‘I can’t believe my boss is only giving me three weeks off,’ my friend Stefania said last week, ‘In August! What a slave driver!’ Such are the thoroughly laudable holiday habits of Italy. The idea of forcing your workforce in to the office in temperatures which would make even cats fancy a dip is simply not in good taste. August is holiday time and ferragosto its poster child. No-one works on ferragosto. It is not a day to give birth or have a house fire. It is almost certainly a good day to rob a bank or at least park your car in a cravenly illegal spot. It’s a day – ideally surrounded by a whole month – of getting down to the beach and eating your body weight in fresh seafood. Everyone we know has already headed off to the seaside and quite frankly, as soon as we finish this newsletter, we’re off too. If you want to escape along with us, why not emerge yourself in this 360 degree view of the Rosalio grove, taken on a hot afternoon just last week.
Posts Tagged ‘summer’
Posted in Stories from the Olive Grove, tagged 360, adopt an olive tree, escape, family, Ferragosto, grove, holiday, Italy, Jason Gibb, olive grove, olive tree, Rosalio, summer, tour, virtual on August 23, 2012 | 1 Comment »
Posted in Stories from the Olive Grove, tagged eating, eating in Italy, etiquette, food, food rules, golden rule, holiday, humor, humour, italian, Italy, Jason Gibb, rules, summer, tips on July 5, 2012 | 3 Comments »
One of the lovely things about holidaying in Italy is how laid back everything is. Hanging out at the beach all day without even bothering to read a book. Slow walks in the early evening with no sense of purpose. Long languorous lunches.
Do not be fooled. Although they will humour you when you’re on holiday, Italians are anything but laid back when it comes to rules about food. Here are just a few which would never be transgressed by a self-respecting Italian:
1. Do not have cheese with seafood. If a waiter offers you parmesan for your spaghetti vongole, he is being mischievous and testing you. Look at him with a shocked expression and say ‘Sei pazzo? No grazie!’
2. Do not drink wine with pizza. Beer or a Coke are the correct partners. (Apparently it’s to do with bubbles aiding digestion, but my theory is that the physical wrestling involved in pizza consumption would risk upending an unstable wine glass – better to have a more anchored beer bottle.)
3. Do not drink a cappuccino after 11.30am. From that point it is strictly espresso – yes right until bedtime. Milk in the afternoon is only suitable for the under 3s.
4. It is perfectly acceptable to re-use your knife and fork between courses. But not your plate.
5. If you are served a pasta dish which involves chicken, you are not in a bona fide Italian restaurant. Chicken is a ‘secondo’ which should be eaten on its own. You wouldn’t put a loin of beef or a lamb chop in your pasta would you? Well same thing.
6. Don’t pour wine on wine – ie don’t refill a glass until it is empty, you vulgar beast.
Good luck and enjoy your relaxing stress free, laid back holiday.
Whenever I make soup I promise myself I’ll make soup more often. It’s tasty as can be, easy as pie and you feel you’re doing the right thing for your body. Some people have soup snobbery and don’t consider it a proper meal; this repast is the perfect repost to those doubters. It is bursting with sunny Mediterranean flavours and as filling as any ‘proper’ meal.
Ingredients for 4
Vine tomatoes – 1.5kg/3lbs
Extra virgin olive oil – 3tbls
Extra virgin olive oil with garlic – ½ cup/120ml
Crusty loaf – 300g cut up into cubes
Parmesan cheese – 2 tbls grated
Garlic – 3 cloves finely chopped
Tomato paste – 1 tbls
Arugula/Rocket – 40g
Lemon juice – 2 teaspoons, freshly squeezed
Preheat the grill/broiler. On a baking tray drizzle a tablespoon of the oil over the tomatoes, season with salt and pepper and place under the broiler/grill. Once the skins have softened and blistered, but before they are cooked through take them out, and peel, seed and chop them. Do this over a sieve with a bowl underneath to catch the juices.
Preheat the oven to 400oF/200oC. In a bowl mix together the cubed bread, 2 tablespoons/30ml of garlic oil, and the parmesan. Season with salt and pepper. Sprinkle this onto a baking tray and bake for about 15 minutes. You want them to be crunchy and light brown.
While the croutons are baking, heat the rest of the plain oil in a pan and fry the chopped garlic until golden. Then add the tomato juice and tomato paste and simmer until the sauce is thick. Then add the tomato pulp, season with salt and lots of freshly ground pepper, and thicken up. Once it’s a nice soupy consistency, add ¼ cup/60ml of garlic olive oil and let cool.
Once the croutons are done, chuck half of them into a bowl and mix in the arugula/rocket, the lemon juice, 2 tablespoons/45ml of garlic oil and season. Mix the rest of the croutons in with the tomatoes. Serve out the soup and garnish with the arugula/crouton mixture.
People often ask us if it’s hard work making olive oil. The truth, at least at this time of year, is that it really isn’t. We just leave it to the heat of the sun to turn our olives from green to black (all olives start green and then turn black – a surprisingly rewarding dinner party info-nugget). The last major effort in the grove was in the spring – when the trees got their annual haircut, the trimmings were chipped and the grass was cut. And really that’s it for about three months.
So while Mother Nature is taking care of the grove, we can turn our hands to other things like stealing a march on packing up the autumn/fall packages. We’ve also been putting together a nice little recipe book with lots of pictures and ideas, which all current adopters will receive along with their flavoured oils. Please let us know what you think.
Next on the olive grove ‘to do’ list is another trim of the grass, before we start the harvest in mid October. But that’s a long way off. Far more pressing now is applying the most important lesson of the many we have learned from our Italian friends: taking a nice long break in the summer. Happy holidays!
Our flavoured olive oils make the ideal lazy salad dressings – all you need is to add salt and pepper. They’re perfect for summer salads, when you want big summery flavours with a minimal fuss.
Ingredients for 4 people
Giant Couscous – 1 cup
Cucumber – 1 medium
Mint – 6 stalks
Feta – 100g, cubed
Mandarin olive oil – a few decent glugs
Salt and black pepper to taste
Drizzle a glug of mandarin olive oil in a pan and lightly fry the couscous for 2-3 minutes on a medium heat. When golden brown, add a cup of cold water to the pan and stir continuous. Once all the water has been absorbed, keep on adding more until the couscous is tender throughout. This should take about 15 minutes. Set it aside to cool.
Cut the ends off the cucumber and halve lengthwise. Scoop out the seeds with a dessert spoon. Peel the skin off the one half, or if you’re a bit fussy with your cucumber skin, peel both. Halve the pieces lengthways again cut the cumber into rough 1/4 inch pieces. Also cube the feta in a similar size.
Remove the mint leaves from the stalks and tear them into small pieces – this releases more flavour. Add the mint, feta and cucumber to the couscous. Add a few decent glugs of Mandarin olive oil, season with salt and pepper, mix through and serve chilled.
We make our lemon olive oil by crushing hundreds of fresh lemons together with the olives at harvest time. It’s not an infusion, in fact we refuse to infuse. The benefit of using whole lemons is the delicious citrus-oily essence that leaks from every part – seeds, rind, even pith has something to offer. Here, those deep flavours are complimented by fresh lemon juice, to citrify and electrify a piece of grilled chicken. We like to think that even the bird would be pleased with its final send-off.
Ingredients for 4
Olive oil with lemons – 6 tablespoons
DijonMustard – 2 tablespoons
Lemon juice – 2 tablespoons
Garlic clove – 2 finely chopped
Salt – a couple of large pinches
Pepper – freshly ground.
Boneless chicken breasts – one per person, organic
Put all the marinade ingredients into a bowl and mix them well. Add the chicken breasts and leave for at least 30 minutes. Preheat a grill pan, add a splash of olive oil and grill on each side for 8-10 minutes making sure that any juices run clear.
We’ve been having some beautiful sunny days the past week, a trend that seems to be rolling out all over Europe. Perfect inspiration for a bit of day-dreaming about things to do in the warmer times, eating gelato on the beach and watching Rosie chow down on an unfeasibly enormous platter of spaghetti vongole with salt in her hair.
On that front, we are counting down to our next full family trip to Le Marche. April is proving very kind this year holiday wise (thank you William and Kate – a day off in exchange for all those tax millions, seems only right) and we’re taking off to Italy for a chunk. I’m probably making the mistake I make every year -picturing balmy evenings and t-shirt sleeves by day, when the reality is that Le Marche in April is very much akin to London in April, namely completely unpredictable. It could be fog, it could be rain, it could even be snow though that would be peculiarly cruel. That’s the thing about places that are lush and verdant. You don’t get there through sun alone.
Anyway, for now, my fantasy is a flush of sun, a passeggiata in late afternoon as it squintingly descends and a pasta supper overlooking a sea readying itself for some enthusiastic dipping, in a while.
Along with many Italians, our favourite Ferragosto treat is to head down to the beach. You find everything you need: sea, sun, gelato, and a multitude of fine eateries a mere flip flop from your zed bed. Here’s a recipe for a classic seaside favourite.
Put the clams in a bowl of cold, salted water for half an hour. Then rinse them under some running water and throw away any that are open (i.e. dead). Heat the wine in a pan and add the clams. Cover and cook at a high heat for five minutes until they have opened. Take the pan off the heat and scoop out the clams. Sieve the nice liquid that is left in the pan and set aside.
Heat the olive oil in a large pan, add the chopped chilli and garlic and cook for a couple of minutes. Then add the liquid from the calms and simmer uncovered. Salt to taste.
Meanwhile prepare the spaghetti as directed on the pack. When the sauce has thickened up, add the clams and the parsley and simmer for a couple of minutes.
Drain the pasta and add it to the sauce. Mix and serve with a garnish of parsley.
If you are looking for a salad that’s a meal in itself, look no further. I confess that I was sceptical when Cath first produced this and maybe even a tiny bit sulky. ’Like, where are the carbs, dude? I’m a growing man, with energy needs’.
Cath said ‘Try it before you judge it. And please don’t call me dude.’
She was right. Thanks to the ciabatta, this dish is yummy AND filling. The crunchy slightly burnt bread which sops up the juices and oil of the salad is a highlight.
Thinly slice your onion and put it in a bowl drizzling over the red wine vinegar and a good pinch of salt. Cut the crust off the bread, tear the white part into thumb sized chucks and dry-toast them in a frying pan.
Now prep the dressing by grating the zest off your lemon into a small bowl and squeezing in the juice from one half. Now add the lemon oil and oregano, a pinch of salt and ground black pepper.
Now get the body of the salad together in a big bowl – roughly cut up the tomatoes, leaving out the stalky bit, then wash, dry, chop and add the lettuce, and stone, half and add the black olives (I do this by squashing them with the palm of my hand.
Give your dressing a quick stir then add it to the bowl along with the onions and toasted ciabatta chunks. Mix well and then tear the mozzarella into chucks and place on top of the beautiful mound of salad. Serve in a pretty bowl.
I hadn’t thought of it before, but we are about to become sardines in Sardinia. We are going on holiday there this week along with our dear friends Guido and Claudia (and children Maria, 5 and Livia, 3) and we are going to be staying on their boat. It’s a lovely boat. I know nothing about sailing so I can’t tell you the all important length measure, which I’ve come to realise is the crucial dimension, unlike with other means of transport (‘I’ve got a new car’ ‘Oh wow, great, how long is it?’) but I do know it has 3 double berths. A double berth is roughly the size of the one man tent my brother and I used to sleep in in the garden when we were about 10 and 11. So there are three of these aquatic tents. So I’m thinking that’s Guido and Claudia in one, Maria and Livia in another, and Cathy Jason Rosie Sorrel in the third. Sardines!
I can’t wait. I’ve never been to Sardinia before but everyone says it’s beautiful. The picture I have in mind is a hybrid of images of Sicily – a staggeringly gorgeous island imbued with vertiginous ancientness – and pictures from a magazine article about Berlusconi’s Sardinian getaway. His few mega-hectares there are his very own Neverland with ten swimming pools and a runway and concert hall and heaven knows what else besides. I think it’s where he takes his trainee cabinet ministers for executive summits if you know what I mean. Maybe we’ll anchor off one of his beaches and send him a black spot in a bottle or something.
We haven’t managed to adopt the correct Italian summer holiday posture. While we are going on holiday for a very conservative two weeks, Guido and Claudia, by the time we join them, will already have been in Sardegna for a month! How very white and creamy we are going to look. And how greenly envious. Yet sadly I don’t think the 2-3 month summer holiday is something we are ever going to be able fully to embrace. We pretend it’s because we have our own business which is impossible to leave for that long, but truly I think we are genetically incapable. If I have even a two week holiday, the first week is winding down and the second week an existential crisis. I don’t know if I have the courage to peer over the abyss of the deeper beyond.
Anyway, for now two weeks seem like heaven. Hopefully next time we report, it will be about some newly scouted Sardinian food delicacies. Sardines even, maybe. Happy holidays!