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.
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.
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.
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?
- 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?