Thursday, 27 October 2011

Love and Peas ( Peas cooked with pancetta and onions-also good with pasta!)

She followed her mother as they crossed the railway line. She had to run fast as she only had little legs. Aged five, her mother called her "La mia coda" "My tail" as the little girl followed her everywhere. It must have been a Spring day, because, as they left the city behind, she could smell wild garlic and she could see  little blue irises  growing in a little shady corner, on their right. She knew it was Spring, as you could always smell Spring in the air, and her mother smiled a lot!
Eventually they came to a long path, fields on either side, such a contrast from the big city so near, yet so far, already adorned with the gifts of Spring.
An old lady (she thought she must be old!) called Caterina, lived in a white farmhouse. Mamma went inside. She brought bred for Caterina's hens. The rooms inside the farmhouse must have been huge and the ceilings high, as the voices she could hear sounded very loud and far. The little girl sat outside on a step, watching the hens running around, the listening to the chicks and the kittens as they sang a Spring song.  Above her a roof kept the already hot sun, at bay. Sat on a step, she closed her eyes and suddenly felt very happy. It was that special, really deep kind of happiness... yes, the kind of happiness which doesn't last very long, but sinks deep, deep, very deep inside your and stays there, so when you grow up you understand what happiness is.
Her mother would come out with Caterina and, after a long chat, the two women would kiss, the little girl would get a smile and a little box of warm eggs, and the three of them would start making their way towards the path, which led back to the big city, so near and yet so far.
Fields on either side were rich with crops: tiny little baby artichokes, just a tiny bit bigger than her mum's thumb were being picked. She looked at Caterina, hoping she would understand... and she always did! " Go on, take some artichokes and some peas!" So... there she was, tiny little city girl, loose in a field encrusted with wonderful green gems. Was she really allowed to take some home? The plants were huge! Then the ritual began: one by one, they picked baby artichokes, and then lovely, sweet, tender little pea pods, a gift of the land and the sun.
Once home, the peas would be shelled. Tiny little five year old handfuls of green balls would be avidly eaten. Most, would end up in mamma's pot, though,  to be turned into treasure.
I can still feel that special, really deep kind of happiness inside me, when I remember doing all the things I did with my beautiful mother. Food is special, as it tells stories, it connects you to the past, it reminds you of happy times. It reminds ME of happy times in the sun!
Now I want to share some of that happiness, by cooking my mum's Easter Monday pasta. It's a simple dish, but to me it means a lot more than that.
Here is my recipe:

Piselli con pancetta e cipolla
 (Easter Monday Pasta)
(Peas with Onion and Pancetta)
Side dish or pasta sauce
Serves 4
400g ( just under 1lb) peas, fresh or frozen
6tbs olive oil
1 medium onion
100 g pancetta
some flat leaved parsley
1 beaten egg (optional)
black pepper
(lots of!)
This dish is really, really easy. Put some oil in a pan ( you can use more than the suggested amount, if you prefer) and heat it. When you can see there is smoke coming out of it, add your onion which you would have previously chopped. Stir until the onion is slightly brown, then add your pancetta. Again, stir to blend the lovely flavours, then, a couple of minutes later, add all your peas (frozen peas are very good, too!)

Pancetta and onions cooking in the hot olive oil

Stir again, until the peas are coated in hot oil, leave for a couple of minutes or so, then add enough water to cover the peas a bit more. Bring to the boil , then lower the heat and cook until the peas are tender. I like to add half a stock cube, as it deepens the flavour.
You will know your peas are ready when they are firm, but soft. Make sure the liquid doesn't dry out, though. A little sprinkling of roughly chopped fresh parsley makes the dish really interesting and a generous sprinkling of black pepper adds that exotic note and aroma I really love.
If you would like to add a beaten egg to your peas, you can do so, now. But make sure you stir until the egg kind of scrambles. You don't have to have egg, if you don't want to. It's optional. I love it!

The finished dish can be served as a side

This dish can be served as a side dish or, as a kind of a sauce, if you add some chopped first, then cooked, and drained spaghetti and more black pepper to the peas. You can add some of the pasta water if you want the dish less dry.

Pasta with peas (no egg added)

We have this dish all year round, as "Pasta e Piselli" but on Easter Monday it is traditional in my part of Italy to have this as a first course, followed by lamb with peas and artichokes and more delicious Spring time goodies!

Pasta e Piselli
1) No egg 2) With egg
Both versions DELICIOUS!

Sunday, 23 October 2011

Soffice torta all'arancia ( Almond and orange cake)

It seems like a very long time ago, the day we went to Torchiara to take photos of the pretty town. I had noticed, the previous evening, that most houses in the Piazza were still adorned with the Tricolore (our flag!) from the celebration of Italy's 150 years as a Nation, and the Piazza itself looked like the set of a movie! So pretty!

Pretty, very, very... quiet Torchiara!

Next day, we made a special trip, only to find that every flag, except two, had been taken down. It was a very hot day, and when I say hot, I mean... boiling hot! As we stood by a big terrace, right on on top of the town, we couldn't fail to notice the incredible amount of orange and lemon trees. In Campania you get the best oranges and the lemons are just... spectacular!
I have a tiny orange tree, in my Italian garden. It's little, tiny, in fact, and straggly and reminds me of Charlie Brown's little Christmas tree. My orange tree only has 5 leaves and is refusing to grow!
Thinking about my days in the sun, today I made a cake ( not what I'm best at!) I do wish I had had some of the Italian oranges I bought in Summer, but I had to use what I found at the shops! And I wondered whether the almonds I used once grew in Italy, or Greece, or some other sunny Mediterranean country.
This is the cake I made. I couldn't believe that the "loose" mixture could have made a light and fluffy cake, but... it did!

I crystallized the rose petals. NOT THE ROSE!

And here is how I made it!

Soffice torta all'arancia
(Almond and orange cake)
6-8 servings
200 g ( 7 oz) peeled whole almonds
or: 200 g f( 7 oz) finely ground almonds
3 oranges (use small ones)
4 medium eggs
50 g ( 2 oz) cornflour
150 g ( 5 oz) sugar
25 g (1 oz) cane sugar (Demerara) for the tin
pinch of salt

Before you start, you need to grind your almonds ( I used a small mixer, but next time I will buy ground almonds!) Next, squeeze your oranges and collect the juice in a cup.
Separate the eggs, then beat the yolks with the sugar till you get a really smooth, pale, zabaione-like fluffy mixture (I love it!) The egg whites need to be placed in a separate bowl, with a pinch of salt, and beaten, till they form a light, airy mixture.
You are now ready to assemble all the ingredients. Pour the orange juice into the bowl, with the egg yolk zabaione, followed by the cornflour. Mix together with a spatula, then incorporate the whisked whites, by folding very gently.

1) grinding my almonds 2) blending egg and sugar 3)whisking the egg whites 4) in the tin!

Grease a 22 cm cake tin, then dust with a generous amount of cane sugar and bake for 20-25 minutes in a preheated oven (200 C.) The mixture is very liquid, but, strange enough, it makes a light sponge!
Serve cold, maybe with whipped cream or lovely yogurt or yummy creme fraiche!

Looks beautiful from above

My cake is delicious, but next time I will add some orange zest to make it more orangey and I will buy finely ground almonds for a crunchy, dry base!

Thursday, 20 October 2011

Sunny Days! ( My delicious focaccia!)

in a sunny Italian garden, last Summer...

I can still smell it: focaccia, freshly baked, on a sunny day, as I walked past a Panificio, on my way home from school.  Focaccia is the snack "per eccellenza"... it's our "fast and delicious" food, it's what you would have bought when you came out of school, or you would have queued up for at 2 in the morning, back from a club, with your friends, or what you might sometimes have had for breakfast or in the evening, filled with something delicious (mortadella, mozzarella, salad), plain or with tomatoes, thin, crunchy, fragrant... who needs pizza?
Focaccia from a bakery (panificio) in Bari
My mother would often make focaccia for us. I remember once she left the yeasty dough in a bowl and went out. When we came back, the table and our kitchen floor were covered in it! During that time it must have increased its volume about ten times and become quite smelly, too! It looked like a scene from some old horror movie! But it was funny!
My mum's focaccia was very deep, as she put a mashed potato in the dough. I like mine really thin and as close as you can get to the delicious focaccia you buy in Bari (it's the best, of course!)
Today I made focaccia, in my quest to recreate everything my mum ever cooked, and experimented with, and more. When she made focaccia, she never weighed the ingredients ( I weighed mine only for the purpose of writing the recipe) and had her own way of mixing the dough (I saw a chef make focaccia exactly in the same way, last week!) She used her hand, like a big spatula which she used to "beat" the dough in a movement similar to that of a food mixer (believe me, it's true! And painful!)
Needless to say, I did the same! I didn't use potato in mine and the result was... FANTASTIC!
My lovely focaccia made in a pealla pan!
Makes a largish focaccia which would make about
8 slices
300 g plain or bread flour 
a small cube live yeast (about 15 g)
or dried yeast (follow instructions
on sachet)
1/4 glass olive oil 
some warm water
6 large tomatoes
or a few cherry tomatoes
rosemary sprigs
and a generous coating of olive oil
for the base of the tin in which
you will bake your focaccia
(190 C, 375 F, Gas 5)
If you are using dried yeast, before you start you might have to reconstitute it, by following the instructions on the packet.
I used live yeast which the baker at one of the big UK supermarkets kindly let me have for free, as you can't buy it in this country (not where I live, anyway!)
I put my flour in my old mixing bowl, made a well in the centre , poured in a small glass of warm water, with some salt, the olive oil and the yeast, and mixed the ingredients using a spoon and then my hands (only used one, actually, like my mum used to do. It's so tiryng.)
If you have a large mixer, you can do this much quicker, but I wanted to make it in the old fashion way, as I am a cook on a mission! As I went along, I kept adding water, to make a dough which had the consistency of a thick, stringy batter, quite liquid, really, not at all firm or stiff. If you look at my pictures, you'll get an idea of texture.
I covered the bowl with clingfilm and placed in a warm place (a sunny windowsill!) until it doubled up in size. I could see lots of lovely bubbles quickly forming and, when I lifted the clingfilm, I could smell the yeast: I love that smell!
1) mixing the ingredients
2) the dough doubled up in size
I decided to make focaccia in my paella dish, as focaccia needs to be baked in a metal dish, or a deep tray.
The amount would be enough to make one delicious largish focaccia! Using my hands, I placed the dough in the oil coated tray and gently moved it around, until it covered the round base. I left it for ten minutes, then placed a few halved cherry tomatoes on the top and a few sprigs of rosemary from my garden, as I love the aroma!
ready for the oven
Having put my focaccia in the oven, I looked at the photo of an Italian focaccia my sister bought last Summer in Italy, and realized mine needed more tomatoes, so I added more tomatoes, in order would to the full authentic flavour. If, like my you don't like tomatoes, you can discard them, after baking, or you can make a plain "in bianco" focaccia. Just as good!
My focaccia was in the oven for about 40 minutes. I knew it was ready when it turned golden and the base was cooked. I was generous with my coating of oil for the tin, to make sure the base was cruncy.
Success, success! My focaccia is so delicious I had to freeze most of it to make sure I wouldn't eat it!
Focaccia can be cut and filled with "goodies", such as: mortadella, or mozzarella with salad, vegetables preserved in oil, or with ham, salame... well, anything! I filled mine with lettuce leaves, mozzarella and sun dried tomatoes!
Why is everything delicious red, white and green?
I am very proud of my lovely focaccia!

Saturday, 15 October 2011

When in Rome... ( Penne all' Amatriciana)

We love the flamboyantly noisy beauty of The Eternal City. Rome, the capital of Italy is not shy! Through the translucent cooling beauty of the many fountains, millions of tourists try to find refuge in a bottle of ice cold mineral water. The sound of cars, engines, music and a fusion of languages make the city as beautiful as beautiful can be.

Piazza Navona

At night, a peaceful , silvery blanket covers the sky. The sounds and the heat collected through the day, and still very much felt, dance... all the way up towards millions of stars and the moon. Rome is beautiful!
Ancient and new hold hands, history can be touched, in the Eternal City. We so love being in Rome. Beautiful lady, you smell like the sun in the day and at night you wear expensive perfume and your most beautiful designer gown!

Rome is gorgeous at night! Piazza di Trevi, with its beautiful fountain (a work of art by Bernini, like the fountain in Piazza Navona) is still alive at 2 in the morning... buzzing with LA DOLCE VITA!

 Fontana di Trevi. So full of life!

When in Rome, my husband and I like to dress up in the evening, and go out to eat. It's a ritual we love performing. We walk all the way down the beautiful Via Cavour and three blocks down we turn left and walk some of the way, till we reach "Le Due Colonne" a lovely restaurant down the side of the Basilica di Santa Maria delle Grazie, a beautiful big church ( so many churches and nuns and Berlusconi in Rome!)

At "Le Due Colonne" they have a very good menu, wonderful, friendly  staff and excellent food! The last couple of times we were at the restaurant, we HAD  to have "Amatriciana" , the most Roman of Roman dishes, as they do it so well, there, and I love it because, like Rome, it's lively, fiery and hot!

Here is my recipe. When I make this in Italy, I buy guanciale, which is a delicious kind of pancetta (in fact, it's not pancetta, which means "belly" but pork "cheek" cured just the same as pancetta, and it gives the dish its  rich flavour) Unfortunately, when I'm not there, I have to use pancetta or a big piece of uncut bacon, which I then cut into  lardon size and shape pieces.
Here is my recipe:
Sugo all'Amatriciana
con Penne
Serves 4
4 tbs olive oil
1 medium onion
1/2 clove garlic
150 g (5oz) pancetta
or bacon
1 small tin tomatoes
1 tbs passata
1 red chilli
or dried chilli
(to taste)
100 g (about 4 oz) Pecorino
or Parmesan cheese 
400 g ( 14 oz) pasta (penne or bucatini)

PS: If I was cooking this dish in Italy
using guanciale, I might omit onion and garlic
and just use guanciale, oil, tomatoes
and lots of Pecorino cheese!

The recipe is easy and the sauce only takes twenty minutes to execute! Before you start cooking, as always, cut your onion into smallish cubes, chop your tiny piece of garlic into even smaller pieces and finally, if you are using a piece of bacon, cut it into thin longish strips ( 3 cm, just over 1 inch) And don't forget the chili pepper! I like to slice mine across, because it looks so pretty. Unfortunately, the chili I bought today wasn't very hot, so I had to add some of the peppers I grew and dried in Italy!

my chillies were also used to garnish an antipasto of
sundried tomatoes and delicious artichokes in olive oil

You should now be ready to cook (don't forget to open your can of tomatoes!)
Put the olive oil in a pan. When really hot, add your onion and garlic, stir for a few seconds, then add your pancetta (or bacon.) Stir well with a wooden spoon and cook until the everything looks golden. Next you need to add your chillies, then the tinned tomatoes. With the help of a fork, squash the tomatoes, so they resemble a pulp, otherwise the will stay whole and will not make a sauce! I added a small quantity of passata, as my tinned tomatoes were a bit watery.

pancetta sizzling in the pan

This is all you need to do. Add some salt and just wait... lower the heat and let your Amatriciana cook for about 15-20 minutes. When the sauce is ready, you will know, as your kitchen will smell delicious!
In pan full of salted water, cook your pasta (you put the pasta in the salted water when this is really bubbling up, not earlier, or you'll make glue) according to the instructions on the packet, or until "al dente." Overcooked pasta is not edible!
When your pasta is done, drain it, then pour into the pan, with the sauce, and mix, adding most of the lovely Pecorino cheese, as you mix. I tore a few basil leaves into my pasta, for colour, but I have to say that I liked the subtle hint of fresh aroma of the basil.

My Penne all'Amatriciana is ready!

 When you serve your pasta, sprinkle more cheese on each serving. You'll love it! If you can get hold of "BUCATINI" (the ideal pasta shape for this dish) you'll be very lucky indeed!

Sunday, 9 October 2011

"Raindrops keep falling on my head" (Memories with authentic MINESTRONE recipe!)

The bell is ringing: time to go home! We pick up our coats, line up in the long white corridors, satchels in hand, and happy. We always feel happy when it rains. We don't see much rain in Bari, so, when it does rain, we love it! Can't wait to get out of the building! A sea of mums and dads are waiting outside, calling their children's name. Above, a sea of umbrellas! It's such an event, when it rains!

I am glad no one came for me... I can walk outside, stand in the little piazza, opposite the church, spread my arms out, as much as I can, and feel the rain! I open my mouth, trying to drink some of the drops. My hair is getting wet, but I don't care! It's Winter... I pick up a drop of resin from the trunk of a tree, I smell it "Smells like Christmas!" and I start making my way home.

We don't live far from the school and I can walk by myself, almost dodging cars, as I cross the roads. So many cars! The rain is making my hair wet, but... "So what?"
I know I'm almost home, because I'm walking faster. It's Saturday (we go to school on Saturdays!) and I can't wait to get home. Now I'm running... and here I am. She opens the door, looks at me:" You are so wet! You'll catch a cold!" But I know I won't... I never do!

I will never, ever  forget that sense happiness, that feeling of being content, protected, sheltered from the rain, and happy, because our home was warm, alive, full of sounds, laughter and music. And it was my den! I still go there, when I feel sad. It feels good in my den... and warm...

The windows are all steamed up. A few drops slowing elongating, turn into small streams and make their way, down the window pane, all the way down, to then disappear into the white wooden frame.


The city is alive, below, the sound  almost deafening, but I love it! Everyone is in a hurry to get home, to the comfort of their own steamed up windows, and their own little drops of water which make their way down their own window panes.  I watch ( a little girl- did I ever grow up?) as the long snake of traffic downstairs comes to a halt, at the railway crossing.

I make dots with my nose on the long steamed up windows and, as always, in Winter, I draw a house with a tree on each side and I write my name with my fingrer. Suddenly a voice calls.  I must stop my "sogni ad occhi aperti" as the table is set. And there he is, Babbo, my father, already at the table looking like a man who owns the world!

On my journey through my past, I decided bring back  one of those Saturdays, at home, in Bari. Cooking a dish isn't just an action, or something necessary to our survival. It is, to me, a time machine. Through tastes and smells and lots of love, I can travel  back in time.

I want to take you on a journey... here we go!

A rainy day in my childhood
(The one and only authentic minestrone recipe)

4-6 servings

5-6 generous glugs olive oil
70 g (just over 3 oz)  diced pancetta, or bacon
( can be left out, for a vegetarian version)
1 large onion
4 spring onions
4 tomatoes (fresh or tinned)
4 celery stalks, washed and chopped
4 large potatoes, peeled and diced
2 large carrots, peeled and diced
2 peppers, diced
handful French or runner beans
cut into smallish pieces or in half
1/2 aubergine (eggplant)
1 large courgette
(cut into smallish chunks)
small bunch Swiss Chard
or curly kale
1/2 a large cabbage
big handful borlotti  beans
(or 3/4 can of cooked borlotti or
haricot beans)
1 vegetable or chicken stock cube
Parmesan Cheese
(as much as you like!)
black pepper

250 g short pasta
(casarecce or shells)
cooked and dained
crusty bread

Lots of ingredients, but, really, an easy dish. Begin by getting all you vegatables ready (wash and chop all of them. You can use any vegatables you like.The only root vegetable you should use is carrot. Things like parsnips and swede don't really taste Italian, so ... big NO NO!)

Pour the oil into a large pot and heat. When really hot, add the chopped onion, stir for a couple of minutes, then add your tomatoes. Again, stir until they begin to soften. Add your pancetta, then carrots, potatoes and celery (don't forget the celery. Minestrone wouldn't taste the same, without!) Stir for a few minutes. By now your base might look a bit dry. Add water (1/2 glass) and keep stirring and cooking for 5-6 minutes.

You are now ready to add your lovely aubergine (eggplant.) Again, stir for a few minutes, then add a small amount of water if it's looking dry. Add your stock cube, as this will improve the flavour.

You can now add your peppers, courgettes (zucchine) and whichever kind ogf green bean you are using. Keep stirring, then add enough water to just cover the vegetables. Remember that minestrone is a chunky soup, which shouldn't be dry, though you don't want it to be watery!

Turn the heat down, place a lid on the pot and cook for about 10 minutes. It should by now be smelling just delicious!
You are now ready to add all that lovely cabbage, which is really one of the main ingredients. I love it!

Stir until all the vegetables are mixed together. Make sure you have enough liquid (it should just cover your vegetables) and cook until the cabbage is almost done. Add the Swiss chard, kale, or any other leafy vegetable you might like to use, with a handful of grated Parmesan and lots of lovely black pepper (I love the aroma!)

You will know that your minestrone is ready when you taste it: all the vegetables should be firm, but cooked. At this point you can add your lovely borlotti beans or your half can of drained haricot beans.

I had my minestrone with a small amount of cooked casarecce pasta which I added before serving. You might like to have yours with crusty bread and lots of cheese and black pepper.

Remember that pasta should never be cooked in a soup, as it would make it thick and starchy. It should always be cooked in boiling water, then drained and added. Try not to add any raw oil to your dish, as, though it may look nice, it will take over and spoil the flavour of the dish.

Felice sabato!

Monday, 3 October 2011

Vanilla with roses (Cantuccini-Biscotti )

She never made cakes or sweets, except for her almond cakes, cartellate, at Christmas, and "biscotti tagliati" as she called them (cantuccini to everybody else.)
Mamma's biscuit making was a kind of a rare ritual. She very quickly made the soft dough... so quickly you just had time to smell the fragrance of the fresh lemon rind and the vanilla.

There was something magical about her hands: they could do five things at once! Unlike mine, her fingers were short, her nails slightly long and thick. Those hands are embedded right here: in my memory and in my heart: the hands of the person who gave me life and my first kiss. And how I wish I could hold them now... I can smell a scent of roses...

As the biscotti were baked in oven, the house filled with the fragrance  of "good things to eat"  If you could eat love, that's what my mum's biscuits tasted of! So much love... so much love, it still follows me everywhere. And happiness... that's what I must remember, most of all.

While I was in Italy, in my pursuit to capture time and put it inside a capsule, I made biscotti, just like she used to make. Even the "bottom" was burnt! And I heard myself say:" It's not my fault! It's the oven!"  When did I hear that before? We have an old fashioned oven in our place in Cilento, good for roasting, but terrible for baking, as you have to regulate the emission  of gas, yourself! And cakes and biscuits, unfortunately, do tend to come out with a black "bottom!"
I took some photos, as I went along. Here is the recipe I would like to share.

My wonderful lemons from Sorrento

Biscotti Tagliati (Cantuccini)

(makes about 60)
325 g (12 oz) plain flour
300 g (11 oz) caster sugar
3 eggs
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
finely grated rind of 1 lemon
few drops vanilla extract
325 g (12 oz) almonds
Sugar balls or almonds to decorate
Before you start, put your almonds in a bag, and crush them, but only slightly.
Place flour, sugar salt, lemon peel  and baking powder in a mixing bowl. Combine, then add your almonds , roughly chopped.

Now, in another bowl,  mix your "wet" ingredients,  by whisking the eggs with the vanilla. Stir the egg mixture into the dry ingredients, till you get a stiff, soft dough.
Turn your dough onto a floured surface, then divide it in half. Prepare a baking tray, by greasing with butter and dusting with flour. You can now roll your delicious dough to make two big "sausages", which you will flatten slightly. Place the cylinders onto the greased baking tray, leaving a space between the two, as they will expand, and decorate.

I used some egg wash and these pretty little sugar balls ( diavolini) for one lot and whole almonds for the second.

My cantuccini looked very pretty!

Bake your biscotti in a preheated oven (180 C, 350 F, Gas 4) for about 25 minutes. Take your baked dough out of the oven and leave to cool down. Once cool, you can cut the dough into small, diagonal slices which you will place onto the baking tray, upside down, and bake, once more for a further 15 minutes. This explains the meaning of the word "biscotti": literally "twice baked!"
Eat your biscotti cold. They will be fragrant, crunchy, almondy and will bring a bit of Mediterranean sunshine to your home!
Cantuccini are truly delicious! We enjoy them at Christmas time, with a glass of Prosecco and nostalgia. 


Saturday, 1 October 2011

Linguine con pesto e pomodori secchi (Linguine with pesto and sundried tomoatoes)

My sun dried tomatoes

This Summer I wanted to try and do some the old fashioned things my mum used to do. I wasn't brought up to do this kind of thing and I never thought I would have done, but suddenly I find myself wanting to "capture" the past and "revive" traditions.
Just like the Odyssey, the recipe for sun dried tomatoes was never written, but "sang" in the most musical language on Earth, and preserved for future generations.

Drying tomatoes in Italy

I had never had the urgency to dry tomatoes, but lately I've been wanting to experiment, do things my mum used to do... and make, maybe in an attempt to keep alive those few little "bits" of her I am able to reproduce, maybe copy, in an attempt to keep a little bit of her alive. I don't want her to fade away...
Whatever made me do it, I am trying to work out, as you can see, but... yes, it was a labour of love! Those tomatoes had to be cut in half, sea salt had to be generously sprinkled all over them and I had to make sure they were constantly kept in full sun light (front of the house in the morning, terrace in the afternoon.)

They took a whole month! After two weeks of shifting, turning over and contemplating tomatoes spread out onto an ancient wash board, the cat started giving me funny looks and my husband said he thought I must be mad: "Why are you doing this? You can buy them at the shops, you know?" I knew...

 This is Audrey, the cat

But my tomatoes did dry in the hot Italian sun. It took well over a month. I actually could have named each one of those tomatoes, I got to know them so well! And, wrapped in a brown paper bag, I brought the little pockets of sunshine home, with me.
Today, remembering what my mum used to do, I washed my tomatoes in water and white wine vinegar, to get rid of the salt, patted them dry and... preserved them in jars, alternately layering tomatoes, with garlic, parsley and deliciously hot chilly pepper slices and then totally covering them in olive oil.

Ingredients I used to preserve my "sunny" tomatoes

I bet my mum would have laughed, if she could have seen me, and my attempts, but would I know she have been proud of me. And so am I. I am exploring the past and almost lost traditions...

The past preserved in a jar

I had time, today, and wanted to have some fun, so I experimented with a new recipe, which turned out to be absolutely delicious! One of the ingredient is, guesss... sun dried tomatoes!
Here it is:

Linguine con pomodori secchi e
Four servings:

400g (14 oz) linguine
5-6 sun dried tomatoes
in oilve oil
2 tbs capers
50g (2 oz) black olives, pitted
4 tbs pesto
1 clove garlic
1/2 hot chili pepper
4tbs pesto

This is how I made my pesto:

Basil Pesto
2 handfuls fresh basil
2 tbs mixed chopped nuts
or pine nuts
1/2 clove garlic
small piece chili pepper
handful parmesan or
pecorino cheese
4 tbs olive oil

For this recipe, you can buy a jar of pesto, or make your own. I don't like the look of bought pesto, nor I like the flavour: artificial and nasty, so I make my own, very easily, by placing all the ingredients in my baby whisker and just whizzing them all together. Easy! When it looks kind of creamy, it's done! The addition of hot chili pepper makes my pesto incredible!

Making my pesto

Having made or bought your pesto, chop the clove of garlic mentioned in the recipe for the sauce, and reserve. Slice the pitted olives and the sun dried tomatoes (I cut mine into strips)
Heat the oil in a pan and when hot (NOT before, otherwise your sauce will taste bland) add the garlic, fry until golden, then add olives, capers and tomatoes, stir for a minute and... it's done! The smell of this simple sauce is so unbelievable!

the sauce
Cook your linguine al dente, drain and reserve a small cup of water from the pasta pot.
Next, "throw" your pasta in with the sauce, add your pesto, more cheese and black pepper and some of the pasta water, if it appears to be too dry!
This dish is so easy to make and just delicious and very fresh.