Tag Archives: Italy

The Italian Kitchen!

 

Well I did not see this one coming! Yesterday I had to buy a present for a friend who was celebrating one of the special birthdays. She’s a foodie, cooking type person so I cycled into town to peruse the all things in the town’s ‘kitchen lover’ shop. What to buy, what to buy? It’s actually tricky to buy for someone else’s kitchen. So I headed towards the book section. Rather pleasingly they had an English book section. Cook books for her and a cook book for me! Bonus. Double bonus actually, I could feel inspiration brewing, oh and yep there it is – an idea was starting to form and the timing quite possibly perfect. 

I always imagined myself with a French kitchen. But I’ve never quite gotten there. What even is a French kitchen? Maybe it’s lavender I picture! I do have a large tuscan pot of lavender outside my kitchen window. The thing is, I admire country style kitchens but they’re not really my style. And I love the movie Julia and Julia but I wouldn’t want cook most of those recipes. And while I love Latin languages I’ve never had the desire to learn French. 

In our house my husband is the resident chef. He loves to cook and frankly, he is so utterly gifted when it comes to creating with ingredients that during quarantine I’ve been happy to sit out the cooking. The problem with sitting it out, because he is always here (quarantine) is that I don’t have any flow in the kitchen because I haven’t been playing in it. Niente. Nada. And of course it’s ace that he cooks and I’m super appreciative of him. But now it’s holidays and while he’s working I have time. And one day he will go back to the office and travel and then I’ll be back at ground zero. Also I love the process of sourcing and buying local ingredients. It’s hard to do that and expect someone else to cook with your finds.

Can I fit in another challenge? Ha ha. Could I cook my way through a cookbook? ‘WHAT’ you’re probably thinking writing, running and now cooking?! But we gotta eat right. The more I started thinking about it the more sense it made. You know my feelings about Italy. True love and all that. And it is absolutely my style of cooking: simple, fresh, flavoursome and seasonal food. And then it hit me.

Why did I want a French kitchen when quite obviously I have an Italian kitchen! There is a monster pizza oven outside my window, a cafetiera on my stove, basil in my window sill, herbs growing outside my window and our cooking condiments of choice are extra virgin olive oil, red and white wine vinegar, salt and pepper. Oh and cheese, there’s always parmesan and mozarella in the fridge! And let’s be honest I’d be fine to add pecorino as a staple.

There is one way to get better at something and that’s to practice. Daily if possible. And it makes sense to practice in one style of cooking right. You build your basic skills, your pantry ingredients will suit your cooking and you can use previously prepared pastes etc for future dishes. Sometimes, I wonder why it takes me so long to work something out. Something that now seems so basic, so simple! I feel like eye-rolling myself right now. So yeah before the day was out I think I’d already decided I was going to cook through this new book of mine.

The Book:

Rome. Centuries In An Italian Kitchen. 

By Katie & Giancarlo Caldesi.

Why did I choose it?

I liked that it had pictures and stories of Rome and the history of dishes. More than simple recipes, it’s chocked full of Roman recipes from antipasto to desserts. I don’t always need to think things through to the nth degree. I was drawn to it. I just need to start! This book is my start and it’s focussed. I think in the past I’ve tended to be to broad in my desire to do something. I’m honing in.

The Challenge.

Basically to cook my way through the book. I’ll aim to bake a recipe a day but it’s not like a #runstreak I won’t break the challenge by not doing it daily. In my experience though it’s easier to practice daily so that’ll be my aim. As with any challenge I take it on it’s because our lives or my life needs it. I need to reignite my cooking from scratch mojo in the kitchen.

Today! 

I had so much fun in the kitchen. It was a slow start to the day because we went to said friend’s party last night. So on the couch in jammies, with a coffee in hand I perused my new book. A book I will be hopefully getting to know very well! I am a visual, photo person and I love the visual journey. Perhaps that’s why I can’t get into podcasts. It’s a bit the noise thing I quite like the quiet, but also I can’t get into hearing people without having previously met them. I actually never have sound on my phone (even for videos) so there is a good chance if we’ve never met in person I don’t know your voice! Am I the only one? It’s my weird thing.

I decided to go with some picnic food. I thought I’d have a bit of an afternoon tea thing with husband and kids. So off I cycled to the local strip shopping street with my list and book. First feel good right here. This street is maybe 750 metres from my house but I don’t often go here. I go to the market or in corona times we’ve found ourselves in the supermarket. This street has many small shops. Specialist shops that really float my boat! Shops selling local produce. And when I say local I mean European. Obviously local local is best but olives aren’t growing in The Netherlands.

These are the things we need to use our energy and our resources to support in the ‘new’ normal. The local shop strip is one of them. There is much I love about village life and I know some of you wanted me to tell you about it! This is it. This a big one. That I can get on my bike and cycle to a shop and buy local Italian Olives, local Dutch cheese, local vegetables and that the line in the third shot is for sour dough. It’s out the door and up the street and no one minds because the bread is so good! And obvs. corona time so only three in the shop at once. No one is in a hurry. No one is up selling. It just exists because it’s normal! Normal to shop local. 

What did I make? 

  1. Seeded Wine Crackers

Making crackers is something I have on my to do list! I don’t want to buy them anymore. This IS going to be my recipe. I didn’t get it right. I didn’t roll the dough thin enough so they weren’t crispy, but the flavour was there. I’ll make another batch tomorrow and the next day until I get our crackers recipe right!

2. Hot Fish Pickle

OMG! This. This is the sort of food I need. Packed full of flavour, herbs and raw veg. I used sardines, fish that’s packed with protein, packed with calcium and PACKED with omega -3 fatty acids. Was so good on bread. Will be so good tomorrow. And sheesh a cheap meal. I mean a tin of Sardines or Mackerel, two euros.

3. Olive, Fennel and Mint Salsa

I had to google how to cut a fennel! I’m used to this one cooked (by someone else). What can’t google teach you?! Husband actually said this was his favourite dish. There are leftovers and I’ll use them in the next few days in a pasta. I have one vegetarian living here so perfect!

4. Walnut (sub’d with pine nuts due to allergy) and Feta Pesto.

Oh this was fun! And soooo many herbs. It’s a staple in Italian cuisine and what you can blitz to make it is endless (what’s in the fridge, spinach, lettuce etc). This was a hit with the kids. And also something to use tomorrow and the day after. I’m thinking with eggs tomorrow morning and on toast for the kids. Or tomorrow night’s pizza.  

5. Ricotta with olive oil and pepper

A bit cheaty! No work just top with olive oil and pepper. SOOO tasty! On toast between the hot fish pickle. On the cracker on top of the pesto. Leftovers will get used in the same way or on pizza ;) 

The entire, made with love feast. I added a Caprese salad (tomato, mozarella, basil, balsamic and olive oil), a zinnia from the garden, some bread and guess what?! Dinner not afternoon tea. 

So do all roads lead to Rome? Perhaps they do for me, right now. I just realised I’m still hiking to from Home To Rome (hiatus due to Corona). OMG how is this for coincidence and a sign that this is my path. So yes! Yes. I will cook my way thought this book! And I’ll learn some Italian, some new skills, get to feel the joy of knowing the ingredients and by gee I’ll (hopefully we’ll) enjoy the eating. 

What’s the flavour of your kitchen?

#writingstreak

#day18/31writing

#newchallenge

#findyourpath

#dailypractice

 

 

 

 

 

Living It. Italy At Home.

 

Do you have a dream place? Is it a place you’ve been? Or is it a place you dream of being? Italy is surely one that ticks that box for many people. Heck, you don’t even have to go there to dream about it! For many the romance has been created from stories in print and film. From the eternal city of Rome and her counterpart cities who blow our senses with architecture, art, ancient history, music, rustic charm to the country and seasides with their rolling hills, majestic mountains, Mediterranean coastlines and productive landscapes of vineyards, olive trees and tomatoes. Or, is it the general Italian’ness we all love to love – the food, wine, language and her pleasure loving, jovial valuing Italian way of being, the treasure of any great culture, her people.

For me it’s all of the above. I can’t count the times I’ve stood at the Pantheon and marvelled in awe! Oh wait, I probably can, about six. I’ve been to Rome three times and it’s always a visit twice spot for me. It still blows my mind. How did they? Who did it? I always feel connected to an ancient time when I’m under the spell of this incredible feat of mind blowing ancient (25 BC ancient), mystical architecture. If you need a good dose of feeling your mortality and a good wake up call as to what a creative can make in their life – Rome is your city. And if you need a good dose of reminding how to love the good life (la  dolce vida) Italy is your country.

Every time I’ve posted about Italy, the response is always along the lines of oh la la Italy, my heart! Sometimes it’s a romantic longing to return and for others it’s a yearning for the romance of a country they’ve falling in lust with. It doesn’t matter how Italy found her way into your heart what matters is how you nurture that love. Italy lives in our hearts and our home. In fact we’ve created an entire front terrace dedicated to living la dolce vita!

If you come to ours on a Saturday afternoon it’s likely you’ll feel the heat from the wood fired pizza oven, smell the intense smell of baked bread as you bite in to your home made Napoli style pizza, all while sipping your prosecco, your spritz or your birra, whatever takes your fancy. Except in July, we’re dry in July. Why? I dunno. #dryjuly must have been invented by non Italians and definitely from someone in the Southern Hemisphere. It really is spritzy weather here! Regardless of the month you will feel the love of the food, the moment, the space and the pleasure of the experience. And it is an experience. A multi layered experience created to simply enjoy life and it’s beauty.

The terrace is in its first season but the grape wine, tuscan lemon tree, herbs, fruit trees and potted vegetables will embrace you. The husband (pizzaiolo) will be standing at the oven in his uniform, black apron, tea towel in the back pocket and whichever tool is required for the stage the pizza is at. The dough will have been lovingly made with fine ingredients the day before following a tried and tested process. The mise en place (the putting in place of what is needed) also prep’d earlier will ensure the pizza’s are topped with deliciously simple toppings. The kids will be home, they don’t like to miss pizza night. The chatter will be fluid, the laughs spontaneous and the desire to be anywhere else – non existent.

You will be here and you will be in Italy.

It’s a work in progress our little piece of Italy! We will continue to grow with it as the plants grow around us. Our roots intertwined. Many meals and many moments will be shared. Tradition that forms the basis of how our kids remember childhood will happen right here on this terrace. I think it will be fondly. And I know it will inspire them to keep space for a little Italian’ness in their lives.

If I’m in need of a bit of Italy other than the eating and drinking I have been know to ask Siri to play me something Italian or to watch Eat, Pray Love. Ha! I’ve watched it so many times I may have even referenced a scene of it in my book. Obviously, I am an unashamedly hopeless, hopeless romantic. And, of course there’s always the ultimate way of escaping – into a book! There’s that classic Italian escape Frances Mayle’s, Under the Tuscan Sun. Do you have a favourite to share with us?

We don’t always have to go somewhere to have the ‘feeling’ of somewhere. And I may even argue we shouldn’t ‘have’ to need to. The travel, the marvelling is the icing. Most of life happens where we live! It’s what we bring home to our daily lives that matters most. Happy here, dreamy here, this is where to start.

 

 

P.S. Support local! We support Dutch businesses as much as possible. Our fruit trees and vines are purchased from Fruticos. And the beating heart of our terrace the oven was purchased from another Dutch family business Fornitalia. 

 

#writingstreak

#travelwriting

#day4/31

#gettingmoreproductiveallround

 

 

 

‘Is this an I love you platter mum’? Why yes! These flavours, this freshness and this story of Italy, it sure is.

Adventures On My Bike – Day 1/28

Today’s recipe: Caprese Crackers.

Food! I spend most of my days thinking about it … and often after one meal I’m dreaming of the next one.  Somewhere along the camino I recall writing about food as one of the areas I wanted to focus on in my life when I returned home. What we eat, where it comes from, how it’s packaged. It is something I am passionate about but not something that comes easy and I haven’t had found my food ‘big picture’ rhythm since landing here in NL.  The basics of cooking don’t come naturally to me. If I wanted to make a quiche for instance I don’t know the differences in pastry: short crust, puff, filo it may as well be learning a new language. And today I read a recipe that talked about blind baking, great – is that for all types of pastry? My naturally food inclined husband who has been on dinner cooking duty this past 6 months is off hiking next week so here is my window. He is amazing at cooking and if you come to a dinner party it’ll be him that cooks but I need to be across my whole diet not just the dinners. Here is my opportunity, my today, my timing to start practicing the kind of  passion driven routine and simplicity I so dearly loved on the the camino … and vowed to step further into upon my return. Goodbye food funk hello travel inspired food.

When Jimmy (littlest pictured here swinging like a wild kid from a tree at Lake Como in Italy last year) asked me ‘if the caprese cracker plater I served up today after school was an I love you platter’ my heart did swell. Do we need to be an expert to be good at something? Do we need to know everything to try? Nope. Can we keep it simple? Yes. I made a platter of veggies  for my kids after school earlier in the week – nothing fancy. As they were munching away I said ‘do you love your I love you platter’? Honestly, I felt like I was saying I love you by having that ready for them as they walked in the door. Sometimes we just have to decide to jump into the adventures that are calling us don’t we? And doesn’t food create wonderful moments and memories? My relationship with food is not always a wonderful one, but this body that walked a camino – I want to love it more. Limitations can be elastic … we can stretch them wider (just like my Spanish) poko a poko*. The hard thing is usually the getting started bit. To find the way in. Once we are in, once we find that one baby step we can move forward. And with commitment momentum will soon built and follow.

In true camino style the way markers lead the way. I’ve been watching ‘Move to the Continent’. Mostly it follows retirees from the UK seeking to live a simpler life in a mediterranean country. And as they explore local villages, markets and the way people live something sparks in me. I don’t ever want to wait until retirement to live a dream life – I am going to live it now (within our constraints of course). I am a lover of travel and change but also I am a believer that contentment can only come from where you stand. Plus friends what is the point of travel without growth? Bucket-list ticking? No thanks. Do I need to live in Tuscany to live an Italian style life? Heck no! And not if you ask my Jimmy (6). I asked him last week what I should cook next week. He thought about it and said ‘remember that salad I used to love eating in Italy’? Why Jimmy ‘yes, I most certainly do’! And now I have an idea. I also have a bike, a local market, a fruit and veggie shop, a kitchen and a desire.

After School Snacks – Caprese Spelt Crackers

Ingredients:

  • Mozarella (organic) **
  • Tomatoes
  • Basil
  • Olive Oil
  • Spelt crackers. (I haven’t managed to make a good cracker yet so I cheated by buying these organic ones.)

Method:

Chop it all, lay it out and get the kids to make their own! Zero food waste was left here, boom!

As timing would have it I am ready for an adventure and a challenge. The school I have been subbing at is on its summer break. My kids still have a month to go! And I have been feeling for a while that my energy isn’t where it should be as well as a craving for freshness and new tastes (also less bread and meat). As timing has it today is the summer solstice and I am ready to honour that by following the signs. Those arrows that point us in the direction we need to walk. Food photos are not my thing but hey I’m also surrendering (like thatAnnette honour and surrender in one paragraph :)) into that! This adventure feels right, it’s timely.

Just last week my friend Janet and I were chatting about how sometimes we throw some vulnerability out there and new people or the right moment arrives. A bit like when the student is ready in walks the teacher. I look for blogs that tell a story and honestly they are not always easy to find. I don’t know how Emiko Davies’s blog arrived in my realm but how it has inspired me. Italian treats and a love story with Florence – bellisimo.

Buen camino,

Fran xx

*Poko a poko means little by little. My favourite Spanish saying. Thanks April ;)

** I am convinced organic is the best option. It feels like a no brainer but I can’t always use it. It’s expensive and time consuming to source. Often it comes with more plastic. I do my best and I pick and choose. If I’m baking I try to use organic flours etc. Surely, from scratch is still better than processed even if produce is not organic. It’s ok to work within our own personal constraints there’s no perfect just our conscious best.

Hiking the camino called life. A lesson from a sparkly eyed Roman.

Originally published 6-1-2017. I decided to re-write it as I take one of my lessons about how I want to contribute from this Camino journey. Opinion writing is a challenge. Fran.

“So when you see me alone at the trailhead, notice the shin bruises, the sunburn, the dirt under my nails, and a sparkle in my eyes, but please, don’t call me brave. I am just doing the things that make me who I am.” – Annie Mac

A quick google search of bravery brings up 943,000 quotes with images. It’s a well used word and one that I often wonder about.

We need voices like Annie. People who remind us that life is about being who we are. Stripping it all back to what makes us feel passionate, contented and connected.

We shouldn’t need to feel brave to stand with our own opinions, on our own feet and to choose what fits in our life. We shouldn’t feel scared to feel vulnerable because we choose something different that doesn’t always fit the mould. Yet, sometimes we do. I do.

I don’t always fit the mould of many things and definitely not of an online travel writer. I won’t tell you every place we went to and I won’t write you a list of what to do in every city. There are plenty of people already doing that and it’s awesome, that’s their thing and they’re great at it.

Mostly, we wander, loosing ourselves as we sink into the beauty of landscapes, cities, sounds, tastes, feelings and people. It’s how I try to approach everyday life. Given that I love to travel and musing about life there’s plenty to dig into.

Like this moment.

Feeling the essence of where I am and noticing the magic is the ‘why’ I travel. One recent summer afternoon in Italy a Roman with sparkly eyes made a comment that has stuck in my mind ‘let’s seek the pleasure by standing in the shade’. That’s it – it’s really that simple isn’t it and a message that’s not just relatable to travel life (and no it wasn’t the sparkles).

Can you stop and stand in the shade because it’s pleasurable if you don’t have the time? Would we even hear the beauty of such a comment in a rush or if we’re focussed on tomorrow?

“Not all those who wander are lost” ~  J. R. R. Tolkien

It’s a common quote this one, but not easy.  To give into the nature of wandering does require an ability to surrender. Yet, letting go seems contrary to everything we are being taught, told and sold.

If we listen to all the noise – there’s a way to do everything. There are items that’ll make everything easier. There’s that bucket list that needs ticking, trips to book – next year to plan and in the meantime, everyone is so ‘busy’. Which is fine if that’s working for you.

It doesn’t work for me, never has – that has to be ok too doesn’t it? To say I don’t do hustle because for me hustle and pleasure don’t mix.

I don’t feel brave creating and living my adventurous life. It’s who I am. I need to be connected to the outdoors. I need to hike, to have space, quiet and to keep it simple. Life isn’t a bucket list, it’s everyday. It’d be such a waste to tread through these days as though we just want to be somewhere else wouldn’t it?

So I dip into bravery to find my own place  in a world that’s always changing and busy selling a life that doesn’t fit with standing in the shade. When the sun is harsh and I need the shade I face the harshness, those feelings and I step away from what and those who make me feel that life is a hustle.

Practiced daily it gets easier. It’s saying no to things so we can put our heart into what matters. It’s knowing when to call bullshit on what’s holding us back and who we listen to online and in life. It’s knowing that most of us already have what we need on our door step to live an adventurously, connected and creative life – every, ok, most days.

“Mountains are not stadiums where I satisfy my ambition to achieve, they are the cathedrals where I practice my religion.” – Anatoli Boukreev

Living honestly is not competing. It doesn’t matter how many countries someone has been to or what their life looks like or how their kids are dressed. What matters is that we are who we are and how we can look back at our own life – was it well lived and true? Are we living in our life today? Do we care about the right things?

My travel writing is my life of adventure, the people, the places, the feelings and the experiences, they’re all connected. I’ll always join the dots and write a story because I travel everyday in life. That is my travel writing style. It’s important to understand our voice, the one we contribute to the world, don’t you think?

As I continue to write I’m always amazed by the growth that accompanies it. It’s opened up a world of connection with those who see their life as a camino. Walking each day with intention and grace.

The wanderers who live in their lives, everyday, honestly. The ones who are growing themselves and encouraging a ‘real life’ around their love of travel or whatever it is that makes their heart flutter.

Adventuring for me isn’t brave, it’s just being who I am and I’m privileged because I can. Bravery well that’s the courage to shed and ‘to seek the pleasure in the shade’.

 

If you find yourself out on the trail, no matter for how long or how far and want to share, please tag it #hikeforonegirl so I can find it. Singing birds are well worth the effort.

Check in for my diary updates – Camino 2018 One Girl Project. 

I’ve added a thank you page for the champions of this story here. Support crews are everything.

A few more opportunities for corporate sponsorship.

I’m not on Facebook or Twitter but if you are and you enjoyed the read or you know anyone who might want to help, or follow along, I’m cool if you share. Thank you.

Camino Frances 2018 (769km) – Trek for One Girl Sponsors: