Archive for June, 2011

June 21, 2011

Eritrean lentil stew – travelling around Europe

Erithrea lentil stew

My lifestyle lately has been a bit weird. My partner is travelling a lot because of work, and I’ve been mainly alone with my cats,  spending weekends off to reach him wherever he is. I’m still trying to put together my thoughts on all the things I’ve seen. I’ve seen a lot of friends, and this always feels good. I guess a positive side of this crazy lifestyle of ours is that, although there is no place I can go to where all my friends are, there are a lot of places where some friends are. That’s good, isn’t it?

In this period I cooked much less at home: I am not used to cooking for myself alone, although I like to try now and again some ‘extreme’ experiments when no one is there to watch.  Being out at weekends means that long, complex projects are not feasible. I ate out many times when travelling. I had really great food, and the funny part is that all of it was ‘ethnic’ food, although I was travelling around Europe. For someone coming from Italy, whose food is indeed seen as ‘ethnic’ in the rest of the world (the first time I found they store Italian ingredients at Tesco in the ‘world’ section, I did not know whether to laugh or cry, it just seemed so weird to me), this is very positive. There is much more in Italian cooking than greasy pizza and overcooked pasta, and this is true for all other food of the world. I felt a tangible wave of energy coming from these restaurants. They were all original, with high quality ingredients, populated by locals and by co-nationals alike (my number one criteria for choosing ethnic food when I don’t have recommendations).

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June 15, 2011

When I miss home – blede e patate

Blede - potatoes and swiss chard

It is easy to be carried away by memories, especially when they are connected to food. So bear with me. I know this recipe is simple, but this little side dish, blede con patate, chard and potatoes,  is a symbol of what I want to carry with me.

I probably tasted it the very first day I moved out. I was going to live on my own, finally, something I’ve always wanted so badly. And now that was happening, me armed with a big, heavy suitcase, on a train heading east. The phone beeped, a message. The guy I’d met at the hostel the other time, he came from Milan like me, the mathematician with funny glasses. Would I meet him for lunch? Well, why not. It sounded good. A great start for making new friends in my new town, actually.

We met on  a rainy night. It was not the first night for me in Trieste. I had already been there a few years before, and I remembered the landscape, the city gleaming over the water from the pier right below the hostel at Miramare. The pier, a great place where to sit and think, where I took all of the hardest decisions in my life. But that was yet to come: that night, it rained, and I was yet so much of a child. I came with a friend to take a test for a job. We were both nervous and depressed by the heavy rain. It was dinner time and we needed food, so we just crossed the piazza from the station and headed to the first bar. I have never returned to that bar for some reason, but it did surprise me. The food was good, fresh, something you don’t expect from the anonymous place right in front of the station. Spaghetti with fresh tomatoes and fresh sardine. Fresh and good as they can be, and this can happen only at sea. We caught the bus to the hostel, the last one. It had stopped raining, and we walked in the scented air, a scent of rain and sea. And then we sat on the main room at the hostel , and it was full of young people like us, and we started chatting. Somehow the topic turned to food and  I launched into one of my monologues that would eventually evolve into this blog – on gubana, a typical pastry filled with dried fruit and made with a brioche like dough (at least the version I was more familiar with from Friuli, but things change wildly here in a few kilometers) and how you should eat it with some slivovitz  (prune spirit) to keep it moist. I noticed the guy with the funny glasses looking at me, his eyes gleaming with interest. I did not know it, but I had already conquered an ally for my culinary obsessions.

June 6, 2011

The secret to weight loss

Peach ginger muffin

I am quite happy with the way I eat (and cook). It served me well over the years not to gain any weight, and to have plenty of energy to carry on with my activities.  Of course there are (more than) occasional treats, but overall I’d say my diet is quite balanced. I am not thin, never have been,  but I still have the same size – actually, nearly the same weight – of ten years ago. It could not be any other way, because first, I hate feeling out of shape, and second, I can’t diet. Like in, follow a set diet to lose weight. The ‘d’ word itself gives me sweaty palms and an anxiety that can increase my hunger to epical amounts. I never eat as much and as badly as when I’m trying to follow a ‘diet’.

This is a personal problem however. My partner on the other hand has much more discipline, and a worse metabolism.

A couple of months ago I decided I needed a special treat and ordered myself a pile of cookbooks. Some of them were definitely health oriented (the excellent ‘Just bento cookbook‘, and Heidi’s first book). But for the first time, I had also ordered a book devoted to baking only. As I leafed through it, I admired the gorgeous, homely, intimate photography, and I could not wait to try the many enticing flavour combinations, the rich fruit compotes, the soft pillows of pancakes.. And my partner, drooling, was spying over my shoulder.

‘This book is going to be dangerous.’ I joked.

‘ Fair enough –  he answered – you’ll have it back when I have lost five kilos’

And snatched the book away.

June 2, 2011

Fail proof roast recipe for emergencies

pork roast with milk

I know there is something going on in my life when my ‘draft’ count for new posts reaches unmanageable heights. I often just jot down  any recipe I like and then delete it if I find out I don’t like it that much, or keep and add a story to it if I really like it. The process usually works quite well. I can be a very organised person, as much as I can be a total mess when I don’t care about something. I always care about cooking and blogging, so I am organised in it. But my life has been such an emotional rollercoaster lately that I can’t think of a reasonable, consequential  way of cooking, or presenting ideas, or styling and taking pictures, or clearing my mind in whatever way.

I am in a frenzy of energy, but I’m less busy than usual, which means I end up shuffling things around and not getting anything done. Horrible feeling: I deeply dislike finding myself in this state. I think I should really be doing things and seeing people and making phone calls and then spend hours doing totally useless things. This reflects into the kitchen: I bookmark items and shop for random ingredients and then at dinnertime find not a single one of the ingredients I need.

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