Sunday, 30 November 2008

Roccabianca NovemberPork

Its Sunday afternoon, and I have just come back from the Novemberpork, a pork festival/ market at Roccabianca. Roccabianca is a small Italian village, the way you imagine it: A small square with a church, old houses with wooden shutters, and a Xmas market buzzing with tens of stalls selling anything from fruit, chestnuts, sweets and pastries, pastas, cheese, balsamic vinegar, olive oil, wine, and an obscene amount of PORK.
I think I've peaked my pork intake at this time. Really. I warmed up with pork filled tortelinni in pork broth, and a ricotta filled canoli for dessert. I think I'm done for the day.

Saturday Dinner

Katie's Bread
@ home with the girls.
A gray wet quiet saturday, hours spent cooking in the kitchen. Pure therapy. I think I ate too much.
Thouht I'd share some of the wonderful slow food we made and enjoyed. It tasted even better than it looked, if thats possible...

Lucia's Calamaris

My ''something out of nothing '' roasted pumpkin, leeks, fried garlic salad

Katie's chocolate pie avec yogurt and orange zest

Friday, 28 November 2008


Its Friday Afternoon. A heavily snowy day.They seem to come out of nowhere. Literally. Last night the sky was clear, with only a faint smell of cows. Someone said thats an indication for snow to come. I will never doubt that again. Our History of food class was cancelled and so I have some time. There dosnt seem to be enough hours in the day despite the fact I am living in a remote village... This is a good time for a recap of the week's highlights.
On Tuesday we spent the afternoon in Parma. I found Tahini, and I realised that within less than two weeks, I have eaten more pork than in the past 10 years put together, and that I have slipped into deep hibernation mode. Polenta, Risotto, and Pasta provide comfort to me and my stomach. Its Winter. But a real one. Fruit & veg are a thing of the past.
This was the first time I'd spent in Parma, and first impression was the abundance of specialty food shops. It was impossible to walk two minutes without entering a shop with Prociutto hanging in the window, Parmesan, handmade pastas, chocolate, wine and goodness in general. As I am surrounded by food lovers, its a given that we walk into and exlore every single one.
We had ice cream at GROM as an early evening appetizer, where I had the yogurt and marron glace flavours. We walked into Enoteca Fontana, not knowing its THE place for wine, with a wine list as long as "crime and punishment", and a wonderful selection of local cheese and cured meat sandwiches.
The following night us Colorno girls enjoyed a quiet manicure evening, Prosecco & chocolate included, joining nail varnish powers. We are coming up with a nightlife perfectly tailored to a quiet country life.
Thursday was Thanksgiving, more like Gratzie giving, as we're all thanking our Italian status, and a dinner was held at the village pub, cooked by us & the adjacent Italian Master programme.
My gratitude was expressed through chestnut pancakes drizzled with chocolate ganache and roasted chestnuts. I am heading towards a warm & cosy weekend reading all things pork, ahead of a fast approaching cured meat field trip in the Emilia Romana region. More to come on that.

Monday, 24 November 2008

Sunday, 23 November 2008


Its the weeknend. Friday morning is market day, conveniently enough set in the Piazza outside school. I bought some local Italian green beans which proved useful later on in the day. As seven of us girls are local I had invited them all to have dinner at our place,and in the spirit of the recent days' lectures, it was a meat free event. If you want to know more check 'The Meatrix'. Remember those green beans? well, they were blanched in salted water for a minute, maintaining their bite. I threw some scallions to a pan with olive oil, added parsley (Corriander is nowhere to be seen and still no cucumbers!), salt, pepper, and of course LEMON. We also had a Fritata, and a broccoly cabbage soup, all made from local ingredients bought that same morning from the market. It doesnt get more local and fresh than this.
For desserts (in plural), we had a bananas, Nutella, bread pudding, and a Panettone layered with Nutella and Mascarpone topped with toasted alomonds. Yum.
Following dinner we all headed to the local pub that consisted of young boys that looked as if they had to make a choice early in life: its either jail, or ALMA cooking school. The pub owner welcomed us with lots of free drinks and was himself on the tipsy side of things. Its all so very small and local. And Italian. The Maginificent seven, the Colorno possey, we are French, Irish, korean, Spanish, American, Italian and myself.
On Saturday,my birthday, I decided to take an early train to Parma, and do some sightseeing. New lesson in Italy, a survival guide: if a bus is on time, or a minute early- Its the wrong bus. You might think to yourself, '' its a small village, what are the chances 2 buses are scheduled to stop at the same time, in the same place.." Its the wrong bus. It took me abut 10 minutes to realise the people on the bus did not look like city people. And, looking out along the way, it seemed every time there was a sign to Parma, the bus was taking the OTHER way. OK. stay calm. what should I do? I obviously cant get off. its the middle of nowhere. No one speaks English and you cant actually see anyone. I am not getting off. Than there were no more stops. The driver told me to step out and wait 20 minutes. I did. He than picked me up and we were on the way back. So I ended up taking a little trip to the outskirts of the village. It was a venture to the outskirts of outskirts...
I was back on track. I made it to Parma train station, got on a train to Faenza, where Enologica was taking place. On the way there, the train stops in Modena and Bologna. Its still surreal. Once we arrived, and it was a long walk through a freezing wind chill (I thought my ears fell off and I know my nose did), you are handed a wine glass, that is constantly topped up strolling around wine stalls; all local, slow food wines.
Lets talk cantine. No fast food. No junk. One stands in line, an Italian Pitah bread is than baked on a stove, served with a cheese that resembles a mix between cottage cheese and clotted cream. Plain, simple and delicious. Hand made Cappelletti prepared on the spot are thrown into boiling water, served coated in butter and Parmesan.
We attended a wine tasting workshop, covering 5 types of lambrusco. It was very educational and I would have benefitted more from the experience had I understood any Italian. Still, they tasted good...and I'm absorbing.

Wednesday, 19 November 2008

1st day of school

1st day of school.Finally. We had an introduction, met the tutors, went over the annual schedule. Basically we have more trips than we thought, the tutors seem nice & helpfull and we all introduced ourselves, 24 people that share their passion for food, ranging from lawyers, chefs, writers, competitive food organizers, architects(me!)...
We were than given a tour of the campus, and had lunch.
Lunch is cooked by ALMA cooking school. More like 'world reknowned Italian cooking school'. In Buffet style, we were served fresh anchovies, sardines, saffron risotto (pure comfort), several types of meat with Mustard jelly (tastes better than it sounds), something I thought was seafood salad, but turned out to be a casserole of cow stomach, salad, some fruit, chocolate truffles, nougat... honestly- I pinched myself. I mean, WOW. Big WOW. Although we were warned, as it is students that cook we can expect some bad days...
Also, theres a Gastronomic event in Faenza this weekend, with tasting workshops, and a valpolicella tasting event in Parma, so It'll probably be a busy weekend...
This morning I had to tackle the infamous Italian Beaurocracy. Its up there with the French and British Beaurocracy, fighting it out. I wont go into it. Suffice to say it entailed long periods of waiting, and that I didnt manage to get it done. In true form.
I did, however, manage to spot a Mary on a shelf right outside my bedroom window. A personal mary.

Tuesday, 18 November 2008

First day in Colorno

This is it. The past few months were packed with preperations followed by stress and now I find myself lying in my (squeaky) bed, in my new room, in a flat, with a flatmate, my setting for the next 12 months.
Needless to say that last night I was trying to overcome the buds of panic that I tend to develop when removed from my safe place. The feeling mostly resembles a mollusk without its shell, if speaking in culinary terms...But exhaustion overtook and so I was spared...
I had a long day that started at 4am, I parted from all that wass familiar and headed to the airport. I landed in Milan, hopped on a shuttle bus to Milan's central station, and other than the driver bashing his side mirror into a truck whilst driving on the highway, it all went rather smoothly. Just as I realised I had only a few minutes left before my train parts, and absolutely lost as to the Italian method of knowing which train is on what platform, my phone rang. The one familiar face in the whole of Italy called me from the station. So there was a quick coffee, and guidance right down to the coach seat! Three hours later, 2 trains and a taxi ride away, I was in Colorno. The taxi driver, on hearing of my nationality, expressed to me in the English that he had acquired, of his concerns regarding Italy's future in the light of the Muslims' invasion to the EU, giving me no chance after 12 hours of travelling overweight...
Right now I wish to discuss odd. weird.
Waking up to church bells, set in a rural setting that is now my home. Thats odd. Stepping out for a Machiatto and Brioche, only to find out today is market day in the village, literally 2 minutes from my
doorstep. Not my regular routine. Zucchini flowers casually lay with all the vegetables, (including a purple leek but as of yet no cucumbers to be seen anywhere). Chestnut flour on sale besides Bananas and Oranges. cant say thats common. The abruptness of it all is hard to comprehend.
However, and most importantly, I figured out the heating and hot water, so its all warm and cosy. (Although, I must add I am so sore...carrying lots, a spring bed and quite a cold winter, I feel it all)

Saturday, 15 November 2008

Travel log

All the farewell parties are over, my life/ stuff is wrapped packed in cardboard boxes. There is a relief in the knowledge that I am not pulled down by belongings and baggage. No bills to pay, no responsibilties, just me. Lightweight. And nothing else between me and my journey. My life, my bed, my surrounding, the smells, the light, the people, the food- I will soon be in a new reality.
2 more days.
For those close to me know my tendency to be very particular and in constant search for accuracy. How do you draw the outside into your inner world, where everything is something, there is meaning in everything, there are no accidents, and all is interlinked and connected to create a streamline flow.
This is my poetry.