orWine Tastings in the Comfort of you own villa or B&B while on holiday in Tuscany or Liguria

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Sunday, 31 August 2008

Jam session under the stars

Last night we organised a big jam session on the little piazza outside our house. Our English friends Pam and John, who have a holiday home in Calice al Cornoviglio, have had musical visitors from France. So after much to-ing and fro-ing we managed to get them together with our musical neighbours for a session under the stars. I took it upon myself to cater for over a dozen people, which was no mean feat, considering we had a budget of about €1.33 or thereabouts. I attempted to make the local snack ‘farinata’, which is basically just a mixture of chickpea flour, water and olive oil, which is baked in the oven on a flat baking tray. It was only a limited success, as I discovered that our oven does not stand on an even surface and as the batter is pretty runny it turned out thick one end and thin on the other. Well, since the foreign visitors did not know what it was supposed to look like I just about got away with it.

Next I made my own variation of the local mes-ciüa soup, which was invented by the dock workers of La Spezia. They gathered up any bits of grain or dried pulses which had escaped from sacks while ships were being loaded and unloaded. Now the main ingredients are chickpeas, dried beans and pearl grain. I added a bit of celery and some herbs to embellish it all. Next I made a large pot of spaghetti with a roast tomato sauce. Next an ‘anything-I-could-find-in-the-garden-quiche’, which included aubergines, courgettes, green beans, cherry tomatoes, green peppers, basil and pancetta (didn’t find that in the garden). And finally I served some blackberry tartlets made from wild blackberries.

Luckily the visitors brought plenty of wine so this turned into a lovely festa. Soon we were joined by quite a few of our fellow villagers who were attracted by the sounds of the accordion, pipes, fiddle and hurdy-gurdy (or vielle as Sheila the player of that instrument preferred it to be called). Soon there was even dancing going on. We were celebrating until about 1 o’clock in the morning. I hope we didn’t keep the priest, who lives next to the piazza, too much from his beauty sleep. He obviously didn’t feel inclined to join in.

On this frugal living I just came across a great ‘Independent’ article, here’s the link: http://www.independent.co.uk/life-style/food-and-drink/features/the-thrifty-foodie-how-to-eat-better-but-pay-less-836638.html. I have recently invested in the book mentioned in there: ‘Food for Free’ by Richard Mabey. It’s got descriptions of over 100 edible plants, berries, mushrooms, seaweed and shellfish, fully illustrated and with recipes. And in it’s newest addistion it comes pocket-sized, so I carry it with me at all times now. We have just tried out the Pontack Sauce recipe on Thursday. It’s made from Elderberries, red wine or vinegar and various spices and is to be used as a condiment, which goes particularly well with liver. Apparently it gets better with age (somewhere I’ve read it should be kept at least 7 years, but we had a try after about 7 minutes), which is just as well as I made over 2 litres of it. It has an interesting sweet and sour flavour with lovely dark fruity notes and an all staining deep red colour. Also on Thursday I’ve made fig jam with the second crop of figs. It was odd this year, the same fig tree produced one crop in late June, then nothing until now, then a second crop just as big as the first.

A final word about the weather, although the weather forecast keeps forecasting rain 'within the next few days', this hasn't happened yet, not even threatened to. The thermometer seems stuck at around 29 during the day and 19 at night.

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