Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Food in Italy - winter


Thank goodness winter is officially over – yay! Whilst I can’t really complain about the winter we’ve had, I’m glad it’s over and spring has finally sprung – but we’ll talk about that next season. It’s been cold and we’ve seen snow in Lucca which was beautiful, however it’s just been a tad too long and I now need to see some greenery.


What’s been in season?

Not much. Well not a lot of variety anyway, however what has been in season, there has been an abundance of. Plenty of artichokes, and radicchio galore! Thankfully we like both of these and got into them in a big way. 


Artichokes – I’d never cooked them before but ate the most delicious ones in Rome that had been simply prepared - roasted, then drizzled with olive oil – how hard can it be! 


Marino not being a huge salad fan (especially in winter) I therefore needed to find a way of making radicchio interesting. I found the perfect solution in a simple risotto of radicchio and porcini. I can’t believe it took me 10 months to produce my first risotto in Italy. It was delicious and we continue to enjoy it while the radicchio lasts.



What I’ve been cooking at home ….

Well as mentioned there’s been plenty of artichokes and radicchio consumed but it’s been a long winter and one can’t live on these alone. Another winter favourite has been the slow cooked meal. We’re quite fond of osso bucco with polenta, so there’s been a few of these. I even dished this up to our Italian friends who being Lucchese knew of it but don’t cook it themselves (I’ve just checked, it’s a Milanese dish). My personal favourite is rabbit slow cooked with olives (a traditional Luccese dish called coniglio cacciatore) I confess I cook this all year round but there has been a few more in these particularly colder months.


Another dish added to the repertoire is spinach and ricotta Gnudi, (pronounced nudee) and like the word suggests is a type of ravioli without the pasta, and therefore nude! My sister Mandy and I first enjoyed this for lunch at a little enoteca in Certaldo when we’d arrived early for our ‘throwing marathon’. Served with a ricotta and walnut sauce it was simple and delicious, so I thought I’d have a go at copying it.



What and where we’ve been eating ….

Looking back I’ve just realized that we haven’t been eating out that much of late. With Christmas and Mandy’s visit there was plenty of eating. As there was during our 2 weeks in Morocco, however both of these have already been blogged about. So there has been more cooking and eating at home than out.

One restaurant we greatly enjoyed was for the launch of the Slow Wine book at a restaurant not far from town. Ristorante Diavoletti in Capannori is only a short trip from Lucca but when you don’t have wheels (Zita the Vespa is off the road for winter) getting to these dinners can be tricky. The Slow Food convivium of Lucca has been active in organizing many dinners in and around Lucca and came to our rescue by organizing a ride for us. Turned out to be a fellow student from Marino’s wine course, what a small world! I guess that’s Lucca for you. This was a set course/fixed price menu, we had 4 courses with 2 wines at each course all for €30 – a bargain! This also included a copy of the book which has now become Marino’s bible. Needless to say it was a very long but enjoyable evening and goes down as one of our best meals in Lucca. One of the highlights for me was homemade tagliatelle pasta with a braised pork ragu. It was DELICIOUS! So delicious that before I’d consumed the lot, I carefully dissected my plate so I could try and reproduce it at home. I’m pleased to report that I think I make a pretty good rendition of it – and Marino agrees!



 Only one more season to go …..

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