am adding a new optional dimension to our usual hedonistic sea, food and wine trip. This will probably be in June and September as I love my summers in Greece.
Next month I am going to Budapest to research more before finalizing our October programme which will of course have some cooking and market visits, memorable food and wine, Hapsburg castles, private dinners with both a Hungarian Jewish family and a Gypsy family and a wine trip along the Danube, now a Unesco World Heritage site.
Pasta Positano style, with 7 flavors (Maccheroni positanese ai 7 odori)
This simple summer pasta relies on good fresh ingredients for its special taste that conjures up the early, dappled sunlight on the narrow road, winding down past the apricot and fondant pink houses, with the latest youthful summer fashions hung outside the boutiques, to lure the customer inside.
No cheese is served with this dish.
1 small onion, chopped
1 celery stalk, chopped
1 T fresh parsley, chopped
10 basil leaves, torn
1 t oregano, ground
1 garlic clove, minced
500g peeled, seeded tomatoes, chopped
2 T extra virgin olive oil
salt and black pepper
Gently stew the tomatoes with the celery, onion, garlic and a little seasoning for about 25 minutes. Puree the tomatoes and gently fry in the olive oil for about five minutes. Stir in the basil and oregano and check the seasoning. Cook the linguine in lightly salted boiling water. Drain, stir in the sauce and serve.
Fish in salt crust Orata in crosta di sale
To cook this successfully you need an oval metal tray about the same size as the fish. I use cheap metal flat serving dishes.
1 sea bass or bream 800grms to 1 k, cleaned but scales intact
2 to 3 k coarse salt
6 T e v olive oil
3 T lemon juice or white wine vinegar
Make a thin layer of salt on the bottom of the oval metal tray. Place the fish on top.
Put the remaining salt in a sieve and run water over it until the water drips from the bottom. Shake the sieve and sculpt the damp salt over the fish to cover completely.
Bake in a very hot oven, 300° for about 20 minutes. The first time you cook this dish it will probably be overcooked, the second undercooked and the third time, with the same size fish and tray, perfect. Break the crust, lift off and remove fish from bone. Serve with the dressing.