Posted in Stories from the Olive Grove, tagged 2012, Berlusconi, business, cathy rogers, confesercenti, Dolce vita, economy, Italy, Mafia, new, olive oil, small, year on January 16, 2012 |
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According to a recent report by Confesercenti (a federation of small businesses in Italy) there is one part of the Italian economy that’s booming despite the grim economic times: the Mafia. With £100bn annual profits (to put it another way, 7% of GDP) the Mafia seem to be the only business currently skating on liquidity.
For the majority of the Italian public, times are tough and set to get tougher, even without the onerous bills for state funded Presidential orgies (and on that note, can we please take a moment to celebrate, despite the gloomy times, the fact that the country no longer suffers a president who ‘jokes’ about Obama’s being ‘suntanned’ or threatents to ‘dust off his Playboy charms’ to win over the (female) Finnish Prime Minister. A big hoorah for the passing).
All this feels a far cry from Le Marche, a predominantly agricultural region made up of small family businesses. In Italy there are 2.6 million farms, the vast majority (94.7%) of which are family-operated and small – averaging only 5 hectares in size. These are just the sort of farms that together form the Nudo olive grove co-operative. There’s no pretending times aren’t difficult. Economic pressure as well as all the usual worries of weather and bugs and mosca and all don’t add up to carefree evenings. But at least we can guarantee, through our adoption programme, that they will sell their entire olive oil harvest.
With that, and no Silvio, surely there is reason to be cheerful. Happy 2012.
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Posted in Secondo piatto recipes, tagged achovies, crab, cuttlefish, dolce, Dolce vita, dolce vita diaries, fritto misto, Jason Gibb, recipes, sardines, scampi, seafood on July 24, 2009 |
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We always seemed to arrive at the beach at lunchtime. We headed to the nearest fish restaurant and Cathy and Rosie ordered big steaming heaps of spaghetti alle vongole followed by crispy fritto misto – a mountain of battered scampi, baby squid, anchovies, small crabs, fresh sardines and tiny juvenile flatfish like sole.
Trouble is I don’t eat fish and I usually settle for a pretty bland pasta pomodoro. More recently, though, things have turned around with a new restaurant which opened in Porto San Giorgio. They made me a gem of a pasta pomodoro. The secret according to the friendly waiter is the ricotta cheese in the sauce.
Ingredients for 4 people
Mixed seafood – 1kg of sardines, anchovies,
whiting, baby sole, small crabs, scampi, baby
(or what your fishmonger recommends)
Plain flour – 2 cups
Vegetable oil – 500ml
Sage leaves – several
Lemon – 1 large
Salt and white pepper
The seafood should be quite small, so it’s probably not worth gutting. Anyway they say that the intestines give a slightly sharp taste, and the fried heads are pleasantly crunchy. Sometimes Cathy takes out small bones as Rosie tucks in.
Wash, clean and pat dry the seafood. If you do have big squid and cuttlefish cut away the mouth parts and the bone of the cuttlefish. Cut into rings if necessary.
Spread the flour out on a shallow dish. Dip the fish in the flour and shake off any excess. Heat the oil in a large pan with the sage. Once hot enough (test with a piece of old bread, which should brown in about 30 seconds) remove the sage leaves and fry the seafood, starting with the larger pieces. Once golden brown remove and drain on kitchen paper. Serve on a warm plate with lemon wedges and season with salt and pepper.
Recipe Extract from: The Dolce Vita Diaries – Stories and recipes from the olive grove.
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A baby is like an access-all-areas pass in Italy and I walked boldly to the front, just to check that we weren’t in a queue for a wake or something. The young lady was writing things down in what looked like a register and I could see the word ‘potatura’ which means pruning, written on her sheet, so this really was it. The reason the queue was moving so paralysingly slowly was that these old people were taking an aeon – each – to write their names and phone numbers on it. The weight given to each signature was as slow and deliberate as a judge signing someone’s death warrant. Then it occurred to me that for some of these old geezers, their name was probably the only thing they could write, a theory borne out when the breezy man who’d been and gone, came again and, with scolding words, made a spelling correction to one of the old men’s scrawlings.
When we got to the front of the queue, we realized we were in more-or-less the same illiterate boat as the rest of them. First of all we got in a muddle trying to explain that we didn’t have a phone number – one of those situations where I always say too much. Where ‘non telefono’ would probably have got the message across, instead I decided to try to explain that we were redoing our house and still waiting for a phone line to be put in; what came out was something like ‘The house, yours, is being reseeded and we are late for the string.’
Then we got in a pickle about where to put our first names and where our surnames, and also whether we needed to put Rosie down (London habits making us think that this list might also serve as a checklist should the place be bombed). In the end I put Cathy where I should have put Rogers and Jason where I should have put Gibb – with everything leftover going in the column for first names. The result was that for that evening and for the duration of the course, Jason would be known as ‘oceantelfordgibb’ and I as ‘androsierogers’.
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