Tag Archives: Umbrian Food

The Love Of My Umbrian Kitchen

Sorrel's Laden Table,Rocking Dog

Sorrel’s Laden Table

With the cold and dampness of November in the West Country it’s lovely to remember the warmth of recent winter days spent in Umbria. Andyman and I were keen to put our stamp on No5 and spent four days climbing ladders to paint our bijoux apartment throughout.

We went to an amazing local paint shop for a vat of white emulsion. Sheets of gold leaf, glittery paints, floor paints, colourful paints, matt, gloss, egg shell, and we came out with bog standard white. Next time, yes next time!

Though Andyman’s Italian is progressing at an impressive rate it didn’t quite manage the technicalities of paint “speak”. In hindsight we rather think that the colossal vat of white was supposed to mixed with a significant quantity of water. No worries, the paint went on like PVA glue. I suddenly became a very unsplattered painter and the coverage was superb, no second coat required!

The boring bits done, we could get on and add pops of colour. As planned, the wardrobe was moved into the kitchen and transformed into a larder cupboard. Oak shelves, paint, handles and  wallpaper remnant all played their part in this up-cycle. I estimate the makeover cost just over £100 as opposed to £1,500 upwards for a JL or M&S version. In time it will have a blackboard, some hanging hooks and other larderesque refinements. Meanwhile a little bedroom table acquired with the apartment was reassigned for use as a kitchen workspace. Paint and a new handle was all that was required. Voila! my kitchen was evolving and growing.

Before leaving for Italy we commissioned  a local metalworker to make up two simple curtain poles and a batterie de cuisine (approximately £60 for the three items). Utensildom sorted!

The lovely timeworn rusty lanterns did not “make the cut” for the trip, the choice was to take the lanterns or Real Live Rocking Dog! In the event we decided on a local Italian chef/boffin to create a bespoke twisted copper light source for our living space. The lanterns do not need to look forlorn, they will be “plumbed” into Rock House at some point.

Finally the lovely frouing bits kept me busy. How often have you stayed in a holiday let with four forks between six of you, a chopping board that has seen better days or chipped plates galore? No5 therefore is definitely going to be a cooks kitchen.

We have rarely as a family done a hotel holiday, in part it’s because we all like to cook. I well remember, staying in a hotel overnight in readiness for an early morning flight and our youngest on walking into the family room asking “mummy where is the kitchen?!” Then there was the year we had a last minute deal to Madeira and by day three I was crawling the walls wanting to get my hands on a knife (a cook’s one obviously!). With a market brimming with fish and local fruit and vegetables I was desperate to whizz something up! This utter desperation may also have been slightly influenced by the retro 70’s pudding buffet on offer at the hotel. I had never witnessed such a display of wibbly blancmange, jellies, bavarois, creme caramel and other rather nasty gelatinous delicacies. Frustratingly there were banana’s growing everywhere on the island, but seemingly not one to be had in the hotel.

In our kitchen there are knives, matched china and glassware, cutlery (and yes cutlery phobic son there is some “Dragon” cutlery in the drawer) baking tins, scales, serving dishes etc..etc.. I tested the oven by baking a cake and made a little list of kitchenalia yet to buy. Cooking generally leads to eating, and so at times with the nights getting shorter and more nippy we ate inside (Sorrel and Liv’s laden table was a seasonal, locally produced highlight), but there were sunny warm opportunities where eating outside was simply perfect.

There are still bits to do. The kitchen table has had its legs painted in jolly “Mister David” and it awaits equally cheery chairs to join it in the spring. I loved some ladder back inspiration in Lerici. Andyman and I went to relive our youth there momentarily. It was 35 years since we were last in the pretty coastal town, back then we camped, ate frozen calamari, drank Lambrusco, sweltered in the scorching heat and got bitten alive by mosi’s!

Last night at the kennel I could not find the can opener for love nor money. Somewhat frustratingly I know a drawer in a far off land where I have two!

 

 

Paint Those Chairs, Rocking Dog

Paint Those Chairs

Ladder-back Inspiration!,Rocking Dog

Ladder-back Inspiration!

Let's Think,Rocking Dog

Let’s Think

Little Black Book,Rocking Dog

Little Black Book

Workspace,Rocking Dog

Workspace

Wardrobe To Larder,Rocking Dog

Wardrobe To Larder

Utensildom!,Rocking Dog

Utensildom!

Kitchen View,Rocking Dog

Kitchen View

Breakfast Spot,Rocking Dog

Breakfast Spot

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The Umbrian Cake Trail With Rocking Dog

Sugar Rush!, Rocking Dog

Sugar Rush!

What better way to restart the Rocking Dog blog than a post about cake! We finally returned home from Umbria on Monday evening after a 1,300 mile drive through Italy, Switzerland, France, Luxembourg and Belgium. The highlight was seeing Lake Como, Lugano and Lucerne by night. It was so reminiscent of an elaborate model railway layout. Truly enchanting.

In between painting No5 throughout, dismantling bunks, building a bed and reconfiguring furniture, there were small windows of opportunity to go in search of cake!

I am always curious about how people create holiday itineraries. There must be those who go in search of rare birds, those who try to select the most idilic poolside for sunbathing, and those who seek out dangerous sports for an adrenalin rush! My itinerary seems to centre around food. Markets, food festivals, local speciality shops all hold tremendous appeal. Even the humble supermarket is always more exciting far away from home. The solitary shop in the village is an Aladdin’s cave of Umbrian goodies. Locally butchered meats, local vegetables, buffalo mozzarella, Umbrian lentils, it became part of my daily routine to walk Real Live Rocking Dog there in the morning. I believe in the philosophy “use it or else lose it”

We found some spectacular cake shops in Assisi (approximately a 1 hour drive from our little place). Meringues, pastries, Pannetore, bombes and gelato it really was a sugar rush! Interestingly, although I love taking photo’s of the sweet treats I much prefer a savoury plate. Italian cheeses and salami’s are my downfall.

On my first day away from UK I realised just how much I missed Marmite. A mean 150ml jar will need to be stashed in my hand luggage when we return to Umbria in the spring.

Locally, there is always Michele’s with an amazing array of full size and amuse bouche sized cakes, desserts and pastries. My favourite has to be the aragosta (lobster tail). It is a shell shaped horn made up of thin layers of light crispy pastry which is filled with a flavoured cream. The original pastry was created in the monastery of Santa Rosa in the province of Salerno in the 17th Century. Later the recipe was acquired by a pastry chef from Naples called Pasquale Pintauro. He started selling these pastries from his shop in 1818. Michele’s aragosta’s contain a delicious rich creme patisserie. Delicious! Interestingly the girls spotted Nick Ross heading into Michele’s, I wonder what his favourite is!

Wednesday’s and Sundays it’s up to Paciano for a coffee and pastry at Lo Scoiattolo (The Squirrel). Sitting in the family kitchen you can eat delicious bread and pastries from the wood fired oven. Fausto makes a divine cappuccino whilst Lia deals with the Italian/German influenced yeasty loveliness. Our first weekend there, a local town was hosting a Saffron festival. In honour of this amazing local flower product, Lia made delicious saffron buns with a dusting of rose petals and cornflowers, much too good for Real Live Rocking Dog! Later in the week some of the Borgo degli Olivi residents went for a baking masterclass with Lia … more about that in a later post.

Now it’s time to go on the straight and narrow after three weeks of bread, cheese, charcuterie, wine and just the odd aragosta here and there!

 

Window Shopping, Rocking Dog

Window Shopping

Gilded Treats, Rocking Dog

Gilded Treats

Piped Loveliness, Rocking Dog

Piped Loveliness

Michele's Amuse Bouche, Rocking Dog

Michele’s Amuse Bouche

Take Me Home!, Rocking Dog

Take Me Home!

Too Good For RLRD!, Rocking Dog

Too Good For RLRD!

Feeling The Heat In Umbria

Umbrian Sunset, Rocking Dog

Umbrian Sunset

We certainly did feel the heat in Umbria over the weekend. With temperatures in the high 30’s and tipping into the 40’s, it was meltingly hot! I certainly feel more in control of my complex heat regulatory system in the spring or early winter in Umbria. A siesta is an essential part of Italian life, shutters close, shops close up, streets empty, market stallholders pack up, and the nation sleeps or eats, converses or rests.

After a truly delicious lunch under a leafy sun dappled pergola with our hosts, we sought refuge from the searing midday sun. Lloyd Loom chairs in a cool stone portico allowed us to stay outside, but inside. Incidentally, the lunch platter was amazing and included grilled lemon leaf wrapped Scormoza (a smoked mozzarella style cheese). Tomatoes, Parma ham, Ligurian olives, melon, figs and other Italian yumminess made the 4.30am dash to Bristol Airport absolutely worthwhile.

The landscape of Umbria in summer is so very different from that of the beloved olive picking season (late October/early November). The noise of happy and busy Cicada’s fills the air from the time the sun climbs into the sky until the air cools after dusk. Umbrian gardens’ are filled with fragrant lavender, Oleanders, Jasmine and showy Agapanthus. Meanwhile, fields are burgeoning with crops of towering Sunflowers, maize and wheat. Vegetable crops depend on lavish and frequent watering, and tomato plants do not require the protection of glass houses. Swallows swoop down over the pool refreshing their busy sculptural wings. Lizards bask in the sunshine, enjoying the warmth of the thyme frilled paving. Any interruption, and they dart into cool dark crevices seeking solace and protection.

Olives are tiny, they have four long months to plump up, blacken and ripen. The promise of a plentiful harvest is the hope of the entire nation. Nets will be unrolled and laid out, rakes and crates will be gathered, and the camaraderie of another olive picking season will begin.

Monday and Tuesday bought unrelenting heat. The only tangiable escape was to stay in the pool… or to retreat to the house.

A late afternoon stroll in the local hill top town of Panicale took us through shaded winding streets. I loved the tiled orange Madonna and child gracing one of the towns’ houses, its colours seemed to echo the heat of the day. Aperol Spritz’s were enjoyed in the town square- Umbrian sunshine in a glass!

Monday evening and with temperatures gently dwindling, we ventured out to a Lakeside caff’for food. Knowledge of the ordering system was preferable, if not essential. Pull ticket, await number call, hurriedly select food from a large covered glass cabinet. Steak, Calimari, battered vegetables, torte and non battered vegetables chosen, most were given a fiery baptism over charred wood. Another counter, another function, order and collect wine. Other counters, other functions, puddings, cheese, gelato. Pay. Head out to a Pine canopied lake view, tear your own tablecloth from banqueting roll. Eat, chat and watch the sun go down. Total cost about 45 euro’s for the four of us! Sunset truly beautiful and priceless, no digital retouching whatsoever required.

Fleeting visit, hospitable friends, lovely food and gorgeous scenery, molten temperatures and heat filled lethargy!

Welcome Lunch, Rocking Dog

Welcome Lunch

Seeking Shade, Rocking Dog

Seeking Shade

A Dip Perhaps?, Rocking Dog

A Dip Perhaps?

Orange Madonna, Rocking Dog

Orange Madonna

Orange Drink, Rocking Dog

Orange Drink

Busy Bees!, Rocking Dog

Busy Bees!

Lakeside Transport Caf', Rocking Dog

Lakeside Transport Caf’

Golden Veg', Rocking Dog

Golden Veg’

Moonlight Dip Anyone?, Rocking Dog

Moonlight Dip Anyone?